Superfluous Matter
Books - Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, by Alice Munro

A year ago I declared that Alice Munro is awesome, that it is shameful I haven't read more of her and that I would definitely read more of her soon. But then I began the process of tearing down my life in Toronto and rebuilding it in San Francisco. It's not a great excuse, but it took me until now to read another of Munro's collections.

I enjoyed "Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage" every bit as much as "The Love of a Good Woman." Each story was a delight to read (even those of darker tone) and it is becoming clear to me that Munro has a knack for the unexpected and the subtle. In this collection I particularly enjoyed "Floating Bridge" and "Nettles" for reasons so personal I don't know how I'd begin to describe them even if I was so inclined.

I have three more collections of Alice Munro on deck, but I intend to interleave other books into my reading and not binge on the works of this amazing woman. I feel there is value in having other works in my mind for comparison. Reading this collection after Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot" made stark the notion of context I discussed in my post for that book. While I have almost no context for 19th century Russian literature I have a ton for Alice Munro's work. Many of her stories are set in Southwestern Ontario where I have spent most of my life. The descriptions of people and places are so familiar to me that I am instantly drawn in to the stories. It's fantastic.


Something unexpected happened: I got a movie credit! Movie credits happen when working at ILM, but not very often for people in R&D like myself. ILM does not own most of the property it works on and so we do not have a lot of control over how many credits are available for our staff. However we just released Strange Magic which is a Lucasfilm property. They were generous with credits and the whole R&D department seems to have been included!

I now have my own IMDb page which is super super cool. My new job continues to be awesome.

I haven't seen Strange Magic yet, but the reviews are not very positive. Apparently the look is quite good though.

Books - The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I haven't been reading much lately but when I have made the time I've been very slowly working my way through Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot," considered to be one of his best. My final project in OAC English focused on his novel "Crime and Punishment" and I've been meaning to read more from him ever since.

Neither book is an easy read, although after some research this morning I learned that I had read rather old translations of each. More modern translations are considered to be not just more accessible but also better at conveying the intent of the original text. So if you decide to pick one up I recommend choosing your translation carefully.

I enjoyed The Idiot, much as I enjoyed Crime and Punishment, however I only achieved a superficial understanding. Although Dostoyevsky's novels are very much a study of people they are all set in 19th-century, pre-revolution Russia and my knowledge of that period is extremely limited. There is just so much context I don't have.

"The Idiot" centres around a man, Myshkin, who is so kind-hearted and selfless that his peers are often baffled by his behaviour. They call him an "idiot" as a shorthand for their confusion and also as a reference to his mild case of epilepsy. The book explores his interactions in a world that doesn't understand him and uses those interactions to provide criticism of the Russian ruling class of the day. Again, I'm sure there's a lot going on for Russian history scholars, or even the average Russian, but for me I mostly paid attention to the human element. I really enjoyed the stream-of-consciousness type of narration as Myshkin tries to work through the troubles he encounters. His character feels like a very real person.

Anyway, good stuff, but very heavy. I will be going lighter for my next few books which will maybe help me reestablish a more regular reading habit.

2014-12 | 2015-02