Thursday, 14 January 2010
Home is a cold island.
Recently I found myself at the beginning of a long flight back to the UK without any more reading material. This could be a real problem for me, and honestly it almost never happens, but I thought my 14 month old- from now on known as BabyReader-would take up more of my time than she did thanks to some very gracious God-parents. I was faced with no book and 14 hours of travel ahead of me, so I found this little one in the airport.
It’s a book about reading books, which I seem to like, don’t ask me why. It’s also vaguely historical about the results of Guernsey and Britain in general after the Second World War, written in letter form (had I known that I would have never picked it up, honestly), and almost everyone in it is at least 40. Think ‘Bridges of Madison County’, set on a dairy island after the war. Everyone in the book seemed to be recuperating from a very long sickness, which is what occupation must have felt like.
The driving plot is basic. A woman who has written one popular book is looking for her second when she begins corresponding with a fellow on Guernsey about Charles Lamb. She decides to write about the literary society on the island that they accidentally created during to war to hide the actual dinner party they were having from a hidden pig. It continues with stories of people who had never really read before finding solace in books. Of course there’s a little conflict and some romance put in for good measure and a heavy dollop of whistfullness but it never gets overly sentimental.
The most remarkable bits don’t really fall into the plot, they are little stories about life both the great and small. The bit about Christian, a German soldier who was kind and generous is delicate and believable. Funny stories about a woman who reviews her own cookbook or a man who only reads Seneca over and over are interspersed with stories meant to purge oneself from the horrors of war and lovely moments like discovering Austin for the first time or learning phrenology. There are even a few things that don’t have to do with books, for the very picky!
It was light, but not flimsy and a very nice way to come home.
Friday, 8 January 2010
Sometimes you don’t want to read, or our brain is too muddled, when this happens I watch movies based on books and pretend that someone is reading to me. First off, I'm not going to explaxin the plot of the little prince. If you haven't read 'The Little Prince' stop reading this, in fact stop whatever you are doing at all unless you're driving, of course (why are you reading blogs while driving?), and go read 'The Little Prince'. Are you back now? Good
I was all geared up to watch this movie shouting at my television. As much as I wanted to believe it was possible, I couldn’t imagine how a movie could capture my favorite space boy. I was not wrong. The movie preaches in a way that the book never did and paints allegory with a very thick brush. No child would stay interested in the story and no adult could sit through the songs without hiding behind the sofa, and not in a good way. We will talk about to the title character later. First for the peripherals:
Planetary: The other planets all have their own versions of adults and they are given very quick and quirky moments with the prince who is flown to and from by a flock of paper birds. None of the men are particularly memorable or well shot. They all quickly get to the point that children won’t understand ‘the important things’ and then we’re off. We see the King, the Accountant, the Historian, and General all singing about obsessing over very grown up things. Oh, I didn’t mention this is a musical, well it is, and although the songs are written by the same pair as My Fair Lady, none of them are very good but two are saved by their actors, (notably the fox and the snake). Sadly we miss the Watchman, the only adult whom I loved.
Terrestrial: Here on ‘dirt is it, or soil, I can never remember…no, no, Earth, that’s it!’ We have a snake, a fox, a pilot and at the beginning several grown ups who can’t tell a boa constrictor digesting and elephant from a hat.
The Pilot has the majority of the unfortunate songs, some sung while flying an old fighter jet Red Baron style, which is best described as ghastly. When not crooning, he’s sweet and very fragile so I am willing to forgive him. He’s the mix I had always pictured of gritty and angry and innocent with a touch of melancholy that I never saw before, probably because I was too young. Of course he also gets the only worthwhile song ‘I’ve never known a rose’ which is actually quite beautiful in the old Camelot way.
Bob Fosse himself(!) plays the snake and, while he can’t sing really, the man slithers and slides and is just so smarmy as to be the perfect snake. It’s best to watch this part on mute. He gives our little hero his escape route back to his planet with one sting ‘it’s practically painless’
After the snake comes the fox, to teach about being tame but in between the two is the saddest scene in the world. Sure I’m overly emotional right now, but I really did cry like a child in timeout for something he didn’t do. Le Petite Prince stumbles into a garden full of roses just like his. ‘I thought I had the most beautiful flower in existence, but all I had was a common rose and three volcanoes that come up to my knee, and one of them was extinct at that. That doesn’t make me a very great prince at all’.
Poor boy is a few steps away from becoming the accountant, worried more about owning than having and is saved only by our dear friend the fox played by Gene Wilder. In another cringe-worthy song the fox very thinly disguises love while obstencably singing about how to tame him. The whole disney moment is only made sweet by how fragile and skittish Mr. Wilder is. Eventually the Prince must leave the now tamed fox to look for a way back to his flower, which I’m going to have to say something about now.
The Rose: I was shocked I tell you Shocked at the Rose, not because she was bad, but because I never understood her before. She attracts our poor prince to her through beauty and then manipulates him into giving her whatever she wants and then she still complains. We don’t like her. She’s also not wearing a whole lot of clothes, but I can’t really explain that. I never really understood that the prince, a child in so many ways, leaves, without an excess of emotion, in order to flee his harpy of a flower only to find that he loves her and is willing to do all she asks because of it. Make of that what you will.
Le Petit Prince: He looks just as I want him to, he sounds (except for the singing child tragedies that really aren’t his fault) just as I would like, and he cries so perfectly. All in all I love him and he feels nothing like a child and nothing like a grownup. He is wise and loving and knows exactly what is important and can see sheep through the holes in a box drawing. He understands only the most important things and ignores the rest.
The Little Price should perhaps have stayed on the beautiful pages of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and it remains one of the best books to read when you are feeling a little too much like a grownup who talks ‘only of the weather and stock market and neckties’. And of course, if anyone were ever to call you ‘a very reasonable fellow’ by all means dive right in.
Monday, 4 January 2010
I shal be bold and I shal acknoledge the adventure I am on. If I am not having an adventure, I will redefine my deffinition or redefine my life, whiever is more difficult.
To start off a hopefully more productive year, I give you Wendell Berry and the Mad Farmer Liberation Front.
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion - put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Please note that while I have been on a poetry kick, this may not last and who knows what I may find to read next, a ticket stub or assembly guide from IKEA.