Classics

The Alice Craze

Posted on March 13, 2010. Filed under: Books, Classics, Fairy Tales, Historical Fiction | Tags: , , , , , |

Yes, I’m adding to it, but I haven’t seen the movie. I’m still debating on it. A friend asked me to go with him, and I’m thinking of saying yes if I can convince him to pay for my ticket. 😉 Poor unemployed girl needs someone else to help her out. Haha.

Image Credit: The Victorian Web

I know everyone’s all up in arms over Burton’s adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but I’ve never been a huge Burton fan. Sure, he’s a great director, but I’m not one of the people who makes plans to see his next hit movie each time it rolls into theaters.

So all that is to say: I’m not writing this because of the movie.

I am writing this because of Stacy and Alice I Have Been. Like a lot of people, I’ve seen the Disney adaptation that pulls elements of Wonderland and its sort-of sequel Through the Looking-Glass and then twists them in the way only Disney can. I didn’t really like the movie as a kid, so I never bothered to read the book.

Well, I’m here to admit it. I should have read the books before. After reading Wonderland and Looking-Glass, I wanted to kick myself for not getting a perspective on this world as a child. What would my opinion have been reading this book when I was 7?

Would I have, like with so many other tales–both book and film,–fallen into my own rabbit hole of fantasy and adventure? I was disappointed when I found no wardrobes to peek in after Narnia. I pretended to be whisked off to an English manor home from India where all manner of mysteries and secrets waited to be uncovered after The Secret Garden. Would I have searched out holes in the ground to fall into after Wonderland or attempted to press through mirrors after Looking-Glass?

It’s really a pity I’ll never know.

However, I do know that I enjoy Lewis Carroll’s tales, especially now that I’ve read them in preparation for Melanie Benjamin’s Alice I Have Been. I’m reading Benjamin’s book now, and it’s already fascinating after one chapter. But I’m here to speak to my take on Carroll. It’s one classic I really, truly, thoroughly enjoyed.

Aside from reading the notes in the Modern Library Classics edition of the book I got, I also read every footnote and the poems and letter thrown in at beginning and end for more perspective on Carroll. It’s intriguing because many scholars speculate that Carroll was some sort of Victorian pedophile with his collection of child friends whom he took on boat rides and told fantastical stories to. I think that’s a shame.

Carroll was a don at Christ Church, Oxford, where he taught mathematics. During his years at the school, he met the new Dean, a Mr. Liddell whose three daughters became Carroll’s young friends. The middle daughter was Alice Liddell, and as most of us can guess: the rest is history.

I love speculation as much as the next person, but really? I have no idea whether Carroll was attempting to court Alice in her early days at Oxford. It makes for a great story, though, especially considering he was 30 to her 7 years old, and he was required to remain celibate as a don.

I can hear the old gossips of Victorian Oxford now.

“Where is that young man headed?”

“Why, don’t you know? That’s Mr. Dodgson. Of course, he’s off to the Deanery to see the Liddell girls.”

“You don’t say! But truly he couldn’t be off to see them, could he? Surely you mean he’s off to counsel with the Dean. I hear he teaches mathematics, and you know those young men can grow boisterous–”

“No, I’m certain he goes to see the Liddell girls. Louisa was telling me yesterday he actually takes them to the field and plays with them, of all the–”

Well, you can see where that conversation was headed. 😉 I do believe we haven’t deviated much from those old hens and their tales of impropriety.

If you’re like me and you read the Alice tales, you’ll be enthralled by the vivid world of Carroll’s creation. But more than that I found myself immersed in a world where sense doesn’t have to make sense and nonsense more often than not has a thread of sense in it. Logic is illogic, and if I’m not careful, I’ll begin to sound like Big Brother and make mathematical errors that Carroll would have most likely corrected in his classes.

The lack of plot in both Alice books would normally make me shudder and run in the opposite direction, but it doesn’t. Instead, I embraced the Wonderland and Looking-Glass worlds with arms wide open, not expecting any sense to be found. And I was delighted because Carroll changed my opinion, perhaps not as intended but certainly in a good way, through his Alice.

