Friday, June 08, 2007

Pray get the stuff

Well, I've been rather silent here lately. The good thing, though, is that I've been reading a lot (and watching shows and films) since the semester ended.

The 2007 summer reading adventure (now I sound like a public library campaign - not that there's anything wrong with that) started with a whimper rather than a bang, with Jane Hamilton's latest novel When Madeline Was Young. I've read her other four books, and thought they had varying degrees of quality - the best being The Short History of a Prince, which is really one of my favorite books. This one, however, felt as if it was written while she was on the phone with someone else. It jumped around in time in a way that wasn't effective, and I didn't really understand what she was trying to say at the end. I did finish it, but I wouldn't recommend starting it.

But then came Ken Jennings' Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs. Admittedly, I am in the target audience for this book. I love trivia, and yes, I'd like to be on Jeopardy! some day. (So I appreciated the tips that were scattered throughout.) Jennings is really a very funny writer, and he talks about the good points of trivia, like the camaraderie of a team (about which I still wax nostalgic from high school), and the connections one makes in other parts of life.

There's another thing I've thoroughly enjoyed the past few days. I got Sense & Sensibility (the film) out of the library because my taped-off-of-HBO VHS copy is at my mother's house. I was poking around the special features because it's one of my favorite movies (if not my very favorite), and decided to put on the commentary of Emma Thompson (star and screenwriter) and Lindsey Doran (producer), and I'm so glad I did. Of course Ang Lee looked at Vermeers before directing; almost every close-up shot of Kate Winslet is like that. (At those shots, Emma Thompson often said, "Kate's so gorgeous," with which I concur.) Emma Thompson also has this wonderful dry and somewhat morbid humor, especially about herself - and even though she sometimes debunks the emotion of a scene (for instance, when a horse kept farting while Colonel Brandon tried to speak about Eliza), she and Lindsey Doran are really enamored of this story and talk about the characters with real passion. They also talk about roles of women (then, and now in film), and the difficulties of getting people to improvise in 19th-century dialogue. My favorite is when Greg Wise (Willoughby) apparently tried to toss off the line, "Pray get the stuff." Anyway, connections were made for me, and basically, some of the reasons I love this film, and reasons for plot and motivations in it, were articulated for me. I think I knew these things on some level - at least, hopefully - but it was good to have them say it for me.