Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/

Top Ten Best/Worst Book to Movie Adaptations

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about book to movie adaptations. Oh, this is a hard one. I will start with the best ones. Links go to the movies’ IMDb profiles.

  1. Brokeback Mountain the movie is even better than Annie Proulx’s short story. Proulx doesn’t develop the characters as much, and Innis and Jack’s wives are just window dressing. The movie gives the story much more depth and heart. I hardly ever say this kind of thing. The book is usually better. Which brings me to #2.
  2. The Princess Bride is another case where I think the movie is better. The book gets a little lost, but the movie stays focused. Plus the acting is just great. Easily one of the most quotable movies of all time.
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird is a great film. Not as good as the book, but really great. Everyone talks about how wonderful Gregory Peck was as Atticus Finch, and he was, but they always forget that Mary Badham was phenomenal as Scout. She was nominated for an Academy Award. She didn’t win. Probably because of her age. She was only ten years old.
  4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was famously reviled by Ken Kesey, who didn’t like it that you couldn’t tell the story through the eyes of the schizophrenic Chief Bromden, but the film turned in some stellar performances by some actors often known more for comedy. Great film.
  5. The Color Purple jiggled some things around, but they got the most important stuff right. I love this film all over again every time I see it.
  6. Sense and Sensibility is gorgeously shot and the acting is awesome. I like everyone in it.
  7. Pride and Prejudice, both the version with Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth and the one with Keira Knightley.
  8. The adaptation of Louis Sachar’s novel Holes was awesome. Pretty much just like the book.
  9. I don’t know if it’s cheating to include plays, but I’m gonna. Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet is pretty much the gold standard of Shakespeare in film.
  10. Clueless is a pretty awesome update of Emma. I love that movie.

My choices for worst adaptations:

  1. As much as I love the Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban hits all the wrong notes from the opening when Harry is practicing spells outside of school in a Muggle house, which everyone knows underage wizards can’t do, to the made up toad chorus and talking shrunken head, to the confusing deletion of the Marauders’ subplot that renders the movie incomprehensible unless you have read the book. And everyone looks scruffy the whole movie long. They don’t have to be as well scrubbed as when Chris Columbus directs, and I don’t mind them looking like normal teenagers, but having parts of your shirt untucked, your tie askew, and your hair mussed in every single scene? Nah. I’m blaming the director for this one because I like the others just fine (except for Michael Gambon’s performance, especially in Goblet of Fire—Dumbledore wouldn’t manhandle Harry like that). It’s a shame because it is easily one of the top books in the series.
  2. Just about every version of Wuthering Heights except this one, though to be fair, I haven’t seen the newest one with Kaya Scodelario. Why on earth people can’t get that book straightened out in film form, I do not get. Some versions cut the Hareton and Cathy part altogether. Others delete Lockwood.
  3. The Scarlet Letter with Demi Moore. What were they thinking? We were discussing the scene when Reverend Dimmesdale reveals the scarlet letter carved into his own chest and dies in one of my classes one day, and I re-read it to the class. One of my students said, “Wow, this would make a great movie.” Yeah, you’d think, but no.
  4. This version of Macbeth is pretty heinous, but I do use two scenes from it when I teach the play. They do some neat camera tilt tricks and use mirrors in a clever way in the scene when Banquo’s ghost shows up, and the opening with the three witches dressed like schoolgirls busting up a graveyard is good.
  5. The Rankin/Bass versions of The Hobbit and The Return of the King and Ralph Bakshi’s version of The Lord of the Rings. Ugh. I much prefer Peter Jackson’s adaptions despite the changes made. He takes the subject matter seriously.
  6. The Black Cauldron was ruined by Disney. I don’t blame you if you didn’t read Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles if you thought they were like that movie. I remember dragging my mom to see it and being so disappointed.
  7. And by that same token, The Seeker adapted from Susan Cooper’s novel The Dark is Rising is heinous. I keep using that word. But it’s so true in this case. Take this one together with The Black Cauldron and there’s a fair chance kids won’t give these wonderful books steeped in Welsh myth and legend a shot at all.
  8. Their Eyes Were Watching God was pretty bad. Oh, you mean you never even knew it it existed? There is a good reason for that. I love that book. I can’t believe the film is so bad.
  9. Beowulf. Oh. My. Gosh. What the heck was that?
  10. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil should have been good. Kevin Spacey is in it. Clint Eastwood directed it. The Lady Chablis played herself. Instead it’s terrible. Don’t watch it.

