Category: fiction


80 days without a balloon

AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS by Jules Verne

(First published 1873)

 

51xoe02htcl._sx331_bo1204203200_To navigate the circumference of the globe in 80 days, Phileas Fogg and companions travel by trains, steamships, an elephant and a snow sledge but, to my surprise, never once use a hot air balloon.

This turns out to be one of the great literary misconceptions which derives from the liberties taken with the plot of the novel for the 1956 movie adaptation. The makers decided to plunder this visually spectacular means of transport from Verne’s earlier yarn ‘Five Weeks In A Balloon’. Many editions of the novel have compounded this error by misleading book covers.

Balloon or no balloon, it is not properly explained why Fogg recklessly decided to make the bet to embark on this improbable adventure. Prior to this, the predictability of his daily routines are highlighted. His travel experience consists solely of walking with a steady step the short distance from his home at 7 Saville Row, Burlington Gardens to London’s Reform Club in Pall Mall. Continue reading

Advertisements

MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS directed by Josie Rourke (UK/USA, 2018)
THE FAVOURITE directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (UK/USA, 2018)

fight the powerfavourites

Personally, I blame Harvey Weinstein.

Were it not for him (and similar monsters) the gender politics that drive these two royal dramas would have been quite different.

Both are contemporary, feminist-orientated dramas which play fast and loose with notions of historical accuracy. The tone and thrust of each is to resolutely present women centre stage and very much in charge of their own destinies. Men are there to service their ambitions or else conveniently sidelined. Continue reading

goodreads 2018.jpgSince 2014, I have set and maintained a relatively modest reading target on ‘Goodreads‘ of 50 titles a year. I find this website invaluable at the end of year when it comes to reviewing the books I’ve read.

Being gifted, and being thoroughly absorbed by, Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘The Buried Giant’ led me to a reappraisal of the Nobel Prize Winner. Up until then, I’d read only ‘Remains Of The Day’ and hadn’t been particularly drawn to his other novels. The slow, deliberate pace and absence of colloquial language put me off but now this actually drew me in. Perhaps it’s an age thing. Ishiguro skillfully takes the reader deep into the mind and, above all, the memories of his characters. The only novel of his I haven’t read is ‘The Unconsoled’. Aside from the uncharacteristically messy ‘When We Were Orphans’, I rated all of his works very highly.

Getting fixated on this male author sabotaged my resolve to read more female writers this year. By the end of the year only 20 of the 50 were by women. Of these, my two favorite novels, one old and one new, were Sarah Waters’ quietly subversive ‘Fingersmith’ and Gail Honeyman’s funny/sad study of loneliness : ‘Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine’. Continue reading

BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley (1931)

huxleyIn his foreword, Aldous Huxley wrote that “A book about the future can interest us only of its proficies look as though they might conceivably come true”. Unfortunately for us, his nightmarish visions are increasingly coming to seem all too accurate.

Almost half a century before the birth of the world’s first ‘test tube’ baby, Huxley imagined how “newly unbottled babes” might be used to “improve on nature” by replacing the need for parents and what he provocatively defined as the “appalling dangers of family life”. In the ‘new world’ human genes are manipulated to produce docile and efficient workers and consumers.

The promise of sexual freedom and the encouragement of promiscuity serves as a compensation for the absence of political or economic liberty. Dumb movies known as ‘feelies’ have an additional sedating function while a legal drug called ‘soma’ is taken to avert any lingering gloomy thoughts. Continue reading

Making time for Ishiguro

A PALE VIEW OF HILLS by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber & Faber, 1982)

paleviewofhills72436I can’t remember why , after reading and enjoying ‘Remains Of The Day’ in 1989, I didn’t follow this up by immediately seeking out other books by Kazuo Ishiguro. Maybe I was swayed by negative reviews of his other novels or perhaps I dipped into one without any real committment.

Certainly, if I had been looking for fast-paced fiction with a clear linear narrative structure I would have been disappointed. Ishiguro’s writing is built around emotional reflections rather than being preoccupied with standard plot-driven devices.

I have come to recognize that patience is a virtue when it comes to reading. Writers that are superficially accessible are usually the least rewarding. Thankfully, therefore, I’ve belatedly discovered how rich and powerful Ishiguro’s other novels are. Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: