Midweek Movies and More

I am, for no reason that’s reasonable, making my way through the new March releases on Netflix.

I detailed last week’s watch in my last Currentlybut it just wasn’t enough.

I’ve seen two more entries since then- 30 f0r 30: Of Miracles and Men and Across the Great Divide.

30 for 30 is the tale of how America’s hockey victory affected the Soviet hockey program (and, in turn, a lot of other things).  It was moderately interesting, but I don’t watch hockey.  I know the story and I’ve seen some of the movies and docs about it, but the most interesting thing to me was the political influence sports had at the time and the impact that a coaching change had on the Soviet team.

Hey, I did my best.

Across the Great Divide is part Oregon Trail: the Movie and part Apple Dumplin’ Gang.  The dialogue takes some getting used to as not many people are probably accustomed to “saucy pioneer girl” parlance.  Holly, a tough-as-nails twelve year old is traveling to Oregon with her little brother, Jason, to claim their land.  They come across an “Irish” gadabout named Zachariah who somehow hitches his wagon to two kids even though he has excellent survival skills and speaks fluent “Indian”.  A note-  he says he’s Irish two or three times and I think he attemps a brogue once or twice, but it’s a non-issue.  What’s magical about this man, however, is that he can speak to every Native American he meets in their native tongue.

Lots of hijinks ensue.  They see lots of beautiful scenery, hunt for food, deal with Indians, disease, bear attacks, and caulking the wagon to float across the river.

A dog swims with an otter, there’s a falcon, lots of friendly natives, and a bear with serious boundary issues.

Why aren’t you watching this already?

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Book Review: On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee

I came across this work in a list of books to read from The Week.  

It’s a dystopian post-fall world that the main character, Fan, lives in, but it’s not a richly detailed world.  That’s not a function of bad writing- it’s just the way the world has become, at least for Fan.  She lives in what seems to be a planned community, B-Mor (once Baltimore; most of the communities have retained recognizable names), and life for her is very much what we’ve come to expect from dystopian fiction.  Her superficial journey is a hunt for her missing boyfriend, but really the book is much more about the longing of the human spirit to wander, to have space, and to make a place for ourselves instead of fitting into one made for us.

Fan’s journey out of B-Mor is interspersed with snippets of life back in B-Mor, detailing how her bravery in leaving the community for the dangerous and often deadly counties affects life back home.  There are three basic levels of society- the poor counties, the planned communities that seem to fill what we’d think of now as a middle class, and the Charters, where the rich live.  Moving up through the levels is almost impossible (and made more impossible at times by the Charters), but one character’s story finely depicts how quickly the facade of civilization can be torn away from even the richest of the world’s leftover citizens.

I didn’t make an immediate connection with Fan.  She’s an excellent character and I wanted only the best for her, but perhaps her best qualities- her strength, her intuition, her decisiveness- make her almost unreachable.  She begins the story as a deceptively simple character, but I soon found her expansive.  The world she lives in is much the same- seemingly simple to understand at first glance, but as horrors and violence erupt in unexpected and abrupt moments in Fan’s life, a dark, ugly thread of unhappiness unravels.

On Such a Full Sea is not a typical dystopian story.  It resembles the genre only in setting and the necessary accoutrements that go with a world left undone.  The prose is beautiful, often breathtaking.  There are bouts of exposition that are interrupted by long paragraphs of philosophical wandering.  If you’re into action, you’ll be put off by the interruptions.  They are important, though- they’re world-building moments of exposition.  The physical world of this book is already built and fairly simple to understand; it’s the emotional and mental worlds of Fan and the people she meets that need to be built, expanded, explored.  Don’t skip those parts.

This is a visceral read.  I enjoyed it, but my connection with it is tenuous.  Typically that’s not a good thing, but I think in the case of this novel, that’s the point.  The world and the characters are just a little bit alien, a little strange, their motivations driven by circumstances unknown to us.  

I’d like to read more of Chang-rae Lee’s work.  He’s an award-winning author and a professor of writing at Princeton and has a beautiful style that occasionally overwhelms but doesn’t get pretentious.

In the end, I enjoyed the read.  It was a little complicated and took longer than it usually takes me to finish a book, but I felt it was worth it.