Sunday Post #7: Forest and Fen

Sunday PostI finished up two books this week, but I am waiting to review both of them. The first is William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, which I had never read before, but had decided to read way back when I read A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 (review). It was during that year that Shakespeare wrote As You Like It. I liked it, though not as much as some of Shakespeare’s other plays, but I wanted to watch a movie version of it so I could review both the play and the movie version together. Unfortunately, Netflix is being extremely slow about sending it along.

The other book I finished just today is The Tell-Tale Heart by Jill Dawson. I am reviewing this book as part of a TLC Book Tour this coming Friday. The book has an interesting premise regarding the after-effects of a heart transplant, and it did get me thinking quite a bit, but more on that this Friday.

Both books allowed me to explore two counties in the Reading England Challenge. The Forest of Arden in As You Like It was in Shakespeare’s own home county of Warwickshire. Sadly, I discovered, not much of it remains aside from a few very old trees. The Tell-Tale Heart is set in some smaller towns around Cambridge in the Fens in Cambridgeshire. Both books relied a great deal on setting in the stories to the extent that moving them might change the story quite a bit, especially in The Tell-Tale Heart.

I am still reading Antonia Fraser’s biography of Marie Antoinette and Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning. I will probably take up a new paperback today since Marie Antoinette is on the Kindle and Trigger Warning is an audio book. Some weeks ago, I was feeling in the mood for The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli. My dad was serving in Vietnam when I was born. He left when my mother was, I think, about six months pregnant with me. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything set there. I have several students from Vietnam. Last year, one of my Vietnamese students used to have really interesting conversations with me about the differences between our countries.

I am still waiting for The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan and I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira to arrive in the mail, though I’m really looking forward to reading those books. I did order them from third-party sellers, so shipping is not the quick Prime shipping I’m used to from Amazon. I think I have decided to read Hilary Mantel’s massive French Revolution novel A Place of Greater Safety as well. I am not sure when I’ll get to that one, but I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit. I’ll likely get that on the Kindle so I don’t have to try to hold it up.

In case you missed it, I posted my review for Christopher Moore’s novel The Serpent of Venice this week. I haven’t written any other reviews this week, nor have I started other books.

Given how much snow we’ve had, I suppose it’s logical that I have been able to do so much reading. I think I’ve read more so far this year than I can remember reading in the same time period… ever. Also, my kitchen scale broke, which is a necessity for soapmaking, so I wasn’t able to make soap this weekend either. It’s sad because I have a few wholesale orders and a custom request as well as some spring soaps I want to make up. It will have to wait!

In other bookish news, I have a book club! I am an idiot and somehow missed the memo about the book we were supposed to read until it was too late for me to finish before the meeting, but I did go, and we did talk about the book, and it was wonderful. For the record, the book I was supposed to read (which is on my list, though I didn’t get to it this time) was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. We are reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel for next time, so I should be in good shape for that meeting at least.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme.

Sunday Post #6: A Year in France

Sunday PostIt’s been a quiet week. We had more snow over this weekend, but I’m not really sure how much. Did you know we are the snowiest city in the US? I’m sure you’ve heard a great deal about all the snow Boston’s been getting, but her lesser-known neighbor to the west, which is, after all, the second largest city in New England, has had hardly any mention. My children have a winter break this week, but I just have Presidents Day off. I hope the streets are plowed before I have to go back to work Tuesday. I can’t remember the last full week of work I had. I think it might have been before MLK Day.

I’m still reading the four books I started last week:

I have read three acts of As You Like It. I will probably finish it this week. I have listened to several stories from Trigger Warning. At this stage, much as I like Neil Gaiman’s reading, I am wondering if I did the wrong thing by listening to it on audio instead of reading it. The stories are not similar at all, but I have no sense of them as separate and will not be able to remember their titles without help when I review the book. The book I’m most enjoying at the moment is Antonia Fraser’s biography of Marie Antoinette. She emerges as quite a sympathetic character, which I understood was the case with this biography before I started reading it. I can definitely see how Sofia Coppola used it in her movie (which I discussed last week). One of the ways I can tell I’m interested in a book, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, is when it prompts me to start looking things up. In the case of this book, it’s the labyrinthine French aristocracy that is more than a little difficult to keep up with (and the helpful family trees at the beginning of the book don’t show up well on the Kindle). There are a lot of folks to keep track of.

