Nearing the end of October, I got a sudden panicky feeling that the year almost ends. Two months! Plans made at the beginning of the year all went out the window, and think of all the books you don’t get around to read this year – some you have planned to since years ago! And so year after year we’d be pondering over the same thing, that there’s not enough time in the world to read all the books you want to read. But I’m going to leave my full year of reflection for the first post next year, as always.
For now, two books, one I super loved, one was a meh. I’ll start with the Love.
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud was the book I’ve been meaning to read for years. In fact, it was published in 1994, so really quite old already. I started knowing about it after this blog, so that’s only in 2007.
And just a second ago I realized that Bookie Mee is now SIX years old! OMG.
Since I haven’t been blogging much for a while though, I’m just going to let that slip by quietly. It still surprises me how long this blog has gone on. And how I feel still connected to the whole book community in the Internet, even though I have stepped far back. Will I keep this blog as long as I’m still reading? Only time can tell.
Back to Understanding Comics, I wonder why it took me so long to read it. It is the most thorough the most informative book on understanding comics (I haven’t read Eisner’s book on the topic, will do that next), that I’d highly recommend it to both people who love comics and those who misunderstand comics.
Comic has suffered long enough as a “low art” form, and people should start seeing it as what it is, a media, not a genre. You can use any media to convey your ideas, to express your creativity and views of the world. What you say is the content of the medium. So for example if you don’t like super-hero comics, it doesn’t mean you hate comics as the media (or I hope you don’t), you just don’t like the content. You can still like comics with other contents.
The book covers history of comics and comparison between American, European, and Japanese comics (which I’m especially happy for – since I grew up with Japanese and European comics). Also covered is how to read comics or how to understand comics. Many of these come very intuitively for me, but I grew up reading comics. From talking to a few people who have not grown up reading comics, apparently it may not come intuitively – which I found very interesting, and it may be the things that put them off. (The same with playing games. If you don’t grow up with it, it may not come intuitively for you.) If you’re one of them, this book is such a great way to “teach” you to read comics. Also have I told you that it is all told in comic form? — comics as in combination of text and pictures. It is so much fun!
5 out of 5 stars! I finally read this with the nudge from Comic Books and Graphic Novels course on coursera.org.
Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
In the effort to finish the Fantasy and Science Fiction course on, again, my-favorite-online-course-platform-on-the-planet coursera.org, I read Princess of Mars. On a side note, did you know that Edgar Rice Burroughs created Tarzan? That was a nice discovery.
I watched the movie adaptation John Carter when it was out. Kind of enjoyed it, but didn’t think much of it. It was done by Disney so it felt Disney-ish…? (doh) The book though is somewhat an important pillar in the history of FSF, as it is a pioneer in inter-galactic, or in this case inter-planet (Earth and Mars), romance. Could this be a seed of Star Wars? It started the rise of pulp fiction, and one of Guardian’s 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read.
The book was readable, but overall it was just meh for me. With John Carter as hero and his adventures to save the princess of Mars, slaying aliens, it all felt too boy-ish. I don’t remember much about the movie, but it seems to capture the book quite well (was thinking to re-watch it after reading, but naah…).
Since I am way way way behind in blogging about books read and all bookish things that happened in the past 3 month, I’m just going to write about them in one giant post. And I just realized those 3 months were summer (coincidence?), so I can call them summer reading!
Frankenstein — Mary Shelley (England/Europe, 1818, 4/5)
I liked Frankenstein, a lot more than Dracula, which I did not like very much. It seems that most people either like one or the other. I’m definitely on Frankenstein side. Also if you read a little about Mary Shelley’s life, it is as shocking and as interesting as her story.
Metamorphosis — Franz Kafka (German, 1915, 4.5/5)
Metamorphosis is my first Kafka, finally. Well the first was actually his short story called A Country Doctor, which I read just before Metamorphosis, but it was a 5-page short story. Metamorphosis is rather short too, around 90 pages. I thought it was amazing story about a man waking up as a giant insect. I got the impression that it was going to be depressing, and it was at the end, but overall I thought it was hilarious. I will need to read more Kafka!
The Night Bookmobile — Audrey Niffenegger (US, 2010, 4/5)
An illustrated book by Audrey Niffenegger about a woman who stumbles upon a mobile library, in which there is everything she’s ever read in her life. Wow it’s so dark and depressing at the end, that I’m not sure what the whole point of the book is. The story is just a bit strange. But there’s a lot of work put into the book as she illustrates it herself using various art techniques.
