Thursday, October 28, 2010

Oh, those silly writers

I got a kick out of this post that shows that some science fiction and fantasy writers can seem just as embarrassed about reading poetry as many "literary writers" seem about reading fantasy and sci-fi.  A lot of people miss out on a lot of good books due to snobbery, in my opinion.  "Art is a powerful inspiration for more art."  And some speculative fiction is art.  Preach it!

I'm omnivorous, so I like it all and think that people should just read what they like without caring what category or genre it's in.  It's fine to like Charles Wright and Charles Stross and Charles Baxter.  Be proud of it!

I want to read Kay in the worst way.  Unfortunately, I suspect he shall be one of those authors I then have to read the whole back catalog of immediately, and I have way more temptations than I have time for right now.  He's high on my list!  Anybody read any of his mouth-watering books?  Have any suggestions for good ones to start with?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Partial Book Binge

When my arm really hurts, I have even less energy and motivation to do anything.  However, I'm always up for a book binge because they require almost nothing of me, so I had a partial one today.  I think I read for about five hours.  There were other things I could have been doing, but I feel fine about not getting to them. 

A good book binge makes me feel refreshed because it's not about me or my pain.  It's five hours of being somewhere else seeing the world through someone else's eyes.  It's nice.  It's especially refreshing when the rain is coming down at varying speeds (including free car wash speed :), and you can watch and listen to it through a window just a few feet away.

When was the last time you had a book binge?  What did you read?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sometimes my story goes like this

increasing clumsiness
pain pain
disturbing inability to concentrate
pain pain pain
ruining a pair of contact lenses because you forget to put in the contact solution
pain pain pain pain
almost walking out the door without a necessary garment on
pain pain pain pain pain
more of the same

Who wants to read that?  I sure don't.

And that's why I'm so glad there are so many more stories to read and immerse myself in when I just can't stand to live my own anymore.  :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lesson learned this weekend

When one is procrastinating from grading papers, and when one has chosen to read an actual prose book while exercising instead of manga in order to encourage one to exercise on consecutive days to find out what happens next, one should not exercise for over three hours on that single day, or one will come to regret it in all one's joints for days afterword. 

And still not finish the book.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

On Never Let Me Go

I finally read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro recently, and now I find out they made it into a movie.  I have some mixed feelings about that. 

I saw an ad for the limited release, independent film while flipping through someone's City Pages at a corporate outing to, of all places, a local beer brewery.  I was somewhat stunned (not just by the beer fumes); I would not have thought of the book as one that would translate well into film.  It would be difficult to get that sustained sense of low key creeping horror/dread going without the narrator's voice in the book, and it was all so unhurriedly told with such detached melancholy.  Then again, one of my biggest problems with the book is that I didn't like the narrator/POV character, so maybe being out of her head would be better.  You see, she's what we're all told in writing is the cardinal sin for a POV character: someone who is almost totally passive.  (That's not really why I disliked her; I'm totally fine with passive POV characters who don't go along with the flow to gain the approval of someone who encourages them to do wrong, whose opinion shouldn't matter, and who abuses her power.  I'm fine with passive characters who THINK.  Then again, this whole story construct wouldn't have worked its atmosphere without such an unthinking character in the lead . . .)

One of the things the book did well that I could see a movie possibly doing better is leaving a lot up to the audience.  Since it's an independent film, I'd like to believe that's more likely.  Nowadays, cheesy acting to show that something bad is going on is probably less likely, and melodramatic or annoying music or sound cues would be less likely, as well.  And I would love to hear the song that gives the story its name because it's described so beautifully in the book.

Upon seeing the ad, I wondered if they changed the ending.  The book's ending is just not cinematic at all unless you like your resolution long and sad and, honestly, unresolved.  Brilliant, don't get me wrong, but I could see actual speculative fiction fans crying foul because so much of the mechanics of the world are just never even acknowledged.  Anyway, I'm not sure I'll see the movie because it's rated R because it sounds like the movie decided not to be as subtle and elegant about the sex as the book was, and that's a shame.  This work didn't need to show any explicit sex because it was more about connections and disconnections of a different kind.

I'm always nervous when a subtle, slow-burn sort of speculative fiction story gets turned into a movie because the subtleties tend to get blunted, and things get said and summarized and compacted all out of their original beautiful shape. 

