Well, folks…we’re all hunkered down, now officially. I hope everyone is staying well. It’s also been a while since I did one of these posts, so it seemed like a good time. Feel free to share your own updates in the comments!
Finally read Silence by Shūsaku Endō! It is not a book one enjoys, but I did appreciate the challenge of deciphering the message (or losing my voice attempting to). You can watch the video review here.
TL;DR version: The book is gut-wrenching and, as I put it to another reader, “psychologically horrifying.” The writing style is masterful, from the use of silence as a motif to the mix of tenses/perspectives which create distance between the reader and the protagonist. I feel the surface message is unbiblical, but I also believe there is a second, more nuanced way to read it, where rather than view it strictly from Rodrigues’s eyes, you view the sequence of events holistically and see his flawed thinking. This gives the novel a level of depth that makes it worthwhile, especially for Christians.
I ought to read Yōko Ogawa’s The Memory Police, because I have it on ebook from the library for eight days. However, Silence was so emotionally draining, I’m thinking I’ll take a break from fiction. I’ll probably read one of my exploration nonfiction books, like The Lost City of Z.
The other day I watched Gaslight (1944) with my family. This is an Ingrid Bergman film, about a young woman who marries a handsome stranger and bad things happen (ya don’t say?).
It is a verrryyy slow film. I couldn’t help wishing Alfred Hitchcock had directed it. On the other hand, it has a level of artistic restraint that I did appreciate and which Hitchcock never seems to be able to leverage. So, overall, it was an ok film. Charles Boyer’s character made me want to punch the screen, but Ingrid excels in this genre and made me stick it out. Also on the plus side, the plot reminded me of Charlotte Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Fortunately (?), Gaslight is not nearly as bloodcurdling as that short story.
I started my personal blog back up, so have been journalling there about the shutdown, plus music recommendations and funny videos.
I’ll share this song now—“Vancouver Waves” by August and After, a calming song for times like this.
Recently I saw these two classic films for the first time: Vertigo (1958) and How to Steal a Million (1966). On the surface, they have really nothing in common, so I thought it would be a fun challenge to compare and contrast them.
Vertigo is an Alfred Hitchcock film, considered by many reviewers to be his masterpiece. James Stewart plays a retired detective, Scottie Ferguson, who is commissioned by his friend to follow said friend’s wife Madeleine (Kim Novak) around San Francisco, to determine if she’s become possessed with the spirit of her great-grandmother. Matters become weirder when Scottie finds himself falling head over heels for the chilling but attractive Madeleine, who also seems to have a thing for him. Scottie, unfortunately, suffers from vertigo and a fear of heights, which threaten to jeopardize his task and Madeleine’s life.
Let me just say I have mixed feelings about Hitchcock films. This is how I’d rank the ones I’ve seen so far (best to worst):
- Strangers on a Train
- The Wrong Man
- The Man Who Knew Too Much
- North by Northwest
- The Birds
How to Steal a Million
- If you’re going to make a movie – or write a book, for that matter – that is really unbelievable, your best outlet is comedy. Tragedies have to be plausible for me to care.
- Great actors/actresses can make bad films watchable.
- A story should never start out more exciting and engaging than it finishes up.
- Sometimes Amazon reviewers and I don’t see eye-to-eye.
- I should probably stop watching Alfred Hitchcock films (but I know I won’t).
|Portrait of James Thomas Fields (1817-1881),
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864),
and William Davis Ticknor (1810-1864).
Over on Instagram, I’d mentioned I’ve been getting into Hawthorne’s short stories again. He’s a favorite author of mine, and when I read the collection Twice Told Tales (already five years ago, wow!), I was blown away by the craft of his shorter works. I finally broke down and bought the complete Tales and Sketches, and for my first reading chose “My Kinsman, Major Molineux,” one of the more famous ones.
The story is set up simply enough: a young man and clergyman’s son, Robin, sets out one day to seek his fortune. More specifically, he leaves the countryside and arrives in Boston in order to get in touch with Major Molineux, a relative who had once offered to help him get started in life.
It’s a dark, gloomy night in Boston. Robin goes from door to door, inquiring for his kinsman. Everyone laughs at him, while he wanders through the streets looking for at least one towns-person who will listen to him seriously. Finally, he meets a man who tells him to wait by the church, because Major Molineux will soon arrive. Shortly after, Robin hears the voices of a crowd in the next street. When they at last turn the corner, he is unprepared for what he sees.
For such a simple, subtle buildup, this story ends with a punchline I was not expecting. I’ve left out the ending to avoid spoilers, but in short, it was disturbing. At the same time, this twist opens up the story to a larger realm of questions, just as it closes this peek into Robin’s life. This is what makes Hawthorne’s style so powerful, even as it seems fairly conventional on the surface.
Have you read any of Hawthorne’s short stories, and if so, what are your favorites?