Saturday, November 01, 2008

More Fiction Club Additions

As the political season comes to its climax, SWNID finds it timely to retreat into some good books.

Today we reap a large harvest from recent reading.

First, in our pursuit of the perfect satirical novel, we add three lightly delightful reads: Alexander McCall Smith's Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld Entertainments, entitled Portuguese Irregular Verbs, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, and In the Villa of Reduced Circumstances. Through the experiences of the protagonist, a hopelessly eccentric and self-absorbed scholar of the philology of romance languages, Smith manages to ridicule academics, just about every major European country, the United States and Latin America.

Second, in our very selective indulgence in contemporary "literary fiction" (whatever that marketing term actually means), we enthusiastically endorse The Kite Runner. All the classic elements of a classic story are here: love, family, country, betrayal, weakness, tragedy and redemption. We kept expecting the book to turn to the maudlin, but it managed (as did Dickens?) to make the turn away from sappiness at just the right point.

We haven't seen the movie, and in keeping with our general advice and practice, we recommend against seeing the movie until one has read the book. Great books are seldom made into great movies, though many great movies have been based on average books. By reading before viewing, the memory of the movie's images don't interfere with the reading imagination.

We also read Atonement awhile back. A masterfully written book, we find it disappointing morally (so we simply skipped the movie). N.B. that doesn't mean we are disappointed that the characters acted immorally; if so, we'd be disappointed in the Bible, which most definitely doesn't disappoint us at all. We are disappointed that the narrator offers something as "atonement" that most certainly is not that thing, even in weak form. The Kite Runner addresses similar themes with more courage, and in our reading connects at a deep level to the true story of atonement that we cherish.

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