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September Books 1) Mystic River

1) Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane

Picked this up on a friend's recommendation of the author last month, and I must say I was really impressed. Superficially it's the story of a murder, and the links between the victim's father, the investigating detective and the chief suspect, who were childhood friends; but it's also a story of a Boston community, of families, of deep secrets and love and hate, with fascinating characters and a twist or two in the tail. Excellent stuff, and I will look out for more from Lehane.

Just about passes the Bechdel test, as we follow the victim's final evening with her friends.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 2nd, 2008 09:49 am (UTC)
have you seen the film? I thought it was pretty good.
Sep. 2nd, 2008 12:41 pm (UTC)
Did you know that Joss Whedon came up with "Lehane" as Faith's surname when the creators of the officially-licensed RPG said she had to have one? I'm pretty sure it was a reference to the author.
Sep. 2nd, 2008 05:10 pm (UTC)
Out of curiosity, as someone who has dipped into your interesting reviews time and again - why are you applying this Bechdel test all the time nowadays?
Sep. 2nd, 2008 05:33 pm (UTC)
I explained my thoughts here; basically, it's an experiment, and after a while I shall review it and see if I have learnt anything from it.
Sep. 2nd, 2008 05:46 pm (UTC)
I see. Fair enough...

It just seems a bit arbitrary a judgment. Sometimes writers don't include sequences in which women talk about non-male subjects for a specific purpose: because it's to highlight a certain sexism, or even because it frankly isn't relevant. (I know my own Who episode fails the Bechdel test. It didn't in early drafts, until the sex of some of the characters changed. But it was pointed out to me by Russell that the type of plot he was wanting from me was supposed to be soldiers pounding down corridors escaping from a monster, and he was right.) The Bechdel test, like any so-called tests that can be applied to writing, fails to take into account that the objectives of the writer may not in any way tally with the premise of that test. Nineteenth century novelists may well have argued that all good novels depended upon certain criteria of plot and theme to be worthy - and a lot of twentieth century playwrights certainly did. So Joyce and Beckett fail in their eyes because they're simply not interested in that. It becomes a rather easy whip to use against any form of writing, and rather uncomfortably reminds me of a scene in Dead Poets Society where a classroom text book indicates that what dictates 'good' poetry can be marked on a graph. As a writer, it makes me shudder!

Sorry. Just rambling on. Certainly none of my business - it's your blog, and your reviews are interesting. I was just a bit bemused, that's all. (And I say this with much respect for Bechdel herself, whose 'Fun House' is brilliant, and who clearly within that text herself is sending up the whole notion of the test in any case.)
Sep. 3rd, 2008 04:33 pm (UTC)
As I said, it's an experiment at this stage. When I've reached some reasonably high tally of novels (might be 20, might be 50, might be 100), I will sit back and do some analysis of whether or not I have learnt anything from doing this, and whether I think the Bechdel test tells us anything more than whether or not the book has a scene in it with two female characters who talk about something other than a man.

I am particularly aware that the test in its original form applies to the cinema, not the written word, and so I'm open to the possibility that I will decide it's simply not appropriate to apply it to written literature at all, or to certain genres of written literature. (on a slightly different note, I'm applying it to my current reading of Shakespeare plays - I will be rather surprise if even half a dozen of the 38 pass it.)

I thought Charlie made some very good points about applying it to his own writing. And when I mentioned your comment about your own episode to my wife, she said, "How do we know that the Dalek is not female?" If we slightly readjust the Bechdel test to have two non-male characters who talk to each other about something other than a man, I think Dalek passes with flying colours!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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