What’s the point of beautiful books?

Beautiful books — IMHO — are more likely to be read. Which could well be a brill thing if the book is a good’un.

I’ve long appreciated the Penguin series, Clothbound Classics. The Snufferjog bought us Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray which was beautifully produced, and the footnotes added interest. That whetted the appetite.

A few years down the line, my Father-in-Law generously gave me a bit of dosh for Xmas, so I decided to treat myself to another.

But which one to buy!?

I’d noticed that this series were numbered, (our Dorian was number ten, por ejemplo). So I began my internet hunt for which book was number one in the series, a task you might think was very easy, but oh no. No reference on any Penguin affiliated website of any sort of enumeration.

Hope came in the form of Google Image Search which showed me a wealthy woman’s full collection. In numerical order. And the first in the series is… Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

 

“Didn’t do it in school so ‘aven’t ‘eard of it.”

Well, uninitiated. It’s French. That’s all you need to know.

I bought it and I read it. That’s an achievement. (This was an English translation, so not that much of an achievement).

One minor issue though, the edition I bought was not numbered, so there was no real reason to buy that particular book. Oh well.

But I’m hooked anyway. So what to buy next is the question?

Well, let’s stick with the French theme he says, buy a book written around the same period he says. And by the following Thursday Les Miserables is on my doormat.

Wow. 1,231 pages… ABRIDGED.

So that’s that phase over. Although I did see that next month, Augustine’s Confessions is being released in the series. A two birds one stone killing asking to be made if ever I saw one, I’m only studying ruddy theology. So that’s getting pre-ordered. Maybe.

9780141396897

One more thing. I feel I need to explain to the ethereal head-shrinker why I have a desire in the first place to buy the number one in a series of somethings.

It all began in Brent Cross Shopping Centre, Disney Store, 1994. I’ve got some Christmas money to spend (sounds familiar) and I’m keen to get me a VHS of Sing-Along-Songs, fronted by the inimitable Jiminy Cricket. The one I wanted to get was the one with Peter Pan on the front because I liked the one with Peter Pan on the front. But Dad jumps in.

“Heyheyheyheyheyhey, don’t be so rash there son. Think about it. What you’re gonna wanna do is get Volume One and work your way up to Peter Pan which is Volume Seven. Think about it.”

“But Volume One has Bagheera on the front and he’s got more tough love than my four year old brain can handle”

“You’re getting volume one.”

“Um… okay.”

$_57

And from that day forth, I was PROGRAMMED to seek-out the first in the series of stuff.

Right, I’m off back to my Hugo. Only 1,147 pages to go!

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What Will Robin Williams be Remembered For?

As I’m sure is the case for many others my age, my first real introduction to Robin Williams was via Disney’s Aladdin. A film that was being replayed in our house just last week. I remember being fascinated and highly amused by the originality and exuberance of this character of the Genie. Animation was probably the only art-form which could begin to contain this man’s effervescence.

The actual first film I saw him in was Popeye. I remember being amazed that he could do backflips. I recently found out that it was directed by Robert Altman!

I loved Hook as a boy. I thought it was such a great great idea. I loved watching Peter Pan rediscover his powers. I was fascinated by it.

Bicentennial Man was the first film we ever watched on DVD. We gathered round as a family and watched it on our Windows 98. I remember enjoying it. Especially some joke about bogies. Dad explained to us that it was not a happy ending that he dies at the end after two centuries (not a spoiler because it’s in the film’s title), death is the last enemy he told us.

We all loved Flubber too. That was great fun.

I remember watching Jim in school (a sort of Benjamin Button / Big type thing) and being heartbroken by the melancholy of it. A bit later on I watched Patch Adams, and actually liked it — again because of the sadness in his eyes. He was a ‘tears of the clown’ performer I think. No matter how funny he was being, there was always a sadness back there, especially in the eyes, that’s what made him especially engaging to watch in Good Will Hunting, despite the expected physical energy being absent.

I watched One Hour Photo this year. That’s another stripped back performance, but it ends up terrifying! Soon after that, Dad and I sat down to watch The Fisher King, and that’s a mix, a bit of the stripped back thing and a bit of the mad antics.

One shocking film he’s in is one that I think very few people have seen called Father of the Year World’s Greatest Dad. It’s about a Dad whose son kills himself, but he doesn’t miss his son, because his son was a horrible child. Despite this, Williams accepts all sorts of sympathy for the death of his son, (the gold and the girls) he even gets Bruce Hornsby — who his son hated, but he loved — to sing at the boy’s funeral. I think it was by the Donny Darko director.

All those films, but I’ve never seen Good Morning, Vietnam; Dead Poets Society or Awakenings!

