Monday, 12 April 2010
What has been entertaining you recently, Michael? I hear you ask. (Yes. Even from all the way over here I can hear your minds at work.)
I’ve been working my way through my humoungous To Be Read pile – instead of finishing my own book. You can call it research, if you are of a generous mindset. Or procrastination, if your mind runs to the cynical. Or lazy, if your mind works like mine.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides won the Pulitzer in 2003. On the whole I am a bit sniffy about award winning books. They can often be worthy while offering a reading experience about as rewarding as wearing cold, wet clothes in a draught while someone screams at you. ..YOU WILL ENJOY THIS BOOK.
Having said that, this relates perhaps mainly to British prizes; any Pulitzer prizewinners I’ve read have been wonderful. And Middlesex was no different. Loved it.
Calliope Stephanides is not like other girls and the narrator sets up this premise immediately with an intriguing start. “I was born twice; first as a baby girl on a remarkably smog-less Detroit day in January of 1960, and then again as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petrosky, Michigan in August of 1974.”
Middlesex is a family epic that ranges from a small Turkish village in the 1920’s where Calliope’s Greek grandparents flee from the Turkish army to an America that moves from the Prohibition-era to the race riots in the 60’s and beyond. The background of recent American history is every bit as tumultuous as the lives that the Stephanides family live and carrying us along on this fascinating ride is our narrator; Cal a hermaphrodite.
She/ he presents us with a riot of detail and a richness of characterisation that is so warmed through with humour and insight that it drives you through the book with a greedy enthusiasm. Bringing you to the end far too quickly.
Here’s how near the beginning of the book her grandmother Desdemona is described... “Her body was a constant embarrassment to her. It was always announcing itself in ways she didn’t sanction....above the jiggling of her body, her kerchief-framed face remained apart, looking slightly scandalised at what her breasts and hips were up to.”
Warm-hearted, inventive and touching. If you haven’t read it ...what you waiting for?
A movie I watched just the other day was “36 Quai des Orfèvres” with Mr Lumpy face himself, Gerard Depardieu and Daniel Autiel. The address mentioned above is the French version of Scotland Yard and this movie as the title suggests is a cop thriller. The two leads – former best buddies - are in conflict with each other as they both work towards promotion.
Here’s a brief taste of the plot for you - Léo Vrinks (Auteuil) and Denis Klein (Depardieu) are at the head of two different teams of the police forces of the city of Paris, France. An audacious gang of robbers has committed seven bloody armed robberies in Paris during the year and the Chief of Police (Dussollier) tells Vrinks and Klein that the one who'll stop the gang will replace him at the head of the police forces.
One is clearly more ambitious than the other and will do anything to get his way. Such is this drive that mistakes are covered up, lies hide lies until the cop concerned is committing acts every bit as dangerous as the men his colleagues are fighting to convict. With the inevitable consequences of tragedy ...and revenge.
I find myself more and more these days looking for French thrillers. They are every bit as cinematic and pacy as their Hollywood counterparts with the added bonus that they don’t treat their audience as if they are either mentally deficient or jingly with a surfeit of hormones.