Don Quixote (graphic novel, vol 1) — Cervantes, illustrated by Rob Davis (Spain, 2011, 4/5)
As I imagine I won’t get into the real Don Quixote anytime soon, I jumped at the chance to read the graphic novel. The illustration is lovely and colorful – I really liked it. The story however seems a bit pointless, about a disillusioned old man and his servant-like mate. I’d probably need to read the real book to get the layers of the story. Don Quixote is still amazingly popular in Spain, as proven by my trips to Spain, so I’m curious.
Watchmen — Alan Moore (fantasy world, 1987, 3/5)
What a DENSE graphic novel! I’m not sure if I’ve read a graphic novel as dense as that. Apart from the comic style pages, there are also pages of writing, in newspaper clip style or letter. It took me forever to read Watchmen, and at the end I speed read it, because I could not stand it not-finished any longer. I know this is a very important graphic novel — it’s in one of Time’s All-Time 100 Novels, but I got impatient. I watched the movie after that and I’d probably recommend most people to just watch the movie. The movie stays very true to the book, and nicely directed (Zack Snyder). Watch the Director’s Cut (around 3.5 hours, while the cinema version is far shorter than that) to get more details from the book, including the meta-comic.
To the Lighthouse — Virginia Woolf (England, 1927, 3/5)
It is my first Woolf, so I’m happy that I finished it, and at least understood most of it. I probably wouldn’t ever be able to get through the book without Prof Weinstein’s lectures on Coursera though, so if you’re struggling, I’d recommend getting his lectures on Coursera’s Fiction of Relationship, and you can sort of read alongside the lectures (there are many of them). My advice is if there’s a paragraph that you don’t understand after reading a couple of times, KEEP GOING! Don’t obsessed and get stuck over one paragraph. In the bigger scheme of things, it really does not matter, and you’ll be glad once you get to the end and able to see the book as a whole.
The Invisible Man — H. G. Wells (England, 1897, 3/5)
Apart from Fiction of Relationship in Coursera, I am also following Fantasy and Science Fiction course, by Prof Rabkin. The reading list is interesting. There are many that I wouldn’t read by myself, so I’m glad to be able to broaden my reading horizon (the same as true for Fiction of Relationship). In one of the weeks the reading list includes all H. G. Wells: 2 novels and 2 short stories. I didn’t know how important Wells was in SF. He is often compared with Jules Verne, as they were from the same era, but as explained in the lectures, Verne is purely entertainment, while Wells questions social and political issues in his writing.
In Invisible Man, Wells created a man that because of a personal scientific experiment has turned invisible. And he can’t go back. Since I read this so close to Frankenstein, I saw some similarity, like how the two main characters are rejected by the society and turn bad as a result. I guess that’s the end of the similarity, because I didn’t enjoy Invisible Man as much. The description of actions tire me, and I kept waiting for deeper discussions of life like in Frankenstein, which does not happen in Invisible Man.
A Grief Observed — C. S. Lewis (1961, 3/5)
I feel the need to say that this book was given by a friend, who asked me to read this favorite book of his, so I felt compelled to read it. I might appreciate the book more if I were at different stage of life, but as it was, it didn’t speak to me in any profound way. I have long left any discussions of God and Christianity IRL, and therefore found the discussion here about God, his intentions and afterlife to be heavy handed.
C.S. Lewis wrote books journalling his thoughts after the death of his wife of 4 years, referred to here as H. I’m just glad that they edited much of it, and left a thin 60-page large-font book, as I wouldn’t have much patience for longer book about wallowing in grief. I feel a bit bad for not thinking higher of the book given the sad subject matter and the circumstances of my reading it, but as I said, in another time I could’ve taken it differently
The Island of Doctor Moreau — H. G. Wells (1896, 3.5/5)
In the Island of Dr Moreau, Wells plays with the idea of turning beasts into men. Our narrator is someone who got stranded in an island, where he meets two other men, one of them Moreau. Later finding shows how Dr Moreau has been experimenting with animals and turning them into imperfect human that is more half man half beast. Interesting premise, but after reading 2 books by Wells, I’m pretty clear that I don’t fall in love with his writing. His ideas are great, but his writing just doesn’t evoke much in me.
ps: Don’t even look for the movie. It seems to be really bad from what people say. I just some pictures, and the effects don’t impress me too.
