Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mini reviews: The Farnsworth Invention and Luxe

So, on Thursday since there is a writer's strike, I decided to make my way through the slush of the rainy and disgusting weather that we were having to see a play. And not just any play, but Aaron Sorkin's new play. For the record, Aaron Sorkin was a senior my freshman year at Syracuse and I thought he was an untalented jerk. Fortunately for him, he turned out to be a better writer than he was an actor or a human being. I enjoyed Sports Night and The American President, but loathed The West Wing and I'm a huge Martin Sheen fan. So I was curious to see the play that had brought Sorkin back to Broadway after about 2o years.
The Farnsworth Invention is about Philo T. Farnsworth, boy genius, who was basically responsible for the boob tube that we all know and love. Actually, there were other inventors who were also working on television but Farnsworth was one of the first to actually make it work. All at the tender age of like 22. Apparently he invented the key lock in cars at the age of 12 as well. And he first designed his prototype for television at 14. But of course, David Sarnoff, the president of NBC/RCA, wanted his inventor/scientist to be the first to invent television so that RCA would own the patent.
The play is incredibly talky but very interesting even as it plays fast and lose with the facts. The biggest quibble that I have, and it's a big one, is that Sarnoff via Sorkin implies that a) Farnsworth lost the patent fight against RCA and b) that he never did anything of significance in his life after television, which is simply not the case. He also portrays Farnsworth as a drunk which is also not the case, at least not during the time period in the play.
While I can understand in the interest of trying to compress alot of information into 2 hours, I can't stand the way that the play ends. I think it's dishonest, and I think that Farnsworth deserves better than to be dragged up from obscurity and then maligned. So I have to give this a C+, which is my average for A for effort, D for delivery.
That's not the case with Luxe, the new book by Anna Godbersen, which is being touted as Gossip Girl in the 1890's. I was lucky enough to get an ARC from her publisher to read this week, and I flat out adored this book. If you love Libba Bray, than you will love Luxe. It's set in the same time period, but with out the paranormal element, and set in New York during the Gilded Age. The author gives you a peak into what it was must have been like to have been both old money and new at this time. It's more like Gossip Girl as written by Edith Wharton if you want to know the truth. And I think the characters are richer and have more depth.
The book is about Elizabeth Holland who discovers that her family is not quite as rich as they once were. She must marry Henry Schoonmaker, who's family is rich. However, her frenenemy Penelope Hayes is also in love with Henry, and Elizabeth loves someone else, who will surprise you. Then there's her rebellious little sister Diana. There's also a subplot dealing with Elizabeth's maid Lina.
I tore through this book eagerly and I can't wait for the sequel next summer. I don't even hold the fact that the book was published in conjuction with Alloy Entertainment against it. The book is in hard cover which I think is a mistake. I think it should have been published in trade paperback like Gossip Girl. I think asking teenage girls to pay over $20.00 for a book is never good. But that's just my opinion.
Still I would give this book a definitely A-. I'm taking off because I'm not really sure what Henry's family were getting out of the marriage to the Holland's, and why the father was so eager for it.
Thanks for reading,

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