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Random reflections on two stories and one movie (none of which I’ve thought of for a long time)

Re-reread Raymond Carver’s short story “A Small Good Thing” this weekend. Without giving too much away, an ordinary guy (the baker) is a jerk to family dealing with an unexpected tragedy, but the story makes his moment of growth into something more, a moment of human connection in a world that makes no sense. It’s still one of my favorite works of fiction, ever.

I also reread another favorite, “The Pugilist at Rest” by Thom Jones. (Short stories are great when I’m busy – if I can get myself to put down the book after just one.) He’s an odd author for me to like, so hypermasculine as to almost verge on parody at times, but man, can that guy write. I never know how to talk about his writing except to say that his best stories, like Raymond Carver’s, capture the pain, absurdity, and hope of the human existence.

Along the same lines, I was reminded of a favorite movie, the Hong Kong drama Internal Affairs (the inspiration for The Departed). It’s about the lives of two Hong Kong police officers, one recruited as a cadet to go undercover in organized crime, and the other an ambitious officer who’s also a mole/plant for an organized crime boss. The Hollywood remake, which transplanted the scenario to the Massachusetts State Police, was justly acclaimed. Nonetheless, I like the original better. The writing in Internal Affairs explores the characters and the parallels between them a bit more, as well as the themes of identity and deception. Tony Leung, who plays the undercover officer, has to be one of the best actors I’ve ever seen. He really captures the weariness of good man surrounded by bad people, trying to remember what he’s fighting for.

I’m almost done with Being Human Series 2 and look forward to thinking about that, as well.
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July 2012

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