Monday, May 14, 2007

Burning Brightly, Tintin

Just finished reading Tracy Chevalier's latest offering Burning Bright, a rather predictable tale written in her trademark historical fiction style, with her usual great eye for detail.

Set in London in 1792, Chevalier weaves a tale around two children on the cusp of adolescence, and offers her take on what inspired William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience. The title is from one of Blake's most well known poems, The Tyger:

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?


Burning Bright captures the colour and squalor of Georgian London, and offers some interesting insight into the life of Blake. But that's about where the good stuff ends. Chevalier's previous offerings Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Lady and the Unicorn used the same plot device - essentially, a detailed account of the events that inspired a major artistic work - but to much better effect.

Maybe it's because her previous books painted pictures of more obscure cultures - Flemish and Flanders respectively - but 16th century London is rather, I don't know, done. Plus anyone who has read or studied the poems will know exactly how the plot will unravel, hence the predictability element for me.

So for those who don't have much time on their hand, I wouldn't recommend Burning Bright, unless you have a Blake obsession.

This month, I also read my first ever Tintin comic, Cigars of the Pharoah. I've always been an Asterix & Obelix girl myself so my foray into the cult of Tintin sent me into a rather bemused spin.

One word to describe my Tintin experience - caper. Yep, Tintin is one caper after the other. Strange characters who aren't what they seem, exotic locations, a super cool job (he's a journalist! S and Z would be proud) and the world's best dog.

Now I'm trying to get my hands on The Blue Lotus which I think is partially set in Vietnam. There were posters of it everywhere in Hanoi. OK so a bit random to compare Tracy Chevalier and Herge in the same post, but hey, when all else fails, just label it postmodernism and it suddenly becomes chic.

ps: for some fun, check out Literature Map. You type in your favourite author and it lists others that you may like, all based on a sort of collective conscience of all users on the Internet. Random but fun. I found the link in the May issue of Time Out Singapore, which is fast becoming my favourite local mag. Why? cos it doesn't compromise and dumb down its content. Kudos to independent media I say!

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