Friday, March 30, 2012

My sweet friend, Elizabeth


Thank you to Cynthia, who sent me this lovely picture of my friend Elizabeth. As you know, Elizabeth recently died of esophageal cancer. I had only one photo of her--luckily of the two of us together--but it did not feature her curly hair (natural) and how she would want to be remembered, which is all dressed up and looking beautiful! Elizabeth had such a glow about her. I think this picture captures it so well. So, thank you, Cynthia, for sending that to me!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Did they even read the book????

Article about racist tweets pertaining to The Hunger Games.

(More about this here.)

??????

Did these people not even read the book???

Collins clearly states that Rue has dark skin, but race is ambiguous at best in The Hunger Games. The reason: I think it is because the message comes down to ideas about class and war and all kinds of things that affect people of all races.

I suppose that to some people "dark skin" can also mean a great tan...BUT: It also shouldn't matter. Death is death, and it is sad that people think a child's death is "not as sad" because the child is black. Disgusting. These people should be ashamed of themselves.

I have read commentary about people being disappointed that Kat was white. In the book, Collins says that she has olive skin....which could mean that she could be represented by an actor of many races--white, black, Asian, Hispanic, etc.--or a biracial actor. I can understand some of the arguments stating that the alignment between Kat and District 11 would have been strengthened had she been played by an African American actress, but I also think that Jennifer Lawrence did an excellent job playing Katniss. In the pool of young actors today, I can't think of a better person.

It is natural to identify characters with yourself when you are reading. If someone identified with Rue, and that someone happened to be white, they might visualize a white Rue in their head in spite of being told that she has dark skin. In some respects, this is positive and exactly what (I think) Collins wants us to do in the novel--identify with the characters. But the ultimate message is that we are all people--and we have to identify with death and suffering no matter what the race, class, etc. of a character might be.

Review of Francine Prose's "Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife"

For my review of Francine Prose's Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife is up at The Friendly Reader!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Review: The Hunger Games: the movie

On Friday afternoon, I went to see The Hunger Games! As many of you know, I am a *huge* fan of the books, and, as always when seeing a movie adapted from a book, my concern is, "Did they get it right??"
I am happy to say that they did. The film version of The Hunger Games is remarkable in its casting and script, its visual effects, and, quite simply, its mood. The experience of seeing the film was both wonderful and sad, because I have such emotional attachment to the series. I bought the first book on December 21, and Elizabeth called me the next day and told me that she had cancer. The books were a sort of refuge for me during that time.

You all know how I feel about the series. I think the books and the many messages to be taken from them are important. Very important. The story isn't original--it is a retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur story, after all, and other books with similar plots have been written--but it goes so much further than other stories. The depth and emotion is incredible. And, after all is said and done, I have come to respect the final novel, for I realize some of what it is doing now. But: this rant is only to say that I had high expectations of the movie, because it needs to convey that importance. I think that it succeeded, in general.

Anyway...the movie: There are differences between the book and the movie of course, but, in general, I don't have many criticisms.



As for what I loved:

1. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. LOVE HER. I have since I saw her in Winter's Bone a couple of years ago.

2. The interactions between Katniss and her sister. Wow. I wasn't prepared for such strong acting from the little girl who played Prim. She was phenomenal. I had really prepared myself not to cry when Rue dies, but it was Prim who had me crying early on, esp. at the reaping. Her terror transferred off the screen in such an amazing way.

3. I really liked how we saw the "behind the scenes" computer manipulation of the games.



4. And last, but not least: I LOVED Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. I thought he was wonderful. My only question: Was it just me or was there some kind of serious chemistry between Jennifer and Lenny?? I mean, seriously. They commanded the screen when they were together. He is one of my favorite characters, and I don't know that it was intentional for them to seem so connected in any way that was romantic...but, wow...I really sensed something.





The few complaints that I do have are as follows:


1. In the book, I never forgot that children were killing children. In the movie, I started to forget this a bit. I don't really know why, but maybe it was just that these "children" seemed so grown up.


2. I didn't think that the movie explained the reaping very well or why Gale had placed his name in the mix more than once.


3. I didn't like that--at least in my opinion--it came off that Kat started to trust Peeta so much and so early on.

Obviously, the experience of reading the book allows us to get inside Kat's mind much more, but those were my only complaints.


