Carrie

Carrie, by Stephen King

I watched both film adaptations of this book first. Each of the movies has its own merits, and each does different things better. On the whole, I would have to say the original, 1976 version is the better one, because it sticks to the source material better. Also because Sissy Spacek.

But this is more about the book and less about the movie. So let’s get on with it…

Having seen the movies before, I had a preconception of what the book would be like. The book mostly blew me away. It’s so much better.

Well, there were the little asides throughout that threw my reading a bit out of whack. The asides in the text, splitting paragraphs and thoughts in two did take a little getting used to. They were basically jump cuts, which I don’t feel work too well in text.

One of my biggest beefs with the book, which is completely unfair when factoring in how I saw the movies first, is there description of the deaths Carrie wrought upon her classmates is scant at best. I wanted to read descriptions of how Carrie tortured the ringleaders of her mistreatment. Nope.

Now, the aforementioned beef is based on the idea books are more descriptive than the movies. And the movies didn’t really show too much individual torture, so I was hoping the book would. Nope.

On the flip side, I loved King’s descriptions of Carrie’s destructive walk back home.

On another flip side, Margaret’s death was so anti-climactic. The 1976 movie does it so much better — Carrie uses here telekinesis to stab her mom. That’s so much more emphatic than having Carrie stop her mother’s heart. Then again, it’s actually kind of more terrifying to have one’s heart stopped by an outside force with no physical contact. It’s the avada kedavra without wands.

This is making me want to read more Stephen King. I’ve already read The Shining, which was also much more different from the movie.

Fight Club

I should have written this ‘review’ shortly after I read the book. But I didn’t. So things might be a bit wonky.

Then again, it is me who’s writing, so everything is wonky. C’est la vie.

So let’s begin…

I first watched the movie Fight Club before reading the book, which is something I try not to do. Watching the movie first tends to give a different perspective on the book, because you end up comparing the book to the movie.

That said, I have the same sentiment about read the book first as well. You’ll always end up comparing the different media.

Anyway…

I thought the book and the movie actually matched up fairly well. Obviously there were parts of the book that didn’t make it into the movie; that always happens. There’s only so much time in the movie to get so many details from the book, that things need to be cut.

You know what, I’m not sure I can do a true ‘review’ of Fight Club the book. Instead, I feel more strongly about the conversation I had with my friend Marissa about the book v. the movie.

We got into a chat, brief though it was, about the differences between the movie and the book, and how they influence how each is viewed and interpreted.

Such is the case any time you read a book that is also a movie, or watch a movie based on a book, you run into the question of which to consume first.

If you read the book first, you are ever watching the movie to see how well it follows the book. You’re paying attention to omissions and changes in the plot. Which characters are missing, or which have been combined with another. And from my personal experience, more often than not the movies pretty much slice out very crucial and important parts of the book.

Then again, as the following image shows, “true fans” will never be satisfied.

13642850_142537106171718_1267457965_n

Now, if you watch the movie first, it can often make reading the book more difficult.

First of all, you will have in your head actual people filling the roles of the characters, instead of simply conjuring up an image all on your own. This is both a blessing and a curse – you have a face you can relate to, as well as accents and other mannerisms; but you’re also then picturing who the movie folks have chosen to give you.

Harkening back to the Harry Potter image above, it’s like reading how Tom Felton auditioned for the roles of Harry and Ron. I could *never* picture Draco as anyone else, but that’s only because of how things played out.

Another way watching the movie first is not the best is you read the book and follow along with how the film went, and then the book goes madly off in another direction and you’re all, like, “What? Huh?” OK, that’s an over-exaggeration.

The thing is, of course, there is no way to not have your view or enjoyment of a book or movie altered unless you steadfastly refuse to consume it in more than one media. Meaning, if you choose to read the book only, or only watch the movie.

But I would content you get full enjoyment from consuming the same piece of art in multiple media. You can see how the original creator chose to craft it, and then how the secondary or tertiary creators interpreted and re-imagined it.

I guess all of this is to say both the book Fight Club and the movie Fight Club are good pieces of art. But following my usual trend of feelings, the book was better.

Pride and Prejudice

I read this book. I finally finished it last night.

I read it because it’s a so-called classic, and it fits into my hope/goal/dream/obsession(?) to read as many “classics” as I can. Whether I will succeed at that or not, we shall have to see.

Anyway. I read it, and now I wish to give you my thoughts on it.

