Thursday, February 28, 2008

Billy Collins

My days are mostly "prose", some good, some bad, some fun and all rush-rush. There is little or no time to stop and savor anything. So when I recently stumbled on the poetry of Billy Collins it was an unexpected delight. Parfait! This poem particularly spoke to me. He could be describing any morning in my life, preparing food while listening to small voices "read" poetry. It also brings up a question which has been on my mind lately, why are nursery rhymes so full of pain? Falling down hills, cutting off tails or giant spiders scaring little yogurt eating girls? But that is fodder for another post. In the meantime, listen to Billy Collins read his poetry and even see his work in action here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Word and The Image

Watching the opening scene of the movie "Atonement" last night prompted me to make the "book or movie" comparison for the millionth time. I used to be a bit of a book fanatic.The movie would never measure up to my expectations. Over time, though, I have come to appreciate that the book and the movie are two separate entities.I was eagerly waiting for the movie "The Namesake" but after watching it I almost felt like it had nothing to do with the book which I had read and admired so much. Sure, the narrative followed the same path but this was a much more somber experience. In "Sense and Sensibility" Emma Thompson looks much more mature than her character in the book yet this never detracts from the movie which captures the essence of what Austen was trying to say.It is rare that a Lord of the Rings comes around where devotees find their visions realized on screen.

I came across a very interesting book-movie transformation in the course of learning french. "Dangerous Liasions " was a very popular movie, won awards and popular acclaim and it is loyal to Choderlos de Laclos' novel in every way. But there are two other incarnations of the novel. one, made in the 1950s (I think) transported the plot to a contemporary context with a fabulous jazz music score. It didnt work very well although it followed the plot details closely. The other version, "Valmont", made about the same time as "Dangerous Liaisons" completely turned the novel on its head. Where Laclos wanted to hold a mirror up to a hedonistic society in the hope of changing it, this movie is deliciously hedonistic itself. Its pleasures are enhanced immensely by the inclusion if Colin Firth in the title role. Girls, this is a must-see!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Pleasures Great and Small

I was re-reading A.S. Byatt's "Possession" and finding myself back at the point where she discusses how difficult it is to describe the pleasures of reading, the escape into other places, lives and experiences. Snatches of my current reading enable me to deal with hour upon hour of arbitrating disputes regarding whether its Mickey or Minnie Mouse's birthday today. And on a more immediate level is the pleasure of the language and of words. The importance of words is often overlooked as we text more and write less, all of us speak a sort of quick shorthand shorn of reflection. But now that I spend most of my time with two humans just beginning to discover languages, words and expressions have become more important. So when my 4 year old, Peaches, come back from school and announces that she cant go back unless she has "chopsticks" makes me sit up. Whats all this about chopsticks? Something to do with Chinese New Year? How did I miss this? "All the other kids' parents put it for them." Well, parents definitely don't participate at mealtimes so I had to investigate more. The pout was even more pronounced now. "Its so cold, small children have to have chopsticks." Clear as glass, Peaches has to have a chapstick!
Popcorn, the 2 year-old is a Dora fanatic so she actually knows a few words of spanish from watching hours of Dora. "Verde" she shouts at the screen, or "abajo"! in answer to Dora's questions. This is more than her parents put together. Lets see if it stays with her as she grows. In the meantime, I am hoping to create a verde garden this spring so at least this year Daddy Fractal cant tease me about my noir thumbs! I have beautiful visions of this garden, inspired partly by the Home section of the Washington Post and partly by "Earthly Pleasures".What a write Philippa Gregory is! Talk about the pleasures of reading! But that is a subject for another post and another day.