Saturday, January 31, 2009
Jezebel is discussing their favorite leading men from the realm of the novel... they like a lot of the same guys as I do! guys that Jezebel's Sadie lists that I agree with are Darcy, Rochester, Wentworth, and "Laurie before he grew up" (SO TRUE) but then she kinda just lists a bunch of major canonical heroes. I mean, she includes Newland Archer. I love Wharton's men as characters, but I wouldn't exactly go for them,' cause they are kind of weak sauce, emasculated by the strictures of Old New York Society. (Selden, Archer et al.would never risk anything for their lady loves, but rather suffer silently and submit to the smothering demands of old money-laden dowagers who control all social movement with their lineage-puppet strings.)
The h/t goes to K of South in the Winter who added a whole bunch of my fave fictional dudes to the list: L'Engle's Adam Eddinton (swoon) LM Montgomery's Gilbert Blythe, Gaskell's John Thornton, Austen's Henry Tilney. K likes Faramir from LOTR but I've always been an Aragorn girl (sorry, but I 'ship Aragorn and Eowyn til the end).
To this I'd add a few more: George Eliot wrote great heroes. I worship Will Ladislaw above all literary heroes, even Darcy I think, and Stephen Guest is sex on ice. Finally, we can't forget the literary pin-up boy that is EM Forster's wonderfully written George Emerson. In the YA world, I also like LM Montgomery's other major hero, the artist Teddy Kent and her hero from the bizarre cult-romance, "The Blue Castle," the mysterious Barney Snaith. And lastly, ever since James Purefoy played him, I've kind of had a thing for Rawdon Crawley. Becky Sharp didn't know what she had. *
That's it for now. I'm sure I'll have other ideas pop into my head. Who are your most beloved heroes of the page?
*(Oh and also Humbert Humbert and Portnoy... NOTTTTT.)
Friday, January 30, 2009
Onto the book front...So I am slogging through Catch-22. I love it, of course --it's hysterical yet profound-- but it's not the kind of book one can speed-read.
I have a new review book coming my way in the mail, and I'm finally going to tackle Richardson's "Pamela" so I can say I've read one 18th-century classic that is not "Robinson Crusoe" (though I've read my share of Haywood, Behn and Burney).
So what are you all reading these days? and what do you think of it?
and don't forget to join the fun and friend me at goodreads and librarything.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
According to these sources called the internets and the Wikipedia, today is Pride and Prejudice's birthday. January 28th 1813--it's almost 200 years old dude!
So yes, today must be celebrated, as it marks the birth of the most perfect novel ever written (whether it's the absolute best or not is a constant struggle for me--but that's another story). Not only is it flawlessly constructed and endlessly re-readable, but P+P has spawned a truly amazing group of spinoffs, contemporary adaptations, and perhaps the most unauthorized sequels of any novel ever written. I mean the number of women who fantasize about Lizzy and Darcy, err, frolicking beneath the bedclothes, and then get said fantasies published and widely read, is truly, simply, extraordinary. Jane bless them all.
So in sum and in conclusion, lets party with Mizz Austen (this is a JASNA image, awesome right?) continue wishing we were Lizzy Bennet, live to see many young men of 4,000 a year come into the neighborhood, and make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn.
I won't reveal all that it says, you have to click and read Mags' witticisms, but this image should be a hint.
And yes, I've written about it before.
Wait a second. I am so confused. I thought that anti-abortion leaders, when looking at women, felt only sorrow for the poor little fetusbabies, and that their policies and actions had absolutely nothing to do with hating uppity women? At least that's what liberal men like John Stewart and Bill Maher (and our president) tell me. My world is turning upside down here.
[x-posted at my new tumblr]
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
According to my dashboard, that last bit of trifling nonsense, whatever it was, was my 500th post. To celebrate, and because I've got Bridget on the brain, here is this super meta scene from the "deleted scenes" of the second film, Edge of Reason (even funnier in the book). I think it sums up a lot of facets of this blog.
First was the Bollywood-Hollywood-rom-com-musical hybrid spectacular "Bride and Prejudice"... I've never talked about this film at length here, but I have to say for a moment just how much I love it. It updates the P&P storyline with some interesting cultural and economic twists, and Aishwarya Rai is just a total winner as Latika/Lizzy, and I love the goofy, spirited, whirling musical numbers, the gorgeous filmmaking, and all the secondary characters. Here's the opening musical number:
(Sorry for the teeny-tininess)
[On a sidenote, I'm fascinated by female-directed, female-centric films like this and Mama Mia that have such an unself-conscious joie de vivre. They're so different from almost all other films (and misunderstood by critics). It's funny that both were such giant hits in the UK and less so here, though neither flopped]
Perennially-beloved contemporary P+P (and Tom Jones) adaptation "Bridget Jones's Diary" (which I've written about before) happened to be on tV for the umpteenth time this weekend. Though the film is not as good as the book, it's still the last great Rom-Com to grace our screens. With the exception of "Music and Lyrics," there hasn't been a decent addition to the genre in years. It has a non-stick-thin, non chirpy heroine, which makes me particularly happy (and all though much of the humor is at her expense, she has her share of fantastic zingers). And I love all the P+P in-references, particularly when Bridget tells Darcy "you need to seriously reconsider the length of your sideburns."
Here's a funny scene from the first one:
This is an email I got last night from Amy at PBS Engage;
As someone who blogs about literature and/or literary film adaptations, I thought this may be of interest to you and your readers. I hope that you will pass this information along.
