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Commentaires écrits par
Jay Dickson (Portland, OR)

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The Far Cry
The Far Cry
by Emma Smith
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 24.15
17 used & new from CDN$ 12.83

4.0 étoiles sur 5 A second Voyage Out, July 15 2004
This review is from: The Far Cry (Paperback)
Emma Smith wrote only two novels in the late 40s before she married and put away her typewriter for decades; they were bestsellers and were critically acclaimed, yet they remain today largely forgotten. The Persephone Press has reissued one of them, THE FAR CRY, and like its central characters it is odd and difficult to appreciate at first but well worth it in the end. Fourteen year-old Tersea is pulled out of school by her cantankerous and dislikeable father to go to India with him simply to spite her mother, from whom her father is estranged and who is coming to England to reclaim her; in India, he hopes to reunite with his other daughter from a previous marriage, the lovely Ruth. For the first hundred pages or so this book is very hard-going: the characters seem not only unlikeable but also unloveable, and you wonder why you put up with them. Like Forster in his rougher early fiction (WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD and THE LONGEST JOURNEY), which seem among her clearest models, Emma Smith seems intent on showing us the worst side of people: the luxury of a bright and alienated young author, perhaps. But when Teresa and her father get to India, everything changes: their responses to this nation unknown to them show them to be capabnle of stronger sensibilities and reactions then we supposed, and when they arrive at the house of Ruth and her husband in Assam (both of whom are themselves strongly realized characters) we feel we know them much more thoroughly, and Smith's wider precocious pattern makes more sense.
It may be objected of this book (as Salman Rushdie objected to Paul Scott's RAJ QUARTET, which four novels this book anticipates in many ways) that Smith uses India only as a backdrop for her Anglo-Indian characters' problems, and is content to have the Indians in her novel only play walk-ons in their own country. There is no real answer to such a charge, because Smith is concerned with India mostly in terms of the distance and immensity it implies for central Anglo-Indian family, and what it says about their own problems regarding human contact and friendship. In this the novel seems much like another early Bloomsbury novel, Woolf's THE VOYAGE OUT, which is the clearest of all precursors for this work. But unlike Woolf's imagined South American country, the India Smith uses as the backdrop for her character's Bildungsroman is real, and was really observed, and Smith's powers of description are exceptional. This is not an easy novel to like, but I think it is well worth the effort.

Simonetta Perkins
Simonetta Perkins
by L. P. Hartley
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 15.95
14 used & new from CDN$ 3.90

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Desire under false pretences, July 14 2004
This review is from: Simonetta Perkins (Paperback)
LP Hartley's first major published work is less forced than his later, more canonical THE GO-BETWEEN and more controlled than EUSTACE AND HILDA. Although it owes much (too much) to Henry James and E. M. Forster and Edith Wharton, it's still a memorable novella, especially in its evocations of a tourists' Venice that is more ultimately more recognizable (and sensual) than Mann's or James's, even if it lacks the other writers' intellectual rigor.
Wealthy, attractive Lavinia Johnstone is in Venice with her formidable Boston Brahmin mother after disappoiinting the latter by refusing four estimable suitors; while acting the tourist, she becomes enamored of a handsome gondolier even if she refuses to admit this to herself. She writes a friend for advice, transferring the desire for the gondolier onto a fictitious friend--"Simonetta Perkins"--, all the while denying the truth of her attraction to the gondolier, to her mother, or to herself. How long can Lavinia remain in the closet from her desire, and what should happen if she should venture out? The novella is made all the more fascinating given Hartley's own sexual orientation, which puts the idea of Lavinia's masked desire into a different focus.

SCTV: Volume 1, Network 90
SCTV: Volume 1, Network 90
DVD ~ John Candy
Prix : CDN$ 36.26
20 used & new from CDN$ 34.87

1 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Bouncin' Back to You!, July 12 2004
This review is from: SCTV: Volume 1, Network 90 (DVD)
This wasn't SCTV's best season: it didn't show the sheer genius of their syndicated episodes, nor it did reach the manic intensity of the nexts season when Martin Short stepped in and revved everyone's motors. But this, the first season of SCTV Network on NBC, is still about as hilarious as television comedy can get, and the first episode shows highlights from the syndicated show, including what is perhaps the funniest game show parody ever done on television, "High Q."
One thing that made the cast so great was their universal ability to mimic famous performers, something that comes to a head in their hilarious spoof of "The Lion in Winter." Moreover, they were so good at realizing the best humor results from being true to character: just watch Rick Moranis as Teri Shields gently chiding his daughter during "The Brooke Shields Show," or Levy and O'Hara as Gene Shalit and Rona Barrett singing "We're a Couple of Swells".

