Five Conversations with my Daughter (Who Travels in Time)1 by Malcolm Devlin. The title pretty much sums this up. The narrator’s daughter travels back in time – on only five occasions – to talk to him when her body in his time is asleep. We Might be Sims2 by Rich Larson. One of a group of three convicts forced to make a trial run to Europa thinks they may be in a simulation. Heartsick3 by Greg Kurzawa. Martin has his heart, dying for seventeen years since the drowning of his daughter, removed. Florida Miracles by Julie C Day. Inside, Esta hears the voice of Mrs Henry. The day comes when Mrs Henry wants out. Scienceville4 by Gary Gibson. In his basement Joel Kincaird has constructed a map of Scienceville, the town he’d invented as a teenage boy but after an exhibition in which he’d displayed some of his drawings he gets emails from people who claim to have lived there. Laika by Ken Altabe. The (USian) narrator’s great uncle Dimitri – a real Russian – is dying and asks him to look after his dog Laika whom he claims to be that Laika, the first living creature in space.
1 summersaults (somersaults) 2 snuck (sneaked; I know it was written in USian but still.) 3 miniscule (minuscule), plus written in USian so we had he felt obligated rather than he felt obliged. 4 Despite Gibson being Glaswegian this is written (at least in part) in USian so we have recess for interval, couple hours for couple of hours, ‘getting on what, four years?’ for ‘getting on for what, four years?’ (He lives in Taipei now though (and his protagonist lives in New York.) Ikea (surely it’s IKEA?)
Hurricane Films, Iris Productions, SellOutPictures. Directed by Terence Davies.
We don’t go to the cinema much, life and children got in the way not to mention Kirkcaldy’s dedicated cinema closing down years ago now so we had only what passes for the local “Art House” Cinema to rely on unless we wanted a trek to Dunfermline.
However we couldn’t miss seeing the film of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s classic book Sunset Song. So it was off to the Adam Smith Theatre again. (But that’s also a longer trip since our house move.)
It is difficult for a film to capture the essence of Gibbon’s masterpiece. I suppose this one made a valiant effort but I have huge reservations. The human story of Chris Guthrie’s life was well enough done but though references to it were made via voice-over (and in the odd bit of dialogue) and there were cutaways to sumptuous views of the countryside the importance of the land to the novel (and Gibbon’s intentions for it) did not come across with anything like enough force.
I noticed that the church used – at least for the exterior shots – was actually the one in Arbuthnott (the village with which Gibbon is most associated) where his memorial is situated. I can’t vouch for the interior as I’ve never been inside. I did feel that the soundtrack choir singing All in the April Evening in the lead-up to the church scene was ill-judged; too lush by far. We also had the minister wearing a surplice; not at all likely in a Presbyterian Kirk. And that pulpit looked disturbingly modern.
Peter Mullan as Chris’s father gave his usual Peter Mullan hardman performance and Agyness Dein’s acting as Chris was fine but really her accent was all over the place. At one point I thought she’d said, “they were burning the winds,” when it was whins. (The h in “wh” words is aspirated in Scots and Scottish English; the sound is more like hwins.) She also pronounced the g in “rang” and for her to be unable to say “loch” properly verges on the criminal for someone playing a Scotswoman. None of the accents struck me as being particularly of the Mearns though.
I also felt the prominence given to Chris’s husband Ewan’s fate towards the end of the film made it seem more of a lament for the fallen of the Great War in general rather than the more particular loss about which Gibbon was writing, for which Ewan stood as a metaphor.
Watch the film by all means – it says a lot about the harsh times and attitudes of the Scotland of a century ago – but for the full Gibbon experience the book is certainly to be preferred.
Set against the backdrop of the late 1990s foot-and-mouth outbreak this is a police procedural crime novel whose main viewpoint character is Detective Inspector Marjory Fleming,* wife of a farmer and mother of two children. Also prominent is the figure of Laura Sonfeldt, a psychologist newly returned to Britain from New York (and a failed marriage) and resolved to find out what happened to her sister who had disappeared from home over ten years before. There are also odd passages from the viewpoint of an at first mysterious third woman who is estranged from her family, the invitation by the author being for us to believe this is Laura’s sister.
