2009-01-11

Slumdog Millionaire?

Wow.

Sorry, were you watching the Golden Globes Sunday night? Wow. Beautiful movie, but call me completely surprised. ("Hello, Completely Surprised. Nice to meet you." Boo.) I'm glad of the win, though -- I thought the film was so very full and colourful, and it made my heart swell.

Moving on.... I've been slowly making my way through Happenstance, while at the same time working my way through some really fascinating stuff. Like, Alberta's interim report on carbon capture. Also, the province's bill on the delivery of emergency medicine.

And you wonder how I manage to catch up on my sleep these days....

But I'm taking a break from Carol Shields' prize-winning work, even though it's such matters of the heart I enjoy reading most. I love examining the magic and heartbreak of private lives, the greater confusion and misunderstanding that lies within inner assumptions and monologues.

A new year -- I'll get to resolutions later -- brings with it new book club meetings. And so, I am struggling through George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London.

I'm sorry to say that, 63 pages in, the book makes me cringe, and I find myself skimming even if the prose is all good and Orwellian. I know it's supposed to be good journalism, and more importantly it is good writing. However, that's hardly offset by the fact it sounds like the 1920s version of a punk 25-year-old who's just discovered his adventure on the dark side of society might be, well, dark.

(I'm a jerk, I know. I feel sorry saying all this particularly because we're all friends at book club, and I hate hating the selections. I feel bad offending people. So, I hide my identify and publish my hateful opinions on the internet like a good little 21st century-er.)

Example A:

"The Paris slums are a gathering-place for eccentric people -- people who have fallen into solitary, half-mad grooves of life and given up trying to be normal or decent. Poverty frees them from ordinary standards of behaviour, just as money frees people from work." (p. 7)

Gah. I want to reach through the pages and shake the young, bourgeois, pretentious Orwell. "Give me a break!" I would cry, "Get on with writing Animal Farm!"

Example B:

"You discover the boredom which is inseparable from poverty; the times when you have nothing to do and, being underfed, can interest yourself in nothing. For half a day at a time you lie on your bed, feeling like the jeune squelette in Baudelaire's poem. Only food could rouse you. You discover that a man who has gone even a week on bread and margarine is not a man any longer, only a belly with a few accessory organs." (p. 17)

Argh.

At least we'll all have something to talk about.

Like the fact I'm becoming a pirate in my protestations.

2 comments:

TSS said...

Couple of things... a few things, really.

I have come around to Slumdog Millionaire. I replay it in my head and I like it. If Danny Boyle makes fun movies like that (also, see "Millions"), I'll watch them. Then again, his movies always have this kinetic sense of fun. Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, etc, while grim, are just... fun. I think he likes the image of people running.

"Happenstance" is tied as my favourite Carol Shields. Did you read the wife's story first, or the husband's? I don't remember the 'proper' order, but I read her story first, and his second.

I reread "Down and Out..." over the last week, and discussed it with a knowlegable friend of mine. We both agreed it is a cowardly, pretentious (but angry, appalled) 25-year-old on a tour through the dregs of society, with the emphasis on "tour." He could always get out, he had an escape hatch. Also, Orwell was coy about the veracity of the characters in his stories. It throws some shadows on the work.

Still, it is essiential to see how a great writer started, to his first step towards Wigan Pier, Catalonia, Animal Farm and 1984.

My friend also suggested he rendered the subject of "Down and Out..." better in his "Keep the Aspidistra Flying." I will try to read that before club.

Currently reading "The Black Swan" by Nicholas Nassim Taleb. Would love to hear your reaction of his work.

I'm done.

erin said...

Hmmm, I'm not as far as you into the Orwell, but definitely haven't had quite the same visceral response. I've been enjoying the clear images the prose provides, and am experiencing a world and time that simply cannot exist anymore. Truly, a couple of shabby guys standing outside a restaurant for hours would be arrested for loitering, as suspected as terrorists, rather than job-seekers. It all seems rather quaint, doesn't it?

As for "cowardly" and "pretentious", maybe it is pretentious of ME to think that I might not behave on a "tour" of poverty in exactly the same way. Honestly, with my superlatively WASP-y upbringing, I wouldn't know true poverty, hunger, desperation, if it bit me in the butt. Would I be able to be a little more "hard core". Now here's a thought - who would like to make comparisons to "Into the Wild" on this one?

Or, maybe I'll just finish the book, and see what I think then.