Apartment in Athens
Apartment in Athens
by Glenway Wescott
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 18.95
24 used & new from CDN$ 11.79

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Wescott's study of character under adversity, July 10 2004
This review is from: Apartment in Athens (Paperback)
His 1945 APARTMENT IN ATHENS may lack the dazzling structurations of his recently rediscovered and greatly celebrated novella THE PILGRIM HAWK, but it is told with the same crystalline prose and is perhaps a deeper study of character. Mr. and Mrs. Helianos are a couple living in Nazi-occupied Athens forced to share their apartment with a melancholy German officer; vaguely mistreated by him, they learn to bear up under their hardships for a good year. Then he leaves for a vacation in Germany and returns behaving suddenly much more gently and kindly towards them, a change of heart that signals disaster for the lives of all of them. The story, inspired by an anecdote told by a Greek freedom fighter to Wescott, is perhaps not as dense as you'd like on first reading (there are none of the sort of Jamesian twists we might expect), but the difficult ethical positions of the Helianoses become clearer the more you think about the work later. This short novel is a very sophisticated study of the problems and evils inherent in human sympathy during a time of war.

The Reagans [Import]
The Reagans [Import]
DVD ~ Judy Davis
Offered by vidco
Prix : CDN$ 31.90
11 used & new from CDN$ 0.41

3.0 étoiles sur 5 Fascinating if a bit aimless, July 7 2004
This review is from: The Reagans [Import] (DVD)
The problem with biopics is that in the real world events happen to people here and there. There is rarely a driving narrative to real people's people's lives. So you watch something like THE REAGANS fascinated by the detail (especially in its portrayal of the Reagan children trying to cope with their closed-off parents), but there's nothing to really be learned from the whole narrative. The Reagans meet and get married, have children; Ronnie runs for governor and then for the presidency four times (twice successfully); he gets shot in office and nearly undone by Iran/Contra, and then they go back to California. That's it.
This miniseries was based on a book about the First Ladies of the US, so Nancy of course figures heavily into it. Judy Davis, inarguably one of the greatest actors living today, would seem born to play the ironwilled Nancy, and she approaches her part with a great deal of intelligence and makes Nancy seem enormously sympathetic even at her most imperious to her husband's staff or at her most firebreating to her children. She even gets to do a musical number, with great panache (Nancy's famous rendition of "Second-Hand Rose" for the Gridiron club), and she is allowed one exceptionally poignant scene (her meeting with her senile mother at a retirement home in the mid 80s). James Brolin fares less well: he looks very much like Reagan, and has the mannerisms and the voice down pat (he's even as good a mimic as President Reagan reportedly was), but he does not project the needed vitality. The Reagan children are well portrayed--lonely and needy Michael, upbeat Maureen, angry Patti (Zoie Palmer, in a particularly fine and furious small performance) and practical Ron Jr.--,but you feel they often get shunted off from the main narrative just as they apparently did in real life from their parents' all-consuming love relationship and political ambition. Republicans were furious before this miniseries aired about its antipathy towards the Reagans' politics, but the only real points it scores against the Reagan administration is in its willful obliviousness to the AIDS crisis.

Marjory Fleming
Marjory Fleming
by Oriel Malet
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 21.89
11 used & new from CDN$ 21.89

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Prodigious, July 3 2004
This review is from: Marjory Fleming (Paperback)
Dead by the age of seven, the poetic prodigy Marjory Fleming (1803-1811) was the youngest person to be granted an entry in Leslie Stephen's DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY. Oriel Malet,. something of a prodigy herself, wrote this astonishing little biography of Fleming in 1946 at age twenty. Although several biographies of Fleming had been written in the preceding century, and Malet's book owes much to Lytton Strachey's QUEEN VICTORIA (particularly in its descriptions of a child's ungovernable temperament), this novelized biography is a little miracle in its own right. Malet doesn't quite get down the way educated Regency Scottish children like Marjory spoke (the invented dialogue is often at odds with Marjory's own archly sophisticated observations in her diary), yet even still malet captured something not only about the involving struggle of a child straining to master language but the odd pitched battle in our souls from those to whom we feel we ought to owe our gravest debts and those whom we truly love the most.

