Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Thanks, Teeter!

I went back to the bookstore last Wednesday night and pounced on their only copy of A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. I finally finished it last night. I would've finished it sooner, but I went to Japan with Shanghai and left the book behind because I didn't have enough room for it in my backpack. It was like an amputation. I took NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman as a substitute, but it was no TREE. I ended up not reading at all, and I did have some down time.

Anyway, as I wrote, I finished TREE last night. I haven't been able to start another book today because I feel like nothing will be as good as it was. Being in this sort of mood about books isn't good.

One of the greatest things about A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN is that Betty Smith created in painstaking detail what it was like to live in a tenament in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. It's like Steinbeck and his books with that anthropological detail. Another great thing is the characterization. I think this stems from Smith's many years of being a playwright. The dialogue she writes makes the characters realize and define themselves. Their thoughts are also written as dialogue, except interior dialogue.

I haven't seen the movie (but now I really want to!) but I have read that it's a well-done effort by Elia Kazan, and also his first picture. Contributing to its success no doubt was the episodic way the novel was written. Although it's a novel, it has the strong feel of a play without feeling stagey. It's really the perfect combination of a novel and a play. All of this surely lent itself well to cinematic adaptation.

I hardly know how to praise the book. It's like being in love; you want to go on and on, but it starts to sound like romantic burbling. Was Teeter right or what? I should let her pick out all my books for me!

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