Category Archives: classics

“A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain Book Review

Mark Twain was one of the first authors I ever claimed as my favorite. I fell in love with his humor by reading a collection of short stories left over from my mother’s college days. As I grew older, I read the requisite famous Twain works. I pored over The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn like every good English major should.

For some reason, I had never before read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court until this year. I must have been under the mistaken assumption that the novel would deal with courtly matters in medieval England, not my favorite genre.

In fact, the novel is set primarily in medieval England, but the story is told through the eyes of a time-traveler from Twain’s present. Hence, the title.

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La Grande Bouffe (1973) Movie Review

Do not watch this movie. Watch The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie instead.

Both films critique bourgeoisie excess and the decline of French (and to some extent, Western) civilization. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie manages to do all of the above while keeping the tone light and stimulating, while La Grande Bouffe (The Great Feast) takes forever and a day to set up the story, makes an obvious argument, and then beats a dead horse for another hour and a half of repetitive orgiastic nonsense. Continue reading

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) Movie Review

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) is a visual masterpiece. Far from the stark monochrome jump cuts of Jean-Luc Godard, contemporary Jacques Demy‘s movie musical explodes with color. Color saturates every frame, and the constant lilting music of every spoken word helps create a fairytale realm that is at once fantastical and all too real.

It would be a mistake to treat the film lightly merely because it happens to be a  musical. Starring Nino Castelnuovo and an ethereally beautiful Catherine Deneuve, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg explores love in all its tragic beauty.

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The Plague by Albert Camus Review

These dots apparently represent plague.Have you read The Stranger? Please, read that first and then come back to this novel. The themes inherent in Albert Camus’s The Plaugue amplify the simple story of The Stranger, and it was a pleasure to see those themes through a story containing characters one can admire.

The Plague follows Dr. Rieux and his colleagues, as their town is attacked by a resurgence of the plague. The town is described as mercantile, drab, and lacking in passion before the plague. As the sickness escalates and the town is quarantined, cut off from the world, the novel’s nameless (until the last chapter) narrator describes the plague’s effects on the town’s denizens.

Camus–or, perhaps, the narrator*–repeatedly cautions the reader against viewing any of the characters as heroes. However, in the face of mass suffering, many of these characters fight a losing battle for the sake of their fellow humans. How can we not view these men as heores?

It may not come as a surprise to learn that this novel deals with existentialism. Camus, existentialism? Shocker, I know. Continue reading

The Red Pony Review

I was never much for horses, myself.

Steinbeck’s The Red Pony is a series of stories centered around one boy’s coming of age, growing up on a farm in the early twentieth century. The book is less of a collection of short stories than a longform story, told in parts.

I liked it, but I generally enjoy Steinbeck. I found approx. 17 copies of this thin book at my local library. No doubt some middle school in the neighborhood has chosen this book as assigned reading. Or perhaps the library chose The Red Pony for their teen book club, assuming such a thing exists.

The language of the book is direct, with Steinbeck’s usual clear, strong sentences. I can easily see why this book, with its short length and ease of reading, would be recommended for young adults. I am sure I would have found the book profound but a tad obvious, in my own sarcastic, easily dismissive youth.

Slightly older now, I can see the beauty in simple statements and raw emotions, both of which The Red Pony certainly has a surplus.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoise (Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie) Review

Bonjour tout le monde!

Parlez-vous française?

Ah, bon.

Alors…

The bowler-lips-legs creature is named Eddy.

As an unabashed Francophile, I have been going through classic and contemporary French cinema through three main sources: Netflix (J’aime le Netflix!), Laemmle and other indie theaters, and the annual COL-COA French Film Festival in Los Angeles. More on COLCOA in another post.

Aujourd’hui, I mean to discuss Luis Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoise*. Let’s be clear; I am no expert on Buñuel. I enjoyed and was slightly mystified by Belle de Jour, but I haven’t seen any of his other work. However, based on these two films, I consider myself a newly-minted fan.

Le Charme is silly, irreverent, and, like much of French cinema, deeply political. The film follows a group of bourgie men and women, whose attempts at a fine meal are constantly impeded by ever more inventive interruptions. Continue reading