Thursday, December 30, 2010

Literature and Movies

I have had extra time on my hands while here. While the Navy and Marine Corps do their share to keep me busy, my evenings are largely free. To that end, I have been taking time to read and watch movies. In both of those, there has been a fair amount of fluff. I am reading a legal novel by Steve Martini right now. Sitting on the bed is the movie "The American President," with Michael Douglas and Annette Benning. I have also reread some of the books we all had to read in high school. My reaction to such books as "To Kill a Mockingbird" is very different than it was 25 years ago. Take note: my high school in Norfolk, Virginia closed for a year (1968-9) due to desegregation. There is a history of racism where I grew up. Reading it now, I can see the power in Harper Lee's writing that I missed as a kid. The image of everyone standing up for Atticus Finch at the end of the trial is quite stunning in the few words Harper Lee used. I thought the scene in the movie was gripping.

I also read "Lady Chatterley's Lover." It was quite a radical book for its time, for reasons you all know. It was fascinating though in the concept D. H. Lawrence was trying to convey, that true intimacy cannot exist only in words. On a Jewish level, it is not so radical. Words are not sufficient. We take words and bind them on our arms. We take words and hang them on our doorposts. With so many of those actions, there is a kabbalistic phrase that most of us do not say - for the sake of union with the Holy One. That word 'union' is the same word that we use for a newlywed couple in their first time alone. So to say that words are sufficient to create intimacy is really farcical to me.

I had forgotten how compelling an author John Steinbeck is. Growing up on the folk music of the 1960's, I knew about migrant workers (Woody Guthrie, "Pastures of Plenty"). My mother still has pangs of discomfort when buying grapes, something she did not do for many years. To read "Grapes of Wrath" knowing the lyrics to 'Pastures' by heart was heart-wrenching. It was heart-wrenching seeing the inhumanity of people. It remains heart-wrenching knowing that it could exist for so long.

On the movie side, I just watched "Bridge on the River Kwai" last night. I wonder if it was important to Alec Guiness to be known for something other than the "Star Wars" series. He was brilliant in "Bridge." I have known officers like he one he played in the movie. To some degree, he is right. Unit discipline and morale suffers when the lines between officer and enlisted break down. Morale will improve when people have clear-cut tasks to accomplish.

Other movies have included "A Gentleman's Agreement," "In Harm's Way," a number of James Bond movies, a number of "Star Trek" movies, "Dr. Zhivago," and "The Big Chill."

Having the library in sight of my living room window is a nice thing.

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