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Me and Sylvia (April 4, 2002)


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Listen, this process called poetry is an exercise in imagining memory, and then having that memory snare and cherish imagination.

Breyten Breytenbach

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Sunday, May second, 2004

We finally got around to watching House of Sand and Fog on tape last night. That is to say -- I did; Ellen was involved getting Sylvia to stop screaming... Not too impressed by the movie. Ben Kingsley's performance was wonderful as was Shohreh Aghdashloo's; Jennifer Connelly was good, Ron Eldard made a good effort at playing a role for which he was fundamentally miscast. The problem as I saw it was that none of the characters was developed as fully as they were in the book -- this may not have been possible, so it could be argued that reading the book spoiled the movie for me. I think the only moment in the film where I felt fully involved with the action on screen was when Massoud was in the hospital, praying for his son's life.

Update Sunday evening: Sylvia is quiet this evening (knock wood) and Ellen is taking the opportunity to watch the tape.

Update Monday morning: Ellen stopped watching before the climactic scene because she could not take the suspense. (She also had a really hard time with reading the book at this part.) She agreed with me that Ron Eldard was a poor choice for Lester (actually she thought he was a lousy actor).

posted morning of May second, 2004: Respond
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Tuesday, March 9th, 2004

Ellen finished House of Sand and Fog today. She liked it a lot, for similar reasons to my own -- the clarity of the characters' portraits will take your breath away. One note she found a little jarring was the level of detail in the narration -- it does not seem plausible that the characters would notice everything around them so accurately, when they are portrayed as being disconnected from the world. I can see the validity of this criticism but did not react that way myself.

Ellen told me what the title meant, which I had been wondering about -- "Sand" is Moussad, "Fog" is Kathy -- I thought it was just a reference to the house being near the San Francisco Bay.

posted evening of March 9th, 2004: Respond

Friday, February 27th, 2004

Once I reached the scene where Lester breaks into Moussad's house, I was unable to put down House of Sand and Fog until I finished it -- it was electrifying. Hoping against hope that somehow the Behrani's would not be destroyed, darkly disappointed with Kathy for bringing this all to pass, stupefied at Lester's transformation into such an evil character, right inside Moussad's vengeful, violent head at the end.

Monday Ellen and I are going to the movies, I will lobby for "House of Sand and Fog" although her goal is to see "Lost in Translation". I wonder though how I will respond to the appearances of the actors -- I have come up with pretty fixed understandings of how each character should look.

posted evening of February 27th, 2004: Respond

I am just ploughing through House of Sand and Fog now, loving the world of the book -- Dubus has got me totally roped in to his reality. He is leaping around amongst various time frames and points of view and it seems totally fluid to me. This is IMO the key to a really good modern novel. I would like to develop this at more length sometime. Also it was occurring to me this morning, how does that tie in with my experience of Don Quixote? The movement between various narrative lines which I was admiring a few posts back is in the same direction as this quality I am talking about; but it is not precisely the same.

posted morning of February 27th, 2004: Respond
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Wednesday, February 25th, 2004

I started reading House of Sand and Fog, by Andre Dubus III, yesterday evening. It is nice, at least two very strongly drawn characters (Massoud and Kathy) -- the blurb description of it as "tragic" (I see this term in two of the quoted reviews) seems accurate. I am identifying very much with Massoud and a bit with Kathy as well, and feel a sense of dread hanging over the book at the thought that their dreams will be thwarted...

This is the second-and-a-half Oprah's Book Club selection that I have read; the other two were The Poisonwood Bible, which I enjoyed not at all but made a good gift for my mom, and The Corrections, which I enjoyed a great deal but which only counts as half an Oprah's Book Club selection.

I bought House of Sand and Fog at Clovis Press bookshop, a fine used and new shop at 229 Bedford Ave. in Brooklyn. I have poked my head in there several times before -- nearly every time I'm in Williamsburg I stop in for a few minutes -- but had never bought anything there. I saw a sign on the front door announcing a memorial evening for Clovis the Dog, after whom the bookshop was apparently named.

posted morning of February 25th, 2004: Respond
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