Friday

the flying troutmans

while contemplating which of my miriam toews books i will bring to her reading for signing, i decided that my copy of the flying troutmans would be perfect since it's a hardcover first edition (i've got to be strategic about these things). only, i hadn't read it yet, and although her reading isn't until may, i can sometimes be a slow reader and often mull over a novel for weeks at a time. so i figured i would get a head start and hopefully be finished in the two months allotted. except, it didn't take me two months to read, it took me three days (my record for reading a whole novel is two). i ate this book up over the past weekend and got cranky if anyone suggested i put it down to join the real world. it was SO GOOD!

miriam toews is one of my favorite authors. not only is she canadian (full disclosure: i'm obsessed with canadian literature) but her stories are everything i love in a good book, dark and sad with a lot of quirky humour. it's, for me, a perfect mix. i was first introduced to her by my fellow bibliophile, natalie jean, who insited i read a complicated kindness, which quickly fell into my list of top ten favorite novels. then she sent me a link to toews' contribution on the website, open letters, which made me fall even more in love (if that was even possible). when i found some of her stories/excerpts on geist, i decided to spend all of my chapters gift cards i got at christmas on all of toews' books.

the flying troutman tells the story of hattie, a 28 year old woman, who takes her niece and nephew on a road trip when the children's mother (hattie's sister) falls ill. its one of those stories that i found myself easily embracing all of the characters; hattie, who is a little lost and suddenly overwhelmed by responsibility, logan, her fifteen-year old nephew who is full to the brim with hopeless angst, and thebes, her eleven year old niece who is happily embracing weirdom all while secretly wishing she hadn't been born. and toews nails the family dynamic, you know the one where you simultaneously love and hate your family members, especially when stuck in a vehicle crossing the country (this is something i am very familiar with having grown up a military brat).

there really is so much going on in this novel and it's so much more than just a book about a road trip. i think in essence, toews is examining the effects of mental illness on those who love and care for the person suffering, in this case, hattie's sister. it is heartbreaking, yet redemptive. trust me, you will find yourself laughing at the absurd things coming out of thebes' mouth one minute and bawling your eyes out over logan description of why he likes to play basketball the next.

yea, just read it.

Thursday

the bakery girl of monceau

i'm sure most of you are aware by now that i'm a sucker for french films. it could be the world's worst french film and i will still devour it like it's fucking godard. it's like my discerning cinematic eye goes blind from love and admiration, which, i guess, is why i'm having a hard time deciding how i really feel about eric rohmer's, the bakery girl of monceau.

i've watched a few of rohmer's other films, and have usually enjoyed them. they tend to examine the complex dynamic between men and women, relationships, and desires. the bakery girl of monceau is not that much different from the other films i've watched, in terms of theme.

filmed in 1963, the bakery girl of monceau, was rohmer's first film and the first in his series of six moral tales. the movie is about a young man who is hankering for this mysterious woman he frequently sees on the street but is too nervous to talk to. when he finally does work up the courage, she declines because of other plans. then, as cruel fate would have it, he stops seeing her around town. in the meantime, the young man begins visiting a local bakery and, everyday, stuffs himself with sweets while making eyes at the young girl who works at there. he eventually convinces the bakery girl to go out with him, however, he later bumps into mystery woman and asks her to go out the same day. now this poor man is faced with the ultimate dilemma, which woman should he choose?

this movie has a lot of things going for it. first, it's french, irresistibly french. second, it's brilliantly filmed. rohmer has a tendency to shoot his films in a similar perspective to how we, as humans, view the world. this means, he avoids close-ups, rarely uses music on the soundtrack and in this particular film, does not use sets, everything was filmed on location. and this style really lends itself to the realistic nature of this story, like, who hasn't been lucky enough to have to decide between two love interests and lord knows i've done my share of obsessing over strangers that i regularly see around town.

unfortunately, the realistic nature of the story is also what irks me a little about this film. it's difficult to discuss this aspect without spoiling the plot but i suppose i can say that by the end of the film it all seemed a little misogynistic, like the young man is simply choosing between coke or pepsi. maybe i was just feeling a little combative-feminist when i watched it but i am feeling a little put off by this film.

i am going to say, you should watch this film. eric rohmer was a very respected filmmaker, not only in french cinema but all over the world. it's also a short film, i think around 20 minutes or so, hardly a sacrifice of time. more importantly, i want you to watch so you can tell me if all the andrea dworkin i've been reading has gone to my head. am i crazy or sane? tell me what you think.

i try not to encourage copyright infringement, so i'm not going to provide a link, but you can watch the bakery girl of monceau on youtube. if you can find it, i recommend renting/buying the criterion collection edition because it has some interesting features.

and for your previewing pleasure: