Wednesday, September 09, 2009


The two big-revelation books I read while I was away (that I hadn't read before) were Rebeccaand The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner. Both were totally excellent. (Am I the only person who hadn't read Rebecca before?)

The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of A Justified Sinner is a classic "double" story. I love doubles, twins, etc. A rigidly moralistic young man is befriended by his exact double, a sort of Jungian trickster character with a Satanic tinge, who convinces him that God elects mortals (the "justified") for a place in heaven, and once elected, they can do no wrong. Therefore, it's all right for him to kill anyone he wants! And so he does. The novel is told in two sections, from various points of view, and is really a masterpiece of storytelling.

My reaction to Rebecca (which I read in a used mass-market paperback edition that makes it look like a sleazy romance novel, with gold lettering and red velvety covering) went like this:

First 100 pages: Wow, I can't believe this is so good, so well-written. So rich/melancholy/vivid!
Pages 100-200: What's going to happen? What is Danvers up to?? Is Rebecca still alive? WTF??
Pages 200-250ish: Okay I get it, the narrator is self-loathing and haunted by the specter of Rebecca... let's have a little plot progression though... I predicted what was going to happen at the dress ball, I hope the end isn't so predictable... how about a little plot stuff... go talk to the madman at the beach, he clearly knows something... come on...
Pages 250-300: Whoa, that was creepy... wow, Danvers... what's the big deal with the ship--OH, SHIT, how did I not see that coming? Oh, wow, and she's still going to--
Pages 300+: Wow, her reaction to the twist was really set up brilliantly. I hope that sleazy cousin doesn't--
Ending: Whoa, great ending. Now I see why she put the denouement at the beginning.

What a great, rich novel that was. And how interesting from a modern perspective. I mean, in a version of this story told from a slightly different--and more rational, traditional--angle, Favell and Danvers are clearly the heroes, and Rebecca is a martyr for a certain stripe of feminism... Max is evil and the narrator is a vile and conniving little worm. And yet! In the version we get, the narrator's voice and descriptive powers are so compelling, and the story feels epic. Poor Max, suffering for so long...

I now love du Maurier. When i got back, I got Don't Look Now (get it!--it features the story on which the great Nicholas Roeg film is based, as well as the short story which was the basis of The Birds) and Jamaica Inn.


Among other books, I also reread Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep, which I continue to think of as basically a great novel. It's hard for me to think of another book in recent years that does internal monologue so brilliantly and so effectively capture the rhythms of year-in, year-out life as well as dramatizing very subtle changes in a person's personality and character that take place over time. It's odd to think of Prep having much in common with Rebecca, but they do share a certain expertly evoked sense of regret/wistfulness/melancholy that I'm a sucker for. Reminds me of Something Wicked This Way Comes and its sense of yearning for lost youth.


Huh. The guy who directed my least-favorite movie of all time, Juno, has a new movie. And it looks really good. Well, Diablo Cody isn't involved, so I'm there.

I saw District 9 again. Have I mentioned how much I love that movie? My favorite of the year, easily, with The Escapist second and Public Enemies and Thirst following.

On Thursday I saw a screening of An Education. It's an axiom there aren't that many great roles for women; An Education, at least, is a showcase for actresses. Carey Mulligan, Cara Seymour, Olivia Williams, and Emma Thompson all have great parts ranging from star to small supporting role. Last night I saw Chelsea on the Rocks, a fascinating but sloppy documentary about the Chelsea Hotel. All good times. How is it already the middle of the afternoon? I haven't done anything today. I need to get back to work.

1 comment:

wb said...

REBECCA is a fantastic novel. Jennifer wrote a large chunk of her dissertation on it. Now that you've read the book, you should see Hitchcock's film--Danvers is particularly terrifying in it. And Max is played by Laurence Olivier.