A Gorgeous Abortion

For the past half decade, I’ve been getting this sort of hollow expectant feeling on the periphery at this time of year. For clarity’s sake, I’ll state right now that it’s none of that holiday depression nonsense. That stuff’s for the lonely and the poor, and while I might feel like both of those things sometimes, I know that I’m technically neither. The whole Christmas suicide thing is rather baffling. The whole world’s in celebration mode! I know that this spirit is rarely capable of removing your problems, but at the very least it should be enough to motivate you to postpone your death plans for a few weeks. If you’re going to kill yourself at any point in the winter, you should do it right after Christmas. The beginning of January’s perfect. If you do it then, you’ll be dead before all the feelings of camaraderie and charity fade. Your final memories will be ones of oecumenical joy. Also, you won’t have to worry about new year resolutions. Bonus!

None of that’s related to what I’ve been experiencing for the last five years, though. I believe that I mentioned that. On the contrary, the little empty corner of my soul is reserved for something far shallower.

At the end of the year 2007, I had the privilege of great boredom during the theatrical reign of an adaptation of one of my favourite childhood novels, “The Golden Compass”. It wasn’t actually much of a reign, though. It felt huge to me at the time, and the fact that my friends shared my fervour meant that I was drawn to several repeat viewings. Unfortunately, the rather mediocre business it did served to dash the promises of sequels.

 

This did not become clear to me for a while.

I just expected that “The Subtle Knife” would follow by the next Christmas. When that season strode in, I was bemused by the thorough absence of any sign or portent of the trilogy’s middle installment. Then I thought, “Bah! It’s probably just one of those two-year cycles. The director’s brilliant. Daniel Craig’s huge. They’ve obviously just been busy. Next year, baby.”


I think that I finally got around to the barest bit of research at some point during the following 12 months. That’s when I finally took notice of the wider public’s apparent apathy and the director’s subsequent feelings of resigned acceptance of the indefinite hiatus that was forced upon his stillborn franchise. I didn’t really focus on that part, though. There seemed to be a fatuous glimmer of hope in all of this, and I was glad to blow upon those embers.

Whenever the anniversary of the movie’s release sauntered along, the ashes of the story’s cinematic future glowed anew within my heart. Recently, I decided to take a slightly closer look at this unfulfilled desire. This finally allowed me to fully remember something that was clear when I first read those books.

The first book was my favourite by a prodigious margin. In contrast to the fairy tale beginnings and epic escalation of “The Golden Compass”, “The Subtle Knife” opened with the death of a cynical child’s parent in a world without miracles, and “The Amber Spyglass” ended with the erasure of the hero’s childhood and most of its vestiges. The series was grand and beautiful, and I honestly enjoyed reading every piece of it, but I now realise that a fair bit of that had to do with the momentum of the initial book. The fantastical spirit that was still somehow intact after the tribulations of that first story was not maintained in its undiluted state through the sequels. This was obviously an adept execution of a metaphor for the onset of adulthood, but the fact that childlike wonder is one of my primary motivations means that such themes are never completely satisfying to me. There’s abundant space for ugliness in fantasy, but I always prefer to approach it with a touch of ecstasy. That’s partially why the most horrific aspects of Greek mythology are more attractive to me than the comparatively naturalistic way in which the Bible renders suffering.

Anyway, I think that I’m essentially at peace with the whole situation now. The film didn’t conclude neatly, but that makes perfect sense to my conception of life. The ending it has is just the horizon of the next adventure.

Copyright © 2011, Jaymes Buckman and David Aaron Cohen. All rights reserved. In a good way.