Wednesday, June 29, 2022

PHIL ON FILM: "Gabby Giffords Won't Back Down"

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Book Report: "Madame Bovary."

Madame BovaryMadame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Flaubert tells a tragicomic satire of social excess, focusing on a respected, moneyed woman who squanders her livelihood and family fortune on whims and excesses.

Slow-moving yet commanding, the author's storytelling blossoms into stunning revelations and watershed denouements. She strives to deceive her husband, lover and shopkeeper with whom she racks up credit bills, but ends up only punishing herself. There are definite parallels to our time of easy credit and rapid inflation.

I left fulfilled but somewhat disappointed. I expected to be shaken and moved by a classic of such a reputation, but instead got the equivalent of a solid but unastonishing beach read. I recommend reading it but with dampened expectations.

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Monday, June 20, 2022

Book Report: "The Importance of Being Earnest"


The Importance of Being EarnestThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oscar Wilde is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. Even though "The Importance of Being Earnest" feels like a somewhat phoned-in, consequenceless work, it's a fun ready due to his lively -- if somewhat formulaic -- wordplay, and hilarious context codes that reference the gay subculture of 19th century Britain.

Above all, Wilde prizes entertainment and pacing. His tale of wily bachelors who masquerade under fake names as they tiptoe around social conventions to preserve their confirmed bachelorhood as long as possible.

If there's a fault to Wilde's writing, it's that every character speaks in the same voice. It didn't bother me much, because what they have to say is so clever and amusing. This is a fun and wildly entertaining play that I would love to see live.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Book Report: "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire"


The Decline and Fall of the Roman EmpireThe Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An essential, if thoroughly labored, rundown of the myriad factors that toppled the Jenga tower that was the Roman Empire, Gibbon's long-winded, dry tome dutifully lays out a compelling narrative.

Sorting through mountains of fact, fiction and conjecture to delve at a semblance of the truth, Gibbon explains how a combination of inner strife, the spread of Christianity and Muslim and marauding barbarians created a headwind that blew the whole house down.

Coloring barely-known characters with intriguing anecdotes while cutting away the noise to get at the truth of such figures as Nero, Gibbon accomplishes an authoritative work that bears significant warnings for the American political-cultural empire to heed.

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