Monday, March 19, 2018

Old Rendering Plants

We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge. The premise is intriguing: a black Bostonian family, the symbolically named Freemans, join a research institute to teach sign language to a chimp called Charlie. The situation is set up for a scathing social critique of racism, some of which Greenidge delivers. The most effective, because the most moving, involves the allure of white trickery to a stern but lonely black schoolmistress. Nymphadora is the most searing portrait of the novel, and she burns the other characters out of the stretched canvas.

Old Rendering Plant by Wolfgang Hilbig, translated by Isabel Fargo Cole. Published by Two Lines Press, which I discovered at AWP, after Tim Tompkins suggested looking for its editor, and his good friend, Olivia Sears, this German novel is dense with the poetry of a wasted landscape. It is haunting, a nightmarish reckoning with history and holocaust. After reading it, I was filled with the excitement of imitating it, but found I could not, its sensibility being so antithetical to mine.

GH and I saw the film Comfort and Consolation in France (2017), written and directed by Vincent Macaigne, at Film Society Lincoln Center yesterday. After squandering their inheritance abroad, Pascal and Pauline return to their family estate and face the envy and resentment of their friends. Intelligent dramatization of the continuing class struggle, fleshed by a strong cast of three couples. The couple in the middle, torn between class pride and attraction to old privilege, was finally the most sympathetic. GH thought the film dated, since it did not mention immigration or the refugee crisis in Europe at all.A good point.

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