The series features a PBS celebrity or insider and asks visitors to send in questions to be answered the following week. The blog series has been very successful and we are thrilled to have Ms. Eaton as our features this week.
This is a chance for you to ask any questions you may have about Masterpiece Classic, Mystery!, and/or Contemporary, what it’s like for Ms. Eaton to produce film adaptations of some of the most beloved literature, and about how Masterpiece has changed over the years.
Please visit the link and post your comments and questions here: http://www.pbs.org/engage/
I don't know about you readership, but Ms. Eaton's name is a household one for me, and I'm amazed by all the great adaptations she's brought to the screen. Check out the discussion and ask some Qs, I certainly will.
Monday, January 26, 2009
So is Wuthering Heights a reworking of "Paradise Lost" with a proto-feminist twist? Check out this stanza from John Milton's Epic Biblical Epic, (Book 1) in which rebellious angel SATAN tells BEEZLEBUB that he would rather "make a heaven of hell" than live a subservient life in heaven--to him, that's hell. (Think of all the ways Bronte signifies a connection between Heathcliff and Milton's oh-so-roguishly-appealing Satan, and the way she plays with the polarities between the two houses and the two generations)
Is this the Region, this the Soil, the Clime,
Said then the lost Arch Angel, this the seat
That we must change for Heav'n, this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he
Who now is Sovreign can dispose and bid
What shall be right: farthest from him is best
Whom reason hath equal'd, force hath made supreme
Above his equals. Farewell happy Fields
Where Joy for ever dwells: Hail horrors, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings
A mind not to be chang'd by Place or Time.
The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less then hee
Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n.
But wherefore let we then our faithful friends,
Th' associates and copartners of our loss
Lie thus astonisht on th' oblivious Pool,
And call them not to share with us their part
In this unhappy Mansion, or once more
With rallied Arms to try what may be yet
Regained in Heav'n, or what more lost in Hell?
Sunday, January 25, 2009
- So we've cut to the future. Nelly Dean looks really good for like, an octegenarian! Heathcliff on the other hand seems a bit ragged.
- And the number of deathbed scenes has increased to three. Life was tough on the moors for the Linton clan.
- Hareton and Cathy II spar verbally whilst sitting by the kitchen fire. Oh no s/he didn't. Truths are revaled, a connection is forged, but try as we might it's so hard to care about these kids the way we cared about their irritatingly vital parents.
- Shaky camerawork speeding over the moors and through the halls of the Heights approximates the ghost of Cathy I. "Let me in!" she cries, sounding a lot like Kate Bush.
- And Linton Heathcliff has left this earthly realm. Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for that whiny miserable invalid. Sorry to speak ill of the dead, but it is true!
- And fairly quickly we see that Hareton and the recently-widowed-but-it-doesn't-count bc it was-a-marriage-forced-upon her Cathy are falling in lurve. Heathcliff can't do much to thwart these two besotted lovers and he knows it, because they both look like Cathy I and because let's face it, he's losing that Heathcliff touch. Hearing ghosts, not viciously beating those who piss him off, unable to get his rocks off by exacting cruel revenge. Is this the Heathcliff of yesteryear? When did he become such a shadow of his Fiendish self?
- [SPOILERS BELOW]
- Uh-oh, the cheesy music signifies that the scene everyone's been mocking is coming our way. And here it is, Heathcliff is happy and smiling (I know he's supposed to be all weirdly hyped and grinning at the end of his life but this is sap-city) and he joins the ghost of Cathy in the hallway. This cannot end well.
- Wait, huh, did Heathcliff SHOOT HIMSELF? Wtf? Cath's ghost is supposed to do the job, not Hindley's pistol! This is mad confusing and happening quite quickly.
- It's moving day. This reminds me of the time the Bushes moved out of the white house earlier this week. That was a good move. But back to the 19th century... Our happy couple move from the infernal Heights to the celestial Grange--or is it the other way around, eh? Are they leaving freedom in favor of propriety, thus shattering the bucolic memory of their parent generations' blissful childhood? And then...
- The older couple, H and C #1 stand at the window watching and smiling(?) as the young couple moves off. Why they so happy, prat tell? Is it because they can prowl the halls in ghostly forms without the damn kids getting in the way? Because those young folks just grow up and have love affairs so damn fast? Or is it because the director didn't know how else to end this tale? Also, if they're going to put them in the window, they should look more ghostly.
- Okay, so I think the last five minutes were kinda crap-tastic. And the first half was definitely better than the second half, but on the whole I remain fairly pleased with the adaptation particularly 1) Tom Hardy and 2) the scenery and filming.
That's a wrap folks. Let's let Nelly Dean take us out: "But the country folks, if you ask them, would swear on the Bible that he WALKS: there are those who speak to having met him near the church, and on the moor, and even within this house. Idle tales, you'll say, and so say I. Yet that old man by the kitchen fire affirms he has seen two on 'em looking out of his chamber window on every rainy night since his death:- and an odd thing happened to me about a month ago. I was going to the Grange one evening - a dark evening, threatening thunder - and, just at the turn of the Heights, I encountered a little boy with a sheep and two lambs before him; he was crying terribly; and I supposed the lambs were skittish, and would not be guided. 'What is the matter, my little man?' I asked. 'There's Heathcliff and a woman yonder, under t' nab,' he blubbered, 'un' I darnut pass 'em.'
- And everything is falling apart. Cathy is histrionic, Heathcliff has gone from man to monster, Hindley is waving a gun all over the place. Edgar is tyrannical and conventional. And everyone reveals their worst selves! Emily Bronte is merciless.
