Movie Adaptations

Dear Wife and I recently went out to see “The Hunger Games” movie, and since then I’ve been thinking a lot about my reaction to the movie, and about how it compares to my reaction to the book.  And this got me thinking about the movie adaptations of books more generally.

One word of warning: as I discuss my thoughts on this subject, I’m bound to offer some spoilers from the movies and books I touch on. 

With respect to “The Hunger Games”, there were things I enjoyed about the movie.  It was certainly, in my opinion, a good movie worth seeing and I’m actually eager to see it again when it’s available to watch at home.  There were elements of the movie that made it superior to reading the book.  But there were elements that definitely made it inferior to the book as well. 

For example: the additional scenes focusing on Seneca and President Snow and Haymitch add a lot to the story – a depth that you don’t get from the book alone.  The scene that shows the reaction of Rue’s father after her death in the Games, and the resulting riot in District 11, was much more powerful on an emotional level than the abstraction of Katniss receiving a baked loaf and realizing it came from District 11.  On the other hand, the use of “Shaky Cam” was so disruptive in the early scenes that viewers never really felt settled in this world.  Even more problematic, the movie treated the relationship between Katniss and Rue in such a cursory fashion that the viewer doesn’t have time to be impressed by that relationship before Rue’s death.  I imagine that the viewer that hasn’t read the books might be a tad perplexed as to why Katniss reacts so strongly: poor Rue only had maybe five or ten minutes of screen time, tops (and that’s being generous by counting scenes in which she appears in the background), before her tragic death.  You really only understand how important this relationship was by reading the book. 

As I contemplated this, I realized something. Continue reading

Book Monster

It occurs to me that some of you may not fully appreciate what I meant when I said, recently, that Dear Wife and I had created a monster.

I submit, for your consideration, the following:

B.T. Reading Brandon Sanderson's "The Way of Kings"
B.T. Reading Brandon Sanderson’s “The Way of Kings”

It is my supposition that B.T.can’t actually read the book he pulled off of my shelf.  But that’s not going to stop him from trying!

All he knows for sure is that what he’s picked up is a book, and if there’s one thing he loves, it’s books.

Some related facts about B.T. and books:

  • The first thing B.T. asks for when he wakes every morning is a book.  Literally. When either Dear Wife or I go in to get him in the morning, he smiles, jumps up for us to pick him up, and then says “Book?”
  • The second-to-last thing B.T. wants every night before going to sleep is, you guessed it, to sit on Mommy or Daddy’s lap and read a book.  (The very last thing he asks for? A song.  Or two, or three.  One thing he loves as much as books is music.)
  • On any given day, Dear Wife and I may read between 5 and 50 books to B.T.  (More on weekends, naturally, when he’s around us the whole day.)
  • It is not unheard of, when Dear Wife brings B.T. home from daycare, for B.T. to instruct Dear Wife as follows: “Call Daddy.  Daddy read book.”  His intention is clear to us.  He wants Dear Wife to call me and tell me to come home so I can read him a book.  Typically, he will accept Mommy reading a book or ten to him in the interim.
  • I had an old Economics textbook sitting around, leftover from my recent stint in an evening MBA program.  Having no further use for it, it was time to clear it out.  B.T. cried when I took it out of the house.  He’d grown fond of it, despite the fact that it had very few pictures.

Books I Put Down Without Finishing

In the past few weeks I’ve talked a lot about the books on my “to read” list, and about the genres of YA and Epic Fantasy (here, here, here, here and here) and frequently the conversation in the comments has turned to books that weren’t worth finishing reading.

I, like many readers and other writers, am constantly strapped for time.  There’s a lot going on, between being a day-job warrior, a superhero father, a debonaire husband, and a fantastically inspired writer.  Amidst all that, I also like to read.  But I just don’t have time for books that aren’t delivering something of value to me.

What that value is might be negotiable and variable.  Usually it’s some form of enjoyment or entertainment.  But I also appreciate the use of beautiful language, engaging plot, interesting characters, and other such accoutrements of fine writing – all of which can be subcomponents of “enjoyment” for my purposes.  Then there’s the value of informative qualities, education, experiencing something new, and so on which good writing can also be.  Long story short, if a book isn’t doing several of these things for me, I probably don’t have time for it.

So, I thought it might be instructive, as a writer and as a reader, to go over all the books I’ve put down – the books I stopped reading, for whatever reason, and haven’t yet finished reading. Continue reading

Finding What to Read (Part 2)

Last time I talked about my “To Read” list, but I didn’t get to the gist of what I wanted to talk about, which is: How do you decide what goes on your reading list?  How do you find books you want to read?  How do you learn about new authors?

