Sunday, July 13, 2014

A film of heartbreak, stupidity, and yet, hope, and a book focusing on dysfunction, pained reflection, and, yet, somehow elegance

Those were the two artistic exposures of consequence here in recent days.  They don't sound too perky do they.  In their own way they actually are.  Sometimes it takes some tenacity to continue on, but the reward is there.

"What Maisie Knew" is a 2013 film based on an 1897 book by Henry James.  Before this week both were completely unknown here, so I can only say that this is obviously a current day film version of James' book.  Maisie is a six year old being raised by completely self obsessed Manhattan parents who use her as a tool to fight each other with in their completely collapsed marriage.  This becomes increasingly unpleasant to watch. Caretakers, part time sitters,  bartenders, hotel doormen, and a restaurant hostess, among others, fill some of the void but not completely   The child actor that plays Maisie is exceptional.  The film is unequivocally well done.  It was just watching it that was not always easy, but at other times a joy.

"Bark", Lorrie Moore's new book of short stories, has its many dark and painful moments.  It is blunt to a fault about what it sees in many of the characters.  Moore does not try to charm readers in any overt way, and, like most collections of short stories, there are a couple here that just are not appealing to this reader.  Her writing is precise, her observation is penetrating, and her humor at times is so understated that it could be missed.  Each story is for the most part entirely different. "Wings" was the one seen as most exceptional here.  There are others that leave a lasting impression, but how could that possibly be known now.   The real test of this book for me was that when it was finished I wished for more.  Why just nine stories?         

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