Where's the book?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

29, 30, 31, 32...

Disappointment reigns...I've fallen short of my book-a-week resolution, which was a shaky resolution at best. I usually read about 48 or so books a year, at least for the last few years when I've kept track. Which means an average of 4 books a month, some months more, some less. But the tidy numbers-keeper within me loved the idea of a book a week, so I made that my goal, with the (silent) understanding that I didn't need to make myself nuts in order to fulfill it. After all, the object isn't racing through book after book, but reading for the pleasure, the elucidation, the enlightenment. It's about the journey, not the finish line. But what a finish line -- a book a week! I once read an article about a woman who read a book a day for an entire year, which thrilled me enormously. What an idea! A book a day. And somehow she also managed to blog about them here. I'm can't remotely imagine how she did that (and still raise 3 kids and presumably sleep), but that was a goal beyond my imagining. A book a week, now...that I could see. But summer and its attendant distractions (beaching! boating! hosting) has thrown me off the righteous path and here I am in week 34 with only 32 books read. Perhaps I will have to play catch-up with a couple of quickies. Except I also vowed to read this one over the summer and it won't fit easily into my book-a-week plan. Maybe I'll save it for next summer. We'll see...

In the meantime, here's a quick look at where I've been. Some wonderful reading time has passed.

#29 A rose by any other name would still write as sweet
 I thoroughly enjoyed the Harry Potter books. Read every word, saw every movie, loved every minute. I thought JK Rowling was a bit of a modern Dickens -- great characters, rollicking story lines, bad guys and good guys and lots of drama. So when I read about the mystery she wrote under a false name (Robert Galbraith) I immediately bought a copy of The Cuckoo's Calling on iBooks. It didn't disappoint. The first in what she plans as a series of mysteries starring a one-legged PI named Cormoran Strike (her talent for names has not deserted her), Cuckoo is a fun, confident read. Although there seemed to be some small holes -- pinholes, really -- in the plot (I felt that way about Harry Potter, too), the story bounced along, and Cormoran and his smart, warm-hearted assistant Robin (he's Batman, get it?) are very appealing characters. I would definitely follow their adventures in future Strike mysteries.

#30 Movies and books have so little in common
Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet
I've seen the movie of Mrs. Miniver ages ago, starring the wonderfully resolute Greer Garson (still my favorite Elizabeth Bennet, despite the fact that she looks closer to the age Elizabeth's mother should be) and loved it. So when I came across the book in a used bookstore, I grabbed it, only to find out that the movie and the book have about as much in common as Greer Garson and Keira Knightly.
Keira Knightly as Elizabeth Bennet

The book is a collection of short essays by Jan Struther, an English writer who is also famous for writing hymns. The essays, each a brief look at the everyday life of a British housewife, were based on Struther's own life and appeared in the London Times from 1937 until 1939. They're lovely, beautifully written, touching peeks into topics as world-shaking as hosting a dinner party and shopping for Christmas presents. Only briefly, towards the end, do the essays really touch on the world at large, once in a very moving piece about the family going to pick up their assigned gas masks, including the miniature models for her two young children. "It was for this, thought Mrs. Miniver as they walked towards the car, that one had boiled the milk for their bottles, and washed their hands before lunch, and not let them eat with a spoon which had been dropped on the floor." She writes also about going to first-aid class and the strange sense of expectation combined with apprehension that has descended on her country. Another woman confides that she likes the class because it makes her feel like she is back at school again. "I know," Mrs. Miniver thinks, "that's the whole point. That is the one great compensation for the fantastic way in which the events of our time are forcing us to live. The structure of our life--based as it is on the every-present contingency of way--is lamentably wrong: but its texture, oddly enough, is pleasant. There is a freshness about, a kind of rejuvenation: and this is largely because almost everybody you meet is busy learning something. Whereas in ordinary times the majority of grown-up people never try to acquire any new skill at all, either mental or physical: which is why they are apt to seem, and feel, so old."

The book was a huge success, in both Britain and the US, where Struther went on an enormously successful lecture tour. The book was such a hit that Franklin Roosevelt credited it for hastening America's involvement in the war. Winston Churchill supposedly said that Mrs. Miniver did more for the Allid cause than a flotilla of battleships.

#31 Did I mention that movies and books have so little in common?
Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's creature
As different as Mrs. Miniver book and movie are, the book and movie of that old favorite Frankenstein are so different they are barely relatable. Yes, they both revolve around the story of a man who plays God by creating a human, and his name is Frankenstein (the man, not the creature, who has no name). But that's about it. In Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s book, the creation portion takes about a paragraph. The rest of the many pages are about the pursuit of the creature to destroy his creator and then the creator to destroy his creature. The story is framed like Heart of Darkness -- it's told by an Arctic explorer who has taken the Doctor on board his ship in letters to his sister. The book covers enormous territory as the various pursuits occur. And, most importantly, the creature’s story is half the book. He speaks! He reads! He thinks! He is much, much more than a grunting evil being depicted in the movie. It’s a deeper, richer story, with elements of religion and classical and biblical mythology and one I’m thrilled I’ve finally gotten around to reading.

My favorite Frankenstein creature: Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein

No comments:

Post a Comment