Jonathan Franzen’s Still a Jerk…and Other Literary News

Image via Gawker Media

Before I post my review of this month’s book club selection, I wanted to pass along some tidbits of news that I’ve bookmarked over the past weeks. There are a lot of interesting stories, so let’s hop right to it!

Movie Adaptations

  • After watching this trailer for “Victor Frankenstein,” I’m much less enthusiastic about the film. Looks like loads of special effects but very little substance. How unfortunate! Do yourself a favor and read Mary Shelley’s classic novel instead! (Source: ComingSoon.net)
  • Warner Bros. has purchased the rights to Dante’s Inferno, which will be written by Dwain Worrell as an epic love story through the nine circles of hell. I believe that there’s a tenth circle for horrible film adaptations (looking at you, “The Golden Compass!”), so fingers crossed this turns out well! (Source: Deadline)

Humorous Headlines

  • Was Shakespeare a gigantic stoner? Perhaps, says the South African researchers who found cannabis residue in 400-year-old tobacco pipes found in his Stratford-upon-Avon garden. (Source: The Conversation)
  • The hashtag #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter trended on Twitter, with many famous authors contributing to the dialogue. My favorite tweet? S.E. Hinton of The Outsiders‘ response: “I thought you were dead.” #LOL (Source: Huffington Post)
  • A German artist with the hardest Tumblr domain to pronounce is getting her 15 minutes with her amusing Harry Potter comics in which Dumbledore has the perfect IDGAF attitude. (Source: BuzzFeed)

Et Cetera

  • A new fantasy tale will be published by the Tolkien estate in October: The Story of Kullervo. Based on Finnish poetry, it was one of the oldest stories written by the author in his college years starting in 1914. Hopefully, I’ll finish Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf before this is released! (Source: io9)
  • Speaking of Tolkien, George R. R. Martin has revealed that he wants his Game of Thrones series to end much like The Lord of the Rings did, as a “bittersweet victory.” The only victory here is whether this ending ever gets completed. What’s the holdup, Martin? Less interviews, more writing! (Source: Observer)
  • Finally, I still hate Jonathan Franzen. The latest reason was his flippant desire to adopt an Iraqi war orphan so he can better empathize with children. This was my favorite response from Rembert Browne:

Hey, Franzen? How about you take your “get off my lawn” attitude and just evacuate the planet? Kthxbai! (Source: Jezebel)

Any other literary news I missed? Let me know in the comments!

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Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR List

Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! So far, I’ve read six books in 2015, so I’m ahead of schedule for completing my annual reading quota of 20 books. Today’s Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, is about the stories on the top of our TBR (to-be-read) list this spring.

  

Currently reading:

1. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
2. Beowulf translated by J.R.R. Tolkien
3. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

We all have TBR lists that are miles long, but I’ll start with the three that I’m currently reading. Bet Me and Beowulf have been put on hold, so I can finish The Buried Giant before I meet author Kazuo Ishiguro! The book signing is less than three weeks away, so it’s crunch time!

  

   

Will be reading:

4. The Gendarme by Mark Mustian
5. Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares
6. When in Doubt, Add Butter by Beth Harbison
7. Perfectly Matched by Heather Webber
8. Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale
9. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

The next four books that I’ve listed are ones that I have already purchased and are waiting for me on my shelf. I’m particularly excited about The Gendarme, since its subject matter will coincide with the centennial commemoration of the Armenian Genocide next month. I have yet to buy Flowers from the Storm and Fangirl, but they come so highly recommended that it’s only a matter of time before they’re added to the shopping cart!

Bonus! Non-fiction:

10. Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: 16 Writers on Their Decision Not to Have Kids by Meghan Daum

Lastly, I don’t officially count non-fiction toward my quota, but I can’t wait to get my hands on Selfish when it’s published at the end of this month. It will be so refreshing to hear from other writers on their decision to live childfree lives. I have a feeling I’ll be nodding along in agreement through the entire book! So what’s next on your TBR list? Let’s share our reading suggestions!

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Image via MovieWeb

Rating: 3 out of 5

Sigh…after more than a decade in the universe of Middle-earth, I’m so sad that the journey is over. However, I’m more depressed that it ended with such a disappointing finale.

