Monday, 14 April 2008

There once were four children...

Time to kill today, so to the Natural History Museum to see the stunning Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition. To be recommended, to say the least, but get your skates on, because it finishes on the 28th April. That thurr is the winner, by Mr Ben Osborne. Lovely, I think you'd say.

But what I REALLY wanted to talk about, REALLY REALLY, because I seem to be mildly obsessed with it, is the upcoming Prince Caspian film. And I'm going to bloody well talk about it, although I'm well aware that this may be the death of any credibility I may have (a) as a serious blogger and (b) as a serious literary type.

Because OMFG and cor blimey, this looks like FUN. Oooh yes. Swords? Battles? Pretty, pretty boys? A slightly controversial author leading to much frothing in the newspapers? BRING. IT. ON.

There are those who love C.S. Lewis, and there are those who hate him. I'm firmly and unapologetically in the first camp. As a child, I had The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn-Treader on tape, Caspian the BBC dramatised version (with all sorts of famous people I didn't recognise then like Richard Griffiths) and the other two read beautifully by Michael Hordern. And I listened to them almost every single night (when I wasn't listening to Just William or Alice in Wonderland or The House at Pooh Corner). I loved them then, I love them now. I just need to hear the opening bars of the music, let alone the first lines (one of which appeared in my First Lines Quiz) to send shivers down my spine. I thought the books magnificent, and still do - magical, awe-inspiring, beautifully written, and resonant as only a book you know from childhood can be.

People don't like it because it's misogynistic, or because it's Christian, or because the plots aren't exactly ground-breaking. But because I came to it so young, I missed the misogyny and the religion, and even now I know, I wouldn't change it. I am not one to censor a work of art, when the bigotry is symptomatic of the era in which the work was created - and anyway, it isn't unbearable. And ditto the religious symbolism which has so many people hot under the collar. It seemed an appropriate analogy, nothing more. And it still doesn't bother me. I see nothing wrong with Christian allegories, or allegories of any sort. What does it matter that an essentially admirable sentiment (that of sacrifice and selflessness) is reinforced? Zoe Williams says it all a lot better than I do (quelle surprise), so read her article here. Anyway, I was always a lot more bothered by the fact that they spend twenty years or so in Narnia, growing up, going through puberty, and then they stumble back through the door and are children again. Imagine having to go through puberty twice! And would they die twenty years younger, because of those twenty extra years they lived? That to me is a hundred times harder to reconcile than the Jesus-lion.

But all of that is totally irrelevant, really. After all, my reaction to the first film was mixed. Faithful to the book, but somehow lacking any emotional punch - possibly because the best bit of the book, the narration, was necessarily absent - and a sort of rubbish, poor man's Lord of the Rings, made bearable by the strong performances of the children. It improved on the second viewing, but not by much - more a fun, rainy afternoon film than an Oscar winner.

Fact is, I'm stupidly excited by this film for no other reason than because it looks really cool. There you go. It doesn't matter much what the book is, it just looks like the film will be fun. It appears that a miracle has happened, and I've achieved the literary type's nirvana - separating an adaptation from its original and enjoying it regardless. S'pose it's doesn't hurt that I never liked Prince Caspian as much as The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, so although it's a good 'un, there's less to be disappointed by. And because this kind of film is always fun, with lots of dashing about and battles and sword-fights, and a stonking plot about a disinherited prince and an evil uncle (did I hear anyone say Hamlet?). And it DEFINITELY doesn't hurt that Prince Caspian is gorgeous. See? Credibility GONE.

He is though.

Don't you agree? Not to mention the delish Peter Pevensie, who, along with Odysseus, was my first literary crush (the first of many - but that's a story for another day...) and who proved most delightful looking in the films, leading to much teasing from my friends and even more (very defensive) cries of "but it's FINE, he's EIGHTEEN" from yours truly.

Anyway, now if you don't mind, I'm off to watch the trailer again, and definitely NOT think about how in Dawn-Treader Caspian dives into the sea...

And maybe sometime soon you'll have a post that isn't just a thinly vieled excuse to post pictures of pretty men.

Friday, 11 April 2008

"I can no longer listen in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach."

Gorgeous weather in London today, bar the odd rainstorm. Wednesday was even better, so it was across the Heath to Kenwood, where I sat in the cafe with Aristotle revision (nice ideas, boring presentation). Then the conversation of the women behind me got simply too elderly to bear (a combination of casual racism and health complaints) and so I lay on the grass in front of the house, reading Persuasion*. Very apt.

Which of course reminded me of how Captain Wentworth is My Favourite Austen Hero, much better than that Favourite Cliche of Lazy Journalists Everywhere, Mr Darcy. And this is why, in a handy 10-point list (with added quotations!)

