Saturday, February 13, 2010

Possession

Day 4 of the "What are you reading?" project.

I don't know how long I have here before I am disconnected again from the Internet. Not even sure if I am connected now, so I will be brief. (You are perhaps laughing, sighing, shaking your head, rolling your eyes. Or you are not here....Just like me.)

1) I am math challenged, so I may lose count of the days here.
2) I am traveling a bit soon, so I may miss some days, but I will still ask people what they are reading and report back later, still attempting to count days.
3) I am technology challenged, so I don't know when I will really get this Internet connection thing figured out and fixed.
4) Despite my technology challenge, I think I have now rigged it so you can comment here more easily. You'll have to enter those wacky letters. And I'll have to approve comment...but, hey, you're not spam!

Julie is reading Possession, a wildfire bestseller some years back that did the impossible: made scholarly research sexy! And had poet characters! The new Keats movie* makes poets sexy, and I remember a West Wing with a sexy, flaky poet (who doesn't understand how things get done in the political process), and Richard Russo has some hilarity with poets--people actually scared of going to a poetry reading, because of the sex--in one of his novels. I would tell you, but it's very early, and I'm memory challenged this morning, and I can't remember the title. Ah, Nobody's Fool! And Straight Man was hilarious. I gave it to the chairman of the English department as a sort of going-away present when he got to stop being chairman for a while, which I'm sure was a bit of a relief. Rotating chairpersonship. It skewers academia. He was not a straight man, so I have a feeling he liked it a lot.

In Possession two researchers try to get to the bottom of a possible romance between poets in the past--a sort of a breakthrough discovery if they can find proof. (One thinks of scientific discoveries this way, new planet, cure for a disease, international competition and cooperation, childbed fever.)

Byatt is marvelous. She puts all sorts of things in her novels and intelligent complicated people. I read her trilogy that follows characters through years of cultural changes--The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower. Then she added a fourth book! A Whistling Woman takes the characters up again. That's what my dad was just reading, as I had taken it to him saying, "I know you want to write a novel and put all your ideas in it. Well, here a great example of how to do that!" As in Chekhov, people have conversations in Byatt in which they can pour out grand ideas. Chekhov! Who's reading some Chekhov?!

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Post-volleyball tournament note (with temporary restored Internet capabilities):

...And I just learned that Mary is also reading Dickens! (Along with all the people in the "What the Dickens...? entry.) David Copperfield. Dickens is in! I think we can thank PBS for that! Little Dorrit was sure fun to watch on PBS. Talk about a wild, very, very hard-to-understand fabulously contrived happy ending! But it was great to see in a movie how debtors' prison worked, as I always had a bit of a hard time picturing/understanding it when I read Dickens when younger. David Copperfield was a wonderful read, as I recall. Read it twice, I think--once younger, once older.

*Bright Star.

1 comment:

Julie Kistler said...

I ordered the movie version of "Possession" on my Netflix, thinking I would be done with the book by the time it arrived, and then I could do a compare/contrast, but I'm afraid I am not finished and I watched it, anyway. I was very curious.

It is quite different from the book, obviously. (Gwyneth Paltrow? And Aaron Eckhart? Neither of them is remotely what I pictured from the book. I'm also astonished that Neil LaBute directed it.) But there is a sweetness to the movie that was unexpected and I enjoyed it quite a lot. I think the poetry and the beauty of the book are missing. Loved Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle as the lovers in the past, too. They are nice faces for those characters, even if Gwynnie and Aaron are much too pretty.

I still love the book and I will happily go back to it now. Nothing was ruined for me, at least, by this peremptory movie watching. (I am a spoiler ho, I'm afraid. So the fact that I know the ending before I get there doesn't bug me.)

I find it fascinating that what is, at its heart, a romance was so widely accepted in the world. I'm surprised that it wasn't too sentimental for the general public. It certainly wasn't too sentimental for me. I also love the "how we figure out history" part of the plot -- that was what attracted me in the first place. We've talked about that before, with regard to Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia." I love that sort of thing.