Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Illustrated Man - Ray Bradbury (Post Pt. 1)

I hadn't read a collection of short stories in a very long time and I was a little sceptical that this wouldn't meet my expectations. I wouldn't say I was an aficionado of science fiction in any big way (other than being completely enamoured with the David Tennant era of Doctor Who) so upon realising Bradbury is a leading light in the science fiction literary realm, my hopes were slightly dashed.
the illustrated man, the illustrated man book review, ray bradbury

But they needn't have been. Whatsoever. I loved it. I loved the idea of the Illustrated Man; a mysterious being with the most intricate and elaborate tattoos, each a vignette of what could be.
Bradbury's style is stark. There's a great dearth in detail and each story is stripped to the bare minimum - ironically in contrast to how vivid and complex the sight of the Illustrated Man is supposed to be.

This doesn't detract from the reader's enjoyment at all. The greatness lies in Bradbury's ability to haunt you long after the story ends. Some really chilled me, others made me think of the potential inevitability in his words. What happens if technology advances to the point where it can think for itself? What if we become so disconnected as a society that we can't see what it is right in front of us? What if we become so blinded by striving for the greater good, that we fail to realise the greater good is actually something rather sinister?

In particular, I loved "The Veldt" - a sinister tale of a children's playroom or 'nursery' with a mind of its own - and "The Last Night of the World"- a short retelling of a day in the life of a couple who learn that it is their last.

The dystopian, futuristic and outer space themes in the book really reminded me of 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust' and Bowie's excessive glam rock era. The idea of a fallen idol, who lived too fast and came to warn Earth of its impending doom really fit in with Bradbury's work.

david bowie


As each story is so different and unrelated from one another, wouldn't it be interesting for The Illustrated Man to be re-made, each its own mini-film or short, directed and produced by a different person? Each completely different in terms of interpretation and style. A different cast. Different score.

I'm thinking a lot of the Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus - I know there's only the one director in that case (I think Terry Gillam would be very apt!), but the idea of changing the actors for a single character is an interesting take; so a series of mini-casts would be endearing. I heard there are plans to re-make The Illustrated Man but this was circa 2007...


One of my next posts will be on a few connections I thought of between the stories in 'The Illustrated Man' to other literary works and film.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Father! Father! Burning Bright - Alan Bennett (Book Review)

I bought this book via eBay on a whim, having already purchased 'The Lady in the Van' - which I've yet to read but will post about soon! I've been a bit of a dilettante when it comes to Alan Bennett. The History Boys is one of my favourite films and the play really hit home with its portrayal of education fostering the ideal of learning for the sake of (and only for the sake of) passing exams; but I've actually yet to really delve into his exhaustive works.

alan bennett, alan bennett father father burning bright, father father burning bright book review
I've been pretty swamped with Uni work of late  - my final year project deadline loomed over me this week, and so whenever I needed some light relief, I whizzed through 'Father! Father! Burning Bright!' It really helped that this book was so dinky for being pocket-sized amongst hefty textbooks and the two packed lunches I had equipped myself with for the day's library session!

Midgley is a schoolteacher, facing the inevitability of his father's impending death and the frustration of him not actually.. well dying.

 I won't say much as this is such a short read, and anything else would be an unnecessary irritation of a spoiler. I will say that Bennett's infamous and expert handle on satire is unapologetic, stark and completely funny. I found myself stifling a small laugh every time I realised how blatantly Bennett calls people out on their prejudices, however harmless and benign.
Adapted from the TV film "Intensive Care" (starring Alan Bennett), the story moves swiftly from one scene to the next - and without warning, much like as if you were watching it on television itself.

It's rare that I find a book which will strike me as funny (in that I would actually laugh aloud), with 'Submarine' being the strongest contender (a recommended read!). This has prompted me to read more from Bennett - and possibly re-watch The History Boys. (Exam-time is approaching fast after all!) I've been wanting to read "The Uncommon Reader" for a good while now, though the ever increasing height of my "To Read" pile is warning me otherwise!

Are you an Alan Bennett fan? What are your recommendations?

Here is the first of 9 parts to BBC 2's "Intensive Care" via YouTube. (Link active at time of posting).

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Gregory's Girl Vs. (500) Days of Summer

"I’ll tell you something - and not a lot of people know this. We are clinging to the surface of this planet, while it spins through space at a thousand miles an hour. Held only by the mystery force called ‘Gravity’. A lot of people panic when you tell them that, and they just fall off. Don’t stop dancing or you’ll fall off." 

My go to feel-good film. Everything from Gregory's gawkiness to the grainy 70's camera brings a home grown, comforting quality to the screen.
Gregory's Girl is un-film like. It could easily be one of those special edition episodes of Grange Hill, with this week honing in on the unassuming Gregory.
  • Although it's a tale of unrequited love, it's devoid of the usual, protracted teenage angst. Gregory completely and unashamedly indulges in being in love - and he's no reason to believe it's anything but.
  • Stills from the films could easily be used in a 70s live-action comic strip. Cue speech bubbles.
  • Scottish accents.

This was originally going to be a post reviewing Gregory's Girl, and one of the points was that Gregory's character is a fore bearer for the boy in love with the notion of love - best and most recently depicted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer. Thinking about this for a moment, I realised there were more parallels between the two films.

gregory's girl, 500 days of summer, zooey deschanel, joseph gordon levitt
Gregory and Tom
Both are in love with the idea of love. Both project their hopes of happiness on one person and in both cases, it ultimately falls flat. The big difference is that in (500) Days of Summer, Tom allows these hopes to consume him, with everything else in his life paling in comparison. Gregory, on the other hand, is the opposite. Although guilty of the same thing, he's more resilient for it. He's happier for it. Nothing - not even the discouragement from his friends and family - dampens his spirits.
"A lot of boys and girls think their lives will have meaning if they find a partner who wants nothing else in life but them. "That’s not healthy. That’s falling in love with the idea of a person, not the actual person. I would encourage anyone who has a crush on my character to watch it again and examine how selfish he is. He develops a mildly delusional obsession over a girl onto whom he projects all these fantasies. He thinks she’ll give his life meaning because he doesn’t care about much else going on in his life."
 - Joseph Gordon-Levitt
gregory's girl, 500 days of summer, chloe moretz, joseph gordon levitt

The Little Sister
Words of wisdom come from a world-weary, younger sister. The older brother, the character assumed to have the experience if not the answers is the fool in love, the source of much exasperation for the little sibling. Growing up doesn't necessarily mean getting wiser. In fact, you become all the more foolish. And in Gregory's case, there's nothing too wrong with that - again you can actually be happier for it.

  ... & the ever present pessimistic friends
Oh ye of little faith. Always on hand for a sarcastic quip, a stark reality check and light relief which fails to provide the intended pick-me-up our milksop protagonist may sorely need but definitely doesn't want.

gregory's girl, 500 days of summer, matthew gray gubler, joseph gordon levitt


Bay City Rollers: I Only Want To Be With You
The Courteeners: Not Nineteen Forever
Oasis: The Girl In the Dirty Shirt
Bobby Vee: Rubber Ball
Mumm-Ra: She's Got You High
Oasis: She's Electric
Arctic Monkeys: Fluorescent Adolescent
The Searchers: Sweets for my Sweet
The Beach Boys: Help Me Rhonda
The Wombats: Here Comes the Anxiety
The Turtles: Elenore