Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A passable movie and an excellent book

Tonight Linda and I watched On a Clear Day. It's a pretty watchable movie about a strong silent shipyard worker who gets laid off, gets depressed and then decides to swim across the English Channel. He trains in the pool, he bonds with his three shipyard buddies and the cook at a Chinese restaurant. He is inspired by a disabled kid who never gives up swimming back and forth in the pool. He reconnects with his son. He finally communicates just a little bit with his wife. And, of course, he swims the channel.

An ultimately sappy movie, but worth watching. Pop would have watched it all the way through, but he would have been making comments periodicly. There are no dogs or old time costumes in it; but there are kids in it. Pop generally made a show of disapproving of movies containing dogs, kids or old time costumes.

The March by E.L Doctorow is a whole different thing. I listened to it as an audio book over the past couple of weeks. It's truly excellent, and also somewhat surprising, for Doctorow treats General William Tecumseh Sherman with surprising sympathy. Surprising, because current day liberals don't approve of the sort of war Sherman waged as he blazed a path of destruction through the South, destroying or requisitioning crops and food supplies as well as laying waste to manufacturing plants and railroad lines. Sherman was carrying out the first truly modern example of total war, a dress rehearsal for the wars of the twentieth century.

Doctorow also avoids the temptation to present all of the slaves and former slaves as noble and all of the slave owners as evil. Finally, his periodic visits with the southern cracker who gains pardon from execution by volunteering to fight in the confederate army, deserts and passes himself off as a northern soldier and finally masquerades as a travelling photographer are a sheer delight.

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