Yesterday the weather was gray and the mood around here was melancholy. Big daughter was in Spain, playing in the sunshine. Sigmund was in Rotterdam, for the usual "meetings." Little daughter and I were stuck at home.
Little daughter was in a funk as she had lots of "revision" for her upcoming exams. (Brief aside: "revision" is the English word for homework. The word bugs me, as it is not very accurate. Really, it should be called "memorization.")
When you are depressed, and the weather is off-putting, and you have way too much homework, there is an obvious solution: Procrastinate by making a big bowl of popcorn and watching a well-loved movie! Little Women was the movie of choice, and it was so good that we watched our favorite bits at least twice!
Even though I've read the book at least a dozen times, and watched the movie almost as many, the story can still work its magic on me. I'm on the verge of blubbing at least four or five times, and I enjoy watching the story unfold -- even though I know what's going to happen. In this particular version, there is the added bonus of Gabriel Byrne as Friedrich Bhaer -- even though I know that he is really too good-looking for the role. (Another aside: Although it doesn't exist in the book, I cannot help swooning at the scene in the movie when Jo and Mr. Bhaer visit the opera together. He translates the following words for her, making it obvious from his intense gaze that they have personal meaning: Your heart understood mine. In the depth of the fragrant night, I listened with ravished soul to your beloved voice. Your heart understood mine. I put it to you: Can you think of any words more beautiful or romantic?)
So you may be thinking . . . I thought that this was going to be about The Blind Assassin? And what the heck do these two works of fiction have in common? Well, I can think of two things at least: they are both about sisters, and they both have a war lurking in the background. Of course there are lots of differences, too -- but here's the big one for me: the characters in Little Women are like real people to me, and I care about them. Laura and Iris from The Blind Assassin? Well, I never really could believe in them.
A characterological reading of a story -- or, understanding a story through identification with the characters -- is a pretty unsophisticated way to read a book. And yet, when I think about the books that I really, truly love I have to admit that the characters do play a huge role in making the story seem alive, seem real, seem relevant.
So many dead people at the beginning of The Blind Assassin -- and yet, the process of "solving" the mystery of their deaths did not make them seem one jot more real or alive to me. I kept waiting for the story to "start;" but now I see that I waiting for the moment when I felt truly engaged. My final analysis: I enjoyed it in parts; I admired the writing; but I always retained a feeling of distance, of detachment -- at times, even of disinterest.
I would really like to know what the rest of the "Assassin" readers think.
I also want to examine these questions:
Did the science fiction narrative serve any true purpose in the story?
Is the title a good one?
Did everyone guess that the different narrative voices were actually all the same person?
And whatever else you want to talk about, of course.