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Top Ten Most Frustrating Characters Ever

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday asks who the most frustrating characters in literature are. I know I’ve wanted to shake all of these people at some point.

  1. Father Ralph de Briccasart from The Thorn Birds. He could have been really happy with Meggie, but his ambition to rise in the Church was more important than anything else.
  2. Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. I think Stradlater said it best when he said, “Shut up, Holden.”
  3. Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights. Oh, come on. Horrible, manipulative snot. Plays on the affections of both men who love her and drove one to vengeful madness.
  4. Willa Alden from The Wild Rose. Quit being a jerk and accept that Seamus loves you. He doesn’t care about your leg.
  5. Romeo from Romeo and Juliet. Can you dial back the impetuosity? You are ruining everyone’s lives.
  6. Pip from Great Expectations. Estella does not deserve you. Quit obsessing over her. She’s horrible.
  7. Lady Bertram from Mansfield Park. Did she get off her butt once in that novel? Because I can’t remember that she did.
  8. Lia in Wintergirls. EAT.
  9. Achilles in The Iliad. Get out of the #$%&@ tent and go fight. Hector thinks Paris is a tool, but he still stands up for his country. Hector deserves more credit. If he had been Greek instead of Trojan, he’d have had it.
  10. Captain Ahab from Moby Dick. As Starbuck says, “To be enraged with a dumb brute that acted out of blind instinct is blasphemous.” Unfortunately, Ahab doesn’t listen to him, and everyone on the ship, excepting Ishmael, of course, is killed.

Honorable mentions go to Sir Walter Eliot of Persuasion, who values all the wrong things in life; Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, who sticks with an abusive (albeit hot, especially as played by Marlon Brando) guy who rapes her sister (for crying out loud!); Ennis Del Mar of “Brokeback Mountain,” who can’t let go of his self-hatred and allow himself to be happy with Jack Twist; Daisy Buchanan of The Great Gatsby, who is just awful; Guinevere and Lancelot in all their iterations because they just ruin everything; Tom Sawyer in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for being an ass and playing around with a man’s life for sport; Hamlet from Hamlet, who dithers for most of the play and then kills some of the wrong people; and finally, the doctor from The Boxcar Children—why on earth did he not call DFCS when he found out those kids were living in a boxcar? That’s nuts!

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Top Ten Fictional Couples

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a REWIND topic, so in order to get into the spirit of the season, I elected to write about the Top Ten Fictional Couples, which was a topic originally posted September 28, 2010.

1. Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Naturally. I love the fact that they don’t fall in love at first sight and have to grow to love one another. And their witty barbs! I just love them as a couple.

2. Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. They are so horrible. They deserve each other, and their longing to be together (and Heathcliff’s overly developed sense of vengeance) threatens everyone they know.

3. Romeo and Juliet. OK, despite what I said about liking that Lizzie and Darcy grow to love each other, I admit I’m a sucker for this teenage infatuation. Of course, it’s great fun to teach, also.

4. Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester. I like how he has to become worthy of her and that she learns she doesn’t have to settle.

5. Lt. Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley. Ohmygosh I cried at the end of that book.

6. Tristan and Isolde. OK, it was a love potion, but man, that almost makes it worse. They didn’t have any choice but to be desperately in love!

7. Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar. What a sad love story. Talk about star-crossed lovers. Great short story, if you haven’t read it, but I think the movie is better because the characters are more fully developed.

8. Severus Snape and Lily Evans. OK, technically not a couple because it was one-sided, but man, what devotion. Always.

9. Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara. They kind of deserved each other. I think they eventually found their way back to each other, but perhaps not in the way Alexandra Ripley imagined.

10. Meggie Cleary and Father Ralph de Briccasart. Oh, in another world, they could have been together. Love them!

Who are your favorite literary couples?

