Friday, July 25, 2008
Get your editing hats on!
Okay, here's the thing. I'm currently editing my second book, and I'd like to ask you all to help.
The book has a fantastical premise, and what I've learned is that, if you make one of those up, people tend to start joining in. They say, 'But what if this? What about when that happens?' And, the quirks of people's brains being an almost limitless resource and me being only one person, chances are there's a limit to how many of these questions I'll anticipate. Obviously, the more I anticipate now, the better, because by the time the book's printed and on the shelves, and somebody comes along and says, 'But hang on, what about such-and-such?', it's too late to do anything about it.
So, I'm going to tell you the premise of the book, and I want you to quibble with it. Ask me what happens under any circumstances. Point out inconsistencies. Spot potential problems. Weigh in. Get creative. Pick nits. There are no quibbles too stupid, no questions too small. Let's play.
I'll then review all your points as I'm going through the redraft, and hopefully turn out a book at the other end that answers all these questions, or at least, all the ones I can reasonably address.
Here are the ground rules, including a few legal disclaimers, as I'm sure most of you are normal nice people but you never know when the odd unreasonable bod is going to crop up.
1. I'm not gonna answer the questions on the website; if you want to know the answers, you'll have to buy the book.
2. I may not address everything; if it seems like the disruption to the book outweighs the benefits of answering the benefits of answering a question, I may regretfully have to ignore it. Don't take this personally.
3. I'll deal with your questions as I see fit; if you don't like my solutions, sorry, but that's my call.
4. The book remains entirely my copyright and intellectual property. If you make a suggestion and I am inspired by it or include it any way, that in no way entitles you to any right/s in the book, any right to control what's done with your suggestion, or any money made by me or my publishers or licensees in relation to the book at any point.
5. The copyright in the book remains mine. If the questions get you thinking and you feel the urge to write something of your own inspired by this, knock yourself out, but there's a difference between influence and plagiarism, and the latter is not okay.
6. By posting on this site, you irrevocably agree to these above conditions.
(Hopefully none of this really needs saying, but just in case anyone feels litigious later, it's best to clarify everything now.)
So, having got that out of the way, here's the premise:
In the ninth century, the deepsmen invaded the canals of Venice and laid siege to the city. Out of the water walked Angelica, half-landsman, half-deepsman, a two-tailed woman capable of walking on the land and swimming in the sea, and speaking the languages of both peoples. Angelica brokered a peace and forged an alliance between the landsmen and the deepsmen, and made Venice so strong that, centuries later, any nation with a sea border and a navy still needs for its ruler one of Angelica's descendants: a hybrid king, able to communicate both with the people of the sea and the land. Without them, no nation can protect its navy, and becomes too vulnerable to invasion by sea.
The penalties for any landsman who breeds with a deepswoman are severe, and any 'bastard' child found - any hybrid not directly descended from the princes - is destroyed by the state. Having a king's body but not a king's family, bastards pose too strong a threat to the succession: bastards in the past have raised armies and usurped kings. But now the royal house of England is failing, weakened desperately by inbreeding, and when a bastard boy is abandoned on an English shore and taken in by landsman, a secret conflict begins...
So, what are the problems with that premise? Come one, hit me.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Moral majority my foot
It's something that's been pointed out repeatedly: preachers, politicians and those who make a living out of criticising other people's behaviour seem to abide by a rule of thumb - the louder they shout about how SINFUL something is, the more likely they are to get caught doing it. Homophobic preachers turn out to be gay. Pro-family politicians get caught cheating on their wives. Old Fashioned Values types get caught molesting the ducks in their village pond. Okay, I made that last one up, but the others are fairly common.
What's going on here? The theory I've seen most argued is sexual guilt; here are two particularly good articles arguing the case. The theory is this: plagued by an inner demon, people start shouting about how it possesses everybody else, to compensate for their guilt, and because they assume that everybody else is as guilty as they.
It's an entirely convincing theory, and I'm sure accounts for a lot of it. But, just to add to the speculation, there's something else that I haven't heard mentioned: familiarity.
My theory is this: we tend to base our understanding of human behaviour on our own experience, whether we feel guilty about it or not. The people ranting about activities they indulge in may partly be compensating - that is, the guilt comes first, and then the ranting - but it might also go the other way around. Looking for something to rant about, they pick the first 'vice' that comes to their mind. And, human nature being what it is, that's very probably going to be their own. It's a malevolent manifestation of an ordinary mental process - but the process in itself need not be malevolent.
