Dan Sandman

Archive for July, 2017|Monthly archive page

#31 Nutshell

In Books, Fiction, Plays on 28/07/2017 at 12:00 pm

#30 NutshellThis novel is an interesting take on the Hamlet story. Inside his pregnant mother’s stomach, a foetus observes a conspiracy to murder. Using poison, with her brother-in-law Claude, the murderous Trudy plans to kill her husband. Like Shakespeare, Ian McEwan has us peer into the mind of his hero. As Shakespeare uses the confiding address of the soliloquy, McEwan employs the instancy of the first person. In both cases, we are privy to the philosophical outbursts of an immature man (foetus).

I am tempted to think of Stewie from hit television comedy Family Guy. In similarity to the talking baby in that show, Hamlet and the foetus have an ironic sense of humour that veers close to the darker side of humanity. Now all we need is a version where Hamlet discusses such things as philosophy with a talking dog. I’m sure somebody is thinking up the idea right now as I type.

#30 The Time Machine

In Adventure, Books, Fiction, Science Fiction on 21/07/2017 at 12:00 pm

#30 The Time MachineAn intrepid Time Traveler calls a dinner party of distinguished fellows to discuss his time machine. The guests leave skeptical, despite the Time Traveler’s convincing scientific arguments. Later, the Time Traveler returns from a week-long adventure far into the distant future. His story is of two separate species evolved from the British class system: the first group are benign, live in the upperworld, and great the Time Traveler with garlands of flowers; the second group are hostile, live in the underworld, and steal the time machine from our hero. As he attempts to understand the future of planet earth, the Time Traveler must rescue his machine and return to his guests in time for dinner. On his way back home, he accidentally shoots far, far, far ahead in time to witness the destruction of all life as we know it. In one final twist, after telling his story, both he himself and the time machine disappear in front of our eyes. The whole fantastic tale is around one hundred pages long and has remained in print for over a century. It is a thought-provoking adventure story and the work of a great prophetic imagination.

Thanks must go to the good folks at Primrose Hill Community Library who got this latest edition in for me by request (excellent introduction). They also got in The Island of Doctor Moreau. Great little library!

#29 Dr Zhivago

In Books, Fiction on 14/07/2017 at 12:00 pm

#29 Doctor ZhivagoDr Zhivago (1957) is said to be one of the novels against which all others are judged. It is one of those epic books that cover whole lifetimes, periods of history and different sections of society. Set in Russia, before, during and after the Second World War, it successfully marries the universality of a heartbreaking love story with the horrifying realities of war. Part of its success is due to the way in which Dr Zhivago lives his creative life as a poet whilst working as a doctor and falling in love. Prose is used to describe the world, dialogue is used to depict character and express ideas, but poetry gets to the core of the love story which is the heart of the tale.

Like Paul in All Quite on the Western Front (1929), Yuri is an educated man with a poetic sensibility whose life is up-heaved when war breaks out. In the case of both characters, their romantic sensibility struggles to comprehend the horror of modern warfare. Other characters point to religion as a passage back to a simpler life, but the wheels of mechanized power continue to enslave the masses towards the bloody battlefield. In war, as in love, the tragic condition of humanity can only be captured in poetic language. Novels merely reflect on history and make art out its complexities. In the middle of this sprawling maze we call life, Boris Pasternak (1890-1960) suggests that art is the one thing that we have to fight against death.

#28 The First Men in the Moon

In Autobiography, Books, Comedy, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Science Fiction on 07/07/2017 at 12:00 pm

#28 The First Men in the MoonI was in Keats Library, working on a particularly difficult passage of my journal, when the lights went out again. I asked the elderly lady to put the lights back on and she did. My mistake, the trap I set for myself, was to say I wear glasses and then proceed to read without them on.

“Look. He’s not even wearing glasses.”

I stood up, waving my H. G. Wells novel at her.

“I’m short-sighted, that’s why I’m not wearing my glasses. When you keep turning the light off I have to adjust where to look. See. You can’t just keep turning the light on and off all the time. If you want the light off, you need to ask the staff or the volunteers. Or we should ask the people of the library what they want. Get them to take a vote. Most of them would probably want the light on. Especially if they’re trying to read.”

I looked around for support.

“What do you want? Do you want the light on?”

Sitting between us was another Tuesday regular. The guy who looks at graphs on his laptop and goes outside to answer his mobile every now and then.

“I just want what makes her happy. She’s an old lady. We’re contemporaries.”

“We’re not contemporaries.”

“We’re from the same generation. She’s my grandmother’s age. I want whatever will make her happy. We should do what we can to help her.”

“But I do usually help her. And age has nothing to with it. A moment ago, an old man was reading the paper and he wanted the light on because he was reading. It’s about whether people want the light on or off. Either we have it completely on or completely off.”

I looked around at the other people on their laptops. The lights gleamed down upon my forehead. Sensing my retreat, my opponent attacked.

“Well, I would like the lights off.” She said.

“Okay. Actually, I don’t mind whether they’re on or off. As long as its always on or always off.”

“I’ve had cataracts.”

“Eyesight has nothing to do with it.”

“The light makes the computer glare. I want the lights off.”

“It’s the changing of the light that bothers people. Makes them them loose concentration.”

“It’s better without the glare.”

And there it was, the comedy of the situation. Like the clicking of the light-switch itself, a verbal jostle between positive and negative polarities. Faces remained buried in laptops and I walked back to my seat. All the nice old lady wanted was attention and this was her way of getting it. I could see why I had lost control. It was the snide comment about the glasses that had set me off, in this war of the library lights. We either make her happy or we don’t make her happy. Either way, no work gets done when the peace is broken.