Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Homer?

With the exception of Chandler, I've been finding it hard to get excited about books of late and have had the same five on the go for quite a while now. Chandler's Collected Short Fiction, Russell's Problems of Philosophy, The Essential Steven Soderbergh, Millhauser's 'The Barnum Museum', Nesbith's Ghost Stories, etc.. I just couldn't get enthusiastic. Happily, after a visit to, I bought Malamud's 'The Natural' during the week and was saving up until today to start reading it. I'm a little ashamed to say I love the movie, sentimental though it is (and I hate the closing shot), and I have a tremendous amount of respect for Bernard Malamud (though that's based on only a few short stories). I know he can write and have always wanted to read the book. So while going into town on the bus, I resisted starting it. In the coffee shop, I still resisted until a comfy seat became available. I wanted to savour it. Certainly after the opening, meeting Roy Hobbs again and the murderous Harriet Bird getting on that train, I was a happy reader.

I went along to a Mexican horror movie then, 'Km 31', but continued afterwards. I am around 50 pages off the ending now and must confess that it is a different book to what I expected. Barry Levinson, director of the movie, took a very definite slant on things not entirely borne out by the book. Levinson was consciously constructing a myth, retelling King Arthur for the US, and although some of this is in the book - well, a lot of it - Malamud's concerns are, dare I say, a little more mundane. In many ways this is more about homer with a small 'h', than Homer. The iconic use of the lightning strike is not in evidence, and if anything superstition and magic are downplayed. This results in a less mythic, but more intelligent work. I am still undecided what I think overall, but if ever a book highlighted the differences between film and literature, this is that book.

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