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I liked the book a lot but I completely see how someone could find it weak, I was a bit surprised at the universal acclaim. The paralysis in action and emotion caused by always overthinking everything was something I strongly related to.

Haven't watched the show yet.

coptic feels (seandalai), Wednesday, 29 April 2020 09:31 (three months ago) link

I think Marianne's pathology is down to an unnamed/unnameable systematic abuse as opposed to anything ASD-related. She seeks out cold, overpowering men as part of her compulsion to repeat. That's how I read it, anyway. There's something to be said about Rooney's politics and how we function under late capitalism but I think it's a bit undercoded in the text.

I watched the first episode of this. It was fine but it's too close to my reading of the text and all the power of literature to be nebulous and slippery is lost in the exactness of the screen.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Wednesday, 29 April 2020 09:36 (three months ago) link

I agree that 6 hours is quite normal for a chunky, meaty adaptation - say of Dickens.

His books are, say, 700 pages long - NORMAL PEOPLE is 266.

Length isn't everything, to be sure. You could pack a lot in to a short book that would bear a long adaptation. But the comments above suggest that the TV version is actually leaving out lots of what's interesting in the book (thoughts, etc), while still being unusually long.

A comparison: Alan Hollinghurst's rich, brilliant THE LINE OF BEAUTY is 500pp - the excellent adaptation (2006) was 3 hours.

Take a brilliant, rich book of say 250pp: MRS DALLOWAY, TO THE LIGHTHOUSE. Can I see the BBC stretching those to 6 hours? I can't - in fact I can more easily imagine them as 2 hours over 2 nights.

None of it would matter at all if the length worked well for the adaptation but my sense is that the length is stretching it too thin, with too little happening.

But OK, it can be treated as a formal experiment of its own, an exercise in slower drama.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 29 April 2020 09:46 (three months ago) link

I don't think the BBC3 strand is the place for anything formal or experimental.

clap for content-providers (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 29 April 2020 09:52 (three months ago) link

Been watching a couple of these each night with our tea the past few days and yeah it does feel dragged out a bit but there is somethingcompelling about it. Gf has zero patience for any "arty farty" stuff (her words) but is sufficiently gripped to stick with this. Good low key acting at least, particularly from the lead guy, reminds me of plenty of Irish pals I had at uni

or something, Wednesday, 29 April 2020 10:08 (three months ago) link

Feel like Sally Rooney is one of those novelists where any decent adaptation would have to give it plenty of time, so much in her writing is in the gaps between what the characters do and do not say, a good director could do a lot with that, and the onscreen relationship does need to proceed slowly in order to make the subtleties of that work, slower than it does in the book.

6hrs does feel excessive mind, but it's not as if any of us are short on time right now.

Matt DC, Wednesday, 29 April 2020 10:24 (three months ago) link

Haven't seen any of this yet but looking forward to starting it tonight, even if Conversations With Friends might possibly have made the better adaptation. Does it merit its own thread? Just realised there isn't a Sally Rooney thread at all.

Matt DC, Wednesday, 29 April 2020 10:26 (three months ago) link


Chuck_Tatum, Wednesday, 29 April 2020 10:33 (three months ago) link

it's not as if any of us are short on time right now
cough cough lots of people, me included, have far less free time due to the current restrictions. I'm still reading a book I bought before Christmas.

kinder, Wednesday, 29 April 2020 12:02 (three months ago) link

I was surprised to find no SR thread on either ILB or ILE.

I agree with Kinder -- puzzled by the very prevalent idea that everyone has more time; my experience is that some people have less time.

What is true for me, though (maybe it's what DC meant), is that with not going anywhere in the evening I am watching more film & TV at that time of the day.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 29 April 2020 12:59 (three months ago) link

Yes lots of people I know have home schooling constraints piled on top of work issues as well, but I'm not sure that a serialised drama being six hours rather than three is going to make much difference to that. We are going to be at the stage soon enough when broadcasters run out of new drama to show, and potentially months of lockdown ahead.

