Tuesday, December 18, 2007

...And Legend Is a Dirty Old Man

Upon deciding recently that I'm too delicate a flower to watch the movie I Am Legend, I decided to read the book. Since it's very old, and a novella, and also currently a big movie release, the library system did not have a lot of help to offer me. So I ran over to Audible--and the whole thing is only 5 1/2 hours long, and well read.

So I've spent today listening to this misogynistic, sexually repressed and weird 1950s story. It's almost mind-blowing how this book dates itself by its ideas of sex and women--and this in a story that's basically a one man show. How much page-time do women get, you ask?

Well, I don't want to spoil anything, but enough. First of all, within the first ten minutes of audio, I commented to Mike that this man's life would be much happier if he'd consider touching himself as an option. Of course, that's just the book dating itself--a Man does not do that, or at least doesn't admit to it, even in fiction. But the vampire-women try to draw him out of his house by "striking lewd poses." His memories of his wife are not too bad, but he makes other comments, about how a normal man could never live a life of celibacy without completely turning off his sex drive and psychologically neutering himself.

Spoiler time, though I'm pretty sure I'm just spoiling the book, not the movie.

There is also a female character, who is not particularly strong--a decent number of hysterics, collapsing into tears, requiring slapping to calm her down. My favorite line, though, is when Robert Neville is still doubtful about her, and feels like he's being manipulated. Then he dismisses the thought, because she's "just a woman." I don't even know what this means. I mean, if you're going to be that demeaning toward women, don't you probably think that they're innately manipulative? I'm getting my prejudices confused.

End spoilers.

But I'm sorry that I had to begin with all that incredibly striking sex stuff, because around that, the story is actually pretty good. It's very psychological, and contains a lot of thought about the main character trying to keep sane, and sort of not doing a great job, and doubting that he's going to be able to keep going, and then somehow managing it. It moves in cycles, too--he doesn't just get better and better or worse and worse. The effects of time of his emotional state are pretty complicated, which is nice.

I'm enjoying the story. It has a kind of stark, simple style that seems very 1950s sci-fi, at least to my untrained literary judgment. And it's short, and I think the reader is adding a lot (though his women's voices don't help with the sexism thing, being breathy and limp). Still, I'm glad to be reading it.

Will I see the movie? It's hard, because I really want to, and I've heard that a large part of it, at least the first half, is quite good. But I think we've discussed here before my complex and delicate relationship with end-of-the-world stories. And I think that will always mean that I have to at least wait and watch them on video, so I can turn them off in the middle if I need to. Because I love Will Smith, and I can only watch so much of his suffering.

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