Finally, I have both time and energy to write. I won’t bother going into detail about what I’ve been doing because this is not a diary. I’ m here now, that’s what counts.
And finally, I saw Arrival, a movie I’ve been wanting to see. I knew I would love it and I did. I like science fiction stories, good ones that extrapolate from present facts and project future outcomes. I think stories, long ones, or novellas, are best, not novels. It seems to me that a novel can’t sustain a premise.
I looked up the source that Arrival is based on. It’s the eponymous story in a collection of stories entitled The Story of Your Life, by Ted Chiang. Here’s what I found:
- Winner of the 2000 Nebula Award for best novella
- Winner of the 1999 Sturgeon Award
- Short listed for the 1999 Tiptree Award
- Ranked 10th on the 1999 Locus poll for best novella
- Nominated for the 1999 Hugo Award for best novella
- Nominated for the 1999 HOMer award for best novella
I won’t go into the story as such so as not to spoil it for you. One of the major themes is linguistic determinism. I called the movie a palindrome; it makes it easier to understand. So does Amy Adams. So does Denis Villeneuve, the Quebec film-maker who directed it.
The movie has been a leif motif in my thinking since I saw it a couple of days ago. But I didn’t have time to write about it, till now.
It’s a few weeks now since I saw Constellations, a play by Nick Payne (b. 1984—so young!!), recently mounted at the Canadian Stage, directed by Peter Hinton. . It has excellent references and enjoyed excellent (undeserved) reviews. I didn’t like it. Oh dear, I’m so old and he’s so young - Nick Payne, I mean. I remember, half a century ago, writing a play that played one way - forward - and then could be played back, starting at the end, exact same words but in reverse. It was a finger exercise; it would never have been considered then if I had even considered showing it to anyone. The idea of Constellations, behind the constant repetition of the same lines by the characters but with different interpretations and reactions, is that other possibilities exist. The staging helps this concept. The actors are often on a revolving stage - like an industrial trade show - and there is a reflection of them from one side of the main stage so that you get different aspects of the characters as they rebound off your retinas. it’s cute, sometimes dramatic, but not profound.
See, I’m still a fan of Peter Brook. I just taught a four-week workshop using The Empty Space as my text. One of Brook’s ideas was to explore how much an actor or actors could communicate just sitting in a chair in an empty room (stage), perhaps using one finger - no words at all. Not that I approve of no words; I am a writer, after all. They need us, they being actors and directors, us being writers. But I like the idea of not hoking up the presentation with gimmicks, and I consider iteration to the point of inanity a gimmick.
Ah well. I haven’t had enough time to dwell on these thoughts, being caught up with Christmas and cooking and entertaining.
That reminds me of an anecdote, an apocryphal response by Calvin Coolidge, the president apparently known for sardonic understatement. Some one asked him, “Is your wife entertaining this season?” And he replied, “Not very.”
Neither am I.
But I go on, I go on, and there’s more to come.