So, I encourage everyone to go see the movie. It is wonderful! And, if you haven't read the books, GO TO YOUR BOOKSTORE OR LIBRARY NOW. You must read them!!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rain!

I am so happy that it finally rained today! And it rained allllllllll day!! 

I have dealt with horrible allergy issues over the last few weeks--especially the last two weeks. So, the rain was a welcome event. Here's hoping it washed some of the pollen away!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Small House at Allington, by Anthony Trollope

The review has been posted at "The Friendly Reader"!

The Selfish Giant (by Oscar Wilde, Dan Goeller, Chris Beatrice, and Martin Jarvis)



A few weeks ago, I received a very kind e-mail from Dan Goeller. Dan happened upon my post about Oscar Wilde's sons--Cyril, in particular--and he told me about a very special project he had recently completed. It turns out that Dan, a talented composer who has worked with the National Symphony, the Nashville Symphony, the Arkansas Symphony, and many others, recently composed music to accompany a new children's book adaptation of Oscar Wilde's short fairy tale "The Selfish Giant." Dan asked if I would be willing to review the book and I eagerly agreed, of course, because I love Wilde's work! As per blog rules, I must disclose to you that though I was approached to review the book, I have not been told what to say. So, everything below is my own opinion!

For those of you unfamiliar with Oscar Wilde's fairy tales, you might be very surprised to know that they largely convey traditional Victorian values and often convey a message grounded in Christian theology and morality. Such is the case with "The Selfish Giant," which is a fairy story about a giant who runs off a group of children who play in his garden each day. Once he banishes them, eternal winter visits his property, and it is only when he allows the children back in, seeing the gift that they are, that spring returns. There is one child in particular that brings this about--a symbolic Christ child--and he plays an especially important role in the ending of the story. As for the ending, it might shock some modern readers for its sadness and meaning, as we do not often see such subjects brought up in children's books (no, I won't spoil it!), but it should be known that Victorian children's stories did not shy from exposing darkness or sadness in their content.

So, okay...what makes this new version so amazing? Why not just download a free copy of "The Selfish Giant" on the internet and not spend money for a children's book? Well, I will tell you. Simply put, this version of Wilde's story is beautiful and amazing, and I cannot think of a better way to introduce a child to classic literature. (In fact, I would love to see this done with several classics!) The quality of work put into it stunned me. Wilde would have loved it. The illustrations by Beatrice are outstanding--exactly the kind of illustrations I dream of in children's books. And the accompanying CD that contains the narration of the story by Martin Jarvis (a British actor with an esteemed resume) and the musical adaptation of the story by Goeller...well, it is just beyond words to describe it! I honestly felt as if I were experiencing the same kind of magic that I found myself engulfed in when I saw Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Goeller specifically takes the story and puts it into music form, allowing the reader to have a comprehensive experience that goes beyond the page. Pop in the CD and you will be amazed. The musical score is gorgeous and each moment perfectly corresponds to both the illustrations and the narration. The emotion of the music and the meaning of the story...really, I am not talented enough to put it into words. If you are simply a fan of Wilde or Victorian literature and want a beautiful version of the story, or if you want to give an heirloom-type book to your child, this book would be a wonderful gift to yourself or to a child. It really is one of the highest quality children's book productions that I have seen in a very long time. Wilde once said that the story brought tears to his eyes each time he told it--and it is easy to see why.

So, do yourself a favor and check out "The Selfish Giant" adaptation by Goeller, Beatrice, and Jarvis. You won't be disappointed!

NOTE: This review has also been posted on Amazon.com and on "The Friendly Reader."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Elizabeth Lemon, My Dear Friend, I Will Miss You.




My dear friend Elizabeth passed away today due to complications from esophageal cancer. She remains one of the most wonderful friends I have had the privilege to know. We met in library school back  in the 2004-2005 school year and, despite the age difference, became close very quickly.

But Elizabeth and I became more than friends...more like sisters. During our second semester, we had to travel back and forth to Gadsden for a class once a month. It was during one of those trips that I experienced some devastating news and Elizabeth helped me through it, telling me her own life story that made my small loss seem totally insignificant. That wasn't her point, of course, but out of that evening a connection was strengthened between us. Over the years, we never lost touch or our ability to talk about anything.

Yes, Elizabeth: it was indeed a "God thing" between us.

