Did you hear about the Morgans?

103 min.

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, dyhatm posteren 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

The Help

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

The Museum of Innocence

It was the happiest moment of my life, though I didn’t know it.

Brace yourselves.

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

Het boek van alle dingen

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

Ghosts & Lightning

-Ma’s gone.

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

Nocturnes

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

Acts of Violence

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