Saturday, November 30, 2013

Wilkie Collins, No Name (1862)

In for a dollar, in for multiple Wilkie Collins novels, as they say.  Let's not beat around the bush: holy shit is this novel good.  Better than The Woman in White?  Substantially better than The Woman in White.  The thing is, though, it's extremely hard to talk about in any meaningful way without venturing into spoiler territory, which is a place you really don't want to venture.  You kind of could talk about The Woman in White without spoilers, because that novel is all about its central mysteries, and there's no need to reveal those.  But as Collins himself notes in his prefatory note, No Name doesn't actually have a central mystery in the same way.  Instead, there's the sort of perpetual mystery of "holy SHIT what's gonna happen next?!?"  And you can't say anything without touching on that.  I know that nobody actually reads this blog for literary recommendations, but take it from me: you would do well to just pick up the damn novel in lieu of reading this entry.  I mean, I'm not going to go out of my way to spoil things, but spoil things I will.
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Friday, November 22, 2013

Don't bother them and they don't bother me.

There's just something about that.  Leave aside the confusing/misleading syntax; that is not relevant to my point, which is that there's something vaguely poignant about it: that first part--"don't suffer on alone"--certainly seems to get an authentic, important human preoccupation--the desire for real human connection.  But...then the writer is only able to think of solutions to this problem in the most crass, porn-y way imaginable.  Sure, there's nothing intentional here; it was really just written by someone with a very shaky grasp of the English language.  But it inadvertently gets at something about contemporary society in spite of that.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thor the dark world!

My advice is to pretend that "Thor" is a verb there and try to parse the title as some sort of imperative.

I saw this movie, and it was nonsense, but agreeable nonsense, which was good, since that was exactly what I was hoping for.  It wasn't a great movie qua movie, or even in the upper echelon of Marvel efforts, but rarely does a film so neatly fulfill one's expectations.  Tom Hiddleston as Loki remains great, Kat Dennings is funny, and her little romance with the intern is cute.  Okay.

Two things I want to complain about (spoilers):

1. The little teaser at the end: geez louise.  These are generally little winks-and-nods aimed at fans of the comics, which is fine, but the one in this movie--where some of the secondary Norse gods visit some sort of alien fashion designer and his pink demon-lady assistant, and cryptic nonsense is spouted--is really just perversely, aggressively hostile to anyone not in the know.  Also, the post-credits bit is remarkably limp.  And this after the awesome bit at the end of Iron Man 3 with Mark Ruffalo!

2. The bit at the end where, oh my, it turns out that "Odin" was really Loki in disguise!  He wasn't dead after all!  Now, I don't blame the filmmakers for wanting to preserve Loki for future films, since he's about the best thing these Marvel movies have going for them (even if it does rather blunt the impact of his role in this film).  And I'm sure they can come up with some satisfactorily bullshitty way of explaining it.  But really…couldn't they have thought of, oh, any other way to achieve this end?  Because, not that this movie was ever going to be hugely emotionally resonant or something, but the final scene between Thor and Odin was clearly meant to be a serious father-son thing, and it more or less worked in that regard on its own terms--only, in their headlong rush to include this Big Twist, they retroactively completely invalidated the whole thing.  NOT GOOD WORK, GUYS.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (1860)

Fact is, I have not read very many Victorian novels, and most of the ones I have have been for classes.  I have this engrained notion that I have found it difficult to excise that they're going to be too much like homework: maybe possibly ultimately kind of edifying, but not that fun to actually read at any given moment, and jeez, most of them are so long…
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