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March appears to be going out like a lamb, so I guess its time to wake up and officially come out of hibernation. I have been missing the blogosphere, but haven’t been able to force a post out lately. When we get a round of flu, it takes a few weeks for the whole crew to recover and of course Mom ends up cleaning and caring for everyone else, even when she’s down and out. So, I have found it hard to do more than a quick look at some sites and multiple rounds of mind-numbing Scrabble. I did sign up recently for another reading challenge. This one is called Diversity Rocks! and focuses on adding new cultures and authors of color to our reading lists. It runs all year if anyone else is interested, and there are several “levels” of participation.

Speaking of challenges… April is bringing many to the web including Script Frenzy from the makers of NaNo. I considered trying this one because I thought it would be a good way to quickly learn about scriptwriting. NaNo was a fun experience, but it kicked my booty too, and I know I will have a raging case of Spring Fever by Earth Day, so maybe another year. I did, however, find a couple handy links just-in-case. If anyone else is thinking of trying their hands at writing 100 pages of screenplay, play script or TV shows [apparently graphic novels are also included in the Frenzy, but I don’t have links for that style.]:

Screenwriting.info

Screenwriters Utopia

Stage Affair– offers an e-book on play structure when you sign up for newsletter

I still would like to try my hand at playwriting someday…I am more of a one-act stage person than screenplay writer I think. I used to like reading plays though I never did any theater stuff myself.

Anyhoo, rather than the call of the stage, I am returning to an old love and taking up the Poem A Day Challenge happening through Poetic Asides, the  Poet’s Market blog from Writer’s Digest. April is Poetry Month and I have always had fun writing my own ditties. Each day a topic or prompt is posted on the prompt and participants add their words right in the comments. It makes for some interesting reading…often hilarious.

Just to add to the fun, I am planning on combining this challenge with NaBloPoMo again. ..why not? I need to stretch my muscles. I like writing poetry, but have to add the universal disclaimer that daily poems written for fun may not always be considered “art”…there are so many ways a poem can go and sometimes it gets out of control. But what a great way to celebrate spring!

BTW: I also wanted to share this with folks because its just so exciting [it doesn’t take much for me :)]… after our discussions on books made into films, here’s one I wasn’t expecting and yet apparently have been waiting all my life to see, because now I cannot wait. Obviously, the storyline is getting changed in this one since the original is about 100 words or less. Maurice Sendak certainly had a way of proving the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.” His classic book said so much in so few words, and spoke volumes to millions. Or perhaps it was just the imagination running away with us. Enjoy!

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I’m excited to be included on the Bookworm Carnival hosted by Jessica at bluestockings.com. She posted my lit-flicks-150x150last entry for the Lit Flick challenge on Inkheart. I almost didn’t make it because of my chronic procrastination problem, which you might think I would have worked on more by now. I hadn’t checked her blog for awhile out of guilt because I still have 3 posts to do by Feb 28! Of course, I did start late, but that’s only one excuse 😉 So, with no further babble, let me present #3…and expect 2 more in the next week!

miss-pettigrew
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Persephone Classics
) by Winifred Watson

I picked this one up at the library upon the recommendation of my blogger friend Dy, at Dy’s Mind’s Eye, way back in December. I actually started and stopped and renewed and paid late fees, but once I got back into it, it really was a fun, quick read. The plot actually follows the protagonist’s life-changing adventures for one day, and the chapters are in time intervals.

Miss Guinivere Pettigrew is an average woman who has little pleasure in life, working unsuccessfully as a governess and choosing to watch other people enjoy life in high-society and on film. In one day, she makes a series of choices that completely change her life. Though a lot of the plot centers on parties and romance, there really are underlying themes about women’s roles, society’s mores, and joie de vivre. It is the kind of book that can actually inspire one to look at life a little differently. The simplistic view is that life can be fun, but not if you live it according to other people’s expectations. We should make our own choices and enjoy it. Though it is from another era, the story is timeless.