1. Captain Wentworth can have a conversation. Darcy can't. Fact. Broodiness may work for some people, but not for me. Good conversation is Number One Requirement for the future Mr Semaphore.

2. Not only can he have a conversation with Anne, he can have a conversation with almost everyone. He even talks to Mrs Musgrove about her son, who we all know to have been a complete tit and who Anne suspects he did his best to be rid of when the boy was a midshipman: "doing it with so much sympathy and natural grace, as shewed the kindest consideration for all that was real and unabsurd in the parent's feelings."

3. Although Anne frequently notices a look of contempt in response to those around him, it is only for those who display unkindness or snobbery or other wanky behaviour. Moreover, he never actually says anything about it, and it probably is only Anne who sees it at all, usually because she's thinking the same thing. Contrast that to Mr Darcy, snob extraordinaire.

4. A connected point. Anne's family is twenty times worse than Elizabeth Bennett's, but Wentworth never mentions this to her. The closest he comes is in his (understandable) resentment against Lady Russell. And then we have Mr Darcy, who insults Elizabeth's family while proposing to her. That can't just be put down to social awkwardness. That's just rubbish.

5. Wentworth is kind. He frequently shows his care and consideration for Anne - insisting that she join the Crofts in their gig after the walk to Winthrop, helping her when Walter is being a pain, checking that she hasn't suffered from shock as a result of Louisa's fall (the only one who does, I think). But also for others - for Harville, taking on the responsibility for resetting Benwick's portrait, or for Benwick himself, when he went to tell him about Phoebe's death "and never left that poor fellow for a week". And then he helps Mrs Smith get her property back "with the activity and exertion of a fearless man and a determined friend." Yummy.

6. Compared to Grumpy McGrumpypants Darcy, Wentworth's manners are never criticised. In fact, Mr Elliot's manners are compared to his: "His manners were so exactly what they ought to be, so polished, so easy, so particularly agreeable, that she could compare them in excellence to only one person's manners. They were not the same, but they were, perhaps, equally good." Of course, this is as much proof of how Anne can't stop thinking about him...

7. He can take a joke, and he can give one. GSOH, definitely.

8. He is a successful captain, and a good sailor. This is Requirement Number 2 for the Future Mr Semaphore. Take note, please.

9. He likes Anne. This sounds stupid, I know. But Anne is a lovely, lovely character, and so for him to love her shows his own worth(Went)** She is clever, sensible, kind, but unappreciated by far too many people. He doesn't make that mistake, and tries to make other people notice her too.

10. Best. Proposal. Ever. By letter? Because he can't keep quiet any longer? Oh yes PLEASE.

Plus marrying Wentworth means you get Admiral Croft as your brother-in-law, and he is FANTASTIC.

Of course, he's not perfect. Nor does he have ten thousand a year and Pemberley. But kind, warm, friendly, sensible, unpretentious vs broody and Misunderstood? Anytime.

*Third time. In case you were wondering.

**Sorry. Couldn't resist.

Friday, 4 April 2008


Miss me?

So I'm all back and in one piece, hurrah hurrah, although without my towel, which appears to have taken a death plunge from our window sill, where it was airing, into the canal below during yesterday's Daily Really Exciting Storm (tm). Can't be too cross, though, because since when has dropping something from your bedroom window resulted in losing it in a canal? Never, is when, except for if you're in Venice, when such bizarrities are seemingly daily occurrences.

They also have ambulances which are boats. This shouldn't have surprised us but it did. Because it is REALLY COOL. Not only that, there are fireboats, as in boats which put out fires, but this led, after the requisite shock and awe, to the as yet unsolved mystery of where they put the ladder. At least you're guaranteed water, and don't have to worry about finding one of them hydrant malarkeys.

Anyway, enough inane ramblings, I'm off for a bath.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Travels in E.M. Forster's footsteps

Just popping in briefly to say all is well, Florence was nice* but Siena was a marvel and exactly what I want out of a town - small, windy streets flanked by old, shuttered houses, mysterious alleyways, and glimpses of lush countryside. And the cathedral completely pole-axed us - I have NEVER seen anything as beautiful, although St Peter's in Rome is perhaps more striking. F and I wandered in a daze for about an hour. Typically, postcards did not do it justice.

Anyway, have despatched one (1) brother homewards, and I hear he arrived safe and sound, and immediately dashed out to the theatre. Quelle intellectual. Now F and I are off to Venice in a few hours - hurrah!** Promise not to be eaten by a lagoon shark.

*Oddly lacking in Merchant Ivory types. Poor Effort. Lucy Honeychurch I can take or leave but I always rather fancied her brother. Except he was in England, wasn't he? Oh well, never mind, as you were.
** It occurs to me that I should have brought Death in Venice. Bugger.