Let's posit a perfectly ordinary, nice guy who happens to have a taste for, say, girls tied up and blindfolded with white silk scarves; we'll call him Jack. Now, Jack has no particular sexual guilt; there are things he likes and things he doesn't. He's heard of golden showers and spanking and ponyplay, but none of them float his boat - but there's something about that be-scarfed image that really does it for him. Some of his girlfriends have refused, or tried it once and decided they don't like it; others have been into it; he finally found a girl, let's call her Jill, who loved scarf-play and was also fun to be around and cooked fantastic pancakes. (I'd like my imaginary people to be happy, since they're trying to prove my point.) So Jack and Jill have a variety of sex, and at the kinky end of their repertoire, the silk scarves await.
Jack's sister, Mary, has a fetish of her own: she really likes nipple clamps. Her first boyfriend fled in horror at the thought, which made her feel pretty bad about herself, but lately she's taken up with Michael, who can't believe his luck at finding a girl who's willing, nay eager, to engage in something his previous girlfriends always refused point-blank to consider. Mary and Michael have their vanilla side as well, but when they're feeling kinky, out come the clamps.
One Friday night, all four of them are together at a family dinner. In passing, somebody at the table mentions kinky sex. None of the diners sit up and say, 'Oh yes, do you know what my favourite kink is?', because Auntie Susan's present and they don't want to shock her (unaware that ole Susie has a thing for dressing up as a naughty nurse who the kind-but-firm doctor just has to take in hand) - but in the privacy of their own minds, all of them think, 'Oh yes, kinky sex. That can be fun.'
But Jack's thinking, 'Kinky sex, that's right, that's bondage games and artistic poses.' Mary is thinking, 'Ah yes, kinky sex: masochism and sensation play.' Michael's thinking: 'Kinky sex, that means getting to enjoy your sadistic side in a consensual setting.' Jill's thinking, 'Kinky sex, oh the thrill of helplessness.' Susie and Uncle Henry, the lucky dog, are thinking, 'Ah yes, role play; those youngsters aren't as hip and revolutionary as they think.'
The thing is, these couples are picturing completely different acts, and within those couples, the understanding of them is different. Mary's heard of silk scarves and Jack's heard of nipple clamps, but those are not the images that leap to their minds. Because when they hear the word 'kinky', they're thinking of non-mainstream, somewhat naughty sex - and exactly what that means to them is based on individual preference.
Now, my imaginary couples are all well-adjusted people who think sex is for fun, so they don't cringe when someone mentions the word 'kinky', they just twinkle at their beloveds when they think no one is looking. But let's consider the case of Ezekiel.
Not unlike Jack, Zeke is a nice guy who would really love to see a beautiful woman bound and gagged - but unfortunately for Zeke, he grew up in an environnment where the common word wasn't 'kinky', it was 'immoral'. Or 'disgusting'. Or 'perverted'. Zeke's never dared suggest to any of his girlfriends that he's heard of this really interesting-sounding game that some people like to play; it's stuck in his fantasy life, and while he feels pretty bad about himself, and sure that everyone else is more normal than him, the image keeps returning to his mind. Zeke, living in a culture where sex is considered immoral and non-standard sex particularly immoral, also has a more limited range of information than Jack and Michael. The stuff he'd like to do leaps out at him every time he sees a suggestive-looking advert, but he was never allowed dirty books, his mates' locker-room talk is limited because they're all as short of information as him - or as frightened of being judged - and anything kinky is very much What Other People Do.
So, say to Zeke 'sexual immorality', and what happens? His mind leaps to the kind of 'immorality' with which he's most familiar: his own secret desires. Ask Zeke to talk about immorality, and he'll talk about those terrible men who want to degrade and exploit women.
His pal Jacob, on the other hand, is gay, but he can't tell anyone that. Poor Jacob struggles desperately not to look at the handsome men on the street, to keep his eyes off the Calvin Klein billboards, but however hard he tries, he can't stop wanting men. Ask Jacob to talk about immorality, and what 'immorality' is weighing most heavily on his mind? Homosexuals.
Like Jack and Michael, Zeke and Jacob will know that there's more than one kind of non-traditional sex, but each of them spends more time thinking of a particular variety than of any other kind. Zeke thinks that gay people are peculiar, because he has no idea he spends every Friday night out bowling with one; Jacob thinks bondage fetishists must be weird control freaks, because he never realised his easy-going buddy has leanings that way. And, thinking that such tastes are weird, they assume, on some level, that very few people must really be into them - too few to start getting worked up about. But their taste, oh my - that's a life-ruining thing! (Because, of course, it is messing up their lives to feel so bad about themselves.) That's serious business! When their pastor talks about how sexual sin can destroy marriages and happiness, each of them, in his own different way, feels like he knows exactly what the pastor is talking about.
