Sunday, September 23, 2012

Short Short Story?

   This morning I had a half-dream in the time between my alarm and getting up: 

   The grey boys stood in silent rows in the walled yard. When the wind came, they folded forward from the ankle, dominoes, and then straightened. They were being trained or punished for something, but in that place there were no answers. 
   The Other darted through them, and a ripple of rebellion was his wake. The hooded men came hunting the Other, but his presence had changed the boys, and they shielded him. The search continued, the balance shifted, and the grey boys found their power in that burning world. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Vegetarianism

Bloomsbury, £6.99
   During the last two weeks, I've been reading my way through Gideon Defoe's hilarious Pirates series 'The Pirates!' in adventures with Scientists, Moby Dick, Communists, Napoleon, and the Romantics. Due to just a few little references here and there, the books are not really suitable for children, but these (mostly extraneous) parts were removed in the screenplay, and the first book in the series was recently made into a great animated movie by Aardman Animations (of Wallace and Gromit fame). 
Bloomsbury, £6.99
   The Pirates in question roam the seas not really doing any pirating, in their not-very-good-at-all ship, with a Pirate Captain who knows nothing about the sea and sailing, but whose wisdom and general magnificence are well-known to his devoted crew. Said crew consists of the pirate with a scarf, the albino pirate, the pirate in red, the pirate with a monobrow, and Jennifer. The Pirate Captain's main preoccupation is with his luxuriant beard, while the pirate crew spend their time discussing the best thing to do with a drunken pirate (soak him in a barrel until he grows flippers, put a plaster on his back), comparing people to fonts, comparing people to types of trees, and deciding what clouds look like. In order to decide which pirate gets to tell his anecdote first, the Pirate Captain has drawn up a list of topics - any story with mention of ham gets ten points, one with mention of nudity gets seven points, one with murder gets five points, and so on. And yes, that does seem like assigning strangely high entertainment value to ham. But not to these pirates. They positively live for ham. One of the Pirate Captain's most precious possessions is a prize ham which he keeps in a display case in his office, and a pirate feast is considered incomplete without a ham. 
Still from the 2012 film from Aardman Animations
   Now, thrilling as all this undoubtedly is, it so happens that ham is one thing that is absolutely turning my stomach at the moment. About two months ago, I joined a gym and, as part of my general healthy turnaround, revamped my diet to include a lot more protein and veg, and less bread. A couple of weeks of protein (eggs, tuna, lean meat, supplements) at each meal has been enough to mostly turn me off meat. I made lovely lamb chops last night, could only manage two bites, and instead made do with my lovely peas and spring onion mash. Is this the start of some half-arsed sort of vegetarianism? I have to say I fancy the idea at the moment. I'm sure I could get my protein from my eggs, beans, nuts, and supplements. Besides, all I've been reading lately is about how environmentally-unfriendly meat-eating is when it comes to land use and water consumption, so maybe it's just as well. I'll make do with reading about ham instead of eating it.

Prehistoric Mythologies and Technology

Harper Collins, £16.99
   I've been neglecting this blog recently because I've bought an iPhone and have been spending so much time discovering, reading, downloading, texting, talking, and being on Twitter a lot. Last night I bought my first ebooks (enovellas?) and read one of them (Brandon Sanderson's 'Infinity Blade: Awakening'). I've come to the conclusion that this screen is just too small for much reading more than tweets, emails, or recipes. 
   In real-book land, I've just finished reading Alan Garner's stunning newest book - 'Boneland'. Here's a book which you certainly couldn't read on a phone. The strange and confusing nature of the story make this one of those books where the reader is frequently turning back pages to check or reread something, wondering if a word, sentence, or paragraph was missed in haste. This fact, combined with the handy length (150 pages), mean that it's one I'm planning to reread straight away. 
   'Boneland' is the fifty-years-later follow-up to children's fantasy classics 'The Weirdstone of Brisingamen' and 'The Moon of Gomrath', which are great favourites of mine. This one, however, is decidedly not a children's book. Garner's prose is somehow both economical and lyrical, concise and succinct as well as beautiful. Garner states in an interview here ( ) that he works hard at achieving this style, writing and rewriting and whittling for brevity. It works perfectly to conjure atmosphere, mystery, and menace, reminding me a lot of one of my favourite books (mentioned in my last post also), 'The Owl Service'. 
   The book's curious structure, with no chapters and the parallel dual storylines of Colin (familiar from the previous books, now an astrophysicist) and his prehistoric predecessor as guardian of The Edge can make it a difficult read. As the story gathers pace, however, these concerns evaporate. Words whirl together to form a perfect new mythology of Earth, Universe, stars, physics, madness, and a deep connection with the past. Now I just have to read it again.