Been reading Nathaniel Hawthorne (Before I started I didn’t know he is also well known for his short stories, some are mentioned as early conception of Science Fiction. I only knew he wrote Scarlet Letter prior to this.), Edgar Allan Poe (never quite like Poe. Maybe I’m just not into psychopathic behaviors?), Flannery O’Connor, John Updike, more H. G. Wells (I kinda liked the two I read: The Country of the Blind and The Star), Gustave Flaubert, William Faulkner, Jorge Luis Borges, Hemingway.
I got little sparks from Borges so I’ll be reading more. Flaubert, possibly. I’m eyeing Madame Bovary.
Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (remember John Carter? Also, did you know that Burroughs wrote Tarzan? Yeah, I didn’t know too!)
Great Expectations by Dickens via Dailylit, sent daily to my mail, which I try to read first thing in the morning on the way to work for. I’ve been doing this for a few months now, and I’m over a third in. I’m happy that it works. I don’t think I would be able to do it reading it like normal book to be honest. It is very very long, and in spite of the interesting bits, there are more boring bits.
On the Pipe
I probably shouldn’t mention much in fear that I would jinx it, but if all goes according to plan I’ll be reading Herland — Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Old Man and the Sea — Hemingway, and the Martian Chronicles — Ray Bradbury.
I can’t believe how much I’m reading considering how little I did for the last couple of years. I think I probably needed more structure and direction in my reading, and I’ve got them, thanks to the Profs and Coursera.
I did not use this copy (it’s free on Kindle), but isn’t this Art of Novella series lovely?
If there’s a classic that I do not wish to read ever, it is Moby Dick. I’m never interested in anything nautical, any story set in a boat does not grab me (Life of Pi is an exception), and Melville pretty much scared me. So with much reservation, I picked up Bartlebythe Scrivener (1853), a novella / short story, for the third week of our Fiction of Relationship course.
I was pleasantly surprised. Bartleby is set in a New York office, and it has nothing to do with boat or sea. Bartleby is the name of a character who baffles everyone, as he “prefers to” do all kinds of things that people don’t understand. He refuses to do little things here and there at first, until it escalates into bigger things. I caught the humour early on in the story, and it stays funny or even gets funnier until the end. It is light and smart, and mightily enjoyable.
I thought if this is how Melville writes, I could read his works all day long!
Unfortunately when I moved on to his second work for the course, a short story titled Benito Cereno (also free on Kindle), I gave up after a few exhausting pages. The writing was dense like a stale old bread, it was impossible for me to penetrate. I went to Wiki to just get the gist of the plot, and found out that it is very smart in terms of both plot and technique, but again it would’ve taken me too much effort to get to the end. It doesn’t help that we get back to boats and sailors in Benito Cereno.
I guess I wouldn’t be reading Moby Dick anytime soon.
Today I’d like to refer you to my post on Hay-on-Wye, Wales – the town of books on my travel blog Wandering Mee. I’m going to write in more details about the author events I went to, just for y’all bookish people, but for now, enjoy the story and the pictures of this lovely town :)
Another awesome thing that I found today was the series of pictures of people reading book around the world by the renown photographer Steve McCurry, the person who took picture of the Afghan Girl. Such a fantastic idea – which I would probably try to do too in my next travels. Below are a few of my favorites. Head to his blog to see more.
Afghanistan, 06/1992. A boy reads to his class. Credit: Steve McCurry
Thailand. A woman reads in the light coming through a window. Credit: Steve McCurry
Russia. A woman reads under a purple umbrella. Credit: Steve McCurry
And the last one from yours truly :)
Wales, UK. A woman reads while waiting for her phone charging. Credit: Dioni Zhong
At one magical instant the page of a book –
that string of confused, alien ciphers–shivered into meaning. Words spoke to you, gave up their secrets; at that moment,
whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader. - Alberto Manguel
For the second week of reading in the Fiction of Relationship class, we are tackling Jane Eyre. Now I actually started Jane Eyre two years ago, and since then had been reading it on and off. I got stuck at 80% for a long time, and I finally finished it for the class. It’s not that I had specific problem with the book that it took me so long to finish it. I just had problem with the sheer length of it. It is very very LONG! My Vintage copy is 600 pages long. Reading it on Kindle too seems to take forever to move forward. I read pages and pages, and the percentage didn’t go up 1%!
The story itself I really like — a lot more than Pride and Prejudice for instance. Jane Eyre as a character is feisty and courageous. She is cast away as a child and goes through a lot of troubles growing up. The writing is brilliant, it’s almost hard to believe that someone could write that well.
I’m going to talk a bit about the structure of the book, so minor spoilers ahead.
