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» Friday, August 08, 2003
Re-reading Favorite Books
Even with the schlock that gets published, there are always new books to rejoice in.
Which of course is a pain sometimes because, here, faced with a great pile a'waiting, you find you're also longing to go back and re-read the old beloved ones as well and there's never time enough for that, either, as there never seems to be time enough to read the new ones.
While I was sick I did go back and read Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills. I initially bought Crystal to meet the requirements of the Doubleday Bargain Book Club and fell head over heels in love with Stewart's interpretation of the Arthurian Merlin legends. I never liked all that knights-and-ladies "thees-thous-and-thys" Camelot type material and even Disney's more humorous version of The Sword in the Stone left me cold. After reading Stewart, it wasn't that I wasn't interested any longer, but nothing could live up to her story. Her Merlin is so real to me that anyone else's verson, from T.H. White's to Barron's newest books about young Merlin, almost irritate me. Their Merlin seems goofy or otherworldly or dramatically mystical rather than this calm, competent man who is always a real human being with magical gifts and not some addled magician. (I can't tell you how much the Merlin of the movie Excalibur, with all the snakes around, creeped me out, as much as I love Nicol Williamson.)
Two months or so back when I wasn't feeling well, I also zipped through Addie Pray and Red Sky at Morning; I was reminded of this while noting that Paper Moon is coming out on DVD next week. While there are points in the story they share where Addie beats Moon all hollow, the movie is nevertheless an excellent version of the book and I always wished the promised sequel "doing the rest of the story" had come to pass. I always wondered who they would have gotten to play Major Lee, Amelia Sass, and Mayflower Goldsborough.
I only saw the film version of Red Sky once; it seemed okay, although the book was so rich it was hard for any movie to capture it, especially with 70s sensibilities.
Anyway, I'm nattering on about all this because last night for no reason I can think of I picked up another favorite of mine and started re-reading, a young adult novel called Cute is Not a Compliment. The author is Peter Filichia, the theatre critic and columnist for Theatre.com, and is the story of Jim Carpenter, a high-school student interested in the theatre (rather than useful stuff like computers, to the chagrin of his blue-collar father), who finally gets his dream girlfriend and also a job teaching acting to a fellow student the same year his high school is up for the top awards in a local student drama competition. I bought the book initially because I was astonished that it was written by a guy writing about a guy who actually had an intelligent ambition in life rather than being your usual male Neanderthal with interests only in sports, cars and getting laid. Jim is also short, which I immediately sympathized with, having spent a lifetime complaining about not being able to reach things on closet shelves and not looking good in clothing even when I was at an ideal weight.
Re-reading it I also love the way that Jim is so naturally flawed even as he criticizes other people for doing things like interrupting him or having bad "lapse time": he hates being judged by his shortness, yet idealizes the tall gorgeous blonde who becomes his girlfriend and initially dismisses the student he's tutoring as not being girlfriend quality, because, although she's got nice green eyes, halfway decent manners, and good "lapse time," she's overweight and has to diet. Needless to say, Jim's little prejudices get a workout during the book.
I also loved the theatre competition story itself as well as the joy the protagonists take in acting and participating. Each time I've been to a stage production it's been, to use that overworked term, a "magical experience." I'd love to indulge in that type of magic a lot more.
Anyway, I did a search on Filichia and found a nice archive of his Theatre.com columns, all good reading, including one on one of the nicest people in the world, Carolee Carmello.
Here's Filichia's comments about one of my favorites, 1776
And also what he had to say about Rupert Holmes's delightful stage story about George Burns in his A-Z listing of the best of the 2002-2003 theatre season:
"S" is for Say Goodnight, Gracie, which got a Tony nomination as Best Play even though its star and motor, Frank Gorshin, couldn't crack the Best Actor list. Too bad, for he does manage the ultimate achievement of an actor impersonating a well-known celebrity: He makes you forget that you aren't really watching George Burns.