Monday, December 28, 2009

The Game's Afoot

In the spirit of holiday togetherness I consented to --against my wishes -- see that detestable abomination that is being hailed as a movie based off of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and . . . I liked it.

Mostly. I wouldn't call it a film that captures the essence that is Sherlock Holmes (If that is in fact what you are looking for I would suggest PBS's The Case of the Silk Stocking, featuring Rupert Everett as Holmes. He has the part down to perfection.) The excess of action in the new film got on my nerves. Not that I minded them giving Holmes a chance to fight. These are adventure novels after all, and I even squeal with glee to see my dear Watson back to his original role as a competent individual as opposed to the blotting idiot with a mustache the movies usually portray him as, but over five minutes of he-hits-him-who-hits-the-other-guy-back-who-them-proceeds-to-hit-him-again isn't exciting. Its boring. And why was all of London suddenly under construction? I wish they would have kept Holmes' internal, analytical narration of his movies throughout the heavier action sequences. It was adorable.

I also would have preferred they cut out the bald scary guy. I liked him, but the buff, bald, stooge, rival is a stereotype in action movies that I don't altogether like. And let the records show that I detested, abhorred, hated and could not stand the Irene Adler. Honestly, the character has one conversation with Holmes in one short story and if they are going to transport her character into a rival/past lover instead of client who he admires they should at least have the decency to make her interesting.

But other than these flaws that I have been so helpful as to point out --with perhaps the addition of Holmes being a little more deliberately nasty than he should be -- I enjoyed the movie. I liked the way they pulled bits and pieces of the novels to make the plot, particularly the red haired midget, but also the secret society and the rivalry with Lestrade was superb. Gotta love friendly bickering. . .

In other, only slightly related, news, I have just finished reading The Master of Ballanstrae by Robert Louis Stevenson and I loved every second of it. Vengeance. Sibling Rivalry. Betrayal. Storms. Burred treasure. Stevenson may well have been a genius. There is something about reading a pure, unadulterated "Blood and Thunder" adventure that just completely absorbs you.

I think this book comes at a good time too, as I am just finishing up the last two chapters of my own book and am plaguing myself with the question of "What does it all mean?". Because no matter what philosophical or political questions are raised, and though THE CITY OF GEAL (as I am calling it until a more suitable title can be found) has been assigned the more grandeur, high minded title of an "epic", it is, first and foremost, an adventure novel. Made to be read well into the night, keeping the reader gripped by the drama as it unfolds. Any other concerns of being misinterpreted or having an unfair --or even too easy -- ending can be put out of my mind to be mulled over by class rooms a hundred years from now (yeah right). I have followed the story to its end and that's all I need to do.

Happy adventures all

Friday, December 18, 2009

Book Pairings

I would like to write a brilliant introductions to explain exactly WHY I feel the need to hype some of my favorite books and explain the ideal conditions in which to read them, but alas, I don't know why. Instead you will have to live with the introduction of "Here are some of my favorite books and the ideal conditions in which to read them"

Here are some of my favorite books and the ideal conditions in which to read them.

Straw Into Gold-- by Gary D. Schmidt
Mmmmm. Comfort pressed between pages. This was the first book I ever read, honest to goodness, cover to cover, by the light that trickled into my room from the bathroom while I was supposed to be asleep. I recently reread it to see if I would still find it as spellbinding and . . . I did. True, it has a very innocents, maybe even naive, storyline, but if you're feeling a little lonely or tired there's nothing wrong with a little innocence. This book is best read (cover to cover) with a steaming cup of hot apple cider and a bowl of oatmeal smothered in honey.

The Thirteenth Tale-- by Diana Setter
This is a November book. True, it could be read in January or December or September if the night (yes, this book must be read at night) were stormy enough, but if it can be helped at all read this book in November. Pour yourself a glass of wine or your favorite hot tea, curl up with a soft blanket next to the window, and read. But only a chapter or two at a time. Some books just make your skin crawl better when you let them fester in your mind a little longer.

Swordspoint --By Ellen Kushner
This book is nothing if not decedent. Elaborate. Luxurious. Read on a long morning when you have nothing at all to do but pamper yourself. Climb into a bath full of bubbles with a glass of champagne and a plate of iced cakes and enjoy. Or sit outside in a silk dressing robe (do people still wear those?) while eating the fanciest breakfast your imaginations can conjure up. The point (ah, a pun on the book's title. How quaint.) is to be absolutely ridiculously comfortable --so you can savor the blood.

I Capture the Castle --by Dottie Smith
I have less detailed instructions for this one. Mainly I think a copy should be given to every girl dealing with a break-up and though I have not yet tried cherry brandy if you read the book you will understand why that is the beverage to drink while reading it. It is an outside book to be read somewhere quiet and secluded in the spring or summer. Preferably barefoot.

