Wednesday 20 March 2019

Bill Linnane: Devil's in the detail, but you can spare me the chapter and verse

Wildling Ygritte portrayed by Rose Leslie in 'Game of Thrones'
Wildling Ygritte portrayed by Rose Leslie in 'Game of Thrones'
Bill Linnane

Bill Linnane

'American Psycho' is a difficult read. From its initial release more than a quarter of a century ago, it has divided readers with its jet-black satire, misogyny and violent nihilism. However, for many, it is the passages about 1980s pop music that can be the biggest challenge. At certain points in the novel, the protagonist directly addresses the reader with page after page of dull analysis of the music of Huey Lewis, Phil Collins and Whitney Houston.

Reading 'A Song of Ice and Fire', the series of books later adapted into TV juggernaut 'Game Of Thrones', is a little like this. Interspersed between the psychotic violence and political intrigue is a level of detail that, while enriching the realism of a book that sorely needs it given that it is filled with dragons, is still intensely boring. Passages are given over to describing the stitching on tabards, ironwork on swords, and other details that you can't help but feel are wasting time that could be spent reading 'Madame Bovary', or perhaps just reading more chapters about dragons incinerating people.

For those who watch the show and never read the books, I quote Wildling character Ygritte - "you know nothing". Nothing of the countless hours spent dragging your weary eyes through page after page of descriptive prose about the various qualities of a suit of armour, nothing of the interminable wait for the next book, and nothing of the fear that George RR Martin won't actually finish the last two novels before, much like one of the characters in his books, he keels over dead, leaving his readers in limbo. It isn't some elitist approach, where I tell you the books are better than the series - in fact, I would say they are at least equal. GRRM himself seems to think the same, since he has revealed the endings and major plot points of the final two as-yet-unwritten books to the producers of the TV show, which at least means that if the worst happens, we can get closure via the TV series without wading through entire chapters on needlework.

Figured life out

While Martin embraced the adaptations of his work, not every fantasy/sci-fi author is so open-minded. Alan Moore's sprawling graphic novels 'From Hell', 'Watchmen' and 'V For Vendetta' may have brought respect from the literary world, but their adaptations into film brought scorn from critics and, strangely enough, Moore himself. He washed his hands with many films of his work, refusing a credit and thus turning down a potential several million dollars, countering you cannot put a price on empowerment like that: to just know that as far as you are aware, you have not got a price. Moore - who is starting work on the last chapters of his 'League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen' series, part of which was also made into a really terrible film - may be a great British eccentric, but he seems to have figured out modern life's great revelation; money isn't everything.

When having it all just isn't enough

Chester Bennington's death came as a shock. Aged just 41, the lead singer of Linkin Park had enjoyed some of the greatest success of any hard rock band in the last 20 years. On the outside, he had it all. But our idea of 'having it all' is largely shaped by the same capitalist nightmare that Bret Easton Ellis bloodily skewered in 'American Psycho' - where money equals happiness. Ellis depicted a world without depth, where business cards and nouveau cuisine were all that mattered, soundtracking it with music that he found to be vacuous pop.

Little wonder Phil Collins was not best pleased by the inclusion of his music in the novel as a symbol of soulless commercialism, telling 'Q' magazine: "I didn't read it. At the time, I just thought, 'That's all we need: glorifying all this crap. I'm not interested'."

On the upside, Phil did like the film adaptation, saying it was "very funny". Given his track 'Sussudio' is used in a scene where Jared Leto gets an axe buried in his head, we can probably assume he isn't going to be releasing an album of Thirty Seconds To Mars covers any time soon, or that Leto will be taking the lead role in a reboot of 'Buster'. We live in hope.

Irish Independent

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