Edith Wharton: Harmonic Pretense

DATELINE: America’s Great Woman Writer

edith & dogs

Wharton also Wrote about Ghostly Dogs!

Like Henry James, one of the great American writers is a person who lived too long in foreign places.

Edith Wharton is presented in a documentary called The Sense of Harmony, which presents in somewhat disjointed form, her odd life. She was from the New York self-ordained aristocracy, socializing with a world alien from the real America of the 19th century. She is certainly at the polar opposite of Calamity Jane.

Wharton crossed the Atlantic on steamship 66 times in her life. Though she never gave up her American citizenship, and her greatest fictions were set in the United States, she lived mostly abroad in France.

You likely know her from the stories made into movies over decades:  Ethan Frome, Age of Innocence, The Old Maid, House of Mirth, all presenting scandal under the veneer of well-appointed homes.

Indeed, she began writing with an architect about interior design of houses. Though her novels sold and made money, she really had no need of it—except to live the way she wanted.

There was only a hint of scandal in her own life, though she often wrote about its corrosive secrets. She divorced and had one affair with a protégé of Henry James.

She also was the first woman to go to the front at Verdun in World War I and write about it. France considered her a war hero for tireless volunteering to help refugees and children.

Wharton famously has a haunted mansion in Lenox, Massachusetts, where she spent surprisingly little time. Perhaps ghosts frightened her, though she wrote many short stories about the paranormal. Her most famous tale, “Roman Fever,” again focused on upper-crust society.

She loved a good tale, well-told, and was planning a short story on a horror anecdote about the Titanic she had learned, but never actually finished. You might be driven to check out her less well-known tales from watching this documentary.

 

 

 

 

Moby Dick: What Really Happened?

 DATELINE: Whale of a Story

Essex hit by whale   Moby Rams Essex!

You may have blanched at reading the mammoth novel by Herman Melville—few professors require its reading nowadays: too long, big means Moby Dick.

The true story of what intrigued Melville may be better fodder for the short attention span of a one-hour documentary.  And so, we have come down to Moby Dick: the True Story, made in 2001.

Out of Nantucket, the whaler called Essex sailed in 1819, not long after Frankenstein appeared, and it was its own horror story, all true. Though Melville made the First Mate named Starbuck, that was actually the name of one ship’s owner. The captain was Pollard, and his bossy First Mate was Owen Chase (who wrote the memoir on which Melville based his whaling epic). He is played by Shawn Reynolds in the film.

Yes, the Essex encountered the largest whale ever seen at the time, and he was old and cranky. Though one expert on the documentary insists that whales are basically docile, some old males can be aggressive. To say the least in this case.

Perhaps he knew what the ship’s purpose was: and it infuriated the whale.  According to the reports, he rammed the ship once until he was nearly unconscious and then came at it again to sink it.

Therein lies a novel by Melville. The whale did his worst, and as a force of the universe, sailed off, leaving his Ishmael on Queequeg’s coffin.

In real life, three small lifeboats fled the scene for a horrific sail for months. They resorted to cannibalism, and ultimately drew lots to murder one of their mates for dinner.

Three men chose to get off at something akin to Gilligan’s Island in mid-Pacific, which would have been our choice too. They survived and were rescued months later.

The cabin boy Thom Nickerson (played by Trevor Ralph in re-enacting scenes) was 14, and he survived to write his memoirs too, but they were not discovered until 1980, hidden in an attic.

Other survivors did not fare well: Owen Chase went mad, and the captain became a night watchman on Nantucket. Melville’s book flopped, and he watched a mountain in the distance from his home in the Berkshires that when white-capped with snow reminded him of Moby Dick.

New Book of Movie & TV Reviews

 “A compendium of enormous balderdash and overwrought and underthought insights!”

Mal Tempo, Long Time Ago book consultant

                                                    kindleredcarpet

If you enjoy Ossurworld’s movie and television reviews, with their unique and odd insights into what’s really happening in your favorite movies, then you are in luck! 

Red Carpet Tickets: Movie & TV Reviews collects the best of the blog reports in one place for easy access and reading.

The books is available for smarter readers, both in e-book and print formats, from Amazon.

If you want the perfect time-killer, Red Carpet Tickets is your ticket to ride. 

Ossurworld’s blogs on movies (& TV streams) select only films that you can and should devote time to watching. Bad films are rarely considered for examination. Bloated budgets, ridiculous acting, and skimpy budgets, will not hurt a film’s chances if something intelligent is presented. Ossurworld will let you know.

You can find Ossurworld’s new book online by simply clicking on this blue highlight!

Red Carpet Tickets: Movie & TV Reviews.  (This blog is a self-serving, commercial, and otherwise blatant attempt to win your appreciation of our mini-labors of Hercules.)

Melania Trump Suffers from Bookworms

DATELINE:  Beauty Meets the Beast

Melania

Immigrant-come-lately Melania Trump will find no sanctuary in one of the biggest sanctuary cities in the United States. They have put her on ICE.

