Having decided not to worry about Everybody Was So Young and finish up Utz, was a freeing move. Bout of Books – if you’re not going to make your goals, just change ’em. Read 96 pages of Utz and finished it. This counts for the Czech Republic for European Reading 2013 and my 3rd book of the year.
Utz, by Bruce Chatwin, is an odd little book. He’s the last of a well-to-do, but not terribly distinguished Saxon family who at an early age falls in love with Meissen porcelain and becomes a collector. As he lives through World War II and the Soviet occupation, the whole center of his life becomes this collection. It opens with his funeral, which is pretty amusing, and then goes back to the beginning and takes you through his life. I enjoyed it, but I imagine some people would feel it was pointless. The characters are good and I think it does give some idea of what it would have been like to live during that time in Prague. The endless annoyances of petty bureaucrats and secret police would be incredibly wearying.
I then made the mistake of watching Marple: By the Pricking of My Thumbs. The whole Marple series is incredibly uneven. On the one hand, some of them stay fairly close to the books and the stream of actors I haven’t seen for years is great. I almost didn’t recognize Tom Baker in Towards Zero. If you’re a Christie fan, you may have noticed neither of these is a Miss Marple novel. They’ve taken most of the non-Poirot, not Tommy & Tuppence novels and turned them into Marples by shoehorning her into the plot. In Towards Zero it works fairly well, they just switch her out for another character in the book, but By the Pricking of My Thumbs is a Tuppence novel and while it’s not a very good one, it seems unnatural for it to be Tuppence and Jane (Tommy isn’t much in the book or the show.) One problem with it is that Christie just wasn’t that good at suspense. (Much, much better at your country house mystery. She could stand those on their ear and make them sing. How’s that for awkward phrase?) However, Tommy and Tuppence were lovable from the get-go and one didn’t see enough of them. This plot needed some help as it didn’t exactly cry out to be made into a film, much packing and unpacking and driving around in country lanes and Tuppence really was plot-simple to an annoying degree, but it didn’t need the sort of help they gave it: Tuppence is a lush who can’t drive and has lost all her confidence. This is all wrong. No one should be recognizing Tuppence as a ‘fellow soak’ who then regains her lost confidence in a Hallmarky solving of a child’s murder. A histrionic group confession. A woman who walks around in her witch costume, but is never seen in the show again. The whole witch idea. The American troops stationed there. The pregnant girl who won’t marry the American G.I. she really loves because he won’t tell her what he was doing Saturday night. The premiere of Jane Eyre starring a local brat. All of it quite painfully stupid. There is actually a good idea in the book and they kept that at least, but the apparatus they built around it was dafter and more unnecessary than the original daft and unnecessary apparatus Christie built around it.
It does seem I’m infinitely more capable of rabbiting on about shows I don’t like than books I do. Maybe this should be called Good Books and Bad Movies. Oh and then I decided to start Bleak House another book I attempted years ago and didn’t get past the first couple pages, like the Moonstone. Let’s hope I enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the Moonstone this time.