Masterpiece Monday: Book Versus Movie (Venn Diagram Edition)

So I found this Venn diagram the other day on TheFrisky.com, and since we were discussing classic novels and their respective film adaptations yesterday, I figured you all would have plenty to say about this.

As for me, I completely agree that The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, and One Day are better as books. However, I think that Never Let Me Go is outstanding either way, and I’d avoid Beloved in any form.

I’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who hated The Godfather, Fight Club, and The Princess Bride as movies, but I’d add that Fight Club is just as kick-ass on paper. And obviously, Harry Potter and To Kill a Mockingbird deserve to overlap both categories.

Lastly, after reading interviews of the egotistical, pompous jerk that is Nicholas Sparks, I refuse to give him any money whatsoever. I only wish I knew about his arrogance before I watched The Notebook, because I admit that it was a great movie, for being a sappy sob-fest, that is.

I haven’t read or watched most of the others, so please enlighten me with your opinions. Did this diagram get it right? What would you add? Let’s keep the debate going!

Masterpiece Monday: “The Birthmark”

Bye bye glasses!

Rating: 5 out of 5

BEWARE: SPOILER ALERT!

Well, I thought about taking the day off because I’m finally getting LASIK surgery, but then I immediately thought of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Birthmark.” (Yes, this is solid proof I’m a paranoid pessimist).

Hawthorne was, of course, the famous author behind The Scarlet Letter, but he was also a prolific short story writer. “The Birthmark” was first published in 1843, and it told the tale of a scientist named Aylmer and his wife Georgiana. Aylmer thinks that his wife is absolutely perfect…except for her hand-shaped birthmark on her cheek.

Obsessed with the birthmark, he decides to try to remove it, and Georgiana, out of love for her husband, agrees. He had a dream in which he cut the birthmark all the way to her heart, and then cut her heart out too. Obviously, this foreshadowing means doom for Georgiana.

After many failed experiments, Georgiana’s disappointment in a husband who does not accept her flaws causes her to want her mark removed just as desperately, so as to rid them of their madness. When Georgiana drinks a potion made by Aylmer, her birthmark finally fades away, but at the cost of her life.

This moral of this story is relatively easy to comprehend: Accept the flaws of yourself and others, because what’s on the inside is more important than what’s on the outside. I also believe that it shows women that we should not let men try to “fix” us, because there are plenty of good men out there (in this story, it was Aylmer’s assistant Aminadab) who will love us for who we are.

Because Aylmer only made a fuss over Georgiana’s birthmark after they were married, many literary scholars believe the story alludes to Hawthorne’s own sexual guilt. Hawthorne was known for being an emotionally conflicted man, most prominently because one of his ancestors was a cruel Puritan judge during the Salem Witch Trials. The writer even added a “w” to his last name to distance himself from his past. Most of Hawthorne’s stories, therefore, juxtapose natural human desires with religious piety.

As for why this story popped into my head the day of my LASIK surgery, I admit I’m pretty terrified of an Aylmer-sized mistake happening. I also feel nostalgic toward the 15 years in which I’ve been wearing glasses. I never wore contacts due to my inability to stick something in my eyes and my unwillingness to take care of the maintenance. I faced quite a bit of bullying because of my “four eyes,” but I wouldn’t have done anything differently. My glasses have been a part of my identity, and it will be strange to not need them anymore. I can imagine I’ll buy a non-prescription pair for when I miss having them around.

The one thing I can say to anyone who knows someone getting LASIK, is don’t tell them, “You’ll look so much better without glasses!” First off, it’s a passive-aggressive compliment implying they’re ugly in glasses. Secondly, how do you know they’re getting LASIK for appearance’s sake? I like the way I look in glasses, especially the pair I have now. I’m getting the surgery for practical reasons: seeing at night, in the shower, when I’m applying makeup, or when I’m swimming. I would love to not have to wipe them every time my dog licks my face.

Although many insurance companies disagree, LASIK is not a cosmetic surgery, I’m getting it done so I can see. And if a guy all of a sudden is interested in me just because I’m not wearing glasses anymore, then he can go screw himself. I don’t want an Aylmer whose love is only skin-deep.

So whether you have a birthmark, glasses, cellulite, stretch marks, a bald spot, or any other feature that makes you human, don’t worry. Good people will love you, with or without them.

Books You Shouldn’t Have Just Sparknotes-ed in High School

The only thing to fear...is not reading Shakespeare!

Earlier this week, MSNBC discussed the “10 books you really should have read in high school” as part of their “Back to School” special. I’ve got about two weeks left ’til my last year of school (ever!), but until then I spend my days begging high school kids to start reading.

One of my students admitted that he’s only assigned 4-5 books a year, and if he reads one of them he’s lucky. I believe that most teens are pretty intelligent, but most are too distracted by Facebook and football to care about books. A lot are too lazy, and Sparknotes and Wikipedia keep them that way. I love my job, but I know that I’d go crazy if I taught for the rest of my life, desperately trying to pry kids away from their iPhones long enough to write an essay and take a test every now and then.

