I stumbled across Ransom Riggs’ short films on YouTube and found myself in a kaleidoscope of wonder. The Accidental Sea, a doco about the Salton Sea in the California desert, is surreal, not least because of the subject matter. I’m fascinated by the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, created by an engineering accident when irrigating farmland in 1905, which nature turned into a thriving ecosystem. The most important wetland in California is currently under threat of drying to a toxic dustbowl due to squabbles over water rights. This environmental catastrophe is a topic for my nature blog, not here. Back to Ransom Riggs.

Salton City Lifestyle by Abhijit Patil
Salton City Lifestyle by Abhijit Patil

I watched The Accidental Sea for its subject but the film is a work of art, set off by Ransom Riggs’ narration. While watching I tried to remember where I knew the name Ransom Riggs. Had I watched his other films? Was he a voice actor from an audio book? (Did I say his voice is amazing.) Was he famous? Then I found his short film A Most Peculiar Trip: Searching for Miss Peregrine. Oh yeah, I’m in the middle of reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I guess that makes him famous, there’s a whole series of Peculiar Children.

The combination of old photos scattered throughout and informing the story tantalized my love of the interaction between word and image, so I had to read Miss Peregrine. The story has a clever premise and the photos appear in context as the narrator finds them, but I don’t like Ransom Riggs’ writing. His metaphors are clumsy and the narration stilted. I never forget I’m reading words on a page, which I do with good writing.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I’ve been in the middle of reading Book 1 for weeks. I’ll get to the end some time, but not continue the series. I have to intersperse short bursts of Miss Peregrine with books I enjoy more.

Ransom Riggs’ talent lies in visual story telling. His short films interweave footage with journal-type exposition, complemented by magnificent narration. So much more than most vlogs you’ll find online. He is a master of visual elegance amongst a sea of YouTube botulism. I particularly like:

  • Land of Sleep
  • When it rains like this
  • Talking Pictures about his love of old photographs, which inspired Miss Peregrine. Other photos in his collection were written on by their original owners and inspired the book Talking Pictures. I haven’t read this, but I want to. Seeing the captions in this film is poignant, especially the soldiers who subsequently died in war.

Reading Miss Peregrine I realise (again) what a literary snob I am. I want words to dance across the page, prose become poetry and cascade metaphors into visual banquets in my mind. Ransom Riggs’ short films do this and more. I wish he’d stick to filming/narrating and leave words on the page to someone else.

Although I’m in the minority, Miss Peregrine is a NYT bestseller and currently in production as a movie directed by Tim Burton! I think I’ll like the movie a lot more.

photo credits

  1. Muddy Water by Abhijit Patil on flickr
  2. Salton City Lifestyle by Abhijit Patil on flickr