Books and Movies

BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967) are, of course, Depression-era hicks Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway who stumble into a career as “the Barrow Gang” with the help of Gene Hackman and Michael Pollard. After reading Pictures At the Revolution, I can see the French New Wave influence on the writing here; while I’ve never connected with this film as much as many people did at the time, it’s certainly well made and entertaining, and the bloody finish packs a punch (even though it’s hardly the shocking ultraviolence it once was). The cast is also outstanding, particularly Dunaway’s bundle of nervous energy in her starmaking role. “When they go down together/They’ll bury them side by side/To some it is grief/To the law it’s relief/But it’s death to Bonnie and Clyde.”

GETTYSBURG: Memory, Market and an American Shrine by Jim Weeks argues that despite all the outrage over “commercializing” Gettysburg, that fight was lost before the end of the 19th century as the town shamelessly used the “sacred site” to promote itself (the New York Times portrayed the town as a pit of aggressive hustlers eager to make a buck or two off tours and souvenirs) and the town’s significance was immortalised by photographers, writers, artists and a cyclorama. What has changed is the nature of what’s being marketed (early tourism emphasized the combination of natural beauty and noble sacrifice), the interpretation of the event (at various points representing the Triumph of the Union, the Heroism of Both Sides [which was considered a good tactic for boosting Southern visits] or the Greatness of America), and our concepts of what’s crass, so that re-enactors who’d have once been seen as disrespectful war gamers are now the norm (and grumbling that people who picnic or bicycle through the park are the ones showing disrespect) and turning Gettysburg into a Colonial Williamsburg community is considered “authentic.” Weeks’ conclusion is that other generations will probably find our supposed “purity” as crass and hokey as we do some of the Disneyesque fifties attractions he describes.
HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE by Diana Wynne Jones’ amounts to a paranormal Regency romance as a young girl transformed into an old woman winds up going to work for the arrogant wizard Howl and discovering that under his toplofty heartbreaking exterior there’s a guy who’s nice—or at least, not totally awful. Of course, being a DWJ story, there’s also a fire demon, a trip to modern-day Wales and several enchanted hats. Charming—it’s easy to see why this became her second series after the Chrestomanci books.
SHARPE’S REGIMENT: Richard Sharpe and the Invasion of France, June to November, 1813 is a good change of pace as Sharpe’s investigation into the lack of reinforcements for the South Essex Battalion leads him to discover a recruiting scheme for shipping rookies out to the West Indies and a reunion with Julia (whom I knew from Sharpe’s Devil would wind up with him, so I’ve been curious as to when).

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