For myself, the books on my list have ended up there through any number of circuitous paths.  The George R. R. Martin books, for instance, I’d been hearing good things about for years before I finally bought a copy of the first four at a used book store.  I think I first heard about them on a forum I used to frequent at an RPG community site, where those books came up often in favorites lists.  Brandon Sanderson, meanwhile, I became aware of when he was chosen to finish “The Wheel of Time” after Robert Jordan’s untimely passing.  (Jordan’s books, on the other hand, entered my consciousness mainly because my parents bought them when I was younger). 

Most of the books on my list, however, came to this list over the last couple years, and especially after I started this blog.  I started collecting links to the websites and blogs of different authors.  Continue reading

Finding What to Read (Part 1)…

Being Part the First:

In Which I Declare My Official “To Read” List

During the past three years of grad school, I did very little writing and very little reading.  I finished one novelette-length short story.  I read two novels (both “Wheel of Time” books, and actually only half of the second), half of another novel and a few small volumes of short stories.

Since graduating a few months ago, I’ve upped the amps on my writing.  But my reading is still continuing at roughly the same pace.  Largely, I’d felt so deprived of writing while I worked on grad school that I wanted to focus my free time on writing, at least until I was in the thick of my novel and making solid progress (i.e. at least until I had actual draft wordcount on the novel, and not just background stuff).  But my slow reading these past few years hasn’t stopped a tsunami of excellent fiction from exploding into my consciousness.  It’s for that reason that my “To Read” list has grown into something of an unmanageable behemoth, and an unstoppable juggernaut.  To make anything like a dent in that list I’d have to take a few months off from work and dedicate a lot of time exclusively to reading.  Which… ain’t gonna happen.

At some point, I’m going to pivot some of my time to reading a little more again.  Because it’s not like other writers are going to stop writing awesome books just because I haven’t had time to read them.  And if I don’t read those awesome books, I might die unfulfilled.

Right now, my “To Read” list is broken into four parts, and looks like this:

I. Books I Own

A Clash of Kings* by George R. R. Martin

Mistborn: The Final Empire¹ by Brandon Sanderson

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings¹ (signed) by Brandon Sanderson

The Children of Amarid¹ (signed) by David B. Coe

The Name of the Wind¹ by Patrick Rothfuss

A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin

The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction by Philip Athans with introduction by R. A. Salvatore

The Writer’s Digest Guide to Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card and the Editors of Writer’s Digest with introduction by Terry Brooks (this is a combo volume of Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy and Writer’s Digest’s The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference) Continue reading

A Tough Row to Hoe…

A couple quick links this afternoon.

The first concerns Kathryn Stockett, author of bestselling book The Help.  In this recent essay she talks about how her book was rejected sixty times before she found it a home.  We’ve heard this story before (i.e. Harry Potter, etc.)  A few questions or thoughts for discussion on this one: If you really believe in your book, how far are you willing to go to see it published?  How long will you stick it out?  And in this day and age of increasing media consolidation and hair-raising questions about Agent accountability and conflicts of interest, when such stories abound of the intermediaries inabilities to recognize a gem when they find one, dare we continue to put our faith in those intermediaries?  Would any of these books – the ones where we hear about the astounding number of rejections a book received before going on to fabulous bestsellerdom – still be bestsellers if the authors had not stuck it out with traditional publishing and instead opted to self-publish?

The second link is to a discussion on NPR with Terry Pratchett, author of the popular Discworld series, on the subject of his Alzheimer’s diagnosis and assisted suicide.  I hesitate even to post this link.  I’ve never read anything by Pratchett, and I’m sure I’m all the poorer for it.  But it disturbed me to consider the idea of a famous, respected, and well-loved pillar of the Fantasy literature community thinking about the possibility of ending his own life, or even on the possibility of losing his own mind.  I must admit that one of my greatest fears of old age is of losing my mind – because largely the internal world is the only world I really have… where things make sense and good always wins.  If I haven’t got that to retreat to… well… the alternative is too deressing to contemplate, isn’t it?  No guiding questions on this one.  I just wanted to point it out.

Choose Your Own Adventure…

Dear Wife and I were talking the other day about books, and about reading.  We’re both pretty avid readers.  But whereas I read almost exclusively in the speculative fiction genres, and venture outside those boundaries only rarely (if you’re going to read for enjoyment, you might as well read what you enjoy, and so I do), Dear Wife reads widely across many different genres, including non-fiction.  As we were talking, Dear Wife commented that she didn’t want B.T. to read only fantasy and science fiction.

“Didn’t you read anything else, when you were a kid?” she asked.  “Like, the Hardy Boys or something?” Continue reading