Book to movie turmoil

I am in a serious state of conflict. Serious.

My favorite book, Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, has been turned into a movie* and part of me wants to damn Hollywood and all the people who will go see it and the other part of me wants to be first in line for my tickets and jumbo popcorn.

This isn’t a book like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games** which we all expect to be made into blockbusters and which prove to be quite entertaining cinematic adventures. Although, one could argue that these were bastardizations. I digress.

This is my genre, my story, my life! I take complete ownership of this book and no one else is allowed to love it like me or allowed to turn it into some shadow of the story it is. Only I am allowed to think about the book and to adapt it to the film reel in my head.

Of course, none of this is true no matter how irrationally I feel it.

I worry that this book will be corrupted for me; that the way I imagine Bathsheba will be all Carey Mulligan, and the county of Wessex I designed in my head will be all the cinematographer’s doing—bastard. I’m afraid I will lose my imagined adaptation to this movie adaptation and never get it back.

I’m annoyed that people may jump on the Madding bandwagon. They will be all, “OMG, this movie is awesome. Blah blah blah. I’m illiterate and won’t appreciate the book in its full glory. Blah blah blah.” Posers.

Worse than people liking the film and rejecting the novel are people that will read the book and love it. Enter hipster attitude. I liked it before it was cool, therefore, I am better than everyone else and deserve some sort of badge noting my superiority. Perhaps a pair of Far From the Madding Crowd Ray-Bans.

The most valid concern I have is that the story will be manipulated to please a modern, mass audience with the creation of a superfluous plot line, an over-sexualization of the story, or a touch of gore and foul language to spice things up. Why mess with a good thing? If the creators of the film adaptation felt it in good judgement to alter the story to its audience, they could’ve chosen a different book (like one I don’t care about), or, here’s a thought, come up with a new story.

I’m being harsh. I don’t know if this movie will ruin my life as badly as I anticipate it doing so, and it appears I may not have the courage to prove my theories positively or negatively.

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This quote hangs in my son’s room: “And at home by the fire, whenever you look up there I shall be–and whenever I look up, there will be you.”

Some readers may be thinking to themselves right now, “wow, this girl is batsh*# (my husband would agree). This book isn’t even that great or one of the better T. Hardy novels.” To those readers, I don’t like you.

I jest (but in seriousness).

Nearly final note. After finishing Far From the Madding Crowd for the first time a few years ago, I mentioned to my then boyfriend, now ball-and-chain, that if we ever had a little boy I wanted to name him Gabriel after Gabriel Oak because, “if ever I had a son, I would want him to grow up to be of the same character and demeanor of this guy.” A week later I found out I was pregnant with a boy, and guess what, his name is Gabriel.

I can’t have the actor playing Gabriel Oak to suck at life or to have the fictional character be misrepresented! Think of the consequences!

It seems all is against me, even NPR keeps telling me that Far From the Madding Crowd is in theaters. What’s a girl to do? Wonder forever or indulge a morbid curiosity? Or, more likely, put it into perspective that in the purview of life’s problems, this isn’t one.

*This is NOT the first film adaptation of Far From the Madding Crowd, but I chose to write about this one because it’s now.

**Katniss Everdeen is named after Bathsheba Everdeen. Small literature world!

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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…

The Kindle: I have turned to the Darkside and I like it

Hey Gingermermaid, this way to evil and fun! Follow me to KindleWorld!

Hey Gingermermaid, this way to evil and fun! Follow me to KindleWorld!

Gasp! I know, right?

Gingermermaid, lover of books, page-i-liscious books, has converted into a Kindle owner. Dun dun duuuuuuuun!

Look, I have millions of excuses as to the switch-over, and I am happy to say, it has nothing to do with peer pressure—a statement which is only partially factual.

For years, I have fought this e-book trend. It’s sad to lose the magic of floppy paperbacks, the bulkiness of Harry Potter-sized hard covers, and the crisp folds of dog-eared pages. It feels like an insult to all the writers and readers before us and, yet again, another object in life digitalized.

But it’s the evolution of life. There used to be a time when books needed their pages sliced in order to proceed to the next page. Did pro-page slicers protest books that no longer required such arduous, manual reading skills? I suspect they did not.

My tipping point came recently—I’d venture to say a little over a week ago recently. I’ve been on a reading binge and I’m currently assembling 100 books I’d like to read that is not one of those stupid “100 Books I MUST Read Before Sinking 6 Feet Under” but a list of books I want to read and I believe are worthwhile reads and will be read in my own time (let’s do this, Dr. Seuss). I’m a fast reader, so I think I can move through the list Jonathan Swiftly (ha ha, I’m lame).

The reality is there are a great many books available as e-books and a great many of these are free. Free. FREE. Which means, I get to read Thomas Hardy, Charlotte Bronte, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and many more for no cost and without needing to leave the comfort of a reading chair. That butt doesn’t grow itself, after all. Aside from works not obligated to copyright, and thus free, there are other, more modern books heavily discounted or at zero cost in e-book form. I just downloaded a book by Ronald Malfi, whom I never read before but was recommended as a great writer of horror. It’s not like it cost anything to own and I have plenty of bookshelf space in my e-library, so why not give it a go?