That being said, I hope you’ll enjoy this list and reminisce about all the classics you actually read in high school. Here’s the 10 novels from MSNBC:

  1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  2. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  3. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  6. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
  7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  8. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  10. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

I’ve read #2, 3, 4, 5 (partially), 7, and 9–and I’ve already discussed my love for some of them in this blog. Junior year of high school at my school must have been the year of “Books about women who cheat or sleep around” because not only did we read The Scarlet Letter and The Great Gatsby, we also read The Awakening by Kate Chopin, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, and East of Eden by John Steinbeck. With the exception of Chopin, I learned just how many male authors are haunted by female promiscuity in their work!

I can’t judge #1, 6, 8, and 10 personally–although I don’t hear many good things about Ayn Rand. However, I have read some of Twain’s short stories and Hesse’s novel Demian (one of my absolute favorites), so they’re definitely worth making the list.

The only entry I’d have to disagree with, in my humble opinion, is Pride and Prejudice. I tried so hard to like Austen and I respect her as one of the few female authors in the literary canon, but I could not make it past the first 50 pages. The writing wasn’t particularly riveting, the dialogue badly labeled and confusing, and the story full of women clucking around like gossipy hens. I much preferred the Brontes’ Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, as well as Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, to get my fix about marriage and elitism during the 19th century. Hate me if you want, but I found those novels of more substance. But, of course, with enough convincing, I might give Austen a second chance!

I’d also like to add that MSNBC did a horrible job, because THERE’S NO SHAKESPEARE ON THIS LIST!!! Granted, they’re plays, not novels, but STILL. No one should graduate high school without experiencing the Bard! There are also no ethnic minorities represented, and students should get the opportunity to read the works of Divakaruni, Allende, Ishiguro, or Achebe in order to learn about other cultures and appreciate diversity.

I think that tomorrow I’ll post my own list about overrated high school standard reading, so if you have any novels you couldn’t stand as a teen, let me know! I’ll give you a shout-out!

The Book is ALWAYS Better!

Cover of "The Scarlet Letter"

Sirius? How can I forgive you?

I’ll just let you know right now, I read The Huffington Post everyday. As an aspiring journalist, this embarrasses me, since HuffPost isn’t exactly the most credible, professional, or even copy-edited place on the web to get your news, but it updates constantly and satisfies my basic need to get the day’s headlines. That, and it has a “Books” section, which I link to frequently. So, if you’re annoyed by the reposting, too bad!

Yesterday, HuffPost released a list of “7 Worst Film Adaptations,” with videos for each entry. Here they are!

  1. The Scarlet Letter (1995) with Demi Moore and Gary Oldman
  2. Fever Pitch (2005) with Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon
  3. The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009) with Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana
  4. I Am Legend (2007) with Will Smith
  5. Dune (1984) with Kyle MacLachlan
  6. The Cat in the Hat (2003) with Mike Myers and Dakota Fanning
  7. A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) with Jim Carrey
          I’ve seen #1, 3, and 7, and I completely agree! I haven’t read The Time Traveler’s Wife, but the movie was depressing, confusing, and lacking chemistry. I don’t know how accurate it was, but the ending left me with that “Well, there’s a couple hours I’ll never get back” feeling.
          The Scarlet Letter, however, was so horrible you can’t help but crack up, which is why it’s mocked all the time (most recently in last year’s modern adaptation, Easy A, with the adorable Emma Stone). Hawthorne’s novel is one of my favorites: his writing is complex but beautiful, and the story was so moving. Let’s just hope Demi Moore in a bathtub was enough to stop him from rolling over in his grave!
          Last on the list, I read all of Lemony Snicket’s books, and loved their sinister, mysterious stories. I thought the movie’s casting was fine, but their attempt to combine the first three novels was the most unfortunate event of all, and I’m just glad they were smart enough not to make more sequels.
          I always take the side of the book, but I also look forward to their movie counterparts, with the hope that the magic of the words will be just as stellar on screen. And there are some great adaptations out there: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter (except #3), Fight Club, The Godfather, The Princess Bride, among others.
          But there’s one that didn’t make the list which definitely should have: The Golden Compass (2007) with Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman. I wrote a scathing review on BridgeToTheStars.Net, which no longer exists on the site, but here were my main complaints:
  1. Hollywood’s cowardice in not addressing the religious themes. In case you didn’t know, the author Philip Pullman is an atheist–GET OVER IT! In his modern re-telling of Milton’s Paradise Lost, Pullman mocked the Catholic Church and its teachings on original sin and puberty. But since the producers were scared of losing profits and Kidman is Catholic, what fans got was a watered-down version of Pullman’s exquisite fantasy tale, which I think is so much worse than no movie at all.
  2. The director. Chris Weitz? Really??? The same guy who made American Pie??? For shame…
  3. Everything else that was left out. All the real violence of Iorek’s fight, the inaccuracies with the characters, and–of course–the ending. I won’t spoil it, but fans know exactly what I’m talking about!
          Maybe one day, someone will correct these massive wrongs and live up to Pullman’s best work. But until then, I’m going to return to pretending this abomination never happened.
          What other movie adaptations make you cringe? Any that surpass the books? Send me your rants!!!