Monday, August 27, 2007

Stardust Memories

Adam Mars-Jones used to write like this

One gets the sense that Neil Gaiman's rep as a genius must somehow be a reflection on the subculture that has so elected him. Like the water-cooler boor who becomes the office analyst because he read a Jung book in college, Gaiman seems to have raised himself into the empyrean on the narrow shoulders of Joseph Campbell. Campbell is not a very persuasive starting position in the first place: a sloppy structuralism denuded of whatever force it might have had by spiritualization. Stardust, in film version at least, for all its stylized whimsies, seems like the most mechanical Campbelliana imaginable. There are no characters, only positions, in which squat a rather unfortunate set of actors. The little matrix of the hero narrative has been filled with requisitely "original" figures; it's a movie written entirely in a single page Excel spreadsheet.

(Jane Dark on Stardust)

TLS is my first novel. At a time when I was working on Opus -52 or thereabouts David and I shared a house in Stewart Street in Oxford. David had a JRF at Brasenose; I was working on the Oxford Corpus as well as on Opp. -52, -51, -50, -49 & so on & on. We read everything AMJ wrote, regardless of subject. One day: I'm sitting in the kitchen reading the Independent on Sunday. There's a long piece by AMJ about someone called Marc Almond, which I start reading because it's by AMJ. I say: 'There's a piece by AMJ about someone called Marc Almond!' David: 'Mark Almond! I know Mark Almond! I'd no idea he'd become famous. He had a JRF at Jesus, specialised in Eastern Europe -- I suppose he must be very much in demand what with the war in Bosnia.' HD: 'I think this is a different Almond.'

Anyway, Jane Dark reminds me of the days when I would read AMJ reviewing films I did not plan to see. On Stardust here

4 comments:

Crystallyn said...

What a dour review. I personally loved the film. It was charming and entertaining. Some of it seemed a bit formulaic but much of it was quite unexpected. The casting was spot on. It's one of the few movies that I plan on buying on DVD this year.

Ithaca said...

Several years ago one of my stepbrothers came to stay with my mother and rented something like 24 installments of Joseph Campbell's seemingly interminable The Hero with a Thousand Faces. One would go into the TV room and find Campbell had reached Face 489, return hours later and find he had got up to Face 672. At meals my stepbrother would fill us in on the couple of hundred Faces we had missed out on by discovering urgent errands. This was all rather demoralising, not to say traumatic, so any reviewer who has it in for Campbell is likely to strike me as exceptionally astute -- but this is not, of course, to say that he is right in tacking this critique onto Stardust. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to see the film and have a wonderful time (though I would probably still have a soft spot for the anti-Campbellian).

Anonymous said...

Speaking of AMJ, check out The Guardian for his review of Coetzee's new novel.

Ithaca said...

Anon -- I saw the AMJ review. This was not AMJ at his best, possibly because the Guardian did not give him the kind of space the Independent gave him to write about Marc Almond. He wrote a good piece about Broke Back Mountain a few years ago.