Some recent notes.

There’ve been a couple of films and a book lately that I intended to comment on. Here goes.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy is what happens when a Respected Literary Author™ tries a little genre fiction. A fairly standard post-apocalyptic yarn, it’s been around for a couple of years and is currently being made into a film starring Aragorn. In a nutshell, America (the world?) is enduring the aftermath of an undetailed (nuclear?) disaster. Society has collapsed, survivors are eating each other, and a man and his young son are trekking across the country in an attempt to find a little safety and security.

The Road gathered very positive reviews, singing the praises of McCarthy’s handling of his fairly sci-fi premise and how he uses it to great effect to explore themes of civilization and fear of death, along with some deftly handled father-son relationship issues.

I wasn’t quite so impressed.

Yes, the book does all those things, but I suspect it gained from the reviewers not being too familiar with the genres in which McCarthy was squatting. Disaster-destroys-civilization has been a popular device over recent years, and lends itself well to this kind of philosophising — so it’s been done a lot, lately.

If you want a study of the end of civilization in all its fascinating horror, check out Max Brooks’ World War Z. I’d love to say that Brooks hasn’t got McCarthy’s touch with language, but actually I found his prose much more interesting and affecting. Sometimes The Road is too clever for its own good: yes, screwing around with punctuation may reflect the chaos and disorder of post-apocalyptic America, but it makes it damned hard to read. (Of course, ‘genre’ authors can be guilty of this, too. The phonetically written portions of Iain M. Banks’ Feersum Endjinn are as tiring to read as they must have been to write.)

Maybe I’ve got a chip on my shoulder that’s tempting me into a rant. Maybe not. I read a lot of SF and fantasy, but I read a lot of literary fiction, too. I have the fervour of an evangelist trying to convince the world of all the quality writing that exists in the ‘genres’. I just find it sad and a little elitist that when a well-known literary author tackles themes and ideas that have been done very well by genre authors, he gains far greater recognition than those genre folks.

Enough of that. On to a few films:

Iron Man has, I think, claimed the position of my favourite comic book adaptation. Robert Downey, Jr made a most excellent Tony Stark, and the whole thing was great fun.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall wasn’t so hot. It had one or two good laughs, but on the whole it’s best forgotten.

We watched Knocked Up a few weeks back. This was why I went to see Sarah Marshall, because this one was good. It’s the next stage of coming-of-age film after American Pie et al — what happens when the drunken sex leads to pregnancy? The humour may be low-brow, but the characters are surprisingly subtle and the whole thing is sweet and sensitive.

The Heartbreak Kid joins the list of the worst films I’ve ever seen.

Looking at that short list, it seems that I’ve mainly been consuming cinematic fluff recently. Ah. So be it; does you good, sometimes.

While I’m still slowly reading through NT Wright, in between I’m having great fun with a series of cheesy fantasy novels.

I think that’s me up to date with the reading and the watching I wanted to mention. Was it good for you?