Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

I've been getting myself in the Christmas spirit. The tree is up and decorated, stockings are hung, presents are bought (though not yet wrapped...), and I thought it was about time I read "A Christmas Carol." I know the story as well as the next person, but I'd never read it before. And what better time than now?

I can say nothing negative about this story. It is a wonderful classic story. But that doesn't mean I like Dickens any more than before. He is too verbose. Period. And I know Dickens wrote in installments and was paid by the word. I know. I have been told this same tiresome fact since I was a small child. I know. But that does not excuse his style nor do I forgive him for it. I just don't enjoy reading Dickens. And yet, I do love this story.

"A Christmas Carol" has become a cliche and endured many permutations: "A Diva's Christmas Carol," Jim Carrey playing all the main characters, Scrooged (though admittedly I do like that one). But when you strip it bear and get right down to it, it is a truly great and creative story with a valuable lesson. You can't help but feel merry by the story's end.

However, this is still my favorite version:
"[...] for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas."

Sunday, December 19, 2010


by Joanne Harris

After my recent failures to read "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Bridget Jones' Diary," I made a new policy for myself to not read books of which I've seen the movie. I know most people say, 'Oh the book was waaaaaayyy better than the movie,' and I usually agree. However, I've realized that I prefer whichever version I came across first (case in point). I don't like reading a book after I've seen the movie, because I inevitably compare the two while I'm reading; I'm playing the movie back in my head as I read. I don't like to do it. It doesn't really give the book a fair chance. But I read "Chocolat" because it was in our book discussion series "Books Made Into Films."

I enjoyed this book despite having seen the movie first. However, contrary to my usual preference, I wish this book were narrated in third person; it would have given the book a better sense of mystery and magic. There were more unanswered questions than magic. However, if the book were in third person, we wouldn't learn so much about Pere Reynaud, which I liked. Getting glimpses into Reynaud made him slightly more sympathetic, not much, but a little. At least the reader knows he doesn't condone Muscat's behavior.

Roux is much less likable in the novel as compared to the movie. But then again, who doesn't like Johnny Depp?

I enjoy that Armande plays more of a central role in the book. She's important in the movie too, but to a lesser degree. She is a wonderfully dynamic character, probably the best in the book. Armande is the most three dimensional and diverse, I would say.

I found it interesting that in the book the priest is basically "the bad guy" where in the movie, that role is taken on by the count. I think that was to make the movie less controversial. It's easier for audiences to accept the government as the "bad guy," as opposed to the church and its traditions. But the books needs the priest and the church to be the main opposition to Vianne and her way of life for the story to work.

The movie wins out this time. The book is enjoyable, but not as much.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Other People's Rejection Letters

edited by Bill Shapiro

Over my long Thanksgiving break, I let my brain turn to mush. I watched too much TV and hardly read at all. Since then, I've been in a book-funk. I kept taking books home and just couldn't get into anything: "The Devil Wears Prada" (although I love the movie), Michael Caine's biography "The Elephant to Hollywood" (by the way, "Noises Off!" has got to be the funniest movie I have ever seen despite the reviews it received), "Bridget Jones' Diary," "Napalm & Silly Putty," "Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk" - it certainly wasn't for lack of trying.

But I found a book to pull me out of my funk: "Other People's Rejection Letters." Now, this has got to be some kind of record. I was on hold for this book since I first found out about it in July. That's right, I waited 6 months for a book that took me about 2 hours to read. And yet, I think it was worth it.

This book is just what it advertises: a collection of various people's rejection letters. I really enjoyed it. And as Shapiro writes in his introduction, "I felt comforted [...] I saw that no one is alone in getting shot down in love, work and creative pursuits." However, being the person I am, I did feel some sense of schadenfreude.

There are so many great treasures in this book: James Hendrix's discharge notice from the army (he spent too much time thinking about his guitar), Jackie Robinson's letter of disappointment in the President, Mary Ford being told women have no place in illustration with Disney, Harry Truman's telegram to Senator McCarthy telling him he has no sense of responsibility! Mark David Champan's rejection for parole in 2004!

Arthur Gonzalez turned his rejections into works of art. I would like to see an exhibition of those. (I'm thinking of buying his book "The Art of Rejection.")

F. Scott Fitzgerald's letter to his daughter is pretty harsh. Although what stuck me is that he denounces his daughter for behaving just like the women of "Gatsby."

I love that Shapiro included some background information and accompanying stories to some of the letters as a postscript. It adds some depth and needed understanding to some of the rejections.

This book is well worth a flip-through, at the very least. It's funny and sad and poignant. Shapiro came up with an excellent idea for a book and I find it entirely successful. I'm now inspired to keep rejection letters of my own to remind me of the chances I took, and are yet to take (my grad school applications are all submitted, and now I just have to wait...).

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Fashion Break

This isn't a fashion blog (clearly). But I had to take some time out to mention a few things. I've already plugged Out of Print Clothing (and they have more shirts and fleeces now), which I love, and I've found a new love. I don't keep up with fashion trends, so I'm probably the last person to discover these, but I think they're fantastic! I need to own one. That way I can advertise visually that I'm an intellectual and a book-snob ; )

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Eat Pray Love

directed by Ryan Murphy

I expected to like this movie a lot more than I liked the book, but as it turns out, I only liked this movie a little more than I liked the book.

The whole exposition is extremely rushed, which is understandable because otherwise the movie could be 4 hours long, but unenjoyable.

The build-up to Liz's break-down is too short, too sudden. There is not enough time to make her pain or despair believable or even relatable. I didn't care about her enough yet.

That "Permeable Membrane"  play as an explanation of Liz's behavior in relationships is nothing short of terrible. Which it's supposed to be, I realize. But I think it's inclusion is what is truly terrible. They should have found another way to include the Liz-being-absorbed speech.

Also, the husband is a completely petulant and miserable, and I think it's a little unfair. If her husband were truly that awful, she never would have married him in the first place. I can't understand why she would be hanging on to any feelings for him. Good riddance.

On the whole, the movie felt too rushed to make any kind of connection with. It's cute, it's funny, her affair in Bali is wonderful, but there's nothing particularly, aside from the scenery. great about this movie. See it, sure, but don't expect it to have any impact on your life.