donderdag 3 september 2015

Irrational Man

Irrational Man

Woody Allen - USA - 2015 - 96 min.
met Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey,…

Professor in de filosofie, Abe Lucas, is een emotioneel verwoest man die alle vreugde in zijn leven heeft verloren. Wanneer hij een nieuwe job op een kleine campus aanneemt gaat de geruchtenmolen in overdrive. Hij zou een alcoholicus zijn die er affaires met zijn studenten op nahoudt, zijn vrouw zou hem verlaten hebben voor zijn beste vriend, een andere vriend zou voor zijn ogen op een landmijn ontploft zijn in Afghanistan… Alleszins, Abe Lucas is het spannendste wat Braylin College de laatste jaren is overkomen. Hij blijkt zijn reputatie ook alle eer aan te doen, wanneer hij in een alcoholische waas ronddwaalt doorheen de campus, zijn studenten advies geeft in de trant van “much of philosophy is verbal masturbation” en hij omstaanders shockeert met een nihilistisch spelletje Russische roulette. Zijn gelatenheid trekt al snel de romantische aandacht van twee vrouwelijke creaturen. De ene, Jill Pollard, een pientere studente die Abe’s les ‘Ethische Strategieën’ volgt. De andere, Rita Richards, een ongelukkig getrouwde collega. De romances komen moeizaam op gang, maar wanneer Abe plots een moord contempleert op een corrupte rechter, vindt hij zijn levenslust en romantisch potentieel opeens terug.

zaterdag 14 maart 2015

Tessa McWatt Higher Ed.

Tessa McWatt, Higher Ed. Goodreads.

In her most powerful and resonant novel to date, the acclaimed writer Tessa McWatt explores the ways in which people find love in desperately uncertain times.
      Against a backdrop of 21st-century east London, where cuts and job crunches and unemployment are ugly, unrelenting realities, three very different love stories bloom. Francine, a university administrator who firmly believes that she is unattractive and unloveable, is unhinged after witnessing a tragic road accident. Cracked open, she is also on the verge of realizing that she is worth something to someone. Meanwhile Robin, a young film prof who Francine has lusted after from afar, is awoken to beauty in the form of the young Polish waitress in his local café, who cannot believe that he might love her back. And then there is Olivia, Robin's charismatic student, a mixed race girl growing up in a racist household, who thought she'd been abandoned by her father, Ed. Conducting research for a law school project on what society owes the dead, she stumbles across him working in a council office, where he's in charge of burying the indigent and unclaimed. Soon she realizes that Ed is not the kind of man who would abandon anybody.
     Thoughtful, poignant and profound, Higher Ed is a brilliantly observed novel that illuminates the human capacity for love, and lingers in the soul long after the last page is read. 

The campus novel isn’t traditionally notable for its multiculturalism, probably because until recent decades many university campuses have been fairly homogenous places. The ivory towers in Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim, David Lodge’s Changing Places and Philip Hensher’s King of the Badgers are overwhelmingly white, inside and out. Only in 2005 did Zadie Smith’s On Beauty breathe fresh life into the genre by depicting an academic rivalry complicated by ethnicity, culture and class.

Higher Ed injects a dose of diversity into a tale about love, loneliness and the search for belonging - The Globe and Mail

vrijdag 20 februari 2015

Lodge: campus novel

Stefan Collini reviews ‘Quite a Good Time to Be Born’ by David Lodge and ‘Lives in Writing’ by David Lodge · LRB 19 February 2015

Still, it may be his fate to be celebrated as a contributor to the sub-genre now known as the ‘campus novel’ since his two best-known books must be Changing Places and Small World (1984). In the former, a British and an American academic exchange jobs (and much else) for a semester, while the latter takes the form of a grail quest pursued through a series of international scholarly conferences; both depict academic life largely in terms of comedy, sex and self-importance. Indeed, so little do the serious concerns of the scholarly world feature in these novels that some commentators have seen them as contributing, along with works such as Bradbury’s somewhat darker The History Man (1975), to the decline in public regard for universities and academic life in the 1970s and 1980s. Significantly, Lodge himself has discussed the campus novel more in terms of literary form than social effect. In a 1982 essay, he described the genre as ‘a form of stylised play … a modern, displaced form of pastoral’. That may be a helpful way to see his own campus novels (there are three if one includes Nice Work, published in 1988), while bearing in mind that pastoral usually functions as a vehicle for social criticism. It would be a mistake, however, to define his work exclusively in terms of this sub-genre: his fictional achievements are far more diverse and, in some respects, weighty than that.

zaterdag 7 februari 2015

Claire Messud, The Woman Upstairs.

