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Cultural Round Up: October

I’m getting in early this month. My link for today is for the non-fiction afficiando – the countdown of the Top 100 Feminist Non-Fiction books. Much food for thought in there.

BOOKS

Chasm City Alastair Reynolds  This book has reinforced and totally confirmed me as a complete Alastair Reynolds fan. A stand-alone book set in the universe of the Revelation Space trilogy, it is engrossing and compelling. It draws on the fictional world of those books, but is easily accessible read alone, or could be read as a precursor. It took me a couple of chapters to really get engaged, but after that it was absolutely page turning. It explores very cleverly concepts of identity and memory, as well as privilege and boredom, madness, ambition and redemption. The writing is really taut and the characterisations completely engaging. It isn’t always an easy read, but it certainly is a compelling one. The idea of psychotic dolphins driven to madness and giant goldfish held for ever in some kind of stasis are amongst the fascinating science fiction images the novel generates. And the intelligence behind the writing is palpable. For any thinking science fiction fan, it is an absolute must-read.

TELEVISION

Rome Season 2 ep 1-8 [Some spoilers] Like the first season, this season is wildly uneven. I am yet to watch the final two episodes, but up until that point there have been episodes which have been totally engrossing and ones which were almost unwatchable. The bout of rape and torture across a couple of early episodes was frankly gratuitous and it took me a while to come back to it after that. I think it is sad they changed the Octavian actor – the earlier Octavian was one of my favourite characters, but his replacement is very unlikable. Which leaves one with few characters to actually like. It is slightly disturbing when you find Mark Antony one of the most attractive of the people you are viewing. It was nice to have actual battle scenes which were quite impressive, and the scene where Pullo kills Cicero is an absolute classic. However, it is a watch-with-caution affair, and I can’t say I’ll be rushing to a repeat viewing.

The Slap  ep 1-4 This is well-made, believably scripted drama, to a point. It has been well-casted, and the performances are terrific. However, and it is a big however, it feels all a bit stereotyped. Violent Greek man echoing his violent father; career woman who never wanted babies gets pregnant and dilemma ensues; hippie parents lax with discipline; young girl with father issues fixated on older man; over-bearing Greek mother, blah blah blah. The over-determination of the characters makes it feel all a bit contrived. It veers from feeling intensely real in parts, to some stereotyped display of archetypes in others. And again with the unlikeable characters. If the situation wasn’t so over-determined, it might feel a bit more convincing. And yet, somehow it remains quite compelling, particularly as I am interested to see how it will resolve itself. I will admit I have read the book. I don’t think though that the series has encouraged me to remedy this.

ART

The Big Draw National Portrait Gallery This was not so much an exhibition as an interactive day of activities. We took small boys along to check it out. We participated in three activities – building 3D “drawings” using cornstarch foam pieces, drawing to music and making a collaborative drawing with coloured dots. These were all fun, well-organised and had people to assist and lots of equipment available. Interestingly, there were almost as many adults and children building sculptures (see mine below) and the drawing to music was actually dominated by adults who actually had some talent (unlike myself).

While the activities were well organised, less good was signage or direction to other activities. I knew that according to the brochure there were other activities in other areas, but without helpful signs one felt a bit unsure about where to go. In the end we headed home after a couple of hours filled with these three activities, but I hope that if the Portrait Gallery does this next year (which I hope it does) it might be a little more directive about where one can (and should) go!

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