Though I have not managed to write much over the past three weeks, I have managed to read a few books and watch a few movies. Most of those during vacation at the beach. Since it doesn't look like I'll be having much time to write real reviews anytime soon, here are my abbreviated versions. For more Quick Takes, visit Jen.
1. Doubt was an excellent film! I had avoided seeing it because I assumed any movie about the Catholic church that Hollywood actually liked would just be a thinly veiled attack on the church. Also, Phillip Seymour Hoffman creeps me out in real life. It is a testament to this film (and therefore to the play upon which it is based), that I managed to stay up way past my bedtime discussing it with my husband. Usually nothing keeps me up past my bedtime.
The movie was brilliantly acted, and I was blown away, once again, by Meryl Streep. That woman is amazing! I actually found myself liking Hoffman's character in some scenes. (See above statement about being creeped out.) And, although I would like to see Amy Adams play something other than the sweet, innocent young woman, I do love her. (I have loved her since Junebug, which is another movie you should definitely see, especially if you are from North Carolina...or not from NC. It simultaneously affirms your stereotypes about Southerners and blows them out of the water.)
Anyway, some have criticized Doubt for being too stiff and literary and reliant on symbolism. It IS based on a play, and I like literary movies full of symbolism. I didn't completely agree with the playwright's premise, too much nihilism for me. But I do think that doubt which leads to faith or away from it is an important topic. Watch it. Come away with a lot of questions. And let me know what you think.
2. I read The Last Chinese Chef for a bookclub with other moms at the boys' Chinese school. It was a fun read, perfect for summer, and I learned so much about traditional Chinese cuisine that I didn't know. Since I have experience with real (non-Americanized) Chinese food, the descriptions of the meals left my mouth watering and made me excited to move to China. I suppose the plot was good, but the novel seemed mostly just an excuse to explore the world of Chinese cooking, definitely a topic worth exploring!
3. In case you missed it, I have three boys. When someone gave me Raising Cain to read, I was reluctant. I didn't want yet another expert telling me that boys need to learn to express their feminine side and quell their natural tendency toward aggression rather than channeling it somewhere healthy.
I was very pleasantly surprised by Kindlon and Thompson's book. It takes a look at the main problems facing boys in today's American culture, like violence, anger, depression, substance abuse, and immature relationships, and looks at some of the ways our culture keeps boys from realizing their full potential as men. The authors, both psychologists with school counseling experience, use examples of boys they have counseled to show how the culture of cruelty and the pressure to "be a man" keep boys from forming meaningful and emotionally mature relationships with one another.
There is so much good information in there, along with some important warnings from the lives of boys. This is the best book I have read so far on helping boys to become mature, emotionally secure men while still recognizing the difference between men and women. I highly recommend it!
4. On a lighter note, I read The Mysterious Benedict Society last summer at the beach, so I picked up the second in the series to read this year. They are super-fun juvenile fiction with smart, weird, misfit kids as heroes. I am definitely holding onto these for my boys!
5. I grew up loving the Frances books, so when I realized we didn't own any, I went out and bought Bedtime for Frances for the boys. Hobbes has asked me to read it again, and again, and again. If you don't own these, check them out.
6. I finally started Perfect Madness, and while I already don't agree with everything the author assumes, I am finding it a fascinating read. The biggest issue I have is that I don't assume that children shouldn't get in the way of living my adult life. The selfish attitude that has led to a declining birth rate in Western Europe is not necessarily a good thing. At the same time, I think our child-centered mothering culture, where we worry more about affirming our children's self-esteem and making them the center of the universe than teaching them to respect authority, can learn something from Europe. There is a balance somewhere in there of accepting children as a gift and responsibility that will mess up your life a bit while not making them the total focus. Maybe I will write more once I have read the whole book. I'd love to hear from anyone else who has read it.
7. Finally, did I mention that my husband and I just finished watching Brideshead Revisited? We watched the miniseries from the 80's. Do NOT watch the new movie. The series was long and often painful, and I was certain there was no good reason to watch it. Over and over again, we almost stopped. But we just couldn't. The characters were too intriguing. Also, many people we respected had said it was well worth watching. It was, in the end, a profound statement about God's grace and His ability to work through and in the very screwed up lives of His church. I almost want to go back and watch it again. Almost. I would need a lot of time.