Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Well This Sucks

I have to admit, when I heard that I had to book the week off work due to shingles, there was a part of me that thought it’d be fun. I remember having chicken pox when I was five and spending a week over summer sequestered with my best friend in his garden, playing with our Transformer toys in the golden sunlight, having a good scratch of our spots every time our mums weren’t looking.

This is not like that. The pain is like an incessant scalding of the nerve endings in my face, and has spread right around my eye and into the upper and lower lids, which is worrying me as to long-term complications, not to mention hurting like a mother-bitch. I’m taking as many painkillers as possible, and trying without much luck to distract myself. There are definitely worse things that could be happening, but right now it’s hard work thinking of them.

I watched the first episode of The Handmaid’s Tale on whatever 4oD is called these days -- good shout, Katie! -- which I thought was great, if a little reliant on voice-over narration to directly copy the strengths of the novel, rather than reforming it for a visual medium. It’s that eternal problem of adapting first-rate literature, that so much of the power is entwined within the way the book is written, rather than simply its plot, and a televised version can run the risk of illustrating the material without owning it, of telling rather than showing.

But then maybe I’m just too close to the novel, having studied it for A-Level and loved and reread it many times since. It’s hard not to notice the things that were left out, the subtleties that television isn’t good at picking up on. But certainly the performances are all excellent, the scenes with Janine and the Salvaging were very well done, and there is a drowning sense of oppression and claustrophobia, of how easily we can be turned against one another -- I’d say “more important than ever in this day and age”, but in what age is this not important? We are always vulnerable, always at risk. So far The Handmaid’s Tale does a good job of making that clear.

Another adaptation I’ve been enjoying recently is American Gods, streaming on Amazon Prime. This feels much more disassembled from its original book form and rebuilt into something new than The Handmaid’s Tale, although I confess to not having read the Neil Gaiman novel, so I can’t say for sure. Certainly, though, there are places where I hear Gaiman’s distinct voice, and the storytelling core is all him, but it’s visually intriguing in a way that I doubt came from the book, with great use of slow motion, fragmented narrative, match-cuts, and a whole host of filmic techniques to speak its meaning in a more visual language.

I know, I know -- I’m in too much pain right now to rewrite all that so it doesn’t sound insufferably pretentious. Whatever. Sue me.

I’m going to go try to shower now, although I splashed some water on my face before and it felt like the skin was melting off.

… And, OK, that was not the smartest of ideas. Water is NOT my friend. Also I look like Two-Face from Batman. Here is a picture:

I'm off to order pizza and watch a nice film to cheer myself up. Toodles x

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