Friday, May 11, 2007

Everything I Consume: The Manchurian Candidate

For the first hundred pages or so of this book I felt it belonged to the subgroup of books that are inferior to their movies. However, it picked up markedly once Marco comes back into the story. By the end I was totally engrossed even though I had seen the movie many times and knew the ending. Author Richard Condon has a weakness for five-dollar words when none are needed like in the opening paragraph:

It was sunny in San Francisco; a fabulous condition. Raymond Shaw was not unaware of the beauty outside the hotel window, across from a mansion on the top of a hill, but he clutched the telephone like an osculatorium and did not allow himself to think about what lay beyond that instant: in a saloon someplace, in a different bed or anywhere.

Osculatorium is medieval Latin for a tablet that is clutched during Mass. Medievel Latin! I don't know why we care about Raymond Shaw so much. In the original film I'd say it was the acting on Laurence Harvey but this sympathy comes through in the book as well. He even provokes sympathy in his Chinese captors who take pity on him every time they force him to kill someone.

Finally, an issue with the cover. The Manchurian Candidate is not a film with Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep. It is a film with Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury.

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