Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery.-Mark Amidon

So I haven’t posted in about a week and a half, but it’s not my fault damn-it! Otay, maybe it is a wee bit. I’ve been working a heck of a lot (this includes full-time during the week and Saturdays) and haven’t been near the internet much. Today we will discuss more Anne-ish-ness and Michael Ondaatje; these two things don’t generally go together, but in my world they do.

Before we get to my thoughts on books, I have to relate something else. Yesterday, Jen and I decided to go for brunch. I met her at her place and she had a present for me: Carry On, Jeeves by P.G Wodehouse (did you know that P.G. stands for Pelham Grenville? I love it!). Jen is awesome, hence I *heart* Jen, and I hope she knows it. After brunch we made our way to BMV and bought more books. Jen came away with quite a haul, as she also bought some CDs. The crowning moment for me was when I found a first edition copy of Maud’s Pat of Silverbush for $1.00, it is missing its dust jacket, but oh well. Also, I am currently reading The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson.

We begin with more Anne; frankly it just can’t be helped. I finished Anne of Windy Poplars last week and just finished Anne’s House of Dreams last night. Again, really all I can say is that I love Maud, and every time I read one of those books over I feel like I’m home. I didn’t have the greatest home-life (I’m not moaning about it though) and, as with most books I read, I threw myself into Maud’s books as a means of escape. Most of the characters have had something bad happen, quite a few of them are orphans (as Maud herself was), and I related to the fact that their lives weren’t all sunshine and lollipops. But the main clincher for me was that they all continued to dream, have goals, build fairytales in the clouds, and that’s what I did too. I have lost some of my idealism (okay, quite a bit of it) as I’ve grown, and I think that is why Anne’s House of Dreams resonated even more with me this time around. This book has more shadows than the previous four Anne books. Everything is forever changed after the events of this novel, but there is still a lightness, almost a rebirth. I won’t give the plot away, that would be too mean, but some points of the plot actually mirror Maud’s life. You can tell by the way she writes that there is something else behind it, other than just creativity; there is a rawness and an anguish that comes out in stilted phrasing, rather than Maud’s usual flowing style. You know she had first hand knowledge of one of life’s greatest sorrows. I’m actually starting to feel a prickling sensation behind my eyes as I write this, as I do every time I think about this book.

Okay, so, The English Patient…I still really don’t know how I feel about this book. I give Michael Ondaatje props for his writing style; it was beautiful. I also respect his research skills when it comes to desert exploration (although some of his other facts are skewed), and he includes a bibliography at the end, which I appreciated. I think that Ondaatje was trying to create a disconnect from the characters, and that the reader was meant to be an outsider viewing the narrative. I just don’t think it was overly successful. While Ondaatje’s descriptive work was well-balanced, I found the general lack of dialogue and fluidity to be overly confusing. At times, I believe, Ondaatje was purposefully trying to confuse the reader, especially with the identity of the English patient himself, because I don’t think his identity is supposed to be overly relevant to the actual plot (think along the lines of a Hitchcock MacGuffin). However, much of the novel ends up coming off as trite and pretentious as a result of Ondaatje’s unwillingness to allow the reader to come into contact with the characters. While I found the duel-storylines to be interesting in general, and actually rather enjoyed much of the desert narrative, I think I would have found the novel more compelling if I didn’t have this nagging feeling that Ondaatje wrote the novel with the idea of sounding brilliant in mind. Now, I know it’s not fair of me to say that that is what he thought while he was writing, but it really does come off that way. I just couldn’t get beyond that feeling, and the pomposity of it all annoyed the hell out of me. I haven’t seen the film version, but I think the novel’s overabundance of description would be better suited to a visual medium, so I am planning on renting it at some point. Plus, Ralph Fiennes is kinda hot, in a creepy kinda way.

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