In reply to Becky’s Would You Rather Book Tag (A Couple of Bees) https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/180580439

Q. Would you rather read classics for the rest of your life or Y/A novels?

A. Classics please, I’m way too old for the latter.

Q. Would you rather have a kid like Holden Caulfield or Huckleberry Finn?

A. Huckleberry Finn, I wouldn’t be able for the other fellow!

Q. Which Hogwart’s House would you rather be placed in?

A. Ravenclaw – they have the nicest colours – blue and bronze.

Q. Would you rather live in the world of 1984 or Fahrenheit 451?

A. Fahrenheit 451. I couldn’t bear to live in the world of 1984.

Q. Would you rather live in the world of Narnia or a kingdom in Game of Thrones?

A. I’d prefer Narnia. The world of Game of Thrones would be too dangerous!

Q. Would you like to have unlimited money for e-books or a $5,000 Barnes a Noble gift card?

A. The gift card. I got a book token for quite a lot of money many years ago. I had a ball!

Q. Would you rather live in your favourite fictional world for a day or be able to visit said world whenever you want but only as an invisible observer?

A. The latter, I think. I always fancied a cloak of invisibility – and I’d like to visit Winterfell.

This was a lot of fun, and thanks to Becky of A Couple of Bees for thinking it up. Anyone else like to answer these questions?

The Top Three!

Last week was a strange one for me with various family situations, now resolved. Today I resume my routine. This morning I was out for my walk along the river and I thought very hard about which three books I loved the most; I came up with these three. David Copperfield, Catch 22 and Redhead by the Side of the Road. Which surprised me a little as my favourite writer for some years now is Patrick de Witt.

I first read David Copperfield when I was at school and I’ve read it at least twice since; so many wonderful characters, so many quotes still in my head. There was Peggotty, who worked as cook and maid in his mother’s house until she agreed to marry Mr Barkis, who signalled his intentions with the phrase,”Barkis is willin’.” And the wonderful Mr Micawber who was always sure that “something will turn up” and his wife declaring that she “would never desert” Mr Micawber. I’m going to stop with quotes here or I’ll be writing all day! I will just mention David’s cousins who lived in an upturned boat on the beach in Yarmouth; the boy he met in school called Steerforth who was a bad ‘un and became involved with Rosa Dartle. I can’t leave out his Aunt Betsey who took him in and cared for him and called him “Trotwood”. David’s first wife, Dora, made very little impression on me but apparently she was based on Dicken’s real-life first love. There are many more I could include and many, many quotes but – enough!

Catch 22 I first read in my twenties and again, I’ve read it many times since. It makes me laugh so much. Sometimes I stand at the book case and open it at random . . . I could be standing there for a long time! And sometimes I remember various passages when I’m on a bus or a train and I have to keep myself from laughing out loud. The first chapter sets the tone; the chaplain appears at Yossarian’s hospital bedside and begins a conversation. Yossarian doesn’t realise he is the chaplain and thinks he’s another mad soldier but he is happy to continue the conversation:

“Oh, pretty good,” he answered. “I’ve got a slight pain in my liver and I haven’t been the most regular of fellows, I guess, but all in all, I must admit that I feel pretty good.”

“That’s good,” said the chaplain.

“Yes,” Yossarian said. “Yes, that is good.”

The conversation continues in this vein with many – that’s good, yes that is good, and that’s bad, yes that is bad – until Yossarian realises he’s talking to the chaplain and is disappointed that there is a sane reason for the visit.

And what about Major Major Major Major whose father marches along the hospital corridor and register’s his son’s birth in the name of Major Major, unbeknownst to his resting wife. And the episode where the soldiers are listening to a speech by one of the Generals and they begin to moan at the sight of the General’s bosomy nurse, started by Yossarian of course. Ah yes . . .

Finally, Redhead by the Side of the Road. I won’t say much about this book as I recently posted a review on it. Suffice to say, when I was reading it, I carried it about with me and had many conversations with the main character, Micah Mortimer. Happy days!

An excerpt from “Undermajordomo Minor” by Patrick de Witt

This is Patrick de Witt’s third novel, completely different from the previous two. It isn’t quite a fairy story; some of it is surreal, nightmarish, incredible, but all totally delicious. I was in awe of the author’s creativity and the wonderful dialogue and prose.

