Tag Archives: Tintin

Dreaming of sushi

I’m back to writing. Not as often as I’d like but at least keys are being pounded and ideas recorded.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’d been considering writing my next story as a graphic novel, partly because I love stories told this way (everything from Tintin to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. I took a masterclass in writing comics and graphic novels last year and came away inspired but somewhat intimidated by the concept of writing in such an unfamiliar form. As a result, I procrastinated way too much.

So, while I can see the next book as a graphic novel, I’m going to write it in novel form first. Having made that decision, I’ve started sketching characters, scenes and more. I love these early stages of assembling a story.

The idea I have in mind is essentially a love story, but one concerned with fathers, sons and the links between generations. Which brings me to the title of this post.

A friend invited me to this documentary today and I really enjoyed it. Jiro Dreams Of Sushi has an 85-year-old sushi chef as its central character – a man whose alcoholic father died when he was seven. Jiro has worked for 75 years and is considered the best sushi chef in the world. He has no plans to retire, which feeds into the stories of his two sushi chef sons. It’s slow-burning, exquisite stuff.

And mouthwatering if you enjoy sushi. You can get a taste of the tale here:

Movie magic

I love the movies. Even a stint as a movie reviewer, where I sometimes watched three films a day, couldn’t dull my appetite for the big screen.

Thinking back, this filmic fascination probably has its roots in my childhood in small rural Victorian towns. My memory of Yarram, where my family lived for eight years, is that there was a theatre in the main street that rarely screened movies – with one exception.

I can remember seeing a film called Lost in The Bush with my school. As the title suggests, it was about three children who wander off and get lost. The make-up artist must have been skilful as I can still see the children’s faces as they became sunburnt, starving and dehydrated. I suspect it didn’t have a happy ending as it gave me nightmares. If it was intended to educate us about not straying too far from responsible adults it worked. For a few years, anyway.

I also have vivid memories of long, carsickness-inducing drives to the Leongatha drive-in to see films such as Bedknobs & Broomsticks, The Sound of Music and Storm Boy. The latter, based on the book by Colin Thiele, probably rendered me a blubbering mess, sobbing all the way home.

Years later, Dad took my brother and I to a city drive-in to see Star Wars. It rained and we had to put the windscreen wipers on but we still loved every second.

The first film I saw without a parent present was sword and sorcery flick The Beastmaster – memorable to an adolescent mainly because of the minimalist costumes worn by former Charlie’s Angel Tanya Roberts. That was followed by titles such as Monty Python’s Meaning of Life and, after winning tickets from radio station 3BO, Flashdance.

I was still a teenager when I made my first attempt at writing Game as Ned. My approach then was to mentally cast Aussie actors as the characters, trying to picture how they might speak and act in the scenes playing out before an audience of one. Needless to say, I cast Bill Hunter and Bruce Spence, because they seemed to be a prerequisite of every Australian film. Colin Friels was the original Mick (in my mind). I even flirted with Kylie Minogue as Erin, for a while.

The idea of my stories finding their way onto cinema screens was and remains a massive incentive to keep writing.

In recent years I’ve had enquiries from filmmakers about both Game as Ned and Five Parts Dead but nothing has eventuated so far. I’m not entirely surprised. A title character that doesn’t speak, and a tangled mystery with dual timelines, would present any director with significant creative challenges.

Maybe the next yarn will be the right one for translating to a screenplay.

I began this post thinking about book-to-film adaptations I watched over the Christmas period. I was VERY excited by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson collaborating on Tintin and dragged the kids to see the movie at the first possible opportunity.

I appreciated the opening homage to Tintin author Herge and the titbits left for Tintin buffs throughout the film. The action scenes were good fun and the 3D was decent. I walked away slightly saddened, though. I can’t say if that’s down to my favourite part of the Unicorn story being left for a sequel – or the magic not measuring up to the moment when my eyes first feasted on a Tintin graphic novel in a public library. To this Tintin fan, the books are still better.

I hadn’t read The Invention of Hugo Cabret prior to seeing the film, so there was no chance of disappointment in the Scorsese adaptation. The book is now on my bedside table because Hugo, the film, was magnificent. (The Little Dragon, who says the book is, “the best I’ve read that isn’t part of a series”, tells me the film tied for honours.)

As a 3D spectacle Hugo is the only thing I’ve seen to rival or equal Avatar. As a story, it spoke to me on too many levels to mention. I adored it.

Coming out of the cinema, I heard a fellow patron say, “It clearly wasn’t a movie for children and the opening was oh so dull.” Part of me wanted to interject and explain that Hugo is based on an award-winning children’s book and my kids loved it and the opening scene was one of the most beautiful sequences you’ll ever see and… Why bother?

I held my tongue. The movie’s magic was and is still alive in me. I wasn’t going to let anyone spoil it.

