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Nancy's Reads & Reels: “Mr. Peanut,” “The Queen of Versailles” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Ever wish you could ask the author of a book or the director of a movie what they were getting at? Read "Mr. Peanut" and go see "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and you might agree with me.

What a confusing novel. Mr. Peanut begins with David Pepin’s dream of his wife’s death. The detective investigating Alice Pepin’s death dreams of killing his wife and the other detective, Sam Sheppard, was accused of killing his wife. One-third of the book is devoted to the 1954 Dr. Sam Sheppard case. I remembered some of the facts in that case as it was big news at the time.

After I finished reading Mr. Peanut I wished that I could have a conversation with Adam Ross and ask him to explain his various plot devices—dream, reality and fact. It took me a good while to plow through 448 pages but I kept at it despite wondering where the story was going and feeling like I needed to reread the book to figure it out.

I was looking forward to The Queen of Versailles as a cautionary tale of what happens when the American dream runs amok and I have to say there was a certain amount of schadenfreude involved.

Jackie Siegel and her husband plan to build the largest private residence in America but their plans come to a halt when the economy goes bust. I was surprised to learn that Mrs. Siegel was a college graduate with an engineering degree. Mr. Siegel seems the stereotypical businessman who, as he says, wanted to build such a large home because he could.  Mrs. Siegel admits having eight children because she has nannies to take care of them. What makes people do the things they do? You won’t find out why the Siegels do the things they do from watching The Queen of Versailles but nevertheless it is interesting to observe their behavior.

Beasts of the Southern Wild was a movie we all looked forward to and I was thinking it might cast some light on people who lived through Katrina. Hush Puppy and her father live in complete squalor but somehow insist on remaining in this nightmare of a place after Katrina makes the place even more uninhabitable. What are we to think? That the father who is an alcoholic and abusive to his daughter is somehow heroic because, despite all, he loves his daughter and wants to continue living in this hellish place known as “The Bathtub.” The untrained actors did an outstanding job but the combination of fantasy and reality didn’t work for us.

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Julia Ewen August 15, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Moreover the advance teaser ads for "Beasts" called it "magical" and the still art in the print ads showed a waif against a foggy mysterious sort of background, leading me to think this would be a sort of cajun fairy tale or an excursion into fantasy. Far from it, it was a heavy handed whack in the face with unrelenting abuse, squalor, rigid denial and defiant self destruction. The child's survival despite the idiocy of the adults who are supposed to nurture and protect her is a testimony to nature's tenacity in the face of deptravity. But this movie was too long by about half an hour, and would have been better received if it had been honestly promoted for what it is. I emerged exhausted and disappointed.
Nancy Puckett August 15, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Thanks for your comment Julia. I'm not much into fantasy so maybe that's why I didn't get it.

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