Sunday, March 16, 2008

Temeraire, History Boys & Ashes to Ashes

It's reading time again - also known as the Easter holidays. I have work-related reading to do - Pride & Prejudice, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Captain Corelli's' Mandolin, Reading Lolita in Tehran. Go ahead, cry for me. Reading good books for work purposes, it sucks.

Meanwhile, for leisure, I'm reading the second Temeraire book, by Naomi Novik, who I think is probably a goddess. She writes clear, straightforward prose which is very exciting when depicting battles, and moving in depicting the devotion between one man and his dragon. Although Temeraire is not really Laurence's dragon. Anyway - no spoilers, because I think people should go out and read the Temeraire books. These are sequel books, but unlike others, each is an effective stand alone, and there is major evolution in the two I've read and it looks like in the third I'll be reading sometime next week.

And today, I read The History Boys, Alan Bennett's 2004 play which was filmed in 2006 reasonably effectively. I'm debating on whether or not to teach it and if so, to which age group. I have a feeling that it might be too grown up for 14 year old and would be better suited to 16 year olds. Do two years really make that much difference? I think they do. But what I'd like to get into certain heads is the whole idea of thinking about education and what it really means. What is it to be educated, what is it to be intelligent. One of the things that I like about the play is that the boys are boisterous but also, fundamentally decent. It's a terrific play. But I read it and then re-read it to pick up on all the references that Bennett litters like confetti and there would be a lot of work in setting the context. I suppose I could show my hothoused little euro-flowers an episode or two of Ashes to Ashes to establish that early-80s vibe. But for me, Ashes to Ashes just isn't like it used to be in 1981-2-3, although the soundtrack is marvellous, and I did dress up a little as a New Romantic. Somehow, the act of setting the series in the early 1980s fossilises the time and makes it seem less plausible than the careful recreation of 1973 achieved in Life on Mars. And Keeley Hawes - or rather, Inspector Alex Drake - and her monologues are just plain irritating and seem to become more rather than less so as the series progresses.

Now time to catch the last ep of The Last Enemy, a thriller set in a futuristic England which isn't so far away if the police and the politicians have their way and get the DNA details of five year olds onto their databases, not to mention the records of who goes where and when using an Oyster Card. Surveillance levels and the blithe assumption of our leaders that we actually believe their bs that increased state supervision decreases the security threat are increasingly sinister. Reality imitating fiction, or fiction just marginally previewing what is actually occurring? Whichever, it is unsettling in an allegedly free society.


Amy Addison said...

I liked Reading Lolita in Tehran. Haven't read most of the others (except P&P). Enjoy your reading holiday. I'll be interested to hear if you teach THB.

Madeleine Conway said...

It's a real possibility - one of the most interesting plays about education I've read in a long time.

Amy Addison said...

I'll make a point to add THB to my Reading List.

Teenager has to read The World Is Flat as part of his summer reading for a pre-AP Lit class next year. It will be interesting to see how a 13/14-year old responds to it. Oh, and we have to read Deerslayer, too.