Sunday, January 13, 2008

Too Serious Two

While we were in Ft. Lauderdale, Mike wanted to look into Well Read, a used bookstore on the 17th Street Causeway (that's a plug!), and so of course, I wound up buying a book, never mind the fact that I already own a couple books I haven't read, yet. This one, The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, intrigued me enough to take it along.

This 269 page novel is the portrait of the pathological fascist tyrant, told in the lavish and surrealistic style that the author is known for, with a difference: Here, Marquez uses very few full-stops, with sentences that may go on for pages, while the narrative drifts from first person to third person, then back to the first person again, but not necessarily in the same person's mind. I have never read anything like this (but maybe I'm ready to try Faulkner, now--or not).

At times, I got tired of reading this, because it takes such concentration, but as soon as I would despair, he'd catch my attention, again. It is a unique reading experience, at times more like studying an intricate oil painting than reading a book. I would recommend it if you have a block of time and will not have too many interruptions.

The tyrant in these pages is supposed to be a composite of Trujillos, Batistas and Somazas. I do not know my Latin history, but Gabriel Garcia Marquez provides a detailed painting of one very scary monster. The author's translator is Gregory Rabassa, the same man who translated his more famous novels. A writer and book reviewer named William Kennedy wrote an excellent New York Times review of this novel back in 1976.


Eastern Promises, directed by David Cronenberg, was our weekend movie, and it is another fine feather in the caps everyone involved. Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts were both excellent.

The story takes place in London and in one of the opening scenes, a very young woman with a Russian accent stumbles into a pharmacy, blood pouring from between her legs. After reaching the hospital, she gives birth to a baby girl, then expires. Anna, a midwife portrayed by Naomi Watts, tries to untangle the mystery of who this teenaged girl was and how to reach her family. Anna has the young woman's purse, which contains a diary written in Russian, and a business card for a restaurant owned by a Russian family. This restaurant is where Anna starts her search, and it is also when she comes into contact with the Russian mob.

While Anna becomes ever more attached to this baby, she discovers the horror that can befall a poor Russian girl who has immigrated to London for what she thought would be a better life. Meanwhile, Mortensen is Nikolai, a "driver" for the family, and a very competent foil to the mob boss's son, Krill. At first, he looms as a threatening character to Anna, but gradually shows himself to be a buffer, warning her away from the dangers of this underworld. All of the characters in this film are complex, but Mortensen's role is the most challenging, as he must act the part of the monster in such a restrained way that it's obvious that he also has a heart. It's a wonderful performance. There is also a plot twist near the end that neither one of us saw coming.

As a squeamish person, I must warn everyone that there will be GORE, and the first instance will occur almost immediately. There were a couple scenes that made me hide my eyes, but I cannot say that it was overdone, since it is certainly part of the story.

Two thumbs up!!!


Ariel the Thief said...

That's one of the very few Marquez novels I haven't read. Happily, we have wonderful translators, too.

TLP said...

When you wrote "with sentences that my go on for pages,...." I thought of Faulkner and how much I hated reading him. I never would have if I had not been forced to for a class.

The movie sounds very interesting. After seeing Sweeney Todd I doubt anything will ever seem like GORE again. So I'm safe.

Sean P. Farley said...

From that review alone I will now have to see Eastern Promises. Vitto is amazing: Have you seen A History of Violence? Great film. He also had a very underrated performance in A Perfect Murder, that otherwise so-so movie with Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow (before her Oscar).