Matt DC, Wednesday, 29 April 2020 13:15 (three months ago) link

hopefully we can get a lot more webcam shows of celebrities talking to their celebrity mates about being a celebrity during a lockdown just like the little people

clap for content-providers (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 29 April 2020 13:35 (three months ago) link

I’ve been watching this during my seven-month-olds lunchtime naps

Chuck_Tatum, Wednesday, 29 April 2020 14:09 (three months ago) link

> when broadcasters run out of new drama to show

70+ years of archive, there's got to be something worth repeating in that. let people vote for it. but split it into bbc1 / bbc2 / bbc4 so i don't have to watch del-boy fall through the bar again.

koogs, Wednesday, 29 April 2020 16:09 (three months ago) link

(have the archers got covid-19 yet?)

koogs, Wednesday, 29 April 2020 16:10 (three months ago) link

they’re only showing a couple episodes a week to stretch it out

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Wednesday, 29 April 2020 16:24 (three months ago) link

I'm not bothered about NORMAL PEOPLE being longer or shorter in relation to the pandemic.

I just think it's long by normal standards, eg cf metrics given above. And this will affect viewing experience - just as if the book were 600pp about the same material it would be a different reading experience.

I agree with Koogs that they should really start showing more good old material. Maybe they're already doing that to a degree. They did show WOLF HALL but I suppose that was in relation to the recent novel. They could go much, much further back. BBC4 in particular could show tons of old PLAYS FOR TODAY and 1960s DR WHO. Or start with BOYS FROM THE BLACKSTUFF.

I agree with Vague that people talking to each other by computer is not making for good TV. Nor is Gary Lineker.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 29 April 2020 16:51 (three months ago) link

they are advertising new old things on iplayer, comedy box sets. but the comedy is absolutely fabulous and extras. and nighty night, and french and saunders. and 9 series of 2 packets of crisps.

(and some good things too)

koogs, Wednesday, 29 April 2020 19:40 (three months ago) link

I watched the first episode last night and it appears to be progressing at about the right pace. Adaptations - especially of big 19th Century novels - tend to truncate scenes and focus on key moments. The average length of a scene in a BBC Dickens adaptation is pretty short, whole chapters are usually condensed into a couple of minutes, and the adaptations themselves don't especially suffer from that.

But that approach would kill Normal People stone dead - without any interior monologue the relationship between the two main characters, the awkwardness and everything unspoken between them, needs time and space to convey itself to the viewer. It felt unhurried rather than padded out, although that may change later in the series. It's based around five or six fairly discrete moments in time IIRC and every one of those could easily get at least an episode.

Not seen either of the two leads before but they were exceptionally well-cast, the guy that plays Connell especially.

Matt DC, Thursday, 30 April 2020 16:36 (three months ago) link

My feelings FWIW after 7 episode, 3.5 hours:

First hour rather frustrating, slow, not going anywhere very interesting.

Episode 3-5 then picked up greatly for me - perhaps just because it was Dublin and TCD and I enjoy seeing these familiar places. A little bit of the content of their interests was filled in also, eg: his English seminars.

By episode 7 I can still see the indulgent appeal but I'm starting to find the on-off relationship rather ridiculous as the basis of a drama - it could go on literally forever (like a soap opera I suppose).

There is a very strong sense of a drama about almost nothing - two people who are blessed with success (in episode 7 literally almost the only ones in the prestigious college to get prestigious scholarships) getting alternately moody about how much they like each other. I've perhaps never seen a more 'first world problems' story.

But then, I think part of me likes this, because I'd often like dramas to be more realistic and more about ordinary nuances. There are aspects of the relationship that are very recognizable to me, and thus offer insights. The sex scenes are part of this too. All this connects to the unusual length of the series, ie: I can see the case for making it so long, and maybe other series should be equally stretched out for better effect.