- Here come some vital exchanges:
- Nelly remarks on the fact that Cathy won't eat, which is a super important metaphoricaly--her self-starvation is her way of rebelling against the ties that bind by punishing herself (or the part of herself that is aligned with the strictures of the social-patriarchal order?).
- And Cathy longs to be a "savage" again...to no longer be stuck in her gilded cage but to be wild, to be one with Heathcliff once more.
- Cathy runs out onto the moors in the rain calling Heathclif's name. He hears her, he finds her!
- And just when you think they are both horrible people and deserve nothing, they have a tender scene in the rain revealing their primal connection. "There's no Edgar, there's no Hindley, there's just you and I," he says.
- On her deathbed, Cathy asks that her child not be too tame. Oh man, if this book is not a giant FU to the patriarchy I shall eat my bonnet.
- Hindley, pointing a gun at Heathcliff, tells the story about how Cathy asked for a "whip" from her dad as a child and got Heathcliff instead. But of course, he is her whip--the weapon she uses against the world, the part of herself that exacts a brutal revenge on those who subdue her wildness, who tame her.
- And when Isabella encounters her brother, he reveals himself to be just as cruel as Heathcliff, totally spurns her. Of course, his wife IS departing this earthly realm and she loves another dude, so one might be inclined to cut him some slack. Who am I kidding, Edward is a !@#$t..
- And Cathy is dead. Heathcliff does NOT bang his forehead on the tree whilst she is dying, which is disappointing. But he does talk to her corpse, quite intimately. And here comes his big line, his "I am Heathcliff" moment.
- wait for it, wait for it, wait for it,
- and here it comes...
- I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT MY LIFE, I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT MY SOUL.
- 15 years later and Heathcliff is exacting his revenge by forcing emo-Linton Heathcliff to marry baby Cathy. See you in the next liveblog thread!
And don't forget to vote/allocate blame.
9:05--Isabella and Cathy have a catfight over Heathcliff at the door to the Grange. Cathy's having a temper tantrum, reaping what she sows.
9:06--And Edgar kicks Heathcliff out. Here comes an important line "Cathy this lamb of yours threatens like a bull" revealing that Edgar is cruel too and not as gentle as he posits himself.
9:07 and now the men have their own catfight! So many couples fighting and switching around. Is this Wuthering Heights or Fleetwood Mac??
9:10 Another woman running away from home... and another sex scene! Yay! Except it's not exactly romantic... poor Isabella.
9:13 Cathy tantrum number two. My viewing companion says: "She's like a child." Yes, yes she is. A primal child longing to run through the moors and escape her prison of creature comforts. Sigh.
How will the multi-generational saga-on-the-moors end? Will it stay true to the book's spirit or opt-out for Hollywood nonsense?
I can't wait to see.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
And in the spirit of geting deeper into the book, I'd remind you that WH is one of the most symbolically potent novels of its time, particuarly the two houses and the two generations. Nancy Armstrong points out the trouble WH gives critics, because its first half seems romantic while its second half is realist, while Charlotte Bronte desperately tried to point out that there was some goodness to the book and it wasn't all "perverse."
The Gs of "Madwoman", my favorite feminist foremamas, believe that WH's first half is a Miltonic story in reverse: that it tells the tale of Cathy's "Fall" from the hell of Wuthering Heights to the "heaven" of Thrushcross grange. But here's where the feminism comes in. If Wuthering Heights is is hell in the traditional sense with its darkness and wildness, it might be heaven in another sense for a young woman because it offers young Cathy freedom, anarchy and the ability to be with the man she truly loves. And the fact that a vicious dog bites Cathy upon her entrance to "heaven" at the Grange, a house which is carpeted in "crimson" leave the reader to ponder which house is really celestial and which one netherworldly for a woman. Is Cathy's trajectory Milton in reverse, or is a true fall ?
They also believe that Heathcliff can be interpreted as an almost Freudian projection of Cathy's most essential, anti-patriarchal self--her true id. Thus when she and Heathcliff split, her "death" begins, because she cannot live without HER life, HER soul. She is Heathcliff but he is also her. Edgar of course functions like a patriarchal superego, repeateldy separating Cathy from Heathcliff/her own self.
The Gs also point out (SPOILER ALERT) that the journeys of the two Cathys are opposite:
Catherine Earnshaw-->Catherine Heathcliff (symbolically)-->Catherine Linton
Catherine Linton-->Catherine Heathcliff-->Catherine Earnshaw. They have a theory about that, but I'll leave it up to you to think about as the second half begins on TV this weekend.
Friday, January 23, 2009
So, just to be clear, if you’re a lady and you ‘fess up to an unhealthy online interest in an ex, you may have “lost it entirely.”
If you’re a dude and you write about, say, smoking pot with your prepubescent son, scoring coke with your daughters asleep in your car, or spewing uncontrollable diabetes-related diarrhea all over your son’s back seat, well then you, sir, have written “a bruising survival story,” or a “brave, heartfelt, often funny, often frustrating book.”
If you’re a chick who sleeps around and lives to tell (and sell) the tale, you’re greedy, vain and charmless. If you’re a guy who spends nights on end looking at Internet porn and days investing in drug companies that overcharge cancer patients for their cures, then you’re “formidably smart.”
Read the rest here. And have a happy weekend. I'm off to see Rachel Getting Married.
Book lists are great, and I adore them, but they're most effective when limited to 100 titles. This is just overwhelming, although it's egalitarian and includes lots of fun fellow-ette favs like Harry Potter, LOTR, and Bridge Jones.
I counted about 125 that I had read while scanning the list, which feels pathetic, but it wasn't a very accurate count. So maybe there were actually less than that! Anyway, here it is, in all it's listy glory.
*because you'll never get through them in your lifetime. Remembrance of Things Past + War and Peace + Finnegan's Wake= 997 other books? NOT GONNA HAPPEN.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
[Just imagine this post's title sung by Kate Bush and the repetition will make sense]
So this is my long-awaited (by me, anyway) review of Part I of ITV/Masterpiece Classic's Wuthering Heights starring Tom Hardy, Charlotte Riley, and the dude who played Guppy from Bleak House. First I'll go over things I liked and didn't like, and then--like Heathcliff in the graveyard--I'll dig a wee bit deeper.
Aspects that I appreciated:
- The sets and filming. The Grange and Heights were 90-95% entirely as I imagined them. I thought they evoked what they were supposed to evoke quite well.
- The accents--I loved the clipped roll of the characters' Northern English accents and they reminded me of North and South, which is definitely a good thing.
- The sex--fornication on the moors can never be wrong, if the love is true.
- Tom Hardy--he was a hot, fascinating, mess of a Heathcliff. Interesting to look at, almost sympathetic in my mind, despite his endless quest for vengeance. AND let's get to the crux of things: he banged his head on the wall BEFORE CATHY EVEN DIED. Now that's devotion. Are we going to get another episode of frenzied head-banging against a treetrunk when the sad event occurs? These are the questions that keep me up at night, readers.
- Isabella Linton--This Isabella has a sass-mouth, and I like it.
- Necrophilia--Stop judging. He didn't want to sleep with her corpse, he just wanted to cuddle.
- Linton Heathcliff--The frail, consumptive Linton Heathcliff reimagined as a whiny emo dude. I can dig it.
- Mumbling--There was a bit too much of it. E. Bronte's characters shouldn't mumble, they're too melodramatic. THEY SHOULD EN-UN-CI-ATE THEIR BUR-NING DE-SIRES AND RAGE.
- The moors-- good, but too sunny. Wither were the clouds? The snowstorms? The external manifestations of our sundered lovers' turmoil?
- The sex-- I am all about the passion between H and C, but I take issue with how quickly it started in this version. There's a certain air of chastity to the characers' early union that is I think vital to Bronte's meaning. H and C are supposed to flee to the grange because Hindley's canoodling session makes them uncomfortable. And Hindley's canoodling makes them uncomfortable because the threat of sexuality between them is the first hint of their impending separation. I think this aspect was somewhat included in this film--in the sense that after they "lay" together they had this big break and Cathy started "entertaining" Edgar-- but still. The make-outs started too early, is all I'm saying.
- Cathy's looks--The part was very well-acted, but to me, Cathy's weird outfits and her face both felt kind of modern. I feel like Charlotte Riley belongs in a pair of jeans or a power suit, and also, it was hard to stomach her in those cleavage get-ups post-sojourn at Thrushcross Grange without laughing at the excessive boobage.
It appears that audiences are quite divided on their views of this production (this is based on my persual of the blogsophere.) In fact, even my family is torn; My mom thoroughly enjoyed it, my grandmother thought it was a piece of crap. Well folks, I'm coming down on mom's side: sorry grandma!
I don't think this is the definitive version by any means, (I wonder if there can be a definitive version of such a slippery novel) but I felt that it had a lot going for it. This "WH" was more than watchable, it touched on almost all the crucial themes, moods and characters, and made the book feel relevant. Most importantly, the emotions I felt while watching the film recalled the emotions I felt when I first really learned to appreciate the book: horror and grief at Heathcliff's unfair lot as a child and young man, anger at Cathy's betrayal, sickening regret mixed with perverse fascination as Heathcliff embarks on his campaign of revenge, and a weird mix of hope and disinterest in the fate of the younger generation, who fall so much under the shadows of their larger-than-life parents. It made me go back to my lit crit and think about the book in contemporary contexts, and for that I am thankful. Also, there was a lot of sex, which I may have mentioned.
All in all, well done to the folks at ITV.*
*Now I hear from the intertubes that there's some approaching blasphemy in the second part that may discomfit me/rob me of the good vibes I'm getting from this adaptation. I say, bring it on! Why, you ask? Because no literary-adaptation sin could be worse than the "snog" at the end of 2005's "Love, Actually, and Pride and Prejudice." So unless this miniseries ends with Heathcliff wearing stupid knee-breeches and showing off his calves while he strokes Cathy
**I may eat my words.
I'd also urge you to look up Reproductive Justice-- the increasingly-accepted framework for dealing with the (sadly) politicized issue of women's health. Reproductive Justice means we fight to open up choices for every woman, from the woman who wants to have a child but can't afford health insurance, to the teenager who needs birth control and sex ed, to the rape victim who asks for emergency contraception, to the woman making up her mind about an unintended pregnancy. It's the whole package.
This year begins with hope, for the first time in a long time: a pro-choice president and congress. So as I said earlier this week, let's roll up our sleeves and hold their feet to the fire. Because women cannot be equal unless we have the final say over our bodies.
Today is a big day--blog for choice day and I'm working on my WH review, so you'll hear more from me later.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I'd better write this review quickly lest I start to forget all 800-plus pages of this late-period Dickens extravaganza. So here goes.
Little Dorrit's primary concern is the theme of imprisonment and freedom, and particularly the psychological toll that the former takes on people. Dickens plumbed his personal experience with the jailing of his father (for debt) to write the novel. Little Dorrit herself is the "Child of the Marshalsea" because she is born within the walls of that infamous debtor's prison.
