Wednesday, September 29, 2004

David Sedaris, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, 2004.

I'm a sucker for a well-told examination of a moment, a reflection recollected in tranquillity, a commonplace that offers or seems to offer some flickering moment of deeper understanding of the world. Sedaris' book is perfect for that, and I'm sure I'll be rushing off to get my hands on Me Talk Pretty One Day.

The stories in this collection are moments--some brief, some spanning a bit of time, all requiring some back story. Sedaris writes in such a way that the stories feel both spare in the economy of their words and rich in the opulence of the images that he depicts. His eye is exacting, unflinching, and honest in talking about himself and his family. There is a pathos to each story, each bit of misery and delight, and a delightful quirkiness to those things that grasp his attention.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim is funny and well worth reading. I really enjoyed it.
Thornton Wilder, Our Town, 1938.

I spent the last couple of weeks re-watching My So-Called Life, one of my more favourite tv shows from high school. A story-arc near the end of the series revolved around a production of Our Town, a play that's constantly being referenced, and which I've never seen nor read.

So I grabbed the copy from my shelf that I've been meaning to read for some years now, and read it the other night.

The play feels trite. It's wobbly, and a product of another era that doesn't hold up to the ravages of time. Gee whittakers, we realise that it's important to be fully present at all times. That all moments of life are potentially great (The famous moment, of course, being when Emily asks the Stage Manager "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?--every, every minute?" and he responds, "No. The saints and poets, maybe--they do some."). Treacle, all of it, and hard-pressed to hold anyone's attention.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

James Hynes, Kings of Infinite Space, 2004.

Er. Um.
Well, this book is wacky. Ostensibly the story of Paul Trilby (a Ph.D. in English), exiled from academia into the cubicle world of the Texas Department of General Services, the book... is an odd fantasy that blends Trilby's Hamlet-like indecisiveness with a liberal borrowing/updating from The Island of Dr. Moreau. I'm still unsure of what to make of this book. While most of its reviews treat it as a satire of office-life, I don't buy that theory--or at least don't believe that it's a successful satire.

I'd recommend skipping this one. I'm told that his previous effort, The Lecturer's Tale is quite good; perhaps it's more worth my reading time.
George Bernard Shaw, Arms and the Man.

Another fun bit of Shaw. He asks us to think about our sense of social propriety, what it means to behave well, and behave properly toward others.

Much of the humour of the play comes from dramatic irony (yes, I'd imagine that you all know what it is, but I'm trying to have more outgoing links these days, so you can play more and explore other sites. Also, you can see if you want to argue with this page). The characters are clueless, offering them their charm.

In chatting with a friend from church the other day about what we'd been reading this summer, it occurred to me that I like Shaw because he's like Wilde with a point: the same acerbic, witty humour is there--but it's used to a far sharper satirical purpose. This statement is meant to diminish Wilde, at all.

I'm quite enjoying Shaw. I'm going to have to read several more of his plays.