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Search tags: booker-prize-winners-and-shortlong-list
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-06-19 01:56
Oh, Ian
The Comfort of Strangers - Ian McEwan

I've been reading my way through Ian McEwan's oeuvre these last several years, including one of his books on my summer reading list each year. Made it through most of his 21st century works, so now I'm working my way backwards and picking up the new ones as they come along. 

 

 

Today, I read "The Comfort of Strangers," published in 1981 and short-listed for the Booker Prize. It's a brief novel and reads quite speedily. 

 

Having read "Amsterdam," and being aware that his early literary nickname was "Ian Macabre," I was on my guard. And yes, it was horrible. I came out a bit scarred and sad.

 

Here's the best thing I can tell you: Take Somerset Maughm's "Up at the Villa" and put it in a bowl. Mix with the kind of psychological drama you find in McEwan's "Amsterdam," but do NOT add the layers of narrative complexity that make such books as "Atonement" and "Sweet Tooth" so remarkable. Dump in a plot that reads like a very special true-crime episode of "Dateline: NBC" and mix well. There you have it.

 

This novel is a direct literary antecedent to Gillian Flynn. I've read both her "Gone Girl" and "Dark Places" and appreciated them. Same thing with "Comfort of Strangers." Appreciated. Didn't "like." (That's why I petulantly rated it much lower than any of his other books.) But if Gillian is your bag, you might love this one. 

 

Me, I need to recover my peace of mind. Next fall, he has a new novel, so perhaps I won't have to visit Ian Macabre again any time soon.

 

-cg

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text 2015-05-30 03:41
Notes on Adaptation: Wolf Hall
Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1) - Hilary Mantel
Bring Up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel

What more can I possibly say to add to the loads of critics who have heaped praise on the adaptation of Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies" that aired recently on PBS? 

 

In adaptation, I look for four things: Faithfulness to plot, characterization, dialogue, and theme. This production exceeded my expectations in all these things. Mostly, though, I was entranced by the inscrutable face of Mark Rylance. Pure magic.

 

But what makes a production transcend, for someone who has the spirit of a reader, are the details that prove the adapters also are readers and are giving you their love for the book. This production was so faithful in detail, and often, those details manifested without having attention drawn to them -- they were just there, correct, filling in the lines perfectly.

 

Three examples from this show: Cromwell's "yellow turkey comforter," the rose and grey gown with pearls that Queen Anne wears in a particular scene, and the funny little Italian ditty Cromwell sings when he's going through a complicated set of machinations. Thank you, thank you, filmmakers, for proving your love for the text with the subtlety of a butterfly's wing and a painter's brush. 

 

-cg

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