Tag Archives: depression

Melancholia


I knew from the very first images of Melancholia, the 2011 movie written and directed by Lars Von Trier, that it wasn’t going to be me. The premise is interesting though: two sisters, one deeply depressed, coming to terms with (bad) family issues while a planet called Melancholia threatens to hit and destroy Earth. The end of the world. Two parts in the film, each one focussing on one of the sisters. A weird family. Illness, depression, and then nothing. Even if the story is interesting, it failed to grab me, maybe because not much happens (except, I suppose, the end of the world, which is in fact quite a lot!) or maybe because the atmosphere of the movie is  suffocating. And with two hours and ten minutes, it is long. By the way, it’s got a stellar cast, Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Ramping, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Gainsbourg… wow. But I expected more.

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The Equation of Love and Death (李米的猜想)


I have decided that contemporary French and Chinese movies have quite a bit in common. This includes people smoking all the time and yelling at each other every five minutes or so. There’s also a fair amount of drinking going on at times. I’ve just watched The Equation of Love and Death, a 2008 Chinese movie directed by Cao Baoping. In the film, the main character Li Mi, who is searching for her boyfriend who left her suddenly four years earlier, smokes and screams more than she breathes. Okay, this is a little exaggerated. And her life is not easy. She works as a taxi driver, showing every passenger a photo of her ex and asking them if they have seen him. A suicide will trigger a series of events, all interlinked, and leading her to her ex. Three stories are the backbone of the movie: Li Mi’s search for her boyfriend, the fate of two drug traffickers, and Li Mi’s boyfriend’s erratic behaviour. Gradually each story will run into each other, creating a web of connections and complexities. Life in Chinese cities is well pictured. This movie falls into the thriller/suspense category, and it’s quite okay. A bit grim, but Chinese movies are often like that, I think. I wish Li Mi would smoke and scream a little less, but I forgive her. Now, has anyone seen this movie and know where it was filmed? I got excited more than once because I seemed to recognise my beloved Kunming, in particular the pedestrian bridge at the crossing of Dong Feng Dong Lu (区东风东路) and Bai Ta Lu (白塔路). Can anyone confirm that?

I’m adding the trailer to this banter. Unfortunately it’s in Chinese and there are no subtitles, but you’ll see what I mean about the yelling! :-)

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Matt Henderson Ellis: Strange as Angels


Hi Matt, could you describe yourself in five words?

“No retreat, baby, no surrender.”

What can you tell us about “Strange as Angels”?

It occurred to me that Prozac had as big an influence on my generation, and its music, as LSD had on the generation who came of age in the 1960s. I am not a scientist or sociologist, so I sought to examine this idea via my own personal experiences with depression and self-medication. The result was Strange as Angels, a memoir which chronicles my use of music, particularly 80s punk and new wave, to alleviate the psychic burden of teenage depression. The narrative is basically the story of first love, the ramifications of being on overly sensitive soul, and what happens when you are not true to your own nature. Along the way, I give short exegeses of bands like the Smiths, the Cure, the Violent Femmes, and the Replacements and their place in music before Prozac and Nirvana broke depression and, simultaneously, underground rock into the public consciousness.

Who’s your favourite author? 

The only living writer I buy in hardcover is Haruki Murakami. The dead ones: John Kennedy Toole, Bernard Malamud, Flannery O’Conner, Mikhail Bulgakov, Georges Perec, and George Orwell.

Do you have tips for budding writers?

There is so much bad advice out there on the Internet, written by people who are mostly rehashing other people’s bad advice. Learn things by doing them (I’m mostly talking about the publishing process here). Creatively, if you are indeed a writer, you don’t need advice; you will write anyway. Just do it without shame and stay 100 percent committed to following your own path to expression: forget what everyone else is doing. That said, community is sustaining, emotionally, I mean. You should always have a few trustworthy people around with whom to share your writing. Not much gets done in a void. Oh, and read John Gardener’s On Becoming a Novelist – it is invaluable.

What are you working on now? 

Right now my energies are taken up by editing a novel for one client and a memoir for another. I have a novel of my own in the fermentation stage, but it is only a few unrefined ideas at this point. Also, I am trying to learn how to market e-books. Like most writers, I am not very comfortable with this facet of publication.

Where can we find you online?

http://www.wordpillediting.com/wordpillblog/

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In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play


I am finally connected again. Between the Japan earthquake and tsunami and my travels to Kunming, it’s been hard to find a working internet connection. I seem to have solved this problem for the moment. Before leaving Hong Kong, I went to see In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play by Sarah Ruhl at the Mcaulay Studio, Hong Kong Arts Centre. What a night! This play, which premiered at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre on February 5, 2009 is absolutely fantastic! It was nominated for three 2010 Tony Awards, and I understand why. I hadn’t laughed so much at the theatre in a very long time. The dialogues are witty, the subject funny, its treatment clever, the structure of the play works well and it’s easy to relate to the characters, even if they are from the US in the late 1800s. The play is about a doctor who uses recently discovered electricity to treat women suffering of hysteria and depression with a piece of equipment that he created himself: a vibrator! But Ruhl’s play is not a joke about the medical world, its real topic is the misunderstanding between men and women, the lack of expression of emotions, the absence of well-developed sexuality, and even female fertility. It’s a play you will remember for a long time. It’s a little in your face at times, which probably explains why it was only for over 18 years olds in Hong Kong, but I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a great night out. I’d see it again any time.

