Monday, February 11, 2008

Down River by John Hart

If you’ve read all of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux novels
try Down River by John Hart

I listened to the excellent audio version of Down River on compact disk read by Scott Sowers. It’s a knotty thriller about family misunderstandings, betrayal and deception. The story is told in the first person by Adam Chase, who’s returned to his home town in North Carolina after five years in exile in New York City. He left his home after being acquitted of capitol murder in the death of a high school classmate and has returned only because a friend contacted him asking for help. Now that friend has disappeared. Everyone in town remembers him, and not favorably. Most of them shun him because they think he was guilty of the murder and got off because of family influence. Chase is estranged from his family, and his re-entry into their lives is complicated and uncomfortable. The plot is complex and has a touch of the Southern gothic about it. It’s Hart’s second novel, and he’s a promising writer. I was struck by how much the voice of the book’s narrator is like James Lee Burke’s protagonist Dave Robicheaux. I don’t mean to make Hart sound like he’s copying Burke; he’s written an original story with an appealing and complicated main character. Sowers’ narration is excellent. I grew up in the South, and he gets the accents just right.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

I saw the movie The Diving Bell and the Butterfly this past weekend. The film is based on the memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby, who at age 42 was paralyzed by a stroke. As a result of brain damage, he could move only one eyelid. The movie is the account of how he dictated his book. The book is the basis for this film. It’s a surprising and complex movie. It’s not about limitations, about being physically incapacitated. It’s about learning to live after a huge loss and about the relationships that sustain us. The tenderness between Bauby and his aging father is particularly well-portrayed, as is that between him and his young son. At one of the major turning points in the movie, Bauby says in spite of his lost faculties, he has two things left. I won’t tell you what they are; you’ll have to see the movie. I plan to read the book, and maybe see the movie again – it’s that good! Julian Schnabel, who directed the movie, is a kind of Renaissance man and an artist, and his artistry and imagination are evident in the movie. How many people could make a riveting movie about a man who can do nothing except blink one eye?

Watch the movie trailer