Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Loving the character

After lunch yesterday at Foster's I passed by the window at Flyleaf Books and saw a big blown up cover of Claire Messud's most recent book, which I have reviewed already. And it took me back to that book and, indeed, The Emperor's Children.  While each of them is a tour de force in its own way, somehow they seem hollower to me then the first of Claire's two novellas in her earlier book, The Hunters.  "A Simple Tale" tells the story of a Maria, a Ukrainian immigrant to Canada who works her ass off and has a son whom she loves, only to be gravely disappointed when he turns into a lout and marries a nitwit.

What's the difference between them, in my recollection?  The fact that I sensed that she actively loved Maria, whereas the characters in her more recent books are more technical achievements.  She may identify with them, and seek to make the reader do the same (and do a good job of it), but I didn't feel like she cared about the character in the same way.  For someone who spent years of his life studying literary criticism and theory, it's funny to me to find myself falling back on this way of assessing things, but that's where I'm at.  Almost certainly I need to go back and reread the earlier book, but then there are so many other good ones clamoring for my attention.

This, combined with the fact that I had to turn off Tarantino's Django Unchained the other night because I was just repulsed by the gratuitous violence, is yet another indication that I am either aging or maturing, depending on your point of view.  The worst thing about sticking that movie back in its little envelope was having to admit that Mary had been right all along and we probably shouldn't have started watching it at all, but one of the difficult things about being married is having to admit that your spouse is right, all too often.  Sigh.

On the subject of aging and its impact on apprehension, I remember Edward Said, already sick with cancer, lecturing on the concept of "lateness" in art and drawing in Beethoven's later work as an example.  I remember him doing it, but I have zero recollection of what he said. I recently checked some of Beethoven's late piano sonatas out of the library and I must admit, they are quite distinct from his earlier ones. Proto-modern, moving away from lush melodiousness towards analytical coldness.  Moving in the opposite direction to where I'm going as I age, as I progressively reject the dissonance and abstraction of modernism and move towards stuff that makes me feel good and/or laugh.

For example, Talladega Nights.

No comments: