Saturday, January 29, 2022

Station Eleven

 I'm teaching Station Eleven in my Comp II class this semester, which means I'm re-reading it assiduously.  It's really well done. It does concern a pandemic that wipes out 99.99% of the population, so if that's too much for you, then maybe skip it. But the writing and the characters are great.

The structure, which moves back and forth through time, is a little much for some of my students, who declare themselves confused. Others say it's "boring," since (I gather) there is very little violence, rape, or murder. "Nothing happens except people talking," one student declares. This reminds me of a criticism I saw recently of Jane Austen, which is that her books are boring because all people do is visit one another's houses.

Anyway: there is also a mini-series, now showing on HBO Max. I bought a trial subscription so I could watch it, and kind of wish I had not. Most reviewers seem to like the series, and it does have charming moments, but it also eviscerates everything that is powerful about the book. 

They take Hamlet as the ur-text for the series, rather than King Lear, which undercuts Arthur's role in the story; and they redeem the prophet, which is a terrible move. 

In the book, he is a religious leader who "marries" every young girl he comes across, and has as his end goal the destruction of the few humans who remain. In the series, he kidnaps children from their parents, building a child army, some of whom he convinces to be suicide bombers. And then the series redeems him, since he is, after all, just a misunderstood. traumatized boy.

In the book, he is also a traumatized boy -- Kirsten thinks that about him, after his death, how like she herself he grew up in the first years after the pandemic, and must have had terrible things happen to him, just as she did -- but this is not excused. He may be traumatized, but he is still doing evil, and that evil is acknowledged.

The series makes him Hamlet. No. Just no.

Anyway, I enjoyed watching the series, but it is like a C+ television show, whereas the book is a masterpiece. Read that, and only watch the series if you're really, really bored, or a completist like me.


Bardiac said...

The book really is stellar. It's very hard to read during our pandemic, but so very important as well.

Thanks for your review of the TV series. (I don't watch the platform, so won't see it anyway.)

delagar said...

I love the book so much. Mandel has another coming out, in April -- I can't wait.