Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Ivy's Long Fingers Were Torn Away From the Windows

Okay. I think I may have reached my limit with A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. As some of you may know, I decided back in 2008 that I would read as much fantasy and science fiction as possible in 2009 because I was tired of dismissing two whole genres when I was sure there were some worthy books out there.
I was right. The more I read Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's books, the more I love them and they're slowly becoming two of my favourite authors. Also, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins was one of my best reads this year and I would never have picked it up if it wasn't for my fantasy/science fiction challenge. I've just discovered Tamora Pierce and I want to read more of her stuff, Garth Nix's Old Kingdom is quite appealing also.
But I think I will stay away from high fantasy. I cannot for the life of me finish A Wizard of Earthsea by Le Guin. I know it's a classic, and it's got lots and lots of praise, but I just can't. I only see it as an plot-driven story with absolutely no character development, and it bores me to no end. It's a short book (166 pages) and I didn't think I wouldn't be able to finish a book that's so short, but I'm just not able to.
I'm glad I'm starting to see some huge differences between works I would have put in the same category only last year, it also means that I'm starting to know what I like, which is always good for the bank account. I think from now on I'm going to focus on contemporary fantasy, I feel way safer with that. I have lots of books to read by authors I've discovered this year, and lots of new names to check out, all of which is super exciting to me. I feel I'm growing as a reader when I explore new things and find wonderful books outside of what used to be "my comfort zone".
I would strongly recommend everyone to discover a whole new genre, it's a really rewarding experience, full of surprises.

I've finally read Invitation to the Waltz by Rosamond Lehmann. Love her more and more with each read. She's an exceptional writer, her use of free indirect speech is superbly evocative, her world rich and her depictions read like poetry. I love her characters, there's such an eagerness about them. Rosamond Lehmann is brilliant, I want to live in her books. I can't believe I've already read three of her novels, I feel so lucky they're still in print. The foreword of the Virago edition, written by her Roland Phillips, Lehmann's grandson, sums up the book as "being inside the mind of a teenage girl going to a dance". She's very special in that way, I've never read somebody who can produce such a warm and intimate narrative, full of details that break your heart or make you eager to read pages aloud to feel the flow once more. For me, she's the writer of sweet agonies, of, as Janet Watts puts it, "the delight of being alive".

She saw the glinting stream running between the garden and the park. The spaces of sky and lawn were broad and peaceful. Trees, water, moonlight made up their own cold world, unalterable, infinitely detached from humanity. It was like dying for a bit to be out here...

I saw quite a few movies that have been nominated for an award. The first one was Doubt. I so hope Viola Davis (who plays Donald's mother) wins her Academy Award, she was fabulous and her scene was by far the most powerful of the film, I couldn't see any difference between her and Streep. Strong movie. Shame it wasn't nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Although to be honest I'm rooting for Slumdog Millionaire for Best Picture. It was both hugely entertaining and profound, there was not one dull moment in it and my only regret is that the actors who played Salim and Jamal when young didn't get nominated for anything, I know I'm not alone when I say they stole the show.
I hope The Curious Case of Benjamin Button wins every production design and costume award it can be nominated for. It was a weird adaptation that had little to do with Fitzgerald's short story, and I thought the acting was average -Brad Pitt in my eyes has only played himself so far- and I failed to be moved by it in any way, although some things were really inspirational and I respect the attempt. Benjamin, for example, is a great character, I just wasn't personally involved. On the other hand, the atmosphere and design were just wonderful. I felt as if I were in the 30s. The scene in which Daisy dances in the gazebo mesmerized me.
I also saw Happy-Go-Lucky because I've been following Sally Hawkins' career for quite some time - ever since I saw Fingersmith, in fact, the adaptation of the novel of the same name by Sarah Waters. Sally also played Anne Elliot in ITV's Persuasion and also had a small part in the adaptation of one of my favourite novels, Tipping the Velvet, in which she plays Zena.
I didn't know what to make of it at first, but I think the movie takes a turn for the best as soon as Poppy finds out about some bullying at her school, I finally saw where Mike Leigh wanted to go - Poppy is definitely here for contrast and act as a foil to society, I don't think the character was supposed to be realistic (she laughs so much you're bound to wonder if she's on drugs). The least we can say is it's an original approach. I really loved her boyfriend, he's a great character, it's not that often that we can find a good boyfriend in fiction.
Sally Hawkins was great as usual. I would have slapped Poppy in real life a long time ago, though. This is the kind of oblivious attitude to life that I absolutely can't stand. I used to have a friend like that, he could never be serious, everything was a joke, I ended up yelling at him because we could never discuss anything and we haven't talked in three years. As far as I know he hasn't changed, I think it's just his natural response to life, a way for him to feel safe, just like Poppy.
In the end I liked the movie, the pros won overall although I can see both sides of the argument.

Viola Davis in Doubt

I don't have much else to say for now. I have lots of things to do for College (my university is on strike because our government is awful so it looks like I have more time but I don't) and I don't have enough books in my TBR pile to last till the 25th when I get paid (very little but still) so I'm sort of rationing my reading - hence the number of movies I've watched these past few days. My copy of Graceling got lost in the mail so I asked for a replacement order and I'm waiting for that one (I'm dying to read it) and I've found Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (I'm so behind, she's already published another book during the time it took me to get hold of the first one) for next to nothing on Amazon UK, as well as The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West for about the same ridiculously low price, so I took them both. They don't count, right?