American Gods – A Review

American Gods is one of the strangest most wondrous books I’ve ever read. I finished it yesterday and I knew that I planned to review it in some way, shape, or form. Because I felt like it was an important exercise to think critically about a book the rest of the world has decided is a land mark novel.

However as soon as I finished it I didn’t have the words for a review and if you do not have the words already forming in your mind you cannot force yourself to write about something, or else it will be false and your readers, however few of them there are, will feel betrayed by your lack of honesty.

So I sat on it a while, I went about my day and did not think about American Gods until right before I went to bed. Just as I snuggled myself into my squirrel covered bed sheets (yes I’m aware that I am still 5 years old) with a book by John Green in my hand ,eager to be read, the first words of the review came into my mind, they were:

I remember my first encounter with American Gods was several years ago in a small bookshop in Christchurch New Zealand. I remember the red of the book and the silver tree on the front cover and the word ‘Gods’ capturing my eye. For a child of twelve the book would be the biggest book I’d ever read. I remember reading the blurb and thinking to myself ‘that sounds really cool’ (I was like most boys of twelve in a state of fascination with gods, myths and legends and anything that could give me the feeling of being in a world where those things were real I would read). So I took the book to my most trusted advisor, Mum, and got her to read the blurb. I asked her what she thought. She had a read, she flicked through the pages and she said, in a perfectly motherly voice, I don’t think this is for you, it’s too grown up. And I thought okay that’s fair but I really want it. And she retorted rather quickly that I wouldn’t enjoy it and I probably wouldn’t understand it (and in hindsight she was very correct, after finally reading it there are many many things I wouldn’t have grasped).

So I put the book back where it belonged and didn’t dwell on the opportunity I’d missed and went on with my life. Reading many other books about myths, gods and legends.

So I have now read a book that drew my attention at a formative age, that I just so narrowly missed because of mother’s wisdom. I find myself pondering a questions What would I have told my younger self about American Gods? I would have said buy it. Buy it and enjoy the fact that you’re not going to understand half of it. Enjoy the fact that the words and the sentences and the paragraphs will confuse you. Because above all American Gods will make you think and consider ideas you didn’t realise you could consider. It is a book, much like the only other Gaiman work I’ve ever read that forces you to think about ideas and humanity. It forces your mind to grow and soak in all the knowledge that’s been poured into it.

I remember as I read being constantly hounded by the question of where is this book going? And what on earth is the point of all this? And the book doesn’t answer those questions until the very end and yet it’s one of the best payoffs to any piece of popular culture that I’ve ever experienced. It’s a book that somehow forces you to keep reading, because you’re fascinated by the world that Gaiman depicts and the ideas he chooses to lay out on the page. Gaiman asks you to come on a journey to the centre of the human psyche and of the great land of America.

I’m sure reading this book as an American would have a profoundly different affect but as an Australian at the bottom of the world I feel like I understand more about America. More about the psychology of the country as Gaiman himself uses the book to discover what he thinks about the land he calls home.

All in all Gaiman said it best himself in his introduction, that (and I paraphrase because the book is not with me whilst I write this so I have to rely on the fickle mistress of memory) American gods is a grand sweeping winding novel. And all in all that is all you can say. It is a true epic that explores fascinating concepts of belief, trust, hope, gods and humanity. I loved it. And I am better for reading it.

Morning Coolness

It was meant to be a cold morning. Thomas knew this because it was August, the final month of cold. The road should have been coated in a thin layer of ice and cold fog should have sat thickly around the horizon. But it was not.

He couldn’t shake the uncomfortable feeling of how, as he walked to the bus, his hands should be freezing. The blood should be flowing away from his extremities leaving his fingers to stroke the hair  in an uncomfortable freeze induced dreariness. He should have been hunkering his chin down into his high necked jumper so that only his eyes could feel the cold. He should have been shivering as he arrived to the bus stop, and yet he did not.