For all I know the treatment may be typical of a crime novel, my acquaintance with that genre isn’t extensive, but I found it programmatic, with excessive information dumping and, for me, too much of a ‘by the numbers’ vibe to the writing. An underling with an annoying habit? ✔. A subordinate who is a loose cannon? ✔. Problematic relationships – this time with the detective’s father – ? ✔. A strained marriage? ✔ – but only because of the stress induced by the foot-and-mouth quarantine and subsequent slaughter. And the body, though we know from the somewhat overwritten prologue a murder has already taken place, doesn’t appear till page 136, a third of the way through the book, which seems a touch reticent. Then too there was a strained striving for an unusual angle with the introduction of therianthropy as an aspect of the character of one of the suspects. Then there was that coyness with regard to the third narrative viewpoint.
Detective/crime novels are not really my thing so the above ought to be read in that light but this novel was one of the entries in the Herald’s list of 100 best Scottish Fiction books (see link in this post’s header.) I severely doubt it would get close to my top 800. It did however contain the impeccably Scottish reflection, “It spoke to him, this countryside, in a language he’d all but forgotten at a level too deep to explain even to himself,” so fair dos.
*I did wonder if Templeton’s use of the name Marjory Fleming was somehow related to “Pet Marjory.” It is otherwise quite a coincidence.
Pedant’s corner:- his gas on a peep (at a peep,) Menzies’ (Menzies’s,) Jake Morgan, (Jake Mason,) bairns and weans used interchangeably, ‘Would I of done that if..?’ (Even in dialogue it irritates me that it wasn’t ‘Would I have done that?’)
This song is more associated with Crosby, Stills and Nash but was co-written by Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship and Starship, who died earlier this week. Apparently his name could not be put on the CSN release of the song for legal reasons but Kantner contributed to the lyrics. Both CSN and Jefferson Airplane performed the song at Woodstock but Airplane’s (very long) version did not appear in the film.
Jefferson Airplane: Wooden Ships
Paul Lorin Kantner: 17/3/1941–28/1/2016. So it goes.
Scrievit by Jean-Yves Ferri. Illustraitit by Didier Conrad. Translaitit by Matthew Fitt. Dalen Alba and Itchy Coo, 2013, 48 p. Originally published as Astérix et les Pictes, 2013, by Les Éditions Albert René.
A bit of fun. This is the Scots version of Asterix and the Picts the first Asterix book not to be written by either René Goscinny or his original illustrator Albert Uderzo. Here Asterix and Obelix retain their familiar names but the “clachan warlock” is rendered not as Getafix but instead Kensawthetrix, we also have Heidbummerix for the chief, Gieitbiglix, plus the inspired name Magonaglix for the bard; but my favourite of these is actually the fish seller, Minginhaddix.
The story starts when an ice-bound, kilted body washes up near Asterix’s clachan. This turns out to be MacHoolet who when thawed out cannot speak at first but nevertheless is a big hit with the local ladies. When MacHoolet, who Tourette’s-like, breaks out in anachronistic song every so often (Mak me wanna shout, Auld Lang Syne, I’ll tak the high road, Boom-Bang-a-Bang, I wid walk 500 miles, I feel it in my fingirs, Ally Bally) and utters the impeccably Doric phrase “foosyerdoos”, finally manages to communicate his origins to the village they set off to take him home and reunite him with his love Camomilla, whom the Pictish chief Macrammie (a nice double pun here on textile working and the Scots for a disputatious contretemps) wants for his own. En route they encounter Nessie’s ancestor Nechtan. They arrive in time to interrupt – with Camomilla’s help – a gathering of the clans to elect a new king (Muirlain Pechts, Plookie Pechts, Joco Pechts, Fattygus Pechts, Pechts fae the wids, Pechts fae the yella watter, White Pechts) as well as to send the Romans home to think again. When MacHoolet calls for new rules of inheritance there is a sly reference to the proportional representation element of the Scottish Parliament’s make-up, ‘we could tak names fae a regional leet’. There are other contemporary references such as ‘Vote Aye. Vote Naw. Better Thegither. It’s Pechtland’s Peat.’ Great stuff: but I doubt non-Scots would make much of it.
Though it is one of the spellings in Scots of that ancient people’s name and Matthew Fitt does make the pun during his translation I would have preferred an alternative (Picht? Peht?) to Pechts. It makes them sound as if they’re out of breath.