Why I Sometimes See the Movie Before I Read the Book

Processed with VSCO with c2 preset

My friend, Michaela, at The Ardent Biblio recently talked about reading War and Peace for the first time. If you aren’t aware, War and Peace is considered one of the best books of all time written by the most prolific writers, Leo Tolstoy.

However, it was originally written in Russian, is over 1400 pages long, and it takes place during the Franco-Russian War. Unless you’re actually studying the text, there aren’t many people who decide to pick this book and read it. And if you do decide to read it, there’s a lot of families, a lot of names, and a lot of important moments you have to remember.

But a copy of the book has been sitting on my shelf for years. I even dedicated some time to read Anna Karenina (Tolstoy’s other epic classic) a few years back only to stop reading it one day and never picked it back up.

When it comes to books like this, I’m immediately intimidated. I felt the same way about Game of Thrones when the show first came out. I was weary with reading the novel because of all the characters, the places, and the events you had to remember. I think this is one of the many reasons why I put off reading War and Peace.

Today just happened to be the day I decided I will read it. I know that some of this influence does come from Michaela, but the other part comes from the fact that I’m currently watching the TV adaptation of the book. Here’s a trailer below:

So you must be angry at me for watching the BBC version of this show rather than reading the actual novel. Don’t worry, I will definitely read the novel in time. I just would rather watch the show first before diving into the book.

But why?

I think we’ve come to a day and age where reading classics (or some more difficult fantasy novels) has become easier. Aside from the myriad of translations you can choose from (definitely check out The Ardent Biblio post about it above), many of the beloved classics from yesteryear are now available on TV. Movies and retellings and mini-series have been made in abundance for so many classic books. I remember the day I watched all of the BBC Pride and Prejudice and after watching the epic mini-series, I decided to read the book. I read Little Women after watching the 1995-film version with Winona Ryder for the millionth time.

Similarly to many other books I come across, I always have a tough time with visualizing characters and people. With a ton of names and events, it’s hard to keep track of them all. I always find myself flipping from the front of the book and the family tree and the index back to the page I was reading. God forbid the author doesn’t even give you that! Even when the novel is simpler, I always find myself using some actor or actress I feel is appropriate for the main character instead of dreaming up someone in my head. I should have gone into casting or something for these movies.

What watching the show does is allow me to visualize what may have been more difficult without. I’m able to see who exactly is Pierre and Andrei and Natasha and all the others. I can see them in my head and when I read the book I can use that to help shape the story. When I go to the book later on, I’ll be able to read with those characters in mind and be able to visualize the nuances of their emotions and reactions.

I’m also able to visualize the story. You may think that this will spoil a novel for me, but it doesn’t. When a book is as popularized to make a movie, I feel like the spoilers are gone. You already know what’s going to happen or you can read about them online. But the visualization of the story allows me to follow along and understand the bigger events that happen.

Of course you’re not going to get the whole book in the show. If anything, the shows and movies provide a bone structure for you to go back and read the book and fill in the muscle and the tissue. A movie without the book isn’t the same as the movie with the book. You get to a battle scene with its gore and guns and fighting and for some reason these scenes have always been really tough for me to envision in my head. Instead, I get this battle scene played out for me and I can go back later and fill in the gaps I missed about that scene.

The last added bonus of watching the movie before reading the book is that you’re never disappointed. I’ve read books before watching the movie and felt the upset of it not being true to the film. I’ve seen movies that were even better than the book and that annoys me to no end as well. Watching the movie before the book sets me up for good reading with well-crafted scenes and if the adaptation is really good, it can really blow the book out of the water (but that’s a post for another time).

Y’all probably hate me now because I do this weird method of watching the adaptation before reading the book, but for some reason it’s worked for me. I’ve been able to really enjoy some of my favorite classics because I was able to watch them played out like this. It’s also great when the people who made the movie put in the extra work to make it incredible. With an adaptation like War and Peace, there’s a lot of ground to cover in more than just three hours. I mean, look at what happened with the Lord of the Rings movies.

