Sunday, August 26, 2007

sort-of the book and movie post for this summer

Last week I did something I've never done before: I went to see two movies in one day. I normally see 4-5 movies a year. But it was a cool, cloudy day (although unfortunately not much rain fell). My son went to a birthday party in the afternoon, so Nell and I went to see "Becoming Jane." It's a beautifully made movie, and to my surprise, Anne Hathaway did a creditable job as Jane Austen. It's an absorbing account of what happens to two young people who fall in love in a restrictive society. But I didn't find it very convincing as a biographical account of Austen's formative years (about which not all that much is known, as I understand it). I don't know much about Austen besides what you learn in college, but I've read her work fairly avidly, and I've never picked up much sympathy for young, passionate, ill-considered love. I think if she had been through what the movie describes, she would have been quite a bit more sympathetic to the Mariannes of the world.

Then that night we packed up the whole crew, including the neighbor kids, and went to see Stardust. I loved Stardust. That's as much fun as I've had sitting in a theater since the Lord of the Rings movies came out. It's not a great movie, and you can pick at it, it's true. but it was great entertainment. Everybody I had with me, ranging in age from nine to 46 (me), agreed. I might even go see it again.

So that brought me to spend my birthday Borders gift card on the hardback version of Stardust written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Charles Vess, which was also good, but maybe slightly less fun than the movie (my favorite characters in the movie, the chorus line of ghosts, play a far more minor role in the book). That makes several times in the past few years now that I've seen movies that I enjoyed more than the books-- it seems like that never used to happen. But the book is well worth perusing. The illustrations are wonderful and add a completely different element to the story-- I believe it was a collaboration, rather than a book that had a few illustrations done for it after the story was finished.

And this week (finally, finally, after months of chipping away at it), I finished The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton's autobiographical account of his early years and decision to enter a Trappist monastery. I'm not sure why it took me so long; I liked it well enough and found it very absorbing while I was reading it, but then I'd put it down and weeks would go by before I'd pick it up again. It is beautifully written and as heartfelt as anything I've read in a long time. Although there is no question that Merton feels he has found the Ultimate Truth in his Catholica faith, I didn't find that opinion offensive here the way I did in Blue Like Jazz, which I tried to read this summer and finally gave up a couple of weeks ago. More about this in another post.

Off to take my son fishing. He is a fanatic. I don't fish, I don't have the patience for it. but I can take a book and sit in a lawn chair and we are both happy.

Aunt BeaN

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