Friday, 30 May 2008

On books and buying them

I love books. I love buying them, owing them and reading them - the order is simply the order of the process. I also love carrying them all over the place and hate when I damage them because of this - once or twice a book had to be replaced (ok, more than that!).

Bookshops are places of pleasure for me, especially those where I have never been and those I know by heart (in case I really just want to get something quickly). But best of all, every year there's a book fair in Lisbon - and for at least a good 10 years now I make a point of being there on the first day. So I book holidays to match (being in London and all that). This year there were a few problems with it and almost didn't happen. But afterwards I was wondering if that would have been such a misery for me.

I can read in Portuguese and English and when I am brave, I even read some stuff in French (not counting with la Bande Dessinée). So I can't say I am limited, can I? However, in a competitive and increasingly uninteresting book market in Portugal less and less books that appeal to me are now published. Furthermore, one of my favourite publishers was absent and I bought only 4 new books for myself, none of which printed in the last 2 years and all originally published before 1970. In contrast I came back with 7 second hand ones, all from the 1900s. With the increasing prospect of an idiotic spelling agreement for the Portuguese language, I believe that in six years time I shall stop buying new books altogether.

There is a bright side - I am now discovering the "alfarrabistas", the second hand bookshops and where I bought some nice books lately. For better or worst, I believe that this is where for Portuguese books, my future of book buying lies.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Garbo and (her) silents

Silent films have a particular language of their own. It’s a language that I don’t always like. Having seen some of the acknowledged exponents of the period (“Greed”, “The Crowd”, “Metropolis”, etc.) I have only truly enjoyed one film – “A Woman of Affairs” with Greta Garbo, made in 1928 and one of her last silent films. I had the luck of catching it about six weeks ago.

In it she plays a woman prevented from marrying the love of her life, decides to have some fun, and proceeds to marry the guy her brother seems to be interested in, who then mysteriously kills himself on their wedding night. After this she is ostracised by polite society, who blame her… Despite the potential for disaster from this plotline the film is very well constructed, with strong performances from the leads, especially Garbo here during her “femme fatale” phase.

It wasn’t my first Garbo silent – I have the DVD collection with “Flesh and the Devil”, “The Temptress” and “Mysterious Woman”, but except for the first 30 minutes or so of “Flesh…” they were all quite uninteresting. However, they made quite clear to me why she was such a huge star during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Comparing her with all her co-stars, she emanates an effective quietness. With her less is definitely more. She almost seems out of place. Later, this would turn again in one of her best performances, in “Camille”. She is far more modern than most people are aware, and far from being a symbol of a bygone era, she should be recognised as someone who changed the art of screen acting.

I wish more of her silents were available, especially “A Woman of Affairs”. I probably won’t like them, but I really want to see them – and who knows, I might even fall in love with another.