Monday, April 14, 2008

Any Human Heart

A few weeks ago, while Jay and I were watching the HBO series "Extras" on DVD, Kate Winslet was a guest star and playing herself as an obnoxious, Oscar seeking actress who only chooses roles based on whether or not they might get her an Oscar.

For instance, the movie the cast was working on was a WWII/Holocaust movie and there was a conversation about what a great film it was. She responded that the only reason she was doing it was because actors that act in movies about the holocaust get oscar nominations. That and acting the part of someone with mental illness or a handicap. Callous...but maybe true?

So, if an actor is so believable acting as someone with a handicap, but the movie is awful, does it count? Does the great acting matter more than the bad movie? I couldn't help but feel like this writer was going for some kind of literary award rather than writing a good book. He writes in the style of a journal entry and all of the reviews that I read that raved included how "spot on" his writing is. How convincing it is that the reader actually forgets that it is fiction.

The title comes from Henry James's quote... Never say you know the last word about any human heart. I love the quote and the idea even better, but William Boyd provides no justice for James with this novel.

The "subject" is an English man who, throughout his life (early 1900s to about 1980) and "work" (he never really did...just sort of floated to whatever happened to fall into his lap) and chance, he meets interesting historical people like Picasso, Hemingway, Virginia Wolff, James Joyce the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Jackson Pollack etc. But, he doesn't actually possess any talent and also seems to serve little purpose. I hate calling any life pathetic but his actually was. He drifted from spot to spot, having affairs and doing all sorts of tawdry things and never, ever did anything meaningful in his life. He's my worst nightmare.

I always like to think that within every man, there is enormous potential. I also like to think that if you get to know anyone well enough, you will eventually like him/her. You just have to know their heart (ahhhh....the author and I think alike....but he manages to prove me wrong!) He had every opportunity...and he did nothing. The absolute bare minimum and got away with it. He saved nothing, provided nothing, inspired no one. Waste of space.

It sounds harsh but HE WASN'T A REAL PERSON! I suppose it would be even sadder if he was and I've no doubt that there are many people who spend their lifetimes to this end, but I don't need to read about it. This was a waste of my time. At almost 500 pages, I need more than just a believable journal. If I'm going to learn about someone's heart, I'd like to see some substance and I need it to matter. I do not recommend this at all.

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