Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
- On the Telegraph, British author Hilary Mantel has won the Man Booker Prize for her novel Bring Up the Bodies, a sequel to Wolf Hall, which follows Thomas Cromwell at the court of Henry VIII. Bring Up the Bodies details the Anne Boleyn scandal and her unhappy end. Ms. Mantel is one of two authors to have won the Man Booker Prize twice and the only woman to do so. This is a great testament to the power of fiction written well... and historical fiction at that. Hers is the only Tudor-esque novel out of the hundreds that exist that I want very badly to read.
- Ian McEwan, also a Booker Prize winner, has said recently that the novella is the perfect literary form. He might be right but that's quite a difficult thing to accomplish.
- NPR has a lovely article on the 60th anniversary of E.B. White's Charlotte's Web.
- National Novel Writing Month is coming up in November. Writer Unboxed has several posts on preparing for the project. I am considering participating in it this year, if only to maintain my sanity during this time of the Sisyphean synopsis. I think it would be a good way to churn out a first draft of a novel, intense though it may be.
- Publishers Marketplace had an article on Ann Patchett interviewing JK Rowling. One tidbit I found interesting: "I find that discussing an idea out loud is often the way to kill it stone dead. They all sound rubbish," she said. I find this to be particularly true. My ideas for stories or little nuances in my novel must be kept inside - let out too soon, even in private dialogue with oneself, and the idea evaporates or turns to dust.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
I was one of those who was exposed to Dickens early and never really knew why. First there was A Christmas Carol in middle school; then A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations and Nicholas Nickleby in high school. This in conjunction with later offerings of Moby Dick, Pride & Prejudice, Return of the Native, offerings from The Canterbury Tales and Wuthering Heights; it is hard to read Dickens if you're a teenager with her head in a galaxy far, far away or in Neverland or floating out in the cosmos somewhere in a Tardis.
Of course, if you're anything of a Whovian, you'll know that the Doctor met Charles Dickens and saved Cardiff from an invasion of ghostly aliens in 1869. But I digress...
Dickens is awesome - but you knew that, of course. It may have taken my little brain a while to realize it, but it is quite obvious. In recent years, I've become blissfully lost in all the plot paths, back alleyways, shadows and sudden turns of his work. It takes patience. The man uses a lot of words. He can ramble. He can paint a very intricate political allegory (case in point, the plethora of Barnacles in the useless Circumlocution Office in Little Dorrit). It is not easy to begin him young. But he is a delight to dive into a little later.
Claire Tomalin puts it this way (as I read it in Linda Wertheimer's article on NPR today): "He did these great walks — he would walk every day for miles and miles, and sometimes I think he was sort of stoking up his imagination as he walked, and thinking of his characters. The way he built his novels was through the voices of his characters."
That, I think, is the fundamental reason his stories resonate so clearly with us today. It is a piece of advice from beyond the grave, as it were, from one Great Writer to this little writer: "think of your characters and their voices."
What I celebrate today is a Writer of Writers, whose stories move us. Films and plays of his works will forever challenge filmmakers, actors and writers for years to come. Today, the Prince of Wales, Dickens' descendants, and many, many others paid their respects, and placed white roses and snowdrops on his grave. Ralph Fiennes read a passage from Bleak House. In so many ways, it was clear how Mr. Dickens is alive in all of us.
What a wonderful thing it is to remember a writer, a wordsmith, a story-teller, to continue to laud his accomplishments and consider the mystery of his life. It demonstrates what we hold onto as human beings - how much we cherish the art of Story, and how that will carry us into a hopeful future.
Thank you, Mr. Dickens, for the ways in which you inspire all of us to write and imagine.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Twilight and Harry Potter aside, the biggest discussions I've heard (and perhaps been a part of) in the last several years, have inv0lved the innumerable film adaptations of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte's novels, new television and film revivals of Sherlock Holmes, an Oscar-contending remake of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and excitement over The Hunger Games, which hits theaters in March. The Hunger Games, by the way, looks exactly the way I envisioned it. I'll have a quiver in my spine till I can go see it!
There is an unconscious desire among fans for a perfect film version of Pride & Prejudice or Jane Eyre. Many cite the 1995 "Colin Firth" version of Pride & Prejudice as "the best", whereas others appreciate the simple, natural beauty of the 2005 film. For Jane Eyre, the debate has recently been strung between the 2006 BBC version starring Ruth Wilson, and last year's film starring Mia Wasikowska. There are as many opinions as there are films. One thing it does show us is that these stories resonate strongly... that we want to see it retold again and again, from different camera angles, with different faces, with new music, in new colors. This kaleidoscope of story is an incredibly beautiful thing!