I have found, though, that Marianne has started to irritate me a lot. Connell remains more likeable perhaps. His restraint, refusal to engage, tendency to deflect, is well played and recognizable. I also quite like the fact that he combines being PHYSICALLY STRONG with (apparently) being intelligent - which means he has the best of both worlds (see above re: lack of problems and tensions) but also sort of avoids a stereotype of the sensitive weakling or the insensitive big oaf.

the pinefox, Saturday, 2 May 2020 08:02 (three months ago) link

PS: an exception to the 'no real problems': Marianne has a brother who is universally horrible. In episode 7 it's explained that he's horrible because he's jealous of her success. But he was horrible before, when she was consider an oddball. His nastiness adds some 'jeopardy' and tension to the mix, OK - but it's so extreme, inexplicable, absolute, that it's out of kilter to everything else, like the basically realistic TCD crowd; it doesn't fit.

the pinefox, Saturday, 2 May 2020 08:59 (three months ago) link

It's not that she is someone with no real problems (far from it) it's that those problems are never ever talked about because the two main characters are completely emotionally inarticulate.

Matt DC, Saturday, 2 May 2020 11:55 (three months ago) link

(It may be that the adaptation has changed or dispensed with some key stuff in her past, I'll shut up until I've seen the whole thing)

Matt DC, Saturday, 2 May 2020 12:15 (three months ago) link

LOL BBC website...

The increase brings Russia's total number of coronavirus cases to 134,686, the seventh highest tally in the world.

But Russia's mortality rate remains low relative to other countries, such as the US, Italy and Spain.

Though maybe I shouldn't be laughing.

The Corbynite Maneuver (Tom D.), Sunday, 3 May 2020 19:47 (three months ago) link

A week from now that'll be "low relative to, er, the US".

The Corbynite Maneuver (Tom D.), Sunday, 3 May 2020 19:48 (three months ago) link

One day I heard this rolling WS news report on how the French economy hasn't been fucked this much since '46. Yeah quelle surprise.. I wonder if this is happening anywhere else.

calzino, Sunday, 3 May 2020 20:21 (three months ago) link

I've only watched 2 eps of Normal People, I'm assuming things actually happen in this at some point? I do actually like it, I'm mildly confused by how old they're meant to be (took til the end of ep 2 to twig that Dublin Murders cop was his mum not his sister). So far nearly everything Marianne has said has been about how she's not like the other girls too, yet seemingly confident. Perhaps that's less obvious in the book, idk? Anyway I'm sticking with it...

kinder, Sunday, 3 May 2020 20:52 (three months ago) link

Yes, similar reactions to you, Kinder. I have 2.5 hours to go in this and will finally be able to get the measure of it after that - maybe end of this week. FWIW I do think that the episodes after the first two are an improvement.

the pinefox, Monday, 4 May 2020 09:33 (three months ago) link

two weeks pass...

the 80s tv adaptation of Brideshead Revisited is 11 episodes and runs 12 hours (first and last episodes are over 90 minutes).

the first six and last six episodes of Normal People are directed by different people and the first six seem to me to be much better crafted/ more aesthetically interesting. I really liked the bulk of it but the last few episodes strained my credulity and by the end I had completely soured on it to the extent that when I caught the Italian villa on terrestrial tv I was actually intensely irritated by it's solipsism and, imo, needless cruelty.

Heavy Messages (jed_), Sunday, 24 May 2020 23:18 (two months ago) link

Italian villa episode, that is.

Heavy Messages (jed_), Sunday, 24 May 2020 23:20 (two months ago) link

It's true about the odd change of director halfway through.

I think I liked episodes 3-5 best.

It's true that BRIDESHEAD was long - surely too long. That book is not vast (say 300 pages?) and it's almost completely dreadful anyway. The fact that, as you say, it received so much dramatised airtime now seems awful.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 26 May 2020 12:23 (two months ago) link

I'm glad to agree with Jed about these last episodes and the rubbish Italian villa nonsense.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 26 May 2020 12:24 (two months ago) link

Had no idea about the Normal People split - that explains a lot.