And away we go…

This book actually fits perfectly with the admonition I have received from acquaintances about maybe it’s not a great idea to read the “classics.”

Because I wasn’t too impressed.

I can’t really say that I disliked the book on the whole. But there certainly were some parts of it that just simply rankled me.

Now, a large part of that is because it’s a product of its time.

Some examples of things that bug me about literature of that age and origin:

  • liberal use of ‘Miss/Mrs/Mr {last name}’ to the point where sometimes I have trouble keeping track of to whom the narrator is referring
  • a corollary to the above is women immediately taking the ‘Mrs {last name}’ form upon marriage and rather sparse use of their first names henceforth
  • spelling differences
  • the fact some place names are blanked out (—shire); why is this necessary?

But I think the one thing that really raised my hackles was Elizabeth’s shift in opinion towards Mr. Darcy. I had conceptions that she would be this hero of the tale, spurning the advances of men whom she disliked and forging her own path.

Nope.

She comes around and falls in love with this man.

I’m not going to call it weakness. A woman is perfectly capable of making up her own mind and do what she wants. It is totally her prerogative.

I just feel it cheapens Elizabeth as the protagonist. And for that sin, I can’t really say I liked this book. I was continuing reading, thinking to myself, “Please, Lizzy, don’t fall for him. Stick to your convictions. You don’t need a man. I don’t care that it’s the 1700s.

Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

Its reputation precedes it, and I found it very disappointing.

My knowledge of Frankenstein comes from popular culture where Dr. Frankenstein is a maniacal madman (redundant, but whatever) who is creating a monster for evil purposes. Or at least for kicks. And that he loves his monster as his own creation.

However, that’s not how the book goes.

Instead, Dr. Frankenstein creates the monster (and we’re never told how) and immediately hates and fears it when it comes alive. Then he flees and leaves the monster to its own devices. The monster eventually learns to speak. And is like a superhuman — it is faster, stronger and more capable of surviving physical extremes than humans.

There is none of the lumbering giant that is portrayed in movies and TV shows.

Eventually the monster and Frankenstein reunite, after the monster has killed a few people.

Overall, the book isn’t that bad, and I can’t blame it for how the movie studios have recreated it.

And I guess I have only myself to blame for thinking it would be better than it was.

———-

As you can tell, I’m back on the blogosphere after a very long hiatus. I shall strive to be more visible here.

Life of Pi

I finished reading Yann Martel’s Life of Pi today.

Probably the quickest I’ve read a book since I moved out West, in large part because I’m working on actually dedicating time to reading and not simply reading during the breaks in court.

It was an interesting read. And a lot easier to get into than some of the other books I’ve read recently had been. Not that I use that fact as a determining factor whether I will like the book or not. Anyway, on to my thoughts.

On the whole, I liked it. Although, the way it opened, I kept wondering how much of the story was a work of fiction and how much was based on real events. There were things written that made me think there was a nugget of truth in the tale. Be that as it may, there were also many things that simply stretched the limits of credulity. But I’ll get to that later.

I really enjoyed the explanation of how a zoo runs. Taking an adults view of a zoo, but through the eyes of a child really made the experience more enlightening than had it been written as if it were a how-to on running a zoo.

But my biggest beef with the story, and it’s a theme I have hit on in my comments on a lot of books is the rampant religiosity of the protagonist. Can we not have a story of survival and adventure that doesn’t include a need to bring in an omniscient being to which the protagonist attributes his/her survival?

I mean, on the one hand, I had no problem that Pi was experimenting with religions in his youth, prior to ending up alone with a tiger. Young people tend to experiment; it’s how they learn.

It just bothers me.

Now, when it comes to parts of the story that really pushed the boundaries of credulity, it was the algae ‘island’ with the meerkats. I can wrap my head around ending up on a boat alone with a tiger. Seeing as the reason Pi gets stranded on the lifeboat is that a ship carrying zoo animals sank, I can see how it is possible a tiger could end up on a boat.

And along that same vein, I can see the human and tiger co-existing.

An ‘island’ made of algae complete with fresh-water pools, trees and meerkats? That’s pushing what I’m willing to believe, even if the story is a work of fiction. If the story were constructed as a fantasy, I could be more forgiving of what appeared as a blatant ploy to add something new. And the algae turns acidic at night? Yeah, not buying it.