I was also trying to figure out who might be the King of France today if the Revolution hadn’t happened. Folks, the answer to that question (besides being moot because the Revolution DID happen) is a rabbit hole you might not want to go down. I was going to try to summarize it, but I can’t. Suffice it to say, there ARE royalists who want a monarchy, despite France being pretty proud of being a republic and celebrating Bastille Day, and they are basically split three ways, so there are three Pretenders to the French throne (four, actually—and that part is complicated). Who knew? You can dig into it starting here if you like. You were warned, though.

I did just order a couple of Belle Époque novels:

Don’t those books look great? They both feature Edgar Dégas. I read a Kindle preview of the first book, The Painted Girls. It grabbed me. Well written and evocative of the time in just the few short pages I was able to see. The second book, I Always Loved You, is about Mary Cassatt’s relationship with Dégas. One of the reviews I read convinced me to get it.

I’m still looking for more French Revolution books. I’m a bit daunted by Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety. It seems to have some mixed reviews, and it’s over 900 pages long. Have you read it? I’d be interested in your thoughts. A book that long is a huge commitment, even considering how much I loved Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. It does look interesting, however, and I’m intrigued that it features Desmoulins, Danton, and Robespierre. So many books seem to take the Royalist perspective rather than that of the Revolutionaries. I read a bit of it as a Kindle sample, and I liked what I read, but I’m still not sure.

This is shaping up to be a French year in terms of historical fiction for me, isn’t it? There are worse things than spending a year in France, I suppose. One of the things I love about books is that even if I can’t really go somewhere, I can go there in a book. And it’s not limited just to place. I can go to any time as well. I suppose that is one reason I like historical fiction so much. I admit, however, I’m starting to get pickier about what I’ll read. I downloaded samples of a couple of other highly-rated books with positive reviews, and deleted them after a page or two. A couple of years ago, I think I might have kept reading.

Coming up this week you can look for my review of The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore (TLC Book Tour). I’m hoping I will also have a review of As You Like It, but I’m not sure I’ll have finished anything else.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme.

Sunday Post #5: History Makers

Sunday PostSince last week, when I mentioned that we have all the snow, I can tell you we probably have five feet on the ground with more on the way tonight and tomorrow. My children have yet another snow day tomorrow. My own school just called me to let me know I also do not have school; however, I do believe I have a meeting via Google Hangout, and I need to make some soap for a wholesale account, so I imagine I will be busy. We have had record-breaking snowfall the last few weeks.  The Sunday Post is starting to sound monotonous with the weather report each time. When you’re more or less snowbound, however, there’s not much else going on.

I finally finished listening to the audio book of Diana Gabaldon’s novel The Fiery Cross this week. I also finished reading The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore. Look for the review for that book to be posted on 2/17. I started reading four books this week as well:

The Tell-Tale Heart, like The Serpent of Venice, is part of a TLC Book Tour. I’m reading As You Like It as my Renaissance selection for the Literary Movement Challenge. Finished Act I as of yesterday. I am listening to Neil Gaiman read the short story collection Trigger Warning. After finishing The Fiery Cross, I didn’t want to dive right into another really long Gabaldon audio book right away. I have had Marie Antoinette: The Journey in my Kindle library for a very long time, but I finally decided to read it after watching the Kirsten Dunst film Marie Antoinette, which reminded me how fascinated I am by the French Revolution and all the history leading up to it.

