Friday, June 22, 2012

I Am Legend

I had this interesting conversation with a seventeen year old kid the other day about books and how there are so many movies being made these days from them.  While he thought that it showed a lack of originality in movie makers, I was thinking about how my own standard practices have changed since I was his age.  These days, I don't watch a movie without first finding out if it was first a book.  I prefer to have the proper story first so that my own imagination is engaged without bias, without my characters already chosen for me by a movie director.  Either way though, there is room for disappointment.  I can remember when I first read Twilight, I had the thought several times "Gee, I hope this is in the movie", and ended up being really disappointed (though it was an all-round generally disappointing movie).

I saw the movie, I Am Legend starring Will Smith, first.  I just love Will, and always try to see whatever he has acted in, and this one did not disappoint.  I was devastated.   This movie was awful.  I have seen some terrifying post-apocalytic/apocalyptic/dystopian movies in my day, but this one was the worst.  This movie did an amazing job of showing just how the protagonist felt, the one-man show of Robert Neville (Will Smith), coping with isolation, danger, and grief, it was poignant.  So I was pretty happy to find the book.  But after one chapter I put it down and didn't look at it again for nearly two years.  I was psyched out.  I couldn't face what I knew would be happening next in the story.  It didn't start on a good note, and I knew it would just get worse.  Which was too bad, because when I finally was able to face the story again, it was a powerful experience.  I've already mentioned that the story begins on a bad note, the tension and suspense is thick right at the beginning (and constantly throughout!) and I was constantly worried about the protagonist (which is ridiculous because I know how the story ends).  But it is a worthy read.  When I finshed the story it was an "Oh wow" moment.  I have not yet figured out how to describe the strong emotions I felt at the end.
I am pleased to say that the movie payed suitable homage to the book, which, to me is a very good thing (keeping in mind my huge disappointment with Twilight the movie).

So it's just a standard practice now.  Book first, movie second, because imagination can take me places movies never will.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fan Fiction

After my recent experiences with the Shades of Grey trilogy (which was originally fan fiction), I decided to have a closer look at this phenomenon.  I have read some before (I have my own illicit collection of Austen analogs...there's just something so tantalising about a book written from Darcy's point of view!).  I recommend looking at this site FanFiction.Net for a very wide selection of fan fiction.  This is a great site to waste time on!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Volume 2 (spoilers)

I have really looked forward to reading this graphic novel.  Volume two in the series promised to be  particularly thrilling for me as it is, basically, all about what has always been for me the genesis of a long lasting love affair with science fiction.  Ever since I was nine-years-old and was freaking out over Jeff Wayne's  musical re-telling of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, I have been hooked.  Terrified, fascinated, but hooked.  Throw a mention of Mars or Martians into the story line of any book and I have to read it.  I have found several great writers that way, Ray Bradbury being one of them when I read his Martian Chronicles (my first ever Bradbury), there was just no looking back after that.

The first book was really exciting for me.   We begin on Mars itself, with Gullivar (of Gullivar of Mars by Edwin Lester Arnold) flying on his carpet to meet with none other than John Carter from The Barsoom Series by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  They are planning an attack on some unwelcome guests (guess who?) that are encamped in molluscs.   This is something I have just loved about this series of comics by Alan Moore.  All of our heroes, featured in a story together.  For the most part, I had already read most of these stories (with the exception of Gullivar but I got right on to that).  I was almost vibrating with excitement to see the Sorns in the fight against the molluscs (from Out of The Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis).  Gotta love that!  We get our first look at a martian (another shivery thrill fest), before they all flee the planet, leaving Gullivar and John to discover that the invaders have been observing Earth (by using a device from H.G. Wells' The Crystal Egg)  and are now on their way to the planet.

(End of spoilers, I promise)

We cut to Earth from there and I have to say that I was really pleased with how the story was written, and illustrated.  I think that of all the movies I've seen, and cover art, this was the most faithful rendition from H.G. Well's book.  With graphic novels you are able to say so much more than words, and looking at each page it felt like a treasure hunt looking for clues to what book might be featured in each page. The literal graphic nature of the violence that a story of this kind includes was not gratuitous and very neccessary to the telling of this story (and what a twisted, horrible story it was!), and all in keeping with the orignal horror story of  Martians invading the Earth in the late 19th century.  While I don't know if I could go on and read more from this series, the first two are just simply wonderful reads, and a brilliant combination of artist and writer, who are obviously huge fans of classical science fiction.

The Fifty Shades Trilogy...Not quite What It Should Be

 I have been working on trying to keep up with everyone else out there in Bookland (not an easy thing to do with so much new material out there), so when I saw a partial review of the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E.L. James (the latest hot thing going) I thought I would get right on that and see what all the fuss was about.
I don't like to see reviews before I have read a new book,  I'd rather find out about it for myself, make an unbiased first impression and then read what other people think of it ( there is a lot of entertainment value to be had with that, I promise).  I have also always had an issue with the reviewer who just basically sums up the whole book for you and writes maybe a sentence or two about what they thought and if they liked it or not.  I dislike even more the people who read those kinds of reviews and decide not to read the book because of it.  It's not only really tedious to read such reviews but frustrating as well.  How could anyone but myself really know if I would like something or not?  It's ridiculous (and unfair to the author).
Since Twilight by Stephenie Meyer was mentioned in the little snippet of  review I saw, I thought that I would do this properly by going back and re-reading the Twilight Saga (along with all of those other little tidbits of writing you can find on her website here: Stephenie Meyer ).  I really recommend that you do this first before delving into Fifty Shades because it really will enhance your overall entertainment value (trust me).  In a way, reading through the trilogy was like an I-Spy book for adults... a spot the Bella, Edward or someone else from Twilght reference, as well as lines, words that stick out, and behaviours (don't worry... I won't point them out for you, it really is loads of fun to find them all for yourself!).  You won't have to wait long!  The very first Twilight-isms are in the opening paragraph. 

