Sunday, December 26, 2010

For Readers: Books are the Best Gifts

I have given myself six-months to read the following books, which I received for Christmas 2010.  This is not a resolution by the way, as resolutions are, roughly translated, things-I-promise-to-fail-miserably-at.  This, in fact, is a deadline.  It's a deadline for no other reason than I am an 'INTJ Personality' and therefore need deadlines.
The Girl Who Played With Fire
(by Stieg Larsson) 
Like the Bourne Trilogy by Robert Ludlum, I hope the publishers of the Millennium Trilogy, similarly, don't ruin it by publishing additional Stieg Larsson books.  The Bourne Trilogy has been contaminated, I would argue, by further books being published that are not written by Ludlum; like, for instance, The Borne Legacy or The Borne Betrayal and more.  Who in their right mind wants to read those?
Ludlum and Larsson are dead and, in a manner of speaking, so should the characters they created be dead.
I'm told that Larsson left tons of source material to put together more "The Girl Who..." did something books, but marketing and profits aside, the Millennium Trilogy should end with The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest. 
Naturally, I read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (and I saw all the movies) so it's a given the The Girl Who Played With Fire was the one DEMAND on my 2010 Christmas List.
Thanks Mother.  :)
The Children's Book:  A Novel
(by A.S. Byatt) 
This is A.S. Byatt's current book and will be the only other book I read (or will read) by Byatt since I read Possession: A Romance, which is her masterpiece.  By various sources though, I'm hearing this book surpasses Possession in terms of 'literariness,' whatever that means.
Byatt, in a way, reminds me of Carol Shields in that they both tell stories about the complications, academically, of telling one's biography, but I don't know if this book follows that theme.
This book intrigues me because it has semblances of E.M. Forster's Howard's End in that they both depict a similar time period: Edwardian England.
 I am really looking forward to reading this book (The Children's Book) or the one below (Wolf Hall) after I read the one above (The Girl Who Played With Fire).
Thanks, once again, to my mother for the book.
Wolf Hall: A Novel
(by Hilary Mantel)
I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I love stories about Tudor England.  And, yes, I got this book from my mother too.
Wolf Hall: A Novel tells the story of Thomas Cromwell, who got what he deserved, I think.  Similar to Anne Boleyn and a great many after her and many before Cromwell, when Henry VIII got bored of Cromwell and he no longer suited his end game, Henry VIII simply cut off his head. 
Wolf Hall also won the 2009 Man Booker Prize and is therefore, for me, a must read.
The Good Earth
(by Pearl S. Buck)
Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth is a classic novel in the sense that Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic.  Both novels are 'must-reads' for any distinguished reader, which I like to consider myself (and is my most arrogant quality). 
The most intriguing thing about The Good Earth is that it is a novel about "pre-revolutionary China."
Give that Pearl S. Buck is a southerner, in every sense of the word,  and given she's writing about traditions not her own, this book, I think, can therefore be understood in terms of colonization; because of this, I am not surprised I received this book from my cousin Jibulee (aka, Winnipeg Jules).
And that's all the books I got for Christmas 2010.
Technically, I got more books for Christmas 2010, but I haven't bought them yet.  That being noted, I haven't decided if the books I buy with the gift card will fall within the six-month deadline noted above.  But I'm thinking though, maybe they should.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Antonia Fraser’s Marie Antoinette: The Journey is a Fascinating Book (but the movie version sucked)

(Film Cover of Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette)

Antonia Fraser’s Marie Antoinette: The Journey is a fascinating book, but its film version, Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, didn’t do the book, or the life of Marie Antoinette, justice.
Sofia Coppola, the Director, should stick to smaller themes and smaller films like Lost in Translation.  Cinematically, she is indeed her father’s daughter, but in terms of the “Epic Film,” Sofia Coppola is nowhere near Apocalypse Now.
Marie Antoinette, the film, is visually stunning, but too cute and unbalanced.  In short, the film had potential, but didn’t work.
Interestingly, Sofia Coppola’s latest film, which is coming to theatres shortly, Somewhere, evokes similar themes found in Lost in Translation:  an early middle aged man, re-examines his life when a young girl – in this case his daughter – enters his life.  I saw the Trailer yesterday and the film looks promising.     
(Book Cover of Antonia's Fraser’s Marie Antoinette: The Journey)

With respect to the book, I started reading Antonia Fraser’s Marie Antoinette: The Journey years ago, I’m ashamed to admit.  As the book isn’t plot driven and because it is divided into six well rounded parts (Madame Antoine, The Dauphine, Queen Consort, Queen and Mother, The Austrian Woman & Widow Capet) it was quite easy to pick-up where I left off, about ¾’s of the way through (in between Queen and Mother and The Austrian Woman), when things turned really bad for Marie Antoinette.

History buffs and persons fascinated by European royalty – I confess to having an interest in both - will enjoy the journey and the detail.  For instance, I’m still awed by the opulent "royal" train of carriages, described by Antonia Fraser - almost a mile long, if I recall correctly – Marie Antoinette, still a young girl, took when she left Austria for France.  As well, it's an interesting yet odd fact to read that Louis XVI, in the early months of his marriage to Marie Antoinette, didn’t know how to have sex. In sum, times were different in 18th Century Versailles, France.
Marie Antoinette: The Journey is an academic study, filled with notes, sources and an index.  As a reader, I really appreciate the matter-of-fact style of storytelling, with little to none extrapolation.  There is no conversation in the text, in part because it is academic, but more because how can Antonia Fraser know what was said, conversationally, some 200+ years ago.
I am almost finished the book, finally.  Louis XVI was just executed and Marie Antoinette is mourning and fearing for her son.  Shortly, in less than 20 pages, Marie Antoinette too will be executed, famously losing her head in the guillotine.  I can't help but wonder what it must have been like, for Marie Antoinette, a former Queen, to walk up those steps of the guillotine, knowing she's going to die.

I heard (somewhere) that you're still conscious for a bit, when you're decapitated.  I wonder for how long?
The picture below shows a realistic (I'm told) portrait of Marie Antoinette from around 1791, two years before she was executed, at the age of 38.  Poor woman (pun intended).
(Portrait of  Marie Antoinette, by Alexandre Kucharsky)
When a film version of Marie Antoinette's life is done again, it should focus on the latter part of her life, rather than the early part, which was Sofia Coppola’s big mistake (I would argue).