So, new look to the blog – I couldn’t resist the Hitchcockian-ness of it, particularly as one of my favourite ever pieces of academic work ever was a mash-up I did of Grace Kelly and Sharon Stone set to “Atomic Blonde” and “I’m a Blonde”. So much fun. Anyway, feel free to tell me what you think, noting that tags and comments are all now down the bottom.
This month I actually managed to get myself to the movies – more than once. A shock to the system. Also managed quite a lot of reading – partly powered by the fabulousness of the first featured book for the month. And so, to it… (may contain Harry Potter spoilers)
The Passage Justin Cronin Brilliantly imagined and rendered, this book does transport you entirely into another world which you can see, hear and feel. Characters are beautifully crafted – you understand them and what motivates them. Dark and terrifying at times, it also makes you hope and feel. The vampires (virals) are cleverly constructed with self-conscious reflexiveness, but they are also true creatures of real horror. The first third of the book, the lead-up and immediate aftermath, is incredibly compelling; the sense of anticipation and dread which is built is amazing. In the middle section it takes a little while to see where the story is going, but the characters and the world created are enough to keep one reading. The second half of the book is a more traditional and recognisable narrative form, but nonetheless beautifully and compellingly written. It is also interesting how the book does not answer all your questions, and there are some ends which are not tied off – enticingly, not annoyingly though. Completely recommended unless you frighten easily – definitley the best book I have read this year. Also, some useful lessons for both zombocalypse planning and viral experimentation for the future.
The Camel Bookmobile Masha Hamilton This book appeared extremely interesting in concept – the story of a lending library which visited Kenyan villages, but sadly suffered in the execution. The first problem was that Hamilton chose to write the chapters from the perspectives of different characters – a device I am normally all in favour of, but in this case was somewhat excruciating at times. There was something hideously patronising about the American-journalist-writes-in-guise-of-15-year-old-Kenyan-tribesperson. I am sure that it can be done well, but clearly the book was what the author thought a 15 year old Kenyan should think, rather than what they actually think. The first few chapters had me wincing, and even the American do-gooder who drags her volume of Irish poetry with her was hopelessly stereotyped. Later the book did question some of the assumptions made by the American about what was good and what wasn’t, but it was sadly very post-colonial and patronising. The best I can say was that it was easy to read and mildly entertaining, when you could get past the wincing bits. Overall though, I’d recommend Masha sticks to journalism.
Kung Fu Panda II This was an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours with small boys. Not quite as clever or funny as the first (I still love the opening sequence of the first one as much as virtually any other children’s film section – except perhaps that bit of Up which makes me cry) it still captures the essentially entertaining-ness of the characters. Cleverly recruiting some Kung Fu veterans for some of the voice roles, the action in it is amazing – stunningly choreographed for all that it is animation. It also continues the theme of family and belonging and what this actually means. Definitely worth it, unless you have objections to cartoon violence.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1 I had not managed to see this at the cinema, but decided I should view it before seeing the second half at the cinema. It is an unremittingly bleak film, but I guess this is the fault of base material. In fact, it is much better than the book in that I didn’t just want to slap Harry and Ron and the interminable wandering about in the forest which occurs is slightly less dire than in the book. In fact, the film, unlike the book, never actually made me think of skipping over bits to get to then end. So while I think there was nothing completely amazing about the film, it did a good job of capturing the despair of that period without making it annoying or dull.
Harry Potter Part 2 So this half of the final book has rather more to offer than the first part in terms of interesting action and entertainment with the excursion to the goblin bank and the battle at Hogwarts. Let m say I loved the dragon and the stone golems. Again, like most of the latter films of the series, I think it tells the story better than the books – the books became rambling and undisciplined, whereas the films, with the requirements of limited time etc, manage to capture what is great about the stories of the books without their less endearing meanderings. My only real disappointment with the film was that I didn’t think it did enough justice to the rehabilitation of Snape. This was such a central part to the whole series – is Snape evil or not – that I think that the answer to this could have had a couple more minutes’ attention, and been just that bit clearer. Also there is the epilogue. Let me just say – Ginny’s hair?! A crime against the story. Similarly Hermoine as buttoned up seemed a bit unfair to her. But other than that, and enjoyable end to the series. For some more critical analysis of the role of Hermoine in particular, see Think Progress.