Claire Messud, The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud. Goodreads.

Nora Eldridge, a 37-year-old elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is on the verge of disappearing. Having abandoned her desire to be an artist, she has become the "woman upstairs," a reliable friend and tidy neighbour always on the fringe of others' achievements. Then into her classroom walks a new pupil, Reza Shahid, a child who enchants as if from a fairy tale. He and his parents--dashing Skandar, a half-Muslim Professor of Ethical History born in Beirut, and Sirena, an effortlessly glamorous Italian artist--have come to America for Skandar to teach at Harvard.

But one afternoon, Reza is attacked by schoolyard bullies who punch, push and call him a "terrorist," and Nora is quickly drawn deep into the complex world of the Shahid family. Soon she finds herself falling in love with them, separately and together. Nora's happiness explodes her boundaries--until Sirena's own ambition leads to a shattering betrayal. 

donderdag 29 januari 2015

Houellebecq: Soumission

 Houllebecq: Enfant terrible speelt met de angsten van Frankrijk.
In de eerste hoofdstukken introduceert Houellebecq zijn enigszins slome ik-verteller: François, een academicus die zich al decennialang verdiept in leven en werk van de Franse ambtenaar-auteur Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848-1907). Zoals bekend bekeerde Huysmans zich op het eind van  zijn leven fanatiek tot het katholicisme, na zijn decadente meesterwerk 'A rebours'. Het is veel meer dan een detail in een boek waarin godsdienst en de zucht naar zingeving een prominente rol spelen. In veel opzichten spiegelt het leven van François dat van Huysmans: de verleiding van het kluizenaarschap, de afkeer van de wereld en de uiteindelijke bekering. Zij het dat Francois finaal de islam gaat belijden. Het personage zit dicht op de huid van Houellebecq zelf: “Wat zou er gebeurd zijn met mijn leven indien ik in mijn jeugd Huysmans was beginnen lezen, vervolgens literatuur studeren en professor was geworden? Ik verbeeld me levens die ik niet heb geleid.” (interview in The Paris Review)

De 44-jarige François heeft het niet te verdrijven gevoel dat de hoogtepunten van zijn leven achter hem liggen. Hij leidt een onopvallend bestaan als weliswaar gewaardeerd professor aan de Sorbonne, waarbij hij jaarlijks – bij het begin van een nieuw academiejaar – een nieuw vriendinnetje scoort. Geleidelijk aan droogt zijn debiet aan verse dames op. Hij moet zijn bijna mechanische seksuele appetijt stillen bij prostituees of op YouPorn. (Dirk Leymans, Cobra).

zaterdag 17 januari 2015

Denis Johnson, In The Name of the World.
"The Name of the World'' extends its narrative line from a ragged Middle Western campus to the graffiti-webbed tunnels of Amtrak to the islands of the Aegean. It closes at the borders of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, as Mike Reed (like Denis Johnson) covers Operation Desert Storm. The world rushing by is sometimes imperfectly realized, sometimes bleak, occasionally luminous. Still, there's no doubt about the power of this writer's vision. (New York Times)

donderdag 18 december 2014

Schumacher: Dear Committee members

Julie Schumacher, Dear Committee Members. Harper Collins

Jason Fitger is a beleaguered professor of creative writing and literature at Payne University, a small and not very distinguished liberal arts college in the midwest. His department is facing draconian cuts and squalid quarters, while one floor above them the Economics Department is getting lavishly remodeled offices. His once-promising writing career is in the doldrums, as is his romantic life, in part as the result of his unwise use of his private affairs for his novels. His star (he thinks) student can't catch a break with his brilliant (he thinks) work Accountant in a Bordello, based on Melville's Bartleby. In short, his life is a tale of woe, and the vehicle this droll and inventive novel uses to tell that tale is a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that Fitger is endlessly called upon by his students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies. We recommend Dear Committee Members to you in the strongest possible terms.