The Sunday Salon: Film Adaptations

Whenever the economy takes a turn for the worse, the movie industry starts shaking in its boots. Producers turn away from new, original, and unproven scripts, and turn towards known and fairly safe properties that more often than not have built-in fanbases–this is why The Smurfs is happening, against all human decency. (This doesn’t mean this method is foolproof. Paramount has managed to royally piss off a majority of Avatar: The Last Airbender fans with its whitewashed production of The Last Airbender. I’m obligated to remind you to give it a miss in favor of Toy Story 3 or Eclipse.) Books, especially best-sellers, provide the sort of security that soothes a producer in a recession.

But when the rights to a book have been purchased by a studio or, rarely, an actor, speculation starts among readers and fans of the book. While we usually start quibbling over casting (guilty as charged), our main concern is how the book is ultimately adapted for film. I find the question of “will it be true to the book?” to be frustratingly vague. You can stray from the book and still remain true to its overarching themes. What that question is truly asking is this–will be a purist adaptation or a pragmatic adaptation?

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The Sunday Salon: Imprints

While perusing the fabulous T. J.’s new digs at Dreams and Speculation, I noticed that her tags included something else beyond the usual rating system and authors–the publishers were tagged as well. Editing and publishing is what I want to do with my life, but I never paid much attention to who published the things I love before I decided on that fact. This week, I took it upon myself to clean up my tags, so I decided adding the publishers couldn’t hurt. (Fun, irrelevant fact: WordPress doesn’t do spaces between periods for tags, which is why poor Professor Tolkien’s tag looks so squished to your right.) Anyway, I wanted to see–who publishes what I like?

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Booking Through Thursday: Signatures

Do signed copies excite you? Tempt you? Delight you? Or does it not matter to you?

I’m only really interested in signed books when I’m the one who gets them signed. It’s not having a signed copy that delights me, but the experience of getting them signed and meeting an author I love.

I have two books in my collection that are signed by the author. Last December, Neil Gaiman visited Agnes Scott (because Decatur was too small to put him up anywhere else), and I got a copy of my favorite Neil Gaiman novel, Anansi Boys, signed by him, as well as an opportunity to tell him that I’ve been reading his novels since I was thirteen and I love them all. He was very sweet and thanked me profusely. (Then it started raining and there was a treacherous journey back to the old dorm room.)

The other is Sean Astin’s There and Back Again, the only autobiography I think I have on my bookshelf. I tell this story a lot, because it’s an educational experience for young nerds and convention virgins–always have a fairly normal outfit when you go to the Hall of Fame. It was my second year of Dragon*Con, and the last time I went for only a day, hence the costume. (I now live much closer to the convention site.) He was extremely sweet, I was extremely starstruck, and I was wearing my elf ears. Any attempts to regain my cool were destroyed because Nathan Fillion was sitting right next to him. I was wildly embarrassed at the time, although now I laugh at it and use it as a cautionary tale.

As you can see, the memories of getting the signatures and meeting the authors are worth more to me than the actual signed books (although I certainly love and value them). It’s not merely having something they signed, but interacting with people whose work I love and respect.

Booking Through Thursday: Bedside

What books do you have next to your bed right now? How about other places in the house? What are you reading?

I’m actually in the process of cleaning my room (I conquered my closet yesterday!), so the only thing next to my bed is my Nintendo DS and a Tortuga Twins DVD. The bookshelf that houses my personal library is perpendicular to my bed, so that has all my favorites- The Lord of the Rings, Anansi Boys, Middlesex, Wicked, Boneshaker… the list goes on. My library books stay on my desk, when it’s clean, so they don’t get lost between my books and the various colonies my father’s library has settled in the house.  Because of my father’s library, I try and keep all my books in my room. I actually just cleared off a shelf in my closet that I can use for books I need to keep but don’t consider part of the personal library (mostly gifts and yearbooks), so my personal library is going to get a lot more organized. Yay!

Booking Through Thursday: Influence

Are your book choices influenced by friends and family? Do their recommendations carry weight for you? Or do you choose your books solely by what you want to read?

When I was a wee lass, my mother occasionally tried to make me read great classics, but that plan backfired–I was told to read Silas Marner before I could dig into Good Omens. (I read most of the Gaiman novels at twelve or thirteen, because geeky children have no concept of inappropriate.) Good Omens is one of my favorite novels, and I don’t remember a thing about Silas Marner to this day. Perhaps because of this, my friends and family don’t really influence my reading.

Most of my book recommendations come from either the book blogosphere or reading professional reviews in The New York Times. It’s a matter of two things–either I’ve already read what they would recommend, or their taste is wildly different than mine. For instance, my brother is aghast at my hatred of The Historian, which he quite enjoyed, so it’s clear our tastes in books are so wildly different that we can’t really recommend books to each other. It doesn’t really occur to me to ask for recommendations, and my friends and family simply don’t recommend books to me.