Like Twilight, I have re-read this trilogy a few times now... for the same reasons.  While I liked the story, there is something I am struggling to understand, and haven't quite figured out yet.  I need to know why these books are such a huge success.  It is a fascinating study.  I can see the basic lure  in each story, and if I go to what I think of as the best romantic story there is (in my opinion), Pride and Predjudice by Jane Austen, I can find similar elements there as well (we all know Meyer did borrow from Austen in this regard as well as other authors for each of her books using them as an underlying theme for each book, though not taking directly from them as E.L.James did).  We have our first impressions (that essential first meeting), the main issues/predjudices to overcome and then the reward of our two lovers finally getting together and the satisfying conclusion of living happily ever after.  These are the basics, and I love a good romance.  In my life I have been fortunate to have already read some really beautiful  love stories, with great characters that were intelligent and interesting personalities, and intensely romantic ones both of which are beguiling prerequisites for a good romantic novel, so I have some high expectations for what I consider a well written romantic novel.  Twilight wasn't written for adults, I think that critics forget that sometimes, and I haven't agreed with most of the complaints against it.   As far as relationship literature goes, Twilight is on a higher level compared to the Mills and Boon tripe that I read in my teens.  I like Twilight for this reason as it not only features good, strong characters with good morals, but also does a push for classic literature.  I cannot help but wonder how many girls out there after reading Twilight went out and read their first ever Jane Austen novel? 

Fifty Shades is the 'grown-up' version of Twilight (and a badly summarized version,) with lots of stuff taken from Twilight but arranged in different order from the original... a trick I used to do in school when I had to write a summary on something and my teacher would say "in your own words" so I would just mix the order up to make it seem like it was my own work.    We don't have vampires, or other mythical creatures, instead we have a porn book (though I am extremely grateful that James decided on some more tasteful alternatives to the usual 'cock and pussy' labels because I probably would have put the book down after the first couple of chapters), with a BDSM theme.  I must say that I am worried about this, because young Twilight fans out there will want to read this, and I hate to think of someone like my niece or my friend's daughters reading this.  Easy access to the internet means easy access to this.   Which leads me on to my next concern, the quality of the writing involved.  After my first read through I was really puzzled.  There are so many mistakes in the text!  It was my husband who informed me that this was deliberate, that the publishing company who bought these books did not want to change it in any way (because it was so popular the way it was).   This really has me worried.  What will this do to the standards already set in place in the publishing industry?  What will this do to future literature?   I heard that when E.L. James was asked about this issue in an interview  she responded by saying that great writers like Mark Twain and William Shakespeare didn't use editors.  What does this mean?  Does she think that she is as great as them? Is she arrogant or just ignorant?  Or both?  I don't really think that she meant it that way, and I suspect that she has been getting lots of questions about the quality of her work... it's just a really unfortunate choice for a rebuttal.   I suggest that both Shakespeare and Twain did a great deal of self-editing, that they did a great job of it, and that it is not really a relevant statement to make about works that were written in past centuries, and that in this century there are established standards, requirements, and procedures which are more appropriate to today's works of literature.  It's also really unfair to established writers who have done the hard work and have earnt their success.

Lastly, I want to say that I did like this story.  It has great potential to be one of those great romances in a modern setting.  I wish that this trilogy of books had been edited.  There is too much there that really isn't necessary (let's cut out 95% of the sex okay? ...and those long strings of one word sentences, I mean, come on!) is just annoying and slightly painful (and not in a sexy BDSM way).

  I am reminded of a quote by C.S.Lewis: "Don't use words too big for the subject.  Don't say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very', otherwise you'll have no words left when you want to talk about something really infinite".

Friday, June 8, 2012

In Mourning

The day before yesterday my world fell out from underneath me.  I had heard that my most favorite (of all time and until forever) writer had passed away.  It was a shock, which is ridiculous because I knew how old he was, it had actually been weighing on me the last time I had read one of his books, We'll Always Have Paris.  Ray Bradbury died at age 91 after more than seventy years of working on his craft, performing magic tricks with words, and working  on living forever in the only way he knew how.

It's sad, and maybe a little strange, for me to be mourning someone I have never met, but I have felt so connected to Ray since the first book of his I ever read.  His writing impacted me so deeply that over the years I have sought everything he had ever put into books, every one of his stories had such depth and resonance, that I truly felt he had no equal, and that he was, as I fondly put it The King of Short Stories.  
 I have chosen to deal with this grief in two ways:  I have started buying up all of the books I don't yet have of his (though I have read them all) which I plan on re-reading, and I have begun to write again.    

Ray always said to write every day, wether you felt like it or not.  Not that I consider myself a writer in any good form, I will never write my own novel, or even a short story, I don't have the gift, but I do love to write.  Unfortunately, I don't have the drive I wish I had to do it on a daily basis.  I go for long periods of time where I am just not in a sharing mood (even in my personal journal), where whatever is happening in my life is just too hard to write about, or I am just so mentally exhausted that I don't have the strength to think too hard about my life.  It's sad because this is something I love to do. 

So to honor Ray I am going to give the writing thing an earnest try.  I have been shocked out of my writing funk, and it feels like an expression of love to one I have lost to begin writing,  sharing my love of all things bookish and the written word with you.