Monday, 16 April 2012

First Loves and Library Cards

It’s one of those life-defining moments, one that you know is coming and you think you’re prepared for, but hits you like lightning all the same.  It’s the moment when, for the first time in years, you see the long lost love of your life – your first love, long after you lost it.

It happened to me today, and it was exactly how you’d expect it – the awkward tension, both of you knowing it’s been so long and so much has passed, that flash of irrational guilt, knowing that they know they’ve been replaced, and that a newer, fancier model has taken the place they once held in your heart.  And then there’s that other moment.  There’s the moment when you feel that spark, and you realise that feeling might still be there…

I’m not talking about a person!  I mean, really, my husband reads this…or at least he claims he does.  No, I’m talking about the other first love…the library.  (So I’m a geek.  Did my three posts on The Hunger Games not give that away?)

Yes, today, for the first time in enough years to be ashamed of, I set foot in a public library.  I found out that my town actually has a public library.  I went to the library, and I liked it.

I was there to collect my 24 copies of Stephen King’s Misery for World Book Night (and we’ll skip on by the awkward moment when none of the librarians seemed to know what that is).  While I waited, I looked around me at the endless rows of books, and absorbed that unmistakable library smell – you know that library smell - and I suddenly wondered what I’ve been doing all this time.  I suddenly wondered why I don’t come here every week.

There was a time when I loved nothing more than heading down to the library and spending hours just looking at the books.  It was around the time when in my humble opinion the greatest injustice of civil society was that they would only let me take out a maximum of ten books at a time (and even then it was only with the adult library card – juniors were stuck with six.  Six!)

Though it may shame me, I will admit it now – I was seduced.  First it was the shiny big stores with their clean, white lights, entire sections dedicated to individual genres and not just rows of books but floors full of books with smooth new covers.  Then the stores fell away, their sparkle diminished by the bright light of a new love – the Kindle.    All sleek and stylish, it turned my head with its multiple book capacity and buy-with-one-click convenience.

What of the humble library?  Is there room for more than one love in my lift?  I think it’s time to find out.  I want it all back – the odd, forced hush, the cute little ping when the books are scanned out, the plastic book covers – all of it.  Even the smell.  Especially the smell.

So I’m taking it back.  I’m going right back down to that library and I’m going to register and I’m going to get myself a library card.  They still have library cards, right?

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Battle: My Hunger Games Trilogy Pt 3

Forget the battle between 24 young Tributes – this is the real battle…book v movie.

Book v movie…book v movie….I'm a slave to two masters on this one because I love books and I love movies.  When a book I love is made into a movie there’s potential for the ultimate meeting of mediums, or for disaster.

As reported previously, The Hunger Games was as successful an adaptation as I’ve seen in a long time – it was as faithful as cinema would allow, alterations were seamless and the casting near-perfect.  Rather predictably, it set me off on a review of other book adaptations I loved, and some I didn’t…

Salem’s Lot (1979)

Okay, so the casting isn’t perfect, and some of my favourite characters from the book are missing (or irritatingly rolled into one), but this version of Stephen King’s classic just sort of gets it.  The muted, small town horror translates nicely on the screen, and the entire thing is defined by two things - that scary-child-at-window scene and that vampire.  The 2004 TV movie should have worked – it had restored many of the small stories and more of the townspeople of the Lot made an appearance, but it was just too self aware, the characters too knowing.  I’m a huge fan of Rutget Hauer, but his version of vampire Barlow just didn’t have the same impact.

The Notebook

We have to whisper this one.  I know for some people this will be nothing short of sacrilege, but – sssshhhh  - I preferred the movie.  I’m not sure how much this has to do with seeing the movie before I read the book, but compared to Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams on screen, the book just didn’t have the same intensity, or appeal.  Before I have fans of Nicholas Sparks beating down my door, I would like to add that I enjoyed the book, but it seemed like we were almost at the end before much had happened, and I was more invested in the characters on screen than in the book.

The Lord of the Rings

Let me first say that fantasy is not my thing, and Tolkien’s books have always been something of a challenge for me.  After three attempts I still haven’t made it out of the Shire.  I don’t want to say it’s boring, exactly…okay I do.  (Again, I’m not bashing the book here, it’s just not my cup of tea)  On screen, though, it’s a different story altogether. 

Jurassic Park

I do love a blockbuster, and I’m not entirely unconvinced that this isn’t the greatest one of all.  Steven Spielberg took a decent, if not exactly page-turning, book and made into a true spectacle of entertainment.  The vibrations in the water glass, the raptor chase in the kitchen, the electric fence, the John Williams score – is there anything about this movie that isn’t iconic?

The Vampire Diaries

I first read the books as a teenager, and I loved them.  The television show has very little similarity to the books, and I love it.  It’s completely bonkers and the plot grows more strange and convoluted with every hour, and this old-enough-to-know-better fan is completely hooked.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t…


I know I said fantasy isn’t really my thing, but when it comes to movies I’ll pretty much watch anything once.  Eragon was a harmless, pointless kind of movie, one that normally I would have forgotten about had curiosity not got the better of me.  The movie seemed to be missing half of its story, and when I learned that it was based on a book I wanted to find out the rest. 
The main question I was left with after reading the book was why bother?  If you’re going to adapt a book, should it not have more than a passing resemblance to the, you know, book?  I mean besides having the same title and both having a big blue dragon.  As harmless a film as it was, as an adaptation it was terrible, and it was unique in that it seemed to deliberately rule out any possibility of adapting the rest of the series.  Very odd.

Bridget Jones’ Diary

I love the movie.  I do.  As a comedy and a crowd-pleaser, it’s terrific (especially the All By Myself opening).  But as an adaptation it’s a huge let-down.  The book and Bridget herself are both much smarter than the film gives them credit for, and the character comes dangerously close to slipping into caricature.

The Twilight Saga

I’m not an expert, but I feel there’s more to adapting a book than sticking a pin in random pages and filming those.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Only two scenes needed to be done right for me to love this movie the way I loved the book – Mrs Weasley’s showdown with Bellatrix and Neville’s big moment.  That was all I asked.  Instead they were rushed, out of sequence and diluted.  Two scenes – it wasn’t too much to ask was it?

Sometimes, though, there’s a draw…take a bow, To Kill a Mockingbird, one of my favourite adaptations of a book despite being so different.  Gregory Peck isn’t the picture of Atticus Finch I see in my head when I read the book, but he is Atticus Finch.  We don’t get to see all the small adventures Jem and Scout have in their summer, but we know they have them.  Book versus movie?  Sometimes, there’s room for both.

What’s your favourite – or at least favourite – adaptation?