Sunday, March 16, 2014

No matter what happens...

When I was eleven, my father recommended James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking series.

Oddly, when I think back on all the books my father and I read together, there tends to be a trend...some of which was definitely Native American.  One of my favorite memories from childhood is him coming into my bedroom to share a biography of Chief Black Hawk; I remember the book, hardback with a grey cover and the title stamped in black along the spine.  He would sit on the edge of the bed, and reading to me using the light that spilled in from the hallway (because there might be monsters, we always had the hall light on) we would discover an entirely new way of life; one that didn't involve sherbet-colored bedspreads or elm bugs as pets.  This was something different, something primal.  I remember wishing I could have lived then; even using brains to tan a hide sounded awesome, the way dad read it. 

Someone else recommended and gave me a copy of Black Elk Speaks; but I think he would have gotten there if I weren't such a Pernicious Toad.  (Pernicious Toad was the award of the week to the child who had been the most obnoxious.  Sadly, I excelled at this, which at one point led to him bouncing a radish, and then an empty milk jug off of my head.)


Back to Leatherstocking.  It was after I had read Red Badge of Courage, which I wish I had NEVER read and to this day regret wasting time, effort, and brain cells upon something so horrible.  The fact that I read it three years before it was required reading only gives me a bigger rash, to be honest.  The only thing worse was Stephen Crane's perpetration upon humanity with his short story The Open Boat, which was featured prominently in my senior English class and the teacher of said class not just loved Stephen Crane, but failed to realize my sincerity in suggesting in an assigned essay that Stephen Crane would have benefited tremendously by dying before he could write something so horrible and gave me a grade that would make one assume that I would lose in a vocabulary contest with celery.

So.  Leatherstocking.

I read them all.  I liked them, well enough; struggles with opportunistic monarchs, antagonists with shady intentions,  American history (one of the only times I was exposed to it, sadly; my American history teacher felt that movies spoke a thousand words, and that Lonesome Dove spoke a thousand more than that).

OK, people.  Daniel Day-Lewis movie?  KINDA ROCKS.  Seriously.  I love it.  Yes, it is like almost 15 years since it came out.  No, it doesn't follow the book.  Yes, I have problems with the dialogue.  Yes, Uncas is the hottest adopted brother known to man.  No, you may NOT interrupt me when Daniel Day Lewis says "No matter what happens..."

I remember when it came out.  I saw it three times, IN THE THEATERS.  Johdi May's look when she steps off that rock rather than succumb to Magua?  His blood-flecked hand, gesturing her toward him, after he's done something so horrible but he is NOT A MONSTER, not completely?  Madeleine Stowe was kinda a throwaway for me, as far as I was concerned.  The secondary characters were so incredible.  Duncan saving Cora?  Are you KIDDING me?

 I took dad to see it.

"That is the biggest magnolia tree I've ever seen," he said, exiting the theater.  "Where was this SUPPOSED to have been filmed?"