First of all, I love finding new-to-me books  by unsung writers from literary history. A lot of women writers especially, winifred_watsonlike Winifred Watson, from past generations have been forgotten or ignored, though some groups and companies like Persephone Books are remedying that by reissuing books and reintroducing them to the world. They republished this book in 2000, two years before the author passed away. I hope she got some sense of closure in her life, rather than being completely forgotten [for fellow writers this may give us added hope too! It’s never too late to be discovered!] Reading the biography included in the new edition was an extra bonus, to learn about Ms. Watson. She wrote a few books, and did enjoy recognition in her lifetime, but completely stopped writing after becoming a mother…[!]…Knowing how hard it is to juggle mommyhood with work/house/life and add writing to the mix, I can only imagine how Ms. Watson came to such a decision. She is quoted as saying “You cannot write when you are never alone.” How well I know the feeling. She also had tragedies from WWII to contend with and I am sure that there was some sense of duty to family and country, rather than writing  novels… all the more reason to be glad for the reissue.

That being said, I am almost glad that she did not live to see the film, though it is beneficial in promoting the book and, on its own, is a very fun film. So, that sounds confusing. Let me clarify: The film Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, directed by Bharat Nalluri and starring Oscar-winner Frances McDormand (Fargo) as Miss Pettigrew, is based on the novel, but not true to it. It is really its own entity, and for most viewers who don’t read the book, it will delight as a charming story about living life and finding love. There are great Thirties costumes, music {Amy Adams co-stars as Delysia LaFosse, Miss P’s new BFF and a nightclub singer} and yes, a happy, romantic ending.

However (gripe, gripe), they changed the story; even though the book was practically begging to be a screenplay, apparently it had to be adjusted for modern audiences. So, Dy saw the film first, loved it and ran to get the book. I read it first and probably ruined my own viewing pleasure, because then I found myself ripping it apart at the loose plot-seams. Maybe I would have felt differently if I had watched the film first, but I am a firm believer that the book is always better and I cannot help my critical self. It just drives me nuts when the perfectly good plot gets realigned so much. And it just seems to happen more often than not. Maybe next time I should wait to read the book after seeing a film.

I don’t want to spoil the story, but I will state that the most annoying change, to me, is that of the character of Miss Edythe DuBarry. In the book, she is a friend and an ally. She is a delightfully crass, independent businesswoman. She rocks. In the film, she is manipulative, kind of tacky, and well, a bitch. I love the actress who plays her {Shirley Henderson, who is awesome in everything, but will always be Moaning Myrtle to me}, and she does a fine job presenting the role written for her, but I cannot help but wonder if she read the book and noticed the discrepancy too, because she doesn’t look too happy about it. The other thing I kept noticing while watching the film was that the screenplay puts a lot more emphasis on the looming war with Germany than Ms. Watson did at all. Of course, she was writing while events were unfolding and the references do help set the time and setting better, but still, I think Hollywood and associates have an obsession with war and like to add it in as a theme even where it does not need to be. The story of a woman discovering herself in a tumultuous era and breaking out of a mundane shell of propriety and boredom really is a good enough story without war and pain. At least to me it is.

FYI: The Carnival also comes with a meme, which I think I answered above :)…and I pass on to you below… so the debate is on-TAG!

The Carnival Meme

To help spread the word about this edition of the carnival, answer the following question on your own blog: Do you prefer to read the book first or see the movie first?

Upcoming Editions of the Carnival

Edition 24 hosted by: Tracy at Book Room Reviews
Deadline for submission: February 27, 2009
Theme: Young Adult Literature
To submit a post, email: bookroomreviews at hotmail dot com

Edition 25 hosted by: Jennifer at Quiverfull Family
Deadline for submission: March 13, 2009
Theme: Parenting (fiction or non-fiction)
To submit a post, email: jennifer at quiverfullfamily dot com

Edition 26 hosted by: 1MoreChapter
Deadline for submission: March 27, 2009
Theme: Book Awards
To submit a post, email: 3m.michelle at gmail dot com

BTW: I am also posting this on the companion Lit Flick challenge at Bitchin Film Reviews, the blog run by Jessica’s bro, Blake. The emphasis there is more on film than lit, and he has tons more movie reviews and info for film buffs. And I will have 2 more posts soon! They are already written in my head 🙂

