Thursday, March 31, 2011

As Holidays Go

It has been a sublime week, my wife and I have read a great deal and finished a couple books each. The weather has retracted to the point where only brisk walks outside are advisable. No worries there.

My only complaint remains that my pilfered photo of Tito and Elizabeth Taylor was ripped down. I hope it was a question of propriety and not Roger Baylor's crusade against street spam and yard signs.

I finished David Grossman's See Under:LOVE and Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene and found both intriguing successes despite flaws of overwriting and coincidence, respectively. The first section of the Grossman is an amazing 80 page view of Israel in the late 50s from a nine year old child's point of view. The Shoah hovers ubiquitously and children invariably confuse intentions. This section is then followed with the authorial fancy of imagining of what if Bruno Schulz wasn't shot in the streets of Poland by the SS? What if he made his way to Danzig and dove into the sea becoming a salmon of sorts and what if the repellant codes which mark humanity were thus extended to marine life? This isn't a horrible concept but it is inexplicably extended for a hundred pages! That section is then collapsed upon by a now worn convention of a lengthy dialogue between the "author's" grand uncle, who appears muted in the first section as a deportee in a death camp; he has been proved literaly and miraculously unable to die and thus the commandant arranges a nightly ritual where this former author of children's novels will regale him with further stories. These Arabian Nights purist in predictable discussions of morality and the reader is finally saved by the final section which lists concepts for a proposed children's encyclopedia of the holocaust, each entry bearing the fates of the requisite characters. This proved most compelling.

This blunt force trauma of war is meditated upon in Greene's entertainment as well. A typical spy thriller is adjusted to the reality of the Blitz and it largely works aside from cringing coincidences which reveal and reproach equally. I must admit that I was joyed to approach this one as the film adaptation was to be on TCM last night. I have nothing disparaging to say about Fritz Lang or Ray Milland but the script was ridiculous and the film barely viewable.


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