In “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” there are so many loose ends to tie together: Smaug must be defeated, Lake-town must be rebuilt, and Erebor must be reclaimed. Not to mention, all the plot lines that have to be connected to bring the story full circle.

Unfortunately, the pacing was so off that you walk away without a true sense of closure. Smaug is defeated within the first 20 minutes, and the build-up to the battle seems more significant than the battle itself. When the company of dwarves loses its beloved members, the rest of the fight is simply forgotten with Bilbo ready to bail without saying goodbye. The ending of the fellowship, this sure isn’t.

Granted, it’s been forever since I’ve read the book, so I could be mistaken to call the movie’s tone inauthentically cold. Unlike “The Return of the King,” in which I bawled during the last half hour, I didn’t feel much of an emotional connection to the characters. The film was sterile, simply going through the motions.

It certainly didn’t help that the emphasis on CGI and special effects made you feel like you were watching a very long video game cut scene. All the uniqueness of the previous two films’ technical advancements felt overdone during a massive battle scene. No epic speeches to rally the troops, no panoramic shots of landscapes previously based on paintings or set miniatures, just a whole lot of computerized soldiers on a digital landscape.

While I enjoyed the character development of Thorin as he fell victim to the dragon-sickness of greed, there was little other acting of depth. Ian McKellen was reported to be so miserable from acting in front of nothing but a green scene that he thought about retiring from acting altogether. “The Return of the King” won 11 Academy Awards; I’ll be surprised if this movie wins any.

Sure, there are enough redeeming qualities to make this film enjoyable, but I’m such a die-hard Tolkien fan that I couldn’t imagine not watching this in theaters, no matter what the critics said. But I also couldn’t imagine that the final installment of this series would be so lackluster. Goodbye Middle-earth, we leave you going out not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Exactly how I feel too, Thranduil!

Literary News of the Week: Tolkien, Divergent, and The Giver

Hey everyone!

While I’m on the last half of Reached by Ally Condie, I’d thought I would share some interesting tidbits of literary news that I heard this week. Feel free to share your opinions or post news of your own!

JRR Tolkien at Oxford in 1955. Photograph: Haywood Magee/Getty Images (Image via The Guardian)

The Guardian announced that J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of the epic poem Beowulf has finally been published, 90 years after its completion. This is one work of literature that I have never read, and I believe that I had subconsciously been waiting for this moment! Who better of a translator to read than the master of fantasy himself? If you’ve read Beowulf, please let me know whether you liked it, and why!

Image via The Frisky

In movie adaptation news, everyone is making a fuss over “Divergent,” which is out in theaters now, and although I haven’t read it (it looks like a convoluted knockoff of The Hunger Games to me), I’m curious to what makes this series so popular. The Frisky believes that there’s more to the story than meets the eye, and paints it as “a bible-thumping disaster.” I wasn’t aware of Veronica Roth’s spiritual leanings, and was surprised to hear this interpretation of Christian symbolism. For fans of Divergent, does this theory hold any weight?

And lastly, the official movie trailer of “The Giver” was released! I absolutely adore Lois Lowry’s novel; in 1993, it was a dystopian tale way ahead of the current trend. Winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal, it is now a staple in most middle school curricula. However, this story is so well-written and powerful that people of all ages should read it!

That being said, although I love Meryl Streep, I don’t believe even she could save this movie, which will be in theaters August 15. All her critical acclaim means nothing when someone like Taylor Swift is also on the cast list (yes, really). Unfortunately, I think this adaptation will get lost in the shuffle of sub-par dystopians like “Divergent,” and viewers won’t understand the profundity of its message. Not to mention, would it have killed them to have shot it in black and white?!

Well, that’s all my news for the week. I’m looking forward to celebrating a friend’s birthday tonight, and I wish you all fun weekends as well!

Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

I thought that I would just start out by saying this: For those of you who complained about “The Hobbit” being too long of a film, I have these three points:

1. Your attention span needs work, and I pity your inability to put down your phone long enough to recognize cinematic wonder.

2. You clearly have not paid attention to Peter Jackson’s body of work, because otherwise you would not be surprised by its length.

3. After waiting nine years to escape into Tolkien’s universe on-screen again, I left that theater wanting so much more. Only three hours of magic after over 78,000 hours of waiting?! If you whined even the teeniest bit, you are not a fan, and I don’t know why you even went.

As Twitter would add, #SorryNotSorry.