Eyeball Kicks, Wednesday, 27 May 2020 19:08 (two months ago) link

The stakes don't seem high enough in Normal People to justify the torment dealt to Marianne, in my opinion. I can believe that a mother could, irl, support a son who had beaten up his sister and broke her nose but I don't accept it in the service of this particular story and I find the fact that so many people find the story romantic to be worrying.

Heavy Messages (jed_), Thursday, 28 May 2020 03:26 (two months ago) link

Again broadly agree.

It may well be that much more is going in the novel, or that it's a great novel. But the TV version has to be judged on its own terms.

In the TV version not enough is going on, not enough is at stake (as Jed says), and whatever problems characters have are not properly explained, despite 6 hours to do it.

It's attractive and appealing in a way but the longer it goes on, the less it stands up. By the last few episodes I couldn't help thinking it was pretty dire.

the pinefox, Thursday, 28 May 2020 11:50 (two months ago) link

I thought this thread revival would be about Emily Maitlis and Newsnight!

the pinefox, Thursday, 28 May 2020 11:50 (two months ago) link

I've started the Italian episode but not hugely incentivised to finish it, or the series.

Both leads are believably useless emotionally but Marianne has an unlikability that goes along with it. And I keep thinking we're supposed to Intuit more about her than we're presented - thinking about, for example, Sophie's clumsy attempt at organising a threesome; are we supposed to find Marianne's reaction sympathetic or pathetic? Romantic or deluded? I get the feeling it's definitely supposed to be one rather than the other, and I think I'm on the wrong side. Conversely, for someone who we're supposed to think is really just a bogtrotter Conner is woke af about rights to say no etc (even making a big point of it the first time they have sex) but at the same time is having no-strings hookups and nearly fucks his old teacher just because he can.

The strangest thing for me was writing off a large element of the greater cast as not worth it because "they're typical Trinity types" when one of the protagonists is exactly that.

Mud... jam... failure (aldo), Thursday, 28 May 2020 17:23 (two months ago) link

safe to say I'll be giving "Football, Prince William and Our Mental Health" a miss unless at some point they conduct an experiment to see if kicking the fuck out of William's head has far more superior mental health benefits than kicking a football.

calzino, Thursday, 28 May 2020 19:40 (two months ago) link

They should announce a s2 of Normal People and just make it about Lorraine cleaning houses and being lovely because she's absolutely the best thing about the show.

Heavy Messages (jed_), Thursday, 28 May 2020 23:51 (two months ago) link

Conversely, for someone who we're supposed to think is really just a bogtrotter Conner is woke af about rights to say no etc (even making a big point of it the first time they have sex) but at the same time is having no-strings hookups and nearly fucks his old teacher just because he can

I don't think that's right - in the series he's super-intelligent plus he's been brought up by a very smart single mother with a keen eye for the way women are treated / mistreated by men. He's read Germaine Greer by the time he's 18! And in the incident with his former teacher he walks away even when absolutely hammered.

I didn't think this was brilliant but I found it more interesting than some of you seemed to - as a story about how people are formed and deformed by their circumstances and experiences (family, class, sex, blah blah) and how that plays through their good and bad behaviour and decisions, it was interesting enough. And it, like the novel, manages to be too on-the-nose about any of it I think. I think when both work best they absolutely leave some confusion about whether something's romantic or pathetic. I definitely recognised the pain of watching people who at base are decent are the same bad decision over and over again. (I liked the book as much as I liked the series FWIW, I thought both were good but not outstanding.)

Tim, Friday, 29 May 2020 10:15 (two months ago) link

New season of David Olusoga's A House Through Time started this week, it's Bristol this time. Great stuff as always, he's one of the main reasons to still tune in to the BBC these days.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 29 May 2020 10:21 (two months ago) link

Yeah, I saw that last night, great episode to kick things off. Looking forward to part two. I loved that they explained the 18th century political 'cartoon', explaining all the tiny details. 'The Sixth Letter' book in one's pocket, dragging a dead man to the polls to get his vote etc.