Jane Eyre is roughly divided into three sections. First part for Jane growing up. Second part for Jane with Mr Rochester. Third part is when Jane leaves to become independent. So in short, pre-Rochester, mid-Rochester, and post-Rochester. My problem finishing it was that mainly I found the second part the most interesting, while the first and the third somewhat boring. Now I’m not usually the type of reader who longs for romance story, but honestly with Jane Eyre, it’s like everything dies when I entered the third part along with my desire to continue the book.
I think this is probably a common problem with reading a thick classic. There are interesting parts, and there are boring parts. The time when Jane was confronting Rochester and in deep inner conflict about doing the right thing was mighty interesting. I flew by it. But when it got into a slump, I just thought I would never get through it.
To conclude, Jane Eyre is an excellent literature for classes and book groups. There are a lot to discuss and talk about, layers upon layers, it might be never ending.
I still think the book is too long though…
I read Wuthering Heights quite a while ago and loved it. I heard that you either love Wuthering Heights and hate Jane Eyre or the other way around. I can see where this comment comes from, as the two books cannot be more different! It is somewhat mind-boggling that the Brontës are sisters.
The 2011 Movie
I watched the 2011 Jane Eyre movie with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. The movie makers seem to agree with me that the first and third part of the book are rather boring, since they cut them really short. In fact the ending felt really abrupt. It was pretty good movie though, and worth watching in my opinion.
I’ve been following Mia since The Kids Are All Right and I think she’s a little under appreciated as an actress (while Jennifer Lawrence is probably over-hyped — I don’t get how the whole world seems to get almost over obsessed with her). Mia fits her role well as “plain” Jane, while Michael Fassbender is great as Rochester. Fassbender is bit of hit and miss for me, but here he’s really perfect as rough rich Rochester. Approval from Mee!
Module One (all free on the Internet) Abbé Prévost’s Manon Lescaut (1731)
Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847)
Herman Melville’s Bartleby (1853) and Benito Cereno (1855)
Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” (1915) and “A Country Doctor” (1919)
Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse (1927)
Module Two (have to buy) William Faulkner’s Light in August (1932)
Jorge Luis Borges’ Ficciones (1956)
Tarjei Vesaas’ The Ice Palace (1963) J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace (1999)
Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987)
Hawthorne & Poe — Stories and Poems (Hawthorne’s Mosses from an Old Manse includes “The Birthmark,” “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” and “The Artist of the Beautiful” and his Twice-Told Tales includes “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment”; The Portable Poe includes all the suggested Poe stories and poems
Bradbury — The Martian Chronicles (not available for legal, free download)
LeGuin — The Left Hand of Darkness (not available for legal, free download)
Doctorow — Little Brother (This reading is somewhat longer than most of the others. You may want to begin it in advance.)
I’m positive that I won’t be able to go through all those (the Fantasy and Science Fiction one especially requires TONS of reading – I’ve checked the length of each), but the courses really pique my interest about reading some of the books mentioned.
If you’re inclined, you should be able to just check out the lecture videos, because they’re both excellent. I love both professors. They seem to be really passionate about teaching and the text, and you do get more understanding by listening to their discussions of the books / short stories. I got really inspired to read more, especially the classics. Most important of all, it’s all FREE! Thank you coursera :)
I’ve finished Manon Lescaut, surprise surprise! Remember last week I told you that I was delighted to be able to finish Animal Farm? I seem to have picked up a momentum and finish another book. Apparently short book and deadline are the key (the deadline is for The Fiction of Relationship coursera course which I also mentioned last time). Can’t be happier!
Manon Lescaut (original title: L’Histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut) is a French 18th century classic (published 1753), which is relatively unknown today, but it was a popular novel at the time, much like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Somewhat comparable to R+J since it is also story of a couple, Manon Lescaut is different in a lot of ways. In fact I probably wouldn’t compare the two at all. For one, R+J is a play while Manon Lescaut was written as novel. The story is told purely from the side of the male lover. It injects controversial ideas for its time and was banned upon publication.
I have to say that it took me the entire book to warm up to the protagonist. Most of the time I wanted to slap him in the head and my eyes rolled to the back of my head at times by how dramatic he could be. The man is so passionately and foolishly in love with the woman, Manon, that he appears to be delusional. Manon is not on the higher ground, as she is the equivalent of a high-class prostitute or courtesan. The book felt high-charged erotically though nothing is ever explicit and everything is shown to be chaste (probably typical of works in that era).