Books of influence

Think back through your life. What books have left an indelible mark, good or bad, on your soul? Was there a novel you were forced to digest at school that put you off reading forever after? Is there a non-fiction title that led to an epiphany about your true calling? Did a self-help publication rescue you from a dark place? Is there a work with an unmatched ability to transport you from from the humdrum to a place where you can shed your burdens and relax?

These books don’t have to be your favourites. They don’t need to be great literature, either. They just need to have made an impact that echoes within you today. They might be books you can’t bear to throw away, even though you haven’t picked them up for decades. And they could be the titles that stay on your bedside table so they’re always within reach.

Here are a few that helped make me who am I am, for better or worse, and the reasons why:

Tintin & The Red Sea Sharks – Herge
This was the first graphic novel I laid eyes on. The fact that I can still remember finding it in the Yarram library – a hardcover comic felt like a forbidden fruit – is proof this book spiked the Richter scale of my years. I’ll never know whether I ended up a journo because of the adventures of the unstoppable boy reporter but I have my suspicions.

Asterix the Gaul – Goscinny & Uderzo
I moved from Tintin to the Asterix series, which revel in punning and wordplay. During my early tabloid newspaper days I was a rampant punster in inappropriate places. I think the two Frenchmen and their translators are to blame.

To the Wild Sky – Ivan Southall
This novel was young adult before the genre existed. For reasons I’ve detailed elsewhere, it could have led to my becoming an author. Even if it didn’t, it was one of the first books that helped me understand the power of story. And it was Australian, unlike most of the Blyton-esque stories I grew up with.

The Chrysalids – John Wyndham
Wyndham specialised in sci-fi that could be happening in your own backyard. I devoured many of his books. This title made me think what it meant to be different, accepted and able-bodied. It raised questions I hope to explore in my next novel and it certainly led me down a path into social justice journalism.

To Kill A Mocking Bird – Harper Lee
This could be filed with the titles above and below it, under the heading ‘Injustice’. Reading novels such as this, even as compulsory school exercises, made me aware that there are times when you need to speak out, no matter how unpopular that might make you. I was reminded of this courtroom drama recently, when reading Chloe Hooper’s excellent and upsetting The Tall Man.

A Kindness Cup – Thea Astley
I did a unit on ‘justice’ in either Year 11 or 12 and this was one of the set texts. It was certainly the first I’d heard of massacres of indigenous Australians. The injustice evident in this tale has stayed with me ever since and influenced my years at university and as a newspaper journalist.

1984 – George Orwell
Also school reading. At some level I think this made me realise the people in power don’t necessarily deserve to be there and should be scrutinised and held accountable for their actions.

Shogun – James Clavell
One of the towns I lived in as a teenager had a mobile library visit fortnightly in a semi-trailer, adding to the exotic appeal of any space full of stories. Thanks to that truck I dabbled with Stephen King, James Herbert, Ian Fleming and other authors that the librarian cocked an eyebrow at. This Hollywood-esque saga was the first time I was so completely transported to another culture to experience adventure, honour and sexuality. I’ve probably read it three or four times since.

A House for Mr Biswas – VS Naipul
I tackled English literature at university and didn’t exactly love it. There weren’t many books I had to read that I enjoyed. I’m not even sure I enjoyed this one but I’ve never forgotten it. It led me to other titles such as Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. When I first had the chance to travel internationally it was India I ventured to.

The Art of Happiness – The Dalai Lama with Howard C. Cutler
One of my friends remarked that this book taught him to be a man and how to deal with anger. I wouldn’t go quite that far but I would say it has made me think about who and how I want to be.

Thank you to the lovely Julia Lawrinson for prompting this post in her blog.

Incidentally, last year I did a Facebook 15 Books in 15 Minutes list, with a slightly different brief … and came up with a slightly different catalogue. If I were to list authors that have influenced me, that would be a different list again. Maybe that’s a challenge for another post. In the meantime I’d love to hear about books that have left a mark on the inner you.

Unmanned and dangerous

During my writer-in-residence stint at insideadog, I kicked off a discussion about graphic novels. In part, the inspiration for the topic was my discovery that girls enjoyed Tintin novels just as much as boys. That surprised me somewhat, given the only female character of any significance in Tintin is Bianca Castafiore!

Turns out girls are all about the story, unlike most boys (it seems) who need a bloke to identify with. Apparently girls will read anything as long as the story looks good. Most boys will only read books with suitably blokey covers. (I’m clearly in a minority.)

Anyway, one of the Dog Insiders recommended I check out a series called Y: The Last Man. Based on a quick Google and test-read, I was hooked. You can download the first episode free here. I’ve subsequently purchased and read the next 10 or so. It’s one helluva story and doesn’t pull any punches. Violent, yes. Confronting, yes. Is there a message? Yes.

I recommend it – but definitely not for younger folks. I’d say 17 and up.

Y: The Last Man cover image
Y: The Last Man cover image