I think novel writing has put me into some kind of shutdown mode. When I’m not engrossed in getting the thing written all I want to do is watch TV or read. All my thoughts keep popping back to the story and where it’s going. I’ve been talking about the characters as if they have an existence outside of my head. The book is set in York and when I pass places associated with it I start wondering what they’re up to. Is this normal ? It’s not unpleasant, just unusual for me to be so focused. I’m really liking the story for it’s own sake. All thoughts of publication seem to have been put right to the back of my mind for now. I’m sort of thinking that if I read it and enjoy it and a few friends do as well it will in itself be worthwhile doing. Whatever else happens is a bonus, to quote every band ever interviewed in the NME.
Christmas TV is meant to be pants and it pretty much has been over the past week or so. You can always find something interesting if you persist however. Saturday evening I watched Spirited Away which is the most successful Japanese film ever. It’s an Oscar winning animated adventure in which a suburban family are transported to a bizarre fantasy land after eating in the deserted restaurant of an old theme park. The central character is a little girl called Chihiro. Her sense of moral duty and innocence are transformative within the context of the strange land in which she finds herself, and in which her parents have unaccountably become a pair of pigs. It was full of Japanese oddness but totally charming and beautiful to watch. The director Hayao Miyazaki insisted that it was entirely hand drawn rather than using CGI like most of the animated hits of the past few years.
Later on Saturday night I watched The Hours. This was a poignant meditation on the nature of art, gender roles, and the challenge of reality. The film ended and begun with Nicole Kidman, almost unrecognisable, as Virginia Woolf walking into the river in which she ended her life. In the film Virginia Woolf is struggling in suburbia with her overbearing husband Leonard as she attempts to write Mrs Dalloway. This links to 1950s America where a suburban housewife is reading the completed novel as she struggles with the conventions and restrictions of her life. She has one small son and another baby on the way. The claustrophobia of her surroundings was perfectly captured in the lighting and layout of the 50s dream home in which she found herself imprisoned. Then in present day New York we are introduced to Meryl Streep as book editor Clarissa Brown. She is busy nursing a male writer friend who is dying of Aids in an crumbling, graffiti strewn apartment block. Isolated, with more than just a touch of madness the figure of the writer is that of the classic tortured artistic outsider. The tenderness of Brown towards this brilliant but difficult man is touching, and the parallels between him and Woolf are made fairly obvious. It later transpires that the boy in the 50s house, has grown into the dying adult writer. I don’t want to ruin the film for you if you intend to watch it so I won’t divulge anymore details. Needless to say it was a really poetic, beautiful and moving film which I keep finding my thoughts returning to.
New Years Eve was spent in with the promised cheapo bottles of Cava, lots of Cds, the new version of The Producers on DVD and Jools Holland. We both really enjoyed The Producers. I’d seen the original any number of times and I was a bit dubious about a need for a remake but in the end I was pleasantly surprised.
Last night I sat down and enjoyed the BBC’s new dramatisation of The Wind In The Willows. That was a book that really got me into reading in a big way and I still re-read it quite often. I’ve always been totally enchanted by the story and the characters. I’ve always had an element of Mole about me, and our house bears a startling resemblance to his hidey-hole. I thought the casting was excellent, Matt Lucas was born to be Mr Toad, and Lee Ingleby as the hesitant, innocent and decent Mole was particularly good. I got goosebumps at times whilst watching it. It took me back to my childhood and those long lazy days of summer freedom. The night boating scene was particularly special, as the river becomes a dream land. Mole and Rat spy dancing orbs of light and in the branches of a tree a Pan figure plays a haunting melody. This is the magic at the heart of things, the precious moments when you forget yourself and everything makes sense for just a split second. I think you have lots of those seconds when you’re a child, but it can be harder to spot them as an adult. My hope for 2007 is for plenty of those magical moments and for the simplicity of spirit to recognise them.