Thursday, December 7, 2006

Two Novels and a Film

Since the last B-List post I finished reading two more books and watched
a classic film at the cinema.  I've spent very little time in front of
computers ;)

Note: Some of links may contain spoilers.  But if you have neither the
time nor the opportunity to read the books or see the film, then by all
means check out the links.

Novel #1: "The Eyre Affair" by Jasper Fforde
Jane Eyre, the main protagonist from the novel of the same name, is
kidnapped.  How is this possible?  In a parallel world a resourceful
inventor has devised a Prose Portal which allows people to literally
step into the pages of any piece of literature.  The Prose Portal falls
into the hands of Acheron Hades, a really Bad Guy, and he gets the idea
of kidnapping characters from books in return for ransom.

I found it a thoroughly entertaining read, filled with imaginative and
amusing characters and situations.  There are more novels in the series,
and I look forward to reading them soon.

For more about the plot, read the Amazon page, or the following
Wikipedia entry:

If, like me, you're not familiar with "Jane Eyre", this entry has
some helpful background on that novel:

Novel #2: "Chart Throb" by Ben Elton
This is a satire of the Pop Idol/X-Factor phenomenon, wherein the Prince
of Wales, yes Charles Philip Arthur George Windsor himself, becomes the
most unlikely "pop idol" ever.  I'm not giving the ending away, since
this challenge is set for the producer of the show very early in the
book, and the plot reveals how this is achieved.  In the process, the
shonky and contrived world of reality "talent" shows is exposed.

I wish I could say I enjoyed the book.  Sure, it had its moments, and
there is an interesting twist at the end.  If you're familiar with Ben
Elton's other work you know what you're in for. But I found almost all
the characters very cliched, and the story rather predictable and
repetitive.  I didn't find any of the characters particularly endearing.
Perhaps that's what the author intended?  I might have enjoyed it more
if it was edited down from 400+ pages to around 200 pages, and some of
the plot improved.

Looks like some reviewers didn't think much of the novel either:

Finally, the Film: "L'avventura" ("The Adventure")
This is a 1960 Italian film written and directed by Michelangelo
Antonioni.  It won the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival
when it was released.  It was shown last Saturday as part of the
2006 Italian Film Festival in Adelaide.

It doesn't really matter if you know the plot before seeing it, since,
unlike most Hollywood movies, there is much more to the film than
the plot.  A very unforgettable film that will reveal more of itself
with each viewing.  I can't wait for the DVD :)

According to Roger Ebert,
"His characters were parasites whose money allowed them to clear away
the distractions of work, responsibility, goals and purposes, and
exposed the utter emptiness within. It is possible to be rich and
happy, of course, but for that you need a mind, and interests. It is
impossible to be happy simply because one is ceaselessly entertained.
L'Avventura becomes a place in our imagination--a melancholy moral

Interestingly, this analysis is consistent with the theme in the
Affluenza book I read.  Perhaps Antonioni was ahead of his time?
Or maybe people never learn from the missteps of others?

The film is also an interesting companion piece to Federico Fellini's
"La Dolce Vita", released in the same year (1960):