Thursday, 16 July 2009

Specialising in Milkshake 'DRAAAAAIIIINAGE!' since 1986, it's Rob's Random 5!

What's going on this week? Well I want to know your 'DeLorean Moment', contemplate the worst ending in modern fiction, attempt to resurrect a word, talk about the memory of clothing, and of course there's the obligatory hatred of a certain pop 'star' masquerading as a member of the aristocracy. It's all rather interactive this week actually - give me your opinions on random things. Voice your randomness: it's your human right!

1. Your DeLorean Moment: Is there any moment more bittersweet than reaching the end of a book you've really enjoyed? The knowledge that you've finished something you've really enjoyed coupled with the knowledge that you've reached the end of an unrepeatable experience (at least emotionally). For reasons you may be able to work out, I call this the DeLorean Moment: the fact that no matter how many times you go back and read that book and re-read it you will never ever experience it the way you did the first time because it can no longer have that initial impact and surprise and spontaneity. You already know what's coming. It's just like getting in a time machine and going back to your surprise birthday party - it won't be a surprise anymore. And it's not just an effect thats left to books. It happens to us with films and TV and any medium of entertainment that provides us with that unrepeatable first feeling, that DeLorean Moment. And it doesn't have to be the entrie thing - it can just be snapshots or short scenes: the first time you found out Darth Vader was Luke's father, or the moment the shower curtain is ripped back in Psycho, or (and this is one of my favourites) that moment in 'There Will Be Blood' when Daniel Day-Lewis bellows 'DRAAAAAIIINAGE!'. No matter how often you watch them you can only remember that all important initial gut-to-brain-to-gut feeling you had when you first saw/experienced them. The rest is just memory feedback and your brain trying to find something new in it all.
So what's your DeLorean Moment? What book or film or show were you both happy and sad to part with and why?

2. The Worst Ending in Modern Fiction?: Regular readers and people who know/put up with me are all too aware that I've been reading 'Goldfinger', and the only reason I've been banging on about this book is because it keeps confounding my expectations. Firstly it was how different book Bond was to film Bond, then it was how the story features a lot of drinking and not much killing. But that's all fine. I'm fine with that. What I'm not fine with is how Fleming builds up a taught and interesting spy story over 200 pages and then, in the final three chapters, manages to blow all that out the aircraft window. WARNING! BOOK SPOILERS BELOW!
So, Goldfinger plots to kill all 60,000 citizens of Fort Knox with a water-borne poisons so he can steal the gold without fuss. Fiendishly clever and the kind of plot you'd expect from a megalomaniac. However, Bond foils this plan by affixing a message to Felix Leiter on a aeroplane toilet seat (yep, you read that right). As Goldfinger's train rumbles into Fort Knox it seems Bond has failed. Thousands of citizens lay dead - in overturned cars, laying next to crying babies (they drank milk y'see) and spralwed over still-running lawnmowers. All the soldiers at Fort Knox are dead too. Only, wait a minute, they're not! The soldiers spring up and ambush Goldfinger's mob, and it turns out they and all the 60,000 people in the town were just pretending to be dead. 60,000 people. Just pretending. A whole town had been briefed to play dead, as though a bunch of hungry bears were arriving. Now just think about that - organising that many people to play dead and do it effectively. Isn't that just a bit...ohh, what's the phrase...oh yeah, fucking unlikely? Especially after the gritty realism that has preceded it the ending is the biggest cop-out in literary history and completely ruins the book. Completely ruins it. It makes Bond seducing and turning the lesbian Pussy Galore seem positively likely. I mean, what if one of the townspeople had sneezed or farted or got an itch? Or is Fort Knox inhabited by a troupe of improvisational actors? Really, the ending is implausible, lousy, and outrageously unsuited to any book, not just Goldfinger. Mr. Fleming, I want my time and money back. I feel cheated.
So that's a shame, as it was turning into one of my favourite books. Fleming's style isn't for everyone but the story was neat and often featured some really nice description. I'm not the only one who thinks the ending ruins the book - talking to friends and fellow readers they agree. They all felt cheated at the laughably implausible end. It's certainly the worst ending to a book I've ever read. If you've also read it do you agree? Or is there a book out there with an even worse ending?

3. Word resurrection: While reading a book all about language the other day I came across a word that is - according to the author - so rarely used it has practically fallen out of the dictionary: Velleity. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? Like a fairy's name or something. But what's even better is what it means: a mild desire - a wish or urge that's just not quite strong enough to lead to action. Now isn't that just brilliant? I'm going to use that word more often becasue it's pretty and has a great meaning. It deserves to be used more often. After all, how often have we thought about doing something but never done it? That's velleity right there. Now my new favourite word. I want it to be brought back into common usage so go out there and spread it around! Use it in daily conversation, text messages, love letters, Scrabble, everywhere. We can resurrect it!

4. Lady Gaga: Don't you dare ever dirty the word 'velleity' by using it in one of your songs madam.

5. Clothes Horse: Writers out there! Need inspiration? Look to your clothes. Take a look at what you're wearing or rifle through your wardrobe and pick out your favourite/least favourite piece of clothing. Our clothes tell stories, whether it's the shirt you were wearing when you lost the love of your life, the stitched-up tear in your jumper you got from falling over while running for the bus, or the trainers you had on when you went walking and met that crazy old guy who told you a great story about a fish. Me, I have a suit of sorrows, a trilby hat of laughter and a t-shirt of sweet bitterness, because they all have stories attached to them. Our clothes often remind us of times and events we had forgotten about. They can tell stories by the way they smell or by the marks they've incurred or the way they've been worn out, and they remind us of whatever the hell was going on when we were wearing them. And we can use those memories or details in our writing. It's actually a pretty good way to get a bit of inspiration and clean out your closet if necessary. Give it a go sometime. And if you have an item of clothing that has a story to go with it then don't be shy, share it with the group!

Well that's all for this week folks. Tune in same Bat-time, same Bat-channel, for more Bat-shit crazy randomness.