Mr Olderglough opened his eyes. “There were once were twenty souls in our employ here, boy. Can you imagine it? Coachmen, waiting maids, porters, a cook, a nurse. All gone now, alas.”

“I thought you’d said Agnes was the cook, sir?”

“Originally she was the chambermaid. When the cook left us, then did Agnes step forward, claiming a deft hand.”

“But it seems you take issue with her cooking, is that correct?”

“Not so far as she knows. But in my private mind, yes, I am unenthusiastic.”

“And why do you not speak with her about it, may I ask?”

“Because I dislike unpleasantness. Also there is the fact of my being somewhat afraid of her. And then, too, I’m not much interested in eating.” He looked at Lucy. “Are you?”

“I like to eat,” Lucy said.

“Is that right?” Mr Olderglough shook his head, as if to accommodate an eccentricity. “Personally, it never held much sway for me.”

Lucy said, “May I ask what became of the others?”

“Well, they’ve gone away, haven’t they?”

“But why have they, sit?”

“I suppose they thought it the wisest course of action, is all.”

Mr Olderglough looked wistfully about the room. “Twenty souls,” he said, “and here, what’s become of us? Well, we’ve got you in our company now, boy, and this heartens me, I can tell you that much.”

Lucy was not so heartened. He followed Mr Olderglough to the larder; the shelves were all but bare. There came from the corner the scratching of rodents, and now began a thumping, squabbling battle, a lengthy affair concluding with the agonized squeal of the defeated: high and sharp at its commencement, distantly windy at its resolution. Mr Olderglough wore a satisfied expression, as though the outcome were favourable to him. Drawing back his cascading forelock, he said. “I find the constant upkeep of the body woefully fatiguing, don’t you?”

10 More Magical Movie Moments

1. 4 Weddings and a Funeral: 1994

Written by Richard Curtis who also wrote Love Actually and Notting Hill among others. Directed by Mike Newell whose movies crossed all genres, including Donnie Brasco, Love in the Time of Cholera, Great Expectations, and Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.

The moment for me in this movie involves Rowan Atkinson who plays a clergyman. At one of the weddings the character played by Kristin Scott Thomas tells him that his first wedding is like the first time one has sex. Rowan Atkinson’s face is good enough on its own but he gives this small embarrassed laugh, more of a snigger, a small sound which he repeats while turning his face away. How does he do that? It seems so creative to me. I’m laughing here as I’m writing . . .

2. The Beast with Five Fingers: 1946

This horror movie was a short story in the first place, written by W. F. Harvey and then became a screenplay writtend by Curt Siodmak. Rober Florey directed the movie. He directed other horror films as well as the first Marx Brothers feature, The Cocoanuts.

The story revolves around a death, relations and a will. The left hand of the corpse is cut off and begins to creep around at night and to play the piano. The film is in black and white and the hand glows as it moves. I saw this movie when I was about ten and it haunted me all my youth and gave me many nightmares. The moment that stands out is when a friend, played by Peter Lorre, catches the hand and tries to throw it into the fire but it leaps out and strangles him. I can just about stand to think about it now!

3. Schlinder’s List: 1993

Such a wonderful movie altogether, and my favourite moment is when we first see Oscar Schlinder (Liam Neeson) as he enters a room full of people. The camera is behind him at head level so we can appreciate how tall and imposing a figure he was. I loved that. The film was directed by Spielberg, and adapted for the screen by Steven Zaillian. The original book was called Schlinder’s Ark and was written by Australian writer, Thomas Keneally.

4. Babette’s Feast: 1987

This Danish movie was directed and written by Gabriel Axel who based the screenplay on the short story written by Karen Blixen (with whom I share a birthday!). In Danish – Babettes Gaestebud. It is set in the 19th century and tells the story of two sisters living in a village in Jutland in West Denmark. They are members of a very strict Protestant sect begun by their father, and we get their sad back stories as the movie goes along. Babette arrives at their door in the middle of a storm. She has escaped from the war in Paris and has a letter of introduction from Philippas’s old suiter, Papin. Babette keeps house for them. When she wins the French lottery she offers to cook a real French meal for the sisters and all the villagers, who live sober, controlled lives without much laughter. The moment I enjoyed the most is the kitchen scene while Babette is cooking; the heat; the smells; the tastes; it’s a magical scene. This movie is in my top ten list and won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

5. There Will Be Blood: 2007

This movie, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is based on a 1927 novel “Oil!” by Upton Sinclair. It stars Daniel Day Lewis as Daniel Plainview, the oil man trying to convince the locals, in a pit mine hole in New Mexico, that this search for oil will benefit them. However he is opposed by Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) a local preacher. The film is magnificent on every front; it is a huge film. The stand-out moment in my memory is when Eli Sunday forces Daniel Plainview to his knees – the faces of those men, the acting, is amazing. It’s the kind of movie that makes me very quiet when I leave the cinema thinking – less than ten euro for all THAT!

