Friday, November 29, 2013

Your Christmas movie, at last



I always knew where my parents hid the Christmas presents, usually months before December. They hid them, always, in the usual place -- in their closet, on the upper shelves. I'd get a chair and rummage about, because I knew the toys or  music stand or books were up there, somewhere. And I knew a few other things, as well; I knew I wouldn't get my horse, or my piano. About that, I was quite sure. But not absolutely certain, and thought I might, just might, find an envelope that said -- well, I don't know what it would have said, because I never found the envelope, so it didn't say.

Still, I didn't like suspense then. I don't like suspense now. To know the end, from the beginning --  if I could have that, I would promise to walk all the steps in between.

That's why I like books. Books let me read as I wish I could live. If the first few pages capture my imagination, then I skip to the end. And the middle, well, the middle -- it's pudding. All the irony, humor, tragedy, joy would be lost on me, if I didn't know how it all held together.

When I was introduced to The Dead, by James Joyce, I read the first, the finish, and then the middle. And that's the way I read it to this day.

The story is much better, knowing the end from the start. That Gabriel will find a state of grace. A gently sad grace. Without knowing that, from the beginning, by the end, you have to start all over again. Which, on second thought, is a gift, after all.

The movie is true and faithful to the text, and lovely in its own right. It was John Huston's last. If you haven't seen it, then let's open with the final scene. I do think they're among the most beautiful words ever strung together in the English language.



35 comments:

  1. The 'end' first, French exits and rolling toilet paper over rather then under - just not going to happen for me. But then I keep a copy around of Final Exit

    You might enjoy the novel Hopscotch by Argentine writer Julio Cortázar. Supposedly you can park your intellect at whatever chapter you want, and it holds together.

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  2. What a lucid defense/explanation of "skipping to the end" before committing to the middle.

    I do this. When I mentioned it to my book group, the women were not amused.

    Apparently, the practice violated something in their estimations, maybe sense of order, implied contract with writer, need for suspense?

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  3. I remember hearing some noise and waking up and seeing my mom writing a note 'from santa'... boy did that kill the surprise.. also opening up a package so careful... every now and then i will skip to the end of the book... I try not to skip to the end unless I want to confirm the ending I already have in my head.

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  4. Love to read your child's remembrance.
    I also didn't like suspense and like you, I'd like to know the end. But I try not to skip to the end of the story, but sometimes it's happens, principally if I am not loving the story or the film.
    I didn't saw The Dead yet, but I will put it on my rental list.
    Btw, I like so much another John Huston's movie, it is "Under the Volcano" , with Albert Finney and Jacqueline Bisset. I highly recommend this film.
    I found the full film Here.

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  5. Good find.
    Most movies REALLY do pale in comparison.

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  6. Now, you see...I skipped over the paragraph where you talked about the book - I assume you talked about the book, I couldn't read it. *grin* And, the video clip will have to wait until I've read the book. I like the suspense. I enjoy the build up and anticipation. I open my presents on the evening of Christmas DAY, because it's so much nicer to have something to look forward to after all the visiting and celebrating is over.

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  7. I'll put it on the list, pa.

    As for you Jean, I always knew we had something vital in common.

    Kalei, Santa visited on Christmas Eve. Santa wore my father's watch.

    Sonia And Carolynn, I was amazed and thrilled to find it streams free on Hulu. And Sonia, Under the Volcano broke my heart -- both the book and the movie.

    Birdman, amen to that.

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  8. @Karin: omg... lol.. we're both scarred...

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  9. Karin, thanks for let me know!
    Hulu looks a great site, but unfortunately I don't have access to Hulu programming in Brazil.
    But luckily I found 'The Dead' on Youtube: Here.
    I will search also 'Sierra Madre'.
    About 'Under the Volcano', I did not read the book yet, but I will order it. The end of the story is overwhelming!
    Have a pleasant weekend.

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  10. Beautiful indeed.

    Although throughout the entire four plus minutes of the scene, I kept thinking to not skip forward to the last thirty seconds of it somehow violated your premise.

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  11. I had a professor once who gave me a key to Joyce. He said, if you set aside the verbal gymnastics for a moment, Joyce is telling the story of the self in a constant cycle of inflating and deflating. Inflating with a sense of self-aggrandizement, and deflating in the face of circumstance. It's only in defeat that he or his characters or we can grasp the concept of truth is beauty and beauty is truth. But we'll inevitably lose this string when we inflate again, which we will, because we cannot live without air.

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  12. I only skip to the end if the book isn't good enough to hold my attention all the way there. But hey, it's your book, you read it however you damn well please.