Though short and with the incentive of the course coverage, I don’t think I’d be able to finish it if Manon Lescaut weren’t good in itself. The story has a nice pace, the language — dramatic and translation as it is — is interesting to read, and you do want to know what happens to the characters next. The last probably is the most important factor of them all to make you keep reading.
The complexity of the book, the layers, the human relationship, and the portrayed society would surely be discussed more in the class. But purely as a novel I thought Manon Lescaut delivers, and I quite like how it is ended.
Abbé Prévost (1697-1763)
Now to finish Jane Eyre for the second week. I’ve been 80% in since last year…
I hadn’t finished a book in 2-3 months (don’t even mention how many I started and put aside to continue later). I went to Hay-On-Wye for Hay Festival last weekend and apparently our phones don’t work over there (at least not for O2!). No internet for 2-3 days, and I finished one book. Sensing desperate need to unplug. And yes I can see the irony of this post…
So to the book! Animal Farm is a fantastic little read and it probably resonates for most people even vaguely interested in politics or leadership. It is fascinating how relevant the content is until now. Orwell wrote this with Stalin and Russia in mind, but the book reminded me of North Korea – almost every aspect of it. A timeless fable of revolution goes wrong, which only proves that humans (pigs?) don’t change very much, sadly.
This is my first Orwell, can you believe it? I can’t wait to read more! I have 1984 ready on my shelf, so anytime now.
The whole literary atmosphere and the fact that I was able to finish a book kind of energized my reading life. Hope I can keep the momentum and finish more books. I am looking at novellas, short books, or even graphic novels and short stories. Something doable!
I am also currently enrolled in one of coursera.org free course on The Fiction of Relationship and starting Manon Lescaut by Abbé Prévost, which is a French classic that’s the first book in the syllabus and I never heard of prior to this, but it’s a short book and it’s free on Kindle, so who knows, it could be the next book I finish?!
I went to tons of literary/author events in May on top of Hay Festival, so lots of things in store. Hope to share them with you in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, happy reading, as always!
Last week I was invited to the private advanced screening of Beat Girl at W Hotel at Leicester Square just next to the M&M World (don’t know why I mentioned that, but I passed the hotel so many times before but never got in). After screening of the movie there was Q&A with the casts, writer, and producer — probably the first kind of press event that I went to. I’m no stranger to Indie cinemas though, as I love my indies as much as I love my blockbusters.
Beat Girl tells the story of Heather, a classical piano student in a mission to get to her dream school. Life is tough though. With the death of mother, Heather needs to move in with her estranged father and half-brother, both of whom aren’t emotionally supportive, and half-bro is especially not welcoming. After a shoplifting rescue of the brother, Heather meets Toby, the owner of a CD store who happens to be cute and a rather successful DJ. Short of money and hearing how much a good DJ could earn in one night (that’s £1000), she starts taking DJ lessons with him.
Here the two worlds start to clash. The late nights prove to be disruptive to morning classes. And classical piano student does DJ-ing? Outrageous! How dare she! How will Heather handle the tension and pressure between her day and night world? The question whether to follow what one loves against the expectation bestowed upon one is hanging throughout the movie.
Afterwards we had Q&A with Louise Dylan (Heather), Craig Daniel Adams (Toby), Melanie Martinez (writer), and Nuno Bernado (producer). First thing I noticed was that the girl and boy playing Heather and Toby are both so much more good looking in real life! — they almost looked completely different for some reason. Very odd. And Craig Daniel Adams talks in Scottish accent in real life which sounds so cute (what’s so irresistible about Scottish and Irish accent?), that is suppressed in the movie.
I threw question about the inception of the story, and it was soon obvious that the story is the brainchild of the producer Nuno Bernado based on his personal experience when he was young. Melanie Martinez the writer came over when the story was pretty much set, then she wrote it and probably fleshed it out more.
I always have great interest in the making of a movie — Indie or otherwise, probably more so for Indie. To be able to come up with a full length movie with small budget is such an achievement. Also working so close to the movie industry, I do have quite a few friends who try to and actually make small films. It is something quite close to my heart.
There was some talk about comparison with Save the Last Dance (the movie which I absolutely loved back when I was in high school!), but Beat Girl is probably targeted for a younger audience. It is a gentle coming-of-age movie about following your heart.
Beat Girl also reminded me a bit of a Certain Indie Movie that also has music as its majority theme — Once. Once is Irish, made with even smaller budget (Once – €130K, Beat Girl – €500K), it has gone to win Oscar for Best Original Song and be critically and commercially successful. It’s just recently made into a musical that has taken Broadway and West End by storm.
