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Visual entertainment, party, etc


(This entry cobbled together in spare moments between bouts of magazine work over the past day or two.)

In the past few days, I've read over 45 submissions. Which means I'm caught up on new incoming stories for the first time in a month or so, but I still have half a dozen of S's and K's maybes to read, and a fair number of rejections to write (though I've written about 40 of them in the past 24 hours), and editing to do, and general administrative stuff to get organized.

So not out of the woods yet, but a lot less tense about it than I was on Sunday morning.

Oh, and I also have to go read the rest of the Hugo nominees, as ballots are due three days from now. Yikes.

Sunday evening, ended up driving out to the east bay in the evening to attend the second half of Robert R's birthday party. I was a little twitchy on arrival—there were only maybe 15 or 20 people there, but it was still one of the largest social gatherings I've attended in months. (I'm not really sure why social gatherings are making me so panicky these days. I think it's mostly just a magnification of my usual unease about socializing. There was a line in Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time to the effect that the protagonist was made nervous by strangers because he didn't know what they would do; that struck a chord. —So much so that I may actually have made up the line; I couldn't find it when I went back to look for it later.) But it was all people I know and like (except a couple of couples I had met only very briefly before and didn't interact with much that night), and after hanging out on the edge of the room for a while, I gradually got a little more comfortable. Good to see people, good to catch up on how their lives are going. And for once I wasn't in a mood to talk about what was up with me, and people seemed to pick up on that, so that went well.

What else? Oh, I keep forgetting to mention that Kam and I watched Finding Neverland last week. I liked it a lot, but it was a whole lot sadder than I expected. If you want a real tearjerker evening of sad fictionalized stories about beloved children's authors in the early 20th century, try a double feature of this with Shadowlands. (Specifically the 1993 Richard Attenborough/Anthony Hopkins/Debra Winger version of Shadowlands, apparently based on the 1985 BBC production, which apparently also resulted in a subsequent stage play by William Nicholson. See Shadowlands: A Review and Review: Shadowlands for two comparisons of the Attenborough film to C. S. Lewis's real life.)

(And I didn't mean this to turn into a massive digression on Lewis, but here goes anyway. The second of those Shadowlands reviews mentions something I didn't know about: the theological debate between Ms. G. E. M. Anscombe and Lewis in 1948. Which I find particularly noteworthy in light of Greg Egan's sf story "Oracle," in which a thinly disguised Alan Turing handily demolishes the straw-man religious argument put forth by a thinly disguised C. S. Lewis. Tom Veal reveals, in a posting in Stromata from early 2004, that Egan was specifically arguing against things Lewis wrote in That Hideous Strength and Miracles, the latter book being the subject of the Anscombe/Lewis debate. Only it turns out that in real life, Lewis simply revised his argument in light of the holes Anscombe poked in it. See also Taking Lewis Seriously, by Victor Reppert. That piece is apparently the first chapter of a book by Reppert on the subject, C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea.)

Wow, that really got away from me. What I meant to say about Finding Neverland is that it's good, and worth watching, but seems to me to give short shrift to the political side of Barrie's work, opting instead to suggest that he was a mediocre playwright who finally found his métier in writing magical work for children. It ignores the fact that the 1911 prose-novel version of Peter and Wendy is as much adult political humor as children's book (note particularly that the worst sin Hook can imagine is "bad form"); also that he wrote other political satire, such as the play The Admirable Crichton.

Interestingly, a New Yorker review of the movie and discussion of Barrie's life, by Anthony Lane, also pays little attention to the adult humor and politics of Barrie's work, opting mostly to describe those elements in terms of Barrie displaying an understanding of the darkness that kids like in their fiction. Could be, but I'm dubious; I think a lot of the stuff in Peter and Wendy is intended for an adult audience.

Also in the category of visual entertainment: I seem to have neglected to mention that at some point in the past couple weeks I finished watching all the extant episodes of Firefly. Good stuff; I especially liked "Heart of Gold," the unaired episode where the crew of Serenity has to save a whorehouse on a frontier planet. I have lots more to say about this, but if I do, this entry will never end. So another time, perhaps.

And finally, I squoze in a viewing of Ocean's Twelve the other night. Sadly, I didn't remember until just before I watched the movie that I had given Ocean's Eleven (the 2001 remake; haven't seen the original) a rating of only 5 out of 10, which is to say mediocre and not recommended. So I momentarily considered not watching the sequel, but I was tired and in the mood for fluff, so I watched it. Not impressed; there was some cute fourth-wall stuff, but most of the characters have nothing to do for most of the movie (and what little most of them do do isn't related to their specialties). Turns out (sez IMDB) that the plot was originally intended for a John Woo movie, and was rewritten for use with these characters, which would explain why it doesn't seem to have much to do with most of the characters. Disappointing from Soderbergh. If you're looking for a Soderbergh caper movie starring George Clooney, I recommend instead going for the vastly superior Out of Sight.

Okay, enough. Time to go read Hugo nominees.


The Curious Incident conundrum sounds like a perfect use of the Amazon search in book function.

The best source on the Lewis-Anscombe debate is A.N. Wilson's bio of Lewis.

Gwenda: Good idea; I'll give that a try. Though search only works if you know what word or phrase to search for, and there are so many synonyms and paraphrases that I don't know if I'll be able to find the right search terms.

Supergee: All three of the items I linked to suggest that (in the opinions of the writers I linked to) Wilson's book got it wrong. For example: "A. N. Wilson, ignoring Lewis’ actual literary production after 1948, asserts that 'The confrontation with Elizabeth Anscombe . . . drove him into the form of literature for which he is today most popular: children’s stories.'" One of the other items I linked to refers to "A. N. Wilson's malicious biography" as the source of the misconception apparently at the heart of the Egan story. The point being that Wilson was, according to these three sources, completely wrong about the impact of the Anscombe debate on Lewis's life and later work.

Regarding Egan's story "Oracle," it's worth mentioning that the argument (drawn from Godel's proof) made by the Lewis stand-in is Penrose's argument from The Emperor's New Mind. The unnamed man who supplies the argument to Lewis's stand-in is thought by some readers to be a young Roger Penrose, who was actually a student at Oxford at the time.

Okay, I got all curious and obsessive (and I had a vague memory of something like that being in the book), so I started scanning through The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. What I found, on pp. 34-5 of the trade paper edition, was a bit about strangers where the protagonist says, "I do not like strangers because I do not like people I have never met before. They are hard to understand. It is like being in France, which is went on holiday sometimes when Mother was alive, to camp. And I hated it because if you went into a shop or a restaurant or on a beach you couldn't understand what anyone was saying, which was frightening./It takes me a long time to get used to people I don't know."

There may be more on strangers that fits more closely to your memory, but having found something semi-relevant as early as page 34, I'm not looking any further. :)

Did I ever tell you that everyone in my family is mildly obsessive and/or compulsive?

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