August 29th, 2012

The Night Circus

"The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern was the topic of the Burrahobbits fantasy book discussion group for August. I thought it worth mentioning here since I thought it a truly remarkable book and the other members of the group thought so, too.

"The Night Circus" is a beautiful book; beautifully designed, beautifully worded, beautifully written. The plot concerns a philosophical debate between two wizards, played out as a contest between their proteges, within and around the "Circus of Dreams", and what happens to the people, both ordinary and extraordinary, that become part of the life of the circus.

Magic is often referred to as an art, but seldom do you read of magic being used to CREATE art. However, in "The Night Circus," creativity and beauty are part of the terms of the game.

Morgenstern's writing describes the creations of the Night Circus in as lyrical prose as I have read in some time, in these days when gritty realism is the norm, even in Fantasy.

A lovely, thoughtful, fantasy novel. Highly recommended.

And, for something completely different, I will also mention a book I just finished, "Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art," by Christopher Moore. This book is set mostly in the late 1800's in Paris, and concerns the Impressionists artists, who are both inspired by, and preyed upon by, a deathless muse and her twisted master, "The Colorman." In this book, art is inspired, then stolen, and then used to make magic to inspire more art.

"Sacre Bleu" is funny and profane. It's best if you are somewhat familiar with the Impressionists, but not required since, rarely for a book these days, it has color illustrations cleverly using the works of the masters to support the story.

Very enjoyable, for adults.

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Sunday the 26th, we went to see "ParaNorman," the new stop-motion animation supernatural comedy. (One of a number coming up, including the new version of "Frankenweenie," and "Hotel Transylvania" (no relation to the book by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro--).)

The story is set in Blithe Hollow, a run-down town whose one claim to fame is a 300-year old witch trial there that resulted in the hanging of one "witch". "The witch" is memorialized by a Wicked-Witch-of-the-West styled statue, and a tacky tourist industry. However, the town does seem to have an affinity for attracting ghosts, which creates problems for Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a boy who can see them and talk with them, much to the dismay of his disbelieving and painfully mundane family.

However, it appears that Norman comes by the ability honestly, since his crazy Uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman) not only has the ability too, but has also inherited the job of annually keeping the Witch and her zombie-cursed witch-hunters in their graves on the anniversary of her death. When Prenderghast dies suddenly, the job passes to the unprepared Norman, with expectable complications.

The movie is a lot of fun to watch. The stop-motion animated characters are quirky and amusing, yet you can see the types of people they are modeled on. CGI backgrounds and effects integrate with the figures very nicely. The story has a lot of spooky laughs, although the ending is a bit preachy.

Very good light entertainment with a moral. Suitable for anyone of an age not to be freaked out by movie monsters.

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