It was an odd feeling, waking so early and anticipating the coolness only to be greeted by a modicum of warmth. His whole body had been ready to grit through the pain of the cold and it was completely undermined by the worlds decision to have a warm day.

Thomas felt like he was in a dream, a strange dream that inverted the way things should have been. It should have been winter, he should have been cold, he should have felt awakened by the cold but instead it felt like spring, he was warm and was simply comforted by the completely ordinary ambient temperature.

There was a faint air of coldness, like the world remembered that is should have been winter. But it never formed itself fully into a solid idea, the coldness merely hung around the edges of the warmth, wondering whether or not it should make itself known.

A strange ay indeed Thomas thought to himself. Then he hopped on the bus into yet another perfectly controlled temperate environment and got on with is day.

Little Sister’s Lament

To begin, this is several weeks late. In Haley’s world this is several years late. So for that I apologise. I apologise for my tardiness dear sweet sister, I have failed you in my promptness with this message but hopefully it will be honest and loving and warm enough to stop you from hitting my in the balls and biting my fingers.

To continue I would like to say some things about my sister. She’s an odd little human who has brown hair and brown eyes and a round little face and a round little nose. She has chubby cheeks that are always filled with rosiness and she’s almost always looking either exhausted or happy. She doesn’t have any idea what to do with her life and instead of understanding that that’s how everyone on earth feels she decides to single herself out as the only person who can never make a decision and who is never right.

Haley is obviously wrong. Very very wrong. She could not be more wrong is she tried.

So here I will try to placate Haley’s nerves. Haley no one in any place knows what they are doing with their life. No one know’s how to make decisions. We all just pretend that we can. that’s the big lie of the world. The false pretence that you’re meant to know what you’re doing. All the adults all the school children all of everyone is all just pretending and hoping they’re pretending well enough to convince everyone else that they know what they’re doing.

Do not worry about selecting subjects, I trust that whatever you choose will challenge you and enlighten you and make you smarter. I trust that you will choose what you’re interested in and along the way you will cry and scream in frustration and then you will giggle and cry in celebration.

You will have highs.

You will have lows.

You will have love and heartbreak.

You will have a life that is a crazy winding road and when you look back you probably won’t be able to trace where you’ve been but you’ll know it’ll all have been worth it.

All I know for sure is that through it all I will be by your side.

Accidentally forgetting to call you, or pick you up, or save the snap streak. I promise that I will always and forever be with you, in a computer, or phone, or in my words on my blog or in my smothering hugs filled with love and laughter.

You are precious. So insanely precious to me. You’re the only sister I could ever want and wish for and you’re the only sister I like.

Congratulations on having me as your brother it’s a complete and utter pleasure I’m sure.

I love you dearly sweet sister.

Happy belated birthday, (like really really belated). I hope this is good enough, if it isn’t I’m sure you’ll call me and yell at me.

In the immortal words of a very wise man (boy): Believe in yourself, we all do.

Have you ever?

Have you ever had something that was just for you?

I mean really completely and utterly just for you, a moment, a kiss, a note, a word, a whisper shared in passing or a smile flitting across a face – that were all just for you.

Meant for your eyes, your lips, your ears.

Something that you know you’re not going to tell people about. That it’s not important for you to report to your friends.

Something that is precious and held closely to your heart. That makes you warm to your core. That when you hear it, read it, feel it it lights you from within and floods warmth into your system.

Something wholly for you and you alone.

Something that you will treasure and never let go.

Something you will think about and not time, nor circumstance will tarnish the glittering perfection of such a gift.

Well…

Have you?

Puffy Orange Jacket

The little girl.

Chubby cheeks, black hair pointing out in random places from her monkey themed beanie pulled tightly over her ears:  pom-pom poked at the top and on the ears, for extra warmth. She sat, with tears that had just left her eyes due to an ordeal that her child brain would soon make fade into obscurity as soon as she took a bite of the marshmallow she held in her tiny hand.