As I watched Alice make her way through this zany new world, I noticed something intriguing. Originally I cheered the little girl in her white pinafore on because I felt she was the only one making sense in a strange land. But my opinion flip-flopped. I still cheered her on, but it was towards finding the peculiar formula of illogic that made the Looking-Glass world go round rather than towards finding her way back home again. And the other characters with their obvious misinterpretations and ridiculous rules became more and more sensible to me.

I may be the only one who feels that way, but it truly is what endeared the Alice tales to me. By changing my perspective in a world so far from normal, Carroll challenged me. And I always love a challenge.

I could go on and on. I gained quite a bit of insight from this simple children’s tale. But I’m already overdoing it. So what’s your take on the Alice craze? Enlighten me!

-Rae-

P.S. Sorry for the gigantic photo – for some reason it didn’t want to edit!

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The Favorites Post

Posted on February 5, 2010. Filed under: Books, Classics, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, reading, Romance, Suspense/Thriller, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

So I’m a bit later to post today. In fact, it’s the latest I’ve posted since I started NaBloPoMo, but I think that’s okay. On a more personal note, I actually had a friend, Desteni, over today for a breakfast that extended to 2 p.m. (See the “Adventuring Solo” link on my blogroll for more info about Desteni.) To celebrate my actual social tendencies, let’s take a look at our favorites today!

Yes, this is a cop-out post because I’m struggling with blogging about anything writing or reading related; however, it does fit the theme. With no further ado, I’ll tell you a little about my favorites.

"The Scarlet Pimpernel" by Baroness Orczy

Favorite Book: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

Wow, what a concept! I actually have a classic as my favorite? Yes, that’s right. I love the swashbuckling tale of the ever elusive, ever daft Sir Percy Blakeney and his dear, sweet wife. The Baroness’s tale became my favorite in middle school when my English teacher showed us the 1934 version of the movie. I read the book for the first time in high school and was in love.

Favorite Author: Baroness Orczy

I am on a mission to eventually read all the novels within the Pimpernel series to be quite honest. I have only found the first in print at bookstores, but will be on the lookout for others in the future. The Baroness has a true fan in me!

Favorite Genre: Too close to call

I’m eclectic, a word most people (me included) use to describe their music tastes. However, I refer to genres. I’ll read historical fiction, romances, fantasy, general, classical, and a few others. Right now it’s a toss-up between fantasy and romances.

Favorite POV: Third person omniscient

I’ll admit I’m not a fan of first person unless it’s done incredibly well. Third person is my standard, and if it’s omniscient, it’s even better. I like getting an overview of all the pertinent players instead of sticking in one person’s head.

Within the genres–

"The Hawk and the Jewel" by Lori Wick

Favorite Romance: Toss-up between The Hawk and the Jewel, The Princess, and Donovan’s Daughter all by Lori Wick

Honestly, I love a ton of romances. But these three represent three very different things to me. The Hawk and the Jewel represents my adoration for historical British fiction. The Princess represents my introduction to the romance genre. And Donovan’s Daughter represents all the good things I love in romance.

And, yes, these are all Christian romances. Perhaps I should add a Christian subcategory, but I don’t want to go into that much depth!

"The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis

Favorite Fantasy: Toss-up between Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Anyone else seeing the pattern here? I don’t know about you, but I’m curious. Why do all these authors only use their first initials? Is that the mark of a good fantasy author? (If so, I’m in trouble!)

That’s beside the point. Lewis introduced me to the world of fantasy as a child. Tolkien made the fantasy come to life. And Rowling reminded me of what it is to feel childlike faith in a fantasy again. I think they offer a good mix.

"The Secret History of the Pink Carnation" by Lauren Willig

Favorite Historical Fiction: Any of the books in Lauren Willig’s series

I won’t rant and rave here. Honest. I’ll just point out that Lauren Willig not only revived my faith in authors trying to channel the classics but she also channeled the one classic I adore: The Scarlet Pimpernel. Willig’s series of bumbling, dangerous, deadly, and humorous French Revolution spy novels is lovingly coupled with the young woman who sets out in modern times to discover their secret identities.