The movie itself, I have to say, was kind of weird. The costumes and sets were gorgeous. The music was strange. Some of the casting was bizarre. The jury’s still out on whether I liked it or not. I searched in vain for a documentary about the French Revolution on Netflix last night, so I decided to start reading the book. Also on my list at some point is Simon Schama’s Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. I’m always on the lookout for good historical fiction set during this time period as well, so let me know if you know of anything. I have previously read Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution (loved!), Michelle Moran’s Madame Tussaud, and Melanie Clegg’s The Secret Diary of a Princess. And of course, Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. I can’t recall any others, so let me know what I’ve missed. I am not particularly more interested Ancien Régime versus post-Revolution or nobility versus Estates-General. I’m not picky.

I love reading historical fiction, which is one of the reasons I always try to participate in the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, no matter how active I actually am in the challenge. If I had to peg my favorite periods, I would say 18th and 19th century America (particularly New England, but really, it’s all pretty interesting), the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, 18th century France and England, and 19th century England. I do not much like to read WWII historical fiction, which reminds me of a post of Stefanie’s that I read over at So Many Books: “Books I Won’t Read.” I am not going to go quite so far as to say I will not read books about World War II. I really hesitate, though. I find it mentally exhausting and very depressing to read about that war, for obvious reasons. Inevitably, the books are heart-wrenching. I hate to say it feels like manipulation on the part of authors to write about the events of that war, especially when they really happened, but it’s also quite difficult to criticize. After all, anything you say in critique of books about the Holocaust just makes you sound heartless. So, I’m really careful about what I choose to read from that era. If a book has a whiff of cashing in on that tragedy at all, I can’t read it.

So far, I’ve finished seven books this year. I can’t recall ever having read that many at this point in the year. Honestly, I think the goal I set of reading 52 books has been a good motivator for me. I know I’m making more of an effort to read. I think of myself as a slow reader, but it looks like I have managed to pick up speed over time without noticing much. I very rarely can sit and read an entire book all day, and I haven’t tried timing myself to see how fast I’m actually reading. It’s more just a sense I have that I’m able to read books faster than I have in the past.

The biggest news in the book world this week is the impending publication of Harper Lee’s second novel, Go Set a Watchman, which will feature an adult Scout Finch. Some speculation in the media has made me wonder if Harper Lee was aware of what her lawyer was doing, but it’s hard to tell. This New York Times story does a fair job discussing the controversy. I am going to read the book. I have actually already selected it for my school summer reading choice. I called dibs the day the announcement was made. I am not going to miss another Harper Lee novel. Am I worried it might not be as good as To Kill a Mockingbird? Of course. It’s natural. But there is no way I’m going to miss it. And while I’m on the subject, I wish Goodreads would stop people from reviewing or rating unreleased books. Or, to be more specific, unreleased books that no one has read yet. I actually find ratings and reviews from folks who had uncorrected proofs or early access through other channels helpful. This book already has a 3.72 rating on Goodreads. Come on.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme.

Sunday Post #4: We Have ALL the Snow

Sunday PostWorcester had 30.5 inches of snow as a result of the blizzard I mentioned last week. I had two snow days, and my kids had three. Another foot of snow is in our forecast for tomorrow. I’m not sure where we’re going to put it. I already have a snow day tomorrow as well.

This week I finished William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher. I am close to finishing the audio book version of Diana Gabaldon’s fifth Outlander book, The Fiery Cross. It’s a long audio book. Well, all her books are long. This one is 55 hours and 34 minutes. I am 4 hours and 36 minutes away from being finished.

Now that February has arrived, I plan to read my next book in the Literary Movement Reading Challenge, a Renaissance book. I have chosen As You Like It. I haven’t ever finished that play, and I have long wanted to.

I’m also still reading Christopher Moore’s novel The Serpent of Venice. I am enjoying that one quite a bit. I won’t be reviewing until February 17, no matter when I finish it, because I’m reading it as a part of TLC Book Tours, but a review will be coming soon. Next up, also as a TLC Book Tour selection, is The Tell-Tale Heart by Jill Dawson.

