Monthly Archives: January 2015

An Update on Postings and Such

A heads up—although my ability to update this blog in a timely fashion hasn’t really been affected so far, I think there’s a good chance they’ll be a longer gap between posts in the near future. There are two reasons for this, one good (yay!) and one bad (boo!).
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Top Ten Tuesdays: Top Ten Film Adaptations

This week’s “freebie” Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, gave me the perfect excuse to do a post I’ve been mulling over for a while—a list of my favorite film adaptations. I couldn’t quite stick to ten, and I’m sure I’ll want to revise this list tomorrow to include something I forgot, but whatever.

Two or three notes before we get started, though. I picked movies that are my favorites, not necessarily the best films ever made, because there are a number of adaptations that succeed aesthetically but take their material from works I just don’t especially like, for one reason or another (Gone With the Wind comes to mind). I’m also drawing the line at “real” adaptations rather than loose, inspired-by ventures, to make things a little more manageable (although it pained me greatly to leave off The Lion King, which is—depending on who’s talking—either a light(er)hearted, kid’s version of Hamlet or out-and-out plagiarism of a Japanese series). And difficult as it was, I’m also limiting myself to theatrical releases rather than TV productions (but seriously, everyone, go watch the 2005 BBC version of Bleak House).

Based on my selections, you’ll also likely notice that despite my occasional snarkiness, I’m basically a squishy idealist at heart, so fair warning. In no particular order: Continue reading

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Book Review: The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault

Note: I received a copy of this book from Hesperus Press (via Netgalley) for review purposes, which did not affect the content of my review in any way.

Reading The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman so soon after reviewing a novel like You is a strange—and not altogether comfortable—experience. In the Author’s Q&A that accompanies the novel, Denis Thériault confesses that he worried readers would fail to sympathize with the novel’s protagonist—would, perhaps, even see him as sociopathic. And at two or three pages into the novel, I have to admit that I had similar concerns. I wondered: for the sake of the novel’s intriguing premise, for the sake of whatever insights it had to offer into the nature of identity and the power of the written word, could I temporarily quell my kneejerk discomfort with anything that remotely resembles stalking, manipulation, and romantic subterfuge? In the spirit of open-mindedness, I forged ahead, and am largely happy that I did so. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite stomach the second leap of faith the novel required of me—the acceptance of what was for me a jarringly discordant conclusion. That said, I suspect that the novel’s ending will likely prove as controversial as its subject matter, with some readers defending the aesthetic daring of Thériault’s abrupt, startling ending even as others wish he had kept the novel on a more even tonal keel throughout. Continue reading

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Rediscovering Short Stories

When you get right down to it, I’m a lazy reader. I know that probably sounds bizarre coming from someone who regularly extols the virtues of Victorian doorstoppers, but hear me out: I actually find it easier to stick with a single, lengthy novel than to read a series of shorter novels in rapid succession. It could be inertia, or a sense of obligation kicking in, or the simple fact that continuing with one novel doesn’t require learning about an entirely new set of characters, places, and problems—whatever the explanation is, though, it’s certainly my experience of reading.

I say all this by way of (bad) excuse for my usual disinclination to read collections of short stories. Because I am lazy at heart, the idea of reading through a book that requires a recommitment every few pages is not especially appealing to me, although I do make exceptions for authors I really, truly enjoy. Continue reading

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Book Review: An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman

Please note: The following contains spoilers for An English Ghost Story, so read at your own risk!

Do you believe in ghosts? According to surveys in the US and the UK, there’s a pretty good chance that you do. So if you did indeed answer “yes,” the more interesting question might be: what do you think ghosts are? The spirits of those who have died with unfinished business is one common answer, but it is surely not the only one—nor, as Kim Newman’s latest novel demonstrates, is it the only interesting one. There is, to be sure, a long and venerable tradition of using the paranormal as a reflecting glass for the neuroses of one’s earthly protagonists, but in An English Ghost Story, Newman carries this tradition to intriguing extremes. Here, it is the unfinished business of the living that drives the plot, as the fissures and shifting alliances within a troubled family spill psychically into the environment that surrounds them. Continue reading

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Penny Dreadful: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Roughly)

Please Note: The following contains spoilers for much of the first season of Penny Dreadful, because I just don’t care.

Every so often, I start to feel vaguely and irrationally guilty about my inability to stay on top of all the TV shows that sound promising. Guilt quickly progresses to something like anxiety, and I feel an absurd but pressing need to play catch-up right away. So I really ought to have known better than to follow a link to an article entitled “The 17 Best New Shows of 2014”—the only thing that could come of that was stress.

I also should probably know better than to take life advice from Buzzfeed. But since I apparently don’t, I have to admit that I was intrigued by their synopsis of Penny Dreadful, which they describe as “an existential thriller that is far more cerebral than it appears from the outside, posing philosophical questions about the nature of life and death, transgression and absolution, power and responsibility.” I guess I was still riding the high of finally discovering why everyone raves about Sarah Waters, because I was all set for Penny Dreadful to be a truly ingenious riff on classic Victorian literature. Continue reading

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