Archive for February, 2007

The Meaning Of Night: A Confession

February 21, 2007

The Meaning of Night

So, this week’s book for my Book Club class is the massive 600 page hard back tome that is Michael Cox’s first novel, The Meaning of Night. This thing was 15 years in the making… and in my opinion, they were 15 years well spent. Cox’ novel is intricate, detailed, and exquisitely researched, and if probably the best thing I’ve read for this module so far. Okay, it coming along at the same time as me redeveloping an interest in steampunk, victoriana and historical stuff probably helps that, but the novel has more than enough goodness to carry it’s own weight.

The Meaning of Night is a dark tale of betrayal and revenge set in Victorian England, centring upon the life of the narrator, Edward, his discovery of his own secret past and most importantly, the way in which is fate intertwines with the poet and criminal, Phoebus Daunt. The is a heavy sense of fate to the novel, as the two men seem almost destined to be enemies. At early points in the novel Edward’s language seems to veer dangerously close to the melodramatic, and there is a feeling he may be over reacting just a bit about the wrongs Phoebus has committed… However, as the novel progresses, and the depths of betrayal in the novel are exposed, Edward’s theatrical bitterness is completely understandable. The final point of betrayal, while perhaps predictable, is heart wrenching none the less.

The narrator is a well balanced and interesting character, freely admitting his good sides and his bad. Considering that the novel opens with him murdering an innocent man just to see if he can, he has a bit of catching up to do in endearing himself to the reader, but Cox managed to pull this off, pulling the reader into the despair and frustration Edward suffers, as well as his hopes, across the course of his narrative.

If I’m going to be negative at all, I’d say that it’s not the greatest thing I’ve ever read, there are things that appeal to me more, but that is I think just a personal taste thing, because I struggle to think of anything actually BAD about this novel. Granted, my love of Lemony Snicket, which is often a pastiche of this style, made the some parts of the novel a little odd to read but that is just a minor quibble. Cox paints a beautiful dark portrait of Victorian England, with a stunning amount of detail and a very convincing voice. The story has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing and enough dramatic irony to make some of the darker moments all the worse. Edward is an interesting and sympathetic narrator, and his darkness is shown not just the be that of someone a bit morally challenged (as interesting as those characters can be) but of an honest, intelligent man having no other ways to react against his misfortune.

So, in short, Michael Cox’s ‘The Meaning of Night: A Confession’ is a compelling tragedy that is superbly detailed, elegantly written and very, very readable.

And I can’t wait to see what he does next.

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Paprika anticipation

February 14, 2007

Satoshi Kon’s (The guy behind Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers and Paranoia Agent) seemed to be making a sweeter, surreal but calm and charming film about lucid dreaming called ‘Paprika’, judging from the teaser trailer that went up late last year:

Version up on youtube

However, I just saw one of the newer trailers, and it looks like he’s keeping as messed up and brainmelting as I’d expect from this guy:

None the less, this looks awesome even if I have no idea what is being said or what is going on due to not speaking any Japanese. Subbed western cinema release please please please.

Time to be predictable

February 13, 2007

Yes, I know most people who read this have already heard me glee about this way too much and okay, so I’m going to miss it and have to download it due to prior engagements, but…

LIFE ON MARS SERIES TWO STARTS TONIGHT!!

Oh it will be nice. :)

Making myself draw 13/02/07

February 13, 2007

Because I still have horrific art block and a total lack of self confidence in my stuff lately. Grrr.

Anyway, here is a random sketch of Escabar (because he’s easy to draw, okay?) showing that he really doesn’t look very badass at all even when he tries to, and that he probably keeps that sheep around just to prove there is something in existence LESS badass than him.

Escabar is not very hard.

I do kinda like this idea though, might do a better version later.

Oh no it’s period costume D:

February 8, 2007

Okay it isn’t really, because that would require these to be actually accurate. But they are kinda fun. A combination of lacking inspiration, being very lazy, and having a book on English costume through the ages lead to me doodling Tudor inspired nonsense. And a doodle of Koruru to deal with the fact my costume book does not give very much of an impression of the shoes (and also because I’m lazy.)

Kinda shoddy HISTORICAL FAILURE

There’s some other really interesting stuff in that costume book so I think I’m gonna do more stuff like this when I’m struggling to think of something to draw each day.

