Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) and Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) are step siblings, united in their love to manipulate and destroy the people around them, a skill they have so artfully mastered that their ploys don’t fall back on them. Both have a new project: Valmont is trying to seduce Annette Hargrove (Reese Whitherspoon), the new principal’s daughter, who is widely known for her chastity pledge and that before school starts. Kathryn, on the other hand, is looking for revenge on an ex-lover who just dumped her for the naive Cecile (Selma Blair). So she enlists Valmont’s help to completely corrupt Cecile.
I was 14 when Cruel Intentions came out, 15 by the time I saw it the first time and I think that it is one of the defining teen movies of my generation. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good film, though it definitely does have its strengths, but it is very hard to view it separately from its influence.
When I was 16, 17 years old, Paulo Coelho became one of my favourite writers because of The Alchemist. I was in Brazil on a school exchange programme and trying to find my way through and my place in life and spirituality. It was the perfect book for this. I still like it a lot. I also very much like Veronika Decides To Die which I read about the same time.
Now, it’s been a while since I read one of his books, so when I started The Zahir last week, I didn’t really remember how he writes but the feeling I got from the books I read before. Which was always a rather reassuring, the-world-is-good and everything’s-gonna-be-fine feeling.
As you might guess after this introduction, The Zahir didn’t leave me with this feeling. Instead I felt surprised, angry and absolutely flabbergasted because of his pretentious statements and the general “I am so humble although I know so much” [which isn’t true, in case you didn’t guess] crap. Seriously, about every third sentence provoked a heartfelt “BULLSHIT!” on my part. [For a woman, sex is not the most lustful part in a relationship, it’s feeding the man and children. Fanaticism comes from the doubts that live in men’s souls. etc. etc.]
But I can live with statements I don’t agree with [otherwise I would live in pretty lonely world], especially in books and movies. Under two conditions: It fits the character and the story and it’s not praised as universal truth (unless again it fits the character to proclaim it so). [Those rules also apply to statements I agree with.]
Both were not the case here, I’m afraid.
This book changed two things in my life:
Paulo Coelho will go off my favourite writer’s list.
I will never be able to read The Alchemist or Veronika Decides To Die again because I’m afraid that they were written in the same style and I haven’t noticed because of my age and general position in life when I read them.
There’s a new, German version of The Wave by Morton Rhue/Todd Strasser (Die Welle) coming to the movies. A book probably every child in school in Europe and the US had to read. Let’s see if that improves the popularity.