The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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The Play’s the Thing

Now in his dottage, my humanities teacher has almost certainly forgotten that he presented Hamlet as an example of physical cowardice. To him, this was the essence of Shakepeare’s play. Hamlet couldn’t do the right thing because he was afraid of directly confronting his uncle.

Being a high school student, I had never really thought about the idea of physical cowardice (even though we had previously read The Red Badge of Courage), and being naturally averse to fighting (at least, at that time in my life), I turned this notion over in my mind and wondered if I was, in fact, like Hamlet a coward. I remember even asking my teacher if this were true in front of my girlfriend, and was told he did not think so. I was not the type.

Just the opposite, perhaps. I’ve often thought that if I had gone to Nam, I’d be dead right now. I was, and still am, a bit reckless. No doubt I’d have placed myself in front of a bullet—perhaps from some guy in my own unit—and died like a fool for nothing. Maybe I knew this when I refused to go.

In any case, Hamlet is not about physical cowardice, but, rather, the importance of being certain of one’s facts before taking action. Thanks to Shakespeare, we watch Hamlet go through this process. What son can stand idly by knowing his uncle killed his father and then married his mother? Hamlet needs to be sure, however, before he can act. The tragedy that results is not because Hamlet is a physical coward, but precisely because he is not.

November 9, 2010   Comments Off on The Play’s the Thing

Today’s Aphorism

It is not moxie or will, but being in a state of grace, that creates change in one’s life. Most of us spend a lifetime trying to find it, and fail, because it is not about worthiness, but perception.

November 9, 2010   Comments Off on Today’s Aphorism

And the Winner Is…

Eat, Pray, Love has toppled all contenders. It contains the ultimate chick (Julia Roberts)—a kind of everywoman—in the ultimate chick flick. I haven’t read the book, so I can’t compare notes, but judging by what I saw on the screen, I won’t be rushing off to buy it any time soon.

My intention is not to denigrate Roberts, who is a fine actress, nor to denigrate the film, which is generally well done for its genre, but to discuss the central theme of the movie (and, I assume, the book), which is the notion that women have trouble defining themselves apart from relationships.

A former female friend of mine was fond of saying that women are “relationship builders.” She implied that women instinctively create webs connecting themselves to those they love, with an emotional strand for each point of attachment. As an unfeeling, emotionally repressed guy, of course, I have no clue what this might mean (though I’m laughing as I write this). The notion that this is a problem only for women is quite amusing.

Our author apparently got an advance so that she could travel to Italy, India, and Bali and then write about the process of discovering herself, and, ultimately, love, on her own terms. Very romantic. Sort of like romance squared. Glad for her, actually. Her books are now the next best thing. She has arrived. Hundreds of thousands of women identify with her heroine and buy her books, and millions more watch the film(s) made from them.

Her sense of what it’s like to be a woman in relationship is undoubtedly true, and I applaud her for her efforts. This is important stuff. My only issue is the cynicism behind it. It defines the world of publishing these days—yet more manufactured books based on marketing research for a select audience designed to be turned into films making millions.

November 9, 2010   Comments Off on And the Winner Is…