Monday, June 09, 2008

I've been reading

There are many benefits of being unemployed. For example, I've gotten started on growing what will soon be a kick-ass full-grown beard. I've also been catching up on some of my reading. The last two books I read were Booker Prize-winning novels by acclaimed contemporary British authors that were turned into films: Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day and Ian McEwan's Atonement. I had seen neither of the adaptations, but I had read a work of each author previously (Ishiguro's A Pale View of the Hills and McEwan's Amsterdam). I wasn't taken by either of the previous books I'd read, which was part of the reason it took me so long to get to them.

The Remains of the Day employs the same narrative device as A Pale View of the Hills, which made it a breeze to read. There was a subtlety to the whole novel that disguised the emotional weight of the story, a measured, collected voice meant to provide mere glimpses of the loneliness, the sorrow, the betrayal, and the profound sense of loss scattered throughout the recollections of the narrator's life. I loved the book, but I'm not sure I want to see the movie. I might be wrong, but I have a hard time imagining the subtlety of the novel translating to the screen. There are so few pieces of literature that had dealt with heartbreak (the narrator's, and the readers' too) so calmly and coolly.

I wasn't a big fan of Ian McEwan's deep-seated, psychological prose after reading Amsterdam, and after having read, and having loved, Atonement, I still don't think I am. I had a lot of trouble getting through the first few chapters, with McEwan imbuing the most trivial matters with epic importance with his words. It's probably just a matter of taste, but I found the affectations a bit tedious.

When the plot finally got going, and with the story turning quite epic, the words finally felt right and putting the book down required a great deal of effort. I still hadn't seen the movie, but I've become quite curious to see it, having heard that the film had stayed faithful to the novel.

I'm hoping to finish off more books in the coming weeks. Next up on my queue are A.S. Byatt's Possession, another Booker Prize winner that had been turned into a film, and a book given to me by my friend Kage before I left my old job, Yellow Dog by Martin Amis, another renowned British author. Should be fun.



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