Monday, March 22, 2010

You might wanna check that

An old friend of mine travelled to China once and brought back an ergonomically-unfriendly backpack stuffed with cheap market-bought goods.

It was a veritable goldmine of all that is craptastic, that backpack, and we spent hours pulling out all sorts of marvellous plastic treasures, from miniature stethoscopes to Zhu Zhu pets (perhaps better known as Go Go Hamsters, of course).

And while the cheap plastic novelty items gave us several minutes of entertainment, it was the cheap CDs I really wanted to get to. Ah China, before MP3 players and downloadable music changed the face of piracy forever, you were the motherland of knock-off CDs.

With great anticipation I took the first CD from the pile: Pink Floyd's The Wall, a two-disc set. Sure there was some separation of colours on the CD cover, and sure this particular set had two copies of disc one (but two copies is better than one, right?) but I still believed. I still believed that in the moments following the closing of the slot and the first fine spin of the disc (either one of the disc ones) I would hear, in all its Pink Floyd glory, track 1, 'In the Flesh?'.

Disc in.

Initial spin.


Track 1. "Oh my God what is this? Seriously what is this shit? Oh God don't tell me, no no no please don't be. Oh bloody hell! It is! Shit! This isn't Pink Floyd; it's the freakin' Beach Boys!"

There's nothing quite as disappointing as expecting something good and getting something shit. Pink Floyd = good; Beach Boys = shit.

Similarly, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde = good; The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, as retold by Jill Nevile (abridged) = shit.

This is all by long way of saying I grabbed what I thought was Wilde's Dorian Gray off the library shelf on Saturday but, failing to look at it properly managed to pick up Jill Nevile Does Dorian Gray instead.

And because I like to share, I thought I'd pass on a little something of both Wilde's and Nevile's work. First, Wilde:

The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-coloured blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flamelike as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect, and making him think of those pallid, jade-faced painters of Tokyo who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of the straggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive. The dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ.

Now, if you'll bear with me, the same passage under Nevile's reductive eye (it won't take long, trust me):
Through the open windows of the room came the rich scent of summer flowers. Lord Henry Wotton lay back in his chair and smoked his cigarette. Beyond the soft sounds of the garden he could just hear the noise of London.
The only good thing about this kind of pared down re-writing is that it only took me 23 minutes to read the whole 'novel'. Thank you, Ms Nevile; you left me with enough time on Saturday to listen to the whole Beach Boys Do Pink Floyd album. Fan-freakin'-tastic.


Mad Cat Lady said...

I quite like the Beach Boys - depending on my mood. Some songs can only joyfully be listened too when driving down a long stretch of road on a sunny afternoon with ones elbow hanging out the open window.

They are certainly preferable to Cliff Richard's "Summer Holiday" which I can't seem to get out of my head this week.

squib said...

I wonder what you were doing with the extra short version in the first place? Maybe you have the York Notes version, also? Hmmmm?

Kettle said...

MCL I'd put up with either or both Cliff Richard and the Beach Boys if I was driving down a long stretch of road on a sunny afternoon with my elbow hanging out the window provided I was in France following the Tour lads around, *sigh*. Otherwise they're both just shit, eh.

Squib I want to know what OUP were doing publishing such a travesty.

On the other hand, perhaps we could add a new line to our range (say for winter when sales of our carnation-coloured tents drop off a little). We could re-write the classics as Ms Nevile has done, say Tolstoy, Dickens, but let's make them even shorter, say 500 words?

Have you both seen that Twitter version of 'Pride and Prejudice'?

Mad Cat Lady said...

A twitter pride and prejudice? bloomin' heck. I haven't even read the vampire one yet.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...


It's zombies in P&P, MCL.

squib said...

I haven't seen the Twitter version but I do love the ultra condensed classics on Book-A-Minute. 500 words is WAY too long, Kettle. A few sentences would surely suffice

Mad Cat Lady said...

Dear beloved Mr Insertnamehere, I hate to show up your ignorance, but not only are there zombie's (which I have read) and a prequel to the zombie one called "Dawn of the dead" (i think) whcih I have not yet read, but there is another one that carries on after P&P which supposes that Mr Darcy is actually a vampire, converted by that woman whose name I have forgotten as perfect mate to her daughter and an adventure across europe in search of a cure, but -but- also somebody mentioned there is a trilogy of P&P rewritten from Mr Darcy's view point - which I have neither seen nore read.

I may be P&P'ed out.

Kettle said...

The twitter P&P is here (one day I'll figure out how to do links, but not today):

It's much more wordy than the brilliant Book-A-Minute, Squib, but good despite all those extra words.

And MCL your knowledge of the horror-P&P world is fabulous! I'm betting Mr Insertnamehere is rather envious of you right now.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

That's me told, then.

Mad Cat Lady said...

Probably your mind was on higher things.

Kettle said...

To my mind 'higher thinking' means deciding between Becks or Little Creatures; I've been known to use Venn diagrams to aid this kind of thinking.

Mad Cat Lady said...

I think we need to see one of these ven diagrams Ma'am Kettle

Kettle said...

Ooh happily MCL! Usually people roll their eyes when I try to show them my Venn diagrams so I'd be delighted to show you one.

I'm off to the coast for the weekend so will have the perfect opportunity to run the analytics again.