It has been a while since I've done any kind of book post. I have not stopped reading. In all fairness however, I also have not yet read all the books that I posted as sitting on my desk, next in line. Some of those books are still waiting patiently while I have been distracted by other words, other stories. Recently there has been a fair amount of light reading, yes, some of it verging toward the escapist end of things.
I did read I am Spock by Leonard Nimoy, which had been given to me as a Christmas gift. It is not a book I would have chosen for myself, although I have long admired Nimoy as an actor and a director. It proved to be quite an interesting read, filled with intelligent and thoughtful analysis of the role of the actor and director, discussing both aspects of building a character and the consistency of message in a dramatic work, as well as the role of drama in contemporary culture. Of course there was plenty of the "I did this then" stuff that autobiography is all about, and about which I do not always have patience. I also acknowledge that this is basically inconsistent seeing as I write an "I did this then" kind of blog. Oh well. Contradictory impulses and inconsistencies are us.
Having read the book, I was also interested in reacquainting myself with some of the material, especially some of the non-Spock material. On my mom's last evening in town we watched the movie Three Men and a Baby, which was directed by Nimoy. As I read about the making of the film, I remembered the story, remembered the film as well. I saw both the original French film and the English remake, and remembered thinking that despite its flaws, the American version was better. Nimoy and his team did a good job with translating the idea of the original film to something that would appeal more widely to American audiences, although there were way to many people, too many story lines, and not enough questions being asked. Mom didn't remember watching the film when it first came out. But she thoroughly enjoyed it now, as did I.
Admittedly it is very 1980's in terms of its style and cultural references, at times embarrassingly so. But it was, at least in the first half, hysterically funny. Neither of us could stop laughing. I wonder if it would be equally amusing to a younger generation. Certainly cultural mores and expectations shift with time, and I wonder if it is simply too much a piece of its own time. I'm not certain, although I probably won't watch it again. The ending seemed a bit of a letdown now; perhaps I felt the same way at the time, I don't remember my thoughts that well, but I'm not sure how I would end it differently without making an entirely different movie.
Shortly after directing Three Men and a Baby, Nimoy directed the film version of Sue Miller's The Good Mother. I do remember that I read that book when it first came out, and I saw the movie as well. I also remember thinking the movie was seriously flawed and not nearly as nuanced as the book in terms of characterization and layers of responsibility, caring, and emotional involvement. That is probably not surprising. I did enjoy Nimoy's thoughts on the story, and what he was trying to accomplish with the film, whether or not I think he was successful, or even if I agree with his perspective concerning the book. I did, however, want to read the novel again. I have not yet watched the movie, nor have I decided if I will or will not watch it.
I requested the book from the library, and I read it this week. It was worth reading again. My own perspectives have shifted in 30 years, although of course, the author's perspective and the story itself has not. But the way words transcend and burrow between the tendrils of our shifting understanding is one of the beauties of a good story.
It continues to be a profoundly sad story, and I am not going to write about the specifics of the book, or the ideas that are explored except to say that ideas of what constitutes good parenting are extremely culture-specific, no matter how much we hold our own beliefs as sacred. And yet, there was a moment, a moment when Anna was meeting with the family services representative,, when she says too much and states that she and Leo had sex while her daughter, Molly, was asleep in the bed, when "her (the family services lady's) face firmed, suddenly looked younger and tougher", a moment when everything changes. I suspect that Molly might have won based solely on the original charge, but not on this point, not in that time and place.
That moment was pregnant with emotional weight. It reminded me a recent moment, well, in the last year of George's life, a far less significant moment with far less serious repercussions. It was evening. George had been put to bed and I was watching TV in one room and his night-time caregiver was in the adjoining room. I was watching one of the early episodes of the HBO series Girls and there was a moment, and it was probably related to a sexual encounter, where, although she was just listening, the young woman stiffened, and sat more upright, with a small stifled gasp. It was not so much the sex that prompted the response, but something about the attitude and response of the characters in the story. It was a moment in which I realized I could not watch that show as long as I had caregivers in my house. I lived in a different place than I had before, I had women taking care of my husband who had very different views of the world, and that even a simple thing like watching a television show could render our situation untenable. I could have stood on principle, that in my own home I could watch what I wanted, and I think the show had much to say that was worth watching, and yet I could not. I could watch all the blood and guts and violence in the world, should I wish to do so, but that show alone had a powerful potential to change perceptions, and therefore harm my ability to care for George.
But that moment is not the entire book. I ended up agreeing with some of Nimoy's perceptions and disagreeing with others. The young Anna shows a certain flatness and lack of emotional depth, not due to a failure of the writer's but simply as a part of her character. She is very inwardly-drawn and reserved, although for a brief period, during her love-affair, she opens up in different ways. There is evidence from the beginning however that her relationship with Leo will never work, that this is not who she is, so the subsequent shutting down is not surprising. Of course the story is also told from Anna's perspective, as a reflection on the past. There is some small comfort in that, in this story which is a modern tragedy and in which there is no true happy ending. Although Anna's voice is a quiet voice, there are hints, not insignificant hints, peppered throughout, that she has not completely withdrawn again, that she has in fact begun to find herself through this terrible story, and all is not completely lost. Could things have been different? Could Anna have stood on principle and not backed down? Perhaps. But that is not the story being told; although it may have been a more satisfying story, I suspect it would have also been less significant. The reader is left, puzzling over a world that will never be the same, and not, perhaps as it could have been (I refuse to say "should"), in short, life.