Thursday, 2 January 2014

To read or not to read

If like me, there is an autistic slant to your appreciation of books, then you will understand my post-christmas book selection conundrum! Do I continue to stroke the shiny covers of the newly acquired additions to my already bulging bookcase- or do I take the plunge?

But where to start? Perhaps I enjoy the anticipation of a story yet to be told or perhaps I am just an impressive procrastinator. Either way I had better make a selection and get on with it, or my never- ending to read pile will reach epic proportions never to be conquered.

In truth, my delay is partly fuelled by continued absorption and contemplation of certain Christmas viewing: namely The Time of the Doctor, Death Comes to Pemberley, The Tractate Middoth and of course Sherlock. I suppose I should state my position? Rather than embracing cultural imperialism and traditional approaches to absorbing texts (namely books), I prefer to cast my eye a little wider. Meaning can be found in the most interesting of places and thus I enjoy texts of all manner of varieties and reasons (rather like my changing moods). Film, Television, advertising, art, journalism, music AND my beloved books can all express themselves and enlighten me- be it a visual, structural, tonal or creative admiration.

So why have the four mentioned televisual offerings imprinted themselves in the space behind my retinas? Admittedly, I have been in a post-yule Christmas slump fuelled by a love of mince pies and Belgian beer thankfully afforded but once a year. Yet rather than accepting that long-held view that viewing is a passive form of reception, I find myself pleasantly energised. I am sure you will not be surprised when I admit that subversion always piques my interest or then that I am captivated by the way that both Sherlock and Doctor Who expertly played with our pre-existing perceptions. For that matter so did Death Comes to Pemberley and The Tractate Middoth!

However, my greatest surprise came with the sadness felt at Matt Smith's eventual and expected departure. Literally tears. Not being a sci-fi kind of girl, my reaction to the shuffling off his immortal regeneration- cycle completely blind- sided me. Has my 7 year olds fanatical, daily watching of episodes finally brainwashed me or has Mr Smith truly endeared himself ? Good bye Whovian incarnation of mirthful, Lord of Misrule be you the 11th, 12th or 13th Doctor. Just rip the rules up and be done with it! May your regeneration- reset replacement also captive my attention.

Death Comes to Pemberley also offered something a little unexpected. While I admit I tuned in for a little period drama indulgence (who hasn't fantasised about the denouement of that great love and who doesn't enjoy that cathartic release afforded by their romance) what I found was something more unexpected. Tuning- in I was looking forward to the brooding Mr Darcy. Matthew Rhys didn't disappoint. Alas my ashamedly more superficial self was aghast that Anna Maxwell Martin had been cast as Lizzie. She just didn't look right. How wrong was I! She expertly delivered the cerebrally advantaged and wilful Lizzie B (or D). But this highlighting of my narrow thinking, and a reminder to remain more open was not the only winning factor. Also enjoyable was the fusion of genres and the depiction of a more unruly society. Misrule abounded in the court scenes reminding me more of a bawdy Elizabethan theatre crowd, but adeptly highlighting how regulated we have become in more modern times. Jenna Coleman and Matthew Goode wore excellent as the reckless and rascally Wickhams. More please!

In contrast, The Tractate Middoth worked firmly from its 'ghost story' parameters but with a humorous twist. I am sure this was intentional, given Mark Gatiss' creative persuasions. Having a former Who assistant riding a bicycle in the opening scenes smacked of The Comic Strips' take on the Famous Five, invoking an undercurrent of subtle humour to the proceedings by making it slightly twee. An expert choice as it made the story more palatable to modern audiences by giving us a hook to less relatable times, in which Jamesian terrors arguably work best: the edges of modernity when things were less certain and menace crept at the edges more palpably.

Yet it was Sherlock that crept up on me, to even more powerful effect. I was unsure how Moffat and Gatiss were going to top that cliffhanger. The nation has waited with baited breath and the internet abound with possible reichenbecksian solutions! It could easily have been disappointing after all the hype but subversion trumped again! What better way to respond than to play with audience speculation and to leave the answer open. And to do it with a tongue firmly in cheek. Derren Brown, Kissing Moriarty, Jack the Ripper and the bafflement of The Empty Hearse fan group delivered it
with aplomb!

So what have I learnt from all my abject fascination and wonderment? That there is a perverse strand of Linkee running through my Christmas viewing! Doctor Who. Oh the shame. Time to expand my textual consciousness and make the plunge now I have confessed. But will it be Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore, Ghost Hunters or The Haunted Bookstore?

Some things never change...

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