Monday, June 16, 2008

Yesterday I started off on Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections. Published in 2001. About a hundred pages in the afternoon, and it has lived up to its stupendous acclaim.

Insomnia has got me on a regular diet of cinema. Trainspotting was a highlight. As was Sidney Lumet's debut as director, 12 Angry Men. The acting was uniformly superb. For me the standout was the explosive Lee J Cobb, who had been so good even alongside Marlon Brando's iconic performance in On the Waterfront. It's also great to know that, having made his first film at the age of 32 in 1957, Lumet last year made Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, which received rave reviews. In the 1970's, Lumet had directed Al Pacino in some of his best films: Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon. His book Making Movies is considered by some to be the best ever by a filmmaker on his craft.

Christopher Nolan's Memento was original and its techniques exhilarating in their audacity. His script calls for attention and repays with gripping excitement.

Couple of weeks back I read E Annie Proulx's (famous as the author of the short story "Brokeback Mountain" - the basis of the Ang Lee film) novel The Shipping News (1993). An extremely impressive work; very readable too despite the argot of Newfoundland fisherfolk. The character studies that make up the book are unfailingly engaging, and we are made to feel for the decidedly unheroic protagonist Quoyle. Wise and witty too. A favourite passage of mine, perhaps for personal reasons:

'There's two ways of living here now. There's the old way, look out for your family, die where you was born, fish, cut your wood, keep a garden, make do with what you got. Then there's the new way. Work out, have a job, somebody tell you what to do, your brother's in South Africa, your mother's in Regina, buy every goddamn cockadoodle piece of Japanese crap you can. Leave home. Go off to look for work. And some has a hard time of it.'

I prefer the old way.

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