1) I have read Atonement now. The book is different than the movie, the latter part being significantly different. I feel that it is more baffling than the movie too. I’m not sure what to make of it.
I feel that McEwan is making a statement about how certain behaviors can not be made right in life. To that I agree, one can not go back and change the decisions one has made, for better or worse we are bound by time; and I think in the most catholic sense, we can not atone for such choices. But in a larger sense, I feel that we can change. We learn from our mistakes, and we are changed by regret. I think there is something in this, maybe not equal to atonement, but very valuable nonetheless.
The ending of the book (radically more complex than the movie) confused me. SPOIILER ALERT: Briony’s character does not seem to be aware that her exposing of the rape and shaming others will not, in fact, bring about any kind of resolution or “atonement” for her own earlier actions. This is sad if nothing else.
But then, with the references to an author being like God and that there can be no atonement for God or authors because they can bend reality however they want to, I sort of lost him and what he was trying to say about life or fiction or atonement. The book certainly leaves your thoughts running in circles as to what fiction is and what a story is.
2) I also recently finished John Berger’s new book of essays. The essays are more political than many of his past and there is less about art. I think I prefer his book Shape of a Pocket. But I am glad to have read these new essays, especially a couple of them.
3) I am now in the middle of two books, Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny by Robert Wright, and The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr. (winner of the 1978 National Book Award), which is a fantasy influneced by Chaucer, Milton, and other cultural fables and myths.
As far as the Wright book goes I still think, as I did with the Moral Animal, that he takes too long developing his arguments, but I am enjoying it. It is interesting that he brings up some ideas of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the somewhat nonconventional Catholic monk/paleontologist/anthropologist who I happened to be reading when I was reading the Moral Animal. He focuses especially on de Chardin’s idea of society as a brain or organism and the more we unite and connect, the more we resemble the evolution of a complex organism. Maybe this simply prooves deChardin’s famous concept that “everything that rises, must converge.” Of course, he dismisses de Chardin’s mystical aspects. I appreciate the breadth of Wright’s writing, all of the sources he brings in.
I should have time to read this week (as Sara is leaving for a weekend with her sisters) but not much, since I need to be painting my ass off.
4) Next on my list is River of Shadows by Rebecca Solnit, just in case anybody actually reads this far into my post.
5) I also read an interesting article about Dark Energy and Dark Matter in the New York Times on Tuesday.
6) And it looks like it is shaping up to be Obama. Hope he picks a good running partner.
7) I saw the Golden Compass. The actress they chose for Lyra was great, but the movie actually felt lighter, less dark and less urgent than the book. It will be interesting to see if they make the next two.
8) I also managed to see Prince Caspian, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There is a scene where they attack Prince Miraz’s castle that is really visually rich and seems to spell out a subtle lesson of pre-emptive warfare that is relevant to our times. The movie is perhaps almost embarrassingly satisfying, but maybe I didn’t mind that so much in this instance. I was happy just having fun.
9) Of course, I felt a little guilty. Eliot and I are reading the Narnia series together, and he has been swinging a sword and shield I made for him for a costume party, pretending to be Peter the knight. So when he discovered I had seen the movie, he was full of questions about Peter… and about when he gets to see it…
10) Just thought this post was long enough to constitute ten items.