Books Read/Films Seen – Dec 2011 / 2012 in Preview etc.

Hooray, I’m back from my exile in sunny Spain (25 degrees in the shade, 43 in the sun – and not a cloud in the sky all the time I was there).

December wasn’t much of a month for reading books: I seem to have read 2, bringing my total for the year to 88 (a poor result, but acknowledging perhaps that I occasionally have other things to do). Since they came first and second in the Obooki Prize, I shan’t say any more about them. Reviews here.

It was a much better month for films, however: I watched 16 – maybe more, they were coming so thick and fast during the Christmas period. Anything in cartoon format doesn’t seem to have done very well. Very brief, ill-thought reviews here.

Preview of 2012

The whole first half of 2012 will be devoted to books that have been hanging around in my book collection unread for the past 3 years or more. (I’ve started already with Dostoevsky’s The Devils – I fancied a bit of light holiday reading). I am continuing with my Nouveau Roman books; and reading a monthly Latin American classic (Paradiso, by José Lezama Lima is first up). I’m also going to allow myself to read “books bought for me by people for Christmas” which, for some reason only known to my father, will largely consist of popular science books. – I’m going to try and limit my book buying this year, and have put up a little counter in the left-hand margin. So far, I am pleased with myself since I have bought ZERO books in this calendar year (although it’s true, I’ve only been in a country likely to sell books in the English language for a couple of hours).

11 thoughts on “Books Read/Films Seen – Dec 2011 / 2012 in Preview etc.

  1. It seems we are all serious about our book buying resolutions. I’m pleased to have bought zero so far. I will buy a few this year but try to limit to books published in 2012, something you’re not likely to read much anyway. But I worked for an editor for too long to not be interested in what’s new… And there are always pleasant surprises.
    I’m curious to see how long Paradiso will take you.
    What’s wrong with cold and wind and rain?

  2. I could limit myself to books published in 2012 too, but that would just be the same as limiting myself to none.

    Why, is Paradiso particularly difficult – or is it just that I struggle with books over 300 pages?

    There’s nothing wrong with cold. Wind and rain I could do without?

  3. No, the whole serial killer part seemed silly; it annoyed me the writer couldn’t write a wrestling picture – what was his problem? – and Faulkner is just portrayed as a complete drunk. – I preferred The Hudsucker Proxy. But I guess I didn’t get around to the best Coen Brothers’ films. (This was all round at my dad’s, who seems to have all their films).

  4. I suppose the problem with the wrestling pic is that, depsite Fink’s breast-beating about the common man, he’s in fact a dreadful snob and wannabe aesthete who can’t bring himself to write in a popular (albeit ridiculous and hackneyed) genre. Likewise his disgust at the throngs of GIs and sailors at the dance he attends.

    By contrast with you, I didn’t really like Hudsucker, but it’s the only of their films I’ve never re-watched. I think it’s general reputation as the lesser (of their early films anyway) is probably unfair.

  5. I’m surprised by the low rating for I Walked with a Zombie; I thought it was a remarkable piece of cinema. Have you see any of the other Val Lewton horror films?

  6. LH: I guess as an idealist writer myself, I feel if you’re going to Hollywood for the money, you should expect to have to sell out your talent. – Wasn’t the play he wrote about the working class etc? – Or something in that vein. Perhaps the notion of “the writer who can’t write” just annoys me. – I’m not entirely sold on the Coen Brothers. Perhaps I even agree with Will Self: nice to look at, but not much substance.

    CN: Perhaps it was because I Walked with a Zombie wasn’t after all the horror film I wanted it to be. – I watched Curse of the Cat People too (I missed Cat People itself) and enjoyed that more.

  7. Yeah, that’s fair enough. I just think it’s one of Fink’s numerous failures of character and/or a manifestation of his gross naivete.

    As to substance, well I agree I’m not sure. They’re certainly smart cookies, but I think they seek to amuse themselves or provoke rather then be “substantial”. IIRC, Self’s criticism was primarily that their work exists only at the level of the “riff”, which like all generalisations is both true and excessively simplistic. If you wanted to find depth in their oeuvre I guess you could point to a parade of Human Folly.

  8. Yes, Curse of the Cat People is excellent – but also not really a horror film (a complaint of the studio at the time); even less so than I Walked with a Zombie, I’d say. In fact, none of the five Lewton films that were shown that week comfortably conform to generic classification, which is one of the reasons I found them all so impressive.

    LH: Parade of Human Folly is about right, I guess. One of the big pitfalls about having that as your big ‘theme’ is that’s easy to let it degenerate into easy cynicism and snickering. I think the Coens are sometimes guilty of this (e.g. the atrocious Intolerable Cruelty, or Burn Without Reading), but not always. Their problem, I think, has always been that their seems to be little motivating anger behind their ridicule of stupidity, just a rolling of the eyes and a cry of ‘Jeez, will you look at these idiots’ – fatal when the tone of the comedy is essentially mean-spirited. But they make good films more often than most contemporary American directors. And at least they’ve never succumbed to being ‘Indie’.

  9. I liked the callousness of Burn After Reading and I also enjoyed The Hudsucker Proxy.

    Barton Fink leaves me a little cold. It’s like 2 films ( one of which hankers after the weirdness of Eraserhead complete with exaggerated sound design , perpetually peeling wallpaper and alienating hotel foyer ambience ) awkwardly spliced together.

  10. I did think Barton Fink seems to lose itself once the whole serial killer business comes in, and thereafter turns into just nonsense. I don’t think the Coen Brothers can really do Lynch’s sense of menace. I feel their films lack integrity and conviction, caught as they are no doubt in some sort of post-modernist malaise.

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