My thoughts on Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

I’d made an early resolution recently to be a better non-fiction writer and committing myself to my voice and my writing. I want to do a better job sharing my experiences with the world through rhetoric. I want to be armed with adjectives and poetry to help me share what I see. I know it’s a little early for resolutions, but I still gathered all my favorite non-fiction works for inspiration; Susan Sontag, Hunter S. Thompson, the journals of Sylvia Plath. And of course, Joan Didion.

I woke up early Saturday morning hoping to get some chores done before diving into my current read. But for some reason, I was compelled to watch TV. Perhaps it had something to do with the new season of Stranger Things, but I tend to follow my gut. I remembered that a document recently came out about Joan Didion. Being the nerd that I am, I wanted to watch this.

I watched The Center Will Not Hold on Netflix before noon and I was surprised to find that Joan Didion is way more than just a non-fiction writer. I thought of her as your average writer; nothing remarkable or interesting. Someone who’s work speaks for themselves. Little did I know her life and her experiences were so crucial to showing the world what’s going on. How she came up in journalism and used her observing eye to share with the world the reality of life. Her work is poetry and even if her intention wasn’t to share her thoughts, she somehow manages to make you see and think the way she did.

When you see her for the first time, you see this tiny little old woman. Her bones hanging off her flesh and deep purple veins bulging through her like rivers on a map. She barely speaks without stopping to consider her word choices, so the movie is driven mostly by the readings of her work out loud.

I thought it would be interesting to hear how she spoke. You always assume that she would speak as eloquently as she wrote, but the words on the page and the words from her lips never matched. I guess you can say that she is a true writer, someone who finds her words in ink. I think my favorite part of hearing her read her own stories is also understanding where she was coming from and what she thought about. How she found a 5-year-old tripping on acid in the middle of someone’s living room to be journalistic “gold.”

But I’m not here to talk about the movie. I’m here to talk about this story and this life that has been stuck in my brain for the past 24 hours and I can’t seem to stop thinking about it. I’m here to talk about my serious goals to improving my non-fiction writing because I love writing it. I’m here to talk about how Joan Didion will probably be my favorite non-fiction writer until the day I die.

I used to be able to write observationally. I would listen to music and point out the variations and mixology of drums to guitar to vocals. I would watch a stream of water from a car wash and how the soapy bubbles refracted hints of a hidden rainbow. I used to sit in my room and write terrible poetry about the imagery in my mind. “Consciousness is…” being a poem I wrote in five minutes.

I didn’t hear about Joan Didion until a few years ago when I read A Year of Magical Thinking. After watching that film, it was obvious I knew nothing about her life. All I knew was that she wrote this book about losing her husband and how incredibly beautiful it was. I honestly wish I learned more about her in college while I was studying journalism.

Journalism nowadays feels like the rapid reporting of trivial issues. A quick tweet from our president or five things you should know about your face cream are the kinds of stories that rise to the top of reading lists. It’s a series of short articles less than 500 words and meant to be read, digested, and forgotten. Even political pieces about the subject of the hour are overwrought with over-emotional commentary and opinions on how much he sucks.

If I’d known about Joan Didion in college, then maybe I would still be trying to be a better journalist. Maybe I wouldn’t believe that all journalism was a sham to please advertisers. Perhaps my experience interning at Conde Nast wouldn’t have left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I gave up that dream because it didn’t seem worth working hard when everyone was networking harder.

But after watching Joan Didion and how she made reporting a style and how her observations haunt her until she writes them down, it’s really made me rethink how I approach my work here. I don’t want to be writing short pieces that you can throw away. I want to write substantially, poignantly, and richly. Of course I don’t want to bore you as well, but as Joan Didion says, I just want to answer the questions I ask myself.

The new trailer for A Wrinkle in Time is out and words can’t express my emotional state

You guys.

