The Addams Family (2019)

The Addams Family is

an animated version of Charles Addams series of cartoons about a peculiar ghoulish family

Which doesn’t exactly tell you much and probably assumes a level of familiarity which is probably justified amongst all but the very youngest viewers.

I have been an Addams Family fan since I was quite young, largely because of exposure to the TV series which ran for only two seasons in the early sixties (when I was a toddler) but seemed to be constantly on TV as I was growing up. I always preferred it to The Munsters. As a teenager, I discovered the original cartoons and they fit comfortably into my world view alongside Edward Gorey.

So I was very keen to see the new film and, encouraged by the poster and trailer, we trooped along just before Halloween. If two people can troop, that is.

Can you feel a but coming?

It was fine, I suppose, with lots of lovely in-jokes for us old folks who remember the original but the kicker for me was that the story was weak. This was the same issue I had with the 90s films – the thing that makes the Addams Family for me is what they are, not what they do. Does that make sense?

And it was nothing we hadn’t seen before.

Oh, and it seemed longer than its stated running time.

Having said all of that I loved the character design and the voice cast was wonderful, especially Charlize Theron, but sadly this felt like a missed opportunity.

I still aspire to be a (shorter, fatter, older) version of Morticia, though 😀

Dazzling details: directed by Grey Tiernan & Conrad Vernon, TAF is 96m long and rated PG for mild comic threat and language.

The Bone Key

13100615Subtitled ‘ The Necromantic Mysteries of Kyle Murchison’, The Bone Key by Sarah Monette is a collection of ten stories linked by said Mr Booth and was nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award in 2007.

Booth is an academic, specifically a curator of manuscripts in a museum located in an unnamed city , and this, along with the obvious supernatural elements that play out in each story shows the undoubted influence of MR James and, in my mind to a lesser extent, HP Lovecraft.

Booth is an odd figure, with few connections to those around him other than work colleagues, which puts him firmly in confirmed bachelor status. Unlike her predecessors though, Sarah Monette is more explicit in dealing with Booth’s issues with intimacy and his sexuality in particular. In addition, he’s a man labouring under a family curse and whose dabbling in necromancy has attracted all sorts of supernatural elements into his orbit, many through his work of course. Those pesky manuscripts, they get you every time….

I was interested in reading this book because of my previous experience with Sarah Monette’s stories in various anthologies which I’ve enjoyed very much, but also because I am a complete sucker for the MR James style of story. We learn more about Booth than we ever do with any of James’ characters but that’s perhaps inevitable given that we are talking about a single individual through a series of stories rather than James’ standalone approach. I read this as if it was a novel because I have no discipline whatsoever and couldn’t spread out reading a good set of stories even if my life depended on it.

What is interesting about The Bone Key, which I should say I enjoyed very much, is that it isn’t clear when or where the stories take place. I think it’s safe to say that we are probably somewhere in New England, but that’s about all I was able to come up with.
I really enjoyed all of these stories, my favourite being The Wall of Clouds where Booth is at a spa hotel recovering from a mysterious and almost fatal illness which is never directly explained (but we can make a guess given the stories that have gone before). I expect the impact this collection has on the reader depends very much on whether you like and trust Booth as a narrator.

I would love to read more about Booth’s experiences but I don’t think the author is planning more stories in this world, which is a shame.

Grand Day Out | Strawberry Hill House

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Back in January the Book God and I took a short trip to Strawberry Hill to visit an exhibition and just generally have a look around. Shamefully, despite the fact that I have lived not too far away for over 30 years, this was my first visit but I know I will be going back as it is just so fascinating.

Strawberry Hill House was built over a period of some 40 years by Horace Walpole as a summer retreat; it was a very early example of Gothic revival architecture (one of my favourites of course). Walpole used it as a place to keep his collection of art, antiquities and objects of interest from all historical periods. He was a man who collected things that were beautiful or historically important or had some kind of story attached to them, rather than focussing on a particular country or era.

As well as his summer home, Strawberry Hill House was also a place for holding parties, a place to study, open to select groups of the public to tour and see the amazing things it held, and of course it was the inspiration for his Gothic novel The Castle of Otranto.

In 1842 Walpole’s collection was sold off, and the exhibition we went to see (The Lost Masterpieces) was the first chance to see these items in the place they originally belonged.

Things that caught my interest in particular:

  • an enormous Chinese porcelain bowl from 1730 in which Walpole’s cat Selina drowned, inspiring Gray’s Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat – drown’d in a tub of goldfishes
  • a red Cardinal’s hat, said to be that of Cardinal Wolsey
  • a portrait of Mary Tudor, Dowager Queen of France and sister to Henry VIII, with her second husband Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk
  • a tress of hair of said Mary Tudor in a golden locket
  • a cravat carved out of lime wood by Grinling Gibbons – this was something Walpole himself wore on at least one occasion
  • a pair of gauntlet gloves worn by James VI & I (allegedly)
  • a 1782 edition of the Castle of Otranto

I loved the house, it’s so beautiful and the gardens look equally lovely though on the day we visited it bucketing with rain so we decided not to walk round; we’ll keep that for the next time. Visitors are understandably not allowed to take photographs but there is a very good app which lets you study the object and is worth downloading. You can find it here.