Happy Birthday, Errol Flynn!

Liz, ever informed, told me that today is Errol Flynn’s 104th birthday. If this talented Aussie has never crossed your path before now, let me remedy that at once:

You’re welcome.

Who needs Russell Crowe when you’ve got Errol Flynn?

 In The Seahawk.

Anyway, Beaver and I couldn’t let this day pass without a post (and dessert) in his honor. He suggested cake. We settled for a cupcake instead.

beavererrol Happy Birthday, Errol Flynn!

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Bibliomaniacs, Bollywood & Brits

“Too few people,” writes Eugene Fields in The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac, “seem to realize that books have feelings.”

If that’s true I have a few miffed – if not positively irate – books in my possession. Louann Brizendine’s The Female Brain adorns the coffee table, neglected for weeks (given the topic, I’m sure it understands). I picked up Julie Powell’s “Cleaving” two weeks ago and now it’s hidden under Breakfast at Tiffany’s and School of Rock. But The Man Who Loved Books Too Much (nonfiction, Allison Hoover Bartlett) saw eager page turning and I’m proud to say I have reached page 112. Aha!

Anyway, that’s what I started reading in May. Bartlett describes the antique book culture, bookstores, libraries, so vividly I want to rush out and buy armloads of books. Smell the pages, feel the coarse paper on my fingertips … And then I remember the books I read as a young child, books like King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, Piggins, Wednesday is Spaghetti Day, and my very own copy of Madeline my mom bought at a Houston book fair.

Piggins the mystery sleuth/butler. 

That’s when I sympathize with bibliomaniacs. But book theft? No way.

I also read the Harry Potter series voraciously over the past two months. After that I saw several film adaptations, and have this to say: they are but poor shadows of the originals. I prefer my imagination.

After that I watched the French film Le Concert (breathtaking music, moving, humorous), British film The Scapegoat (promising beginning, dull ending), Indian film Barfi! (off-beat, thought-provoking, beautiful), and started on the Japanese anime series titled One Piece (funny and weird).

Note: The Scapegoat reminded me of a Mexican telenovela called La Usurpadora: Two women who look alike switch places with not-so-unforeseen consequences. If you’re choosing between the two, I suggest checking out the telenovela.

The 10 best Jane Austen characters

Recently I read an online post by The Guardian commemorating the bicentennial of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Title? “The 10 Best Jane Austen Characters.” You will find the list here.

Note that the characters weren’t chosen by Guardian writers, but by Austen biographer Paula Byrne. And by “best” Byrne clearly means the most intriguing, the ones eliciting strong responses from the reader. NOT the “nicest and prettiest.”

While I found myself disagreeing with some, the list prompted me to come up with my own list of characters from Austen’s complete novels.

1. Mr. Collins is arguably Austen’s greatest comic character. Oily, pompous, hypocritical and utterly clueless and ridiculous, he simultaneously repulses and amuses. Pride and Prejudice

2. Lady Susan. Duh. She’s a cougar-homewrecker who parties hard and hates her daughter for getting in the way. Eloquent, beautiful, charming and deadly, Lady Susan is the woman every man’s mother warned about. I stayed up past midnight last night reading this scandalous short novel. Lady Susan

3. It’s impossible to omit one of literature’s greatest heroines, Elizabeth Bennet. She refuses to bend to society’s conventions, possesses an invaluable sense of humor, and admits when she’s in the wrong. Plus she exercises daily. Pride and Prejudice

4. Elinor Dashwood is poised and levelheaded in the face of calamity. She will sacrifice her time and comfort for friends and family, but will also speak out when they go too far – she’s not a doormat. Sense &Sensibility

5. A crafty fortune-seeker, Lucy Steele ingratiates herself with adults and their spoiled kids to gain their confidence and affection. In the end, she gets what she wants and gets away with it. Sense &Sensibility

6. Self-absorbed and naïve, yet generous and well intentioned, Emma makes plenty of mistakes but learns from them. She’s the kind of friend you’d go with on shopping/gossip/coffee sessions (but nothing deeper than that). Emma

 7. Lady Catherine de Bourgh spices up the novel with her self-aggrandizing comments, her love of being “useful” and her opposition to the “pollution” of Pemberly. Pride & Prejudice

 8. Captain Wentworth. He’s constant – over eight and a half years! – considerate and a successful naval captain. If nothing else, his eloquent letter to Anne grants him a spot here. “You pierce my soul.”  Persuasion

 9. Henry Tilney sets himself apart from all other Jane Austen heroes: he actually possesses a sense of humor. A minister, of all things, who makes you laugh! Talk about defying literary stereotypes. Northanger Abbey

 10. I never liked Fanny Price, but she deserves a spot here. She’s kind, loving and constant even when the object of her affection is pretty thick-skulled about the whole thing. Mansfield Park

Yes, I omitted Mr. Darcy. I wanted to give others a place first. Anyway, he’s already a given, so what’s the need?

American Authors — Huckleberry Finn — Life-Threatening Plots

Tom Sawyer gets on my nerves.

But this story isn’t about Tom — although he does try to sabotage it. Isn’t that just like him. And the brat almost succeeds. Huck Finn, on the other hand, possesses innumerable contradictory facets that when juxtaposed reveal enlightening viewpoints on ethnic prejudices and compass — Wait, where are you going? Come back!

Mark Twain saw this coming. Realizing critics and literary scholars would analyze Huck until nothing remained but used bird cage liners, he penned the following introduction:

NOTICE

Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

Which tells you what kind of a sense of humor he had.

I got another revealing look at Twain’s quirky sense of humor while reading a compilation of the author’s witticisms. A reporter visited Mark Twain’s home for an interview and was told by his wife, Olivia Clemens, that he was still in bed (a preferred place to write), but that she would tell him. When she informed Twain of the man’s visit, he refused to get up. Instead he invited the reporter to hop into bed with him for the interview.

I never found out if he accepted the invitation.

I’d go in-depth on the novel only I’m terribly intimidated by Mr. Twain’s threats, plus I’m feeling a little lazy. Basically it’s about a boy in the mid-19th century who escapes from his abusive, alcoholic no-good father on a canoe/raft, then joins a runaway slave named Jim and they get into all sorts of adventures and mishaps on the Mississippi river. Then Tom Sawyer butts in. The End.

If you’re looking for a good movie adaptation (albeit not 100% faithful), try Huck Finn starring a young and very cute Elijah Wood. It’s funny, emotional and exciting and features Wood wearing an endearing mischievous grin.

I will only add that Huckleberry Finn is an amoral, plotless book with not a hint of a motive to it. Happy, Mr. Twain? Good.