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Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk, Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Books 2020, 4)

I like this quote from near the end:

The fact that we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future is a terrible mistake in the programming of the world. It should be fixed at the first opportunity.

When I read Tokarczuk’s Flights at the start of last year, it was actually this one that had led me to her. Warren Ellis recommended it in his newsletter, if I remember correctly, and the title intrigued me. What I didn’t realise then was that the title is a quote from William Blake: “Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead,” he says, in Proverbs of Hell. With that spelling, I note.

Apparently it caused a great fuss when it was published in Poland. I don’t understand why, but cultures are different.

Unlike Flights, it’s a complete, single story. It’s also much simpler. The narrator is an interesting character, though her practice of astrology adds nothing to the story and gets in its way to an extent.

Each chapter has a quote from Blake as an epigraph. I don’t think she used the thirteenth proverb of hell, though it could be seen as the narrator’s north star:

All wholesome food is caught without a net or a trap.

The Big Short, 2015 - ★★½

You might come out of this film with a better understanding of the events that led to the 2008 financial crisis — or you might not. More likely, I think, you’ll sort-of understand it while you’re watching, but be none the wiser when it’s all over.

The question of what happened is explained, but not the one of how it was allowed to happen.

But I think the problem with this as a movie is that it tries to dramatise the events, using versions of some of the real people involved as characters; but it doesn’t go far enough in that. We don’t see anything of their lives outside of their financial dealings, so it fails to humanise them sufficiently. As characters, I ended up just finding them tiresome.

To really help us to understand the whole thing, it would need to be a documentary, and that would have been harder to sell. So by not quite being enough of one thing or the other, it fails at both.





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Just been for a bike ride. I think I’ve forgotten how my legs work.

Lots of people out, mostly keeping their distance.

Down to the Olympic Park. Nice view of the Orbit.

Writing News

I wrote a screenplay and submitted it to the BBC Writersroom (which they always present that way, probably to avoid having to decide where to put the apostrophe) “Interconnected” competition. The idea was to write a five-to-ten-minute piece with between two and four characters, communicating via videoconferencing app. Very now.

I only heard about it (from my friend Andrew on Facebook) six days ago. I don’t think I’ve ever written a finished piece so quickly.

They will, of course, get thousands of submissions, so mine stands little chance of being one of the chosen four, but it was very satisfying to get it done.

Good piece by Margaret Atwood about… what everything’s about, these days.

Any child growing up in Canada in the 1940s, at a time before there were vaccines for a horde of deadly diseases, was familiar with quarantine signs. They were yellow and they appeared on the front doors of houses. They said things such as DIPHTHERIA and SCARLET FEVER and WHOOPING COUGH. Milkmen – there were still milkmen in those years, sometimes with horse-drawn wagons – and bread men, ditto, and even icemen, and certainly postmen (and yes, they were all men), had to leave things on the front doorsteps. We kids would stand outside in the snow – for me, it was always winter in cities, as the rest of the time my family was up in the woods – gazing at the mysterious signs and wondering what gruesome things were going on inside the houses. Children were especially susceptible to these diseases, especially diptheria – I had four little cousins who died of it – so once in a while a classmate would disappear, sometimes to return, sometimes not.

I wish I hadn’t shared that video earlier. Seems like much of the advice is not so good. Thirty-three tweets from a food microbiologist starting here, or unrolled by the ThreadReader app here.

This video on how to deal with your food shopping is good. I’m alarmed to hear that some coronaviruses can live frozen for — two years, I think he said? So buying open bread from the bakers and freezing it is probably not as safe as I had thought.

Crazy Rich Asians, 2018 - ★★★½

In considering how rich families try to control who their progeny marry, I found it interesting to see if this mapped on to Pride and Prejudice at all. Only if if you stretch things quite a lot. “Darcy” and “Elizabeth” are already together at the start, after all.

It’s a fun enough romp if you don’t mind the fantastical displays of fabulous wealth. Interesting too, to see Michelle Yeoh as a controlling mother rather than a kickass starship captain.

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