Friday, 7 June 2013

A Long Time Ago by Gib Van Ert

Lowdown: An autobiographical tale of growing up in the shadow of Star Wars.
The world of Star Wars means a lot to me. For example, if you were to ask me what was the first film I got to watch at the cinemas, my answer would be The Empire Strikes Back. Is that the true answer? No; by now I know I watched other films before Empire, including a James Bond and a Disney animation. But for some reason or another it was the world of Star Wars that captured me; and for the exact same reasons they seem to have captured Gib Van Ert at a similar stage of his life. Eventually, it had him write a short book called A Long Time Ago to discuss this experience.
A Long Time Ago is not a philosophical book, though. The book discusses Star Wars through the story of the person that was there at the time: the little boy who slept through the bulk of Star Wars, the slightly older boy who watched Empire, and the teenager boiling with anticipation for Jedi. Then come the years of quiet, until the remasters came out and later that thing called Phantom something. As I read A Long Time Ago I could not avoid recalling how I went through the exact same phases myself, including the ever arguing parents. Oh, and also including the process of reacquainting myself with Star Wars through the original series’ laserdiscs instead of going for the remasters, and, more importantly, the coming of age that dawned on me as the more childish aspects of Jedi became clearer and through that Phantom Menace abomination. Thus Gib Van Ert's personal story, the otherwise unremarkable story of a boy growing up in Canada, a story I could hardly be blamed for ignoring together with that of many others’, turns into a story I can relate to. A story well told.
Even the differences between Van Ert and I are interesting. For a start, it is clear I did not fall in love with Star Wars as deeply as he did. Although there was a period in my life, a few years before and after Jedi, where Star Wars was a major player, I was much quicker at moving over it. Perhaps it was due to other movies capturing my imagination, like the first two Indiana Joneses and The Terminator; or perhaps it was Van Ert’s deep involvement with Star Wars merchandise, a phenomenon from which I was totally deprived (as far as I know, non were available in the Israel of my childhood; and even if they were, I doubt my parents could afford them). The point, though, is that these differences in personal histories are a reflection of different cultures; thus they turn an already interesting book into a more interesting one.
Ultimately, A Long Time Ago is a story of growing up. A simple and entertaining one. Nothing that would shatter its reader’s very existence, but something that every person touched by Star Wars at one point or another would find interesting.
Overall: 3 charming stars out of 5.

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