Part of this is guilt about their suppressed desires, but there's also just the fact of familiarity. Say the word 'cat' to me and I picture my own cat. Say the word 'home' and I picture my own house. Say the word 'sin' and I picture my own vices. That's how people work. Our mental images are based on what we've experienced - even if, as with Jacob and Zeke, we've experienced it only in longings and fantasies.
Now, if Jacob and Zeke are lucky, they'll find someone who's right for them and achieve some peace with themselves. Maybe they'll have to move to Brighton or San Francisco to do it, but it could happen, and under those circumstances, they may calm down. But it's also possible that they'll remain stuck in the value system that condemns them. At this point, they're at risk of a variety of bad things, depending on their temperaments. Let's say that Zeke is a get-along guy; chances are, he doesn't want to get into a fight with anyone, but he'll be tormented by sexual guilt, find it harder to be open with his wife, and feel lonely and bad. His self-esteem gets rubbed a little raw each day; so, probably, will hers, because her husband somehow doesn't seem happy with her, but won't say why. Depression, stress and marital unhappiness beckon.
Suppose, though, that Jacob is a little angrier than Zeke. Considering the life he's living, he's got reason to be angry. Frustration gets to him, and he's an assertive guy, never one to take things lying down. In another place, he'd have made a terrific gay rights activist, but there's nowhere honest for his campaigning streak to go. If he's not careful, Jacob may find himself up on the podium inveighing against all those homosexuals, those degraded people who give in to desires he's fighting to keep at bay, who are having way more fun than him even though he's trying so much harder to be a good guy than they are ... Pain results for everyone, Jacob included.
But if the temperaments were reversed - if Jacob was the compliant man and Zeke forthright one - then we'd be seeing Jacob in the congregation listening sadly, while Zeke was up on the podium, castigating the degraded people who indulge in exploitative pornography.
The congregation's going to agree with either speech, so they may not think anything funny's going on. But, assuming they got to pick their own subject, it may be worth asking why they picked that one in particular.
If Jacob and Zeke are nice men, they may not want to spend their careers discussing how bad everyone else is. But if either of them is a really mean, aggressive guy who likes to scapegoat, we're in trouble. They've got their issue primed.
While someone yelling about a specific sexual 'vice' when they want to talk about sexual immorality in general is probably covering some guilt - if it's their particular kink and it's not allowed in their culture, they almost certainly do feel guilty - it's also likely to be the easiest 'vice' for them to picture. They've heard of exhibitionism and hot wax and cross-dressing, but because they don't see why anyone would find those exciting, the ideas haven't lingered in their mind very long, and may just not occur to them when they want to talk about temptation. Why would they? The ideas don't strike them as tempting, so classing them as 'temptations' takes an effort of imagination and empathy - and if you're the kind of person who likes to yell about how wicked everybody is, those are probably not the qualities you're leading with.
The basic point is this. Guilt is almost certainly present in people condemning vices they indulge in, but you don't have to feel guilty about a kink to have it be the first one that comes to your mind when you hear the word 'kink'. You just have to be interested in it. (Go on, what were you thinking of? Because I bet it's not the same thing next reader will picture.) Hypocrisy flourishes in environments where natural instincts are driven underground, but in this case, we could be looking at a particularly damaging expression of something we all feel, rather than a phenomenon unique to 'moral majority' types. People are often more similar than we think.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Where on earth can you get married like a sensible person?
Okay, Londoners, I need help. I'm trying to plan a wedding and I'm up against the most horrifying industry I've ever encountered.
It sounds simple enough, right? We'd like to have a civil ceremony somewhere with friends and family present, then go somewhere else and eat. We'd also like not to have to spend many months' income on it. Those two things are astonishingly difficult to reconcile.
Not wanting to marry in a church, we started scoping other places that offer wedding services. Registry offices tend to be small, and while dire necessity may end up driving us to it, the idea of a two-tier guest list where only some people are allowed into the actual marriage ceremony seems against the whole spirit; a wedding is, after all, a community event. But everywhere else - everywhere that has a large room in a reasonably nice setting - has worked out that there's big, big money to be made in leasing it out, secure in the knowledge that we non-churchgoers are really pretty stuck if we don't find somewhere reasonably sized.
The going rate for a wedding and reception seems to start at about ten thousand pounds. That's the baseline rate. For Pete's sake.
It was when the locations we checked out revealed that they only worked with certain catering companies, and those catering companies starting recommending photographers, and marquee hire companies, and lighting technicians, and string quartets, that I got a full sense of what we were up against. I knew the wedding industry was vast and profitable, but I didn't realise the extent to which companies strike deals with each other. Once you engage with any part of it, you're taking on all of it. Every location has ironclad deals with other companies; you simply can't get married in location X, it seems, without signing up for overpriced canapes.
Even if you explain you're on a budget, there's a terrible sense of being railroaded. When the person you're talking to takes it for granted that you want a cake and canapes, it's quite hard to know where to start your explanation that really, you just want a nice, normal meal for a large group. When you explain that you don't feel the need for a formal photographer and your adviser starts recommending photographers who can do informal-looking shots, it feels ungracious to explain that what you meant was that pretty much everyone you know owns a camera and can work out how to use it. When someone starts talking about the champagne toast as if it were just as essential as signing the certificate, it feels positively thuggish to suggest that there's no law against toasting with whatever happens to be in your glass at the time. The wedding business depends on presenting as essentials stuff that you absolutely and truly don't need. I don't know whether any businesses use the word 'essentializing', but that's what seems to be going on. And in locations that actually have a civil license, they're right: they don't let you hire the place without their particular caterers - and caterers charge you for hiring everything, from staff to spoons.
It's driving me crazy. I want to get married, but I'm feeling like a mark.
I've managed to circumnavigate the dress issue, to my relief, because the idea of a wedding dress shop sounds like an ordeal. The whole individual-attention, princess-for-a-day aspect of it makes me very uncomfortable. I'm not a princess, I'm a middle-class adult woman, and people will only treat me like a princess if I pay them large sums to do so. The whole point of royalty is that people bow and scrape at you for free while handing over their tax money; if you're paying for that kind of treatment, somebody's putting somebody on. And I don't enjoy buying clothes at the best of times: the thought of spending hours in some mirror-lined room surrounded by overpriced dresses while some fashionable woman hovers like a vulture, pretending to be my new best friend while separating me from my money ... It all sounds awful. I just don't wanna go there. Consequently, I picked up a skirt I loved in Camden Market and bought a basque off Ebay, all for about a fifteenth of what I'd be expected to spend in a dress shop, and I feel a sense of piratical glee at getting out of that one.
But the location is proving a nightmare. We need a registry office or licensed place that can accommodate eighty to a hundred people without charging two thousand quid (much easier if you get married in a church; personally I'd like to see a foundation for secular wedding locations; the faithful seem to have an unfair advantage), and a place where you can get fed - either a restaurant with a large private room, or a hall you can hire that doesn't insist on you hiring their own particular buddies to cater. I sort of found one of each, but they're prohibitively far apart; I need places within striking distance of each other. Anyone know anything? Anything at all? Please, please help me out.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Mika: Oh noes! End of the world as we know it! Has to climb tree!
Kit: Mika, sweetie, what's the matter?
Mika: Has to run across garden! Wait, maybe it be better up tree!
Kit: Mika, are you bothered by us digging up the garden?
Mika: Earth moves! Kit digs. Hey, diggin, there be a thought. Mika will dig hole and have a pee.
Kit: You know, sweetie, if you could just dig consistently, you could have that big bush up that's giving me such a backache.
Mika: Oh, a spade! What to do? Maybe run in this direction!
Kit: Honey, it's okay, you know, we're just relandscaping the garden. You kept falling into the pond and getting all stinky. Look, there's a picture of you above. We had to wash you in the sink, remember?
Mika: Mika is kind and forgiving. Had agreed not to mention that disagreeable incident.
Kit: Well, that's very lovely of you, darling.
Mika: Mika is kind and lovin. Oh look, a jumpin frog thing! Enjoy your last moments, froggie, for nemesis sneaks up upon you ... Hey, it jumped! Cool! Mika will catch and kill cool toy.
Kit: Oh sweetie, don't do that. We need to rehome them in the park. Frogs are suffering in urban environments, you know.
Mika: Cool toys not suffer. Is for playin. Is jump for Mika! Hey, Kit put Mika down!
Kit: I've got to keep you away from the frogs, baby.
Mika: You is making Mika suffer!
Kit: I don't mean to, baby. But I've got a sore back and I can't keep crouching over you.
