Thursday, April 22, 2010

This is just to say...

I pre-ordered my copy of Mockingjay today. Now, I just need to make sure I get my copy of The Hunger Games back so I can re-read the first two before August 24.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (HP#3, re-read)

I can't say I had any new revelations while I was re-reading HP#3. Again, I noticed that I remember the series of events in the movie better than the book's, but I like (of course) the book better. I wish we'd seen more of Lupin's classes. Knowing what comes next, I have a few character qualms, but re-reading #4 might resolve those. And (SPOILER AHEAD!) I'm getting a bit misty whenever Hedwig gives Harry an affectionate nip. I really like Hedwig, and I hate knowing her fate. I try not to think about it, but going LA LA LA LA while I'm reading doesn't exactly help.

But thinking about Hedwig brings me to a bit of a tangent. Every year at Thanksgiving, to kick of the Christmas season, my hometown of Pemberville, Ohio, has a festival of trees, and every year the theme changes. About five years ago, the theme was books, and my mom and sister immediately claimed Harry Potter.

And it was a rockin' tree. They made a lot of the ornaments and they borrowed my snowy owl to put underneath it, along with a bunch of HP-related things like magical-looking books, a broomstick and potion bottles, and the whole series (however many had been published at the time).* And of course, people come in to see the trees and vote for favorites, and there was one kid who was super excited about the Harry Potter tree. He told me he was voting for it because he wanted to win it because of that snowy owl underneath the tree. He really wanted that owl. My owl. My Hedwig.

I explained to the kid that the trees people vote on don't go home with "winners"--the ornaments and everything underneath the trees belong to the people who designed them and they were just sharing with the town for a while. It didn't occur to me at the time that he didn't need to be disillusioned--he'd probably just have assumed later that he hadn't won--that it was kind of mean of me to wreck his hope.

But it probably doesn't matter. I don't think he believed me.

I asked my mom to keep an eye on my owl anyway, just in case.

*I'll post pictures if I can get Mom to send me a few.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Unforgettable: Southern Ladies & Gentlemen by Florence King

I was breezing through my Google Reader today to prepare for the onslaught of the reading marathon posts I expect this weekend. (I'm not participating because my garden beckons, but I hope everyone else has fun!) Anyway, I came across a post at Bluestalking titled "Good writing vs. bad, southern and otherwise." Any mention of Southern writing makes me think of Southern Ladies & Gentlemen. I know I've recommended it to several of you for challenges that have you reading Southern books, but it's really a book that anyone who's ever read Gone with the Wind or To Kill a Mockingbird or any of the other classic Southern books (or plays) should read.

King presents a study of Southern culture which is not only fun to read, but just about everything in it is applicable to any truly Southern story. It's a mix of essays (pop culture/sociology/history/etc.) that turns into something that suddenly makes Southern texts a lot more interesting and/or understandable and/or shed a new light on a story.

This is the first reading assignment I had for my Southern Women Writers class in grad school, and I am so glad Dr. Dukes had us read this. Enlightening and hilarious and highly recommended.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Hamlet & Ophelia by John Marsden

After reading Hamlet and Ophelia (which is titled just Hamlet in the US), I'm still not certain whether Hamlet loved Ophelia or whether he actually went mad or just pretended to. And I still don't have a really clear idea of Ophelia as a character. Since these matters have been the subject of academic debates since forever, I'm of two minds whether it means that Marsden did a really good job, and whether this modern narrative version's ambiguities are more frustrating than the play's.

Aside from some anachronisms, mostly character habits and language (example: one of the characters mentions hormones, which is a 20th century word), very little of this book doesn't come directly from the play. The former teacher in me was finding ways to incorporate it into a Hamlet unit, which would probably work well for a lower-level lit classes. The re-adaption lacks quite a bit of the wit of the original play (though some scenes incorporate it well--like the cemetery scene. "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him well."). Mostly, I really like the idea of the debates that could stem from the interpretations Marsden makes in contrast to how others read the play. Like Ophelia.

Ophelia's presence is a mystery. Supposedly she's a possible love interest for Hamlet, so Marsden takes a few liberties in trying to flesh out her character, but I found that to be even more confusing. He paints her as a little unbalanced from the beginning, which I don't recall any hint of in the play (but it has been a few years since I read it), and she lusts wildly after Hamlet, though she is mostly discreet about it. I've personally tended to infer from the play that Ophelia and Hamlet had a sexual relationship before his father's death, but in Marsden's interpretation, it's all lust. Descriptive lust.

I wonder how anyone who's never experienced the play before would feel about this book. Loving the play, I'm not totally crazy about it, but I certainly think it has its merits.
One perk is that I'm totally in the mood to go re-read the play.

I would without hesitation recommend it to high school lit teachers and it definitely belongs in high school libraries everywhere (assuming your local school library is still operational), though you can expect a few challenges from parents who take exception to Ophelia's allowing her fingers in close proximity to her thighs while she thinks about Hamlet.