Thursday, April 23, 2020

"Simple Prayers" by Michael Golding - a medieval sitcom

Hello, commies!
Another oldie but goody. I read this novel the old fashioned way: actually picked up a paperback at Waldenbooks (does that name ring a bell?) At any rate, if you want to add another gem to your pandemic list, consider Michael Golding's Simple Prayers

The novel, even though it is sat in Medieval Europe, is structured very much like a sitcom. There are stereotypical characters that one may expect from a sitcom: the town stud (Gianluca), the town geek (Albertino), the fat girl (Ermenegilda), the mysterious hottie (Miriam), the mandatory abusive single mom (Valentina) and the freaky child (Piarina). The interaction between the characters is very generic and stylized. You can predict right away who will fall in love with whom. What you can not predict is the horrible outcome of the novel. The plot takes a sudden turn, and the small town idyll falls apart.

I have no idea why the book critics called it "delightful". "Delightful" is not the word that comes to mind when you think about plague wiping out a whole village. There is nothing life-affirming in this book. If the reader expects a happy ending, he/she will feel deceived in the end. The book does not end with a wedding. It ends with a mass funeral.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Horseman on the Roof - a forgotten "epidemic" novel

Hello, chaps!
Nobody can get enough of Covid19 media. Here is another unfairly underrated novel by an equally unfairly underrated Provencal author Jean Giono - Horseman on the Roof. Giono had fallen in and out of favor with college professors and mainstream readers over the past century. 

The 1995 film adaptation is also worth seeing. Angelo, a young Italian patriot is trying to get home in the midst of a cholera outbreak in early 19th century France. On the way he meets a beautiful married Frenchwoman named Pauline. The "woke" crowds will be particularly pleased with the courtly manner in which he handles their mutual sexual interest. Spoiler: there are no steamy sex scenes. The idealistic young stud with a sword remains a gentleman, even when Pauline becomes vulnerable and receptive. There are, however, some stunning panoramic shots of the French countryside. If you are sensitive and easily triggered, it's probably not the best idea to look at piles of corpses. You can't have a cholera epidemic without them.