Five Years Ago This Month: June 2013

Five years ago this month...

...I created a Facebook page. Said Facebook page is currently not active because it turns out I'm useless at keeping blog social media updated. Is this why nobody reads my blog? Your guess is as good as mine but probably.

...I reviewed The Long Walk. Still majorly love this book. Still haven't posted the series comparing it to The Hunger Games and Battle Royale as promised in a note at the beginning of that review. Awkwardly enough, I did actually write that comparison, just never got around to posting it. Is it too late?

...I was distracted. No fond memories of Arrested Development season 4 (no memories at all really), many fond memories of DS9, and I still listen to the Mission Log podcast. I never finished either of the books that I mentioned I was reading in that post, though. I've actually been thinking a lot about June 2013 lately, because it was truly a miserable time for me, and I've come a long way since then. That misery still feels very fresh in a lot of ways, but half a decade has gone by and I've survived a lot since then.

Bit of a story time re: this photo of the volume of emails I had coming in at work. I choose FYATM photos randomly a little while before I actually do the posts, so it's a complete coincidence that this is what I chose and it was also the photo that I used way back in June 2013 to illustrate the month. Pretty clear what dominated my thoughts at the time and dominates my memory now.

40. The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

Year Published: 1948
Pages: 255
First Sentence: Wilson sat on the balcony of the Bedford Hotel with his bald pink knees thrust against the ironwork.
Rating: 2/3 (meh)


Review:

The Heart of the Matter is all about Catholic Guilt, and thus should be right up my alley. Catholic guilt is one of those things that I will never stop finding fascinating and I'm always interested in narratives about people's struggles with faith. However, it's only in the last year or two that I've really begun to recognize how much of an impact Vatican II had on Catholicism and how my experience of the religion (baptized and confirmed Roman Catholic) is very different from the experience of those who belonged to it prior to the Second Vatican Council.

Blah blah blah. All this to say that I'm lukewarm on Graham Greene's novel. There are, I think, three main reasons why, which I suppose I shouldn't get into until I've described a bit of the plot.

Major Henry Scobie is a British police officer living in some coastal African colony during the Second World War. He doesn't get a promotion, his wife is a pile of misery, he's a solid, honest man, and also he is Catholic to the max. Said pile of misery is named Louise. She likes to read books, her child is dead, and Louise wants to go to South Africa for whatever reason. There are money problems, and in order to send Louise to South Africa, Scobie ends up borrowing money from a man named Yusef, who is an organized crime boss of sorts. Basically moments after Louise has departed on a boat to South Africa, Scobie starts up an affair with a young woman named Helen Rolt. Guilt ensues.

Here are my problems with this book:

First of all, colonial narratives are almost always a hard sell for me. The way locals are described is often uncomfortable, and this book is no different. E.g. "His bare feet flapped like empty gloves across the floor." I simply do not have the energy or the education to parse the way bodies of various characters from various communities are treated in this book. And I am just not interested in hearing about how horrible the heat and the bugs are for British colonists in Africa.

And speaking of that, I also was not terribly enamoured of any of the characters in this novel. They're not bad or unlikeable, but they seldom jump off the page. Scobie was mostly just boring.

Which brings me to my third, and most important, point: the adultery in this book is so perfunctory. I'm pretty sure that's exactly what Greene was going for, looking at the mundane futility of sin and guilt and the ultimate mercy of God. It's more realistic to examine this sort of thing in the light of a bland love affair and blander marriage, rather than some grand romance. But while realism is fine, I guess, I'd prefer a little more actual entertainment.

And I guess that's really all I have to say. I like my Catholic guilt to pack a bigger punch in some indefinable way. The plotting of the story is very tight and I enjoyed that aspect of the book. Greene does well in conveying the utter environmental misery of his setting, but again, that's just not something that interests me, for whatever reason.

Meh.

- - - - -
If I could just arrange for her happiness first, he thought, and in the confusing night he forgot for the while what experience had taught him—that no human being can really understand another, and no one can arrange another's happiness.
- - - - -
In our hearts there is a ruthless dictator, ready to contemplate the misery of a thousand strangers if it will ensure the happiness of the few we love.
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An Articulation of My Thoughts About the 50sog Movie By Somebody Else

I just spent a little bit of time searching the blog and discovered that apparently I never wrote at all about seeing the Fifty Shades of Grey movie lo these three years ago when it was released in 2015. I'm pretty sure I actually went opening weekend. There's nothing about it anywhere, though, including my Current Distractions post for February 2015, which is when I would've seen it.

At the time I think I planned to review it, but given that I'm barely adequate at writing book reviews, I just haven't felt up to "formally" reviewing any movies yet here on the blog.

Anyway, I found the movie surprisingly enjoyable. It toned down a lot of what I disliked about Ana, and best of all it ends with her leaving him. If you ignored everything about the cultural phenomenon that was 50sog back then, and just saw the movie with no context whatsoever or knowledge that there are two sequels, I think you'd probably just be indifferent toward it at worst and mildly enjoy it at best.

Many people had a more violent/appalled reaction to the movie, though, and I think that's largely to do with the context.

But I'm not here to tell you what I think, because a YouTuber called Folding Ideas has made a video about this that basically articulates everything I thought at the time and more (he gets into things about filmmaking, plus the beginning of the video is a full-on history lesson about the origins of 50sog as a Twilight fanfic).

Enjoy, but be warned: it's over an hour long.