Monday, July 5, 2010

"Where have you been?" part 2

I haven't posted anything of substance for awhile, and there's a reason for that, I swear. Working the two jobs is hard on my concentration; I can't read as much as I'd like to. However, good news, the two jobs thing is over. I have about a month and half before school starts for me, if I pass my aptitude test this week.

So the question is, what have I been consuming, art-wise, since I last posted. Well, in this mega-post, I'm going to detail them, starting with what my g/f and I watched compulsively.

We finished the fifth series of the revamped Doctor Who series this week. I previously reviewed the first episode, which you can read here, but then we waited until the series was finished transmitting before watching. We stomped through the first half over the course of a couple days, and then gaped slack-jawed over the second half in one day.
Clever is really the only word I can use to describe the series, particularly the finale, which for some bizarre reason is confusing the multitudes. I can't say either the g/f or myself were confused over it. Maybe I'm inclined to understand the various paradoxes and predestination stuff if only because I've read a lot of time travel stories.
The sheer cleverness almost overwhelmed the emotional aspects of the finale, I have to say. I never felt for Amy Pond or the Doctor during the whole escapade. Perhaps with the next series, Moffat won't feel the need to show off so much, and find the balance between Davies' exceedingly emotional writing and Moffat's own inventiveness.

I've been reading, and I'm two thirds done, Paul Scott's The Jewel in the Crown. One of the reasons why it's been so slow going is that I tried reading Gravity's Rainbow at the same time, and that just made things really hard. So I gave up on Pynchon for now. In terms of Jewel in the Crown, I have to say that for a 400 page novel, it feels like War and Peace in terms of size, but in a good way. This is a huge novel unlike any I've read in a long while.
While Farrell's Siege of Krishnapur and Forster's A Passage to India cover some of the same ground thematically, Scott takes a huge panoramic view of the social, emotional, and political problems facing the British Raj in India.
I'll take a deeper critical look once I've finished it, but some quick thoughts about it. The unorthodox nonlinear narrative approach, made up of letters, interviews, third-person omniscient, etc, and the extremely complex chronology make the novel slow going and much more meatier than I had expected, what with my first Scott experience being Staying On, a novel I complained of being "slight". Wow, was I mistaken!
There is a lot being asked of the reader, and I am more than happy to acquiesce to such a request. This is exactly why I read novels predominantly now, rather than comics, because I choose novels that constantly challenge me, and I love it.

In terms of music, I confess I am exclusively listening to cult prog-rock band, Marillion, much to the dismay of my g/f, who is prejudiced against them. I have been listening to them non-stop, from the Fish-led era, consisting of four albums (three of which are standout masterpieces), and the Steve Hogarth-led era, mostly focusing on the three almost-masterpieces, Seasons End, Brave and Marbles (which I can't get enough of).
There's something about the dramatic, complicated longform song structure that I enjoy. Fish's lyrics are dense, allusive, and very literate, while still conveying the emotion intended. Combine that with the musicianship of the rest of the band, particularly the amazing drumming, and you've got a great lineup.
A lot of Marillion fans split at this point, with many continuing the follow the Hogarth version, but with more abandoning them. Hogarth is a weaker lyricist, but a much more contemporary sounding front man, capable of more vocally. Marbles seems to be their masterpiece from this era, a weird ambient lush-sounding double album that demands to be soundscapes like Radiohead. I love it.

That's pretty much it. I have ignored comic books almost altogether. I've read a couple issues of a couple things here and there, but there seems to be a distinct lack of cleverness. Every new storyline being introduced right now, with each hyperbole-filled quote from writers, frustrates me, rather than annoys me.
Superman, a man who can fly, is going to walk across America? That sounds so utterly saccharine and cloying that I cringe just typing about it. Spider-man's deal with the Devil is going to be reset? No shit. Bendis is writing a million Avengers titles about the same pet characters? Again, boring. Geoff Johns, his Green Lantern obsession, and his Silver Age fetish has tapped my patience out.
Don't get me started on Wonder Woman's "daring" new costume change. She looks like the 90's era Superboy.
Only Grant Morrison seems to be doing anything of interest, and I'm just not that interested in Batman's return from the "grave", frankly. It's an instance of the right writer in the wrong story.

But, it doesn't matter. The list of books that languish unread on shelf is increasing, alarmingly. I have J.G. Farrell's other two Empire novels to read, Delillo's Underworld, Wallace's Infinite Jest, and another 1700 pages of Paul Scott to read. I also want to read some more Robert Charles Wilson, who really struck me, and I never kept going with him. So bear with me as I continue to read seemingly random novels and amateurishly review them!

No comments: