Sunday, 28 January 2007

Book reviews!

I've managed - miraculously - to finish three books at once! (Well, on the same weekend anyway)

It's particularly gratifying to finish The Sundance Kids: How the Mavericks Took Back Hollywood, a great mix of behind-the-scenes storytelling with thematic analysis of the films mentioned. Sundance Kids is a massive book - I think I've been reading it for six months on and off.

Every time I read this book, I want to watch more movies. And make some. It's a great read.

The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life was a very interesting read, pitting the competing views of Sigmund Freud and CS Lewis together. It's billed as a debate, but it's at the same time worse and better than that.

Worse, in that the author, Harvard Psychology professor Armand Nicholi, can only speculate about what a debate between the two would have been like. Better, in that the book compares not only the words but the lives of these two.

Since I bought this book in a Christian bookshop, I was expecting a somewhat biased view in favour of the Christian worldview. While Lewis' Christian faith does appear to come out as the lifestyle that leads to the best psychological results, the book doesn't try to force the issue, instead simply presenting each man's view and biography, and letting the reader decide.

Even then, some may decide that's ingenuous, that the author/editor has the power to subtly make each side appear right or wrong. Having not read a lot about Freud or Lewis, I don't know. But if that is the case, I would also point to other material that does the opposite - champions Freud's views without comparison to any alternative worldview.

Finally, A Tale of Two Cities. Wow. No wonder it's a classic story. I'm going to make some very basic comments because a) I'm new to reading fiction (though not to watching it) and b) this post is getting too long.
  • Dickens really knows how to set up and pay off - every detail in this book is connected.
  • He also uses suspense really well in a way that would be difficult or impossible on film. His particular trick is to describe someone doing something, and then reveal their identity - letting your brain put all the pieces together.
  • I have heard Dickens criticised in the past for being too saccharine in his descriptions of some characters. Or at least too sentimental. His descriptions of joyous family life certainly come across a bit unreal in the cynical 21st century.
  • However, in general his characters are very 3D, and hard to put into boxes. The political background to the story makes this even more so - who is on who's side? Why? And are they really what they seem.
Overall, I loved it. And I'm glad that I started on this journey of reading "great" literature. Not sure what's next, but really looking forward to it.

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