But what's amazing, and I think most redeeming, about this book is that Dickens also sees wealth as a prison: he comes out swinging against the awful practice of locking up debtors, but is no kinder to the "nobs" who chase wealth and enact ritualistic homages to Society and Money.
These are Amy "Little" Dorrits thoughts when her family, newly-wealthy, spends a season traveling and fete-ing on the contintent:
It appeared on the whole, to Little Dorrit herself, that this same society in which they lived, greatly resembled a superior sort of Marshalsea. Numbers of people seemed to come abroad, pretty much as people had come into the prison; through debt, through idleness, relationship, curiosity, and general unfitness for getting on at home. They were brought into these foreign towns in the custody of couriers and local followers, just as the debtors had been brought into the prison. They prowled about the churches and picture-galleries, much in the old, dreary, prison-yard manner. They were usually going away again to-morrow or next week, and rarely knew their own minds, and seldom did what they said they would do, or went where they said they would go: in all this again, very like the prison debtors. They paid high for poor accommodation, and disparaged a place while they pretended to like it: which was exactly the Marshalsea custom.This is the most brilliant aspect of the book: the parallel halves in which the characters in prison and abroad exhibit the same patterns, characteristics, and follies. In fact, Dickens points out that the family is allowed to show love and tenderness towards each other more in prison than when they have to keep up appearances for genteel society.
Beyond the Dorrits, the interlocking strands of the multilayered plot include a number of separate savage satires: the office of Circumlocution and the Barnacle family that presides over it is just a brilliant skewering of bureaucracy. Henry Gowan is the obligatory laconic young man--the Felix Carbury/Rawdon Crawley type. Flora Finching is a wonderful character, her endless breathless flirtation a send-up of "romantic" notions as exhibited by middle-aged matrons. Mr. F's aunt is the pitch-perfect character who has little other purpose but to make the reader chuckle. And of course, there's Mr. Merdle, the Melmotte-like financier who everyone lauds and behaves obsequiously towards, and who ends up swindling them all and leaving them bankrupt. It's positively uncanny how relevant it all is in the Madoff era. It's as though we've learned nothing over time.
All this being said, I thought Dorrit's denoument, and the unraveling of the various mysteries and cliffhangers, was flat, anti-climactic, and at times even confusing. It's never good when the publisher decides to put a two-page addendum at the end of the book explaining the events of the final few chapters. Furthermore, the chief villain of the book, Blandois/Rigaud, is a rather laughable caricature of a continental rogue while Amy Dorrit's sweetness tends towards the saccharine. Dickens was much better at writing in-between characters than heroes or villains, which is why books like Great Expectations and David Copperfield whose heroes ARE in- between characters themselves, are so much better than the rest. Still, for the reasons stated above, it remains a very worthy read. So in conclusion, Copperfield pwns Dorrit pwns Hard Times.
A Coda: As for the upcoming mini-series, I am so thoroughly excited for it I can't contain myself. The cast looks parfait.
TO LADY CATHERINE: ``If you believed it impossible to be true, I wonder you took the trouble of coming so far.
TO LYDIA: `I thank you for my share of the favour, but I do not particularly like your way of getting husbands.''
TO LADY CATHERINE: ``That will make your ladyship's situation at present more pitiable; but it will have no effect on me.''
TO COLLINS: 'You are too hasty, Sir. You forget that I have made no answer. Let me do it without farther loss of time... I am very sensible of the honour of your proposals, but it is impossible for me to do otherwise than decline them.
Vic, aka Ms. Place, and Laurel Ann of the amazing (amazing!) blog Jane Austen's World have links to their WH reviews and a lively discussion up here.
And below, just for a treat, is the iconic red dress version of "Wuthering Heights," Kate Bush's song that blew the minds of Bronteites worldwide and continually blows mine.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Praise song for the day.
Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”
We encounter each other in words, Words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; Words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, “I need to see what’s on the other side; I know there’s something better down the road.”
We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.
Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”
Others by "first do no harm," or "take no more than you need."
What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.
In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.
What are your thoughts? I thought it was sort of prosey
but appropriate for the occasion and delivered with spirit.
Because I CANNOT LET GO of this meme.
This day does not belong to one man, but to all. Let us together rebuild this world that we may share in the days of peace.
The hobbits, BTW, are all of us. Yes we did.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Thursday, January 15, 2009
So I have to admit that I was initially reluctant to get sucked in by the Masterpiece Classic "Tess," mostly because I knew it would leave me an emotional wreck, a pale shadow of my former self. I would be left bereaved and hopeless, as any significant amount of time spent with Thomas Hardy inevitably must leave one.
But I was told it was a really excellent adaptation, and so I dipped in. I have to say I'm surprised the NY Times gave it such a negative review. I thought it was a truly fantastic viewing experience--far, far, better than the dreck that was the first two weeks of last year's Jane Austen Season (seriously, ITV, WHY DID YOU DO THAT?). I thought that Gemma Arterton, who played Tess, anchored it with an astonishing performance. Her Tess is so believable, and the fatal mistakes she makes really appeared to come out of the traits of a coherent, whole, true character just as I imagine Hardy intended. This made her inevitable march towards Doom less unbearable because I felt less manipulated by the author and filmmakers than I expected to be.
The haunting music and the gorgeous scenery all made the bittersweet experience of watching poor Tess nearly escape her fall from grace more acute. Needless to say, the ending of the whole thing, a good many twists and turns later, left me quite insensible with grief for a few minutes.
