Monday, March 7, 2011

The Reading Room: Bel-Ami

The good news about coming home from a book store in my world is that generally, whatever I purchase will get read numerous times. The people in my immediate circle (read loving family) have similar tastes in our reading selections so our library has a number of dog-eared volumes that have been loved over and over. It does my heart good to see coffee stains, underlining or folded over corners in some of my favorite titles as I know they have been a source of inspiration and entertainment for others. And should I lend a book to someone, I let it go, not really expecting to get it back but hoping its journey is a good one wherever it ends up. Both my daughter and I just finished reading this latest classic discovery and have had numerous conversations about its message over glasses of wine these last few evenings while I fix dinner.

Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant, is the author's second novel written in 1885. Obviously a social commentary on fin-de-siecle Paris, it follows the cavortings of Georges Duroy, an absolute cad with an insatiable thirst for upward mobility. Owning no sense of decency, the reader holds one's breath throughout thinking Monsieur Duroy could not possibly sink lower....yet he never disappoints. Or should I say, he is a complete disappointment.

Contemporary politics and journalism are woven throughout only adding to the amount of deception that a society is capable of. Nothing that we don't see on a daily basis in this day and age in cheesy tabloids or "news" sites splashed throughout the internet. Clearly, this stinging, but oh, so entertaining tale illustrates all that de Maupassant wrestled with and condemned in his current moment.

I have saved the best for last on this one. Being released this year is Bel-Ami, the movie with the lead being played by Robert Pattinson. He is perfectly cast as the lead in my mind with Christina Ricci and Uma Thurman helping things out. All good choices. Depending on how you feel about books being made into movies, you might want to enjoy all that this one holds before heading to the movie theater. For me, movies are always watered down versions after having read such rich text. Pick your poison on this one.

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