February is really a draggy month, trailing the ragged bits of winter behind it while the stores begin to put up their spring and summer displays. Valentine's Day must have been invented to infuse some warmth and color into the dun February skies.
Well, that's my mood, anyway. Bored. Restless. Bored.
So, I read a book. In this instance, The City and the City by China Mieville. I admit that I first picked it up based solely on the author's exotic name. I mean, who names their son China? It turns out he looks very cutting edge - bald, intense stare, lots of earrings, reminding me, in fact, of the anesthesiologist I had when delivering DramaQueen. He had earrings up and down both ears. Some people might have felt alarm, but I immediately relaxed, knowing I was in good hands. He was, indeed, an expert at placing an epidural, as I discovered years later delivering Firecracker, when no one could quite get it right and it had to be placed several times. But back to China. The City and The City is one of those books that gets praised as being wildly imaginative. I'm beginning to think that Wildly Imaginative is its on genre. The two cities in the title are kind of like West Berlin and East Berlin if they were layered on top of each other - this street is East Berlin, that one is West, and this one is sort of interlaced, and all the inhabitants of East Berlin had trained themselves to "unsee" the inhabitants of West Berlin, and vice-versa. To not "unsee" is a criminal offense called "breaching." I continue to be amazed at how cleverly the author has constructed this very strange world. In one of the cities a young woman is murdered, and the investigation begins to wander into the dens and lairs of various political cells that want to unify the two countries, or that violently oppose all cooperation, or that believe there is a third country hiding in the cracks. Dark forces at play. Conspiracies. I very much enjoyed it.
And I watched a movie - Dorian Gray, with the amazing Colin Firth as Dorian's manipulative mentor and the fetching Ben Barnes (incredibly beautiful, jaw-dropping, eye-popping drop-dead, transcendentally gorgeous) as Dorian. There's nothing like a good old selling-my-soul-to-the-devil story. I read The Picture of Dorian Gray when I was in high school. I remember feeling slightly disappointed. I had rather hoped, from Wilde's notoriety, that the book would be rather more saucy than it was. The debauchery was vague, to my mind, as I had not yet been instructed in reading a subtext. I wasn't sure exactly what he was up to, besides being a bit of a slut. The movie is much more forthcoming. He knocks up a girl then heartlessly dumps her, visits brothels, makes conquests of all the women in society, drinks a lot, smokes opium, travels the world engaging in some truly alarming and violent sexual escapades, seduces a friend then murders him and dumps him in the river. Dorian remains beautiful while his portrait bears the scars of his corruption and depravity. At first he thinks this is a pretty sweet deal. The painting's transformation is quite amazing, with maggots crawling out of it, and some sort of effluvia, and I swear mushrooms or something growing on the back. And it groans. Dorian keeps it locked up in his attic, visiting it now and then to view the progress of his degradation. I'm not sure where he thought all this was heading, but that's human nature, always thinking your bad behavior is safely tucked away in a creaky, drafty old room, securely locked. And for most of the film he's okay with watching his soul rot away. The end seems to hint at the possibility of redemption, but if I remember correctly there is none in the book.
That's what I've been up to. It's all very dull.