Sunday, April 5, 2009

I do not care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members


Terry Pratchett is wonderful. There. I said it. I love his books so very much! If you remember correctly, I read Mort earlier this year, this was the first book in Death's storyline. I finally got around to reading the second installment, Reaper Man and enjoyed it just as much. Here's the (very good, I think) summary:

Death has to happen. Tha'ts what bein' alive is all about. You're alive, and then you're dead. It can't just stop happening.' But it can. And it has. So what happens after death is now less of a philosophical question than a question of actual reality. On the disc, as here, they need Death. If Death doesn't come for you, then what are you supposed to do in the meantime? You can't have the undead wandering about like lost souls. There's no telling what might happen, particularly when they discover that life really is only for the living...

Pratchett is deliciously funny, in that a good and brilliant friend is deliciously funny. There's such a tenderness in the insanity, it's wonderful. I even learnt a thing or two On page 82, in a footnote to a passage describing a character in a restaurant and who is called "shameless autocondimentor" there is the following information:
"An autocondimentor is someone who will put salt and probably pepper on any meal you put in front of them whatever it is and regardless of how much it's got on it already and regardless of how it tastes. Behavioural psychiatrists working for fast-food outlets around the universe have saved billions of whatever the local currency is by noting the autocondimenting phenomenon and advising their employers to leave seasoning out in the first place. This is really true."
The term was actually coinced by Terry Pratchett himself. But it makes so much sense! I find that genius, personally: his stories are always so original, interesting and colourful, and hilarious (don't make the mistake I made - don't read them in a public place, I couldn't contain my laughter!) and there's always something incredibly true in every single one of them - like this piece of information, that I found most informative. Of course, Pratchett's stories always make you think: I've found Death's story arc very profound so far - there are tons of food for thought about death and life and what happiness is made of. Just the kind of comfort read I'm looking for - deeply rewarding, it makes you smile not only because it's tender and warm, but also because it has you see the world in a different way. Terry Pratchett is wonderful, and I'm grateful to have discovered him this year - one of my favourite authors for sure.

Terry Pratchett - for real! Portrait by Paul Kidby

I've also read The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. I thought it was much better than Washington Square - it was so good! I'd recommend it as a first approach to James, I'm very impressed with him now that I've read Lady. James creates such "round" characters (I'm borrowing E.M. Forster's classification here), it's really fascinating to see how their story enfolds. I thought the character of Isabel Archer, the heroine, was a very good portrait indeed. She's 23 at the beginning of the novel and doesn't want to marry because there are "other things a woman can do". It's a modernist novel as far as the writing style is concerned. Some lines were so stupendously true to life, one of those books that allows you to say, astonished "yes, that's exactly how it is". Isabel meets lots of different people and changes her mind quite a few times, so much so that the end is very ambiguous (I think it worked best this way, I can see that either alternative was betraying something). It's hard not to talk about it without giving away anything because the plot is, as seems the rule with James, not very action-packed. I really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to reading The Bostonians.
"Don't mind anything any one tells you about any one else. Judge everyone and everything for yourself." - Ralph

Casting news for the upcoming BBC adaptation of Emma: Romola Garai will play the heroine (would have preferred my darling Carey Mulligan but I like Romola - watch I Capture the Castle (read the book first, one of my favourites), Atonement, Daniel Deronda - I'm still not sure about her acting after watching her in so many movies, I can't decide if it's forced or if it's just the characters. I like her anyway but somebody new and fresh would have been good, Romola's well-known. Michael Gambon will play Mr Woodhouse, Emma's father (yay!) and the big disappointment comes from the casting of Knightley - Jonny Lee Miller (who played Edmund in the 1999 "adaptation" of Mansfield Park, it's a small world). He doesn't look the part at all. Looking forward to hearing news about Harriet, Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill (not Rupert Friend, please).

I saw quite a few movies since the last time I posted! First of all, Mannequin (1937) directed by one of my favourite directors, Frank Borzage. This movie is right up his alley: it stars Joan Crawford as Jessie in what may be her best performance. She's married to an undeserving man who does everything he can so that she marries another rich man and then give him the money she steals from the rich man. Of course, nothing goes as expected. The rich man is played by Spencer Tracy who was more at ease in Man's Castle alongside Loreeta Young but he's still decent here. It explores Borzage's favourite theme: love as a protection against poverty. People are all the richer because they are in love. As always with Borzage, the hopelessness of life is always counterbalanced by dignity and strong characters who move on no matter what. I love him so much, it's a shame the movie has never been released on DVD.

It's hard to believe it's taken me so long to watch a movie starring the Marx Brothers. I always seem to have so much to watch already, but I knew that someday I'd see one. Little did I know that I would enjoy it so much! Insanity doesn't even begin to cover it. So far, I've watched Monkey Business (1931) and Horse Feathers (1932) and plan on watching many many more. I realised the movies had the same qualities I can find in Pratchett's books: they are deeply humorous and warm, almost tender. It feels like coming home to a friend after a long day. I've also taken a habit of watching an episode of I Love Lucy before going to sleep.There are many episodes on YouTube, but not full seasons, unfortunately. Lucille Ball is incredible, it's packed with one-liners and physical comedy - again, can't believe it took me so long to discover this gem. As Sam Seaborn (a character in The West Wing, best show ever) would say, "I'll tell you what, let's forget about the fact that you're coming a little late to the party and embrace the idea that you showed up at all." Hear, hear!

Lucille Ball and Harpo Marx

And here's an episode of I Love Lucy (Lucy Writes a Play, 1x17) for your viewing pleasure (part 2 is here, last part here):

I felt completely foolish when I discovered I had never posted any Frank Sinatra here. This is just wrong. I prefer his more swingy stuff to his jazzy renditions but his voice does give me the butterflies no matter what he's singing. Plus, he died the day I turned ten. Is this a sign or what?
On January 27, 1961, Sinatra played a benefit show at Carnegie Hall for Martin Luther King, Jr. and would go on to play a major role in the desegregation of Nevada hotels and casinos in the 1960s. Sinatra led his fellow members of the Rat Pack and label-mates on Reprise in refusing to patronize hotels and casinos that wouldn't allow black singers to play live or wouldn't allow black patrons entry. He would often speak from the stage on desegregation.
I think the compilation Nothing but the Best is just what it says it is. My three favourite songs sung by him are The Way You Look Tonight, New York, New York and Luck be a Lady, which are just perfect on this CD. So here it is for you. Have a wonderful week!

If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere
It's up to you - New York, New York

You gotta love livin', baby, 'cause dyin' is a pain in the ass.
~Frank Sinatra~