The Year of The Flood (2009)
The second book set in Margaret Atwood's dystopian world, first visited when I read Oryx and Crake, only the characters in this instalment have a v.different story to tell. Although very much alone as the book begins, the stories of the two principal characters are told in a series of flashbacks - I love Atwood's way of writing backwards, filling in the gaps. Much like the Oryx and Crake, Atwood describes some v.disturbing facts about the state of the bioengineered world before the flood as well as after it. The 'flood' refers to the 'waterless flood' predicted by The Gardeners, a cult very much opposed to all the artificiality and genetic manipulation, who champion the 'back to nature' approach. It is through this group that we meet our two heroines - Toby and Ren. Their stories weave and interlink, resulting in a rather awesome meeting, I can't call it a conclusion as there's a definite sense that there's more to their situation. I read somewhere that there will be a third book to complete this series, I really do hope it's true. There are some clever tie-ins with the first book - we even get to meet Snowman (Jimmy) again. I know I've said it before but I really do love Atwood's writing and could happily read her novels forever.
Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (1974)
Written by another of my favourite authors Philip K Dick. Set in a futuristic (at the time), dystopian world, the story centres around Jason Taverner - celebrity personality and singer with his own TV show watched (and adored) by millions. He is handsome, talented, wealthy with an equally beautiful and talented girlfriend, that is until he's attacked by a jilted ex-lover (with what I can only describe as some sort of large parasite) and awakes from his ordeal stripped of all his personal identification, to find that nobody knows who he is, that he no longer exists at all.... The plot follows Jason, and the interesting (mostly female) characters he meets along the way, as he tries to figure out what's happened to him. The pace is pretty slow which only underlines the protagonist's frustration that he, THE Jason Taverner, is unrecognised and treated with the same indifference as ordinary people. The other main character is Felix Buckman, the Police General who takes an interest in Jason. He's a complicated bugger with a heavy conscience - his incestuous relationship and the corrupt police department for starters. The characters aren't likeable and despite everything Jason goes through you don't feel any sympathy towards him nor Felix; true emotion itself is very much lacking in this alternative world, there's a lack of anything 'true' for that matter. The ending is a bit of struggle (in terms of plausibility and likability) but it's a good read if only to witness how some of Dick's absorbing and rather horrific ideas play out.
Whilst in NYC Mitch and I went to two screenings. On new years day we went to see Les Miserables (incidentally it was easily one of favourite ever Jan 1sts - leisurely breakfast followed by a movie followed by a a three course dinner at an awesome Italian restaurant which, in the time of prohibition, was used a meeting place for people secretly consume alcohol. The food and wine were soooo good). We went to Village East Cinema, a great little place, on 2nd Ave. I absolutely loved Les Mis. Balled my eyes out, but it was amazing - the singing, the costumes, the story. Wow. I didn't realise there was no dialogue in it whatsoever but it didn't need it, all the raw emotion was expressed perfectly through the (non dubbed and in some cases one take) songs. Aside from Anne Hathaway's 'I dreamed a dream' being heart-renching good, one of my other favourite scenes was 'Master of the House' - Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are bloody great. I've not seen it on stage but now I really really want to.
Our second trip to the movies led us to an AMC multiplex cinema (which was awful) to see Django Unchained (which was alright). The first hour or so: excellent - action packed, sharp dialogue and a great premise to get the audience hooked. The film's second half, or last 45 minutes, seriously drags on. Why? Because the best two characters are killed off. It does spark an entertaining all out bloodbath of a shoot out, but after that you're kinda just waiting for the film to finish so you can leave. The real drama is over, the best bits of the script have happened and Tarantino makes an appearance (which is poorly acted and rather cringe-y). The Django character is very two dimensional and his wife is even more so (she being the only female character in the film and who spends the majority of it having a really shit time, waiting to be rescued - I wanted her to save Django at the end, Tarantino has had some arse-kicking female characters in his films after-all, but I was disappointed). Christoph Waltz steals the show as the dentist-bounty-hunter and Leonardo DiCaprio is spot on as the nasty southern plantation owner. Samuel Jackson also deserves a mention, he can be pretty scary when he wants to be. There's a satisfying conclusion it's just a shame it went all around the houses to reach it.
Back in London, we saw Silver Linings Playbook. Lord knows why this film was in the comedy category for the Golden Globes. Granted there are some funny bits and the odd amusing line, but comedy this 'aint. I remember the ads and trailers packaging this as if it was some sort of rom com but thankfully it wasn't. Mental illness is very much on the table and there are some dark moments throughout the film. Bradley Cooper, in a very different role to his usual stuff, was convincing as was his co-star Jennifer Lawrence playing a messed-up young widow (I swear she can do no wrong - she's awesome). The dance competition part at the end is super up-lifting and the performances all round are great.