Mika: Gardenin is hard on everyone. Why not stop and come pet Mika instead? Look, rolls on stack of slabs, lookin all pretty...
Kit: You know, sweetie, you sometimes have a point.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
In between editing takes, we took a day yesterday to remodel the garden. And I am a bundle of aches.
Frog-rescuing has been a feature. We have a small pond in our still-quite-small garden, and as it was getting stagnant and Mika kept leaping into it (anyone who's ever had to wash off a dripping, stinky cat will recognise the domestic upheaval this creates), plus taking up loads of space and being a drowning hazard for any future children we plan to have, we decided it was time to get rid of it. Little did we realise until we'd drained it that this meant we were dispossessing more than half a dozen fully-grown frogs. I hadn't seen any tadpoles this year, so I assumed they'd all gone off to pastures new, but to my deep dismay, this turned out not to be the case. When the water level got down low enough, there they were, handsome green animals all hunching in the remaining water and looking at us accusingly.
Alas, the pond still had to go - among other things, it occurred to us that the main reason Mika kept jumping in the pond was probably to catch and kill them; we'd already found some corpses, so it was hardly a safe garden for them - but I love frogs and my conscience was twinging worse than my lower back.
Luckily we live near a park with several ponds. Out came my biggest cooking pot; I chased the frogs up one end of the pond with a spade, Gareth caught and potted them, and we hobbled down the road to the park, little heads butting against the lid like popcorn.
Finally we reached the park, identified the less heron-friendly pond, and tipped out the frogs. They swam off across the water, kicking their legs with graceful haste, hopefully to a new, cat-free life.
Right now I'm feeling like the villain of some children's novel - Richard Adams is yelling in my head - but at least we moved them to a bigger, cleaner pond. Sorry, froggies. Here's a question: does reading anthropomorphic books as a kid make you more likely to become an environmentalist, or at least a half-assed one who wanders around your local park with a cooking implement? Do loggers just read books about Roman commanders and football stars instead? Or what?
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
My boyfriend Gareth and I are getting married!
Here's a game: I'm going to give the answers I've been giving a lot since announcing the engagement - but I'm not going to tell you the questions, just the answers. You can make up any questions you like to suit them.
1. Some time next summer.
2 .Under a tree in a park on a lovely sunny day.
3. No, I'm keeping it; probably we'll give both his and mine to any children.
4. It's on order, but it'll look like a flower when it arrives.
5. Actually no, I'm thinking in terms of red and black right now.
What do these mysterious answers betoken...?
Happy Kit. :-)
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Kubrick and adaptations
Credit for this theory goes to my boyfriend Gareth, but it struck me as well worth sharing. It has to do with Stanley Kubrick.
Kubrick's movies are glacially brilliant, works of crystalline misanthropy. His characters are almost all elegant grotesques; it's hard to watch James Mason and Shelley Winters in Lolita, for instance, without feeling a scorching shame for ever having wanted anything. Kubrick's camera lens is like Lucian Freud's paintbrush; seen through it, people are viewed with utter, unforgiving beauty that draws its fascination from all the elements of themselves that they'd least like to show. The art is beautiful, but it's hard not to feel ugly viewing it.
Now, it's generally known that Stephen King thoroughly disliked Kubrick's adaptation of his novel The Shining. King claimed that Kubrick had missed the point and made an empty film, and in fact made a TV version himself (which was much less well received). Handing your work over to Kubrick, this was more or less an occupational hazard - many of Kubrick's films are adaptations, and pretty much none of them are at all close to the spirit of the books he adapted: if you let Kubrick adapt your book, you got a Kubrick film rather than a film adaptation, and there wasn't much to be done about that. But among other reasons why King might have disliked the film - he claimed that Kubrick 'set out to make a horror picture with no apparent understanding of the genre', while actually Kubrick's house contained a copy of just about every horror story ever composed, and it seems likely that King's concept of the horror genre was just more, well, genre-ish than Kubrick's - there's a good reason why King might have felt upset by the film. The central character, Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson, is an alcoholic writer. So, of course, is King. In On Writing, King remarks that 'I was, after all, the guy who had written The Shining without even realising (at least until that night) that I was writing about myself.' - which suggests an emotional attachment to Torrance's problems that went deeper than conscious self-portraiture. ('That night' refers to the night he realised he was an alcoholic; The Shining had been written several years previously.)