Ok, with that rant out of the way, I know that my awesome readers will be glad to hear that “The Hobbit” was well worth the wait! I’ll try not to give too much away if you haven’t seen it yet, but considering that the film has already made approx. $85 million dollars this weekend, breaking the December opening weekend record, chances are you’ve made a trip to your local theater.

The version I saw was the basic 2D, 24fps, but I’ll be checking it out again in 3D, 48fps, over the holidays, so I’ll make sure to provide an update of the visual differences. That being said, even though I didn’t see the film as it was intended to be seen, it’s still great eye candy. The fact that those landscapes actually exist on our planet still boggles my mind–and makes me want to book a flight to New Zealand, stat.

And speaking of eye candy, let me have a fangirl moment for a second. When “The Fellowship” was released, I was 11 years old, but seeing Orlando Bloom as Legolas on screen for the first time probably incited early puberty for many girls like myself. Never will elves be of the Keebler variety in my mind again.

Now I was under the impression that Legolas would make a cameo in “An Unexpected Journey,” but alas, we’ll all have to wait for “There and Back Again.” Although other elves, such as Elrond and Galadriel appear in their immortal glory, I went into the dwarf-centric film thinking that the odds of a character making me melt like before were nil.

That is, until this guy showed up.

Hello there, indeed...

Hello there, indeed…

When Kili barged into Bilbo’s hobbit hole, both the girl sitting next to me and I blurted out, “Hellllloooo,” as if to say, “Well, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes among a group of prosthetic noses and braided beards?” We promptly sat back, knowing this  movie just tipped into amazeballs territory.

I sincerely did not pay much attention to the casting, nor to any information, since I hate feeling like I’ve seen everything about a film before it’s hit theaters. I recall vaguely my mother mentioning this young Aragorn lookalike, but I’m glad my memory escaped me because it’s nice being pleasantly surprised.

(By the way, Kili’s played by a relatively unknown Irish actor named Aidan Turner. After a quick glance at his IMDb profile, clearly there’s an episode of “The Tudors” I need to rewatch.)

Ok, ok, I’ll stop. Angry rants and fangirl rambling, what has become of Book Club Babe? Apologies, moving right along…

What else can I add? The soundtrack was phenomenal, a wonderful balance between new and familiar. Not to mention, fans will enjoy the dwarf drinking song, which showcases Tolkien’s whimsy. The entire cast’s acting was excellent, from Martin Freeman’s reluctant bravery as Bilbo to Richard Armitage’s thirst for vengeance as Thorin.

And I don’t think an audience has been so excited to see a villain as we were when Gollum slinked in. There’s a reason Andy Serkis (who is part-Armenian, don’t ya know?) is king of motion-capture performance art. He was simply brilliant, and the riddle scene was everything I wanted and more.

I won’t provide a list of differences between the book and movie, but be aware that creative license is taken when emphasizing parts downplayed by Tolkien, such as the prominence of The White Council, the Necromancer, and even Radagast the Brown. Much of these changes I believe are to the viewer’s benefit, since Jackson pieces together information explained in The Silmarillion and the Appendices that otherwise would not be apparent since The Hobbit was told from Bilbo’s perspective.

So re-read the novel if you can, and make your own conclusions about this adaptation. Although nothing compares to the LOTR trilogy, Jackson follows through with another hit. Highly, highly recommended!

Book Review: The Hobbit

Rating: 4 out of 5

While many die-hard Tolkien fans are currently in line for the midnight premiere of “The Hobbit” here on the West coast, alas most of us can’t afford to watch a three-hour film and still expect to function at work on a few hours of sleep. But given that I’ve waited almost nine whole years to return to Middle-earth, I think that I can wait two more days.

And speaking of time, can you believe it’s been 75 years since The Hobbit was published? I see anniversary editions of the novel everywhere I go now, which is great, because it’s wonderful to see that the Ringer fanbase has grown over generations.

Say what you want about Jackson’s adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, but sometimes even the most hardcore of fans (like me) got a small nudge from the movies. I was 11 years old when “The Fellowship of the Ring” hit theaters, and while I was encouraged by a favorite teacher to pick up the series prior, it was the cinematic magic that fueled the fire.

