OUT AND ABOUT:
Nothing to report on the home front. It’s winter, we’ve both suffered ailments, and we’re preparing for a major and long-planned trip, so we’ve stayed close to home and taken care of a few chores.
At long last watched both the first and second chapter of the film adaptation of Stephen King’s IT, my favourite book of his. I missed seeing this in the cinema for reasons I struggle to recall, though I know for the second part I was too unwell to consider sitting in a cinema for so long. Is the film scary? Depends on what scares you. I have at least one friend who would find the film horrible, but you’ve got to understand the layers to the story which those who are long-term fans of the book will. I cannot fault the film for the cast, for the amazing and outstanding performance of Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise (I truly cannot imagine what the film would have been without him), and the fabulous settings and general look and feel. I can’t conceive of this made by any other director.
As for the story, why does it endure for so many? Clowns are frightening, wear a false face, aren’t quite one thing or another, and many find them spooky. Clowns to a child are surely as welcoming as a giant Mickey Mouse, which I believe Steve Martin once joked about saying: to an infant, Mickey is a talking rat. It’s all a matter of perspective, but clowns endure in the scary bracket. Of course, Pennywise is no mere clown and overall he’s a metaphor for all those things that petrify us in childhood, fears we grow out of as we age, as our perception of the world changes. Children are more able to believe and only a portion of adults retain that sense of wonder and open-mindedness. And that sense of preservation. I’ve always said if I see a vampire or zombie, I’ll at least regard it as a genuine threat regardless of what it may truly be — at the least, it may be a lunatic out to stab me. If it looks frightening, run. But the true reason I love IT is that the heart of the story is friendship. It’s about a group of children thrown together through adversity who rise to fight the unknown and form friendships that survive and bring them back together in adulthood — the losers who ultimately triumph. What many people don’t understand is there are different styles of horror and many are about something deeper, that it’s the subtext that’s the most important element and IT excels in this.
Next, I can’t move on without recommending the Netflix adaptation of The Witcher. Many came to this world via the computer games, but I’ve heard excellent recommendations for the books and have now bought the first two. Henry Cavill was both a fan of the games and the books and the moment he heard Netflix intended to make the series, he got his agent to call them every day. I honestly cannot imagine anyone better suited. I loved this monsters and mayhem fantasy largely in part because of the amazing non-chronological storytelling, the production values, battle scenes worthy of a big screen film, and even the way the Witcher grunts and swears, utterances that Cavill intones to perfection.
A Life in Parts, Bryan Cranston
Though biographies aren’t my preferred reading material, no doubt I would read more if they were all written like this. With a warmth that draws you in instantly, if you’ve never enjoyed Bryan Cranston’s acting (though I cannot imagine why not), this is still well worth reading. This book not only gives the reader an insight to his life and career, it shows an actor with great instincts for the characters and roles directors should respect but whose writing ability might well make him an excellent author should he ever wish to pursue fiction writing. A favourite biography.
Doll Manor, Chantal Noordeloos
I’ve always liked this author’s vision and, while I feel parts of this book could be improved, I love the themes and imagery used. In a book intended as horror for adults, portions contained a Young Adult feel, particularly the interactions between Freya and Bam, though this could be representational of the characters’ ages and therefore I felt distanced from them. I would feel young women having gone through what these do, they would grow up fast. This is the second in the Lucifer Falls series which began with Angel Manor which I preferred, and though I feel this series could be more intense, it’s difficult not to like stories that contain the best of creepy things: a haunted manor, nuns, angels, and dolls. I looked back over the first book after reading the second and will eagerly check out the last instalment when it appears.
The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton
It’s difficult to review this book without spoilers so the best I can say about the negatives is that the subplot/structure — that of the Miniaturist — didn’t quite work for me, although the background of the real Petronella Oortman and her dollhouse is fascinating proving writers get inspiration from the unlikeliest of sources. Despite any reservations I have, this is a wonderfully crafted novel of vibrant characters, carefully constructed with hidden clues concealing a wealth of secrets. Intense and haunting, like the artistry of Amsterdam itself, this is one of those books worth reading even if it doesn’t make it to the keeper shelf.
The Outsider, Stephen King
I can imagine this book receiving mixed reviews. Starting off as a riveting thriller, this becomes supernatural at a slow enough pace many readers won’t spot the story’s direction. Still, the route to get there with seemingly unanswerable questions is well worth the read with a conclusion that’s logical if not the most exciting. One of the most disturbing parts of King’s book is the ugly face of human nature. The light shone on the fact that a man accused is no longer innocent until proven otherwise. That the absence of a shadow of doubt can be darker than the truth revealed.
I received an early contributor’s copy of Night to Dawn issue 37 which contains my short story Bead Trickling Laughter, and my audio short by Big Finish, The Infinite Today, part of their Short Trips Doctor Who range is now available for download at £2.99. You can listen to or download the trailer for free and purchase the story at Big Finish.
I’m focusing on edits (short stories and other works) until our upcoming holiday. When I return, I’ll focus on the horror novel that I’ve been trying to get to during the last couple of years.