Hey, er zijn nog wel onschuldige, niet-frustrerende Hollywood romcoms in deze eeuw gemaakt. In Did you hear about the Morgans? mag Hugh Grant het weer eens proberen, en doet Sarah Jessica Parker mee als een mildere versie van haar Sex & the City karakter.
Ze spelen een kibbelend stel dat vanuit New York City noodgedwongen vertrekt naar een gat in de MidWest van de VS. Men laat er de autosleutels in de auto’s zitten!
Genoeg elementen om een arsenaal van tenenkrommende clichés te openen, maar iedereen houdt zich in en houdt het bij een charmant plotje dat iedereen menselijk houdt. Men leert zelfs van elkaar.
En zo heb je een film waar je nergens hoeft door te spoelen of weg te kijken, maar gewoon met een zoet en zacht gevoel kan blijven zitten.
Did you hear about the Morgans?, Columbia Pictures 2009
Mae Mobley was born on a early Sunday morning in August, 1960.
There was a book before the film. And yes, this is another one for college. Also another one I prefer over The Catcher in the Rye.
It’s the segregation years of the sixties in the USA. White women are housewives, black women are housemaids. They are expected to do everything, but are rewarded by little to no appreciation and always have being fired hanging over them. The majority of them are little more than paid slaves, which is something that Skeeter also discovers when she comes up with the idea to write the stories of housemaids. It doesn’t land well with a lot of people.
In the book there’s not just Aibileen’s point of view, but also Minny’s, and Skeeter’s. With the first two the reader gets two different minds and views on the same subjects, while Skeeter is the alien out.
The Help is such an easy read that when the uglier subjects pop up and disasters happen, it almost shocks you out of the pale pastels and superficial happiness everyone seems to abide by.
I expect I have to read it for the vocabulary used, I read it to discover if it was less coddling than the film. It was.
The Help, Kathryn Stockett, Penguin Group 2009
It was the happiest moment of my life, though I didn’t know it.
Not for this story, but my opinion on it. A Nobel Prize winning author it may be, a deep, emotional romance in the loved city of Istanbul it may be, I only found egoism and sexism, with a dollop of patronizing ideas towards women.
The male main character starts an affair with a much younger, and poorer woman when he’s engaged to a nice, intelligent woman of his age and social standards. He steamrolls his mistress into many things, while not giving anything in return, only to throw a tantrum in any way but yelling when she disappears after his engagement party. There’s moping, pouting, dramatic thoughts and work-omitting behaviour. But don’t view it as that, he all has to do that because he’s so in love!
This goes on for years and years. Whenever there’s an interesting look into (high) society in Turkey of the seventies and eighties, the lens is turned back to the ever-suffering man. How dare she, how dare his mother worry, how dare his brother ask to come to work again, and so on, and so on. After eight years things turn in his direction again, but still there’s the woe-is-me tone.
An exhausting, frustrating novel that is interesting for about 10% of its pages: whenever Kemal Bey deigns to show a look at the world around him, instead of the one inside of his head.
The Museum of Innocence, Orhan Pamuk, Faber and Faber 2009
Aan jullie kan ik het gerust vertellen: dat geval met Thomas kwam voor mijzelf ook onverwacht.
Ik lees vaker Nederlands wanneer ik in het buitenland ben. Misschien om de taal niet helemaal kwijt te raken. Dat betekent niet dat ik graag Nederlandse auteurs kies: liever vertalingen uit Duits, Spaans, Frans, enzovoorts. Nederlandse verhalen zijn te kaal, te stijf voor me, en altijd weer dat eeuwige seksekseks, pfoe.
Maar gelukkig is er Guus Kuijer. Van z’n kinderboeken (het soort dat oudere kinderen ook kunnen lezen) was ik altijd al fan en nu heb ik zijn eerste “volwassen” verhaal op. Een kleintje. Fijn.
En het is niet eens Guus z’n verhaal, het is van Thomas. Thomas’ slechte jeugd. Door Guus geschreven, waardoor slecht spannend, interessant en een wel-of-niet-echt verhaal wordt. Wat Thomas helemaal verdient, dat is duidelijk.
Zo heeft meneer Kuijer in één klap mijn ebookervaring naar een hoger niveau getild. Hopelijk heeft de ebieb ook ergens Grote Mensen, daar kun je beter soep van koken.
Het boek van alle dingen, Guus Kuijer, Em. Querido 2009
Is Ireland the most plain yet mythological country in Europe? Are the people very different because they grow up believing all kind of (fairy) tales, in such a very western society? Is it a thing based in class, more faith in the wee folk from those that need their help? Either way, Denny needs to go back home after the death of his mother.
Denny was in Wales, trying to get into university, trying to make a better life for himself. Because home is a house with his alcoholic sister and violent brother, drug addicted friends and a black hole of a life that can only suck him down again.
