Month: September 2016

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

This doesn’t count as me having finished another book, as this was at least my fourth time reading it (if not more). Some might wonder why I read and reread depressing memoirs like Angela’s Ashes. (1) It reminds me that others have it much worse, (2) it shows the strength and resiliency of the human spirit, and (3) it’s a masterfully written book. Stark and unsugarcoated, but not self-pitying, Mr. McCourt tells it like it was, matter-of-fact and with a sense of humor, through the innocence of a child. This book will always have a special place in my heart for introducing me at an early age to my love of memoir and biography, but deservedly so because its poignant portrayal of love, hardship, endurance, and shame.


Some passages that caught my attention this time around:

I think my father is like the Holy Trinity with three people in him, the one in the morning with the paper, the one at night with the stories and the prayers, and then the one who does the bad thing and comes home with the smell of whiskey and wants us to die for Ireland. I feel sad over the bad thing but I can’t back away from him because the one in the morning is my real father and if I were in America I could say, I love you, Dad, the way they do in the films, but you can’t say that in Limerick for fear you might be laughed at. You’re allowed to say you love God and babies and horses that win but anything else is a softness in the head (McCourt, 210).


Ah, pension my arse. Sixteen years of age an’ talking about the pension. Is it coddin’ me you are? Do you hear what I said, Frankie? Pension my arse. If you pass the exam you’ll stay in the post office nice and secure the rest of your life. You’ll marry a Brigid and have five little Catholics and grow little roses in your garden. You’ll be dead in your head before you’re thirty and dried in your ballocks the year before. Make up your own bloody mind and to hell with the safeshots and the begrudgers. Do you hear me, Frankie McCourt?…’Tis your life, make your own decisions and to hell with the begrudgers, Frankie. In the heel o’ the hunt you’ll be going to America anyway, won’t you? (McCourt, 334)

The Dinner by Herman Koch

I don’t really get why this book had to take place at a dinner. It feels a little gimmicky, if you ask me. All the dinner backdrop really serves to do is (1) break up the progression of the book into digestible portions (aperitif, appetizer, main course, dessert, digestif), and (2) underscore the problematic nature of this family (going out to dinner at a seen-and-be-seen restaurant to discuss a crime committed by their children seems like they’re not taking the crime seriously)–both of which could be just as skillfully done without a waiter interrupting every so often. But alright.

Despite the gimmick, The Dinner is a fun read highlighting the power of the unreliable narrator. I know I litter all my entries with dozens of spoilers (they’re reflections after all)–but let me just say this: that family is psychotic.

Reflections and Moving Forward

To reflect on my summer: In June I was frustrated and depressed. In July I had my perspectives shaken up by family changes and my first visit to the motherland (aka Korea). In August, I started making active efforts to move forward in my life.

I didn’t do much reading or watching of films. I did, however, watch an enormous amount of television, I’m ashamed to say.

 

MOVIES

Zootopia (Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush; 2016; USA)

Finding Dory (Andrew Stanton, 2016, USA)

The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2016, UK)

Captain America: Civil War (Joe Russo & Anthony Russo, 2016, USA)

Sing Street (John Carney, 2016, Ireland)

Sausage Party (Conrad Vernon & Greg Tiernan, 2016, USA)

 

TELEVISION

Silicon Valley: Season 3 (HBO)

The Good Wife: Seasons 1-7 (CBS via Amazon Prime)

Seinfeld: Seasons 1- (NBC via Hulu)

Stranger Things: Season 1 (Netflix)

…Bachelor in Paradise: Season 2 (ABC)

 

BOOKS

I’m halfway through The Two Koreas by Don Oberdorfer

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

 

A few reflections on all this:

My favorite movies of the summer were Finding Dory and Sing Street. Finding Dory had great heart, beautiful animation, and excellent storytelling and character development. Sing Street had spunky characters, amazing soundtrack and wardrobe, and nostalgia for the 80s on it’s side. That being said, the most creative movies I watched this summer were undoubtedly Zootopia and Sausage Party. Zootopia bravely took on the hot button issue of racism and turned it into a sweet yet complex animated movie teaching children and adults alike the dangers of racism; Sausage Party took a simple yet creative premise and kept the fun going with button-pushing raunchy jokes and political humor. Both were bold risks that paid off.

I watched way too much TV this summer. The Good Wife was a mediocre show–at times, excellent (Season 5: Episodes 5 and 15) , but mostly procedural and full of frustrating recurring characters. More often than not, I found protagonist Alicia Florrick  to be an unsympathetic character–perhaps part of the character’s complexity, commentary on the corrupting influence of the law, but nevertheless rendering the show irritating to watch. It’s hard to root for a stone cold bitch denying responsibility left and right. Few of the other characters are much better. I started watching Seinfeld to replace the gaping hole the end of Curb Your Enthusiasm left on my life. I love these shows about nothing in part because I can relate to what they’re doing–blowing tiny situations out of proportion and playing with the possibilities. In terms of shows actually on air now: Silicon Valley was slightly less brilliant than seasons past, but still funny and I love how each season tackles a new stage in the progression of a start up–this season, the expansion of a great idea into a company. Stranger Things is excellent–scary, 80s-nostalgic, a little bizarre and all over the place, but it works. I’m ashamed to say I watched Bachelor in Paradise. It’s just so damn addicting to see this unnatural dating simulation, where people have limited options, feel pressure to cling to someone in order to get a rose and remain in paradise even if they’re not actually into them, and expect to feel instant connections and be engaged by the end of it all. It’s so fake. I’m going to stop there, lest I launch into judgmental critiques of real people who I don’t actually know. Let me just say this though–the only guys that I would be remotely interested in on that island would be Wells and Vinny.

I hardly read this summer. Even though Don Oberdorfer’s post-Korean War history of the Korean peninsula is supremely fascinating, I’ve been such a couch potato that I only am invested in such a political, fact-heavy book when I have nothing else to entertain me–namely, on the subway to and from work (that is, if I’m not tired or anxious). The only book I’ve completed this summer has been the Harry Potter fan-fic play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I cannot believe JK Rowling attached her name to such an awful piece of writing. The plot is stupid, the characterizations are terrible, and the dialogue? Truly cringeworthy. There’s so much audience pandering going on here, insultingly assuming that the audience are a bunch of idiots who need comic relief at every twist and turn. I know it’s a fictional work, but so was Harry Potter–you only put jokes where they make sense. During a tense situation in which your son might be lost forever, you don’t look around and comment on how many farmer’s markets a town has. That’s just dumb and unnecessary. Ignoring the terrible plot (the premise was great, the actual plot line the playwrights decided to go with? So stupid), the play tried way too hard to be entertaining that it’s actually hard to read.

 

I really need to sleep, but first–in terms of moving forward, my cultural goals for the September 2016-August 2017 year are these:

MOVIES: watch at least 1 movie/week

BOOKS: read at least 1 book/2 weeks

It’s week 1 of the new year, and I’ve already finished my first book: Herman Koch’s The Dinner (coming up on the blog! Probably should have devoted more time to the entry, but whatever–some of these posts will be more about speed for the sake of practice and documentation, then quality, well composed pieces).