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Filed under Arts, Hong Kong, Theatre

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon


I enjoyed reading “A Spot of Bother” by Mark Haddon, the author of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time“. It is the story of a family getting ready for a wedding, but nothing goes as planned of course. George, the father, discovers a lesion on his hip and thinks the worst, starting to slowly lose his mind. His wife Jean is having an affair with an ex-colleague of his. His gay son Jamie is having relationship issues of his own; and his daughter Katie is having second thoughts about getting married… I won’t say more as I don’t want to spoil the book. Each character is well crafted and contributes to a funny, fast-paced story where something happens in every chapter. Haddon is a master of voices. He did it in “The Curious Incident…” and he’s doing it again in this one. Haddon has managed to capture George’s voice particularly well as he is sinking into depression and madness. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the main characters, and this is highly entertaining. This is an easy read, but probably not one that will stay with you forever: the messages may be important, but they are not unusual. At times the story feels even a little forced, almost turning into slap-stick comedy. But despite its flaws, I found it a good read, and you may agree with me as long as you don’t come to it expecting another tour-de-force like “The Curious Incident…”.

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Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami


Murakami‘s writing is beautiful. It is extremely evocative, subtle, yet powerful. Each scene draws you into a life of its own; you can smell it, feel it, hear it and see it, a feast for all senses. Yet Murakami’s writing never draws attention to itself, and that’s what I like about it. With Norwegian Wood he has created a story which will stay in the reader’s mind for a long time. This novel is a coming of age story interwoven with a stunning love story, but it’s also about grieving, life in Japan and a lot more. Toru Watanabe is learning to deal with the suicide of his best friend, aged seventeen, while falling in love with his ex-girlfriend, Naoko. Unfortunately Naoko is dealing with her own demons and has a nervous breakdown, from which she will never recover. But Toru’s love is not diminished by this, if not strengthened. During his search for identity, meaning of life, love, pleasure, and sex, Toru encounters a variety of fascinating characters, from Storm-Trooper, his quirky room-mate, to Reiko, Naoko’s patient friend in the asylum, and Midori, another student, the only one with a real anchor in the world. Murakami is a magician: the characters he creates are more real than normal novel protagonists, they are all quirky in their own way, all searching for something, all passionate, and all in desperate need of love. This novel moved me. I read it in one sitting. Very few writers are capable of creating atmospheres the way Murakami creates them. In fact, he is an artist, and I feel his writing is like Japanese sumie (black and white ink painting): with just a few simple strokes, a stunning picture appears in front of your eyes. Not too much, not too little, with enough room for imagination, this is what Murakami’s writing is like. I did get annoyed at times with Toru’s character, too passive for my liking, but this has to do more with my own character than with the book. After reading this novel, you will feel different, I can almost guarantee it. And this is what good writing should be all about, shouldn’t it? Ten stars.

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Body Swap


My latest young adult novel is out. It’s called Body Swap. It’s available as eBook and in paperback format.

Here’s a blurb about the story:

The world’s first text message adventure romance with the other side!

William is thirteen and has recently moved to a town called Fulton with his parents. His sister Estelle died accidentally a year ago, and his mother is in deep grief. In his new hometown, William meets Pat, a boy who loves big words and is in need of company. Out of the blue, William receives a text message from the mobile phone of an unknown sender called Stephanie asking for help. The two boys are at first astonished, then dubious, when in a flurry of text messages Stephanie tells them she is in a coma at a nearby hospital. She says she is floating outside her body and needs their help to get back into it.

Initially incredulous, William and Pat become intrigued and decide to check whether Stephanie is telling the truth. They manage to trace the hospital and gain admission into the Intensive Care Unit, where sure enough they find Stephanie in coma. At their wits’ end about how to do as Stephanie asks the two friends call on a female psychic called Doris to help them get Stephanie back into her body. A disastrous mix up occurs, however, and William ends up trapped in Stephanie’s body and shut out of his own.

In Stephanie’s body, William experiences difficult and sometimes comedic situations. He learns about things girls have to live with, from unwelcome approaches, to bras and high heels. The situation becomes even more desperate when Pat falls in love with Stephanie!

William and Pat elaborate a scheme for getting William and Stephanie back into their respective bodies, but timing is crucial and time is running out. The boys confront awesome challenges and meet with an unexpected enemy, and discover at the same time the secret behind Estelle’s death.

The official website: http://www.jeromeparisse.com/bodyswap.htm

Buy it in paperback format on Amazon or as eBook on Amazon or Smashwords

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