Friday, April 20, 2007

Why I reread...

"Some books are so familiar, reading them is like being home again."
- Jo March (played by Winona Ryder)
in the 1994 "Little Women" movie

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Literary adaptations

In addition to books, I thought it might be interesting to begin reviewing my favorite films, shows etc. that are based on books and plays (can't leave out Shakespeare).

Now, some of these works are simply great adaptations. They faithfully tell a story I happen to already love. Others are great in their own right... And then there are the Holy Grail of literary adaptations... Works that are both.

To get started, I've come up with a set of criteria to help me analyze each:

The Poohba's Bibliotèque Literary Adaptation Four-Star System

Actors match character description (Possible ****)
This means just that. The director has not chosen a tall, slim redhead with an American accent to play the slightly pudgy, dark-haired heroine of your favorite Australian novel. This category also will comment on casting choices that seem too "modern" for historical roles.

Plot follows story (Possible ****)
Another no-brainer category. Does the script play fast and loose with what happened in the book? I don't want to see Anne of Green Gables running around France during World War I when anyone who has read Rilla of Ingleside would know how ridiculous that is.

Additional material adds to the established story without contradicting "canon" (Possible ****)
This is very closely related to the category above, but I think it deserves a rank of its own. Adapting art from one media to another can be messy. This is meant to reward films that bring something extra to the table. If a filmmaker adds a scene (or plot point or two), or successfully condenses material that would make a movie too long, all without deviating from the spirit of the original, then they deserve a pat on the back.

Overall faithfulness to the story (Possible ****)
This category takes into account the scores from the first three, as well as my overall impression of whether the spirit of the original work is upheld.

Poohba Entertainment Factor (Possible ****)
Forget the original. Was this a good movie, play etc. in its own right? Would I enjoy it if I hadn't read it first?

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A new list of books I want to reread

I've made some progress on the list of books I wanted to reread that I posted in December, so I decided to update the list of books I've been thinking about a lot lately and just haven't gotten to yet:

1. Devil Water by Anya Seton
2. Avalon by Anya Seton
3. The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
4. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
5. The Promise by Chaim Potok
6. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
7. The White Mountains by John Christopher
8. Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
9. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
10. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

My numbers 7-10 haven't changed. I guess I've just been reading from the top and getting new ideas of what I want to read next. (For example, I did a reread of The Chosen, so now I want to get another shot at its sequel. I begin to fear I will never have the time (or the courage) to attempt all 1,463 pages of Les Mis again - no matter how much I loved it the first time around.

You may have also noticed how heavy this list is on Anya Seton. I blame Chicago Review Press, which keeps putting out her oeuvre in shiny new paperbacks that I feel I must own. I loved Devil Water when I first read a mildewy old edition that's falling apart. Imagine how good it will be with new book smell!

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Musical inspiration

I watched The Sound of Music the other night. What a great movie. A little cheesy, yes, but good.

I'd never really thought about it before, but it also inspired a few scenes in Thorn of the Kingdom. Remember where Abby sneaks into the open ballroom and begins dancing with an imaginary partner? I doubt she would have if Julie Andrews hadn't first.

Actually, the ballroom at Tholly's palace isn't so far off from the one at the von Trapp Family villa. It's just bigger, of course, and with a bit more of the colors you'd find at Beast's castle.

It's strange to realize how all these little bits can get stirred up in one's mind and come out in different ways. It's not plagiarism. It's just how art works and has always worked. Ask Shakespeare.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

A thought for Good Friday...

I have had this passage from Outlander stuck in my head all day...

"The human hand is a delicate marvel of engineering, an intricate system of joints and pulleys, served and controlled by a network of millions of tiny nerves, exquisitely sensitive to touch. A single broken finger is enough to sink a strong man to his knees with nauseated pain."
- Diana Gabaldon Outlander, Chapter 25: "Wentworth Prison"

It gives me shivers to think about on this, Good Friday.

I mean, a broken finger wasn't the half of it...

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Nouveau Jane Austen???

Indiscretion by Jude Morgan

No one can publish a book set in the Regency period featuring an independent heroine without getting compared to Jane Austen. It's just a law of nature. Reviewers see the ballrooms and costumes, think "Austen", and think no further. The problem is, most of the books that get this comparison don't even remotely deserve it - even the ones that want it so bad you can see it.

Indiscretion is different. It's the first Austen "wannabe" I've read that actually seems just as spirited and fun as Austen. Except for a few brief slips into modernity, Morgan gets the tone just right on this one. Some of her plot points and characters will seem familiar to Austen fans, but they never quite become derivative. On the whole, it just seems like the book Jane never got around to writing.

The story:

Caroline Fortune is understandably a little sensitive about people referring to her as "Miss Fortune". She's had an interesting childhood on the outskirts of society. After her mother's death, her weak-minded, ex-solider father turned to card games and the stage for a living - and took Caro right along for the ride. Sometimes he made enough money for the both of them to live off of, but most of the time he didn't. So, by the time Caro is of marriageable age, their credit is used up and their luck has run out.

To take herself off her father's hands, Caro finds employment as companion to a cantankerous old widow. Just about the time she's made a good start in a respectable country life, a ghost from her past shows up to upset everything. It's up to her whether to expose the rake - and, with him, her own background.

This is a fun romp through Bath, London and parts of the English countryside. I'd highly recommend it to all Austen fans... or anybody who wants to become one.

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