I’m still thinking of picking up either The Lotus Eaters, All the Bright Places, We Were Liars or Men Explain Things To Me after I finish The Tell-Tale Heart. I’m leaning more toward The Lotus Eaters than the other three mainly because 1) I already have it, and 2) I’m feeling in the mood for it right now.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme.

Review: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope, Ian Doescher

I know what you are thinking. What is this ridiculousness? Ian Doescher’s book imagines the answer to a question I’d wager everyone wishes they had been thinking: what if William Shakespeare had written Star Wars? The result is, of course, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope. It’s as hysterically awesome as you could wish, and if you think about it, it’s not such a strange idea: surely if any film series is Shakespearean in scope, with its complicated villains, scene-stealing minor characters, and emphasis on Fate, then Star Wars certainly is.

I don’t think I need to review the plot, and let’s face it: no one is reading this book for the plot—it’s for the fun of the Shakespearean language used to tell a familiar tale. I will say this: the dialogue in this book is quite a lot better than the dialogue in the movie.

Dramatis Personae and PrologueSprinkled throughout, too, the reader familiar with Shakespeare’s plays will find allusions to Shakespeare’s own writing as well.

Tatooine's Two Suns

I love Luke’s soliloquy as he gazes at the two setting suns. But even more than that, I love his rumination over the Storm Trooper he has just killed.

Alas, Poor Storm Trooper

Alas, poor stormtrooper, I knew ye not,
Yet have I ta’en both uniform and life
From thee. What manner of man wert thou?
A man of inf’nite jest or cruelty?
A man with helpmate and with children too?
A man who hath his Empire serv’d with pride?
A man, perhaps, who wish’d for perfect peace?
Whate’er thou wert, good man, thy pardon grant
Unto the one who took thy place: e’en me. (124-125)

There are also some fun in-jokes for Star Wars fans:

Han Shot FirstSprinkled throughout is some great line art by Nicolas Delort. I am particularly fond of this picture of Grand Moff Tarkin:

Grand Moff TarkinThe asides, monologues, and soliloquies give a great deal of insight into characters’ motivation, particularly that of R2-D2.

My daughter gave me this book for Christmas 2013, and I’m only sorry I waited so long to pick it up. I will certainly now read William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back and William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return. I really can’t wait to see how Doescher handles Yoda.

If you love Shakespeare and you love Star Wars, you really can’t lose with this book.

Rating: ★★★★★

Review: Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, Stephen Greenblatt

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became ShakespeareShakespeare’s life has been the subject of much speculation, particularly because when compared with some writers, there is much we don’t know about it (we actually know more about him than people think, and more than we know about most of his contemporaries). Stephen Greenblatt’s book Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare takes a bit of a different route. Rather than focus only on biographical details, Greenblatt puts Shakespeare in the context of the events that surround him. What did he think of the Earl of Essex’s downfall? How did he feel about King James’s preoccupation with witches and witchcraft? What did he make of fellow writer Robert Greene’s dig (that he had a “Tiger’s heart wrapped in a Player’s hide”)? How did he feel about his wife and daughters? We can’t know the full answers to these questions, but Greenblatt examines the plays for evidence, and a picture of who Shakespeare was and how his world shaped him unfolds in the pages of this book.

I especially liked Greenblatt’s commentary on the ways in which Robert Greene may have influenced Shakespeare’s characterization of one of his most memorable characters: Sir John Falstaff. Greenblatt makes a compelling case for Greene as the model of the dissolute knight. Also interesting was some of the speculation about the possibility that Shakespeare’s family were recusants (secret Catholics). Greenblatt’s discussion of the ghost of Hamlet’s father connects to this line of speculation but with a troubling twist that helps explain Hamlet’s inaction much more clearly:

