Monday, September 28, 2009

It's official....

your resident bookslut is sick. Could be the piggy flu. *weeps* She feels horrible - too horrible to even read. And she's currently reading a great book by Chang-rae Lee that will prompt a fantastic multicultural response on "the other" writing from the POV of the white man. Be patient... your bookslut has not forsaken you.

Edit: Not the piggy flu. Feeling better. Football is taking up my time though. My apologies.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak

Published in 1963, Where the Wild Things Are quickly earned a permanent place in the BEST BOOKS EVER. Maurice Sendak has said that the monsters were originally horses but he couldn't draw horses but that he could draw a "thing" - he even modeled his things after relatives. It is and always has been a book close to my heart - "I'll eat you up I love you so."

When I learned about Spike Jonze's movie, I was a little skeptical. But now I'm just smitten. I can't wait. Add the fact that Dave Eggers help adapt the screen play and Sendak served as one of the producers, and I think it's worth the price of admission. (I'm even interested in Egger's ficitonal novel, The Wild Things - excerpt here:

See the trailer below - couldn't embed for some reason.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Shakespeare's R & J

(The cast of Shakespeare's R & J - the guy in the front is the one I loved.)

This isn’t a book, but sluts get to break the rules. I recently went to see the Raleigh Ensemble Players Theatre Company’s production of Shakespeare’s R & J. The play was adapted in 1999 by Joe Calarco. Calarco is quoted as saying, “This is a play about men. It is about how men interact with other men. Thus it deals with how men view women, sex, sexuality, and violence.” He goes on to say that it is a play about students so the actors are students first and foremost, not Shakespearean characters. This is very important to remember when viewing the play.

Shakespeare’s R&J is about four male students in strict boarding school finding release, comedy, love, realization, and self through Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The first act of the play has four very boyish students laughing their way through the text. They’re finding in humor in making sex jokes and portraying women with large breasts; they’re typical teenagers. But something happens between two of the students. The obvious attraction between the two students is ridiculed by the other two boys and they mock it and even try to stop it. At one point, things become violent. The brief violence jars them and they apologize through sonnets and the urging of all to continue. After intermission, the boys are engrossed in playing the parts – it has become real for them.

The stage is bare – four black boxes that start as desks become all the play of them. There’s a tattered copy of Romeo and Juliet that gets read from and tossed around the stage. And there’s a red cloth that was used to hide the text. It makes sense that this red cloth has to serve the purpose of all the props needed to put on the Shakespeare play; the students wouldn’t have swords, costumes, vials, etc. at their disposal. It was easy to accept the cloth in this role – the cloth is also important because it connects, conceals, and violently separates the boys.

At the end of the play, the boys are startled into their routines and hurriedly scramble around to find their socks, shoes, ties, and books. One boy, the one who played mostly Romeo, urges them to continue. They all leave him; the boy who played Juliet looks back, noticeably conflicted, before brushing it off as a game and leaving him. It’s heartbreaking, really.

The cast was made up of Shawn S. Stoner, Jack Benton, L.A. Rogers, and Ryan Brock – these four men did an excellent job. The clear stand-out for me was the student who played the nurse (among others.) The problem with four men playing several characters (and sometimes playing the same character) is that the playbill doesn’t let you know who is who as they are just listed as students 1-4.

I thought it was well done though I do have some issues with the actual script – other parts of Shakespeare get tossed into the reading (other plays & sonnets) and I wish there was a bit more to explain this heavy reliance on all of Shakespeare’s work when it seems that the tragedy is a dirty secret. I also didn’t much care for the boy who played Juliet. His voice annoyed me.

With all that in mind, if a local ensemble group is putting it on near you, go check it out – it’s worth the two hours of your life.

As for the REP - check them out, you Raleighites, at -- it doesn't hurt that their new home is over Foundation (a lovely little bar with amazing drinks - try cucumber on the vine -

J.M. Coetzee - Life & Times of Michael K

J.M. Coetzee is one of my favorite South African writers. I have a special love for the white voices of South Africa and even though Coetzee has since moved his citizenship to Australia, I still consider him a South African novelist. Coetzee was born in Cape Town in 1940. He moved to London in the early ‘60s and worked as a computer programmer. While in London, he was awarded his Masters of Arts degree based on his work with the novels of Ford Madox Ford. (Sidenote: The Good Solider is one of the best novels ever. Ford’s relationship with Jean Rhys was also pretty awesome for the literary world.) Soon after, he came to the States, where he earned his PhD. He sought citizenship here but was denied due to his role in anti-war protests. He went back to South Africa and started teaching at the University of Cape Town. In 2002, he retired to Australia and in 2006, he became an Australian citizen.

A pretty well lauded novelist, Coetzee is a two-time recipient of the Man Booker Prize [Life &Times of Michael K (1983) and Disgrace (1999)] and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003. He’s actually long listed for the 2009 Man Booker Prize award. The shortlist comes out on Tuesday and the winner will be announced in October, but sources indicate Coetzee as a strong favorite. (Summertime seems a bit masturbatory in nature – I’ll read it eventually.)

Coetzee has always been a bit political, but his novels do not read with the same political urgency that laces Gordimer’s works. The two are forever placed side-by-side as the white voices in a black fight. It is a very interesting comparison when one looks at Coetzee’s women vs. Gordimer’s women; I’ll save such interesting reading for a later day.

I recently read the Life & Times of Michael K and found it similar to Disgrace in haunting qualities. I don’t know that it’s as fine tuned as Disgrace or even as Slowman, but there’s no denying that Coetzee was and continues to be a very powerful writer.

The novel is relatively short (under 200 pages) and divided into three sections. The first section is the longest. It is written in third person and follows Michael K. The second section is told in first person through the eyes of a doctor who treats and envies Michael K. The final section is back in third person. The writing in all three sections is brilliantly Coetzee.

The title makes it very clear what the novel is about – Life & Times of Michael K is surprisingly about the life of Michael K. Michael is a nonwhite, slightly slow, man in his early 30s. His cleft lip is the reason he doesn’t even have a face a mother could love. His mother, Anna K, is a very unsympathetic character who is disgusted and embarrassed by her son. She sends him away as a child, but readily calls on him when she needs him. Rather sick and dying, she convinces Michael to take her to her childhood home of Prince Albert. She’s very large and cannot walk so he pushes her in a cart. Shouldering the burden of caring for her with filial love, he sets off. When she dies, he continues the journey, carting her ashes with him.

But the novel isn’t about a son’s love; it’s about a man trying to find himself or lose himself. He’s beaten, robbed, arrested, and nearly starves himself. The most annoying scene for me is when he buries money and walks away. Parts of it reminded me of the L’etranger by Camus, but Michael is such a simpleton that it’s a bit more annoying. I felt no connection to Michael, but Coetzee does that on purpose. The writing is brilliant, but the story is unsatisfying. I do think this is one of Coetzee’s blatantly more political works and it is well-deserving of all the awards bestowed upon it, but I found it a bit too depressing. Everyone should read Coetzee, but not everyone should use Life & Times of Michael K as their starter Coetzee novel.

All this said, if any of you lovely people find an autographed Coetzee work, it’s a sure fired way of forever buying my love. That is all.