Wednesday, 16 October 2013

goodbye, shangri-la, or books with red, white and green covers

I've just read Lost in Shangri-La, which is one of those books with red white and green covers. In the last year I have loved The Lost City of Z and Unbroken. I liked Lost in Shangri-La very much but the underlying story, while very good, wasn't quite up there.

I learned some good things though: Shangri-La was a place invented by James Hilton for his 1933 novel, Lost Horizon. Among other people, FDR really liked it, and he used the name for the all-new US Presidential retreat, later re-named Camp David. In 1934 James Hilton wrote Goodbye, Mr Chips. That's a good couple of years' work.

Hilton went on to write movies. He said: Tempted by Hollywood, a writer must decide whether he would rather say a little less exactly what he wants to millions or a little more exactly to thousands.

I thought of this quotation when reading this article about Harvey Weinstein. Of course there are many such articles, but this is a good one.

Also from Lost in Shangri-La: Gremlins. They were originally inter-war RAF folk-mythological beasts. Roald Dahl was in the RAF. Then, during the war, he was posted to Washington by the Air Ministry and he wrote his first book, The Gremlins, about a plane factory built over some gremlins' forest home, and the gremlins which take revenge by sabotaging the planes.

It was an international success, Eleanor Roosevelt was a big fan, it was hampered by paper shortages, it was nearly made into a Disney movie.

Bonus: William Shatner and gremlins.

Bonus 2: I love America, but this is a horrible story about their border guards. The time I got asked really pointed and aggressive questions was also when I was going there from Canada, interestingly. Is that interesting? Yes. If you don't think so, it shows how little you know.



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