But "Tess" is more than a tragedy based on a character's flaws: it's a screed against the sexual mores and misogyny of its time. Despite my recent feeling that I've OD'd on viewing everything through a feminist lens, "Tess" demands to be analyzed in a that context. Hardy's condemnation of the church's false morality is harsh but the movie makes it harsher ("I don't like your church! I don't like your God!" shouts Tess when the preacher refuses to give her illegitimate child a Christian burial. Here is the corresponding text.). Perhaps the most devastating moment of the movie was Angel's reaction when Tess tells him about her past. He loves her despite her poverty but he cannot get over those pesky social rules when it comes to her sexual history--and the filmmakers hammer home his churchy upbringing and the obsequious piety of all his family to underscore why it's so hard for him. When Angel then leaves Tess and she doesn't understand why, it's so deeply painful. Hardy shows us that good people are still bound by the chains of the unfair double-standard.
The biggest tangle in Tess and all novels of its ilk (Bovary, Anna Karenina, Scarlet Letter etc etc) written by men is though even though they expose the hypocrisies and horror of their societies' treatment of women, they always punish the heroine (okay, Hawthorne punished the dude in question more, but Hester couldn't take that damn letter off). This was inevitably done to shock the audience, to be publishable, and because i think it was beyond the scope of the authors' imaginations to believe that such acts could go unpunished in the societies they all railed against. But it still intrigues me today one to think of these female characters as human sacrifices--particularly Tess, who Hardy surrounds with pagan and primeval metaphors including a final night spent on a slab at Stonehenge--made by the authors in the service of justice for women.
Anyway, catch Tess online between now and Sunday, when "Wuthering Heights" takes over. It will be four hours you won't regret, even if it makes you a bit emotional. And if you've read the book and saw this version, I'd love to hear your thoughts on where the adaptation worked and where it didn't in terms of Hardy's vision.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
The fairy tales themselves are sweet and demonstrate Rowling's unique sense of right and wrong as well as her signature mix of beautifully mythical and comically grotesque aesthetics.
But it's Dumbledore's footnotes that steal the show. Reading "his" words gave me a lump in my throat and a longing to return to the wizarding world and stay there. It may not be a full novel, but "Beedle" proves that JK still has it, and when she unleashes it again we're going to be in awe.
So illustrious New Yorker scribe David Denby has written a book on snark. I believe that within its pages, he complains about the intertubes making snark into an epidemic. Now no offense to the book or its author, but I thought this timely item was a great segue to pimping my featured poll on Lizzy Bennet's greatest verbal smackdowns. Please vote, if you haven't! Because if Lizzy wasn't a mistress of snark centuries before the term was coined, I'll eat my bonnet.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Milk is by far my favorite of the bunch. Why is the most brilliantly acted, well-filmed, and politically relevant film of the season being ignored by award-giving bodies? ding ding ding! Because Hollywood is homophobic.
Slumdog Millionaire's Dickensian opening sequences are great, but then this beautifully shot movie devolves into weird cliched gangster flick. Not sure I get all the hype, but I enjoyed it enough.
Frost/Nixon was the perfect "fun-serious" film. The two leads were great and Ron Howard's big time Hollywood-style direction fit the content like a glove.
Revolutionary Road--Leo and Kate transcended a stylized script and delivered bang-up performances, particularly Leo actually. But it's a painful subject. Very painful.
Rachel Getting Married and The Wrestler and Last Chance Harvey I wantz to see them.
Mad Men finished season 1, starting season 2. Still one of the best shows around, but why oh why does Don not hang on to poor Rachel Menken? She is the most badass female Jewish character eva.
Rome Season 2 Super, super, super violent but delicious. I have this weird feeling a lot of these characters are not going to make it ;)
Friday Night Lights season 3. The best show on television finished its third (last?) season with a heartbreaking, uplifting, and sadly realistic bunch of episodes. I think this may have been one of the best seasons of TV ever. Tv gods, PLEASE BRING IT BACK FOR A FOURTH SEASON. PLEASE. PLEASE.
Monday, January 12, 2009
This one's for Kim and JaneFan.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
This is my list of period literary adaptations' most
Anyway, recall that this is a personal project and has no official significance whatsoever and thus no coherent rules:) Now ogle + debate away!
Oh, and conspicuoulsy absent are actors from 2007's adaptations of Persuasion and Mansfield Park. In such cases as these, a good memory is unpardonable.
#1 Richard Armitage
Recognition of Richard Armitage's delightfully dark and smoldering John Thornton from the BBC's 2004 "North and South", was being clamored for most enthusiastically in the comments section of the previous post.* But my readers need not have feared--this performance utterly captured my heart and threw all of England into an afore-unknown craze called "Gaskell-Mania." Why was Armitage so amazing? He played the role with such repressed passion, and effected a moving transition from stern and forbidding mill-owner to humbler man touched by love's gentle hand, a transition that rivals the change underwent by Darcy in between"Not handsome enough to tempt me" and "dearest, loveliest Elizabeth." Seriously, to parrot commenter Laura E, if you haven't seen this mini-series, go out and rent it RIGHT NOW. It's television at its most extraordinary. I also loved the book.
#2 Toby Stephens
I got into a mini-quibble with a reader about the quality of Ciaran Hinds' interpretation of that memorable Byronic hero, Edward F. Rochester. But CH dispute aside, Toby Stephens truly transcended his pretty-boy looks to play a nearly-perfect Rochester in the 2006 adaptation of "Jane Eyre," an adaptation that truly gave one of the best novels ever written its due. Stephens neither gets Rochester off the hook for his domineering ways and the whole bigamy thing, nor does he render him too unsympathetic, and it's a very difficult line to walk. The emotional bond between Jane and R--the thread that goes from one heart to another--is truly present in this performance.