I’m such a sell-out. Shame.

Aside from easy and cheap access to books (get your mind out of the gutter), the Kindle is small, light-weight, and contains thousands of pages everywhere I tote it. I’m going to Israel for work in a few weeks, and I don’t have to bring five different books to read on the trip; I can have my copy of Mice and Men, Far From the Madding Crowd, and The Great Gatsby with me and I don’t have to check it as excess carry-on baggage.

Furthermore, I have access to local libraries (way to adapt libraries!) and can check out books from the comfort of my home like I would a physical book. Cost-effective, time-effective.

Look, I do cherish the physical manifestation of a book, and I’d love first editions of my favorite books, and if I can’t get a first edition, I want a copy of that book to snuggle with at night. How could I ever justify not owning Anne of Green Gables? I wouldn’t even be able to look at myself in the mirror.

I know I said the tipping point that broke me had to do with a reading binge, blah blah blah. I must confess, it also largely had to do with my 7-year-old niece who received a Kindle for her birthday earlier this month and knew how to master it before I even knew there were buttons on the basic device. She cannot outdo me. She’s already received an excellence in literature interpretation in the first grade and all I had was a purple dress with a big, stupid bow on it. It’s on, little Ruby.

I may be rocking this ensembles, made phenomenal by the white sneakers, but at my Author's Tea in grade 1, I was only able to present a story about a family of trolls, and here my niece can already interpret my story and read it on a Kindle. Gotta keep up.

I may be rocking this ensemble, made phenomenal by the white sneakers, but at my Author’s Tea in grade 1, I was only able to present a story about a family of trolls, and here my niece can already interpret my story and read it on a Kindle. Gotta keep up.

Yes, Twilight is stupid, but…

So like any self-respecting adult with a claim to loving the written word, I cannot stand the Twilight Saga. I confess, I read the entire series, and I use the excuse that I did this because I was interning at a teen magazine at the time and when I moderated comments on the website, I had no idea what “Forks” was. Now I know what “Forks” is and I didn’t need to read the other three in the series to find out, but once I start something, I want to see it through to the end.

I’m writing this post in response to a Freshly Pressed WordPress blog post that took the time to slam Twilight. The blogger who took considerable time to write the criticism seems take great, if not excess, pride in her literary tastes and writing styles. I can’t truly understand why she put aside writing time to delve into Stephenie Meyer’s work other than her disdain and anger against the series and she needed to vent. Similarly, I’m going to take the time to write on the topic as well. After all, Twilight hasn’t truly had enough press, now has it?

I give this blogger props on many points she addressed. Let’s be honest, the book is fluff, which is why I have no idea why she read (bedumchhhh) so much into it. It’s not a piece of literary art, its teenage angst portrayed to cater to teenage angst. It’s no Great Gatsby because it’s not designed to be a Great Gatsby. Twilight was written for a target audience of girls between the ages of 11 and 17, of which she and I are not.

From what I can tell from her post, the blogger stopped at book one. That’s fair and more than enough reading to judge the entire series. The other books don’t lend much more sustenance with the exception that  in book 4, whatever that one is called, Bella and Edward (spoiler alert) “do it.” Apparently parents were in an uproar about that because teenagers obviously have no idea what sex is until they read the Twilight series. Puuuuleeeeaaase. At 12, I was reading Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews, now that is completely inappropriate for a tween, but sooooooo good.

Back to the blogger, who I think probably is a good writer, I mean, it’s a blog, but seems to have a chip on her shoulder about writing and literature. Writers are pretentious human beings, frustrated, dripping with opinions, and narcissistic. The word “humble” is not among the aspiring writer’s diverse vocabulary. It’s dangerous to play the authority on writing, or anything really, because regardless of achievements, merits, degrees, one can be torn quickly to shreds and, more importantly, be perceived as a prick.

As I was reading her interpretation of Twilight, I was surprised by the overall tone. It was downright pissed off. This book was published and, despite its lacking in many literary areas, became a sensational success.  Girls everywhere could relate to the non-dimensional character of Bella and this is the genius of the book. The characters, as mentioned by the blogger, are completely underdeveloped, and in my opinion, this is deliberate. Each girl sees herself as Bella. Each girl pictures her friends in the high school student population. Each girl imagines being in love with a badass and dreams to be fought over by a werewolf and vampire (or kinda, sorta like that). Girls are insecure, and if Bella has any character trait, it’s insecurity (and stupidity). Bingo. There’s the target demographic and there’s every girl between the ages of 11 and, let’s be honest, 30. The character was defined just enough that you, me, and my neighbor could fit that role.

I don’t know if anyone else remembers what it was like to be a girl between the ages of 12 and 18, but unfortunately, I do. I was pathetic. I constantly was trapped in my head, trying to be cool and failing by all accounts. I used to daydream about running away with a band member of Weezer or co-starring next to Elijah Wood in some romantic, artsy film. If my head wasn’t already in the clouds and out of complete touch with reality, it was lost in a book. Since I was ten, I had my nose smashed between the pages of a novel and my hand fused to pen and paper. If Twilight had come out when I was 15, I would be on that bandwagon, no doubt, and have all the paraphernalia that went with it. I was prime meat for this series. I try not to think about this too much. It scares me.