I love you and miss you already. But I am so glad that you slipped out of this world and into the next with significant ease. You had already suffered so much. I send love to Chuck, Mary, William, Christian, and Mary Porter...and to the scores of people who loved you. I wish that I could have seen you one more time. We were planning on that trip to Gulf Shores in a couple of weeks, and you wanted me there with you for a short while. I would have been so happy to have shared that time with you, as we talked about it last Sunday during our weekly phone call.

You have gone down a road I cannot travel yet, but my love and memories are with you. Rest peacefully, sweet friend.

Monday, March 12, 2012

No Name by Wilkie Collins

I have reviewed No Name...finally! I have added the review on my book review blog at The Friendly Reader.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spring Break, Day 1: Madison experiences the Quad



Today, sweet Madison and I, along with Mom, went out to the Quad. It was such a beautiful day, and we decided to pose next to the tulips in front of Denny Chimes. A great day to spend some time with the sweet pup! Happy Spring, everyone!

Friday, March 09, 2012

The future of privacy in literature and film; Or, a long rant that leads to discussion of Victorian literature, horror films, the Duggars, and (of course) the Hunger Games.

I just had an interesting conversation with my boss (and very good friend) about the future of privacy. I think of the important role privacy has played throughout literature, and the thought that the next generation may have no understanding of the private moment as a dramatic device or meaningful plot moment really concerns me.

We got onto this discussion when I told her about various Apps on iPhones and iPads having access to your personal information--information like your contacts list and your text messages. Then, she brought up the excellent point that so many of the young people in the generations coming up have no concept of privacy. Everything is out there for everyone to see (usually on Facebook or Twitter)--their baby photos, their mom's exasperation with their behavior as toddlers and teenagers, their college indiscretions, their love lives, etc.

I can't help but think that we are experiencing a major shift in the way we look at privacy and its actual definition. I am not talking about a political argument here or about whether or not we should have cameras on the streets. No--just the concept of privacy and how that has changed, especially in its role in literature and tension in the stories we read and tell.

Reading, in itself, is a very private act.


As I have mentioned before on this blog, one of the main reasons reading was and is considered dangerous is because you have no interference between the reader and what he or she sees on the page. In other words, it is an intensely private moment that can lead to various outcomes. In the past, women, especially, were told that reading was bad for them, and many parents refused to teach their female children to read. I won't go into all of that here, but the point is that the inability to control the private act of reading (when everything else could be controlled in a female child's life) was a huge deal to many (and still is, in some cases).

Then, in novels and plays (especially those of the nineteenth century), we see women struggling with the moral implications of privacy. Women are often portrayed as being in the company of other women or family members twenty-four hours a day. Women slept in the same bed together, went walking together, went shopping together, etc. All of this occurred because the idea of a woman being alone was considered dangerous and, in some cases, immoral. A woman alone was subject to becoming a victim of gossip--especially if she was in the company of a man without the observant eye of a chaperone watching over them.

When a reader sees a woman alone with a man in one of these stories or plays, there is a shift in meaning and in the tension of the story. Suddenly, the stakes are higher. Suddenly, something could happen.

I think about how this line of thinking has changed and how it has stayed the same, depending upon the group you are in at the time. For example, we think nothing (most of the time) of a woman and man alone together in a film or a book. In fact, we look forward to it because it is romantic. Or, even more incomprehensible to the Victorians, we think nothing of it because it is normal.

But this isn't the case in all genres of films or books. Take a horror movie, for example. We still know exactly what is going to happen if a woman is alone in a house at night. (Yes, this is an issue dependent upon the sex of the "victim.") We all know what is going to happen in a movie if a woman starts to walk down a dark alley, or, in a Lifetime special, what is going to happen if a young girl goes to meet someone she has chatted up on the internet. These are moments of being alone or private--and they lead to danger. We still depend upon these moments for dramatic tension in storytelling.

On a similar but seemingly different note: take a show like "Nineteen Kids and Counting," about the Duggar family. The children, once they are old enough to try to find a spouse, are chaperoned at all times. Everyone is with everyone else. Private moments between members of the opposite sex are considered to be immoral. In this instance, we see a shift back to nineteenth-century standards of behavior. (As a side note, I am not bashing the Duggars. I don't agree with everything they do, but I have nothing against them...and I really want to try some of their recipes.) Now, interestingly, there are moments allowed for privacy in the Duggar home. There is a prayer closet, where each child can go to be alone and pray and read the bible. I have only seen the girl children do this...but I don't catch all of the episodes. So, here is an important shift: private reading time allowed for female children. Still, it must be kept in mind that even those moments of privacy are as carefully monitored as they can be, for the space in which to read and the material to be read are controlled.