#3--JJ Feild As Mags always reminds us, it was unnecessary for the screenwriters of '07's "Northanger Abbey" to make Henry Tilney, one of the wittiest and quirkiest characters written, act "mean" towards poor Catherine Morland during one particular scene. But that's a screenwriting issue. As BethDunn points out in the comments, JJ pulls off the mix of clever one-liners, wry observations and occasional awkward proposing (in the hedgerow) that I think Austen would have been largely pleased with.
#4 Dan Stevens
So on the whole I didn't think the "2007 Sense and Sensibility" held up to Ang Lee's '95 big screen version, but one way it excelled its predecessor was Dan Stevens' Edward Ferrars. Basically, his performance kinda pwns Hugh Grant, previous awardee for the same role. His pain was deeper, his passion stronger, his awkwardness less painfully funny. And there was that chopping wood in the rain scene, which was no Darcy-in-the lake, but wasn't half bad either.
#5 Richard Harrington his Allan Woodcourt helps the poor in the slums even though there's no money in it, and he loves Esther Summerson even after she is horribly disfigured by some creepy Victorian disease I can't recall. Nuff said. ("Bleak House," 2006). Just look at that intensity! No wonder he won out over romantic rival Jarndyce.
#6 Hugh Dancy. (2002's "Daniel Deronda.") He's an extremely sensitive, soulful secret Jew, and he is being being fought over by the blonde, shallow (but trying hard not to be shallow) Gwendolyn Harleth and the beautiful, talented, pure Mirah. It's good to be the king. Dancy's performance anchors an adaptation of a very difficult work and makes Daniel's anguished position really come to life.
*(Thanks K, starling, femblogproject, BethDunn, Laura, MFL, anonymous et all for being so engaged!)
Saturday, January 10, 2009
This change, which follows the appointment of a new head of drama commissioning at the BBC, will mean that in future there will be less of the types of serials that have characterised the corporation's output over recent years, such as Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Lark Rise to Candleford, Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre, Daniel Deronda and Pride and Prejudice.
In their place the BBC is planning more period dramas along the lines of this week's The Diary of Anne Frank and the remake of John Buchan's spy novel, The 39 Steps, which aired over Christmas.
The move comes after ratings dipped for BBC1's most recent costume drama, Charles Dickens's Little Dorrit, which sank to a low of 2.5 million viewers for one midweek episode last month. By comparison, The Diary of Anne Frank pulled in about 4.5 million viewers, while The 39 Steps, starring former Spooks actor Rupert Penry-Jones, attracted 7.3 million.
A senior BBC drama insider told the Guardian: "There is to be an evolution in the presentation of period dramas, moving away from classic 19th century so-called 'bonnet' dramas to looking at other periods of history.
"This will allow us to look at other times and places in British and world history. The aim is to give drama audiences something new and different to enjoy."
This is straight BS.
But there are a few reasons to not despair.
First, the BBC knows it has a surefire thing going with many wildly successful 19th century adaptations, and so if their season focuses a little less on such things and has more variety, it doesn't mean it will be abandoning them entirely.
Secondly, ITV is picking up the slack. Their quality has been much poorer than their counterparts, but there are glimmers of hope, such as last year's Northanger Abbey.
So while this is disappointing, I am most assiduously determined to see the bright side.
Friday, January 09, 2009
- Delighted chuckling
- Breech-wearing [and lifting up tails whilst sitting down]
- Maintaining an air of mystery
- You get the idea. Here they are.
Girl With the Pearl Earring, seducing young Irish ladies as a caddish landowner in Circle of Friends, trading clever barbs with Rupert Everett in the Importance of Being Earnest, and parodying himself in the Bridget Jones movies.
#2 Greg Wise
"Will you allow me to ascertain if there are any breaks?"
Supplanting Kenneth Branagh as Emma Thompson's leading man in real life gets him points, but even though he's potentially less famous than some of the others on this list, he's this high because he owns the role of the cad so utterly and completely. From the ultimate betrayer, Willoughby, in Sense and Sensibility (leading Kate Winslet to alter a recital of a Shakespeare Sonnet thus: " Oh no! It is an ever fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken. Willoughby. Willoughby. Willoughby.") His finest work might be on Materpiece Theater: in Madame Bovary, he shows his bare ass off as Rodolphe, consummating his love with Emma Bovary in a forest (with horses nearby. They were out riding, you see.). And he also "takes" Nan St. George, corsets and all, in the midst of a cornfield in TV's turgid adaptation of Wharton's "The Buccaneers". No wonder Emma Thompson loves him so!
#3 Sir Laurence Olivier.
Because besides all that Shakespearean stuff, the Vivien Leigh business, and Lord Nelson, Sir L. got to play both romantic heroes Darcy and Heathcliff, (not to mention the uber-secretive Maxim de Winter) and he perfected the snarling glower, the pacing restlessness, and the lustful eyes long before the current hunks were even born. It's enough to get a girl singing Kate Bush at the top of her lungs.