My favourite Robin Williams thing I will remember him for is him being interviewed for the show Inside The Actors Studio. He is uncontainable. An interview with him one on one would have been mad enough, but put the guy in front of a crowd he’s on fire. 50000 impressions / riffs / jokes / physical tricks / slapstick gags / shouty wail things later, and I am a thoroughly impressed man. That same thing was what made him amazing to watch on Who’s Line is it Anyway too.

Another equally energetic, and — I get the sense — troubled actor is Jim Carrey. Dad always said that they should have done a film together, don’t know if that ever happened?

What does God think of Robin Williams? Someone on facebook said that Williams had sought some sort of evangelical soul-searching not too long ago, that’s interesting. We don’t know what happened in the last moments of his life.

I remember when Michael Jackson died, John Piper said that in the past minute 100 other people died too, 100 more souls going to meet with God.

Ultimately it doesn’t really matter how Robin Williams will be remembered. But it is important to acknowledge the extraordinary talent he had.

There are two great animated films that have completely differing messages. Incredibles says ‘if everyone is special, no one is’ and Lego Movie says ‘everyone is special’. But I think both are true. Yes, it’s true, there are the Robin Williamses of the world who are extraordinarily talented in an obvious way. But God has given every single one of us unique gifts, everyone is an interesting individual person. We mustn’t spend too long getting caught up with these celebrated heroes, because as we’ve seen today, they’re mortal. 

Really, it is we the living who must consider the question of whether the God who granted each of us these unique talents will be praised or passed by.

What’s better, The Beatles or Toy Story?

Our crocheting friend who made us tea at our house (very kind friend) offered me the choice of a Beatles mug or a Toy Story mug, she did this by simply  saying “Beatles or Toy Story?”, that’s just like saying “Daddy or chips?”! I found myself truly considering which I would choose to save and which I would choose to destroy, the music or the magic? I knew what was happening here, I was being forced to eradicate one from history. I hesitated. It was so hard! But I did end up doing what we would all do — with some regret — choosing The Beatles. No contest.

Daniel Kitson on Eric Liddell in ‘Chariots of Fire’

I love this…

There’s a bit in the film Chariots of Fire where the Scottish sprinter Mr. Eric Liddell has qualified with ease for the Olympic final and is by far the favourite. But he refuses to run because the race is to be held on the Sabbath. He is a devout Christian and in utter deference to his God he refuses to run.

There are all sorts of Olympic officials trying to bully him and cajole him into making the race. It’s their big showpiece race of the games and they all want him to do it, but he’s refusing, he’s steadfast.

One such Olympic Official corners him at a function and tries to get him to speak to the future King of England — the then Prince of Wales — who has a mind to convincing him to run.

Liddell says “No, I won’t talk to him, that wouldn’t be right.”

And the Olympic official says “Does your arrogance extend that far Liddell?”

And Liddell replies, “My arrogance extends as far as my conscience demands.”

I think that if you ever say anything that wonderful in conversation, you are well within your rights to never speak again.

That really is a wonderful bit of talking. Imagine hearing that coming out of your own face!? How could you possibly resist the urge to Moonwalk away from that!?

 Daniel Kitson, The Stand (2005)

How Christian are the Coen Brothers’ films?

This article is an excellent analysis of the moral world of the Coen brothers movies…

Joel and Ethan Coen’s films […] often take a brutal, Old Testament tack on morality, defining good and evil along Biblical guidelines, and offering little wiggle room for anyone who doesn’t follow the Ten Commandments, or even anyone who strays from the Golden Rule.

The Coens always touch on moral choices, from career criminality to simple codes of personal conduct. And when characters make the wrong choices—which they virtually always do, because there would be no story otherwise—the Coens either laugh at them or kick them in the teeth.

Which actor has ‘unnaturally good rhythm’?

Another gem from John Jeremiah Sullivan on Oscar Isaac:

He turned out to have unnaturally good rhythm. The problem with putting live performances in a narrative movie, the reason nobody does it, is you can’t splice the film together later; if the tempo is even a hair off, between takes, the flow is ruined. So you have the actors lip-sync to a pre-recorded track. But that invariably looks cheesy. In order to get around the problem, T Bone Burnett (who produced the music) sat off camera with a stopwatch, timing Isaac’s individual measures. If the actor were to vary by a split second, they’d have to go back and re-shoot. But there was no variation. “I know it sounds like hyperbole,” Burnett said, “but the whole time I sat there, he never varied.”

How is Inside Llewyn Davis like a folk song?

Something I hadn’t thought about before is one Inside Llewyn Davis’s unusual narrative structure:

The movie takes the form of a folk song: there’s a first verse, then a series of verses – in each of which something awful happens – and finally the first verse comes around again, seeming changed.

John Jeremiah Sullivan, in the liner notes.