6. Gone With The Wind: 1939

I won’t say much about this movie; everyone knows everything about it! It was produced by David O Selznick. The screenplay was written by Sydney Howard, adapted from the 1936 novel by Margaret Mitchell. And I’m sure no one will be surprised when I say the moment in this movie is when Scarlett, in a red, red dress appears in the doorway at Melanie’s party, when she is suspected of having an affair with Melanie’s husband, Ashley. Head up, shoulders back, brazening out the stares.

7. Strictly Ballroom: 1992

This Australian rom com was written and directed by the wonderful Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge and Romeo and Juliette). It was based on a play written by himself and fellow students while they were studying drama in Sydney. It is much more than a rom com of course. For anyone who loves dance movies this one is a must. It follows the lives of two young dancers – Scott (Paul Mercurio) and Fran (Tara Morice) as they struggle to remain partners and to try some innovative moves. For me, the magic happens when the Paso Doble is danced, not by the young ones, but by Fran’s father and grandmother. You’d have to stand up and clap!

8. The Apartment: 1960

Staring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray, this movie is a total delight from start to finish. Produced by Billy Wilder, and written by him with I. A. L. Diamond. “Bud” Baxter works for an Insurance Company and in the interests of getting promotion he lends his flat out to his boss for illicit meetings with his mistress. Soon, others want to use the flat as well and Bud’s life gets very complicated. He’s in love with the lift girl (MacLaine) and it all ends well eventually. I’m sure everyone knows what scene I’m going to mention. Of course it’s Bud straining spaghetti through a tennis racket. Jack Lemmon is one of my favourite actors; he can play anything. Look at him in in Glengarry Glen Ross or Days of Wine and Roses.

9. La Belle et La Bete: 1946

I fell in love with this film the first time I saw it many years ago. If you like fantasy and magical scenes you might want to look it up. It is truly beautiful, gorgeous, sumptuous, fantastic, dazzling, and dreamlike. The film was directed by Jean Cocteau, poet and film maker, adapted from a story written in 1757 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. It stars Josette Day as Beauty, and Jean Marais as the Beast. One of the stand-out moments (and there are many) is this; Beauty is floating along a corridor in the castle and as she passes, hands holding blazing torches reach out from the wall to light her way. I’m going to have to watch this again now!

10. Some Like it Hot: 1959

In a movie where every scene is one to remember, all I can say is, “Nobody’s perfect!”

I hope any movie lovers who read this have enjoyed the list. I’ll have to do a final one with modern movies this time.

10 Magic Movie Moments

1. Manon de Sources – a film by Claude Berri, and follow-up to Jean de Florette. There he is, Ugolin, (Daniel Auteuil) breaking his heart over Manon, (Emmanuelle Béart) sewing a ribbon from her hair onto his chest. His face – I will never forget it, the pain, the anguish  – I could hardly bear to watch!

2. Raging Bull, Scorcese of course, with Robert de Niro. I loved the opening sequence of this movie – De Niro shadow boxing to Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni. A dreamy, misty, unforgettable image.

3.Billy Elliot, directed by Stephen Daldry and written by Lee Hall. The best scene (for me) in this movie is the last one, where the grown up Billy is preparing to go on stage to dance in Swan Lake. The viewer only sees him from the back, wearing a cloak. Someone behind him removes the cloak revealing his broad, strong back and he looks magical, majestic, magnetic.

4. La Cage aux Folles, a film by Eduard Molinaro, adapted from the play by Jean Poiret. I loved this movie so much, mostly because of Michel Serrault who plays the part of Albin, a female impersonator in a night club run by his partner, Renato. When Renato’s son is to marry into a very conservative family, Albin has to pretend to be truly masculine. He has to practice – he dons a man’s suit and makes an entrance. He has to cross the room and sit down, and oh, how he does it. It makes me laugh and cry at the same time. For his inability to play masculine, for his whole-hearted attempts to get it right, for his utter humanity and lovability. I have seen the American version of this movie as well and it copies every scene religiously; the cast even resembles the French cast – except for Albin. To play Albin there is only Michel Serrault!

5. Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds – not a scene in this one, only a few moments, when Brad Pitt, impersonating an Italian lifts a casual hand and says – Arrivederci – priceless!

6. Death in Venice, by Luchino Visconti, adapted from a short story by Thomas Mann. Dirk Bogarde plays the part of an aging musician (a writer in the story) travelling for health reasons when he falls madly in love with a beautiful boy staying in the same hotel with his family. He attempts to look younger; he gets his hair and moustache died very black. One day when he is following the boy through the narrow streets he feels weak and sits down in the rain; the hair dye begins to run down his cheeks. It’s like a painting, a very sad painting. And over all the strains of Mahler’s 5th. (One movement of it, I forget which one. I bought the CD but I only liked that one movement.)

7. Glengarry Glen Ross, (from the play by David Mamet) stars two of my favourite actors, Jack Lemmon and Al Pacino. Jack Lemmon plays Levane Shelley, a salesman no longer young, who has lost his touch. There are younger, smarter men in the game now and Al Pacino is ruthless. All day, every day, they chase leads. The moment for me in this film is Levane in a phone box desperately trying to clinch a sale. his face furrowed, almost in tears, with anxiety. I don’t know how actors do it; I believed every word out of his mouth.

8. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the first Ang Lee movie I saw, filled me with awe. I’m not generally a lover of Martial Arts but I loved every moment of this film. And what I remember best is the scene of a battle which takes place in the tree tops; the combatants swaying in the branches. The trees are so green, so graceful, balletic almost and truly beautiful.

9. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? Even writing down that title makes me laugh a bit. The Coen Bros are wonderful and I’m a fan of all their movies. In this one, the moment I can’t forget is when The Soggy Bottom Boys are performing at a music festival. I love George Clooney because he plays the clown so well – and him so good-looking! And I loved all the music throughout.

10. Fellini’s Amarcord. The whole film is wonderful but there’s a scene where a ship is coming into harbour; it’s night time and the ship is lit up with myriad lights, like something out of fairy land.

So this is my list of ten best cinema moments. Do you agree or disagree? And what are your favourites?

Some of my Favourite Movies

  1. Jean de Florette et Manon des Sources – Claude Berri
  2. The Godfather 1 and 2 – Francis Ford Coppola
  3. Fargo – The Coen Brothers
  4. La Strada – Federico Fellini
  5. Some Like it Hot – Billy Wilder
  6. Babette’s Feast – Gabriel Axel
  7. Death in Venice – Luchino Visconti
  8. Volver – Pedro Almodóvar
  9. Gone with the Wind – David O Selznick
  10. La Belle et la Bete – Jean Cocteau
  11. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Quentin Tarantino
  12. There Will be Blood – Paul Thomas Anderson

I’m going to stop here. There are still quite a lot of 2019 movies I’ve to see; I’ll probably have to rewrite the list again . . . Anyone else like to post a list?

10 Favourite Travel Books

I have read an awful lot of travel books and it took me quite a while to choose ten; some authors are on my list more than once. I have been to several countries in Europe and to S Africa but this is as close as I’m going to get to the South Sea Islands or north Africa. I could have included books on travels in China, Australia or S America but these are really my favourites:

  1. The Happy Isles of Oceania – a journey round the South Sea Islands by Paul Theroux
  2. The Pillars of Hercules – a tour of the entire Mediterranean by Paul Theroux
  3. Dark Star Safari – from Cairo to Capetown by Paul Theroux
  4. Sea and Sardinia – an exploration of the island by D H Lawrence (which I liked better than his novels)
  5. The Sign of the Cross – travels to places of pilgrimage in Europe by Colm Tóibín
  6. Homage to Barcelona – recollections of his time there as a teacher (and a nod to Orwell) by Colm Tóibín
  7. Homage to Catalonia – memories of the civil war by George Orwell
  8. A Place Apart – cycling across the border from the republic into the north of Ireland by Dervla Murphy
  9. South of the Limpopo – on the bicycle as always, touring S Africa by Dervla Murphy

If anyone can suggest more titles for me that would be good. I’m particularly interested in Japan and Korea at the moment.

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