Saturday, January 15, 2011
I wanted to love this book. I knew I would love this book, so why didn't I love this book? I had been waiting to read the highly acclaimed The Art of Racing in the Rain for over a year now, and I decided that it was going to be my Winter break read. Choosing my Winter break read is a very serious decision. I only get to read maybe one or two books throughout the year that are not predetermined for me by one of my wonderful English professors, so I choose a book written entirely from the perspective of a dog. How could I choose anything more perfect for the dog loving person that I am? I couldn't. It is true that the story's main character, Enzo the dog, is perfectly enduring if not overwhelmingly so, and the story itself is touching in the way all stories like this are. The story, about a young couple, her battle with cancer, the ensuing custody battle between the husband and the maternal grandparents over custody of the daughter is one we've heard before, many times. But this time it is told by the family dog, who has quirky encounters with demons disguised as stuffed animals and an obsession with the Discovery Channel. Enzo and his owner, Denny, also have a shared passion for auto racing. Enzo is convinced he is on the verge of becoming a human in his next life and that is why he is able to give such a human-like depiction of his family's circumstances. Unfortunately for the reader, we are always aware that real dogs most often do not behave or rationalize the way that Enzo does. The book presents a cliched human situation through the eyes of a dog with acute human-like qualities. The story could have been equally told through the eyes of the young daughter Zoe and there would have been little difference in the voice or point of view. The only character throughout the book that I truly cared about was Enzo, and we are told at the beginning of the book that he is dying so the conclusion of the story comes with little revelation and emotion, but certainly a significant amount of disappointment.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
On cold Colorado nights this time of year, when I don't feel like leaving the warmth of my cozy little house, we catch up on all the movies we haven't had time to watch over the busy warmer months. This weekend I was excited to find the movie "Howl" show up in my mailbox as I had been wanting to see the film since it was released. The film had a very limited release in September and was only shown twice here in the Denver area. I unfortunately missed both occasions. "Howl" the movie presents the story of the poem Howl written by the American poet Allen Ginsberg in 1955. Extremely controversial for the time, Howl's vivid sexual imagery and language challenged contemporary views of literary merit. Shortly after its publication in 1956, Howl's publisher was arrested and charged with the distribution of obscene material. The movie "Howl" depicts the dramatic aspects of the ensuing trial that effectively set the standard for censorship laws for literature that remain to this day. The film also recounts an extensive interview with Ginsberg, played by James Franco, where he describes his life including his relationship to Beat heroes Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. Franco's performance of the intellectual Ginsberg is exceptional, as he captures Ginsberg's unique ability to connect to his audience and the deep sadness that was so clear in most of his poetry. The most beautiful aspect of this film is the reading of the poem itself that was woven throughout the dramatic action and accompanied by the dazzling and provocative animations of Eric Drooker, who originally collaborated with Ginsberg on illustrating his poems during his life. Drooker's animation brings Howl to life and allows the viewer to experience this beloved literary work in a way that makes clear the message of Ginsberg, a message that has often been misunderstood. For those who have never read Ginsberg, he has a rooted connection to Denver and his experiences in Denver are mentioned throughout the movie. The film is an excellent opportunity to become acquainted with a man who certainly had something to say about his generation and his country, and once you're acquainted I would recommend becoming very familiar with this brilliant American poet by picking up a copy of Howl and Other Poems.