Compared with the two older movies (both of which I loved very much), Beat Girl admittedly falls a bit short. For a music theme movie, I thought the soundtrack isn’t strong enough. And for an Indie movie, it is not edgy enough — it is all a bit too gentle and too safe.
Another point of interest is the promotion of the movie. Beat Girl uses all kinds of social media channels, including Pinterest (Beat Girl Pinterest page) which they started even before the movie was out. I thought this one was particularly brilliant. You can use Pinterest to make some kind of story board, flesh out your story ideas, and gauge the audience, before going to make the real thing. There are also book written after the screenplay and game based on the movie. The last two I’m not so sure of. It seems like the energy could’ve been spread a bit too thin for something that wouldn’t work at all if not done properly. (I know, I am a reader and a gamer :)
We do need more Indie cinemas and people making more movies. All the gadgets available to everyone now are already better than the professional gadgets 10 years ago. Technically everybody can make movies and what with the Internet leveling the playing field. In the future we would be able to sell movie anywhere around the world via the Internet.
Lower barrier. More people. Wider market. Exciting time.
Beat Girl coming out in the UK on the 10th of May 2013 and 29th of May in the US.
I was invited to guest blog at The Good Web Guide so this week I’m Blogger of the Week! Check out the front page — I am side by side diagonally with the CEO of Pottermore! And here’s the permalink if you read this post after this week.
Mee at Good Web Guide
I could write about anything, but the editor suggested a few topics related to blogging. And I thought well I could totally write about that! Some of my friends IRL would know that I sometimes try to shove off blogging tips to people who don’t have interest to blog… uuum.
I know lots of you at Bookie Mee are avid bloggers, so I’m really preaching to the choir (or fellow priests?). But if you’re one of those who’s been thinking to start a blog, check out my top tips for building a successful blog (or two). And those of you my swanky fellow bloggers, let me know if you have anything to add to those tips! :)
I could’ve written about How Blogging Changed My Life. But I’ll save that story for another day.
Just recently, right after War Horse, I had been thinking whether I might get invited to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Sometimes the universe listens, and lo and behold! The invitation indeed came forth. The striking blue posters since have been popping up all around London, and I was really looking forward to seeing the play.
I read The Curious book sometime in 2008 during a read-a-thon (oh the days when read-a-thon was a manageable size), and I loved it straight away. It is one of those books that I bought multiple copies of, and gave to people. I wondered how people would translate such a unique book into stage play.
First thing that hit me was that the boy playing Christopher was older/bigger than what I imagined him to be when I read the book. He is 15 in the book. I guess boys are pretty grown by that age, so the casting was alright (Christopher played by Luke Treadaway – who also happened to play in War Horse stage). Somehow I imagined him closer to 11-12 years old back then.
In any way he is quite a tricky character to play, because as we know, Christopher is autistic. He has problem with interpreting people’s emotions, understanding behaviours, and generally acting “normal”. It is something that I can relate with, the whole confusion and pressure to be the “normal” — to be the same as everybody else.
Christopher’s problem also highlights things that we usually take for granted, like interpreting the reaction of human face and body language. It reminds me how complex humans are, and how far away we are from having robots duplicating our ability to read all these millions of tiny, often subtle, signals we send to each other. Christopher excels in math and logic, but he has trouble understanding his fellow human beings.
The play begins with a dead neighbour’s dog killed by a giant fork, and Christopher is present at the scene of the crime. After convincing everybody that he does not kill the dog, Christopher goes off to try to find the answers to the who and why. Started somewhat lightheartedly, it gets sad pretty quickly, as we learn about the situation at home, featuring a stressed father, and a separated mother.
The stage is very clean and modern, with the shape of a square box. Lights, projectors, and moveable props are used, and there are storage spaces behind the walls and under the floor where they can take things from. It is another unique way of using the stage that I had not seen before.
It was very interesting to see the book brought to live on stage. I encourage you to check out the trailer below also to get more sense of what to expect. Very worth watching if you happen to be in London! And if you do, don’t leave your seat immediately after the show ends, because in a short while Christopher would appear again and do his Math presentation, just like the appendix in the book :).
As another nice touch, notice the seats when you get into the theatre. If you remember, Christopher is fascinated by prime numbers (who doesn’t? I remember being fascinated by them too when I first learned about it!), so they number all the seats in the theatre and mark those ones that are on prime number positions!