Reading Roundup: August 2010

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell


It was interesting to read this book so soon after finishing Middlemarch, since they both cover similar social issues during a similar time period. They are, however, very different from each other in many ways. I had never really heard of Gaskell or her work until a few years ago and my impression is that she is not studied nearly as much as other similar writers like George Eliot, the Brontes, or Jane Austen. I think that's a shame because this is an excellent book on many levels: romance, social commentary, political and feminist criticism, etc. I think I need to read more of Gaskell's work to see if it is all as good as this one.


One Small Boat by Kathy Harrison


This was a book that caught my eye at the library. It was a nicely-written memoir about one woman's experience as a foster parent; she writes so lovingly about the children she took care of that it almost convinced me to become a foster parent. At the same time, she is honest enough that I knew it is something I really could not do.


Private Life by Jane Smiley

This book is both a detailed historical novel about a particularly fascinating time period in American history and an intimate portrait of a very flawed marriage. I loved reading it even though I didn't particularly like the protagonist or her husband; I think it takes a skilled author to create a character that is still sympathetic while sometimes being completely incomprehensible. At the same time, the main character's behavior feels right for the setting, particularly in regards to the relationship between men and women and the social stigma against mental illness.

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer

The main problem that I had with this book was the fact that I have little interest in football or in the military. It is heavy on description of both things. However, Krakauer really does have a gift for making specialized topics accessible to readers and so I managed to really enjoy the book all the same. While I think one of the major focuses of the book is a critique of current military policy, the main thing I came away with was an admiration for Tillman as a person. He seems like he was a truly good person and someone who would love to be like in my actions.


Movies


The Invention of Lying


This movie had a very funny premise and some good lines, but I felt like the screenwriters didn't really know where to go with it. I felt like the last half of the movie dragged and just didn't really feel 'right' to me.

The Time Traveler's Wife

Mr. Fob and I agree that this felt like watching a condensed version of the book. It is actually better than I thought it would be, but it felt very light compared to the story that is told in the novel.

Jesus Camp


I've been hearing about this from a lot of people and I thought it really was well done. It was more sympathetic to its subjects than I expected it to be and it made me think a lot about myself as a religious person and what my own views are.

Date Night

This is definitely a 'fluff' movie, but at least it's a very funny one. It probably helps that we're in the 'tired married couple with small children' group that is clearly the target audience. If you're looking for something fun I'd certainly check this out (we watched the extended version on the DVD and it did have a wee bit more naughty stuff than a normal PG-13 might, just FYI).


Look Around You

This actually isn't a movie; it's a British television series that parodies educational films from the seventies. We worried that we wouldn't really understand the British humor but we actually ended up laughing our heads off.

Comments

Th. said…
.

Lot of intriguing options here and nothing I've actually had before. Gaskill sounds interesting (I think she was the woman on the last AP Lit test no one had heard of before) and the movie of TTW we may now watch, since you tell us it will not suck absolutely. Which makes me so happy. Ditto with Date Night, though, if that's based on a book, I haven't read it.

Also, need to remember to watch Jesus Camp and since Ben's already made an extra effort to check out that British show, it's moving right up the list. (The one we recently watched and loved was The IT Crowd.)

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