fauxklore (fauxklore) wrote,

4th Quarter 2019 - Books and Movies

I will get to the year-end wrap-up in the next couple of days, but, for now, here is what I read and saw in the last quarter.

4th Quarter Books:

  1. Heather Morris, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. This was a book club choice, but I ended up missing that particular meeting, so I am not sure how the discussion went. I had been hesitant to read it, given the subject matter, but I am glad I did because it tells a good, albeit gruesome and somewhat ahistorical, story. Yes, there are numerous details that can’t be correct, but Morris did not claim to be writing actual history. There is emotional truth in this story of two people struggling to carry on a romance amid the horrors of Auschwitz. And that made it ultimately an inspiring story of humanity. Recommended.

  2. K. David Harrison, The Last Speakers. Harrison is a linguist who specializes in endangered languages, which is a subject I find fascinating. I particularly appreciated his emphasis on the need for the ethnic groups he studies to retain control over their cultural heritage, even as he documents their songs and stories. This is a good introduction to his work, but it is also a bit depressing given that there are so few speakers of some languages left.

  3. Selected Stories of Sholom Aleichem.For those who are not familiar with Sholom Aleichem, he was sometimes described as the Yiddish Mark Twain. Many of the stories in here are based on traditional humor, e.g. one in which a man switches hats with an official and, therefore, decides the person he sees in a mirror is the official, not himself. There are a few stories about Tevye the Dairyman, of which the most interesting is the unfamiliar one of how Tevye got into the dairy business in the first place. At any rate, there are a few stories in this collection which I think will be worth telling (with appropriate credit).

  4. Elizabeth Strout, The Burgess Boys. This novel has to do with the relationship between three siblings (two brothers and a sister) and what happens when the sister’s son is accused of a hate crime. The family dynamics are interesting, and the characters change as the events unfold. This was a rare book club selection that everyone liked. Recommended.

  5. Oyinkan Braithwaite, My Sister, The Serial Killer. I liked a lot of things about this book, particularly the insight into Nigerian culture as one sister finds herself in the role of helping to cover up for the actions of the other. I will note that I had to look up several words for clothing items and foods. However, I wanted the ending to work out differently, so I am hesitant to recommend it whole-heartedly.

  6. Rich Cohen, Sweet and Low. Cohen’s mother was disinherited from the fortunes made in the artificial sweetener business, but he still tells an interesting story of the rise and fall of the little pink packets that are still found on most diner tables. I found this an entertaining read, full of Jewish family dynamics with a touch of mob activity. Cohen could have used better fact checking on a few points, especially as he gets some things very wrong about my home town, which is in Nassau County, not Queens, but what can you expect of a kid who grew up in Chicago?

  7. Norah Vincent, Self-Made Man. We’re going to discuss this at book club this week and I will be interested in what everyone thinks since it was my suggestion (at the recommendation of a friend). Vincent disguised herself as a man and joined groups ranging from a bowling club to a men’s movement therapy retreat. She dated both men and women, worked for a sleazy sales organization, and went on retreat to an abbey. Her insights into how men live when they think there are no women present are more sympathetic than I expected. But it is really hard to tell how representative they are, especially since she disguises a lot of details. It’s an interesting premise and should make for good discussion.

  8. Thomas Heggen, Mr. Roberts. This is set on a supply ship in the South Pacific during World War II. The title character joined the Navy hoping to see fighting and is frustrated, while most of the other men on the ship are lazy and seeing what they can get away with. It’s a quick read, but not very relatable in these times. At least I’d like to think the modern military is better disciplined.

  9. Sophie Kinsella, Mini Shopaholic. The Shopaholic series is a great example of chick lit. While I have minimal interest in fashion and expensive brand names, I find Becky’s efforts to deal with her family amusing and this was a quick escapist read. You already know whether or not you like this sort of thing, so recommending it would be preaching to the choir.

4th QuarterMovies:

  1. Jo Jo Rabbit. This is a rare movie I saw in the theatre, basically because I am a huge fan of Taika Waititi. He continues to excel at the “what did I just watch” school of movie making. In this case, the film follows a boy who wants to be an ideal Nazi and has Hitler (played by Waititi) as an imaginary friend. Then he discovers his mother is hiding a Jew in their attic. This sounds like a horrible premise, but the movie sets up the Nazis for ridicule and it works surprisingly well.

  2. 63 Up. I’ve been watching this series since 28 Up so, when a friend mentioned that Michael Apted would be doing a talk back at a screening here, I couldn’t resist. Being close to the age of the participants makes some of it hit home for me more than it might for younger people, I think. I was sad to see Nick’s health issues and pleased to see how well things have worked out for several of the other participants. I continue to find Neil, who has struggled with mental health issues, particularly interesting. As for the talk-back, I did not find Apted to be a particularly engaging speaker. He does admit that the participants are not as broad a cross-section of British society as he had originally thought. He was a bit evasive re: his style of interviewing the participants. And he didn’t really seem to follow some of the questions audience members had. In short, interesting movie but no need to hear Apted himself.

  3. His Girl Friday. What could be better watching for a long flight than a classic screwball comedy? This one has Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in an adaptation of The Front Page. They talk over each other with rapid-fire wit as his character tries to get hers to return to reporting for his newspaper and abandon her new fiancé to come back to him. This is a great example of its type, with the perfect cast and sharp writing. Highly recommended.

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Tags: books, movies

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