Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch:
New novel from Kent Haruf; ‘Perfect Storm’ director delivers ‘Troy’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the June 10, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

Book Review

On a recent Wednesday evening, Kent Haruf, the author of the novel Plainsong, appeared at Auntie’s Book Store here in Spokane. He read from his new novel, Eventide. There were lots of interesting questions from the audience plus an outpouring of enthusiasm for his novels.

Eventide is a stand-alone novel that has some of the same characters from Plainsong. But there is no need to have read the previous novel to make total sense of a poignant story of what life is like on the High Plains of Colorado.

Kent Haruf writes with spare prose of the life of ordinary people in the small fictional town of Holt, Colo. He does it so well that we identify totally with his wounded characters that mirror images of our own lives.

Eventide is filled with the shadows of a darkening sunset. It is filled with tragedies that may seem small on a world stage but are major in these characters’ lives and would be in our own. But throughout the novel there is a constant sense of hope and the need for members of a community to care for each other.

Harold and Raymond McPheron are old unmarried brothers who run a cattle ranch near Holt. As the story opens they are helping 19-year-old Victoria Roubideaux and her daughter, Katie, move to Fort Collins for college. The McPheron brothers had welcomed Victoria into their home when she was pregnant and had nowhere to go. Their relationship of kindness and lots of give and take had enriched all the principals. The brothers had grown particularly attached to the child. The move to Fort Collins was hard on everyone.

Into this world we meet lots of new people from Holt, ranging from a family we might easily stereotype as “trailer trash” to the social worker who tries to help them deal with the very real bumps of life.

There are lots of children. We get to know them as they grow and blossom. Their stories are treated with a loving respect.

Eventide stands out for its wonderful portrayal of relationships between children and parents, and grandchildren and grandparents.

The simple things like caving, learning to drive a tractor, Saturday night in a bar, and first love for an old man, make up small vignettes of a beautiful whole.

Eventide speaks for characterization and a continuing rich vision of the place. It challenges us to open our eyes to the world we live in. It is almost Biblical in its call to look and see, and above all appreciate the life we’ve been given.

If you want lots of plot in the vein of The da Vinci Code or an episode of Law and Order, then Eventide is not for you. Eventide is a novel that quietly asks the important questions of life in a slow and deliberate manner. The characters come alive with a resonance that is memorable.

Eventide is a moving novel that you will want to read slowly and savor. You do not want it to come to an end.

The old Methodist hymn says a great deal about Eventide. The line by Henry F. Lyte reads: “The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.”


Film Review

The gigantic epic Troy, inspired by Homer’s The Iliad, is one of the more expensive Hollywood offerings opening the summer film season. Director Wolfgang Petersen of Das Boot and A Perfect Storm lays out an elaborate two-and-a-half-hour narrative of war, honor, love and family.

Compared to normal, comic book, big-budget summer projects, Troy is an enjoyable movie. But it is not a David Lean epic that will live across the years.

Paris of Troy (Orlando Bloom) entices the unhappy wife of the Spartan king Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson) to return to Troy from Sparta as his new wife. Thus sparks the famous war between Greeks and Trojans. Paris’s brother Hector (Eric Bana), against his better judgment, allows the two to return to Troy. Menelaus meets with Agamemnon (Brian Cox), who uses this breach of honor to easily agree to lead an united Greek force against Troy. He does so to fulfill his dream of a united Aegean region under the Greeks.

Achities (Brad Pitt), Greece’s greatest warrior and no friend of Agamemnon, finally agrees to take his private special forces to attack Troy. The result of all this is a story of massive battles entailing hundreds of ships and vast armies before the walls of Troy.

But the most interesting parts of the movie are the smaller set pieces, such as the battle between Menelaus and Paris and the spectacular fight between Achilles and Hector. The Achilles-Hector battle is the physical highlight of the film. It is a richly choreographed ballet-like exhibition of athletic physicality.

The dramatic high point of the film is when King Priam of Troy (Peter O’Toole) goes to the tent of Achilles behind Greek lines and asks for the body of his son, Hector, which Achilles has dishonored by being dragged before the thousands of soldiers on both sides. Priam’s courtly behavior and speech is extraordinarily portrayed by 71-year-old O’Toole. Brad Pitt isn’t quite up to his give and take with O’Toole, but the scene holds as Priam is allowed to take Hector’s body back to Troy for proper burial and prayers to the gods.

The famous Trojan Horse episode with the sacking of Troy almost seem as an epilogue, tacked on at the very end of the film. This story could be a whole movie in itself. It is dramatically told with lots of fire and violence as we are reminded of Achilles’s weakness, which the redeemed Paris finds with his elf-like bow.

Among the actors, Eric Bana as the loyal faithful son of Priam is outstanding. After his disaster in last year’s The Hulk, Bana shows he can be at the top of the list of today’s young male actors. Peter O’Toole stands out above the rest. Would we have expected anything else? German model Diane Kruger is miscast as the beautiful Helen. She is beautiful but she has some trouble delivering her lines. Brad Pitt holds the movie together and is its central focus. Sometimes his acting is more on the serviceable side.

Director Petersen has taken on a difficult task costing roughly $200 million dollars and filmed in Malta, Mexico, and England. The computer effects are relatively seamless. The sets are magnificent. The music of James Homer with the Romanian Women’s Choir is on the florid side that sometimes seems over the top.

My guess is Troy may end up being one of the better entertainments of the summer.

Troy is rated R - restricted (under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). There is much graphic violence and some sexuality and nudity.

The USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting rates Troy A-III - for Adults.

(Father Caswell is pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney, and Ecumenical Relations Officer for the Diocese of Spokane. His reviews frequently appear in the Cheney Free Press.)

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