Monday, March 9, 2015

Slow Motion

The New World, Andrew Motion's second sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, reminds me somehow of the chase scene near the end of Robert Altman's Popeye. I rather like the movie as a whole, but I have fallen asleep at least twice during that chase scene, which involves slow-moving boats. The frantic actions and speech of the characters on the boats are apparently supposed to provide the tension, but it just doesn't work. I fall asleep, or wish I could, whenever I watch the last 20 minutes of the movie.

Motion's novel is mostly one long chase, mostly in slow motion. Jim and Natty, offspring of the two key Treasure Island characters, survive the loss of their ship on the Gulf Coast of Texas, but they are soon captured by a band of Indians. Led back to the Indian village, they expect to be killed in the most painful way they can imagine. With a little help, they manage to escape, but not before stealing a silver necklace from Black Cloud, the chief.

Jim and Natty take off across the American frontier with Black Cloud in pursuit. They take refuge with a peaceful tribe, join a group of entertainers heading west (in 1805?) and eventually climb aboard a boat floating down the Mississippi to New Orleans. Black Cloud follows them all the way.

The novel has its moments, yet for an adventure tale it is surprisingly easy to put down. At least it didn't put me to sleep.

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