The Sunday Salon: Book Shopping

Yesterday, I went to Books-a-Million to pick through the clearance section like a particularly determined vulture, as is my wont. To my great delight, I found The Kiss Murder, the first book in a mystery series I want to read. (I know mystery and I have a tenuous relationship, but the protagonist is a Turkish drag queen who knows Thai kickboxing. How can I not read that?) Since I knew it probably wasn’t in any of the library systems available to me and the price was good, it came home with me.

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The Sunday Salon: The Canon

After I finished reading Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, I realized I had, for the first time in my life, read the entire novels of a particular author. It was a weird feeling–I’d never done that before.

Obviously, I’m leaving out the short stories of Eugenides, which, to my knowledge, haven’t been released in a collection yet. But a novel, naturally, is different– while a short story can be just as devastating and freakish (I just read “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”, can you tell?), I feel like a novel is more of a complete work. A short story can give us a window into a world–a novel can show us all the facets of that world.

So, what does reading an author’s entire oeuvre of novels mean to a reader?

I think, like any art form, it allows you to see how the author has grown. Eugenides’ writing has definitely grown between The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex. The Virgin Suicides pales in comparison to Middlesex. It’s actually interesting to see what improves between the books–Eugenides’ handle on a character, his descriptions, and such. It also shows how an author works up to a certain level of comfort. The Virgin Suicides focuses on a reflection on the youth of a group of men who grew up during the 1970s–like Eugenides. While Middlesex doesn’t waste that experience, it’s much bigger in scale, covering a family from the fateful union that produced the gene that produced Cal’s hermaphroditism.

While I haven’t read all of Neil Gaiman’s novels, I feel the same thing is mostly true. Neverwhere focuses on London, somewhere Gaiman is no doubt familiar with. American Gods, however, covers much bigger ground- not only America, but the occasional far-flung side story. I think if I’d read everything by Gaiman, I could produce a lot more patterns, but I haven’t. Watching an author’s writing grow is immensely satisfying to me, as a reader. I tell people to read Neverwhere first so they’ll give it a fighting chance against the magnificence of American Gods.

I’m still chugging away at King Hereafter. That’s my reading life right now, but I’m so, so close to the end. The Fellowship of the Ring is begging me to read it, and I will answer its siren call very soon.

What authors have you read everything by, and how has their work evolved?

Booking Through Thursday: Encouragement

How can you encourage a non-reading child to read? What about a teen-ager? Would you require books to be read in the hopes that they would enjoy them once they got into them, or offer incentives, or just suggest interesting books? If you do offer incentives and suggestions and that doesn’t work, would you then require a certain amount of reading? At what point do you just accept that your child is a non-reader?

I don’t think there’s really such a thing as a non-reader. Whenever I encounter someone who doesn’t like to read, it’s because they have had classics shoved down their throat during school, or because these classics aren’t accessibly written (understandable, given their age). They have to disassociate reading from that, and learn that there are good, interesting, and amazing books out there.

Requiring them to read is a terrible, terrible idea–it just reminds them of school and whatever classic made them hate reading. My mother once required me to read Silas Marner before I could dig into Good Omens. To this day, I remember nothing about Silas Marner, but Good Omens is one of my favorite books. Suggestions and books as gifts are much, much better. A suggestion can lead to a conversation to help the child find a book they’ll like, and everybody likes gifts. If a child hates reading, requiring it will only make them hate it more.

I do have to say, I don’t have much experience with non-readers. Even friends who aren’t as voracious as I am have their favorite books, and I’ve always found myself in spaces dominated by women who read. My mother and I even have books in mind for my brother’s future children. There is little to no chance that a child in my family will hate reading.

Booking Through Thursday: Flapper? Or Not a Flapper?

Do you read the inside flaps that describe a book before or while reading it?

I try and only read books that I’m already interested in or have been recommended to me–it saves me a lot of heartbreak over bad books! But I do read the inside flaps (or back covers) before reading, especially when I’m picking through a bookstore. If a premise or plot grabs me, I add it to my list. But while I’m reading a book, I tend to ignore the flap or back cover in favor of actually reading the book.

The most useful thing on the flap (or back cover) for me are the quotes from critics and other authors. I picked up Sunshine because there’s glowing praise from Neil Gaiman on the cover. If I’m unsure about a book, I use my time-tested strategy to determine whether it’s worth a shot or not. (This also works for DVDs, incidentally.) I check the sources of the quotes–if they’re authors I like or big name newspapers, the book will, most likely, at least be decent. If the sources are very local or only authors in the same genre, I tend to give it a pass. It’s worked well for me over the years.

The Sunday Salon: Bookstores

Until I was seven, I lived in southern California. My parents loved living there–a day trip to Napa Valley was quite feasible (we are French, after all!), and the beach was quite close. But one of my parents’ favorite places was a place called Seaport Village. In Seaport Village, there’s an independent bookstore called Upstart Crow. When I was but a very wee lass, I apparently loved it. (I have to learn these things from a secondhand source, because my memory prior to fourteen is, at best, vague and disjointed. For this, like many things in my blame, I blame high school debate.)

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