The sixth in a series of 13 book reviews from my pre-blogging years.
WORKING-CLASS CHILDHOOD. AN ORAL HISTORY by Jeremy Seabrook (1982)
When I was young, the children ran around barefoot. Now it’s their hearts that are bare”. This quote is that of an old man from Sheffield and establishes the main theme of this book.
Drawn from a wide variety of sources, Jeremy Seabrook explores the changes in society between the 1930s and 1970s mainly from the perspective of children, though mostly taken from the memories of older interviewees..
The hard, often cruel, upbringing in the pre war years prepared kids for the harsh world of adulthood. Discipline was strong and communities close-knit as people faced up to the common threat of poverty.
Seabrook highlights the way the increasing dependence on material wellbeing has brought many benefits but has fundamental drawbacks; he writes: “All the talk of change turns out to be changing people so that they fit the modified needs of cold economic processes; the only revolution turns out to be the revolution of the fixed wheel”. Continue reading
BOYHOOD directed by Richard Linklater (USA, 2014)
"Don't grow up - it's a trap" - T-shirt slogan.
"So be it when I shall grow old, / or let me die! / The child is father of the man" - William Wordsworth - My Heart Leaps When I Behold (1802).
What a marvel of a movie this is!
12 years in the making, shooting for a few weeks each year, it follows the growing pains of Mason Jr from the age of 6 to 18. Over the course of 166 minutes, the movie shows this boy becoming a man through selected episodes that function in much the same way as memory does, through a gapped linear narrative.
Some reviewers have criticised Ellar Coltrane’s acting prowess which seems to me to miss the point of the project by a merry mile. To realise his role as Mason Jr, Coltrane is not required to get into character; he just needs to be himself. This means we see him as an ungainly, mumbling teenager and empathize with his discomfort as he reaches puberty. Linklater’s own daughter Lorelei plays his older sister and steals the show in the early scenes but it’s this boy’s life that takes centre stage. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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)
Molloy 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”. Continue reading
WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys (First published by André Duetsch, 1966)
If you’re as geographically challenged as I am, you probably need to be told exactly where The Sargasso Sea is. A Google search will throw up maps locating the stretch of water in the North Atlantic near the West Indies. Further research identifies it as a kind of oceanic black hole into which many an unsuspecting voyager has disappeared.
Written late in life, Wide Sargasso Sea is widely viewed as Rhys’ masterpiece and it’s certainly her most famous work. Rhys chose the title as a metaphor for a great divide between the island of the West Indies and mainland Europe. Various forms of physical, emotional, cultural, racial and psychological separation make up the content of this rich yet challenging novel.
Jean Rhys’ father was a Welsh doctor and her mother was a white Creole. She was born in Domenica in 1890 and came to England when she was 16. She married twice and her relationships with men never ran smoothly. Her unusual background and resistance to bourgeois convention gave her an affinity for the exile and an innate sympathy for women who, in search of protection, are open to exploitation. Continue reading