Neil Gaiman has become one of my favourite writers over the years and I was happy to get my hands on this latest third collection of short trips into the weird, shadowy country of Gaiman’s mind. It never really occurred to me to compare him to Ray Bradbury, but in fact Gaiman’s short stories have the same effect on me that I had while engrossed in Bradbury’s fiction when a teenager – a pleasantly uneasy sensation of looking at the world in a distorted mirror, or lifting the fabric of reality to find some dark, strange, disturbing things lurking underneath. Gaiman’s imagination is just as boundless, and his voice as a writer is just as distinctive (his books on the whole have a lot more graphic sex, though not in this particular collection).
Another gem brought to my attention by the History Buffs YouTube channel. Directed by Peter Weir and adapted from nautical historical novels by Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander unfortunately didn’t make enough money to become a series, which is a shame. Maybe the long unwieldy name put people off; as far as terrible film titles go it’s no Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War, but unless you’re a fan of the books it doesn’t really sound like an exciting proposition, which is probably why I skipped the theatrical release myself.
Loosely based on a novel by Virginia Wolf, Orlando chronicles 400 years through the eyes of its gender-bending hero/heroine, played by Tilda Swinton. Born in the time of Queen Elizabeth I, Orlando is a young nobleman who becomes the favourite of the aging monarch, and is commanded to never wither and grow old. The film then moves through the four centuries as Orlando falls in love with a Russian princess, tries different careers including a stint as an ambassador to the Middle East, dabbles in poetry… and changes sex midway, awakening one morning to find herself a woman (Orlando’s calm reaction while observing her new body: Same person. No difference at all… just a different sex.)
“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
– Isaac Asimov
I watched this film once 20 years ago, after it swept the 1997 Academy Awards and famously became the object of hatred for Elaine from Seinfeld:
I didn’t share Elaine’s visceral loathing for the movie, but I remember feeling rather underwhelmed and wondering why on earth this film was praised so much. Then recently I found a DVD of The English Patient in Mum’s collection (she’s one of the many people who loved the movie), and thought I’d give it a second chance.
This big-screen version of Stephen King’s 1,200-page doorstopper is not great, but solid enough, and considering the overall woeful track record of King film adaptations, it can be counted as a success.
by Lorna Crozier
The white cat with sapphire eyes
can’t be colour blind
must see the world
Blue horses, blue light spilling
from the window, blue willows,
carrying bowls of bluish cream.
How beautiful I feel
all blue – shoulders, feet and hair,
the brilliant air,
between the moon and the white cat
sleeping under the apple tree
(the apples cold and blue)
will be the precise colour
of the cat’s dreams of rain.
I’ve read quite a few John Grisham legal thrillers over the years. At their best, they’re tightly constructed, entertaining, compulsive page-turners you can’t put down. At their worst, they’re… well like this dud of a book.
It starts off rather promisingly. Our protagonist is Samantha Kofer, a young associate working in commercial real estate who loses her job at New York’s massive law firm after the financial crash of 2008. With hundreds of lawyers left unemployable, even non-paying internship positions are hotly contested, but eventually Samantha finds a pro bono opportunity in small-town Appalachia, where she’s to provide free legal aid to the downtrodden. There she meets Donovan Gray, a fearless lawyer crusading against the Big Coal, companies whose strip mining practices defile the land and poison the local population. Oh and he’s young and handsome too, though an estranged wife and kid put a damper on a potential fling.
When this movie first came out, I must have gone, oh Jesus no, not another bloody animated film about cute talking animals, and skipped it. It however turned out to be a smarter and much more inventive movie than I anticipated, with the amount of social commentary that’s quite heavy for a kids film. While I found some of its messages rather muddled, Zootopia is a fun, charming, beautifully animated Disney flick that’s part fish-out-of-water, part mismatched buddies comedy, part detective whodunnit.
I got inspired by another blog to write about my first ever big solo overseas trip, which was USA back in April and May 2001, when I was 20 and a month away from the legal drinking age (not that it mattered since I’m a boring non-drinker anyway). I’ve travelled a lot since then, but your first independent trip always remains a rather special memory. I even dug out my travel diary, which was an interesting read in retrospective. For one thing 99% of it is written in Russian, whereas now my travel diaries are 99% in English, and it’s a bit sad to see how much fluency I’ve lost. And good lord it’s overzealous with descriptions; I spent three whole pages listing all the things I’ve seen at the American Museum of Natural History.