She took a bite of the fluffy-pink, sugary sweet and she methodically chewed on it in only the way children can. She wiped her eyes to rid herself of the meaningless tears. She wiped them in the perfect way that someone so small does; with her full arm that was so tightly tucked into her little orange parka jacket.

She took another bite of the marshmallow, slowly turning gooey in her hand.

In her left hand she held the bag that contained another marshmallow, to ensure her calmness on the coming train ride.

She sat, chewing in her paced way, getting gradually through her squishy treat. Her father, stupidly, offered her segments of a nectarine. She refused this healthy nonsense and continued on her journey through the flavoured fluff of the marshmallows.

Having finished the marshmallows she decided she would try her hand at the nectarines, that had once been found to be in her face.

She ate them happily.

Then she and her father engaged in a conversation I can only assume was about how delicious the marshmallows were and how the nectarine segments were a perfect foil to a sweet treat. She then sat complacently with her fathers phone in her lap for a while. Images flying past her face and into her eyes.

She was so tiny that her entire body fit on the seat. Comfortably and perfectly.

 

 

The girl next door

Have you ever met someone that you know for a fact you’ll never forget?

Someone, a girl, a boy, anyone that you once loved and thought you’d stopped loving but as soon as you see them again you’re overcome with everything you’ve ever felt. They’re the person that you would drop everything for. You’d do anything they asked even if you didn’t agree or if it hurt you.

They’re the girl that got away or the girl next door, for cliche’s sake. They’re the person you don’t remember not having feelings for. They’re the person that makes you believe in love.

And when they hold you, in that hug; a hug of desperate sadness, when they pull you so tight you forget where you end and they begin. When they pull you in because they miss you and you stand there simply holding each other in a hug that doesn’t want to end. You create a time anomaly as you hold each other there. As tight as anything. And you know as they hold you you’ll go home and write about it, because they inspire you to write. They make you believe the things you need to to write.

DUNKIRK – A Review

Dunkirk is the culmination of Christopher Nolan’s long directing career. It’s a masterclass in story, character and visual storytelling. It’s a tight just under 2 hour film that feels like watching Usain Bolt racing towards the finishing line. It’s a complete and utter adrenaline rush from start to finish.

I found myself in multiple instances tensing every muscle in my body in anticipation of certain events or in fear for peoples lives. Nolan decides to go for a different approach to war films and completely nails it. He said in interviews that he doesn’t want to do the gore and horror of war, it’s been done and done well (I’m paraphrasing), and he’s right. There are dozens of films that depict what the true horror of war is like. With blood and guts all over the place. This film decides to take a different approach. I can’t speak for Nolan but personally I feel like he is trying to capture the sheer terror and tension of a situation like Dunkirk. What it feels like to know you’re trapped on all sides and you’re essentially fish in a barrel waiting to die of hunger or thirst if the bombs don’t get you first.

This approach is really clever. Making this whole film feel different to any other war film. The highest praise I could give Dunkirk is that it feels real. Completely and utterly it feels like your’e there. I even had people talking in my cinema (I have no idea why you would want to talk through a movie like this these people are silly) and even that didn’t pull me out of the film properly. It feels like you’re there with them, through some incredibly clever editing and insane sound editing. I really cannot say enough about the sound editing it is simply phenomenal, especially when planes are rushing overhead.

The way Nolan has scripted this to be a triptych (a story told in three parts) has all the hallmarks of his usual clever time bending storylines. Which makes it feel like a Nolan film even though it’s so different to anything he’s ever done. It’s an intellectually engaging film as you piece together the timelines of sea, earth and air.

The acting in the film is also really powerful. There’s hardly any talking and most of the performances are delivered through physicality and the eyes of the actors. Everyone, including Harry Styles who might have been distracting, does an incredible job of conveying the terror of the situation.

