This better not suck

I’m a literature nerd. If I could, I would read all the books all the time. Especially of the Victorian Persuasion (bedumchhhh!).

One of my most favorite-est-est books in the entire universe is Far From the Madding Crowd by the stupendous Thomas Hardy. I love this book so much, in fact, that I’m naming my yet-to-be-born-son after the protagonist in the story—Gabriel. No lie.

A week before I found out I was preggers, I turned to my then unknowing boyfriend (now husband), “If we ever have a son, can we name him Gabriel because I want him to be exactly like this character in this book I read.”

He agreed, and how fortuitous! A week later we found out little Baby Gabey was growing inside my belly. Destiny.

Anyway, I digress. Because I love this book so much and could reread it a million times enjoying it each and every turn, I’m deeply afeared for a new rendition of a film version set to come out next year. Look, I know there are already films of this movie in existence, but you know how it goes in this day and age, get some cutie petutie actors, sexualize the plot, take the understated and overstate it, and bang! the movie fails the book and thus makes the book less than its former, virginal self.

It doesn’t help matters that the only line of the description (as seen on IMDB) of the movie so far is: “A beautiful young woman maintains a relationship with three very different men.” Seriously?! That’s the take-away?!

Look, I’m sure it will become further descriptive like: “Based (or loosely based) on the novel by Victorian author, Thomas Hardy, this story is about a beautiful, vain woman who captures the hearts of three very different men that go in three very different ways.”

Bleck. Stupid movie makers.

Carey Mulligan will play the part of Bathsheeba Everdeen. Just don’t make her blonde and I don’t know if I truly care who plays the role. I realize Bathsheeba’s character metemorphasizes throughout the story, but she’s not the most lovable literary figure, most of the story she’s a stupid early 20-something brat (in my opinion, and one in which I could relate to [minus the farming part]). But Gabriel Oak—he’s the man. Perhaps I glorify him far too much, or maybe even the book makes him out to be too honorable and good with just enough flaw, but seeing the actor playing him doing a sub par job (which, honestly, even a perfect actor acting it perfectly wouldn’t meet my standards, so sorry, Matthias Schoenaerts) would ruin much of Madding for me.

But alas! I am also intrigued! I want to see it! I’m terrified that the imaginary world I’ve created will be destroyed by the world cinema will create, but I’m still ever so curious. It’s the price paid whenever any book is made into a movie. All of a sudden, Bathsheeba doesn’t look like the one I imagined, but Carey Mulligan. The town of Weatherbury no longer appears like it did in my mind from Hardy’s description, but from the set created to shoot the film.

Even worse, the plot deviates. All of a sudden, that “kiss” that Seargant Troy and Bathsheeba shared is now outright fornication in a field…before wedlock! Boldwood and Troy now get into a gruesome fight at the Christmas party that ends in arms and legs being tossed off and about like Mr. Potato Head parts. Worse yet, now Fanny comes back from the dead as a zombie craving the brains of Oak’s sheep.

I’m just worried that what I consider perfection will be tainted, not just for me, but for everybody. No one has to love the book like I do. No one has to love T. Hardy like I do. But no one should bastardize literature when it can be helped. Hollywood has done that too many times already. How many more books must suffer? I think I’ll start a nonprofit, “Save the Book: Stop Filming.”

Then again, perhaps someone will see the film and be like, “wow, this Tom guy had something going. I’m going to pick up Far From the Madding Crowd, and also, this Jude the Obscure thing looks pretty swell. Hmmmm, maybe I should look into those Bronte sisters I hear so much about too.”

In the interim, just in case the movie destroys a part of the magical literary pedestal I place this book on, I’m going to reread it over and over again. As if I wasn’t already doing that…

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Reconnecting with literature: reading the books I was supposed to read in college but didn’t

I have my BA in English. What they should call it is a BS. Bedumchhhhh! Just kidding.

Getting a degree in English entails lots of reading, lots of reading, and a bit more reading. Followed by lots of essays, lots of essays, and a few more essays. This work is done  in the hopes that us English majors can earn a position as the manager of a McDonald’s one day. Seriously, what were we thinking?

