Reading Roundup: March 2009
Passing by Nella Larson
For some reason it's always surprising to me when 'old' literature that seems so removed from my own experience (I'm not a middle-class black woman in 1920s New York) speaks so clearly to my own life. This is a short novel and yet very powerful. I found her insights about marriage and the relationship between men and women even more forceful than her commentary on race relations, but that could just be where I'm at in my life right now. But it also shows how race, class, and gender are even more closely tied than we imagine.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
I've read parts of this book before, but never the whole thing, and I was surprised by how readable it was. And (again) by how timely it still is. It's a difficult read for a lot of reasons, but I'm pretty sure the author intended it to be that way.
Mrs. Spring Fragrance by Sui Sin Far
Another book I was surprised by; it is mostly notable for being some of the first published writings by an Asian-American woman, but the writing was pretty good. It was also amazing to me to contemplate how far we have come in the area of race relations. Yes we have far to go, but reading this reminded me of the progress that has been made so far.
Soldados de Salamina by Javier Cercas
I've read this a few times already, but decided to give it another read since I was writing a paper on it. It's a good book and has some excellent insights on the nature of history and memory.
Falling Toward Heaven by John Bennion
Another re-read, since I had read it once a few years ago and didn't remember a lot about it. And I'm still trying to decide how I feel about this novel. The writing is good, the plot and characters are interesting, and the characters are very real. I'm also torn by something that happens in the end. I'm not sure if I like it or not. It seems to be the start of a whole new set of conflicts, and yet it is the finale of the book. And it just didn't feel right with the rest of the plot. Plus I had difficulty relating to this book, because even though it is about Mormons, the idea of what it means to be Mormon is so far from my personal experience that it is difficult to relate to the characters. I still liked it a lot and think it is an excellent book, but I'm not sure it's one of my personal favorites.
The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
I have seen the film version of this novel a few times and really like it. However, I realized after finally reading the novel that the film is significantly different. The movie is your standard Hollywood melodrama meant to make you feel good in the end. The book is something else entirely; much darker and without easy answers. It was still a good book, but I really didn't like the ending. I did not think it fit in with the protagonist or the feel of the rest of the book, so now my reading experience has been tainted a bit by my dissatisfaction with the last scene. I hate it when that happens.
I think I liked this movie so much just because I wasn't expecting a lot. Instead, I really liked it and think I'm a bit in love with Tony Stark. It was a lot of fun.
This is a new, straight-to-video version of the Wonder Woman story. And it's pretty good. I enjoyed it and liked some of the twists they put in (by the way, it's PG-13 and definitely not a cartoon for kids). If you're into superheroes you might like it.Milk
This movie was pretty good; the acting is phenomenal and the director does a great job integrating old footage with new. We both thought that in the end we felt somewhat distanced from the characters and that the movie seemed to focus more on recreating the historical events than on really getting into and understanding the characters. It's still a great movie and I recommend it; understatement is a lesser sin than overstatement.
I admit that I was a bit skeptical of this movie, since I loved the books so much and wasn't sure how they were going to pull off a film. Amazingly, I think the film is just as good as the books. It really works well, and I'm glad the director kept the same artistic style as the original novels because it would have been terrible otherwise. Even if you haven't read the books, see this movie. Then go read the books. You won't be disappointed.