By Patrick O'Brian
I am coming to like this series pretty well. I think I still do prefer the Hornblower novels, but these books do have a lot to offer. For one thing, the characters seem a bit more three-dimensional than Forester's. In Post Captain, for example, a fair amount of the beginning of the book has to do with events on shore while Jack Aubrey is waiting for a new command. It seems like that might detract from the story, being primarily a naval adventure, but watching Jack and Stephen as they meet the women they fall in love with, for example, or following Jack's attempts to avoid debtor's prison really serves to round out the characters. And, like the previous episode, there is plenty of action to go around, both at sea and ashore. My only complaint is that there wasn't much in the way of denouement. It's a minor flaw, though, given the structure of the book, and really all it did was make me jump right into the next one.
Started: 11/6/2007 | Finished: 11/18/2007
One of the things I like about this time of year is that the studios bring out all of their heaviest hitters in anticipation of the Oscars, and with the combination of Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, and Ridley Scott, this one is about as heavy-hitting as it gets. As you might expect with two Oscar winners in the lead roles, the acting is outstanding. In addition to the leads, I also particularly liked Cuba Gooding's performance as Nicky Barnes, a friend and rival of Washington's Frank Lucas. Gooding's swagger contrasted perfectly with Washington's more business-like mien. In many ways this is a film about contrasts. There's the obvious one between Frank Lucas--a criminal who, on the other hand, appears to uphold traditional values by providing for his family--and Crowe's Ritchie Roberts--an honest detective whose personal life is in shambles. But there's also, as I mentioned, the comparison between Frank Lucas and Nicky Barnes, as well as between Lucas and his former mentor, not to mention between Roberts and his police counterparts. The film's only real problem is its length--if you see it in the theaters with the trailers it'll come out over three hours. Personally, I didn't think it was too long for its content, but in discussions with some other people I have heard some complaints about the pacing, so your mileage may vary. Nevertheless, I do recommend this one, and I'll be pretty surprised if it doesn't get multiple Oscar nominations.
Viewed: 11/9/2007 | Released: 11/1/2007 | Score: A
Love in the Time of Cholera
By Gabriel García Márquez
Having previously read García Márquez's most recent novel, Memories of my Melancholy Whores, it was interesting to go back in his career with this one and see the similarities. Both novels explore old age, but where Memories is more concerned with nostalgia, this one is about love. We follow two characters from youth to old age: Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza. The latter declares his eternal love for Fermina Daza at a young age and eventually waits most of his life to pursue it after she marries another man. Sort of--in the intervening years he goes on to have 622 affairs. It's this kind of dichotomy that makes the novel--such is García Márquez's skill that we are lured into sympathizing with Florentino Ariza despite all of his flaws. The novel expertly blends the comic and the profound, commenting on the progression of age, the struggle between progress and tradition, the relationships between men and women. And, as always, García Márquez delivers a strong sense of place, managing to be both critical and reverent of the city and country in which the story takes place. An excellent read that I highly recommend.
Started: 9/4/2007 | Finished: 11/5/2007