What does it mean that a ghost from purgatory erupts into the world of Hamlet pleading to be remembered? Even setting aside for a moment that purgatory, according to the Protestant church, did not exist, the allusions to it here are an enigma, for spirits in God’s great penitentiary could not by definition ask anyone to commit a crime. After all, they are being purged of their sins in order to ascend to heaven. Yet this ghost is not asking for Masses and alms; he is preempting God’s monopoly on revenge by demanding that his son kill the man who murdered him, seized his crown, and married his widow … Hamlet worries about it, and his paralyzing doubts and anxieties displace revenge as the center of the play’s interest. (320)

Shakespeare’s source material for this play recounts Prince Hamlet’s story quite differently: too young to avenge the death of his father, he feigns madness in order to convince his murderous uncle that he is no threat. Then he waits. When the time is right, he kills his uncle and his uncle’s entire retinue in the best spirit of the adage that “revenge is a dish best served cold.” Shakespeare rightly realizes that carrying out such a story would be impossible on stage, and he makes the conflict more about Hamlet’s inner feelings. The passage above really gave me a new understanding of what is really going on in Hamlet’s mind.

Equally interesting to me were the origins of the witches in Macbeth, in particular, the possibility (strong, given allusions written in the play) that Shakespeare read Reginald Scot’s The Discovery of Witchcraft, a book that challenges Jacobean notions of witchcraft, possibly leading to King James’s decision to have all copies of the book burned.

If I have one major quibble with the book, it is that it becomes bogged down with the language of speculation. Phrases such as “let us imagine,” “perhaps,” “could possibly,” “presumably,” and the like almost start to become distracting, making the book sound like so much speculation. I realize that Greenblatt is merely being careful with language, but his speculation is based on solid historical research, and I wonder if he might not have found a way to express that more clearly.

In all, I believe that James Shapiro’s books A Year in the Life of Shakespeare: 1599 and Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? were more engaging and focused. In some ways, I think Shakespeare’s story is too big to confine to a single volume, and Shapiro manages to focus on two aspects: one important year in Shakespeare’s life and the authorship controversy. Still, I am glad I read Will in the World, and I have some good information to share with students next time I teach Hamlet or Macbeth.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Top Ten Things on my Reading Wishlist

Top Ten Tuesday adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ceasedesist/4812981497/I totally didn’t do my weekend reading update this weekend. I actually haven’t made much progress in my book, so I think that’s fine. I just had a busy week. I do like this week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday:

Today’s Topic: Top Ten Things On My Reading Wishlist (if you could make authors write about these things you would. Could be a specific type of character, an issue tackled, a time period, a certain plot, etc.)

 

  1. I want a really great gothic ghost story something like [amazon_link id=”0307745317″ target=”_blank” ]The Woman in Black[/amazon_link], but set in Ireland or Scotland, and with a great creep factor, but no ick. Also, bonus if it’s in a castle. I am a big Scooby Doo fan. Also, double bonus if it’s set in the Edwardian era because I love the clothes.
  2. I would love it if someone would do something with Celtic myth. I actually have a little something I’m working on myself, but I would really like to see what someone else would do with stories from the Ulster Cycle or Finn Cycle in Ireland, or the Mabinogion in Wales.
  3. More really good historical fiction about Shakespeare. I have read some that’s not what I’d call good. Bonus points if it explores one of the lost plays or the Dark Lady. Maybe I should cook up something along those lines myself.
  4. I’d like to read a historical fiction book like Diana Gabaldon writes. Historical romances are just not my favorites, but she seems to cross genres in a way that really intrigues me. Also, I like how her books span across time and over the lifetimes of her characters.
  5. A really good multigenerational saga. I know these exist, but I haven’t had as much luck finding them. If you know of one, please share. I mean, I’d like to see hundreds of years pass. I am really interested in genealogy, and it would be interesting to me to read about a family’s history.
  6. Really good derivative works. I mean, tell me the story from Miss Havisham’s point of view, but make it awesome. I have read some metafiction lately that hasn’t been up to scratch. Some of it has been really good, however. Bring on more of the really good.
  7. An Arthurian novel that measures up to [amazon_link id=”0345350499″ target=”_blank” ]The Mists of Avalon[/amazon_link]. That book is probably my favorite Arthurian saga. I love that it’s told through the viewpoint of the women, mainly Morgan Le Fay. I wish someone would come up with a fresh and interesting way to tell that story again.
  8. A really good novel set in Paris that makes me want to keep flipping pages the same way that [amazon_link id=”143918271X” target=”_blank” ]A Moveable Feast[/amazon_link] does. I love that book. By the same token, it can be similar to [amazon_link id=”0345521315″ target=”_blank” ]The Paris Wife[/amazon_link]. Bonus points if it’s about artists.
  9. A good book about George Sand’s life. I have been fascinated by her since I was in college. This is yet another topic I have considered exploring myself. I adore her passion.
  10. A good thriller like [amazon_link id=”0307474275″ target=”_blank” ]The Da Vinci Code[/amazon_link] but well written and with characters that are more than cardboard stand-ins or flagrant copies of Indiana Jones.