I know that I haven't explained my concerns as well as I could, but these issues are still forming in my head. So, why this long rant about nineteenth-century literature ending with the Duggars? Well, I can't help but wonder what is going to happen with future generations. Will privacy still be an issue outside of select groups like the Duggars? Though there is a growing community participating in their type of lifestyle, it still isn't the norm. So, what about the rest of the world? What happens when you have no concept of privacy? When first kisses and arguments and other important moments are captured forever by anyone in possession of a recording device? If the notion that everything we do is seen by someone else (or could be seen by someone else), will we ever end up losing the dramatic tension caused by the threat of the private moment? Or, maybe the threat of the private moment begins to increase even more, because it becomes  so rare...


Think of the Hunger Games series: what does the Capital consider to be the most dangerous moments in the story? The moments that are unpredictable...and usually, those moments come out of private thoughts and actions--or, even more threatening, the moments the cameras don't catch. I think that the Hunger Games is a great predictor of how this issue might turn out in the future. In that series, except for a few private moments not caught on film, the human mind experiencing a private, unmonitored thought is still the biggest threat to those in control. In book three, Mockingjay, my main criticism is that Kat feels so detached, but perhaps something else is going on. In Mockingjay, the stakes are at their highest. Though Kat is experiencing one blow after another, perhaps she has learned the ultimate lesson of her interactions with the Capital: don't allow anyone inside.

And that includes the reader.

So, at the end, in one respect, it feels like Kat should block us out, because in a situation of war and death on such a massive scale, it is dangerous to let anyone experience what is going on inside of your head. I often felt frustrated because I couldn't connect with Kat in that final book, considering that I had been privy to her thoughts before that point. But thinking about it today...well, I am okay with it.

So, there ends the lesson.   :)

I guess that we have an interesting future ahead of us. I am not sure that I like it so much, but I can't stop it..

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Almost ready...

The last few weeks have been incredibly busy for me! I am trying so hard to finish up everything at work before our spring break begins. Also, I really want to get a lot of reading finished for the dissertation. This last chapter has been so difficult for me, because I am dealing with unfamiliar material and trying to rethink a lot of my plans for how it should work within the entire dissertation. Ugh. But, if I can just finish the reading by mid-week next week, then I can start writing a bit more.

Coming up here and/or at The Friendly Reader:

  • Reviews of both books I am reading for the dissertation
  • A review of a wonderful new children's book--you are going to LOVE this one
  • Pictures of Madison during spring break  :)
  • Pictures of Mylee's first birthday party! I can't believe it has been a year since Melanie and Josh had her!

Other than that, my plans for blogging over spring break are pretty low key. I hope everyone is reading something that you enjoy! Until next time..  :)

Monday, March 05, 2012

Congratulations, Elizabeth!

A big congratulations goes out to my friend and coworker, Elizabeth Wade! She just successfully defended her dissertation and is a PhD!!! YAY!

PS: I am living for this moment.  :)

Elizabeth Gilbert speaks about writing/nurturing creativity:

I am still really busy, but this is a great video!

Elizabeth Gilbert

Friday, March 02, 2012

Wow

First of all: Everyone, please say a little prayer for Tuscaloosa and every area under the severe weather warnings. We are all nervous around here today.


Now...to the post:

As a joke, I went on Google to type in "I hate tornadoes," just to see if there was a Facebook page I could like. Well, as I am typing in my search in Google's search bar, I see the following pop up as my first automatic option (you know...when Google suggests a search term for you as you type? I am sure there is a real word/term for this, but I am not that tech savvy...):


I hate my teenage daughter


Wow.

WOW.

I mean, are there that many people typing in "I hate my teenage daughter" as a search term???? I know that teenagers can make all of us crazy. Kids turn from adorable, cuddly babies into strange mini-adults/big-children who seem to constantly revert back to the terrible twos at times. I get it. Believe me. I have been a nanny and been on that side, even if I don't have my own children. I have also taught pre-teens and young teens, high school kids, and college kids. I GET IT.

BUT....

Hating them? REALLY? Teens may be crazy sometimes, but they can be amazing as well. I don't think that I would have recovered if I found out that my mom was searching for articles/sites that are titled "I hate my teenage daughter."

Look for the good, people. Look for the good.