I then immediately read LOTR, but eventually made my way to The Hobbit. This prequel, as many have pointed out, holds a much different tone than the saga. Compared to the epic battles of Rohan and Minas Tirith, Bilbo Baggins’ adventure with the dwarves seems more light-hearted–hence, why The Hobbit is often marketed as a children’s fantasy tale.

And while I would argue that LOTR also had its fair share of singing and joking (which would have been more apparent had Tom Bombadil made Jackson’s cut), The Hobbit feels more “fun” because any danger that the characters face is relatively minor.

At least that was my impression. It’s been years since I’ve read the book, and as much as I would’ve liked to re-read it, my brother has my only copy and I’m currently preoccupied with finishing my last book of the year, Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth.

For those who are unfamiliar with the prequel, it follows Frodo’s “uncle” Bilbo, sixty years before The Fellowship takes place. Gandalf convinces him to join a group of 13 dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, into the Lonely Mountain to defeat the dragon Smaug and steal its treasure.

Along the way, they encounter trolls, goblins, and giant spiders. Elrond is one elf who makes an appearance, but as much as I will enjoy seeing Legolas again in the film, I know that his cameo is inaccurate. I’ll also be sure to address other changes of Jackson’s in my movie review this weekend.

Of course, the scene I’ll be looking forward to watching the most would have to be the riddle game between Bilbo and Gollum. I’ve purposely avoided all the footage online because I don’t want to be spoiled, but I caught Andy Serkis on “The Colbert Report.” Talk about my precious! Andy rocks my socks! I’m positively giddy to see this origin story come to life!

And if you were looking for a more critical analysis of the novel, I apologize. Unlike other authors, about whom I have no qualms nit-picking every metaphor, I have a very biased perspective on Tolkien. Knowing how much he despised allegory and psychoanalysis, I read his work with the simplicity and innocence which I believe he intended.

The Hobbit is a wonderful coming-of-age tale about a good-hearted hobbit who’s pushed outside his comfort zone to become a reluctant hero–much like Frodo after him. Tolkien’s world-creation is unmatched, and you fall in love with his rich descriptions of setting. Perhaps the timeliness of its themes and beauty behind its purity are what make The Hobbit an everlasting favorite among readers.

But if you’re still skeptical, I hope that you see the film anyway and it inspires you like Gandalf giving you a nudge out the door. Because reading something this magical is better 75 years late than never.

Favorite Quote: “There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.”

You know you're a Ringer when you go Christmas shopping for your family and end up buying this for yourself instead!

You know you’re a Ringer when you go Christmas shopping for your family and end up buying this for yourself instead!

Masterpiece Monday: “Roads Go Ever Ever On” by J.R.R. Tolkien

[UPDATE 8/30/12: Much to my surprise, a new road was presented to me at the last minute. By that, I mean I have accepted an even more amazing opportunity as Marketing Coordinator for a supercomputer company. Although the road took an abrupt turn, I wish everyone the best in regards to my former position, and I’m excited to begin this new journey!]

It’s been a crazy week, I must say! I’ve officially accepted a new job as a Community Executive for a tech company in the Silicon Valley, and I just moved into my new apartment! It’s been so hectic and stressful, but also very exciting. This is an amazing opportunity in my life, and I’m so happy to be along for the ride!

When it comes to stories about travels and journeys, nobody does it like J.R.R. Tolkien. When I contemplate this new chapter in the book that is my life, I think about one of Tolkien’s most famous poems, called “Roads Go Ever Ever On.” The poem takes on many adaptations in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; part of it was even sung by Bilbo and Gandalf in “The Fellowship of the Ring” film.

It’s such a wonderful poem about enjoying the roads you take in life, even if you don’t know where you’re headed. I love how he writes so much beauty into the unknown, and it reminds me to be grateful for every step and not focus so heavily on the destination.

Here’s the poem in its entirety:

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green,
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone.
Let others follow, if they can!
Let them a journey new begin.
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

Still ’round the corner there may wait
A new road or secret gate;
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.

Lovely descriptions, beautiful melody, and a wonderful message. What else could you ask of a poem?

One thing I’ll add though, is that my road may take me to a place where I won’t be able to blog with as much frequency. I’ll take it one day at a time, but if I have to hedge Masterpiece Monday, I’ll let you know. My goal is to write at least weekly, but it’s all tentative right now.

And I think that’s how Tolkien would’ve wanted it…