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January 10, 2005 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-01-10

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8A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, January 10, 2005

ARTS

Naipaul loses his
'Magic' in new work

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By Melissa Runstrom
Daily Books Editor
As the recipient of the Nobel Prize

in Literature for
2001, V.S. Naipaul
is a well respected
and notable author.
Yet his latest work,
"Magic Seeds,"
will leave readers

Magic Seeds
By V.S. Naipaul
Knopf

wondering what all the hype is about.
This novel chronicles the second half
of Willie Chandran's life. The character
was first introduced in "Half a Life," a
standout novel in Naipaul's career.
Willie's passive nature allows his fate
to be determined by others. He travels
to India, for example, simply because
his sister arranges everything for him.
The story ultimately is about Willie's
interpretation of this life.
Willie spends seven years in the
jungles of India doing work for a post-
colonial revolution he never really
understands. Afterwards, the middle-
aged man finds himself in jail before
he is ultimately released to London and
a life he describes as "an endless prison
sentence."
As an aging man approaching the
end of his writing career, Naipaul had a
wonderful opportunity to create a story
that could have made a lasting impact
on his audience. Instead, his writing
lacks clarity and focus, failing to live up
to its potential.
Throughout most of the story, the
main character and the reader wander
a seemingly aimless path. This could
have been used as an effective device,
but Naipaul fails to fashion Willie's
drifting into anything meaningful. At
the end of the story only a single quote
points to the direction the novel should
have taken some 80 pages before. "It is
wrong to have an ideal view of the world.
That is where the mischief starts."
Most of the supporting personalities
in the book develop slowly, and with
the exception of Willie's sister and his
lover in England, they do not improve
the story much. The last 100 pages of
the novel seem to drag on, and don't
do the main character justice. Also in
these last flawed pages there is a point-
less and lengthy chapter about a poorly
developed but intriguing character,
Roger. This chapter ultimately falls
short because Naipaul doe. '-elia

nate the distance between Roger and the
reader. Roger's side-story could have
been a powerful addition to Willie's
development, but instead his affair with
a lower-class women manages to miss
something critical and comes across as
unnecessary.
Naipaul doesn't fail entirely with
"Magic Seeds," though. He manages to
create some memorable imagery and
beautiful prose at parts. The author
also does an excellent job illustrating
the differences between the intent and
result of one's actions. Willie and the
members of his revolution end up dis-
regarding the needs of the peasants,
even though it is supposed to be their
movement. Along the same lines, he
successfully and subtly illuminates
the hypocrisy of leaders who only
want control but spout utopian ideals.
Willie is a fully fleshed-out character,
and despite some difficulty getting the
reader there, his time in India is some
of the best drawn in the novel. As he
enters into the revolution, readers see
Willie's motivations. Unfortunately as
he begins a new life in London, there
are few such insights.
Overall, "Magic Seeds" is a disap-
pointing adventure. Nearing the end
of his career, it is unfortunate that
Naipaul couldn't expand upon his past
success to create a memorable story
about discovering the meaning of
one's life. Readers will end up disap-
pointed with a long, rather pointless
story. The novel truly had potential,
which is regrettably the most stirring
aspect about "Magic .

"You wanna beer?"

EWHITECTRASH
KEATON SLUMS IN POORLY EXECUTED THRILLER

By Karl Stampfl
Daily Arts Writer

If nothing else, the tepid horror film "White
Noise" proves that the supernatural does exist

and is currently running ram-
pant in Hollywood, because
nothing in the real world
could have persuaded talent
like Michael Keaton ("Bat-
man") to make this movie.
"White Noise" is based on
a relatively fresh idea, Elec-

White Noise
At the Showcase
and Quality 16
Universal

throw in a few jumps, a couple gallons of blood
and a basic twist ending and you've got yourself a
respectable horror movie. No one's expecting the
second coming of "The Exorcist." But about the
only scary thing about this film is the immense
amount of talent and energy wasted by director
Geoffrey Sax ("Sleepers").
One of the film's only redeeming qualities
is Keaton's performance as a grieving husband
who's driven to contact his recently-deceased
wife. Swimming in an ocean of bad lines, he
keeps his head above water with a halfway com-
pelling effort. Another high point is the respect-
able cinematography, which has an oddly jarring
effect that could have been scary if the film had
any substance.
Most of all, the pacing is off. The first three-
quarters of the movie are void of chills and thrills,
probably because they're all packed into the last
20 minutes. The filmmakers were clever enough

to include a twist at the end, but unfortunately
the twist is mundane and predicable. When the
credits roll, the first reaction by some may be that
the ill-conceived ending ruined the movie. By the
time the lights come up, it's obvious that the film
had already ruined itself long before the ending.
Part of the movie's aim is to convince view-
ers that EVP is legit. Of course, like just about
everything else, it doesn't work. And after this
movie, even if EVP is real and currently being
practiced in the basements of America, no one
will care.
Despite all the evil electronics, "White Noise"
wouldn't be frightening even if watched in a
Radio Shack. The film pales in comparison to
horror classics like "The Shining," falling to
establish any true terror. If there had been more
jumpy moments, maybe something would have
been salvaged - at least you would have a reason
to grab the hand of the girl next to you.

tronic Voice Phenomena (EVP), which affirms
the ability of the dead to communicate with the
living by speaking through the static of televi-
sions and radios. It shouldn't be hard to craft an
exciting thriller from such a novel premise - just

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