More capsules, more pills
After a sickness and hospital-related absence, more news in brief. Finally, Capturing the Friedmans
. Bravely navigating the ambivalent line of non-judgement, sometimes Errol Morris-style, sometimes a little haphazardly but always well-edited and balanced time-narrative wise. As much about leading questions (leading suspicion and justice, leading hypnosis, leading interviews, direct leading statements from the judge) as the inability to ever really form a decided, jury-friendly opinion, I loved its ambivalence without overtly putting the viewer in the jury’s seat. I also got a suspicion that their community hung the Friedmans because they were dysfunctional in a way slightly un-American, possibly for being Jewish. As though dysfunction isn’t the recognised norm or in any way universal. Hence the punchy nature of the dinner table arguments: everyone raving and railing, the mother in denial and waiting to exploit her neutrality for her own inclination to divorce (she reminded me most directly of Sharon Osbourne, for guile), the sons appalled and screaming, and then the camera moves to the right to reveal… the grandmother, sitting there all along. And the mother hesitating, almost tactlessly, to embrace her son out of prison, near the end.
Finally I can flush the 700 pages of Middlemarch
down the memorial drain. Occasionally great prosaic insight; an amazing instalment of the social system novel, with the odd scientific parallel trimming and much psychological accounting — the kind that breaks the beginner’s writing rule ‘Show, don’t tell’ over and over again, proving the rule is shit (Balzac never hesitated to ‘Tell’). But, though the prose style is quite advanced or ‘adult’ as Woolf would have it (it brims with an intelligence, a fat faculty for fleshing motive, mind), and though it seems to occupy its own bubble-like range, circumscribed by mode, I felt this is one novel that cannot be read exclusively — you have to take frequent breaks or parallel reads with racier material, lighter alternatives — like Petronius would say, you have to change your chariot occasionally. It’s a bit like chewing on a floury English loaf for days on end. Though, again, in all fairness, there are moments of great fluency and plot management — I admit to occasional rivettings. The line from here runs direct to Lawrence (parallel opening chapter with Women in Love
). And the ref to Italians with white mice seemed to hark back to The Lady in White
So I padded the read with Durrell’s Bitter Lemons
. Great mature travel writing from a Mediterranean master. If only because I’m planning a trip to Cyprus before the year’s end. Hilarious account of buying a house with a wise Turk. A little short on conclusion — politico-historical (which might help understand the current mess), but great stabs of poetry, great longing and welcome. And also Octavio Paz’ In Light of India
— more acute and shimmering poetry. Didn’t realise ‘till later that I’d picked out travel writing by two poets. And also more Carver
shorts. For lessons in economy and selection.