If my life was a Michel Gondry movie

I saw the latest Michel Gondry movie, “Mood Indigo” at the cinemas the other day, and it was so beautiful it inspired me to write this poem.

I wish my life was a Michel Gondry movie
I’d live in Paris and fall in love,
and every step would be a dance
and every song would be for me;
I’d have a mouse to clean my house,
my dates would take me floating in clouds
rain would fall in feathers on our hair;
instead of words, dreams would spring
fully-formed from my pen,
and instead of a disease
I’d have a flower in my womb.

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Sex and Numbers in “Addition”

…life would be different if I didn’t count, I know that.  But without it the world would be too big and too changeable.  An endless void.  I’d be lost all the time.  I’d be overwhelmed. (22)

Toni Jordan’s “Addition” tells the story of Grace Vandenburg, a Melbourne woman whose life is controlled by her compulsive need to count everything from how many steps she takes and how long it takes to brush her teeth, to how many bites she must eat her food in, each aspect of her life is counted and regimented by numbers.  Through counting, Grace creates order in an otherwise chaotic world, even when it impacts on other aspects of her life, such as falling in love.

Jordan_Addtion_large_coverAs in many debut novels, the story is centred around the main character’s development: why Grace counts, how it challenges her and how it holds her together.  The love interest, Seamus, acts mostly as a catalyst for change, challenging Grace’s perception of being content with the ways in which counting regiments her life, and also an opportunity for Jordan to add in some raunchy scenes.  Her family are also present as secondary characters whose main function is to reveal Grace’s character, in particular to portray Grace’s ideas of normal and different, an integral part of how she defines her identity; that is, that counting makes her special and without it she would be normal. Throughout the book Grace see-saws in between feeling trapped in her counting and being comforted by defining her identity as a woman who counts.

Although it was easy to read and generally enjoyable, I found “Addition” a little emotionally distant.  Whilst Grace is constantly anxious, her emotion never came off the page, perhaps in part because of her obsessive counting, used to keep her anxieties at bay, but this also stopped me from connecting with the character as much as I would’ve liked to.  In the end, I found “Addition” to be a witty love story with a quirk, but which lacked the depth I had hoped for.

Finding my muse in Nick Cave

02032013287I saw Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds last weekend at the Myer music bowl and as usual, he put on a great performance.  Aside from thoroughly enjoying the concert, it also had me thinking about how I’ve often found inspiration in Nick Cave’s songs.  Several of my poems and stories have been directly inspired from his music: the narratives, metaphors and images replete throughout his discography tend to stay with me until I have to write something with it.

His creative drive also is something to admire and aspire towards.  To be relentlessly creating throughout addiction and loss, but also happiness and domesticity exemplify his artistic drive.  This recent article in the guardian goes into more detail about Cave’s creative process and the new album.

I heard somewhere that Into My Arms was written for his father, who died suddenly when Cave was 19, and there is a melancholia to the song, as with most of his love songs.  In his lecture on the love song he talks about the need for sadness in a love song:

Looking back at these twenty years a certain clarity prevails. Midst the madness and the mayhem, it would seem I have been banging on one particular drum. I see that my artistic life has centered around an attempt to articulate the nature of an almost palpable sense of loss that has laid claim to my life. A great gaping hole was blasted out of my world by the unexpected death of my father when I was nineteen years old. The way I learned to fill this hole, this void, was to write. …The great W.H. Auden said “The so-called traumatic experience is not an accident, but the opportunity for which the child has been patiently waiting – had it not occurred, it would have found another- in order that its life come a serious matter.” The death of my father was the “traumatic experience” Auden talks about that left the hole for God to fill. How beautiful the notion that we create our own personal catastrophes and that it is the creative forces within us that are instrumental in doing this. We each have a need to create and sorrow is a creative act. The love song is a sad song, it is the sound of sorrow itself. We all experience within us what the Portuguese call Suadade, which translates as an inexplicable sense of longing, an unnamed and enigmatic yearning of the soul and it is this feeling that lives in the realms of imagination and inspiration and is the breeding ground for the sad song, for the Love song is the light of God, deep down, blasting through our wounds.

Clouds in the water and other images from “Life of Pi”

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Only two months or so after the movie’s release I finally made it to the cinema for the “Life of Pi,” and I’m so glad I did.  Visually, it was absolutely breath-taking, the way the sky and water change with each scene so that every sequence adds more depth is so poetic.  It is a movie I’ll revisit whenever I feel in need of inspiration.

