Like many John Le Carré novels, The Constant Gardener boasts a gripping, intricately plotted narrative that makes it ideal for the movies. In the years since the Berlin Wall tumbled and the Soviet Union collapsed, the master of the cold war espionage thriller has turned his attention to thorny moral issues in other parts of the world.
Fairy tales tend to be parables. They teach us to look beneath the surface (Beauty and the Beast), to exercise patience and to work to overcome obstacles (Sleeping Beauty), to avoid easy gratification and hold out for the real prizes in life (Pinocchio). In the fairy-tale films of the great Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, the meanings are often layered.
Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds churns up an emulsion of suspense and horror that engulfs you with the gray relentlessness of a low-grade fever. This is not the kind of thrilling, soaring adventure Spielberg created in Jaws or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; it’s a cheerless piece of visceral manipulation.
No one understood my nightly need to be reassured I’d wake up again the next day. Eyes closed, I saw no sheep but the tufts of pampas grass looming silver like a solitary path. The scroll hung above me, a verse in five and seven, its flowing hand thin and illegible—I still knew it was about our life not lasting very long. How is it that adults were okay with such a prospect? In July, bamboo blades rustled against paper cranes and prayer strips; I wondered how I’d made the cut, when I wasn’t a boy my father wanted, wasn’t a koi princess my mother said would magically turn her tail into a pair of legs. I looked for the fabled rabbits on the moon, a family of them taking turns to pound rice into pearly cakes along their dark, elliptical orbit.