Sometimes I think it’s good advice to just write the book you want to read. Don’t tell anyone my ideas.

A Young Girl Reading

Five Things I’ve Gained from Reading

A Young Girl Reading
A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

Carol Jago, an English teacher I admire, published a paper several years ago about why we should teach literature. In reply, Traci Gardner suggested we share what we’ve gained from reading literature. I’m not sure if Traci’s familiar with memes, but I like the idea. That said, this blog post has been sitting waiting to be finished since April 2009. Time to post it.

Instructions: Copy the questions and instructions below, and paste them into a blog entry, a note on Facebook, or a discussion forum—anywhere that you can reach the people you want to. You can use the comments area on this blog entry if you’d like as well. Delete my answers to the questions, and add your own. Feel free to any extra instructions or invite specific people to answer the questions when you post them.

Questions: Think about the literature you’ve read—short stories, novels, plays, memoirs, and poetry. Any literature counts, from picture books to epic poems, and from romance novels to sci-fi fan-fiction. Answer each question, and explain your response in a few sentences. Just copy the questions, remove my answers, add your own, and then invite others to respond.

  1. What piece of literature has stayed with you, even though you haven’t read it recently?
    One piece of literature I find myself thinking about a lot is [amazon_link id=”0380730405″ target=”_blank” ]Rebecca[/amazon_link]. We just watched the movie the other night, for one thing, but for another, I have been searching and searching for a book with that same sort of feel. I love that book, and I’ve been looking for one like without much success.
  2. What character or story has influenced something you’ve done?
    You’re going to laugh, but I married my husband because of [amazon_link id=”0440212561″ target=”_blank” ]Outlander[/amazon_link]. For a lot of reasons. He knows and thinks it’s funny.
  3. What character or piece of literature seemed to relate to a recent news story or personal experience?
    I don’t know that the story is all that recent, but when the Rod Blagojevich story blew up, I immediately thought of [amazon_link id=”0743477103″ target=”_blank” ]Macbeth[/amazon_link]. Then the comparisons started coming. Now I feel like I see Macbeth everywhere, which is really frightening. So many people seem willing to lose themselves entirely to their ambition. Politicians especially. And the way they play with human lives is disgusting. We might as well all be the Macduffs. In which case, the politicians better watch it if we decide we’ve had enough one day.
  4. What character has make you wonder why he or she did/said something?
    This is a tough one because there are a lot of characters who make me wonder this sort of thing. I hardly know which one to choose! But I always wondered if Boo Radley really did stab his father with the scissors, and if he really did, why? Actually I wonder a lot about Boo Radley (rather like Scout!).
  5. Name something from a work of literature (such as a character, setting, or quotation) that you find beautiful or vivid.
    [amazon_link id=”0743273567″ target=”_blank” ]The Great Gatsby[/amazon_link] has so many beautiful and vivid passages. Here are some of my favorite ones.

“His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete.”

 

“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.”

 

And here is another of my favorites, from [amazon_link id=”0684801469″ target=”_blank” ]A Farewell To Arms[/amazon_link]:

“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.”

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

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!