    I read Dubliners in order. Time to read it again. And I haven't seen the movie! How beautiful.

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  13. Skip to the end...of anything? It wouldn't occur to me that that's possible. I love surprises. I forget how movies end and when I watch them again I am surprised - I have always done this. As a child I could trip over a Christmas present meant for me and not realize it and be surprised to see it Christmas morning. There's probably a name for this condition, and I might have known it, but I don't remember.

    I am enjoying reading through your archives ~ so glad we met.

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  14. No! No! I must resist - I hold dear The Dead - on my Amazon watchlist. I'm certain it ranks highly, with The Wild Bunch no less, so then, resist I shall!

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  15. Thank you for this gift--I have avoided this movie standing on some long-forgotten principle. I look forward to it. Maybe even tonight.
    Brilliant quote of the professor-- even more brilliant that you remembered and distilled it in that manner.

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  16. My mother was also not imaginative when it came to hiding Christmas presents. My siblings and I raided the closet every year - as I'm sure my kids did, too.

    I used to read the ending first when I was a kid, but now I hate spoilers. They ruin the "ah-ha!" moment of catharsis or enlightenment I'm looking for as I watch a plot unfold, no matter the medium.

    Have to agree with you on The Dead, however. That's one of the great endings of all time, up there with Joyce's famous seven last words: "yes I said yes I will Yes."

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  17. Michael Furey, has there ever been a lover's name more perfect? I don't think so.

    Anjelica Huston was on Charlie Rose the other night. Such grace and character.

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  18. Fun reminisce. My parents were more crafty about hiding the Santa gifts.
    I often skip around while reading, too. I start with intentions of "not peeking", but inevitably end up skimming through to the ending. Then I go back and read slowly to savor the writing and details, and to watch how the story comes together.

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  19. I'll have to write about this prof, sometime. A most brilliant man. And crippled. He'd come to class, hunched over, kept aloft on two canes. From the age 5 to 18, he'd been bedridden; polio? Maybe, I don't recall. But what kept him going through those years, he said, was James Joyce and a map. He never actually visited Dublin, but knew every single street.

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  20. A lot of what I read are mysteries. And that's what I want them to be as I read them: mysteries. I want the ending revealed at the end. Marion reads much as you do, reading the beginning, then skipping to the end. Then, if the writing grabs her, she'll read the middle. This drives me nuts. I want the story to unfold as the writer wrote it. If the writing doesn't grab me, then I abandon it. I don't care how it ends if the writer can't tell a story. But if he or she can, then I want to hear it in the order he or she intended it to reel out.

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  21. It's a very individual process, isn't it, Terry, how we approach our stories. What we find or hope to find.

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  22. My love for the Dubliners is equal to my total frustration to ever understand what the hell is going on at Finnegan's Wake.

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  23. I do not know that movie, and I don't know the book. I will investigate.

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  24. a novel way to read a novel......I sometimes read the last sentance at the begining!!

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  25. Reading? Oh, you mean that thing I won't have time to do until at least Jan. 3.

    Christmas? You mean the Crazy Time, where I have too much to do and too little time. I wish I had any fond Christmas memories; my kids will have nothing but fond memories, even if it kills me.

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  26. Oh, and I often start a book with the last paragraph, and then proceed to the beginning. Hard to do with a Kindle.

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  27. Hmmmm...I have to say that I'm a traditionalist...perhaps going back to the time I sneaked a peek at Christmas presents, was disappointed, and had to pretend that I was happy with the present when I opened it...all the while feeling like a schmuck...
    I like the suspense of the middle, leading to the ultimate "end of the story"!!!

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  29. Did someone say, "books"? Is that something like Kindle, Ipad, & Ereaders. I'm no editor but I'm sure that's what you meant.

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  30. Speaking of snow, we may get some up here on Saturday. Thinking about my friends up north.

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  31. Thanks for thinking of us up here freezing our tails off!!! Temp was 4degrees Farenheit when TheChief came home tonight...
    Yeah...it's damn cold!!!

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  32. Let it snow! The first winter I spent in Pasadena (1999) it snowed briefly as I was driving along Walnut,and I thought it was normal. John Sutherland, in his book "How to read a Novel" suggests that when choosing a book, read page 64 first.If you like it, buy the book. If not, save your money.

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  33. I read back and forth in a book. I seldom finish a book because it is somehow like having a friend move out of town – that is if I am really enjoying the friend.

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  34. I seldom finish a book because finishing seems like having a friend move out of town.

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