18 June, 2015

My Bookshelf and Some Thoughts On "Finding Forrester"




--- Forrester: "Never start a sentence with a conjunction." ... Wallace: "The rule on 'and' and 'but' at the start is pretty shaky. Even though it's taught in many schools by many teachers, some of the best writers have ignored that rule for years, including you." 

So this is Thursday night, which is always special to me in some inexplicable ways, and I am watching "Finding Forrester" again on cable. There's Jamal Wallace, the precocious African American, trying to make sense of life through his writing. And there is William Forrester, the esteemed Irish writer living in recluse, still nursing his episode of life's tragedy. And there is the unlikely friendship. And there is Wallace's missed free throws. And there is Forrester's bicycle ride. And there is the apartment filled with books. That's one apartment I love to visit.

And there's my apartment filled with books. I have a bookshelf, about 4m by 3m, filled with books that I've read, am reading, will read, or want to read. The first row is currently populated, from the right, by leather books, mostly Franklin Library published Pulitzer winners. From the left are Chinese literature - histories, companion notes to histories, philosophy, poetry etc. The unread books can be identified by their plastic wraps. In the center is the complete series of Louis Cha's Chinese pugilistic novels. This is a new set in place of the worn copies I've read and reread since a teenager. 

And there is the beautiful letter that Forrester wrote to Wallace at the end: "Dear Jamal, someone I once knew wrote that we walk away from our dreams afraid that we may fail, or worse yet, afraid we may succeed. You need to know that while I knew so very early that you would realize your dreams, I never imagined I would once again realized my own. Seasons change young man, and while I may have waited until the winter of my life to see the things I've seen this past year, there is no doubt I would have waited too long, had it not been for you."

And there is this Thursday night to muse over the allusions in "Finding Forrester": Wallace's knocks on the door of Forrester - an author pondering, weak and weary "over many a quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore" has Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" all over it. This allusion is hinted at very early on when Wallace's teacher recited the first line in class, and corroborated by Forrester's hobby of bird-watching. Then there is the name of the new private school that Wallace subsequently enrolled in: "Mailor-Callow", likely a word play for callow mailer, or a young and immature deliverer, Wallace's reprised role in Forrester's final deliverance, and a continual reference to the messenger theme in "The Raven", except that the message in this case is liberation rather than desolation. And then there is the scene where Forrester, having found the courage to step out of his apartment alone, rode on the bicycle in the night streets of the Bronx. With arm out-stretched at turns, Forrester evoked the imagery of a gliding Scarlet Tanager, "thy duty, winged flame of Spring, is but to love and fly and sing." Forrester quoted this James Lowell's line in his conversation with Wallace in an earlier scene, noting that it is a song about a new season, a new life. This beautiful bicycle scene declares Forrester's emancipation and the beginning of his new season. And there are more, like dealing with transitions, or life's vagaries, or the epistemic issue of interpretation, or breaking rules, all worthy and intriguing topics, but I'm weary.

And there will be more Thursday nights like this.



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