Friday, October 19, 2012

reads #8: summer 2012*

Louise Brooks (Barry Paris, 1989)
I realised, after reading a few biographies from personalities of the old Hollywood era (Anita Loos, Mary Pickford, Edith Head and Grace Kelly so far) that happy endings are not that common in their world. It always feels a bit lonely and miserable at the end... Probably not more than your average person, but the contrast with their glamourous life, often starting at a very young age, is drastic. All the more striking with Louise Brooks. For the collective unconsciousness, she's the face of the flapper age with her iconic bob (even though some confuse her with Colleen Moore, Clara Bow or even sometimes Theda Bara) but her cinema prowess is not that well known in the end. Louise Brooks was never one for career. The reason? She liked to "drink and fuck too much" (her own words). Her rebellious nature got the better of her. Her different careers (in ballet, in the Follies and in cinema) got short-lived because of her burning desire for freedom. She reached her lowest point in life in her thirties when broke and loveless, she had to go back to her hometown in Wichita, Kansas where she worked for a time as a sales-girl. But thanks to a revivalist cult in her name that started in France in the 1950s, she rose from the ashes and became a respected writer. She was never the cliché of the brainless, pretty-faced actress, she thought a lot (too much for her own good, probably) and produced brilliant analyses on her peers and the Hollywood machine.
It is one of the best written biographies on the genre I've read so far thanks to the plume and knowledge of Barry Paris who cleverly diffuses film history through this portrait, and thanks also to the fact that there is a lot of material on Louise Brooks available (interviews, her essays and own biography).
I particularly liked that passage where Barry Paris offers his analysis on to why the transition from silent movies to talkies wasn't that easy on the audience:
The very nature of film-going was radically changed. For two generations, the experience was essentially a private one in which the viewer took an active mental and emotional role in apprehending the drama. With dialogue, the experience became collective, shattering the private “emotional communion” between the movie and its viewer. Sounds and words largely replaced the viewer’s active cerebral involvement; his viewing became passive. Gone was the private, inviolable trance.

Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip - vol.2 (Tove Jansson, 1956) 
I still remember reading the first volume of these while backpacking across Scandinavia with the boyfriend. We found the impratical hardcover in Tampere, Finland and lugged it around with us there on. We went there to visit the Moomin museum and were hoping to go the theme park in Naantalin later, but this one was closed during Winter. We were obsessed (we still are), and our sweet childhood memories had in common that many were spent eating cereal in the morning while watching the cartoon. These little hedonistic, hippo-like creatures have everything to enrapture children's imagination. We were shocked though to discover that the comics actually target grown-ups as well, with its satirical tone and brilliant sociological analysis. They are incredibly funny! My boyfriend later got me the second volume in Dublin, and while I can't say that it got me enthused in the same manner as the first, I still think it's a very good read with many pearls of wisdom.
Favourite quote: Moomin Mama's maid: You just pretend and pretend!
Moomin Mama: That's why we have such a good time!

Brideshead Revisited (Evelyn Waugh, 1945)
This book is, for me, the quintessential summer read (along with this one). Never has  a summer been depicted so well as the one Sebastian Flyte (the most charismatic character in literature) and Charles Ryder spent together during their first year university break in 1923. Anyone who read this will have the moment where the two young men lay under a tree, feasting on wine and strawberries engraved in their mind... And those words professed by the melancholic Sebastian: "Just the place to bury a crock of gold. I should like to bury something precious, in every place I've been happy. And then when I was old, and ugly and miserable, I could come back, and dig it up, and remember."  
Who can forget the moments spent in Brideshead castle, near the fountain, or in the glass-houses or the ones wandering through Venice architectural splendours?
This is an ode to nostalgia. Nostalgia for a time that will never be again: youth and the grandeur of the English nobility. We learn how the two are intertwined in Charles Ryder's eyes, grieving for most of his life for the loss of his friendship/love with Sebastian and the decay of society as he once knew it/dreamed of it. He'll try to cling onto both by maintaining a relationship with the Flyte family on one side and on the other, by painting all the beautiful mansions before their closing down, a consequence of the English high society's decline between the two great wars. Evelyn Waugh's writing is full of gems as my poor over-dog-eared copy shows, I highly recommend this book as well as the TV show made in the eighties starring Jeremy Irons (I screen-capped a bit of it here but one day I really should dedicate a whole post to it, it's truly amazing).
Favourite quote:  To know and love one other human being is the root of all wisdom.

*this one was long overdue oops, monthly book reviews should resume (hopefully)


Emma said...

I adore Moomin! My boyfriend got me the books of the comic strips too. I am obsessed with going to the theme park and I'm even considering getting a little my tattoo! So glad to hear you're a fellow enthusiast!

Also, so sad you didn't get to go to the park!

Emma x

moira said...

Ooh a moomin tat' is such a brilliant idea! Which character would you pick?

Rine said...

Hey Moria, so this is a little off topic, but I just wanted to let you know that I've just sent you an email, and I apologize for taking so long to getting back to you with my own email address. Anyway, I can't wait to hear back from you soon :)

moira said...

thanks! writing you a mail now :) xx

kelli said...

I was just looking back at your book posts for a little reading inspiration and was so, so delighted to see the Moomin book! I actually lived in Tampere for 3 months a couple of years ago & the Moomin museum is one of my favorite things there. I, too, have been planning a Moomin tattoo for a long time now!!

moira said...

i think the moomin dollhouse was one of the most beautiful thing i ever had the chance to see! did you get to the theme park as well?
what would your tattoo look like? xx

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