Ultimately Dunkirk is a film with themes of brotherhood and survival. Telling a story about how even in the darkest and most horrible times humanity can still give examples of how powerful we become when we band together and help our fellow kind.  It is a profoundly moving message of unity and perseverance and even got me to shed a couple tears. The true story element of the film helps elevate it, as you keep reminding yourself that this actually happened. 4000,000 men were saved because of many civilians and navy-men putting there lives on the line. Christopher Nolan masterfully directs this powerful story about humankind whilst showing us why war is something we should avoid at all costs.

The Train

The train set off into the wall of fog,

flying through the mist that concealed it.

A steel carriage blasting through the quiet morning.

The electric hum of the carriages forcing silent grazing sheep to flee their pastures.

Dogs baking in the early morning sunlight twitched their ears as the train approached, listening for something new to:

chase,

bite,

bark at,

the dogs gave it their best to capture this strange mechanical creature but always they stoped.

The train never did though.

The train chugged on,

through mist, sunshine, rain and ice.

The train went.

Eppur si muove.

And yet it moves.

The Talkative-man

The Talkative-man sat on the bench next to the Uninterested-man, in the cool hours of the early morning. The Uninterested-man was directly next to the Talkative-man separated only by a large suitcase that could only belong to someone who flapped their mouth as often as the Talkative-man.

The Talkative-man was in all ways round, as round as a ball. This did not mean he was fat. It just meant that he was a very particular shape, that could only be achieved by having a few too many cheese and Vegemite scrolls.

The Uninterested-man was old, not I have a Great Grandchild old, but nonetheless his hair was thinned an had retreated a very long way up his head. They sat in silence when I approached them, I sat across from them, pulled out my book and decided to take no interest in them.

The Talkative-man, true to what his name would suggest, leaned over to the Uninterested-man who was enjoying the early morning in his own little world. I cannot perfectly remember quite what they talked about but it was something along the lines about what the Talkative-man thought about every possible topic. He was a man that had the uncanny gift of being able to have a conversation with no-one but himself even though it looked like he was talking with someone else, rather he was talking AT them.

I watched this oddity occur for sometime and then decided to return to my book.

Several minutes later I was replying to a text and, with my nye frostbitten hands, fumbled my phone and helped it on a journey to the hard concrete.

The Talkative-man, who at this point had been abandoned in silence by the Uninterested-man who had become so uninterested that he had left, decided to take my phone smacking the concrete as a cue to start up a conversation with me.

Although as we now know it would not be a conversation and rather it would be a person speaking at and around me whilst I nod my head in agreement to the verbal diarrhoea that was too quick and too specialised for me to actually have any input.

That was my morning, with the Talkative-man and the Uninterested-man.

A Cold Walk Home

The street was filled with a hanging fog.

It was the kind of fog that occurred because the air didn’t want to be close to the ground and nor did it want to float to the sky and so it hung in a kind of limbo between ground and sky and congealed into a thick mist. A mist that turned the neon vapour lights into a twinkling mess of stars.

The boy wandered off the bus and into the fog of the night. He was tightly bound in an army green jacket that sipped past the reasonable stopping point of his collarbones and decided instead to rise all the way to his face. The hood connected to the aforementioned jacket was swiftly pulled over his cold ears and slowly began to resemble an Eskimo.

His breath found it’s way into physical form to join it’s place in the hanging fog. Slowly and methodically congealing with the outside. He walked carefully checking over his shoulder for any approaching lights – none – he crossed the empty street.

He found it funny, as he looked at the street, that at this time of night the street, that had been filled to the brim with flowing lights and steel was now devoid of all life. There were the high standing street lights that looked down upon the silent street, and nothing more. A gentle breeze and soft hum of a single engine were the only sounds to disturb the quiet.

As the boy forged his way home he grinned to himself. He plucked his earphones from his ears so he could enjoy the sound of his feet crunching against the ground and the City asleep.

It was a cold walk home after all, and he would cherish the moment.