Movies vs. Books

Masterpiece Classics on PBS had a Dickens theme for most of this year, but just as with Cranford last year I can never seem to get my act together in time. I almost always prefer to read something before watching, for several reasons. First, it allows me to visualize the action without actors’ faces superimposed. Oddly enough, even though I feel as if I am right in the middle of what I read in terms of plot and atmosphere, there never seem to be physical details other than vague impressions.

Second, often a movie will reinforce my reception of a book, especially in terms of emotional impact. At lot of times the smallest gesture, the hint unspoken, can take on significance in the hands of a skilled director; other times he or she may have a concept that reveals nuances I had missed before. Adaptations of the classics, especially, invite me to look on with a more critical eye than I would for just pure entertainment.

Finally, in terms of sheer scope a book often has more to offer than a movie, which is why I prefer to view the printed version as canon.I would rather think of plot details or characters as omitted for brevity’s sake than added in later. To be fair, though, for the most part  I do read the book first other than for films I watched in my childhood. A notable exception is the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, which I admit daunts me in its length and detail but will someday have to be cracked open.

The moral of the story is that I missed the entire Dickens run (yes, even Oliver Twist which I well know the plot of and David Copperfield which I read abridged as a child). However, true to the cause I did still lug along Little Dorrit for the weekend trip to NY/NJ and have started to make progress. More updates to follow!

Published in: on May 25, 2009 at 11:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Slightly Chipped

Slightly Chipped: Footnotes in Booklore, from the dollar rack, was my other find at Brookline Booksmith, and I absolutely love it. It consists entirely of anecdotes of Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone’s adventures to increase their collection and knowledge.

In case you haven’t picked up on it, I like books. :  ) Reading them, of course, but also holding them, smelling them, collecting them, caring for them, and learning all about them. So I really enjoy knowing that other people feel the same way, and can even make a living out of doing so.  Plus, I tend to like memoirs in general that have a gentleness to them, which is why I need to get around to reading A Year in Provence–but that’s a different story.

One of my favorite chapters gave a lot of good insights into the explosive world of mystery collecting. Despite it being overall one of my favorite genres, I feel somewhat at a disadvantage because I shy away from the more “high-brow” hardboiled thrillers that will be tomorrows sought-after firsts. Instead, I tend to bury my nose in gothics or cozies that often never make it out of paperbacks until the series has started to become formulaic. Apparently, however, it is an area ripe for speculation; everyone has their own approach to guessing which book will be the next blockbuster, and values can skyrocket overnight for a small first run.

Another chapter detailed their trip to the Rosenbach museum in Philadelphia to see the notes and first draft of Dracula. Mrs. P told me about the museum a few years ago, but I don’t think I ever appreciated how intimate it is, assuming it to be like the Isabella Stuart Gardiner. While the focus is equally on all the other valuables housed there, apparently anyone with interest is able to get a firsthand look at the books themselves, and hear all about them. I definitely need to look into this again!

Yet another explained the fairly new practices for searching for first edition books online. I didn’t notice until getting here that the book was published 11 years ago. How times have changed…

I’ve been drawing out the last few chapters to savor them, but I know the Goldstones have written at least one other book so I’ll have to keep my eye out for it.

Published in: on May 23, 2009 at 2:34 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Case of the Careless Kitten

Perry Mason books are pure plot, and yet somehow the characters in this one seemed a little more real–perhaps because the focus was more on Helen Kendal’s heart than her legs.

You can really tell that The Case of the Careless Kitten was written in 1942 during the war, and not necessarily in a good way.  Everyone is convinced that the houseboy Komo looks Japanese, even though he insists he is Korean.  Also, Helen’s boyfriend Jerry is in the army and faces the uncertainty of going overseas.

I don’t want to give too much away, but basically Helen’s kitten is poisoned, and later that day she gets a call from her uncle and guardian, who disappeared without a word ten years ago. The rest is a tangle of alibis and lies, so that it’s almost hard to tell what crimes are actually committed. In fact, the book’s only trial is Della Street herself, for secreting away a witness. I’ve always secretly rooted for a Della/Perry romance, however unprofessional it may be, and there were definitely hints here as he comes to her defense.

Those little old ladies on the jury deserve a lot more credit than they’re given, however. I’ve been a cat owner for years and I still couldn’t get at what Perry was going for by talking about the significance of various warm beds!

I don’t want to give too much away, but basically Helen’s kitten is poisonedI don’t want to give too much away, but basically Helen’s kitten is poisoned
Published in: on May 19, 2009 at 7:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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This passage from Joy in the Morning struck me at the time, and I made a mental note to recall it for this week. Betty Smith really seemed to capture everything we’re feeling.

Annie was aware of the change of atmosphere on campus and in the college town as commencement drew near. She spent hours thinking out the ingredients that made the change. She was aware of a mixed mood of bright intense excitement and sad sentimental nostalgia. The upcoming graduates set the mood.

