Tuesday 25 November 2008

The Day Of The Triffids (1962): This movie really should have been a lot better. All the nuance and most of the menace of Wyndham's novel is drained away as a steel-jawed alpha male wanders about saving everyone's ass, incidentally crossing the English Channel by car. That's just the way steel-jawed alpha males who save everybody are! Meanwhile another steel-jawed alpha male, locked in a lighthouse with a screechy blonde wife, discovers a cure to the triffids! Oh, yay! Oh, piffle! The novel is really much better.

The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia (2005). Also should have been a lot better. The author has some nice notions - a delightfuly loopy alternative Mexico/Calfiornia with origami surgeons, mechanical tortoises, a paper woman, a baby prophet and so on and an initially good way of working themes of human loss and suffering into his whimsy. Then it goes all top-heavy with metafictional excess and adolescent angst over losing some chick. Maybe when Plascencia gets over Liz, or whatever she's actually called, and the Catholic church, and his own cleverness, we'll get a really good novel out of him instead of this often magnificent failure.

The Virgin In The Ice by Ellis Peters is just as good as it should be, which is to say, excellent, character-driven comfort food for the traditional mystery lover. Which would be me. I've always enjoyed reading about the 12th-century monk Cadfael's exploits, and it suddenly strikes me that I really ought to get the whole series. It's ideal for a rainy day, or those long, lazy sunday afternoons.

The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder was much better than I was expecting, although, to be fair, I really had no idea what to expect. I love the way the author weaves together a Pirsigish journey of a man and his son across Europe, albeit more lucid and wide-ranging, although possibly less original in philosophical content, with a truly weird and wonderful fantasy narrative. You'll never look at the joker in a deck of cards, or indeed, at a deck of cards the same way again. Some would even claim you'll never look at the world the same way again, and this book certainly does infect one with a certain sense of wide-eyed wonder, not without a modicum of critical thinking behind it.

Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata is just as good as Snow Country, which is to say brilliant, if a bit shorter.

That is all for now.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Last weekend, many Indians were all agog over the planting of our tricolour flag on the moon. It's a rather depressing sign of our continuing inability to think globally in a universe that continues to be vaster than any of our fleeting cultures, tribes or nations. It's a shame that no one's hoisted this flag there yet. Beautiful isn't it? Brings a tear to my eye.
(Found here.)
'Dated' is perhaps the lamest thing you can say about a book, movie, painting, song or poem. Of course it's dated; everything's dated, everything's a product of its time. Calling something dated only calls attention to how embedded you are in the matrix of your own non-privileged point in space-time; it only shows you up for the dated relic of your own time that you are.

What an odd concoction. The gazeteer at the end of Vol. 2 suggested that Moore was tired of the whole Victorian secret history adventures format and possibly wanted to apotheosise the cast and be done with the League. Instead, a sequel, where a randy, rejuvenated Mina and Alan run around some sort of post-Big Brother England reading about their escapades over the past century in a series of clever pastiches (of Shakespeare, Wodehouse and the Beats amongst others) and finally escape to a kind of metafictional paradise, The Blazing World.
Cripes, it's weird. At least Mr. Moore seems as jaundiced about doubleoh seven and his thuggish ways as I am. And possibly it requires a kind of genius to re-invent Billy Bunter, the owl of Greyfriars, as a rather pathetic old figure of tragedy.

Friday 14 November 2008

There's this thing called the Charter For Compassion going around. I think it's nonsense. Fundamentalism and intolerance have always been religion's most faithful attendants and no amount of feelgood whitewashing will erase that.

ETA: '...prayer really is the lowest form of literature. Desire and flattery are nowhere sung so nakedly.'- Don Paterson

Wednesday 12 November 2008

gnome more

Garden gnomes banned from church cemetery because they are 'unnatural creatures'

I think I just had an irony overdose.

Incidentally, I suspect my wife would gladly offer our garden as a refuge for homeless and cast-out gnomes. Heck, it might even bring down real estate prices in our neighbourhood!

Monday 10 November 2008

Fleeing from yet another colossal shitstorm, John Constantine falls in with a commune of back-to-nature mystics in Thatcher's England. Like a lot of Jamie Delano's Hellblazer run, it gets a bit over-written at times, and a lot of the layouts are pretty confusing, as if Mark Buckingham hasn't quite figured out how to master the sequential bit of comics art yet. The story itself is pretty cool, even if it dwells a bit too long on pagan revivalist rituals in Scotland. There's a rather cool engine of horror, so to speak, at the heart of the story that would work even without the social trappings. Much else in the story is a product of its time, which is fair enough, as it was written as a political and social satire - as much of Delano's run was. I think the series lost a lot of British-ness at later points, but on the other hand it did so under some very capable writers, so there's your classic half-full, half-empty comicbook fandom quandary.

The main part of this tpb is given over to Constantine's discovery of a serial killer called The Family Man, and his pursuit of the killer in vengeance for his father's death. There are other odds and ends fitted in, possibly to make volume, which I seem to remember being chucked in at the end of one of the other tpbs as well, so it isn't the most cohesive collection around. Still, it's good to see the whole of the Delano run finally being reprinted - a few years back Hellblazer fans were convinced this would never happen.

Again, there's some good stuff (Constantine senior calling his son a 'cheap, flashy little crook'), some suitably creepy stuff, a bit of overwriting and odds and ends of social satire (including a rather more benign take on soccer fandom, which shows up to much more sinister effect in Son Of Man, I think). As Constantine himself says, he's used to dealing with demons - humans are a bit different, so it's a nice touch seeing Johnny boy grappling with a non-supernatural demon for once, although I find the whole treatment of the serial killer psyche rather by-the-numbers and trite.

Friday 7 November 2008

My grandfather used to wake up at 4.30 every morning, meditate and then make coffee. This routine was repeated at 3.00 PM, when he woke up from his afternoon nap.

He made the best cup of coffee ever. Hot, sweet, strong. I used to tell him we should go into business and open a coffee stall. If there are gods, they're probably hovering around the kitchen door right now, waiting for him to pour out coffee for them. After which he'll sit them down and tell them how they can re-engineer their vahanas for better fuel efficiency.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Whose power shed round him in the common strife,
Or mild concerns of ordinary life,
A constant influence, a peculiar grace;
This is the happy Warrior; this is he
Whom every Man in arms should wish to be.

My grandfather is no more. These are lines from Character Of The Happy Warrior by William Wordsworth, one of his favourite poems. RIP.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

'And now it is all no more than a dream dreamt by Geoffroy Allen, in the night, next to Maou sleeping. The town is a raft on the river, where the oldest memory of the world is flowing. That is the city he wants to see now. He feels if he could just reach that city something would cease in the inhuman movement, in the slipping of the world towards death.'

-JMG Le Clezio, Onitsha

'He scarcely recognised himself in this moment of return. He was someone else. 'A man,' he thought, 'lying beside a window in an unknown house, in a village he could never find again on a map, a man who has seen so many people die, who has killed so many, who almost died himself and now observes this slender crescent moon in a milder sky.'

-Andrei Malkine, A Life's Music