August 8th, 2010

Baby and me
  • ed_rex

Re-reading and re-viewing: E. Nesbit's The Railway Children

Time travel is fraught with terrors, personal time travel most of all. Whether it is in the discovery that one's ancestors were criminals and murderers, or only that one's youthful tastes weren't as sophisticated as one thought (see note #74, on The Secret Garden here, for one example of that phenomenon).

My own childhood favourites include a surprising number of Brit-lit classics. Lewis Carroll and A.A. Milne, of course, held pride of place, along with the likes of Kipling's Jungle Books, Lang's Yellow Fairy Book, Edward Lear's nonsense poetry, Graham's Wind In the Willows, Barry's Peter Pan, Edward Ardizzone's marvellous Little Tim books and the Lonsdale/Turner translations of Tintin (just off the top of my head).

And E. Nesbit's now-105 year-old classic, The Railway Children, which I recently pulled from my shelf, starting another voyage into my own deep past.

"'Only the rats!' said Peter, in the dark." (Read more ...)

the society of others

I initially thought the ending was underwhelming given that amazing build-up, but upon reflection I thought - how else could it have ended? This novel is written by dramatist William Nicholson, who also co-wrote the script for Gladiator. You could clearly see the talent in the language. The plot is comparable to The Catcher in the Rye, only our Holden Caulfield in this story chooses to remain nameless, and experiences danger so real and so disconnected from his life that it has the power to either scar him permanently, or change his worldview for the better. Our world-weary protagonist is a young man living in England who would rather lock himself in his room than deal with the hypocrisies of society:

"My friend Mac is going to be an aid worker in Nepal. This is hilarious because all the aid they need in Nepal is getting out from under all the people like Mac who've gone there to find meaning in their lives. They've sucked all the available meaning up and now there's none left for the Nepalese, who have nothing to do except carry explorers' bags up mountains and sell them drugs. Mac says he doesn't care, at least he'll see the mountains. I tell him the thing about a mountain is when you're on it you don't see it. You need to be far away to see a mountain. Like at home, looking at a postcard. Mac says you stand on one mountain and look at the next mountain. I say, Then what? Mac says, You're a real wanker, you know that? Yes, Mac, I'm a real wanker. The genuine article. A simple pleasure that does no harm to man or beast. Be grateful."

...

''It's like fish. Fish swim about all day finding food to give them energy to swim about all day. It makes me laugh. These people who hurry about all day making money to sell each other things. Anyone with eyes to see could tell them their lives are meaningless and they aren't getting any happier.''

He is angry, but I also sensed a deep-seated unhappiness, a disillusionment: "When I was small I thought the world was like my parents, only bigger. I thought it watched me and clapped when I danced. This is not so. The world is not watching and will never clap." Well, then. His father introduces an addition to the family: a baby with a younger woman. This is the straw that breaks the camel's back. Next thing we know our young protagonist is hitchhiking in an unnamed European city, and ends up in the midst of dystopia. The driver of the vehicle he rides in breaks through a checkpoint, and he runs away. From where he hides, he sees the man being tortured. Later he learns that the contraband material the driver is sneaking through the border isn't drugs, or porn, but books. Why?

From here on the novel reads like a thriller. Every now and then the protagonist finds himself debating with other characters about philosophy, and ideology, and faith, and poetry, but the action moves forward. Forward and fast. The narrative has a dreamlike quality that I love.

Read an excerpt.

labyrinth // book

Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume I

Title: Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume I
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Art and Adaptation: Young Kim
Ideal Age Range: Young Adult
Mass Market Paperback: 224 Pages
Blurb: When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret... Beautifully rendered, this first installment of Twilight: The Graphic Novel is a must-have for any collector’s library.
My Rating:(★★★)