Monday, April 19, 2010

The Talented Mr. Ripley

I could not get myself to finish the book. I’m not going to say it didn’t live up to it’s hype, although technically, the hype was for the film and not the book. The director of the adaptation (the trailer in the link is of bad quality, but the only one I could find), Anthony Minghella, had seen something great in the text, and I felt like I was missing it or not understanding the book fully (which at one point, I really wasn’t. I was confused about what Tom Ripley had to do to get away from the police and keeping track of each story he had for each person he pretended to be). I’m sure it was a great story for its time, and I’m sure that there are plenty of people in this generation who would enjoy the novel. But it was too dramatic and dry for the impression of the “ultimate bad boy sociopath” to come across and keep me in it’s narrative grip.

It is presumably 1955 (the year the book was published) and Tom Ripley, paranoid, anti-social and main protagonist of the story, is to all naked eyes a collector for the IRS. One night, while being on the watch for policemen that may come and arrest him for fraud, he is approached by Richard Greenleaf, a wealthy industrialist. Mr. Greenleaf asks Tom, as a friend of his son Dickie, to go to Mongibello in Sicily and persuade Dickie to come back to the United States and reunite with his father. Tom reluctantly takes the mission. In Mongibello, Tom meets the charming and handsome Dickie Greenleaf and his gentle, literary acquaintance Marge. From here, the story takes a slow dive into the dark, psychotic and unexpected, and we follow Tom’s attempt to use his intelligence and cunning to make it through it all.

I like to imagine that, since this novel was written over 5 decades ago, the story and Tom Ripley himself was written to appear dark and twisted to the national (or international) audience at hand. But now, I don’t think that the story moves fast enough. There is a lot of time spent on actions and interactions that are nothing more than casual talk contrasted by Ripley’s thoughts (him trying to figure out what to say to impress Dickie, what to say to Marge to push her away, how to get more money out of Mr. Greenleaf, etc.) Interest peaked at times when the homosexual theme of the story was brought up, particularly in the part where Tom is caught trying on Dickie’s clothes. The murders that occur also pulled me back into the story, as the descriptions of how the people are killed made me cringe sharply. But ultimately, I became confused in who had what story of which personality Tom was acting out, and there was no drive to continue reading or start from the beginning to figure it out again. So, I did not finish it.

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Bollocks, what's your bloody take on things then?