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THE CHILDHOOD OF JESUS by J.M. Coetzee (2013)

jesusThis is an odd and frustrating novel.

Calling a book The Childhood of Jesus and then not referring once to Jesus by name is perverse to say the least. On top of this we never learn when and where the story takes place. The protagonists speak Spanish but it’s not their mother tongue (neither is it English).

David is a child with no known natural parents but he doesn’t behave like the son of God. His strangeness and learning difficulties could be due to the fact that he is dyslexic, retarded or too gifted to connect with fellow mortals. The latter would be more in keeping with a religious angle but it’s hard to see that this is Coetzee’s sole motive for writing the novel. View full article »

SLACKER directed by Richard Linklater (USA, 1991)

Two definitions from Urban Dictionary :
SLACKER – Someone who puts off doing things to the last minute, and when the last minutes comes, decides it wasn’t all that important anyways and forgets about it.

SLACKERS – a group of guys who like to hang out and do nothing.

Two typical conversations from ‘Slacker’, the movie:
Q – What’s up man?  A – Not much OR
Q – Hey, what’s going on? A – Nothing

‘Slacker’  follows the day in the life of a cast of youths in Austin, Texas who share the ability to turn idleness into an art form and who are content to spend their days “lolligagging around” or just vaguely hanging out.

One prefers to stay home rather than go out to the lake because he hates the idea of “premeditated fun”. Another can’t decide if he is remembering something that happened to him or whether he saw it on TV. View full article »

BIRTH directed by Jonathan Glazer (USA, 2004)

€3.99 in a bargain bin at Comet suggests this is either a tragically overlooked masterpiece or a bona fide turkey.

Jonathna Glazer is a director who likes to alienate audiences. He takes a mixed reception (including boos) at its Venice Film Festival premiere as a positive sign.

Universal acclaim = mainstream cop-out. Who needs the endorsement from Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert liked it so it must have something going for it.

Either side of this, Glazer made Sexy beast and Under The Skin. If you’ve seen either of these great movies you’ll know why I grabbed the DVD. He is someone who understands that cinema works by the power of suggestion and strong imagery. Great dialogue is optional.

Birth is all plot, it’s a ‘what if’ story in which a 10-year-old boy claims to be the reincarnated husband of Anna (Nicole Kidman). The dead spouse and the boy are both called Sean. Coincidence? If so, how does this kid know so much about this woman. We’re talking intimate secrets here. View full article »

The third in a series of 13 book reviews I wrote in my pre-blogging years.

 KIPPS – The Story of a Simple Soul by H.G. Wells (1905)

kippsThe excellence of this novel is not sustained to the end. Book III (Kippses) comes as quite a disappointment with its excursion into the domestic problems of the newlyweds (Anne & Kipps). Other events like the birth of their son are merely sketched in as the story drifts towards an anti-climatic conclusion.

Books I and II are, however, quite wonderful. Firstly, the plight of Kipps as he is forced into a dead-end job and sent out into the world in a state of complete innocence are superbly described.

Wells’ touches of irony are almost always effective, for example he describes the pitifully short amount of leisure time Kipps has at the end of the day as follows: “the rest of the day was entirely at his disposal for reading, recreation and the improvement of his mind”.

The confused dreams of Kipps are very believable. He, for instance, longs to be more learned but knows nothing about books, It is another irony that at the end of the novel he acquires a bookshop.

If confusion without money is bad enough, confusion with a windfall of £1200 a year proves to be just as bad. One feels for Kipps as he struggles to learn the “manners and rules of good society” and is taken advantage of by the so-called respectable classes. View full article »


The second in a series of 13 book reviews written in my pre-blogging years.

MOLLOY by Samuel Beckett (First published in English – translated from French – in 1955)

molloyMolloy is far from being a conventional novel. In fact, Beckett seems to mock traditional plot devices and characterisation.

He gives impressions of people and places through images rather than details. He pointedly avoids using descriptions, apparently regarding them as superfluous. Of a bicycle he writes : “I would gladly write four thousand words on it alone” but does not do so!

The novel is divided into two sections, both written in the first person singular. The first is by Molloy, the second is by Moran. Through these two characters Beckett explores the central themes of freedom, doubt and human frailty.

At first the two elderly men seem dissimilar aside from the fact that they are both world-weary. Gradually they become to seem like one of the same person with Moran as the public face of Molloy.

Moran’s comment that “As soon as two things are nearly identical, I am lost”, is therefore highly significant.

Each slowly becomes aware of their failings. They have tried trusting in others but now feel disillusioned. Molloy says “All the things you would do gladly, oh, without enthusiasm but gladly, all the things there seems to be no reason for your not doing and that you do not do! Can it be that we are not free? It might be worth looking into”. View full article »


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