MPoaF (On A Tuesday): Lights on a Hill, Uncertain Memories of a Book

A mere four days late, it’s time for … Moving Pictures on a Friday, on a Tuesday.  No point in being overly literal about these categories, I say; go with the flow.

A friend of mine was a point of light in this rather crowd-sourced performance, called Speed of Light, during the recent Edinburgh festival.  It’s a fun show, made by the context: a big dark hill, with an illuminated Edinburgh as the backdrop.  Especially cool: the point just over a minute in when fireworks start erupting from the Castle (a fortuitous part of an entirely unrelated show):

And in other news: if, a couple of weeks ago, you had asked me whether I had read Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, I would have unhesitatingly, confidently said ‘Yes. Liked it quite a bit. Literary fiction with an SF spin. Jolly good.’ Then I saw this trailer, and I was befuddled:

It looks like a pretty interesting, ambitious, thoughtful bit of sf movie-making. And it bears almost no relation to my memories of the book I thought I had read. Now, those memories are decidedly vague, more to do with the overall tone and feel of the book than its details, but even so it’s amazing how little overlap there is between them and the content of the trailer.

What am I to make of this?  Have the film-makers produced what you might call a ‘loose’ adaptation, working some kind of transformation on the source material?  Have the trailer-makers gone nuts and cut together a completely misleading (though really quite interesting) advert for the film?  Or, as seems more likely, is the problem at my end?

I guess it’s possible that I got completely the wrong end of the stick about the book when I read it, and consequently have an accurate memory of a completely inaccurate impression of it.  I don’t think that’s the answer.  It’s also possible I’m an idiot, and have never actually read Cloud Atlas.  Maybe I saw it at the time and thought ‘I really should read that’, and the progressive degradation of my brain has somehow convinced that I did in fact read it, and enjoy it, and formed an opinion about it.  Yikes.  I wish I could be absolutely certain that’s not the answer … but I don’t think it’s impossible.

Most likely, though, seems that I’ve forgotten far more than I would have thought plausible about a book I have indeed read, and enjoyed.  That seems a pity, if true.  Has my head space reached saturation point, where stuff – even stuff that’s worth remembering – is getting squeezed out to make way for new stuff?  It’s not just book-reading, but experience in general: if something has given me pleasure, I want to be able to remember it.  Is an unremembered pleasure worth as much as a remembered one?  Does it even exist, as an experience, if I’ve forgotten or misremembered it?  Memory.  It’s not a simple thing.

Anyway.  Cloud Atlas.  Good book.  I recommend it, to anyone who likes literary fiction with an SF spin.  At least I think I do.  Not really sure.

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3 comments

  1. Alan’s avatar

    This would make a good sub section…..what can you recall about books you have read and liked ?

    Re Cloud Atlas – there’s 3 intertwining stories that drill down and then expand back out ultimately revealing how they interrelate – the first is about a shipwreck survivor on a beach – is the island headhunter infested ? Not quite sure how this develops…..

    THe second is some futuristic vision of a very ordered world…..some form of rebellion against the status quo (maybe?) & the third

    Not a scooby

    I too really enjoyed the book ( & David Mitchell as an author in total) so that is a rather poor return on investment on the time I spent reading it – maybe the films worth catching…..

  2. Brian’s avatar

    You see, I don’t even remember that much about Cloud Atlas, it turns out. I’m pretty much limited to a memory of separate but connected storylines taking place at different times, a bit of nearish-future sf, and … that’s about it, other than this conviction that I liked it. It’s pathetic, really. Must have taken days – at the very least – to read it, and what have I got to show for it?

    Still can’t entirely dismiss the possibility that I’ve never even read the thing, because my bookshelves (and indeed bookpiles) are far too disorganised for me to go and look for it without more effort than I’m prepared to invest.

  3. Alan’s avatar

    I’ve since looked at the wikipedia synopsis and there 6 intertwining stories……I’ve started writing myself a quick book review on Google + each time I finish a book now so I can remember if I enjoyed it ( or read it) !!!!

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