What prompted my thoughts today is a quiver of excitement about The Hobbit. A trailer was released this week, a year in advance. I have to say I was skeptical about The Hobbit being brought to film (actually two), as the story, frankly, is a bit of a hiccup of events prior to The Lord of the Rings. Knowing Peter Jackson, I am well aware that liberties will be taken, that story lines may be embellished, and the final product will be spectacular.
Having seen the trailer, I am excited - not because this is a translation of a beloved story into film, but because it looks as good as The Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings, books and films, has an incredibly special place in my heart. I will see The Hobbit next year knowing 1.) this is a mixture of Jackson's storytelling with Tolkein's storytelling; 2.) it will have a lot more in it than the book did; 3.) I may not agree with some of these creative changes, but; 4.) I will enjoy it very much.
In other words, to boycott a film because it isn't exactly like the book is silly. In some ways, perhaps the film of The Hobbit will delve deeper into plots and journeys (and not just because this story happens to feature a company of dwarves). That's possible, isn't it? But even if it is "better" or least "flashier" than the book, the film can in no way replace the book. A film is only a retelling.
One more example of novel-into-film is Neil Gaiman's Stardust. Book and film do not match because the story is told in different ways: the book is far more mysterious, magical and shadowy than the film; the film is faster, more adventurous and more perilous than the book. I love them both, just as I love the original and retold versions of The Lord of the Rings, Pride & Prejudice, and Jane Eyre.
As a side note, I am a little curious about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, mostly as a study in character. What I've read of Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander intrigues me, but I am not sure I'd want to be witness to the violence and brutality that inevitably comes with the story. I'll have to get back to you on that one.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Some of my favorite snippets:
"The invention of television led to predictions about the demise of radio. The making of movies was to be the death knell of live theater; recorded music, the end of concerts. All these forms still exist—sometimes overshadowed by their siblings, but not smothered by them."
"There is and has always been more than a whiff of snobbery about lamentations that reading is doomed to extinction. That's because they're really judgments on human nature."
"Reading is not simply an intellectual pursuit but an emotional and spiritual one. It lights the candle in the hurricane lamp of self; that's why it survives. There are book clubs and book Web sites and books on tape and books online. There are still millions of people who like the paper version, at least for now. And if that changes—well, what is a book, really? Is it its body, or its soul?"
Innovations like this have happened before. Television and radio. Movies and theatre. Typewriters and legal pads. And now books and kindle. Notice that books are still holding their own in our culture. No one has abandoned them yet. These innovations are simply creating new options for enjoying literature, not erasing it or taking it for granted. Kindles and iPads and whatever new inkling of genius that follows will still convey that flame... readers will read, writers will write.
And honestly, I don't think books will disappear as fast as some people fear. ;)
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
"Make books your companions; let your bookshelves be your gardens: bask in their beauty, gather their fruit, pluck their roses, take their spices and myrrh. And when your soul be weary change from garden to garden, and from prospect to prospect."
--- Judah ibn Tibbon, 1120-c. 1190
Monday, November 24, 2008
Some wonderful tidbits I must share:
"...reading fiction is not a trivial activity. Not only does narrative pleasure sugar the pill of learning in all sorts of areas, it is a good in and of itself."
It is goodness! It really does bash that notion that stories are "just" stories, those fringes of the human experience when they are really far more that!
"Reading a full-length novel on a screen is next to impossible. Your back aches. Your mouth parches. Your eyes fall out. For portability, browsability and ease of annotation the book is the best form of technology we have; and has been since its invention."
I think to how books first began to be assembled... way before the printing press came into use via vellum and inks, and sewn together by diligent monks in monasteries. Over a thousand years later, the book really hasn't changed much at all. They are so timeless... and human!Stories are central to how we think about the world: from the individual to the wide sweep of history. The ability to put yourself in another's shoes is the foundation-stone of all morality...
And what is that but an imaginative process? Where do we learn it but in stories? ... "In dreams begins responsibility," said W B Yeats. He wasn't kidding."
I love that quote! Can you see the story-threads binding together all humanity? I can!
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