#4 Ciaran Hinds
Alright, so the was in worst movie ever ever ever (Miami Vice). But his performance as Captain Wentworth in Persuasion was so so so finely wrought, un-Hollywood, and sexy in a subdued way that we finally root for him over the more traditionally dishy Mr. Eliot (more on that lothario in the previous installment). Plus, he makes a wild and passionate Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre, he's a kick-ass julius Caesar on "Rome", and he dared to play the Mayor of Casterbridge, one of Hardy's most depressing characters (other than obscure old Jude), which speaks to his integrity and craft and all that other important actor-y stuff.
"You pierce my soul."
Maybe it's because he redeemed Emma (while Gwyneth was ugh) ...but more likely because of his spot-on turn in An Ideal Husband as a confident, noble politician with a shameful secret in his past (held by the delicious Julianne Moore)... and even more because of his ruthless, conniving and yes, very sexy (bearded!) role as Prince Amerigo in the Merchant-Ivory adaptation of James' The Golden Bowl. He's got Uma and Kate Beckinsale pining away. And because of his fandom.
Okay, so what are your quibbles? I'm happy to debate 'em.
And don't forget I'm adding five new hotties from movies I've seen in the last two years... So of those, WHO WILL BE NUMBER ONE? Will it be a concealed Jew who thinks he's the bastard spawn of nobility? A snarling mill-owner softened by a lady's touch? Or what about an "emo" Rochester, an Edward Ferrars who chops wood in the rain, or perhaps a country doctor who pines after a young winsome patient? Tune in to the next installment.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
As those of you not reading via RSS readers might have already noted, I added a poll on the top of the site asking you to choose your absolute favorite Lizzy Bennet verbal smackdown. I will leave it up there for a while and then at some point, relegate it off to the side once enough votes have been cast. [NB there's something slow with the formatting that makes the space below the poll seem giant at first, but fear not, readers, once the site loads it appears to go away. Thx, blogger!]
And feel free to add in your write-in nominations in the comments section. Lizzy had many moments of sharp repartee that cannot be captured in a pithy poll.
Who steals our hearts in the big or small screen dramatizations of Wharton, Austen, Bronte and Bronte, James, Forster, Eliot, and more? Part 2.
Makes the list for his embodiment of the early-modern romantic hero in the Age of Innocence. As in, he plays that epitome of wealthy indecision, the New York son of fortune Newland Archer--who is caught between Winona Ryder's sweet intended fiancee and Michelle Pfeiffer's sensual countless Olenska. From the first scene in Scorcese's underrated film where Day-Lewis puts the opera glasses on and sees Pfeiffer across the massive opera house, to the final scene with leaves falling in a wistful shot of Paris, he's melencholy and pondering and yes, we realize, the Victorian era is long gone. In A Room With a View, Day-Lewis plays the safe fiancee himself, Cecil Vyse, unable to understand why Helena Bonham carter has a thing for Julian Sands' George Emerson (and more on him, later).
What? Anthony Hopkins? Think about it. He lights up Merchant Ivory productions, and is equally at home on a manor lawn as he is feasting on brains. Obviously, he particularly dazzles in the tear-jerking, understated butler role that's one of the best roles in literature or film... like, ever ever ever...The Remains of the Day opposite Emma Thompson. And he does Forster proud as the less-than-honest Wilcox hubby in Howard's End opposite....Emma Thompson. Plus, he also plays this really erudite guy named Hannibal.
Who the heck is he? Only the unprecedentedly dishy Austen anti-hero Mr. Elliot, so beautiful, so charming, that when he looks up at his cousin Anne on the beach and doffs his hat, staring wide-eyed at her reborn beauty, everyone knows that he's about to become a player for her heart. West also plays Helena Bonham-Carter's ill-fated working class love interest Leonard Bast in Howard's End. And anyone who has an affair with B-Carter while she's in Corsets is, like, seriously Major.
I wasn't going to put him on this list, because of my general opposition to the liberties the new "Love Actually... And Pride and Prejudice" Kiera Knightley -heaving-bosoms-in-the-mist film version takes with Austen's text (I don't have the same problem with Ang Lee's equally rapacious S&S, but I'll explain that another time). But MacFayden is damn good, kind of mixing sneering and sniffing with a bit of adorable lip-trembling. And I hear he plays Sir Felix in the Masterpiece Theater Mini-series of the Way We Live Now, which I'm currently reading [fall '06], so that's why he's grudgingly up here. [NOTE: He is also the star of Little Dorrit, and I think he's kind of perfect for its hero, Arthur Clenham.]
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
WHAT I SAID THEN + my current comments in brackets:
Julian Sands as the "beauty!" and "joy!" loving George Emerson who rocks Helena Bonham Carter's world in "A Room With a View" ]plus, there's that scene where "La Rondine" is playing in the background and they kiss on the hill in Fiesole]
Alan Rickman, as the staid Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (remember how he paces back and forth when Marianne is sick and says: "Give me something to do or I shall go mad!"?)
Hugh Grant as the annoyingly weak-tempered but very sweet Edward Ferrars in the same.
Rufus Sewell, now known as the crazy would-be emperor in The Illusionist, for his stunning, stunning Will Ladislaw (my favorite literary hero ever, even more than Darcy) in the Masterpiece Theater production of Eliot's Middlemarch. [Even though Andrew Davies ruined the ending.]
Eric Stolz as an effete, overwhelmed but passionate Lawrence Selden in Terrence Davies' under-appreciated adaptation of Wharton's The House of Mirth.
And the razzie goes to:
Jonathan Rhys-Myers, a personal favorite, for his miserably churlish and bratty George Osborne in Mira Nair's frustrating but excellent production of Thackeray's Vanity Fair [and now for turning Henry VIII into a churlish, bratty... hmmm. Noticing a pattern?