I feel cheated.

February 8, 2007

WHERE IS OUR SNOW?

I want to get irrationally excited over minor weather phenomena like the rest of the UK!

(‘Oh god there’s a centimeter of white stuff on the ground STOP EVERYTHING OH GOD WHAT DO WE DO!?’ I know it makes us look like wusses to the rest of the world, but dude, SNOW!)

I seem to have a stupid art block today. I can’t think what to draw and it is annoying me. Hm.

The Island

February 7, 2007

Sadly I don’t mean the slightly naff but very fun film of clones and Ewan McGregor being crap and in peril (a genre I have an irrational like for) but the Richard and Judy advocated Victoria Hislop novel.

Which instead of being about medical clones, is about family history, and leprosy.

Yeah. Cheerful.

Now, I’m not someone who can’t hack unhappy stories and situations. 1984 is one of my favorite novels ever. But the problem I had with the Island and kept coming back to it… why the hell combine CHICK LIT AND LEPROSY? The novel had some very interesting parts to it, but then would spoil itself with fluffy love story stuff that you could TELL was only being done in order for something more terrible to happen and make you feel sorry for these characters. It’s not so much tugging the heartstrings at attaching them to a truck and trying to drive away, while screaming ‘LOOK BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE IT IS SAD LOOK LOOK’ at you down a megaphone with a big :( painted on the side.

Okay, it’s not REALLY that bad but I had to stay up till 4am getting it finished for class today, so I’m allowed to be a little melodramatic. (And it’s not as if I’m any nicer to my characters. Just hopefully I’m less fluffy about it.) Just in this book you almost get the sense of ‘if nice, get leprosy’ or generally get screwed over, and it’s hard to get the sympathy or hope for the characters because you know something is going to happen to knock them right back down. It’s almost infuriating with the crushingly NICE Maria, who really must have pissed someone off in a former life because, Christ, things are cruel to her. Though anyone would feel sorry for her when you combine the girl to her sister Anna, who made me want to slap her more than most literary characters are able to.

Oh, also, she wants you to know Lepers are people too and lots of people are needlessly bigoted and it doesn’t spread as much as people think. This is very true, and well worth saying but there’s only so many times it needs to come up. Not in a sense of the plot using it, that’s fine and dandy. I mean in the sense of the characters repeating it at each other continually. WE GET THE IDEA. It’s incredibly patronising. Even if we take into account this is ‘beach reading’, even less astute readers are going to get the moral without having it drilled in so much.

Whining aside, there’s some interesting stuff to the book, and some moments that did really grab me and engage me. it’s good to actually look at the subject, but the way it was handled, for a lot of the novel, just wasn’t really for me. ‘At last: A beach novel with a heart!’ the cover quote says. And that is what this is. It’ll make you sad, but not too much. It’ll make you happy, but not too much. It’ll make you think, but not too much. And so I think the thing I found most frustrating is that while it had the seeds of something quite good, it had the potential to be just that much more.

Viewing Matter

February 6, 2007

Today I have been watching (for ideas for my seminar paper) Brazil, which is an awesome Terry Gilliam film, and the final few episodes of Satoshi Kon’s brilliant anime ‘Paranoia Agent.’

I think I’m going to have to write a full review of that one for you people, just when I’ve had some more time to mull the series over as it was stunning. A really compelling and very unsettling journey into the weirdness and darkness of the human mind, and the things we do to our realities in order to cope with them. ‘Shonen Bat’, or ‘Lil’ Slugger’ as the dub calls him, is such an iconic character, not just because he’s got a great little design (and the whirr of his skates make a brilliant audio signature for him) but his place in the story is so interesting and complex. Something about the series really resonated with me and now I want to see the rest of Kon’s work.

Another thing I’ve been watching recently is FLCL. I got a very lovely box set of it for £35 (because at that price I think it was well time to break that ‘Oh, I’ll buy it if only it wasn’t like £60’ problem) and the series is still as great as I remember. Cool animation, brilliant soundtrack, and some of the best combination of bat-shit insane plot with utterly touching and human subtext in anime.

And then, in the future, there is a NEW SERIES OF LIFE ON MARS. 13th of February.

Oh, it will be nice.

Nice enough to eclipse that stunningly bad ‘Back in the nick of time’ pun on the posters.

I can’t wait. :)