The Movie: Trainspotting, 1996 (John Hodge, screenplay, from the novel by Irvine Welsh; Danny Boyle, dir.
Who says it: Ewen McGregor as Mark “Rent-Boy” Renton, a Scottish heroin addict
The context: Renton explains why he has chosen not to make the choices required of adults in today’s society.
How to use it: When doing something irrational.
The whole speech, for the record: "Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a f***ing big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose DIY and wondering who the f*** you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing f***ing junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, f***ed up brats you spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life... But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin' else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got heroin?"
And yes, this movie is a cautionary tale. Just say no.
None of my friends who might have been in London yesterday were actually there, which is a relief, but doesn't change the horror and the sorrow. Once again, I have to ask: what are these people hoping to achieve? What do they think will happen as a result of these attacks?
My friends the Schulzes were living in London in the fall of 1996, and I went over to visit that November. Sue and I were evacuated from the Underground at Piccadilly Station on my birthday, as we were on our way to lunch. No one told us what was going on, but we assumed it was a bomb threat -- the IRA had lately been active. I made some crack about how ironic it would be to die on my birthday, but neither of us thought for a moment that we might be in any real danger. It was a stupid thing to joke about, but I feel angry that I'll never be able to make a joke like that again.
I spent too much time driving this week to get much reading done, so this week's list includes two audio books and only one printed one.
What I Read This Week
Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass. I've read this book at least three times, but checked the audiobook out from the library anyway. It's the first in Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy (known in the U.K. as "The Northern Lights"), theoretically written for young adults. Lyra Belacqua, living in a parallel version of Oxford, ventures to the far north to discover the truth about her parentage and explore the deepest mysteries of the universe. This book is a classic; I think they're making it into a movie, about which I have serious reservations.
Dashiell Hammett, The Glass Key. I haven't read enough Hammett; his prose gets a little dense for me sometimes, so the audiobook was a good option for me. Gambler and low-level political fixer Ned Beaumont works to clear his boss, Paul Madvig, from suspicions of murdering a senator's son. It hardly matters that Madvig may be guilty. One of my favorite movies, Millers Crossing, owes a great deal to this book.
David Wolstencroft, Contact Zero. Wolstencroft's first novel, Good News, Bad News, was a terrific book that suggested great possibilities for espionage novels in the post-Cold War world. Contact Zero picks up an idea from the first book: the legend of a sanctuary network for British spies whose covers have been blown, and whose own government has repudiated them. I read an uncorrected advance copy that should have spent a little more time with an editor, but the premise, the action and the characters are all solid. It'll be available in September.