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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Tuesday, August 2

Captain Fantastic

I’m not sure I cared for the title of a film we saw yesterday—Captain Fantastic. I’m certainly not sure why the director or producers chose that title. Viggo Mortenson plays a very special father to his six children, but I don’t think he merits being called “fantastic.” The opening shows us an overhead view of a vast forest. Then we’re brought down to see an antlered deer foraging in the trees. As the deer passes by deep foliage, a black-faced human leaps out to wrestle him and slit his throat. The rest of the black-faced tribe rushes to the spot, with the leader congratulating him and proclaiming him to be a man. He cuts out the deer’s liver and gives it to the boy to take a ritualistic bite. That’s pretty much identical to the rite of passage among many primitive tribes. The group then goes to a pond to wash away the mud and we see them for what they are: a man and six children living in an isolated place somewhere in the Northwest. We are then shown the rigorous schedule the father has them on, the intense physical training, the lessons they have on literature, history, philosophy, and language. The children have been taught to speak seven languages (even Esperanto), are able to define and discuss subjects as diverse as the Bill of Rights, sexual intercourse, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, and their favorite hero from the past, Noam Chomsky. Twice we hear them creating extemporaneous music together (and sounding remarkably good).
They’ve been taught that words are only words and not things to be ashamed of (so we hear a lot of F-bombs), that nakedness is a natural condition (as Ben explains to an old couple as he stands in full frontal nudity in the door of his bus), that formal religion is a haven for the weak and unenlightened (as Ben points out to the Catholic congregation at the funeral), that most of American society is a prisoner of fast food (as the children point out wondering why there are so many obese people) and material wealth (the huge, ostentatious house of Jack, the father-in-law), that The Man is leading society in dangerous directions. The children are happy to shout, “Power to the People!” and “Stick it to the Man!” because their father has taught them to honor individualism. He and his wife began this social experiment a number of years before, but we learn that she’s been hospitalized in a nearby city, suffering from extreme bipolar disorder. Then he hears that she’s killed herself, and the family wants to go to her funeral to say goodbye and see that her wishes for cremation are honored. But the father-in-law (Frank Langella), a very wealthy member of the Establishment, warns him that if he shows up he’ll have him arrested for child endangerment. And there you have the basic conflict. This family of outsiders doing battle with a society they don’t understand or want to join. The children are amazingly bright, but all their smarts are from books and their father’s words. And they are almost completely ignorant of any social behavior. The children are delightful as they debate on esoteric subjects with one another or with their father. The oldest, Bodevan, explains to a girl he meets on their trip to the funeral that all his brothers and sisters were given names to indicate their uniqueness—Keilyr, Vespyr, Rellian, Zaja, and Nai. After they kiss (he for the very first time in his life), he is so enraptured that he proposes to her (on bended knee no less) only to have her and her mother laugh at him. The movie is both funny in many ways, and deadly serious in others. I strongly recommend it, for the delightful six children and for the excellent portrayal of Ben Cash by Viggo Moretnsen, maybe not Captain Fantastic, but Captain Pretty-Damn-Good. There’s probably an Oscar nomination in it for him in 2017.
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