It’s always easier to give in than to fight. Denny tries, floats, tries a little bit less and lets life take over again. It’s like a Dickensian fairy tale, feeling contemporary and from the deep past at the same time. It’s grubby and vibrant, an easy read that leaves you just slightly hopeful about the power one has over its own life.
Ghosts & Lightning, Trevor Byrne, Canongate 2009
Slowly I’m changing my mind about collected (short) stories.For a long time I thought the short story was for the writer that couldn’t come up for a novel-spanning plot, while these days it only shows that creating a good short story is tougher than filling x number of hundred of hundreds pages. The Nocturnes dip and fall, while still managing to leave some element of each story behind.
As the title tells us, all the stories are about music. Musicians, the influence music making or not making has on someone’s life. Some stories are shorter than others, which gives a strange extra experience – a cadence, maybe?
None of the stories are excessively bright gems, it’s more the entirety of the five that leaves a certain feeling behind. Do the characters mentioned need help, was the reader an active participant or was it really only about music?
For a short collection, and for starting readers of short collections, definitely something nice to read.
Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall, Kazuo Ishiguro, Faber and Faber 2009
It begins in a parking lot.
Humans can be so very ugly in thoughts, behavior and actions. This story plays out in the sixties – seventies of the previous century, but show that the ideas and life styles mentioned sadly aren’t outdated. The corrupt cop that abuses his power, the people that look away because “someone else will help”, the racism, the sexism.
A woman is murdered a few meters away from her home, in front of her apartment block and a lot of its inhabitants. Some see it from begin to end, some are distracted by what’s going on inside their own homes. And all of them quickly go from shock to denial to passing responsibility to the other.
Every chapter is for one of the inhabitants remotely involved. Some know the woman well, others are more worried about the violence on their door step. It’s the cop, the murderer, the neighbor, and all have motives and blame-the-other/blame-the-world arguments to keep the self denial (or delusion) strongly in place.
It’s not a happy story, and your faith in humanity won’t be restored by the end. It is a clear cut showcase of the human character when threatened.
Acts of Violence, Ryan David Jahn, MacMillan 2009
There is this girl in my dream.
The life of a teenage missionary preacher turns horror in a questioning story about God, family, ghosts, souls and growing up.
Sixteen year old ‘Little Texas’ (real name: Ronald Earl) gives public healings but starts doubting the Holy Trinity and himself when he’s slowly growing up. Visions of a dead girl and stories about a possessed island don’t make the growing up part any easier.
Days of Little Texas gives the critic of religion plenty of excuses to roll their eyes, while at the same time it offers plenty of question pieces about “Is there more between heaven and earth”.
‘Little Texas’ faith and trust in his religion unravels quickly and bumpy and the entire situation (what even happened?) refuses to tie up neatly. It’s a book for both sinner and saint.
Days of Little Texas, R. A. Nelson, Knopf 2009
They had flown from England to Minneapolis to look at a toilet.
I saw more of Nick Hornby’s book-to-film projects than read his books. Feeling like a laugh (I never seem to learn about books with the “comedy” genre sticker), I took a risk with Juliet, Naked. It paid off.
Annie’s boyfriend for fifteen years is obsessed with an eighties’ musician. Both of their lives circle Tucker Crowe; his for unknown reasons, hers because her boyfriend can’t live without linking everything back to Tucker Crowe, his music and his life. Everything else is simply (permanently) put on hold. And, being human, Annie kind of gets used to it. She didn’t want this, but how do you change?
Tucker Crowe’s newest CD is the trigger to that change. Annie’s and Duncan’s life together finally splits and it’s up to them to look at ‘Now what?’ and who they have become after fifteen years of symbiotic living. This sounds pretty dramatic, but Nick Hornby’s dry English humour builds a coming-of-age-at-forty-something story without any bitterness or sentimental toppings. ‘Life happens when you’re busy making plans’ never rang more true.
Juliet, Naked deserves the sticker of comedy genre, without being horribly try-hard or laugh-or-I-shoot.
Juliet, Naked, Nick Hornby, Viking 2009
Well, even if they say life can be shitty, you really don’t know the half of it until you’ve dug up an outhouse.
Coming of age of a white Latino boy in New York City and Wisconsin. A couple of decades ago, as I discovered after initially being confused about the lack of cell phones and the very cheap comics.
Rico isn’t white enough nor rich enough to sit with the white students, nor black enough to hitch his wagon to the other Latino or black kids. He wants to become famous with the comic books he creates, but the friend that draws the accompanying comics is becoming more interested in drugs and less in drawings. His other friends with the lottery and moves to a less poisonous, no-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel place. After a situation, Rico follows him to Wisconsin.
There he learns about different ways of lives, different motivations, different ways of looking at the same problem. Rico doesn’t just run away from a bleak future, he’s so very hopeful that he can create a better one.
Dark Dude is a bittersweet story about responsibilities, race and family. YA how it should be.
Dark Dude, Oscar Hijuelos, Atheneum Books For Young Readers 2009