But one thing near the end really got me thinking. I won’t spoil the story for those who haven’t read it, but the final part of the book really made me wonder what Pi truly experienced. He’s interviewed by Japanese officials investigating the sinking of the ship he was on, and he says some things that, when thinking about them, make you wonder whether the butler did it. If you catch my drift.

Moby Dick

There are times I wonder why I am making it my mission to read as many of the classics as I can.

I mean, on the one hand, it’s a good idea to read such well regarded books. I like to consider myself somewhat cultured, so this is one way to achieve that end.

On the other hand, some of these books have been dry or seriously lacking in action until very late.

Case in point — Moby Dick.

My version of the book had 515 pages of story. We don’t see the blasted White Whale until page 489.

Now, some positives. Moby Dick is a lot easier to get into than Robinson Crusoe. In Moby Dick, there is some action, or at least progress, in the early pages as Ishmael meets Queequeg and they develop a relationship.

And you’re eager to meet Ahab and get on the Pequod to chase the White Whale.

And the tales of actually hunting down whales (since it’s a whaling expedition, not solely a hunt for the White Whale) was quite fascinating, including the description of how the whales are chased, harpooned and then killed. Even reading of how they harvest the blubber and oil was interesting.

However, there were also endless pages devoted to the different types of whales. And a treatise on the whale’s tail. Boring. If I wanted that kind of information, I would have read a scientific book on whales.

But, for all that, my biggest beef with Moby Dick is the fact it took 489 pages of reading to finally meet the whale! Four hundred eighty-nine pages!

What was Herman Melville smoking?

I would have expected the White Whale to have been spotted fairly early in the book. Ahab then would have gone after him, but failed to kill him, suffering loss of life to some crew members in the process.

Then we’d go a while, still on the lookout, but also hunting whales as a continuation of the mission.

Moby Dick would then reappear, another chase would occur and again the whale would escape.

Another simple mission interlude.

Finally, Moby Dick is found, Ahab launches, latches on and is then defeated. Or wins. It wouldn’t really matter.

The fact is, by saving the final (and only) battle until the very end, many readers are either reading to finally see the epic battle foretold, glossing over the rest of the novel; or, they simply give up because they’re not getting the payoff they want from a novel.

Fortunately I’m one of those people who wants to read books both for the story and the experience. So I finished this.

But it’s not the classic page-turner I was hoping it would be.

Robinson Crusoe (and proselytizing)

I just finished reading Robinson Crusoe. You know the story, it’s the one about the guy who is stranded on a tropical island and manages to survive for years before eventually being rescued.

Overall, I liked it, even though it took me a good long while to a) get into it, and b) finish it.

Seriously. I started the darn thing months ago, and then got distracted by the interwebs. But I finally managed to finish it.

Now, it wasn’t quite what I had expected. I had in my mind Robinson would get marooned and learn to survive, eventually hooking up with his ‘servant’ Friday. Then it would end with a random ship landing on the island, or floating by and coming to see what is going on on the island, and Robinson’s final line of the book being something like “And I stepped off that god-foresaken rock forever.”

Nope. That’s not what happened.

Instead, some other Europeans land on his island and he gets in league with them to capture a mutinied ship and then he gets to Europe and eventually back to his homeland England. Then years later he returns to the island to check on the people he left there (the mutineers and such and such).

So I felt the ending was drawn out too much. But not enough to ruin the book for me.

But the book was still ruined by Robinson’s needless proselytizing.

See, once he rescues Friday from the ‘savages’ who were going to eat him, Robinson goes about converting Friday to christianity. Why?

Why is there this thing within the christian religions that non-christians have to be ‘saved’ from eternal damnation? Why are Native populations called ‘savages’ when ‘discovered’ by Europeans?

I often thought of the following image while reading Robinson’s preaching:

3NQst1K

In my opinion, the ‘savages’ in the interactions between Natives and Europeans are the Europeans. They tend to adopt a holier-than-thou posture, denigrating customs and traditions that are more than adequate to the survival of those people who were on the land first.

Sorry I just went into a toned-down anti-theistic screed. It’s just something that bothers me, this whole hubbub around christianity being necessary for a good and wholesome life, and that there is some afterlife toward which we are all headed.

Enough. Back to my book review.

So while the proselytizing was off putting, I mustn’t hold it against the entire book.

I recommend reading Robinson Crusoe. It is a classic, and I advocate reading the classics. I just warn you that it may take some getting into, as the action isn’t right off the top.