Saturday, July 26, 2008

C.S.Lewis - The Chronicles of Narnia (sort of)

I went to see the new Narnia film with my kids (obviously I'm referring to the two older ones only, duh) last week (the Prince Caspian one). It was great getting out and spending some time with them. They've been away with their grandparents for several weeks, and, well, one does miss them. Now, going to the cinema isn't really very "spending time with" anyone, but walking home afterwards and discussing the film and other subjects is. It was a lovely evening, and we didn't fight once during the 2K trek thankyouverymuch. We talked about the film, which they both really enjoyed, and they actually had some very insightful comments about how it differed from the first one. I had the little gripe that there was an awful lot of fighting, which gets boring in my opinion. Also, all the fights are bloodless so as to not frighten the kiddies - but that just doesn't really work. Massive big swordfight and it's OBVIOUS that folks (people as in humans this time! Not just the Witch's monsters!) are being slaughtered - but no blood on Peter's sword. Annoying.

Personally I've never been that enamoured with the Narnia Chronicles as books. Moralistic plodding towards a predictable end in my harshest opinion. Some days I'm more mellow though - I mean, I'd have loved them if they were the only fantasy around, but there's much better stuff (like Tolkien. I still haven't written The Tolkien Blog Entry, but one day I will...). And compared to that they fall very short of the mark. One of my home language teachers made me read The Horse and His Boy and I remember how dreary I found it. I re-read it as an adult and found it better than my memory of it - up until the point where Aslan starts playing mind games with the lad and "testing" him. I don't get that. As a Christian I find it not only overly blatant, but also depressing. So this is God, is it? Well, thanks. So in short I was rather pleased with how the first film didn't focus on the moral but instead went more gung-ho action. I didn't feel it did the story any harm whatsoever. In this Prince Caspian one it becomes more problematic though, as the issue of the murdering of humans should be addressed (why is it not an act of evil etc.). I'm sure Lewis has some explanation for it in the novel but I can't remember. Haven't read that one in years and years. And in the end when (STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON'T WANT A SPOILER) Susan and Peter get told that they cannot return to Narnia - the film offers no explanation, but I'm pretty sure there's some claptrap about it in the book, something about Susan using lipstick and not being pure enough anymore. Not saying they should have run with that explanation, but they should have put something more in I think. Now I had to tell Minima that it was because they were adults now, and only children could come to Narnia. I feel confident in stating that this is a good and true explanation, so I think they could have spelled it out in the film.

In other news I have 12 glorious work-free days ahead of me. It's hotter than hell, but we won't be able to cycle off to go swimming every day since mr Bani's bike got stolen. It hasn't been our year for bike safety at all - mine got stolen too this June and I'm now pedaling around on a new one. So we'll fill our days with rearranging the furniture in the living-room, and I need new glasses and a haircut. It's a busy busy life, isn't it. On the up side BBC Prime is showing Dr Who S2, which I haven't seen all of. With a bit of luck I might be able to compile a good reading list too. I've just not had any time for proper reading, and it's getting me down. Time to do something about that!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Marcus Zuzak: The Book Thief

This is the only book I've read for ages. Unless re-reading some Laurie King or Kathy Reichs while nursing Junior to sleep counts. I have been only working. *sigh* Also, one-and-a-half-year-olds never stop walking, so you can't sit peacefully and read when you ARE home. Or rather, out playing with them.

My sister lent me this, she said it was quite sad but not completely depressing. And so it isn't. It's about a young girl in Nazi Germany, just before the war. Her parents are dissidents, and she gets placed with foster parents (presumably forcibly, i.e. her mother is sent away afterwards). She becomes very close to them, especially her new father. He is also a bit of a dissident, who has repainted Jewish houses after they've been vandalized. (So why would they be permitted to foster children? Bit odd really.) He teaches her to read, using her first stolen book.

One day a Jew turns up on their doorstep. He is the son of Papa's friend from the trenches, and Papa has promised to help. They hide him in the cellar, and he and the girl become friends.

Okay, so the end is very sad. I do cry when the town gets bombed and all those people die. But on the whole I'm not tremendously pleased with this novel. I've been trying to pin-point why... I think it's due to a lot of small things. For one thing, the novel is narrated by Death. And I'm sorry, but I've read too much Terry Pratchett, so that just becomes weird. I keep reading Death's narration in small caps and expecting one-liners. (Well, the effect wore off after 2/3 of the book, but it was a persistent feeling.) For another, the author has written about Germans and their wartime suffering, but seems a little unwilling to admit this. He seems to feel a need to emphasise that the suffering of the Jews was much worse. And I can't help feeling that - yes? We know. Surely you don't think that Holocaust revisionists are going to read this and use your novel as proof for their mad "history" theories of you don't point out several times that the Germans as a collective were responsible for the concentration camps? I think I'm being a little unfair, but that's how I read it when I was reading it. I wanted a little more balance, somehow. A little more artistic daringness - I wanted Zuzak to dare to NOT compare sufferings, but instead just describe it. Because he is a very talented, a very good writer, don't get me wrong. Thirdly, I was annoyed with a slight preoccupation with throwing in some German words and then translating them. It annoys me. It's something people do who don't really speak the language but need to put bits in for local flair, and I think Zuzak's better than that.

It is recommendable though. A strong début (I think it's the début). Very.