The Second Time Around
Sometimes you just have to stop buying books and seeing new films and reassess what you already own. This month I’ve been going back to books, movies and shows I didn’t give enough time to first time around.
I’ve rediscovered a love for Florida-based crime noir, especially John Dupresne’s series about a therapist dealing with corrupt police starting with ‘No Regrets, Coyote’, and his books pushed me back to Carl Hiassen. I’m also trying to reread a backlog of short stories by two of my favourite female American writers, Shirley Jackson and Joyce Carol Oates, who I find have a surprising amount in common – although how any readers manage to keep pace with Oates defeats me.
Of course the classics stand rereading, because that’s how they got to be classics. Going back to Daphne du Maurier is a revelation. It’s the sentimentality of some Dickens novels that now keeps me away from them. His best works are stringent and bleak.
But like a badly hammered-in nail sticking up in a polished floor, I’m destined to like what others hate and hate what so many like. I rarely do a reverse-ferret on the novels I reread; if I finish them first time around, I usually like them enough to keep them. Movies present a bigger problem; second viewings can kill them. I sat through various ‘Spiderman’, ‘X Men’ and ‘Deadpool’-type movies with gritted teeth, trying to understand what the critics saw in them. Does this leave me out of step with popular taste? Would I have loved them when I was younger? Not sure – I’ve seen what the public likes. If I gave in too much to popular taste, the Bryant & May novels might be more successful but they wouldn’t be as quirky, trust me.
I love the films of Wes Anderson, for symmetry, tracking shots, dry humour and attention to detail. Just don’t back to ‘The Darjeeling Limited’, which for all its beauty now feels crass and pretty close to being offensive. The misadventures of three privileged brothers seeking spiritual enlightenment as they cross India uses Indians to provide local colour and even a child’s funeral pyre is treated as a stylish backcloth.
Sophia Coppola’s films are, to my mind, even worse, and as much as I first enjoyed ‘Lost In Translation’ (to the point where I visited Bill Murray’s barstool in his Tokyo hotel) it now feels quite racist. Perhaps I’m allergic to seeing and/or reading about privileged white-people’s viewpoints of other cultures. The problem extends to the films of Woody Allen. He’s never been able to act, and his presence in a film is always a distraction. The only films of his I can stomach now are the ones in which he doesn’t appear, my favourite being ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’.
On TV I loved the lurid darkness of ‘Taboo’, which is how more period dramas should be made – true to the spirit if not the language, and as wildly over the top as a Ken Russell movie. Plus, Tom Hardy can stare down anyone on the planet! Ridley Scott exec-produced the show, as he did with the wonderful ‘BrainDead’, which was too sassy to survive more than one season.
On the reverse of the ‘only nail in a polished floor’ analogy, I’m drawn to underdog books and films. Alex de la Iglesias is the greatest populist film director nobody in the UK has ever heard of, and he’s yet to make a bad film. I’m also rereading a number of period thrillers which have been dropped off everyone’s lists because they exhibit the sexism of the times in which they were written. Can we just accept that certain books and movies belong to particular periods and deal with that without censoring them?
So, today’s question – are there any books or films which are actually better second time around?