Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Autumn Begins

It's not even September yet, but the autumn feels like it has already begun for me. Perhaps it's because I'm back in classes, but the shift in nature has already begun. A coolness has come at night and in the morning and leaves are already beginning to fall.
I already miss the freedom of summer, the time to write stories and query editors and agents will now be reduced to the odd moment between classes and papers and meetings and rehearsals. Still, aesthetically the autumn is my favorite time of year and something about cooling weather always draws me to thick books and steaming tea cups.
My class schedule is ambitious, but I'm excited about all my classes. I'm taking an honors course on "Webs and Imagined Spaces"-- it explores how story telling has changed, from basic fairy and folk tales to the Victorian era, and now how electronic media is changing the reading experience again. Our first major project is to write our own fairy tales which we will tell in a hypertext format, linking parts of the story so it can be read in different orders if you follow the links in a specific pattern. We are also writing our own ending for Dickens' The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the novel he died before completing.
I'll post some of my work on here as I go.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rock Me Like a Hurricane

I've survived pretty well this weekend. Probably because of all my preparation which included bringing all the potted herbs in and making sure I had a stack of books. My father's preparations included securing pizza and beer. We have our priorities. Many friends had hurricane parties yesterday and a local cafe made their evening cocktail special "Hurricane Hooch."
Actually, where I live fared far better than the town above us. Even though we're lower, we have so much farmland and preserved open space around us, that much of the overflow from the stream was absorbed. My friend Amy who only lives a few miles away called me this morning to say that a boat went by their house. Though we are fortunate, we are also stuck. Many of the major roads are flooded or have downed trees and power lines to contend with. The rain has stopped, but the wind is whipping up, so though we have power now, that may change.
Of course, tomorrow morning I have my first class of the semester which may be a problem. Currently all routes to campus are impassable.
I have discovered that minor natural disaster bring out my nesting instinct. I picked apples on Friday and made apple sauce. It's pretty fantastic. Then I made peach and pear preserves which we had on toast this morning.
I hope everyone is staying safe and having fantastic hurricane parties.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jane Eyre 2011

I was finally able to watch this new adaptation of one of my favorite novels. Due to its limited theatrical release, I had to wait for the DVD to come out.

Unlike the novel, which is told chronologically, the film starts toward the end of the story with Jane's escape from Thornfield and discovery by St. John Rivers. This makes the story unfold through a series of memories. Jane thinks back to her childhood and her brutal schooling. Gradually then, we get to the main part of the story, Jane's life at Thornfield Hall. Time and events are extremely condensed due to the necessity of keeping the film short enough for theatrical release, but the emphasis on Jane's memory telling the story explains why passages of time seem to be missing. She is remembering the important moments in her time at Thornfield and in her relationship with Mr. Rochester.
The passage with St. John and his sisters takes on a different shade as well. The relationship is changed between Jane and St. John by their miraculous discovery of shared blood being removed from the story. It also credits St. John with more desire for Jane than he had in the original novel.
There are many important moments from the novel that are missing from this film. The character of Grace Poole is almost entirely missing and Mr. Rochester's house party only appears to last about two days, skirting over some important moments that occur between the characters during it. Having seen the deleted scenes, I believe that the veil ripping passage should have been included, it adds to the reason for Rochester's haste on the wedding day and also adds to the sense of menace and danger of the house's secrets.
Though it does lack many elements from the novel, it does still offer worthwhile qualities for Jane Eyre fans. This adaptation emphasizes the the gothic elements of the story, the other worldliness that Jane possesses and experiences, but also the fearful qualities of Thornfield. It also does an excellent job of illustrating Jane's youthfulness and inexperience. Though the 2006 mini-series adaptation preserves the story much better, due to the maturity exuded by Ruth Wilson, Jane seems to be older. Mia Wasikowska is a younger actress and better captures the fact that Jane is in her late teens, she has no experience with or knowledge of men. Though she is inexperienced, she is full of spirit and has a strong sense of self respect.
Michael Fassbender was an excellent choice for the role of Rochester. He has childlike moments of moodiness, but the deeper levels to his inner turmoil peek through, though still finding a sense of teasing to his behavior at times. Another level he brings to the character is that of desperation. He has an emotional vulnerability influenced by his past that tears the heart at moments.
Rochester is not supposed to be a pretty sort of hero, but he is given many moments of masculine strength, shown in his shirt sleeves working with his hands which makes him develop into a very attractive figure. His interactions with Jane are what make him endearing. He sees into her and appreciates her worth, he treats her with value. This exceeds all of his miserable moods, we see that with Jane he is better, and that helps Jane to blossom as well. They are perfect complements.
It is a very respectable adaptation and would be a good introduction to those unfamiliar with the story. The cast and the artistic development of atmospere is what takes it beyond the realms of mediocre and make it a piece that can hold its own against other adaptations.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Herman Melville Meets Dragons?

