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A Thousand Acres as Movie is Melodramatic and Bogus

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A Thousand Acres as Movie is Melodramatic and Bogus


Perhaps Jane Smiley's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "A Thousand Acres" was a bit over-rated. For one thing, the book's "dark secret" seemed utterly implausible. I just didn't believe that the book's protagonist and narrator, a 37-year-old Iowa farm wife named Ginny, could have completely repressed the fact that her father had sex with her when she was 15 years old, night after night, for a year. For True Believers in "Repressed Memory Syndrome," this might sound like gospel: I found it melodramatic and bogus. Furthermore, the sensitive-unto-death narrative voice was dissonant and grating: Ginny came across as too intelligent and self-aware to be as clueless and numb as she was supposed to be.


Despite these major flaws, however, Smiley's au courant revisiting of "King Lear" had its virtues: keen insights into family dynamics, a stately, beautifully controlled pace and a weirdly chipper, let's-do-the-dishes-everybody quality that only heightened the ominous sound of fatal machinery grinding away beneath the ba...

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...w the subtler movement of Ginny's mind. Moorhouse halfheartedly tries to tell the story from Ginny's point of view, but she keeps going back to the external, epic vision. Instead of feeling like an epic, however, "A Thousand Acres" feels like a soap opera -- an impression not lessened by the soupy this-is-a-sad-scene music and the treacly voice-over that keeps telling us what just happened -- "going to court had divided us from each other." If Shakespeare spun a few times when Smiley's novel came out, he must be rotating like an eggbeater now.

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