Sunday, May 15, 2005

Ass Backwards

Normally I'm one of those who likes to read the book before seeing the film; it didn't work out that way with Remains of the Day, and simply by chance. I know several people who loathe the film because they read the book first, and any fidgeting with the story was in their view execrable. Because the film is one of my all-time favorites, I was concerned to read the book because I might find something objectionable in the Merchant Ivory treatment, and then where would I be?

But I didn't and I don't. The novel is simply spectacular and is perhaps one of the most perfectly balanced I've read. The character Mr. Stevens is so pitiable, so damnable, so worthy of contempt and compassion--Ishiguro's achievement is marvelous.

There are small deviations in the film from the novel, but I don't see that Ruth Prawer Jhabvala could have done any better. I love them both. You can read this in four hours, and you should immediately.