Media Bits

One book and two movie recommendations:

1. The Brooklyn Follies, by Paul Auster

Just finished my signed copy of this book, and I enjoyed it very much. I really like the way Auster’s writing can capture a wide gamut of human emotion in such a sparse, clean and readable style.

2. Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story

I saw this at Angelika the other night, and it was very funny, in a clever but (perhaps surprisingly) non-irritating way. Apparently the original book (which I’ve never read) was “post-modern before there was any modern to be post about,” in that the narrative was self-referential. The film does the same thing — it’s both a film about the process of making a film, and a mockumentary (although how much is fake and how much is accurate is left intentionally ambiguous) of the main character, Steve Coogan. Even the website has two parts — a “meta” site that talks about the process of building a movie website, and the “real” site within it.

3. Touching the Void

I just watched this “docudrama” about two young, foolhardy British climbers that climbed Siula Grande, a previously unclimbed peak in the Peruvian Andes, back in 1985. They made it to the summit, but had an accident on the way down, which resulted in one of them dangling precariously over a precipice and the other struggling to hold the weight in crumbling snow. Eventually Simon, the guy at the top of the rope, makes the decision to cut it, sending his friend Joe plummeting to certain death down a deep crevasse. But miraculously, Joe somehow survives the fall, and despite having a badly broken leg, frostbite, hypothermia, dehydration and exhaustion, somehow manages to drag himself down the mountain to be reunited with his friend at the base camp.

The movie was shot with a mixture of interviews with the real climbers and reconstructions using a mixture of the real climbers and actors, and it resulted in a surprisingly powerful and compelling narrative. The extra features on the DVD were also interesting, which gave some insight into how the trip affected their lives afterwards, and also how a return to Siula Grande 17 years later affected them. Joe (the guy who fell in the crevasse) clearly endured the worse ordeal on the mountain and immediately afterwards, but somehow came through to resume climbing, become a successful writer and tell the story in a best-selling book. Simon (rope-cutter), on the other hand, seemed plagued by guilt and remorse, and also by the disdain of the climbing community.

Joe always maintained that cutting the rope was the right thing to do, and even dedicated the book to Simon, but it was interesting to note that these two guys, who had shared such an intense experience together, were not particularly close friends 17 years on.

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