21st Century Literature discussion

Parrot and Olivier in America
This topic is about Parrot and Olivier in America
2012 Book Discussions > Parrot and Olivier in America - Section 3 - Olivier in Phily, Pg. 222, e-reader 58%, kindle loc. 3723, ends with "Wept except I had no right." (August 2012)

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Will (wjmcomposer) Ok, so more than halfway though, and to my eyes, the book has picked up the pace impressively so far. I'm still not sure I'm loving it, but the characters have fleshed out a bit more, and Olivier has shown himself to have a little more heart, and a little more mettle than previously. Parrot has also softened a bit, and we've been info-dumped (always the most awkward literary technique) on some more of his past. I think that if this book were published in 1995 they would have made a movie from it, with Daniel Day-Lewis as Olivier and Harvey Keitel as Parrot.

But now, it would probably not get greenlit, and the casting director would fail to get Orlando Bloom and Paul Giamatti.

That said, I'm still finding that massive sections of the book just don't do it for me, and I'd detest it up to the point where I then read some little nugget of brilliance that keeps me going.

Also, I think that as a way of an aussie to approach American themes, it's not the greatest so far. I'll reserve judgement about that til we discuss the entire book though.

Deborah | 982 comments Mod
Yeah, to almost all of the above. It's ok.

Maybe I should try the pale king and decide later whether to finish.

Daniel | 739 comments Mod
Will: I'm a bit upset at your movie comparison, because now I'm going to be hard-pressed keeping the ancien regime stable of Miramax actors out of my head while reading! ( <-- said very tongue-in-cheek, of course)

While I agree that the characters have filled out a bit more, I'm not sure that sufficient (any?) motivation is given for their actions or development. It all feels so haphazard, as though character development was a perfunctory chore secondary to telling the story that initially captured the author's imagination.

On the theme front, however, this section definitely turned a corner. In addition to finally reflecting upon the different understandings of wealth and society between the nations, there is suddenly an outburst of thematic exposition surrounding the concept of prison.

Parrot's incarceration for Olivier's pistol shot is a reminder that prisons are only for the poor--a biting irony when the true offender has been given the moral authority to judge the penal system.

There are also some meaty comments from Olivier which envision society as a form of prison. When he is to visit the Quaker prison: "Now, I thought, I will be incarcerated in Philadelphia with Protestants who have built the kindest prison ever conceived...." And when Duponceau says, "Our morality in France is shaped by each man's knowledge that he is shut in a certain sphere from which he does not hope to escape," Olivier's thought is, "He makes it sound like a prison."

The mention of Parrot's luckless sojourn in Australia also serves as a counterpoint to brick-and-mortar prisons, although the inclusion of a side trip to Australia seems horribly contrived (though no real surprise on account of the author's nationality).

Will (wjmcomposer) Daniel, I agree with everything you said, entirely (which is a rare feat, of itself). The additional insult of the forced inclusion of Australia adds to my angst.

Aura | 42 comments Hmm... I wasn't exasperated by Australia. :D It was somewhat surprising at first but it does make sense, seeing how big a part prisons play in the book. There are French, British and American characters in the book and we also get a glimpse of French, British and American prisons. It's interesting how different views people had around the same time about what confinement (and freedom) means. Heh, I know this isn't much of an argument, but find I'd like to give the two-time Booker Prize winner the benefit of the doubt and assume that he can whip up a story without the need to drag his previous home country into it. ;)

At this point I'm quite fond of Parrot, and I'm starting to think one of the aims of the book to make us like Olivier by the end of the story. I'm interested in finding out whether that happens... Every time Parrot and Olivier are brought together in some sort of conversation or interaction I'm intrigued, but there are stretches of the book that aren't that gripping. (And I agree completely with Will about "info-dumping". The structure is a bit challenging.)

Deborah | 982 comments Mod
The next section at least starts strong. It's getting better as we go. It's more fun than a tale of two cities.

Daniel | 739 comments Mod
Deborah wrote: "The next section at least starts strong. It's getting better as we go. It's more fun than a tale of two cities."

This discussion seems to keep going back to Dickens. Should I be worried? (big smile with hint of maniacal twinkle in the eye...)

Deborah | 982 comments Mod
Should you worry?


message 9: by Jeremy C. (last edited Aug 16, 2012 11:04PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jeremy C. (Jbolfrog) | 12 comments the inclusion of a side trip to Australia seems horribly contrived

I've been trying to place a finger on why I am really not liking this section... This helps me understand it a little better :-)

I've really enjoyed reading about the sociopolitical climate in France and about parrots youth with his father, but after having held on tight through the voyage from France to America, I wasn't excited to get back on a ship again! Maybe I'm just not fond of ships... :-)

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