March 11th, 2010

breaking bad

Yellow Blue Tibia

I just finished reading Yellow Blue Tibia, Adam Roberts' novel about a Soviet SF writer who finds that an alien-invasion story he wrote in the late 1940s is coming true in the 1980s. After a fashion.

Super premise, and realised with some expertise, but I didn't like it that much. It struck me as over-controlled.

It seems to me that all Adam Roberts' books are about how people generate a pocket universe around themselves, in which they live oblivious to the pocket universes of others. Events seem to have an obvious meaning within your pocket, only to be wrenchingly different for other people, even people very close to you. Love between people does offer some sort of bridge between these lonely universes, but is fraught with misunderstanding. Sometimes I felt that because he wanted to stick to his philosophical premise, Roberts was holding himself in too tight, not trusting himself to let the story loose, so it wasn't ever quite as much fun as it might have been. It was ironic and sarcastic in place of playfulness.

There has been some criticism of the fact that the romantic interest - an american scientologist - is both several decades younger than the hero-writer and a lot more overweight. Her physical appearance is described several times as both frankly fat and as beautiful. I personally did not find this fat-phobic or offensive, but I know others have felt differently.
breaking bad

Mad Men Blogging: Souvenir

This week's Mad Men episode was the incredibly stylish (even for Mad Men) Souvenir, which used the imagery of many sophisticated films of the late fifties and early sixties, pointing up the disjunct between a beautiful and enviable exterior, and disappointing reality. Instead of a wealth of character-plots there were really only two: Don and Betty travel to Rome for a long weekend, finding themselves in a temporarily romantic Audrey Hepburn movie like Roman Holiday; Pete Campbell thinks he's in a grown-up film like The Seven Year Itch and of course completely mucks it up and makes an ass of himself, or possibly a pig. On the plus side - kalypso_v did you notice he got his top off?

All in all, glossy, brittle, tragic and worryingly enviable.

In We Can Remember It For You Wholesale (filmed as Total Recall, after a fashion) Philip K Dick implies that the only trace which a good experience leaves in the mind is the souvenir of a happy memory, which you might as well just purchase. This also is what the characters here seem to believe, and that paradoxically is what makes them unhappy. Is that the point of life - just to accumulate souvenirs of experience, to get you through the rest of the days? But I would say that experience, even frustrating experience, helps you build the mental house that you live in, and your relationships. You don't just have a memento or a sexy memory of a kiss, you have a permanent gain or loss.

Lucy Mangan in the Guardian says: "A mere fortnight after something last happened in Mad Men .... something else has happened! ... I predict at least One More Thing Happening, perhaps as early as a month from now." Do I detect the gossamer hand of sarcasm? This is the best show on telly you dolt.