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Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Favorite Quotes from Books

Top Ten TuesdayBusy week! I didn’t get to the Top Ten Tuesday on Tuesday at all. As soon as I finish this post, I’m off to pack up more books in preparation for next month’s move.

This week’s topic was irresistible, and I decided to participate even though I’d be late: Top Ten Favorite Book Quotes.

  1. And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…and one fine morning—

    So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.—[amazon asin=0743273567&text=The Great Gatsby], F. Scott Fitzgerald

  2. If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.—[amazon asin=0684801469&text=A Farewell to Arms], Ernest Hemingway

  3. “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”—[amazon asin=0545139708&text=Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows], J. K. Rowling

  4. “Always,” said Snape.—[amazon asin=0545139708&text=Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows], J. K. Rowling

  5. Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the same horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.—[amazon asin=0061120065&text=Their Eyes Were Watching God], Zora Neale Hurston

  6. “Come, gentle night, come, loving, black-brow’d night,/Give me my Romeo; and,/When he shall die,/Take him and cut him out in little stars,/And he will make the face of heaven so fine/That all the world will be in love with night/And pay no worship to the garish sun.”—[amazon asin=0743477111&text=Romeo and Juliet], William Shakespeare

  7. “I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.

    I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.”—[amazon asin=0486295559&text=Persuasion], Jane Austen

  8. “Before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”—[amazon asin=0061743526&text=To Kill a Mockingbird], Harper Lee

  9. “It is only a novel… or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.”—[amazon asin=1612930840&text=Northanger Abbey], Jane Austen

  10. The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.—[amazon asin=1619493845&text=Walden], Henry David Thoreau

You know, I could really go on and on with this list. In fact, from my favorite book:

“My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff!”[amazon asin=0143105434&text=Wuthering Heights], Emily Brontë

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Juliet, Anne Fortier

JulietAfter the death of her Aunt Rose, Julie Jacobs is given an intriguing bequest—a key to a safety deposit box in a bank in Siena, Italy. As keys do, this key unlocks the door to a future Julie could never have imagined as she discovers her connection to the star-crossed lovers who inspired William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Juliet is a fast-paced thriller that fans of William Shakespeare’s play will enjoy. Fortier weaves in references to Romeo and Juliet both obvious and subtle. The ending probably won’t surprise readers much, but the ride is a great deal of fun. Fortier’s research is meticulous. She brings Siena alive, both in the medieval past and present. She introduces the Tolomeis and Salimbenis, two prominent Siena families who really did have a feud. Reading this book made me want to teach Romeo and Juliet again this year, and here I thought I was a little tired of it.

I was puzzled by Fortier’s choice of Siena, when it is in fair Verona that Shakespeare lays his scene, but after doing some digging, I found the earliest references to a story involving Romeo and Juliet set the story in Siena, and Siena makes a great deal of sense with its history of feuding families and its ancient traditions, including the Palio, a horse race that originated in the Middle Ages. A sense of the connection we all have to history pervades this book. My interest in family history and in medieval history made this an enjoyable read. You’ll read reviews that compare this novel to The Da Vinci Code, which I suppose is inevitable because of the unraveling of clues bound to reveal surprising information that will upend long-held beliefs against the backdrop of a European city, but don’t let the comparisons fool you. This novel is much smarter than The Da Vinci Code, and the characters are much more fully realized. I did feel Julie’s sister Janice could be a bit of a caricature, and Eva Maria was a little over the top, but I enjoyed the other characters, especially the characters in the medieval portions of the story—Giulietta Tolomei, Romeo Marescotti, Friar Lorenzo, and the feuding Tolomeis and Salimbenis.

Anyone who enjoys Shakespeare-related fiction should enjoy this novel, but even folks who aren’t Shakespeare fans can enjoy this read.

Rating: ★★★★½

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I Will Raise Her Statue in Pure Gold…

Juliet's StatueThat whiles Verona by that name is known, / There shall be no figure at such rate be set / As that of true and faithful Juliet.—Montague, Romeo and Juliet Act V, Scene iii.