MaryAnn Johanson: "[C]om[es] at its horrors gently, almost idyllically... This is science fiction of a keen but subtle sort... so gorgeously delicate and lovely a film that it’s almost impossible to convey how (appropriately) horrific it is..."

Roger Moore: "Lovely and melancholy, poignant and chilling, Never Let Me Go is an old school sci-fi dystopia with lovely, wistful performances that never quite overcome the fatalism that hangs over the whole affair."

The reviews are decidedly mixed on whether that's the case.  For some people, it sounds like the experience of book translated well to film.  Eric Melin said, "Like great science fiction should, it serves as an allegory and inspires some deep thinking about the world we live in now."  I totally agree.  Tom Long called "Oddly cold and detached" what Amy Biancolli of the Houston Chronicle called "superbly crafted, shot with the self-contained radiance of a snow globe."  I think they both caught the same thing there but judged and reacted to it differently.   The TomatoMeter summary seems apt, too.  "With Never Let Me Go, Mark Romanek has delivered a graceful adaptation that captures the spirit of the Ishiguro novel -- which will be precisely the problem for some viewers."

Biancolli's pull quote at Rotten Tomatoes was pretty excellent in summing up both my experience of the book and her experience of the movie.   "Never Let Me Go is gorgeous. And depressing. It's exquisitely acted. And depressing. It's romantic, profound and superbly crafted, shot with the self-contained radiance of a snow globe. And it's depressing."

(Which is a recommendation for those who like their literature to make them think.)

Anybody seen it?  Read it?  Any opinions either way?

Monday, October 11, 2010

In honor of 80 degree October days

I am in love with Kieli.  It's a series of books translated from Japanese about a teenager isolated because of her past and her abilities and what happens when she meets someone even more lonely and isolated than she is.  It's aimed at a teenage audience (it's called a light novel), so it's not particularly challenging.  The writing isn't necessarily Pulitzer caliber.  It's horror, a genre I normally don't get on well with, and there are some serious gross-out moments.  What is it, then, that makes me love it so much that it's the first thing I read when I get a new batch of books that contain it among them, no matter how large the batch is (as long as it's sunny out, and I can read in the sun because, otherwise, even the "light" horror will drown me).

There's a lot to like about it.  In the past I've wondered what draws me to the series most.  The atmosphere of sweet, awkward melancholy or the dreamy quality of the storytelling (interrupted by brief and disturbingly clear instants of graphic violence and action)?  Is is the reflective mood?  The detached but sad tone?  The brisk pacing that seems languid at the same time?  The spine-tingling weirdness that creeps in sometimes?  The amusing and crotchety relationship between the lead characters?

This round (volume 3), though, I realize that one of the most powerful draws to it for me is the way that it approaches the walls we put up around ourselves and how to co-exist with them.  That sounds dreadfully opaque.  What it comes down to is that I respect this author for not taking the easy way out, like so many other Japanese stories about teen girls do.  We put walls up, and there can be all kinds of very legitimate reasons for that.  In a lot of Japanese stories aimed at teen girls, the author will tease me by bringing up the subject and then inevitably let me down by making the answer a simple, "Bust down the walls, be friendly to everyone, and everything will be fine!  Nice conquers all!"  That is not reality.  It is false, saccharine, and kind of enraging, especially when it's the cliche in a long series that could do so much with the idea.

Don't get me wrong: I can like those series well enough.  I do like a happy ending.  But I love a happy ending that is earned by blood, sweat, and tears. I love a series like Kieli that says, "Here is what it's like for these people who have excellent reasons to have walls, and here is how sometimes they trust, and it's a good thing, and sometimes they trust and it's a bad thing.  Here is how their walls save them and keep them alive, and here is how their walls crush them, sometimes at the same time."  In other words, it's kind of like real life even though the setting is horror/fantasy/sci-fi.  I love how "genre" works can sort of sidle up to these issues and deal with them sideways.

I do want a happy ending for these characters; I really do.  But I want a believable happy ending.  And I don't see yet how that will happen.  The author is too good at those real-life twists and turns to pander to the reader.  They're billing it as a romance, so I believe things will work out, and I look forward to seeing how, but right now, I love reading about these broken people searching for God knows what.