So many tangents, I’ll consider it ground work for the rest of this post. I already mentioned that I don’t understand why the blogger even took the time to try to analyze Twilight, but here I go analyzing her blog post about Twilight. Believe it or not, I do have a life—just not tonight.

The tone and style of the blog post turned me off, not because it was negative, but because it came off as catty and much of this had to do with superfluous swearing. Swearing too much or swearing when unnecessary just comes off as angry and unsubstantiated, even fucking uneducated. I love swearing as much as the next sailor, but let’s be honest, time and place, and yes, quantity. Too much detracts from arguments.

Now let’s break down a few of the sections she broke down: Folklore. The blogger mentions that “you don’t fuck with folklore.” My question is, why not? It’s a creative right and if we didn’t detract, all stories would be the same. Although, the glittery vampire in the sun is totally lame. I think the world agrees with that. Vampires are not intimidating, or sexy, when they sparkle like a disco ball.

Next, she brought up the severe underdevelopment of characters. I addressed this already. They are underdeveloped because that way a girl can imagine herself as Bella, making the book relatable and a place to associate her teenage angst. “Oh, that’s why I’m so wacky and crazy, I just need to find myself a vampire!” Many teen books are like this in terms of character development, which is why they appeal to teens.They certainly are not Pulitzer Prize or Newberry Award winners but that’s not why the books are written. Books can be written for other purposes, such as entertainment.

The blogger mentions “realism.” First, let’s point out that the book involves werewolves and vampires. I don’t think Meyer was overly concerned with the realistic nature of her content. The blogger mentions that any girl who enters a school in a small town is not going to be accepted. I went to a small school, I graduated with 63ish people. If we got a new person, we ATE THEM UP because we were starved for new faces. If they were pretty, they were welcomed by every group. If they were nerdy, they were befriended by the less stellar groups, but befriended nonetheless. We were all sick of each other by the fifth grade; we were ready to welcome any warm body as long as it was new. This argument that Bella wouldn’t have been welcome doesn’t fly with me as new kids in my school were the most sought after—fresh meat.

Here is an excerpt under BFFs and BFs, OMG!:

“How is it believable that this emotionally detached, romantically inexperienced young girl could fall in love so quickly with a guy she knows nothing about, when she keeps herself so guarded around everyone else she comes in to contact with? I suppose the underlying reason is that he’s special, blah blah blah…but basic human psychology dictates that a girl with her emotional restraint and closeness issues wouldn’t have just gone batshit crazy over a guy just cuz he was so darn pretty and mysterious.”

How can a girl fall in love so quickly? Hello-ooh. I was guilty of falling head over heels from the time I was 6 until 28 (current age). That’s not even a little weird regardless of “emotional restraint.” Young love is especially volatile and quick to bloom and quick to wilt. Add in the “pretty” factor and the “mysterious” factor, and hell yeah, that is something I can totally still relate too. Sigh…and, nom nom nom…bad boys.

I just lost myself in every impractical, fleeting crush and romance I ever had.

Let’s also note that the closeness issues would have been ideal in dating a vampire as in this way, she couldn’t get too close, lest he eat her! Can I get another nom nom nom?

Look, I get this book is no masterpiece to be shelved next to Dickens, Shakespeare, Hemingway, Joyce, etc. But this book, for a younger generation, gets them reading. It’s a gateway drug to a literary world. Will they always choose the “right” books? Hell, no. But they are way more likely to pick up and try a book, just to see what it’s like, skipping out on reality TV to escape into an imaginary world that stimulates the mind, increases vocabulary, and increases creativity.

I didn’t cover everything in the blogger’s post, mainly because the more I read it, the more irked I get by the vehemence in which she attacks Meyer and every other writer who doesn’t contribute “worthy” literary works. It’s not called for or justified and I think dismounting the high horse would do her some good.

This is the last line of the blogger’s post:

“Twilight is a slap in the face to every talented author who dreams of seeing their words in print. So congratulations, Miss Meyer. You are revered by your target demographic. But you are despised by those of us who know, respect, and produce good literature, good literature that will probably never see the light of day or reading lamp so long as people continue to believe that the garbage you write is worth reading.”

Seriously? For fuck’s sake. Get over yourself.

Life is too short to read bad books and fret about the success of “mediocre” authors. There are plenty of terrible pieces of literature we can pick apart. Rather than focus on the success of “bad writing” focus on writing and reading for you, for your art, and for your piece of mind. And calm down. This isn’t going to be the last piece of fiction to hit the shelves and hit it big, nor was it the first.

For those of you who enjoy the Twilight series, it’s your right and enjoying them doesn’t make you a bad person, a bad reader, or a bad writer—you just lack a bit of good judgement. 😉

Kidding-ish…

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.