Here are just a few of the images that have stayed with me:

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There is a quite poignant moment where Pi tries to communicate with Richard Parker, and wonders what the tiger sees in the water. life-of-pi3

I love this line from a review in the Guardian, it really sums up how Ang Lee captures the danger and the beauty of Richard Parker, the Bengal tiger.

They [Pi and Richard Parker] are soon pacing around one other with the same mixture of wariness and hungriness last seen on the faces of Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in Lee’s 2005 Brokeback Mountain.

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All images sourced from http://cinema.theiapolis.com/movie-0BUC/life-of-pi/gallery/

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

awwbadge_2013The challenge, to read and review books written by Australian women, is designed to bring attention to and redress the gender inequality in readership of and media attention to Australian books; although this disparity is by no means limited to Australia.  As an emerging female writer in Australia, I feel it would be remiss of me not to take part.  Although many of the books I read are written by female writers, indeed, many of my favourite authors are women (Arundhati Roy, Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver, Angela Carter, to name a few), not may Australian writers come easily to mind.  After some research though, I have come up with an ambitious reading list:

Review of “The Hobbit”

The movie was beautiful and epic, as expected, but ultimately disappointing.  Of course, any movie adaption of a childhood favourite is never going to live up to the power of the imagination.  Nor is a movie adaption supposed to be an exact replica of the book, yet I found those scenes that stayed closest to the book remained the best, such as the encounter with the trolls, Gandalf’s words of wisdom and witticisms, and, of course Gollum.  All the classic elements were there, Gandalf with his staff and pipe and always timely interventions, Elrond looking surly, Gollum in all his tricksy glory, a host of fearsome badies, and, a dragon.  The dwarves were mostly younger and better looking than my imagination ever made them, but I’m not complaining about that.  Galadriel seemed to be added in just to be the token female (making one of the dwarves female might’ve added a more interesting twist), and the character of Radagast, while mildly amusing, served no discernible plot purpose except to stretch out the movie for an extra twenty minutes.

This brings me to my biggest criticism: the movie was far too long.  When I heard The Hobbit was being made into 3 movies I wondered where Peter Jackson was going to find enough material.  The answer lies in adding a number of superfluous scenes, such as a rehashing of the beginning of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (perhaps so Frodo could make a cameo), filling in every single detail of Thorin’s life (and erasing most of his flaws in the process) and by forging a link to ‘The Lord of the Rings’ through the Necromancer.  But in adding all of this in, Jackson leaves nothing to the imagination of the viewer, such as the threat of the Necromancer or the tension between the various council members, except perhaps for how Galadriel manages to vanish into the ether.  The many battle scenes were often melodramatic, particularly the backstory of Thorin and the Pale Orc, (any scene with a rolling head and a grieved cry of ‘Nooo’ is inviting ridicule) so that in the end they all began to feel a little generic.  The music was overdone, particularly the dramatic emphasis on the ring, and whilst I know New Zealand has some beautiful vistas, how many shots do we need to see of Gandalf in front of a pink sky?

A major part of the book’s appeal was its playful and light-hearted tone, the movie omits much of this and, I feel, suffers for it.  Almost from the start the movie is too serious.  Yes, defeating a dragon is serious work, but much of the troubles that the dwarves encounter along their journey are from their own mistakes and obstinacy and bickering amongst themselves.  Whilst Jackson adds in some comic relief, the way he works in the plot of the Pale Orc changes the tone when instead he could’ve made his characters less perfect, less heroic and more susceptible to human error, after all, a major theme of ‘The Hobbit’ is that any average person has within them the potential to be a hero.  It would have been nice to have a little more personality from the dwarves also, I could barely tell which one was which, aside from Thorin, Balin, the old one, Fili and Kili, the young attractive ones and Bombur, the fat one.

That said, there were still many impressive aspects: Smaug the dragon in his fields of gold was truly magnificent, and I loved the way Jackson holds off in showing the dragon’s whole form, only hinting at his enormity and ferocity; the goblin king was suitably disgusting and self-important; and Bilbo’s meeting with Gollum was everything I expected—I just wish it hadn’t taken quite so long to get there.  In the end, I found The Hobbit only vaguely enjoyable, and while I will most likely still watch the second movie, it will be with lowered expectations, and the vain hope that enough unfavourable reviews will encourage Peter Jackson to be less self-indulgent in the next segment.