Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Smallest Things Are Crushing Me Now

All my room-mates—but especially the flaxen-haired Viking—are in love with the new addition to the household. That would be Church, as in Church-Yard, as in Elegy Written In A Country Church-Yard, the kitten on the right. Gorgeous. She's got all our hearts, and the crush crush crush is so comforting, now. Who doesn't love a kitten? Yeah, Satan, sure, but that particular entity is a Tin Man, oh my sons and daughters, and doesn't have a heart.

Other news: was that show really so long ago and far away? Further seems forever, when it comes to the last Saturday in October. Which was the Sloan show. "Who Taught You To Live Like That?" was the opener, "The Other Man" was a strong third, and "Ill Placed Trust" has to be heard—forget the ugly lyrics, it's a brass buttons sing-a-long for sure. They played plenty of the new (abso-ridicu-lutely loved "Golden Eyes") which is good, because I'm a fan of the new. Come back, Sloan. Everybody wants you.

&now4smthng Completely Diffy: that was a hard vertical drop the sidewalk pulled me into last night. Could have been the vertigo, but I'm thinking it was the Vanilla, as in ice, ice, baby, and so painful. I thought we banned this Kyoto business in Canada—where's my global warming? Have a good week-end, all. Lucky bugs win prizes.

The Cloud Room + "Hey Now Now" First heard this song around two years ago, autumn, crisp orange leaves sparkling across the bright green golf course. Chip shot to birdie the third hole, my first birdie ever, didn't even believe my brother as he stood up there on the sloping green, laughing with pleasure at my expression. I love my brother. Perfect day. A perfect song that day, a perfect song now. Who can resist that chorus?

There's a perfectly excellent everybody-singing-along video, too.

James Hilton + Lost Horizon Then, the year after, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and, later, Random Harvest. But first, and maybe most famous, there was Lost Horizon. Actually, first there was Catherine Herself, published when Hilton was a mere twenty years old and still an undergraduate at Cambridge. The man wrote twenty-four books in all, besides contributing to stone-cold film classics like Mrs. Miniver and Foreign Correspondent, but it is for those three first-mentioned books that Hilton will always be remembered.

Lost Horizon starts out like every other lost-world adventure, like Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines, for example, or Burroughs' At The Earth's Core, or, of course, The Lost World, by Arthur Conan Doyle. Those peculiar events which made up the long journey to and through the lost world are recalled for this or that listener, who kindly passes them on (in a book, no less!) to the reader, who is duly enchanted, enthralled, exhilarated by the new men, strange faces, of which he or she is reading. Or perhaps the reader is just bored. I wasn't bored by this book, but I wasn't blown away, either. And what I require from every book, every author, is to be blown away, lifted up, absolutely delighted. Nevertheless, the book is well-written, well-plotted, and the method by which entry to the lost world of Shangri-La is gained is very spooky, an excellent fully-committed, fire-starting, bridge-burning device on par with the Arctic setting which opens Frankenstein. Once this device has been put in motion—well, the story has got to be told, now, and there will be strong consequences for all characters involved, perhaps even for the reader.

"The whole game's going to pieces," says Barnard, one of the four unwilling travellers to the monastery of Shangri-La. Young hot-headed Mallinson, missionary Miss Brinklow, and the too-unflappable American expat Barnard look to the bronzed and capable Conway to lead them out of the mysterious mountain valley in which they find themselves enclosed. But there is no escape, or the escape is deadly, or the escape is torturous and nearly impossible. The ancient orange-robed lamas of Shangri-La are guarding a secret only Conway comes to suspect. That secret is life and death. But this is not an adventure novel, unlike those novels of Burroughs or Conan Doyle. This is a contemplative novel. Outside the valley, the world is going to pieces. The five captives are literally fleeing an armed rebellion. Inside the valley, all is moderation. Inside the valley, there is life for those who love life, music for those to whom music is needful, the bodies of women for the men who enjoy those bodies. Inside the valley, says the lama who guides the outsiders, "We rule with moderate strictness, and in return we are satisfied with moderate obedience. And I think I can claim that our people are moderately sober, moderately chaste, and moderately honest." The people of the valley treat each other with near-unfailing courtesy. Etiquette, and not the rule of law, is the arbiter of the valley. Moderation is the watchword. But there's a perilous duality at work here—"The vast encircling massif made perfect contrast with the tiny lawns and weedless gardens, the painted tea-houses by the stream, and the frivolously toy-like houses" There is a feeling that it is the very chaos of the outside world which lends value to the hot-house climate of the valley: "But even such vague fears could only enhance the loveliness of the present". And there are other things, disturbing things. All the luxury and amenities of Shangri-La come from the same source of synthetic value as that of the outside world. There is a gold-mine in the valley, and it is this mine which pays for the life of ease enjoyed by the lamas. Technology, too, is catching up with Shangri-La; the new aeroplanes make travel possible almost to the very mouth of that valley. Soon, the little group of outsiders will face a choice. Soon, they must decide to stay in Shangri-La, or make the effort to leave this orderly paradise. If they go, there will be trouble; but should they stay, will there be even more?

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