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. I haven’t read the book or watched the popular 80s mini-series with Tim Curry, but knowing King’s propensity to write and write and write and write some more, I gather that the screenwriters pruned away the verbiage and streamlined the novel to its basic story about a bunch of kids in a small American town who are terrorised by a creepy, cackling clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård). Actually, make it half of the story, as the filmmakers split the novel into two cinematic chapters, with the follow-up a certainty now that this movie has made a mountain of cash.
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.