The beauty of Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods is that the reader does not need to be a hiker in order to appreciate the trivia and the author’s recollections of what it’s like to hike the Appalachian Trail. It’s a chocful of information about evolution, geography and a smattering of interesting characters that one could only find along the tracks of a 2000-mile trail. Yet on top of it all are Bryson’s (and his companion’s) often hilarious and quotable thoughts and observations. Here are a few quotes:
“All I know is that from time to time I end up a long way from where I want to be. But it makes life interesting, you know. I’ve met a lot of nice people, had a lot of free meals.”
“Presumably, a confused person would be too addled to recognize that he was confused. Ergo, if you know that you are not confused then you are not confused. Unless, it suddenly occurred to me–and here was an arresting notion–unless persuading yourself that you are not confused is merely a cruel, early symptom of confusion. Or even an advanced symptom. Who could tell? For all I know I could be stumbling into some kind of helpless preconfusional state characterised by the fear on the part of the sufferer that he may be stumbling into some kind of helpless preconfusional state.”
“That’s the trouble with losing your mind; by the time it’s gone, it’s too late to get it back.”
“…looks like some droll evolutionary joke.”
“I don’t know why they couldn’t have put some crocodiles in here and made a real adventure of it.”
You already know what I want for Christmas, so please grant me this wish. Please, please, puuurrrrrrrrty please! Promise, I will be good.
PS: I don’t usually keep a glass of milk, but please help yourself with the leftover pastries and the wine chilling in the fridge.
PPS: And yes, I want a friggin’ world peace too!
A Good Year could have delivered but didn’t. The reunion of director Ridley Scott and Russel Crowe after “Gladiator” would have been like a vacation in Provence, the setting of the story, which is an adaptation of Peter Mayle’s novel, until they proved that they were wrong for the project. Scott’s forte is still in making believable heart-stopping battle scenes while Crowe’s is anything but a romantic lead no matter how well his physical presence makes the character he portrays more visually appealing. Throughout the course of the film, he looks more at ease as the driven and money-hungry stocks trader than as a lad who falls in love with a French chick…except for the torrid kissing bit, of course.
As the story goes, after nearly sabotaging his financial career in the London stock market, British Max Skinner (Crowe) heads off to Provence to manage the sale of the chateaus that he inherits upon his uncle’s untimely death. Sadly, the chateau is in a shocking state of disrepair and its surrounding vineyard produces wine that is almost undrinkable. To make matters worse, an American surprises him with claims that she is his uncle’s daughter and therefore the rightful owner of the property. It doesn’t help his plans either that the young American knows more about wine than he does, or cares more about the vineyard than he wants to admit. But amidst the rush to sell the property, he meets–and as expected, falls in love with–a local bar owner, Fanny (Marion Cotillard). What follows is a choice between the life he has always known in London and the one that he has left behind.
I don’t know exactly in which part of the story my mind started to wander off. There are films about “the good life” that hold the viewer’s attention with gorgeous vistas, mouthwatering food and overflowing wine as traditional music plays in the background. And it’s unfortunate that this one doesn’t, for some reason. It could be that the story-telling isn’t tight enough, or that Crowe literally fumbles and tumbles a little too much on so many occasions to prove perhaps that his character is, after all, a slick city dweller. In addition to the British-vs.-French cliches, “A Good Year” fails to decide on which it wants to emphasize–the development of its main character or the beauty of Provençal life.
Still, when I grow up, I’d like to live in a chateau in Provence.