Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Very Talented, Indeed

Finished The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith yesterday.

A tense, taut thriller. I had seen the film, so knew the outcome of the novel, but really, seeing the film didn't make the novel any less suspenseful or colorful or enjoyable.

Tom Ripley is a great anti-hero - insecure, malevolent, conniving, clever. His distaste for boring, rich, inane and vapid society people leads him to commit the acts that he does. I didn't condone his actions, but I did not feel an anger or disgust for what he did either.

Tom survives by fooling others to the best of his ability, and it is this ability to deceive that keeps him alive, or at least one step ahead of the others.

There is a constant air of menace throughout the entire novel...the reader doesn't know from page to page if Tom will be caught for his crimes. I felt as if I was along for the wild ride that Tom takes throughout Europe, with the knowledge of what he had done, and secretly hoping that he would get away with it. For what's the fun in getting caught?

A great book - I look forward to more of Highsmith's work.

Next up: Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

On "Atoning"

Just finished Atonement by Ian McEwan about an hour ago. Felt compelled to write about it asap.

A beautifully crafted and achingly sad novel...and if I hadn't seen the film adaptation, I would never have guessed the ending (I won't "spoil" it for anyone who hasn't read it yet).

I think it is the idea that McEwan introduces of a lie corrupting and destroying whole lives that resonated with me most. Speaking personally, lies have undone my life in certain ways. I could see how a childish and rash decision to lie can affect not just one life, but many.

The limpid beauty of the Tallis family home is breathtakingly realized by McEwan...the reader can feel the heat, literal and metaphorical. The love between Cecilia and Robbie is touching, tender, sensual and real - their first sexual liaison is all of these and one of the most provocative things I've ever read - and in a good way.

Briony (the Tallis sister whose horrific lie sets the main story in motion) realizes her mistake and tries to "atone" for her transgression. It comes to pass that she has been "atoning" her entire life. To know that she has done wrong and tries to right that wrong doesn't excuse her appalling behavior - and it made it hard for me to sympathize with her. Cecilia and Robbie's stories are much more deserving of mention.

Gorgeous book.

Next up: The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

That's Not Sexy

Finished Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller a couple of days ago.

Sorry it's taken a bit of time to write, but had to get to the library first to get my next round of books.

Ok...back to the novel. Did NOT enjoy this book. The sheer amount of sex, references to sex, talking about sex....I'm no prude, but it grew rather tiresome.

I realise that at the time it was written, it was quite a groundbreaking and titillating read. The liberation expressed by the author in early 1930s Paris (post WWI, pre WWII) was seen to be scandalous, but just what a staid and reserved society needed. Miller's incessant references to sex, types of sex, the women he has sex with was most likely PERCEIVED as sexy, but to my cynical, 21st-century eyes, it all seems a bit dated and quite misogynistic.

I will say that Miller's descriptions of his friends, girlfriends, colleagues and Paris itself are worthy of a read - faded glamour, seedy bars, volatile moods, strange behaviours. Interesting.

However, Miller himself (and I am sure this was on purpose) comes across as a self-loathing, manipulative, downtrodden, selfish dilettante. His own self-descrption didn't make me admire him, or want to live in that city at that time with him and his equally disagreeable mates.


Next up: Atonement by Ian McEwan.