Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Back to Reality

Time to get myself back together again.

Recently I got a mail from one of the Brians from the Antarctic trip and in true Irish style we met up last Friday for drinks. O'Neill's of Suffolk Street, I decided, not having been there for years, and so I found myself at the upstairs bar around 7.30. Brian arrived and I suppose neither of us have changed too much in the intervening six months. All change on the domestic front for him though; house gone and renting, broke up with the girlfriend, etc.. In past times Brian did his own world travelling, certainly more than me, and we swapped experiences until around 10 when, aware that a friend of mine, Nigel Place, was playing a gig in Smithfield, I proposed we shift venue. We did, but too late, Nigel was finished, and the bar, Thomas Read's, was empty. I had seen Nigel play a few weeks previously and he is blossoming right now, so it was a pity we missed him. Apparently he plays London in a few weeks so that might give me an excuse to travel to England and see a few people. Without music though, I concentrated on drinking and conversation, giving my reasons why the South Pole will always be a lifetime highlight for me. As you might guess I was truly plastered by the time Nigel offered me a lift home.

It was good to see Brian again though. I think he intends to visit Central America next and I wish him well.

Most of my time has been spent like that, meeting up with old friends, catching up on things. Last Wednesday it was the turn of two good college friends of mine, Claire and Liz. Claire had her two sons along, young kids, and before the end of things I was swapping pooh insults with them in the middle of Marks and Sparks. Later, it being Liz's film evening, the two of us went to 'The Painted Veil' (I don't think either of us were in the mood for 'Spiderman 3'). Norton and Watts, who produced the film too, played their parts well and, predictable thought the whole thing was (hateful husband and wife discover they actually love each other in the face of a cholera epidemic), it was pleasantly done with a nice soundtrack and beautiful Chinese visuals. It brought me right back to Yangshuo, with all the limestone hills etc..

That movie was one of the few I have seen on a cinema screen recently. Before I went away I used to see at least three movies a week, sometimes a day, having a yearly ticket for a city multiplex. I have resisted getting a new pass, not being sure if I'll be in this country for the forthcoming year or not. Also my tolerance for cinematic rubbish is not what it once was. And on top of that I have been getting caught up in satellite movie channels and seeing a lot of old classics. For instance, I caught the last hour of 'The Untouchables' this morning, this despite the fact the dvd lies upstairs on my shelf. You just flick through casually and end up wasting an hour. Having said that, that movie is one of De Palma's better moments (and Mamet, for that matter), but what really sets that movie off is Morricone's magisterial score. The horse ride at the Canadian border is a mighty Morricone moment.

And besides all this I have been reading. The glorious new incarnation of Chapters Bookshop on Parnell Street furnished me with several Philip K.Dick books and I have steadily made my way through four of them; 'The Penultimate Truth', 'The Simulacra', 'Now Wait for Last Year', and 'Dr Bloodmoney'. I have tried to read them in chronological order and it is interesting to see the development of his ideas, the recurrence of certain debates (totalitarianism, fascism, the fake and the real) and his growing assurance as a writer. In the first two books, for instance, simulacra, dictators, time travel and deception all figure. They all figure in 'Now Wait for Last Year' too, but this is a far more mature work and broaches a topic that was to become more important in his later work: drugs. Somewhat in the way Dick uses drugs in 'The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch' (and unlike any other writers except maybe Stevenson in 'The Strange Case of Doctor Jeckyl and Mister Hyde' or Machen with his 'The Novel of the White Powder'), in this novel drugs enable a metaphysical change as opposed to a purely mental one.

Each of these books, great fun though they are, are to some extent hampered by the wealth of ideas they contain. There is often just too much going on. 'Dr Bloodmoney' has a lot going on too, but, set in the aftermath of World War Three, there is less emphasis on new technologies, religions or realities, and more stress on character. Dick says himself in his afterword that he is proud of the characters in his novel, and it is a far more mainstream work. However, my old writing teacher, Sheila Barrett, had a similarly themed work called 'Walk in a Lost Landscape', and I couldn't help comparing the two. For all that 'Dr Bloodmoney' tries to ground itself in a somber reality, it is still too fanciful (telekinetic phocomelus, cats with language, a twin living within his sister and conversing with the dead) to accept on all levels. Sheila was a lot more restrained and probably the better for that. Curious to see San Francisco figure as the venue for Dick's post-holocaust tale. As far as I recall it all figures in George Stewart's glorious 'Earth Abides', and I think it figures in 'On the Beach' (though I could be wrong on that one).

Otherwise I have been reading some Roald Dahl and Wells. In the case of Wells, I occasionally read 'Food of the Gods' on my mp3 player. Not one of his better works. Wells was never a great comedian and this attempt at humour keeps me fairly stony faced. I believe there is a horror movie version of this that is a lot more funny, albeit unintentionally so.

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