Beauty; a Retelling of Beauty and the Beast --by Robin McKinley
Give to your friends when they are sick and can't go anywhere. Also give them roses.

Though I have not followed these instructions myself in every detail I remain convinced that this is the surest way to achieve maximum enjoyment out of these books, however, as a warning I also have a few books that, while fabulous in and of themselves, you may NOT want to read in certain conditions. A assure you, this is the voice of experience this time.

The Queen of Attolia --by Megan Whelan Turner
DO NOT read in the dentist office while waiting to get a root canal. Specifically the scene where a certain character is tied to a chair so he can get his hand lopped off. Just don't ok.

Briar Rose --by Jane Yolen
DO NOT read while you have fever, are in pain, and need something to keep your mind distracted. Delirious dreams about the holocaust are just not cool

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ye Old Faithful Companion

The objects comprised of stacked and bound paper, adorned with the scrawls of ink in the shapes of a predetermined codes, most often referred to as books, have existed throughout the span of time. Their earlier versions may have been scrolls and and even verbal communication but their primary purpose was always the same: to share and record, ideas, stories and information. Most books today are kept neatly on shelves when they are not being devoured by hungry eyes but it may be advisable to keep at least one book on hand at all times. The companionship of a book always in hand not only provides a ready weapon and cloak of near invisibility but transports entire worlds, ready to open at the carrier's whim.
Though a book can be cumbersome to carry at first it is invaluable as a weapon against those who pose a threat or appear bothersome. A reader standing in a corner is actually carrying a practical bludgeon that requires little effort to reach out and thump an unsavory character across the head. This, of course, seems most obvious in a hard covered copy but even a paperback, applied with the right force, can give adequate pain to an advisory.
A book also possesses the magical ability to render its holder invisible. Upon seeing someone engrossed in a book --or perhaps pretending to be engrossed -- an unsuspecting observer will assume the reader oblivious to the outside world and say the most interesting things. Many bits of information can be achieved in this manner without ever arousing suspicion on the part of the speakers. This assumption induced invisibility is also useful in avoiding unpleasant conversation. In an extreme case a book cover can hide the identity of a competent reader from those with whom they do not wish to converse but even if the reader is recognized an acquaintance may pass by without comment and never realize that they have been snubbed.
When conversation does become necessary --or even desired --a book is equally useful in steering the direction of a conversation. If the book is well chosen it will spring a conversation that is of interest on the part of the reader. Because most have less time to read they will conclude the constant raving about books to indicate either an exceptionally high intelligence or an unbalanced and slightly mad mentality. Either way they will be more apprehensive when speaking to the reader in the future. However, if they too are able to fully appreciate such discussions, a wonderful friendship is born.
Of course the assumption that a reader is oblivious to the rest of the world is not entirely without merit. More than half the time it is true. A book is a portal into another world and can provide an escape, not only from tiresome people but hectic schedules and unendurable monotony. The fact that a simple stack of pages can be brought almost anywhere: bus stations, jury duty, pep rallies, parties, and even bars should not be overlooked. A book can rescue moments in these places from unsavory nothingness by feeding the mind with words.
Not even words can provide a lasting escape from stress and tension but they can give a reader wisdom to take with them even when the momentary diversion has ended. A story is a mini-world full of the same problems and confusions as real life. Once could visit world within world within world and never escape the grueling questions of life but seeing the life of a character from a broader, more objective viewpoint can help bring new perceptions an insight with which to live. Even nonfiction is a transportation into a world inside the author's head --into thoughts and experiences that can can be explored.Small side effects such as burning dinner, running into poles, and not hearing your name when it is called for the winning of a lottery seem like a fair price to pay for this exchange. A well written book is more than an indulgence in escapism. It has the power to revive a reader and strengthen them for the trials they face.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Second Beginning

Greetings. Although this is my first post Taliesin already has a history. A short history yes, but a history. Wait, doesn't that make it . . . a story. Well, the beginning of one at least.

Taliesin is the name of a legendary Welsh Bard, often connected with Arthurian lore. I chose his name to give to my zine (a sort of underground magazine) because it covered stories of any kind, shape or color, with a particular draw towards no limitations of the supernatural. But, alas, after over a year of scraping change to make copies and hours and hours of folding and stapling them together, even though I managed three separate issues, Taliesin has no readers. I fear I may be wasting paper. And time. And money. For now at least, a blog is more practical.

What you can expects to find here should you return:

Poetry. Mostly older stuff but occasionally I still try my hand at verse.

Book discussions. Not just reviews but analysis of how and why a certain story might work --or not work, coupled of course with luscious praise for good craftsmanship.

Interviews with authors. I'm keeping my fingers crossed about this one. I did actually manage to get an interview from Lisa Mantchev, author of EYES LIKE THE STARS, for Taliesin in its paper form --all the more disappointing that no one ever read it.

Questions --and hopefully answers --about the process of writing.

Anything else that crawls through my brain, itching to be written about.