I wasn’t the archetypal English major. Firstly, because I was sure I already knew everything about everything (which probably made me a typical English major, but not ideal). Secondly, I hated, and still hate, nearly all poetry. Thirdly, I didn’t have my head oriented in studying—it was always chasing after some foreign world with some foreign guy in it which made me grumpy and borderline ready to skip college and frolic in the Mediterranean with my idealized Adonis.

I wasn’t happy at school and I didn’t have the epic collegiate experience that everyone around me was having. What everyone had told me the best part of my life would be was a crushing disappointment. This attitude, experience, whatever, had an impact on my study habits, test taking skills, and general view of literature and writing.

Between hours spent in the library and the hours curled in a hot-ball mess in my bedroom, my manic study habits varied through the semester and even the hour in the day. It is nothing short of a miracle that I not only passed my classes decently but that I managed to do so with a severe nonchalance toward the reading part of my degree—the most essential part of being an English major.

My senior year of college, I had multiple 400-level literature courses to take to fulfil those remaining graduation requirements. Good scheduling on my part (not). This meant many big, thick books to read on a weekly basis.

Rather than read the novels themselves, I took shortcuts. I listened in class, talked to my peers, checked out summaries and analyses online, and then puzzled it all together. It worked for me. I got the gist and manipulated the info into an essay, with a few quintessential shout-out quotes. This gave me steady B’s. Thank goodness my teachers preferred essays to exams. My saving grace is my knack for BS.

It wasn’t until after I graduated that I realized by half-assing it, I didn’t maximize my education and I missed a great opportunity to delve into some seriously great pieces of work. Such is the wisdom that comes with age and failed romances.

The books I was supposed to read during my collegiate career sat patiently on the shelves in my room, waiting to fulfill their destiny to be read. A few years after graduating, I began to open their musty pages and read of my own volition and in my own time.

I feel like a tool for not reading these books when I had the opportunity—to really delve into them with my peers and professors. But in a way, I appreciate them more now than I ever could as a pompous, despondent 21-year-old. Now, I look online for interpretations, discussions, so that I enhance my reading experience—only after I have finished the book. No spoilers!

Here are my most recent reading renaissances:

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100 Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez

If you like incest and feeling a bit down, this is the book for you. It’s beautifully written, dense, and a bit perturbing. Amuck with magical realism; it’s tough to understand if the magic is real or a metaphor (in my opinion). Politcal theming modeled after Columbian and other Latin American history. The character names are reused often, so it gets confusing.

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The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

Who doesn’t like some Hemingway? Probably lots of people, but what do they know? With an attention to detail, each word setting the scene, mastering an unmatched style of narrative, get involved in the lives of the impotent Jake, and the siren, Lady Brett Ashley, and meet the group of friends that Hemingway modeled his own life after as part of the post-WWI ex-patriots who took to Europe to write, live, and consume a lot of alcohol.

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Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut

I read this, but to be honest, not my favorite. Not because it wasn’t well-written and interesting, but because it wasn’t my taste. The story mainly takes place in WWII, written and narrated to speak about survival at the bombing of Dresden, in a very winding road kind of way. Loaded with weird time travelly, flash-backy, flash-forwardy things, it can seem like too much science fiction for the non-lover of the sci-fi genre. Not a happy book; lots of death in this one. So it goes.

Currently Reading…

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East of Eden, John Steinbeck

I just finished chapter 1, so, get back to me…

Over the years I’ve read other pieces of forsaken literature; these reflect the ones I picked up the past months and that I actually physically have in hand. I can’t remember all the required reading I completed since graduating, but I know through this process I discovered new favorite authors in the old, and a new appreciation of a subject I claim to have a degree in. In some ways, I’m more the pretentious English major than I ever was.

I learned in college that books cannot be read via osmosis under your pillow, but they also can’t be read by an unwilling subject. It may be too late to turn my B’s (sometimes C’s) into A’s, but there’s no reason I can’t give my brain some entertainment and mental exercise.

Let’s do this, Steinbeck.