Our beautiful and exotic First Lady has run headlong into a beastly book monster.

A librarian in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has rejected any overture of kindness from the First Lady—and has not shown her American hospitality in the least.

In an age when most young people are not encouraged to read and won’t do much reading, except on Twitter where sentences are limited to 140 characters, a self-righteous librarian has decided to burn the books gifted to her library in Cambridgeport.

Mrs. Trump sent to the library about a dozen books written by Dr. Seuss as part of a gift she dispersed around the nation.

Melania would read them to her young son, Barron, several years ago and thought they would be a wonderful gift to any well-stocked library.

She didn’t consider they already had some editions, and she didn’t consider maybe she should’ve sent them to an underprivileged library of some wayward public school without much resource.

Nor did Mrs. Trump suspect that among liberal activists, Dr. Seuss is now considered even more suspect of being a secret racist–and hiding it in plain sight of the Grinch.

This gave a liberal librarian the opportunity to say nay– and throw kerosene on the books and bric-a-brac at the First Lady.

Not since Joseph Goebbels took over the libraries of Nazi Germany have we seen such anti-intellectual attitude. And this, from a librarian who prefers to read children books about same sex pecadillos and union organizers.

Mrs. Obama often read the Dr. Seuss books to young students during her visits to school children when she was First Lady. Somehow between Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Trump, the books in question became racist. At least in the mind of one liberal librarian.

So, banning books now has moved directly into the most liberal bastion in America:  Cambridge, Mass., where we once lived as a child—and hated Dr. Seuss as a sidelight.

Little did we know that indoctrination was part of our education.

Mrs. Trump now has been infected by bookworms.

 

 

Paterson: Busman’s Holiday

 DATELINE:  Nouveau Jersey

 Paterson

Jim Jarmusch has put together a film without a white-haired protagonist. Paterson is both the city in New Jersey and the name of an understated, amiable bus driver.

Jarmusch may be trying to illustrate that lives of quiet desperation are infinitely improved when there is a dose of quiet creativity. Though lives are falling apart all around him, Paterson relies on his poetic works to maintain balance. His wife is flaky and more prone to artistic pretension than art. He accepts all with Zen mastery.

His days may be more pedestrian as he takes the same route daily, and ends each day with a walk of the dog and a single beer at the local pub. Yet, there is magic everywhere, as evinced by the twins he always encounters after his wife makes an off-hand observation.

Indeed, Paterson’s dog Marvin, an English bull, makes yet another dog companion in recent movies that proves a boon companion. He steals the show and the movie is dedicated to the memory of Nellie who portrays Marvin.

Paterson does not solve the problems of those around him, but seems to suffer their pain in sympathy. Like Emily Dickinson, mentioned in passing in one scene, he lives without fame or acknowledgment of his art.

One lesson is simple. There are no chance encounters, and every meeting has meaning.

The poetry in the film resembles that of William Carlos Williams, but its mundane nature suits the goal of Jarmusch and of Paterson, poet and place. This could be the only film to give poet Williams recognition in the credits.

Many viewers will complain that seven days in Paterson offers no escape from ennui, but Jarmusch has woven together images and ideas that display deep meaning in detail. Paterson has a rich history that may surprise you.

The main performance by Adam Driver is sublime. He is sensitive and sad, kindly and a man who rises above his bus stop.

A rather special film, you must discover this one for yourself.

Andrew Luck: Read Our Books!

DATELINE: Bookworms Turn

 Featured image

Andrew Luck has now topped Tom Brady and Peyton Manning on the New York Times Book List.

In a post-literate world, Andrew Luck is bringing back the old fashioned values of a bookworm. He reads books. He recommends them to his teammates. Usually his mother recommends them to him. Does anyone have her email address?

This revolutionary approach to long road trips and plane flights may create an entirely new group of fans—the disenfranchised intelligentsia. For years they have been cut adrift by the NFL and had sand kicked in their faces at the beach by defensive linemen.

Apparently somewhere along the way, Andrew Luck took the slogan, “Read rhymes with Lead” to heart. He will inspire his teammates by tailoring their intellectual needs to the winning requirements of the Indianapolis Colts.

With eclectic taste—from Arthurian historical novels to inspirational tales—Luck may be the latest incarnation of the Joy Pot Luck Club.

We suspect he may end up a guest with Oprah to talk about reading.

Once his football career is over, he may well be the first entrepreneurial publisher to come out of the ranks of quarterbacks.

Tom Brady likes to joke that he majored in general studies (not a stretch for humor), but Luck has a Stanford education with a focus on architectural design. That alone would give him a well-rounded appreciation on styles and philosophies.

Most authors will give up their local fan loyalty to have an endorsement by Luck for their novels, nonfiction, and humor books.

As for us, would we abandon Brady for Luck? Do we feel Lucky today? It’s tempting, but we do not think we would.