The Victorian Chaise-longue
The Victorian Chaise-longue
by Marghanita Laski
Edition: Paperback
19 used & new from CDN$ 19.26

5.0 étoiles sur 5 We are not what we once were, July 2 2004
This little masterpiece of horror has been touted as one of the stars of the Persephone catalogue, and deservedly so. It bears comparison to THE YELLOW WALLPAPER but is more sophisticated than Charlotte Perkins Gilman's classic tale (which Laski was unlikely to have known about in 1953 anyway). Laski's story centers on frivolous, wealthy Melanie, who lies in recovery from tuberculosis in the months after giving birth. Her doctor allows her to move from her sickbed to an embroidered Victorian chaise-longue she purchased while shopping for her cradle. As she lies upon it, she becomes aware she is no longer in the 1950s but trapped instead in the body of someone else in the High Victorian period--someone oddly familiar...
This little novella uses its fantasy framework to expose our relations to ourselves and to memory and to time, and also to analyze the change in conventions for women and behavior from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries. It's a real forgotten classic, deserving of rediscovery both in the United Kingdom and the USA.

The Vault
The Vault
36 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 étoiles sur 5 A good police procedural series in a memorable setting, July 2 2004
This review is from: The Vault (Paperback)
The resort town of Bath, with its creamy Georgian carved stone and echoes of Jane Austen, makes a pretty fun contrast as a setting to Peter Lovesey's overweight, hot-tempered, and inappropriately joking detective, Peter Diamond. In this entry in the series, a series of events one summer month involving Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (most of which was composed in Bath) begins to unfold: first a hand in discovered in the vault under the Bath Abbey churchyard, then what may be Mary Shelley's edition of Frankenstein is uncovered by an American English professor, and then finally what may be a series of Blake illustrations for an edition of Frankenstein begin to show up. The fun of this book is waiting to see how the smaller mysteries will come together, especially when the American professor's wife goes missing and a woman's body turns up in the river. Not everything is resolved as satisfyingly as possible, but the novel has its pleasures: the professor's obsession with his quest for Shelley's writing box, the atmosphere of fancy Bath antique shops, and Diamond's grumbling and misanthropy.

The Transit of Venus
The Transit of Venus
by Shirley Hazzard
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 20.00
65 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 étoiles sur 5 Ambitious and admirable, but not successful, June 15 2004
This review is from: The Transit of Venus (Paperback)
The reasons Shirley Hazzard's best-known novel doesn't succeed are not the same as readers fear when they start it. Her burnished lapidary prose and her characters' extremely aphoristic way of speaking can seem initially offpyutting, but once you realize she knows what she's doing exactly on the level of the sentence you trust her and let her run with it. But Hazzard's sense of control at the larger level of plot is less steady. The novel, which describes a huge span of time (25 years) in the lives of two sisters and the people with whom they gather in an academic's house in England in the 1950s, is an admirable attempt to cover the arc of many lives over a period of years as they occasionally cross paths in ways as transcendantly as the astonromical event mentioned in the title; the big narrative surprises at the end seem to undo much of what you thought about the characters before, but since there are so many characters to keep track of you end up feeling more confused and cheated than entranced. You wind up admiring what Hazzard is trying to do but left feeling she couldn't quite pull it off. Some of the ancillary narratives embedded within the larger narrative are first rate, however, and I have to say I am going to read her other novels regardless of my dissatisfactions with this work.

Stepford Wives (Widescreen) (Bilingual) [Import]
Stepford Wives (Widescreen) (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Katharine Ross
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Prix : CDN$ 119.61
11 used & new from CDN$ 19.97

3.0 étoiles sur 5 "You're the best, you're the champ, you're the master...!", June 14 2004
Well, not quite. The sad thing about Ira Levin's brilliant little satirical Gothic about the backlash against Second Wave Feminism is that it's never quite received a film adaptation that does it justice. The 2004 comic version is a travesty, but even this 1975 original is not quite as good as you'd like: the pacing is very slow, especially at the beginning; the crucial part of Walter is underwritten; and while Katharine Ross is much better (especially in the last ten minutes, when she's superb) than she was given credit for at the time it's not quite the knockout performance the part of Joanna deserves. On the other hand, there are many things that make this film worth seeing, particularly the great dialogue and the fine supporting performances by Tina Louise, Nanette Newman, and (especially) Paula Prentiss as the heroine's best friend Bobbie. Indeed, there are several parts of the film that are literally unforgettable: Newman's much-quoted "breakdown" at the pool party ("I'll just die if I don't get this recipe!"); Joanna's consciousness raising session, with the Wives breathlessly promoting the joys of cleaning products; and, most of all, the great last scene, with the Wives placidly sweeping through the supermarket in their ruffled prairie dresses and sunhats as they patiently push their shopping carts...

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