Thursday, December 19, 2019

Book Review - The Importance of Being Earnest

While reading The Importance of Being Earnest, I kept wondering how I managed to skipped over this one. It seems like something that should have been part of my curriculum in college. Or at the very least I should have seen one of the movie versions of the play. But somehow I did not.

And yet, as I read it recently, it felt very familiar. Part of the familiarity comes from the use of tropes common to comic writing. We have cases of mistaken identity, intentional deceit, unlikely coincidences and more. The dialog is witty and playful but with a biting undertone that gets at the heart of the theme.

The play centers on the interactions of two young men, Earnest and Algernon. At the onset we encounter the two men discussing the merits and virtues of life. During the discussion, we learn that Earnest’s real name is Jack but that he assumes the name Earnest while in London.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Books Reviewed in 2019

Each year I try to read and review a bunch of books. Some years I do better than others. Some years life gets too crazy and I either don't read as much as I'd like, or I don't write reviews on as much, or a combination of both.

Below are the books reviewed during this year.

Here are links to the past few years (2018, 2017, 20162015, 2014, 20132012, 2011, 2010, 2009)

  1. The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away
  2. The Old Man and the Sea
  3. The People of the Black Circle
  4. Pulpit & Nation: Clergymen and the Politics of Revolutionary America
  5. Norse Mythology
  6. The Circular Staircase
  7. Bambi
  8. The Girl Who Drank the Moon
  9. The Importance of Being Earnest

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Book Review - The Girl Who Drank the Moon

After seeing the great cover and reading the summary, we picked up a copy of The Girl Who Drank the Moon but it took a while to finally crack the cover and start reading. In the meantime, it won the Newbery Award a number of friends recommended the book to me which helped move it further up on the "to be read" pile. I finally read it and frankly was a little sad that I hadn't jumped in sooner.

The story is set in an unknown fairy tale type world. In this world there is a walled city called the Protectorate that is surrounded by dangerous swamp, forest and volcanic territory. Each year, the city sacrifices their youngest baby to a wicked witch by leaving the baby on a rock in a nearby clearing to be claimed by the witch.

Little do they know that the witch is actually a good witch and she discovers and saves these abandoned babies each year and carries them to adoptive families living in cities on the other side of the swamp. Sometimes when carrying the children, the witch feeds them sips of magical Starlight to strengthen them. One night, she mistakenly feeds the baby Moonlight instead which "enmagicks" the girl. The witch feels responsible and adopts the girl for her own. The novel tells the story of the people in the Protectorate, the witch and her friends and the upbringing of the young girl Luna...the girl who drank the moon.

The narrative structure jumps primarily between three main narratives.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Movie Review - Knives Out

The trailer for Knives Out presents what looks like a classic whodunit while also hinting that we should expect some distinct differences.  The cast includes some hot current actors as well as some popular established actors who we haven't seen much from lately.  This provides a nice balance and will likely help to draw in a varied crowd.  Clips from the trailer also show that the writer and director are obviously having a little fun with the genre and filling it with humor amid the somber topic of murder.
In many ways, the story is reminiscent of an Agatha Christie or Conan Doyle story.  The patriarch of a wealthy family has been found murdered in his luxurious estate and a brilliant investigator shows up to help the police in their investigation.  Before long, it becomes clear that everyone has a motive and the clues are elusive.  Naturally this review will try to steer clear of any spoilers that would ruin the experience, although it is unlikely that anything but the most overt spoiler would lead a reader to a correct deduction.
Once the initial plot is set forth the movie plays with the viewer in a few ways.  First, we are presented with a series of unreliable narrators each telling their version of what happened "that night."  Rather than just let us discover the inconsistencies in their tale later on, the movie lets us watch the "actual" sequence of events that the character experienced and then see them tell the detectives a slightly different story.  The story draws the audience into a special confidence by giving us information that the police don't have.  In doing so, the audience is also subtly persuaded to try and solve the crime before the investigators.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Book Review - Bambi

I suspect I'm not terribly unique in never having read Bambi and having my only knowledge of the story being the Disney film. Bambi is a short novel written by Felix Salten in the early 1920s and was widely popular when it was released. It even had a sequel (Bambi's Children).

For those unfamiliar with the concept of the novel, Bambi is a book set in a forest and centered around the character of Bambi. It just happens that Bambi is a deer. We start the novel learning of Bambi's birth and then continue through the various stages of his life. Initially, the only characters are Bambi and his mother. Slowly, Bambi's circle of existence expands and he meets other animals and eventually even meets other deer, including a pair of other fawns born the same season as him.

The story progresses at a leisurely pace, letting us grow slowly with young Bambi. We learn about the way of life in the forest, the way things are balanced, the various small dangers lurking about. We also see Bambi's innate curiosity when he discovers various topics that his mother is unwilling to expound to him. She teaches him that there is danger standing out in the open meadow in the middle of the day, but she isn't willing to go into detail about the threat of Man. She only tells him that they must only go to the meadow at night and that if they are ever in the meadow and she starts to run, that he must run as well and keep running no matter what.