It might well be, thought Annie, that the four years here made the in-between place of the past and the future. In that time they changed from boys and girls to men and women. They came from home when they were very young, seventeen and eighteen, and a few smart ones were only sixteen. Maybe they didn’t know it, but the day they left home to go to college they ended the home part of their lives.

And now they are going out into the world and begin the lives that they will live until they die. The thought of it awed Annie. And they can’t go back again, she thought. Sure, they can go home again. But only the outside part of them will be home; not their minds; not their thoughts.

Now I know, she thought, why they call it commencement. Because they have to commence this new life.

Published in: on May 17, 2009 at 4:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Miss Watts

Sometime last year I was looking for a book at the library when another title caught my eye. Something about it just called to me, and I knew I would come back for it at a later point. When I got back to my room I tried to look it up without success. Later, I realized my memory was incorrect and the title was Miss Watts, not Miss Potts, but neither the library catalog nor Google could give me any information about it.

With graduation impending I made it my goal to track down this elusive book, and found it in surprisingly little time. It proved to be as charming as promised by the full title: Miss Watts, an Old -Fashioned Romance, by Ernest Oldmeadow.

The story is told through the journal of Martin Dacey, a doctor whom Lady Hilda convinces to adopt Dollie Watts. At sixteen she is being turned out of the orphanage, and has little memories of her childhood before that but a manner suggesting something finer. Of course they all grow to adore her, and when a friend from her past enters the scene all the characters come to learn more about theirselves.

The story is fairly predictable, so so endearing that it has a certain refreshment as well. With its simplicity it almost felt timeless rather than old-fashioned, like a fairy tale. I was not expecting the humble but heartfelt role that Catholic faith played, especially as the book was written and set in England, published in 1923.

When I checked out the book, I learned that I was the first person to do so (at least in a long time) because it had never been entered into the online system. So mystery solved on why it never showed up in searches, but sad that such a charming book has been neglected.

Published in: on May 12, 2009 at 6:15 pm  Comments (1)  

University Libraries

One of the things I wish I’d taken advantage of earlier in college is the library. Though I always used it for schoolwork it wasn’t until about halfway through that I realized what a resource it was for personal reading pleasure as well–a habit that, unfortunately, reluctantly dwindles over the semester.

I feel a little odd browsing when others are furiously writing papers but I’ve stumbled upon some good reads, and have also been able to find out-of-print books that others have recommended, like The Enchanted April.

I may just have to look into getting a library membership at my local university. In the meantime, however, there are certainly plenty of TBR piles waiting for me at home…

Published in: on May 10, 2009 at 6:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Miniature Gramercy Classics

I finally made it to Brookline Booksmith today, and was very proud of myself–if I can’t decide I make myself say no, and so I only walked away with three books. Two of these are darling Gramercy Classics editions of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre (light green), which I couldn’t resist even though I’m not the biggest Bronte fan. Unfortunately the only copy of Great Expectations (blue) left had a tear on the cover where a sticker had been pulled away , and they were out of Pride and Prejudice (red). I suppose that’s what I get for not going back in March when my friend got hers.

I can’t seem to find much information about these editions, and I’m wondering how many other books are available. The four above seem to have been put out at the same time. Google brought up older listings for Tom Sawyer(blue) and Far From the Madding Crowd (green), but these seem to be not as common. If anyone knows anything about these I’d love to hear it!

Published in: on May 9, 2009 at 7:00 pm  Comments (1)  

Miss Mapp

I know that exam season has come when I can knock off a book in a single day rather than study.  Allergies and a rainy day had me feeling a little under the weather, so I curled up on the couch with Miss Mapp and indulged in more of E. F. Benson’s social satire.

The village or Tilling seems to prize gossip even more than Riseholme, and battle lines in the quest for social supremacy more clearly drawn. I’m shocked at how few residents there seem to be–or rather, how few that matter, as there certainly seem to be enough people to work in houses and shops. Tilling claims to have only three males (Major Flint, Captain Puffin, Padre, and the mysterious Mr. Wyse), and oddly enough most of the women of staus are single or widowed. It almost reminds me of Cranford, though certainly not as extreme.

Tilling seems to have more actual events occuring than Riseholme, such as the almost duel and the visit of the Prince of Wales. Miss Mapp, too, is different from Lucia. Lucia is the acknowledged social queen and seems to act as such almost without effort, so that even Londoners are amazed by her climbing. Miss Mapp believes herself superior but is much more susceptible to adversity or amusement from her peers, especially Diva. She makes a more conscious effort to make an impression, and has a remarkable mind for sniffing out the truth which would give Sherlock Holmes a run for his money.

I wish Amazon had a copy of the edition  I read; it’s Moyer Bell, like the rest, and the cover is a lovely contrast to the picture of Lucia. While I prefer hardbacks in general, these books are a good quality, with laminated covers and thick creamy pages. They are also responsible for the Angela Thirkell reprints, I believe.

Published in: on May 5, 2009 at 11:38 am  Leave a Comment