The Syfy channel is notorious for awful original movies. The Age of Dragons is no exception. While flipping through the channels the other night I came upon this movie. My father's a dragon buff so we paused to watch a few minutes.
It was an adaptation of Melville's famous novel Moby Dick. In a world where lamps and machinery are run on vitriol, a sort of inflammatory dragon oil, Captain Ahab hunts the great White Dragon who killed his sister and maimed him as a child. Ishmael and Queequeg soon join the crew after being recruited by Rachel, Ahab's daughter (an invented character that does not appear in the book). They travel in a sort of tank/ship across a vast terrain while commanded by Ahab who never shows his face to the daylight. Ahab was played dramatically by Danny Glover.
I did not watch the movie all the way through. Being familiar with the source material, I know that only one man would survive the voyage (and that adding a female character gives a romantic interest for Ishmael and lets there be two survivors.) It was not very well written and had poorly conceived CGI dragons.
Still, it was an intriguing oddity, a fantasy version of a classic nautical tale. If you love dragons or Melville, it may be worth a look. Just don't get your hopes up.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sherlock Season 2 News

Sherlock fans have been clinging to a mere 3 episodes for almost a year now. Any crumbs of news about the next set help calm the manic frustration.
Most of you have probably heard the 3 major Holmes stories that Moffat has said this season is going to cover. It's an ambitious line up: A Scandal in Bohemia which introduces "The Woman," Irene Adler; The Hound of the Baskervilles, Doyle's best novel and one of the most adapted stories ever written; and The Final Problem where Holmes has his cross-country battle with Moriarty ending in Switzerland at the top of Reichenbach Falls. All of these stories have slightly adjusted titles for their episode names: A Scandal in Belgravia, The Hounds of the Baskerville, and The Reichenbach Fall.
The most recent bits of news have been about the anticipated air dates and the casting of Irene Adler.
Unfortunately the originally optimistic "Fall 2011" for season 2 has now been pushed back by the BBC to "Winter 2011." After a recent encore of all three episodes this date change was announced, but the hoped for season 2 trailer has not come to light yet. Word is that some American PBS stations won't be showing the new series until as late as May 2012. I find that absurd, British viewers shouldn't be surprised if American friends beg for them to mercifully upload it onto YouTube.
There has been a lot of speculation over the casting of the character Irene Adler for the first episode of the season. Emily Blunt, Rosario Dawkins, many American and British actors have been suggested as good possibilities. This week I've heard that Laura Pulver will be taking the role. Pulver is known for her roles on the American series True Blood and the recent British production of Robin Hood.
She is a very striking actress and I'm curious to see both her take and the writer's take on how the character adapts to a modern setting. She is a little older than many of the speculated actresses, but that may add interesting overtones to the character. I am a little disappointed that they didn't choose an American actress, as the character is from New Jersey in Doyle's original story.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman

This book was courtesy of the local library. I selected it by playing the "shelf game" where I pick a random shelf of books and grab whatever looks good to me on it.
When recently widowed Meg Rosenthal brings her daughter to the Arcadia boarding school for the arts it feels like stepping into a fairy tale, a fairy tale that brings the fears of nightmares to the surface. In fact, Meg's favorite story growing up, The Changeling Girl was written by the school's founders, Lily and Vera.
Meg's financial difficulties and relationship with her teenage daughter Sally move her to take the post at the school, but they don't signal an end to her problems. During the First Night celebration a student dies in a way the mimics the death of Lily 60 years before. Meg is soon untangling the past to better understand the tragedy of the present.

Goodman has deeply steeped her story in symbolism and myth. She plays with a circular sense of justice and connection that, though initially proves satisfying, feels redundant and improbably by the end of the book. The first seven eighths of the book are enjoyable and engaging, you unravel the mystery along with Meg and feel the atmosphere of the woods and her crumbling cottage.
One also feels invested in Sally's development and the relationship between mother and daughter. Indeed, this story continually comes back to the legacy a mother leaves for her child and the relationships between women. The characters of Sally's school friends sometimes come across as cardboard cut-outs, with the exception of Chloe, who also grows as the story continues. Goodman also strives add realism to her teenage characters by pop-culture references which come across as startling, especially when compared to the ethereal sense of timelessness she cultivates through the rest of the book.
Arcadia Falls is a suspenseful story about the lives of women, about love and sacrifice. It combines mystery with family drama, history, and even a little romance. It is a decent read for a sticky summer afternoon or a long trip, but the ending still annoys me. Unfortunately, though there are many things to like about this book, it is uneven.