I’m still reading Anne Fortier’s Juliet, and I have to say the action is really picking up. I don’t review books until I finish them, but here’s a preview: go ahead and read this one, especially if you are a fan of Romeo and Juliet. You know, I asked not to teach ninth grade this year because I thought I was tired of this play, but I’m not, and now I kind of wish I were teaching it. I am, however, having an excellent time with Macbeth. Anyway, Juliet has been a great read so far, and I’m over halfway through it with no idea how it will resolve. Plus, I really want to go to Italy.

On the other hand, I am not enjoying Jamaica Inn as much. I can’t get into it. I think I need to give it a little longer, especially given how much I enjoyed Rebecca, but so far, I’m not too interested in the characters. I’m hoping to have a little more time to read over the holidays. I’m still five books short of my goal of 40 books, which seemed completely obtainable a couple of months ago.

Is anyone else going to do the Shakespeare Challenge? And have you signed up for my challenge yet?

photo credit: Tomato Geezer

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Reading Update: November 28, 2010

A Love Story

I have been doing a lot of writing for NaNoWriMo this month. Unfortunately, I fell so far behind when I went to the NCTE Conference that I have no hope of catching up. I think I have a good book idea, and I’m not giving up on it, but I also don’t feel so pressed now to work on it every day. I might take the day off today, unless I feel inspired to write. As a result of participating in NaNoWriMo, I haven’t had as much time to read, but I am going to try to make up for it during December.

I am currently reading Anne Fortier’s novel Juliet. So far, interesting. I know Romeo and Juliet very well, and Fortier has thrown in some cool Easter eggs (references to lines in the text) in dialogue. Fun stuff. One conclusion: I need to read more books set in Italy. No wonder Shakespeare was fascinated with the place.

Check out this gorgeous photo taken in Tuscany:

alba a settembre
photo credit: francesco sgroi

By the way, I have been reading a great blog by Robin Bates called Better Living Through Beowulf. If you haven’t checked it out, you really should. It’s like listening to a mini-lecture on literature from your favorite English professor. Speaking of which, if you missed out on a great English professor, maybe you have some gaps in your reading? Why not try out my reading challenge?

photo credit: Andrew Stawarz

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Reading Update: October 24, 2010

flareAll the maple trees around here are beautiful shades of red and orange. Fall is my favorite season.

I think I am pretty much done with the R.I.P. Challenge. I gave up on Wuthering Bites, and I don’t see how I’ll finish Jamaica Inn when I haven’t even started it. However, I did read four books, which is two more than I thought I could, so I still met the challenge of Peril the First—for the first time ever!

I am still reading How the Irish Saved Civilization. If I have one complaint, it’s that I like books divided up into more chapters. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I finish a chapter, and the chapters in this book (at least some of them) are looooonng, which makes me feel less like I’m getting anywhere.

I am also going to begin Anne Fortier’s novel Juliet. Romeo and Juliet is fun to teach, and this will be the first year I have taught high school that I haven’t taught the play because it’s the first year I haven’t taught ninth grade. I love the play, but I needed a break. Instead, I will be starting Macbeth pretty soon. That one is great fun to teach.

I am looking for some good steampunk book suggestions that I can read for the Steampunk Challenge. I already plan to read The Dream of Perpetual Motion, and a friend in the know recommended Leviathan. If you have read any good ones, please share.

What are you reading?

photo credit: Aunt Owwee

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HarperTeen’s Appeal to Twilight Fans

The Wall Street Journal blog Speakeasy reports that the covers of the new HarperTeen editions of classics Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, and Romeo and Juliet are designed to appeal to the Twilight audience. It’s easy to see why:

The books resemble Twilight right down to the fonts, as the WSJ blog notes. My husband was aghast, but I say, hey, if it gets Twilight fans to pick up these books, I’m all for it. I do think it’s a little misleading, though. These books are not exactly Twilight. They’re so much better, but not as easy a read.

Amazon is selling the books for $8.99 each, or you can purchase all three for $26.97 (as of this writing). If you’re interested, click on the books or the links above.

What do you think of the new covers?

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