And that's the rub. In King's novel, the hero is the alcoholic writer, who eventually saves himself from his inner demons. It's a very personal tale; King says 'So when I wrote this book I wrote a lot of that down and tried to get it out of my system, but it was also a confession. Yes, there are times when I felt very angry toward my children and have even felt as though I could hurt them.' - and a confession is a vulnerable thing. Not something you'd be happy to see painted by Freud - or filmed by Kubrick. Because in Kubrick's adaptation, the father is the villain.
Nicholson's edgy, aggressive performance portrays a man whose problems aren't just alcoholism, but an undirected, barely-restrained, chronic state of anger. The incident of breaking his son's arm, described to the barman, Nicholson represents by a single, horrific gesture: having mimed pulling the boy up with an angry lurch, he shrugs impatiently, and snaps his fingers. It's the sound of a breaking bone, and also the sign of how little that broken bone really means to him. Nicholson's Torrance goes into the hotel a dark man: 'You have always been the caretaker', his ghostly predecessor tells him, and it's true. Torrance has always been part of the Overlook's horror. The hero is his son, in terrified flight from a father whose love cannot be trusted and whose evil cannot be controlled. In effect, Kubrick takes King's self-portrait and says: You aren't the hero, King. You're a bad man. You're a danger to your family. The harm you do is not forgiveable. You cannot save yourself. You would be better out of the world.
A superb film, undoubtedly better than King's TV version, but you can hardly blame King for having his feelings hurt.
Now, not every Kubrick film does it quite this way. His Humbert Humbert is altogether a more pathetic and forgiveable creation than Nabokov's brutal, self-flattering paedophile. Full Metal Jacket is upbeat compared with Gustav Hasford's elegantly written, bitterly angry The Short Timers, even though a lot of dialogue is lifted directly out of the book. (You can read an extract from it here, crudely processed but well worth a read.) Hasford's voice is both harsher - he describes the suicide of a comrade thus:
I know that Leonard is too weak to control his instrument of death. It is a hard heart that kills, not the weapon. Leonard is a defective instrument for the power that is flowing through him. Sergeant Gerheim's mistake was in not seeing that Leonard was like a glass rifle which would shatter when fired. Leonard is not hard enough to harness the power of an interior explosion to propel the cold black bullet of his will.
Leonard is grinning at us, the final grin that is on the face of death,
the terrible grin of the skull.
- while also describing vivid nightmares, and commenting on the receipt of encouraging letters from children back home:
Rafter Man reads the letters out loud. He can still be touched by them.
To me, the letters are like shoes for the dead, who do not walk.
Compared with this, Kubrick's comedic adaptation is almost cheerful; Hasford's rhetoric becomes the patter of maniacal sergeant, and the result is a black farce, not a tragedy, closest in spirit to the gleeful excesses of A Clockwork Orange - two films that portray male violence with an unapologetic, deadpan relentlessness.
But there is another film, surprisingly, where Kubrick's eye turns coldly on another artist. And, most surprisingly of all, he got that artist himself to direct it. I'm speaking of AI, Kubrick's late-in-life collaboration with Steven Spielberg.
The story of AI is a tragedy in itself: a robotic little boy, engineered to be the perfect suburban child, is cast out into an adult world that he cannot possibly understand. Trapped under the frozen sea, staring for millenia at a fairy-tale statue and begging for help, he eventually is found by the last civilisation: hyper-intelligent robots who cannot make him understand anything beyond his longing to return to his brief, perfect childhood. All that can be done for him is to reconstruct, artificially and for one day only, a facsimile of his home and mother. He spends a day in this perfect dream, after which he 'went to sleep', with a strong suggestion that there's nothing left to do but turn him off.
Doesn't that sound like the harshest possible interpretation of Spielberg, that genius of the family movie? The desire to reconstruct the perfect suburban childhood, replete with small details of Americana, fascinated with magical tales and always more beloved for his family tales than his adult-only films? The real Spielberg, of course, is an exceptionally successful adult man who seems to have a happy family life as well, so it's hardly a fair assessment - any more than it's fair to say that King's alcoholism destroyed his family, as his family appear to be fine - but Kubrick's eye is merciless: just as it says to King, Your sins are unforgiveable, it says to Spielberg, Your dreams are infantile, synthetic, cannot last, and all you're capable of.
That Spielberg himself directed this might suggest either Machiavellian genius on Kubrick's part or exceptional good will on Spielberg's, neither of which, based on their work, seems out of the question. But to assume either would be making the mistake of assuming conscious authorial intention, and that's a fast route to saying something silly. Let's consider it, instead, an interesting effect of the collaboration between artists, especially when one of them has so unblinking an eye.
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