Fieldwork
Mischa Berlinski

Atlantic Books; 320 pages

What links an anthropologist, a third-generation missionary, and a bored journalist? How much trouble can you get up to in Northern Thailand? Is Star Wars really the Devil's work? Fieldwork explores the unlikely intersection of ex-patriate lives, and questions whether obsession and cultural immersion are all they're cracked up to be.

I’ve been on the bandwagon for the past 3 years, so it seems rude to fall off now: time to look back at my reading and cinematic digestion in 2008. It was a slow year all round – just over 50 books read (I usually clear 60-70), and only 15 movies. I’m not sure what this indicates: possibly that I’ve spent more time planning renovations than reading in an evening, and had more trips to the theatre instead of the movies. Happily, this seems to be exactly what I thought would happen.

I suspect the dip in movie-going also reflects a fairly poor year at the cinema; I’m not left with the feeling that there were a lot of movies I missed out on – although I’ve been more aware this year of saying “I’d like to see that… on DVD”, which is new. But seriously: at £20 a trip for 2 people vs. £3.50 to rent the DVD in 3 months time, there’s an argument for prioritising movies that will capitalise on the big screen. Character-driven integrity holds up just fine at 26″ (yes, our TV is old. Very old).

What we do in life echoes in eternity, proclaims Maximus, goading on his men.

But as he battles for his life in the Circus, the tune echoing in our ears is unmistakeably one that has more recently accompanied a ratty Johnny Depp buckling his swash in the Caribbean.

It’s amazing how a bit of latter-day cheap soundtracking can change the nature of a classic epic, no?

Hans Zimmer, you have a lot to answer for.