Carol’s Comments

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Hello Everyone! Welcome to another issue of Carol’s Comments. I am a volunteer at the River Park  Branch.  Summer can be an especially adventurous time for reading. So this year, I decided to explore an eclectic assortment of books I wouldn’t normally select.

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The first book that caught my attention while browsing the River Park Branch’s new fiction section was Farewell Dorothy Parker by Ellen Meister. This delightful story focuses on introverted movie critic Violet Epps who tries to emulate her muse, the acerbic literary icon Dorothy Parker when writing her very opinionated and witty movie reviews.

One day while visiting New York’s famous Algonquin Hotel where Mrs. Parker once presided over lively discussions at the legendary Algonquin Round Table with other regarded writers like Robert Benchley and Edna Ferber, Violet steals an irreplaceable guest book from the 1920’s.

When she opens it, Dorothy Parker’s ghost magically emerges from the book. The outspoken and irrepressible critic decides to totally inhabit Violet’s world and give her the self-confidence she needs to live a more fulfilling and happier life. Along the way, Violet’s mischievous mentor cleverly helps her gain custody of her niece Delaney and be more assertive in her romantic relationships and career.

This charming and very funny novel is the perfect summer escape. With its fast-paced snappy dialogue, it reminded me of a surreal Gilmore Girls episode or an Isis Crawford Simmons Sisters mystery. I just loved it!

Next I wanted to read a coming of age novel set during my own adolescence. After finding outstanding reviews in The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly about Meg Wolitzer’s new bestseller, The Interestings, it looked like the perfect choice.

Wolitzer’s book centers around fifteen year old Jules Jacobson who meets and befriends five very creative and offbeat teenagers at a performing and fine arts summer camp in 1974. As the plot unfolds, the story primarily concentrates on Jules’ very close 35 year friendship with privileged Ash Wolf, wildly creative and successful boy-genius animator Ethan Figman and musical prodigy-turned mechanical engineer Jonah Bay.

This very nostalgic book brilliantly captures the vulnerabilities and aspirations of each character. The story realistically shows how unexpected experiences and coincidences can dramatically alter life choices.

Filled with very quirky and multifaceted characters, Wolitzer’s serious literary writing style is very reminiscent of John Irving’s fiction. While her characters are very unconventional, they aren’t as weird as those found in Irving’s novels like The World According to Garp or The Hotel New Hampshire.

Anyone from the later years of the Baby Boom generation should enjoy this emotionally charged, thought provoking book. I highly recommend it.

I’m not usually attracted to books and movies about the Muslim world. But after one of my friends enthusiastically encouraged me to read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, I decided to try it.

Set against the backdrop of modern Afghanistan’s political turmoil between 1975 through 2001, Hosseini’s wonderful coming of age novel focuses on the special friendship between twelve year old Amir and the household servant’s illiterate son Hassan. However, their relationship is severely tested when Amir blatantly ignores Hassan’s desperate cries for help during a brutal assault by a neighborhood bully and Amir’s subsequent unforgivable betrayal of his loyal friend.

After immigrating with his father to the United States, Amir has a chance for redemption many years later when he receives a fervent plea from his father’s business partner Rahim Khan to return to his war ravaged homeland to find and rescue Hassan’s young son Sohrab from certain death under Taliban rule.

This incredibly heartbreaking yet uplifting story touched me so deeply because it demonstrates that through loyalty and love, anyone can be forgiven for past mistakes. I’m sure this unforgettable novel will become a modern classic. The Kite Runner should be required reading for every high school and college student.

After finishing The Kite Runner, I eagerly watched the 2007 film adaptation almost immediately. Unfortunately, the movie really disappointed me.

Directed by Marc Forster, this very weak film version lacked sincerity and realism because it omits many crucially important details depicted in Hosseini’s book. Told in flashback, David Benioff’s sketchy screenplay uses excessive, distracting subtitles especially during the first hour which takes place entirely in Afghanistan. This was totally unnecessary in an Irish produced film.

Although I generally don’t like gratuitous violence in movies, the director softened many violent scenes which lessened the film’s dramatic impact by diminishing the brutality and repression currently happening in Afghanistan. At times, I felt like I was viewing a very clumsy, pedestrian and forgettable TV movie. I strongly suggest skipping this movie and reading Hosseini’s marvelous book instead.

All the books, television programs and movies discussed in my column can be found at all SJCPL locations. For more information, visit the Library’s web site at www.libraryforlife.org . Thanks for reading! See you all next time.

 

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