Tuesday, February 3, 2009

She Promised Us South Rooms With a View

RORY: You're lying.
LORELAI: I'm being mysterious. That's what women do.

I've just finished Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. I have mostly positive feelings about the book. I completely fell in love with some aspects of it - a fair portion of the book is dedicated to explaining the art of bookbinding and several characters collect rare and old books, mostly I loved the fact that this book is about books.
I'm pretty sure you all know the plot by now : it's about a man who can read characters out of books he reads aloud. One day he reads a villain and his men out of a book entitled Inkheart and troubles begin.
What I can say for sure is that I started seeing the other side when the plot became too redundant and predictable. This is the problem with Inkheart : it's very much a manichean book and the greatest parts didn't have much to do with the plot as such - the action moved in circles - they escape, they're prisoners again, they escape, they're prisoners again.
However, and this is where I got mixed feelings, some characters were so good (Elinor in particular - a crazy book collector who loves books more than she loves human beings - but also, although I liked him less, Dustfinger) and I thought the writing was spectacular, and Meggie, the heroine of the book was so likeable and honest for a 12-year-old that I can't help thinking that the flaws of Inkheart were somehow intentional - the bad guys, after all, are characters from a children's book, isn't Funke making fun at the one-dimensional villains one can find in such stories? I want to believe that this is what she thought about when writing, that her book is really a deep reflection on what books are and what we expect from them. I truly want to believe that, and it is hinted at in the book so I'm not completely making that up.
I hope that the best parts will be expanded in Inkspell and that it will less resemble yet another predictable and easy children's book -albeit with a twist- but that the compelling, interesting and well-researched aspects I got glimpses of in the first volume will play a biggest part and that the plot will have a little more meat to it, a little more adventures would be welcome - there's so much potential there!

I was very enthusiastic about the premise of Mervyn LeRoy's Three on a Match (1932) - three schoolmates seeing each other again when they're adults - but it was very different from what I imagined it would be. I liked how contextualised the movie was - newspaper articles, constant references to the Depression, some light passages involving bathing suits fashion, etc. I thought Joan Blondell was the real find of this movie -her acting is so natural- and she isn't even the lead. It was very refreshing (scenes on the beach, constant music hall music in the background even when what happens is terrible) at times and the twist towards the end took me by surprise. Very weird movie, but good all in all, perhaps because it's so bizarre and transgressive!

From left to right : Ruth (Bette Davis), Mary (Joan Blondell), Vivian (Ann Dvorak)

The movie can be bought as part of the second Forbidden Hollywood boxset : it features drinking, adultery, child neglect and suicide, the sort of movie that can only be pre-code. I'd like to read Matthew Kennedy's biography of Joan Blondell. It's surprising that she never was as big as Stanwyck or even Davis (in a very forgettable role here), given her unmistakable talent. The title of the movie is quite interesting, here's what I found about it : "the title refers to the superstition that if three people light their cigarettes with the same match, the third person will soon die. While some attribute the superstition to World War I, where it was sometimes thought that lighting a match long enough to light three cigarettes would attract enemy gunfire, it is now known that a match company "created" the superstition to cut down on sharing of matches and thus increase sales."

Jo Rowling will be awarded the Légion d'Honneur tonight. This is the only good thing the President's done so far - it's a shame she actually has to get it from him of all people. Anyway, I love Jo, she's my inspiration for everything and she's getting all the praise she deserves. I was sobbing yesterday listening to Harry's Wondrous World.