You ladies.

You all.

I have so many feelings about the teaser trailer for the new A Wrinkle in Time. Scratch that, I have so many GREAT feelings about the teaser trailer for the new A Wrinkle in Time. Because I’m not a book tuber, I have to resort to gifs to express my emotions.

tumblr_inline_notroqgpes1sjs49f_500

Let me back up a minute.

Over the weekend, D23 (Disney’s big convention) released the new teaser trailer for the upcoming move adaption of A Wrinkle in Time. Here’s the trailer:

If you haven’t read the book before and you don’t know what this is, let an old-timer show you a little something from her childhood.

The Plot

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract”.

Meg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

youre-being-baby-basically-war

When I was a kid, this was our YA. We had stories written by incredible people about worlds outside of the ones we knew and people we may never meet. I remember the moment I decided to start wearing sneakers all the time just in case someone were to whisk me away on a magical horse.

The movie’s got OPRAH, Mindy Kaling, and Reese Witherspoon; three incredible actresses who have expressed on social media their love for books. They play the three beings who whisk Meg, Charles, and Calvin to find Meg and Charles’ father. They even explain how they are able to travel through time. These roles are super big and I’m so excited to see some literary lovers playing them.

If you want to know how they love books, well, Oprah has her famous book club, Mindy Kaling will always talk about her favorite Pride and Prejudice, and Reese Witherspoon was so inspired by Big Little Lies that she made sure SOMEONE made it into a show. AND IT WAS SO FREAKING GOOD.

After seeing this trailer, I knew this was going to be my next read. And it is! I can’t wait to write more about my thoughts on the book now that I’m an adult. For now, I leave you with this:

tenor

 

My initial thoughts on Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale

Ooooh lawdy, I’ve got thoughts on this one.

A few posts back, I talked about my adoration for Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale and the premiere of this show. Now that the show’s been out and circulating, I took some time over the past week to watch the three episodes currently available on Hulu.

I. Am. Shook.

I could get pretty lengthy in the description of the show, so I’m going to just leave it up to you to either check out this trailer or at least watch the first episode.

We’re all aware of the fact that this book had an uptick in sales for the first time in like 30 years after Donald Trump became president. But is the story relevant after thirty years? Here’s my top five thoughts about the show (spoiler free).

26-handmaids-tale-w600-h315-2x

  1. The first thing I noticed is that this is loosely based on the novel, but not brick for brick. I actually like it this way because then you don’t find yourself trying to match it to the book. I’m a huge advocate for movies taking their own creative choices with the way the story is written. If it makes sense and still respects the novel then I’m OK with it. Even without it being completely based on the book, you still get the dark feeling you get when you’re reading the novel
  2. Speaking to the point just made, what I find really interesting is how the mood is strikingly dark. Like super dark. Like watching Stranger Things but knowing that people bought this book in 2016-2017 because they felt like it could possibly happen. I left my couch feeling like I was going to get kidnapped in the middle of the night
    1. handmaids-tale-1-1254x400
  3. One of the many things I was thinking about was how realistic this story feels in a day and age where technology and science have caught up to science fiction in a way. However, the story takes care of that by using chapters from the Bible to justify the stuff that happens and it really annoys me as a Christian woman to take the Bible out of context. It’s just frustrating to see people not seeing the bigger picture when it comes to biblical text and just use it as a way to punish people (I think that might speak too much about me)
  4. Ofglen. Just watch it for Ofglen
    1. Shut Eye
  5. Margaret Atwood makes a super quick appearance in the first episode. If you know anything about her, you know she’s got this signature perm and you just can’t not see it when she comes up

margaret-atwood-has-a-small-but-violent-cameo-in-the-handmaids-tale-premiere

Lastly, just watch it. I would say be careful to believe that this is reality because it’s not. While our country is in its own personal crisis, it’ll make you feel like the end is near but also remember that this is a novel and sometimes novels have a happy ending.