It's about Englands's slavery past - well, those who profited from it immensely - and I've been seeing more of that incidentally (even fucking Paul from FlogIt had a 'slavery was bad! It's going under hammer right now!' epiphany recently). I don't know if this is a new thing for England, but it's been noticeable.

Le Bateau Ivre, Friday, 29 May 2020 10:59 (two months ago) link


Marianne's pain is more present in the text, even if the causes of it are more absent - in the figure of the monstrous father. One way of reading Marianne and the brother is that they both compulsively repeat the cycle of abuse. Which is a way of saying I 'believed' her more readily in the text. I think that's a function of the space of literature but that needs unpacking.

I keep coming back to the title. I think it's supposed to be provocative and the adjective is doing a hell of a lot of that provocation but it's there and my response is to think, well, how *about* some normal people then? The series, especially, is full of normal people and they're made out to be almost grotesque - there's not even a deferred glow, they're just shadow figures. What about his story - him with his worries about his small dick or her with her worries about body hair (just to focus on bodies)? That would be normal. Instead we get a fetishised, voyeuristic close-up of beautiful people being tortured by their genius and beauty, however little they understand these things. (Not that I don't enjoy looking at beautiful people being beautiful, but still.)

Anyway, that's all a rambling and confused.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Friday, 29 May 2020 11:14 (two months ago) link

(even fucking Paul from FlogIt had a 'slavery was bad! It's going under hammer right now!' epiphany recently).


Slavery was also very much present in the previous seasons but it's more to the front in this one I agree. I like how upfront the presentation is: these are the people who lived in this house, this is how they made their money. Very hard to spin as activist historians or revisionism, though I'm sure if the show becomes more popular the usual suspects will have a go.

Daniel_Rf, Friday, 29 May 2020 12:04 (two months ago) link

And it, like the novel, manages to be too on-the-nose about any of it I think.


Wonder if this should be: 'manages not to be' ?

the pinefox, Friday, 29 May 2020 12:49 (two months ago) link

One of the many problems with the programme is something it shares with tons of visual narrative, which is that it tends to be terrible at rendering literature, writing, reading - or sometimes even ideas and thinking.

Thus: by the end, we're told that Conor is an amazing writer. But the programme has shown us absolutely nothing that he has written that looked in any way amazing. At best, we have simply to imagine this quality. But given that it's presumably supposed to be so important to him, that's not very adequate.

At one point she says his emails to her were amazing. He jokes that they're better than his stories. Well, what we do see / hear even of their emails to each other are embarrassingly mundane. 'Normal' if you like. It's fine to write and send such emails. But it's not good for them to appear in a programme where it's implied that they're works of genius.

the pinefox, Friday, 29 May 2020 12:53 (two months ago) link

There was really so much bad about this programme that I should just give up thinking about it at all.

I still recognize that the book could possibly be much better.

Here's a better thing about the BBC: iPlayer currently hosts a load of terrific RKO films. I'm going to watch MY FAVOURITE WIFE later.

the pinefox, Friday, 29 May 2020 12:55 (two months ago) link

xp yes thanks PF, should have been not "not too on the nose".

Tim, Friday, 29 May 2020 12:59 (two months ago) link

Slavery was also very much present in the previous seasons but it's more to the front in this one I agree. I like how upfront the presentation is: these are the people who lived in this house, this is how they made their money. Very hard to spin as activist historians or revisionism, though I'm sure if the show becomes more popular the usual suspects will have a go.

― Daniel_Rf, Friday, May 29, 2020 2:04 PM (two hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

Thanks, I didn't know that as I haven't seen all previous seasons. Agreed on how up-front it is, it really works. David Olusoga's delivery is very good for this approach.

Le Bateau Ivre, Friday, 29 May 2020 14:06 (two months ago) link

This from the former deputy leader of North Somerset Council:

— Martin Booth (@beardedjourno) May 28, 2020

kinder, Friday, 29 May 2020 15:07 (two months ago) link

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