Lit Flick Challenge

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

New Line Cinemas film Directed by Iain Softley

cvr_inkheartI have to admit that I pretty much ignored this trilogy at first. Not completely, because I did buy the first book for my bookworm son when it was on special through his book club, drove him to the library to get #2 [Inkspell] and pre-ordered #3 [Inkdeath] (yes, now we need a copy of #2 at home). He is a great reader, so I knew that the series had to have some good points. I often read YA books, because it is what I like to write and because they appeal to the YA that is still in me somewhere, [and also- some of the world’s great books have been considered children’s/Young Adult literature] but I did not pick this set up until late last year. I confess, I did not check closely enough to see what it was all about and for some reason I thought it was yet another dragon/quest/ fantasy book much like the several dozen my son had previously read. I committed the unpardonable offense of book lovers everywhere. I judged a book by its cover.

Not to say that is necessarily a bad thing all of the time, nor that this was a bad cover. I knew it looked like my son would dig it. I just did not think I needed to add yet another book to my large pile when the story has been done and done again. I mean, I am still trying to get through Brisingr because my son says I just have to. For the record, I like dragon/quest/fantasy books…but this fantasy book has so much more than most in the genre, and there are no dragons in it, [though I do standby “Inkheart” being a cool name for a dragon- if I ever have one to name].

Actually, Inkheart [and its sequels] is a book lover’s fantasy, which is primarily why I feel so ashamed of my conclusionary leap. The author, Cornelia Funke, obviously loves literature [like all good writers do] and she has essentially created a tribute to the books she loves, the passion of readers and the magical world of writing. Real book lovers will relate to the characters’ personalities and quirks. Fantasy lovers will thrill to the idea of fictional creations stepping out of their books and into our world. Think about how many times you wished [whether you were 8 or 38] that you could walk into a magical wardrobe or meet your favorite character, just once. What if they came to meet you?

To summarize: Our tween heroine, Meggie Folchart, discovers that her quirky-yet-boring father is not just an ordinary bookbinder. Rather, he has a rare talent which is the ability to bring what he reads to life. For some, this would be a gift and blessing, but to Mo Folchart it is only a curse. It has brought him misery and danger and taken away one of the joys of parenting-reading to a child. He has raised Meggie alone, and raised her to respect and appreciate books too, without reading aloud to her. Their life is interrupted when a mysterious man named Dustfinger arrives one evening with news that another shady figure, Capricorn, is trying to hunt down Mo, a.k.a. Silvertongue. They both want him to read their book, Inkheart, for different reasons. Mo also wants the book, for his own purposes. He tries to protect Meggie by taking her to her Great-Aunt Elinor’s home, but that only drags them closer to Capricorn’s trap. They are joined in their quest/adventure by other characters including Senor Fenoglio, the author of the book within the book.

Funke is listed as a producer of the film, but not on the screenplay. I can assume she approved all changes, though. Most of them are minor, but there are enough of them to make my 12 yo spend the evening after the film pointing out all discrepancies. He did concede, however that he thinks the movie was somewhat “better”. I do not know about better, because changing unnecessary factors bothers me to no end. But I do think that most of the adjustments in the screenplay do make the film work well and some are kind of cool. I am trying very hard not to give any major points away because the film is in theaters now, and I do recommend it. If you are a hardcore by-the-book fan, be prepared [though hardcore fans probably already saw it], but if you haven’t read it yet, do not be concerned about seeing the film first. You will be able to enjoy both independently.

Brendan Fraser is the unlikely book-binder turned magical hero, and I think he does it well, but it’s a little weird seeing him be so serious. There isn’t as much of the usual charming humor [some may say “goofy”] that he brings to most roles. Frankly, most of the “supporting” cast are actually superior in their acting and awards, but he is the big box-office draw and my favorite on the list [he had me at School Ties]. It’s probably good for him to do some more serious roles and I have to say this role is better than the recent Journey to the Center of the Earth was. The rest of the cast is full of some of Britain’s best actors,  from Oscar-winners Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent, to the young stars Eliza Hope Bennett and Rafi Gavron.

I was really impressed by the portrayal of Dustfinger, the fictional fire-juggler come-to-life played by the very-fine INKHEARTPaul Bettany, as well as the villain, Capricorn, played by Andy Serkis of Lord of the Rings fame. One of the ‘conflicts’ of the novel is centered around how the characters that come to life are almost independent from what the reader or even the writer expects them to be. I think this idea is epitomized in film adaptations when characters are not quite what we pictured in our minds. These 2 actors managed to exceed my expectations. In fact, I think they made the characters better on some level. Of course, they had a lot of help from the special effects crew. Some of the movie magic and photography is stunning, but at the same time some of it is overload. The magic in the book is really about the magic of the written word, and the power that books can offer us, and it is a lot simpler than the computer- enhanced images imply. But, it looks good on the big screen, that’s for sure.

danceswithwolvesthumbYes, this is an old one, so most folks who are interested have probably seen the film, though fewer may have read the novel from which it sprang. I have to begin with a “disclaimer” of sorts and tell you that I have always said this would be the perfect film if it were not for the parts when Kevin Costner speaks. If you have seen it, you will understand how that would change the film. I have never really understood his popularity as an actor and generally feel that when I am watching him I am watching Costner reading lines in the same monotone voice, not an actor presenting a character. He apparently liked the book so much he wanted to share it with the world and he did a wonderful job of directing it. I have wondered what it would be like with another, possibly unknown, actor.  But, it is an extraordinary story and the film is beautiful [photography, setting, soundtrack, etc] so I have seen it many times over the years, at least in bits and pieces when TNT replays it [over and over]. The first time I watched was under pressure by a housemate who said I had to [despite my anti-Costner-film stance] and I was literally struck with awe. So, years ago I picked up a copy of Michael Blake’s first novel [paperback published after film with pic of KC on cover] at a thrift or Friends of the Library sale. It has sat on the shelves and moved around for awhile, so the Lit Flick Challenge seemed like a good time to read it already.

To summarize: Civil War Lieutenant John Dunbar of the US Army is stationed to Fort Sedgewick, an outpost on the mid-west Plains, actually around modern Colorado. When he arrives the fort has been abandoned and he is essentially alone in the wilderness. He has supplies, ingenuity and guts and he manages to forge a relationship with a lone wolf and a nomadic band of Comanche. In the space of less than 6 months he relinquishes his American identity and is assimilated into his new tribe, becoming Dances With Wolves.

In reading the novel, I was able to picture most of the scenes in the movie again though it has been a few years since last viewed. Fortunately, the author also wrote the screenplay, so not much plot is altered and many passages, including the monotone narration, are verbatim. Blake did a honorable job in presenting several points of view, from both cultures.  A couple of characters from the tribe got cut out of the screenplay, and most were abbreviated. I wish the film had expanded on the female protagonist Stands With a Fist a bit more, though I do understand time constraints. She was the more interesting character to me, as the American “captive” turned Comanche. I qualify that word because as a young girl who survived a Pawnee attack on her family homestead, the tribe picking her up on the prairie really rescued her, but the term “captive” is used in the novel.  She is more developed in the novel. We also get more insight into the minds of Kicking Bird and Wind in His Hair, the two main male characters from the tribe.

One thing that nagged at me throughout my reading was that I could not quite place where they were. When you view the film you are treated to sweeping views of the Dakotas. The tribe is Sioux and much of the dialogue is in Lakota {one of my best impressions on first view was how authentic the language and dialogue is, far different from earlier versions of native language in most American films- yes, this means captions, but reading is good for you}. The novel is about a Comanche tribe, though, who were located further South and the directions given of the forts, etc place them more in Kansas/Colorado area. So I was a bit confused, because although I am no expert, I was sure I was remembering the Sioux culture in the film. Now, this may be nitpicky and I do not know how actual Lakotas and/or Comanches feel about it [tho I am sure there was a variety of opinion over the film in general], but it seems wrong to me to change such a fundamental element. Some people may not think there is a difference, but there is, especially in historical references. Apparently the switch had something to do with the herd of buffalo available in SD.

That is the biggest discrepancy between the film and novel, though I will be a spoiler and tell you that the ending is differentish too. If you have neither seen nor read Dances With Wolves, do yourself  a favor and read it first then watch the film [which should be viewed by any film buff]. Then you can enjoy the story without having Costner’s voice in your head the whole time like I did.

PS: On a search found this info about a sequel being made w/out KC… some people think this is a bad thing.

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