terça-feira, março 20, 2018

2084, La Fin du Monde, par Boualem Sansal

A very good book; a novel set in a dystopian world ruled by radical Islam. It cleverly depicts the dangers of religion and theocracy, as Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale also did using radical Evangelical Christianism, and the corruption, hypocrisy and moral decadence so characteristic of any totalitarian regime. The writing is excellent, in a beautiful and elegant French.

La religion fait peut-être aimer Dieu mais rien n'est plus fort qu'elle pour faire détester l'homme et haïr l'humanité.

Depressingly true words.

segunda-feira, março 19, 2018

The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis

A very interesting book, worth reading by its content if not by its writing, which is overall fairly poor. But the story is fascinating - it depicts the lives and work of the two Israeli psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, whose collaboration produced the fundamental work about human bias in decision making, proving that we are not that rational in our choices after all and that our mistakes are actually systematic and so mostly predictable - and unavoidable? It's a knowledge relevant to all fields of work, including Medicine, and explains many of our mistakes in work and life - politics included. So, even if the writing is not that good (but an easy reading nonetheless), it's still worth reading.

quarta-feira, março 07, 2018

The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin

A great book by Ursula K. Le Guin, from whom I had loved the first three books of the Earthsea series and the wonderful The Dispossessed, read many years ago. The recent death of the author made me wish to read more from her, and I'm happy I did - this book is intelligent, imaginative and beautiful.

terça-feira, fevereiro 27, 2018

Lady Bird, by Greta Gerwig

A very nice movie, that was a pleasant surprise. I had seen Greta Gerwig in her Noam Baumbach movie Frances Ha, which I didn't like that much - the kind of First World artsy problems that I find pretentious and leave me cold. But this one is quite different, so much better - a tender depiction of teenage growing pains, mother-daughter relationship, the sensitive young's yearn to escape the banal and find one's place in the world. The characters are believable and likeable, the performances are great. One cannot but love the moving character of Lady Bird - and even if later in New York City she will become a sort of annoying Frances Ha, that doesn't take away her freshness as a hopeful teenager. With Boyhood, one of the best coming of age movies from the last few years.

sábado, fevereiro 24, 2018

Orient, by Christopher Bollen

This is the second Christopher Bollen book I've read, after the very good The Destroyers. And I liked it very much - it's an excellent thriller, it reminded me of an Agatha Christie book for 21st century adults, also made me think of J.K. Rowlings' A Casual Vacancy for its convincing depiction of a small community, with all its petty secrets behind apparently normal and boring provincial lives. Bollen's writing is rich and beautiful, some scenes seem a little too long, because one wants to know what will happen next - the essence of a true page turner. There are some clever twists, and the scene on the ice near the end feels eerie, it reminded me of Peter Hoeg's Smilla.

A very good book, I recommend it.

quarta-feira, fevereiro 14, 2018

The Post, by Steven Spielberg

This is a very nice movie, better than most of Spielberg's "grown-up" movies (I always thought he was much better with adventure "teenage" movies like Indiana Jones or ET, when he tries to be serious he tends to be too moralistic and becomes somewhat parochial, in a very American way). This one is a newspaper movie/thriller in the best tradition of All the President's Men, with great performances by Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks and, obviously, very relevant to the present American situation, when a constantly lying president declares war on the press. These were the values that truly made America great, and whose erosion is making it increasingly irrelevant. Unfortunately, Americans seem to be getting used and immune to their administration's lies and shamelessness.

terça-feira, fevereiro 13, 2018

Call me by your name, by Luca Guadagnino

I had seen so many good reviews of this movie that my expectations were pretty high - or not that much, since I usually get somewhat mistrustful when something is too praised. But it's actually a very good movie, a tender nostalgic evocation of the discovery of love and sexuality, in a beautiful setting, very well directed and with an outstanding performance by the young Timothée Chalamet. It somehow reminded me of Conte d'Été by Eric Rohmer, probably because of the european atmosphere, the depiction of long and lazy summer time and young people 's experiences of love.

I liked the movie more after I'd seen it, when I knew the Oliver character was 24 years old. Because, while watching it, I thought he should be about 30, and that bothered me a little, somehow it didn't ring true that, as much liberal minded as the parents could be, they should be comfortable with their 17 year-old son having a fling with a much older man; then everything fell into place when I realised he was only 24. Maybe Armie Hammer, handsome as he is, was not the perfect casting? Anyway, they had a great chemistry on screen.

The Book of Dust - La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman

I was ill when a good friend lent me a book to read, saying something like "It's a beautiful fantasy, it will take your mind away from troubles". It was Northern Lights, by Philip Pullman, I had never heard about him, but ever since the first few pages, when Lyra was sneaking in the Oxford college library and Pantalaimon flew around her as a moth, I was captivated and enthralled. The strange yet familiar world(s) depicted are fascinating, and the story and the characters are great - I loved Northern Lights and soon read The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. I find Philip Pullman's universe (or better, multiverse) much more interesting than C.S. Lewis', to whom he's so often compared. It's curious how the movie adaptation failed; I actually found it not inferior to the Tolkien movies adaptations of The Lord of the Rings; Nicole Kidman was an excellent Mrs. Coulter, and the movie was visually very beautiful. But of course the books are so much more interesting.

So I was curious when last year there was a new book developing the story, and now I read it and liked it very much. There is no more the fascination of discovering a new world, rather the pleasure of returning to an old familiar and beloved one. It's another beautiful narrative, that adds information about daemons and Dust, told in a gripping way that makes it a page turner. The new characters, Malcolm, Alice and Bonneville, are as engaging as Lyra, Will or Mrs. Coulter. And I always like the way good fantasy and sci-fi writers deal with real important subjects to make us think, in this case the dangers of religion, single-mindedness and youth indoctrination.

I am looking forward to the next volume.