Monday, 19 March 2001

Liszt, Vampires and English Passengers

Listening to:

Liszt, Bagatelle sans tonalité. This is a short little piece. In fact, it’s just finished as I write. It’s part of a CD of performances by Paul Lewis (a pianist) from the BBC Music Magazine. I wouldn’t often buy such a “collection” CD, but I really enjoy this one. It features Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Liszt and Schubert.

A recent movie:

Shadow of the Vampire. I didn't really think that much of this. It was quite atmospheric, but it took itself a bit too seriously. None of the characters were particularly interesting or believable. John Malkovich was pretty good as the obsessive director, but that’s all he was, a one-dimensional obsessive director. I can’t help but think that this film was sold as a premise and never really fleshed out. (“It'll be great: a director makes a vampire film where the vampire character really is a vampire. Oh, and did I say? The director will be really obsessive, so much so that he does evil deals with the vampire just to get his film made.”)

Still reading:

Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit. I’m about two thirds of the way through this. It’s a great epic, and I’m really enjoying it.

Holiday reading:

Matthew Kneale, English passengers. This was a very good Christmas present. It also recently won the Whitbread Book of the Year prize. It tells many stories simultaneously, with a cast of different narrators used to narrate various chapters. This device works well to demonstrate the characters’ differing perspectives on the same situations.

There are two principal stories in the novel. One is of an expedition to Tasmania, led by a daft vicar who is convinced that Tasmania is the site of the Garden of Eden, and the other is the story of Peevay, a young Tasmanian Aboriginal who grows up just as the British settlers there are wiping out all of his people. Needless to say, both stories eventually overlap.

In a ‘cast of thousands’, it is perhaps a little difficult to find only three sympathetic characters, heroes if you like, but the preponderance of brutality, racism and narrow-mindedness is probably an accurate reflection of the times. Moreover, the novel is really very exciting, and kept me enthralled throughout.

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