Plainly put, I love this series of books, and I plan to write about them in due time. I just have to do them justice, which will not happen today!

Favorite Classic: Outside of The Scarlet Pimpernel, I am a Jane Austen fan.

Simply put, Austen’s classics do not bore me to tears, make me want to burn the books, fill me with despair, or leave a bad taste in my mouth. Instead, they make me smile with amusement at the antiquated wit and whimsy she writes into her tales, and I find myself feeling light and cozy. It’s the perfect pairing for a rainy day (like today).

"House" by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti

Favorite Suspense/Thriller: Three by Ted Dekker and House by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti

Ted Dekker knows the art of suspense. His books are chock full of it. He weaves the art of storytelling with the art of suspense-writing and creates vivid worlds where the best response I can give is to turn the next page until I’ve reached the end. Combine Dekker’s suspense with Frank Peretti’s art of addressing the supernatural, and you get chill-inducing fiction which thrills and frightens.

In conclusion…

I do believe that is quite enough of my favorites for today. I’m planning a later post with my least favorites (which will hopefully gain a more entertaining title by then), but I want to hold off on that for a while. So we’ll see how that goes.

Feel free to let me know what your favorites are! I’d love to hear about new authors that I can check out and books that you enjoy. (Come to think of it, I’ll have to make another post on my nonfiction favorites as well.) And if you have any comments about my favorites, I’d like to hear it.

-Rae-

P.S. In case you’re curious but don’t want to spend money, you can read the e-book version of The Scarlet Pimpernel here.

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The New “Pride and Prejudice”?

Posted on February 2, 2010. Filed under: Books, Classics, Fantasy, Vampire Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , |

While it might be a bit passe to write another blog about the virtues of vampire fiction, I have a slight beef with a nameless person whose comment on a local news station rankled.

To set the stage: When New Moon came out in theaters this past November, I was one of the lucky ones to be in Knoxville, TN, where two of the stars visited for a charity premiere. Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner came to one of Regal Cinemas’ theaters to help promote both the movie and the event, which was nice enough, but of course all the news stations were there to video the event.

I watched with my mom, and this was before I considered reading the novels, so I wasn’t too impressed either way by the shrieking fans. However, one such fan, a mother, was caught on film, and what she said made my blood boil.

Jane Austen

Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice"

“It’s wonderful! It’s amazing! It’s Pride and Prejudice!”

Let’s get one thing straight, lady. New Moon has absolutely nothing on Pride and Prejudice.

I’m all for bringing back classics and attempting to write like the classics, but honestly, has this woman ever read a classic in her life? I don’t think so. Especially after reading the novel myself.

I’ve read them both, and Jane Austen is a class act. Her writing is truly classic in the best way, and I’m a fan. Stephenie Meyer has a lot to learn.

However, I had a conversation with someone who pointed out a few interesting points about all the screaming ‘Twihard’ fans.

  • They’re young; so have they really been exposed to classics? – Sure, there are a few older women out there who have joined the throngs, but for the most part, these are young girls who have mainly fallen in love with either Edward or Jacob. Have they read some of the greats? I can’t say for sure, but if they’re comparing the Twilight Saga to Austen or the Bronte sisters (or even Shakespeare), I have to seriously wonder.
  • Meyer cheats a little: she compares her own stories to classics. – It’s not like the comparison isn’t already there. Let’s review. Twilight had a plethora of references to the Bible. The whole theme of New Moon was Bella’s inane comparison to Romeo and Juliet. And Eclipse? It was rife with excerpts and allusions to Wuthering Heights. The only one I haven’t figured out is Breaking Dawn, which is almost too convoluted to have a comparison in the first place.

So with those two points I have to conclude that perhaps that mom was just a little deluded. I’ve read the books Meyer compares her plots to. It’s been a while since I’ve read Wuthering Heights (middle school to be exact), so I’ve put it back on my reading list just to make sure my assessment is correct.

However, my opinion is set. Classics are classics for a reason. Meyer has nothing on the classics. And, yes, I still think you’ve never read a classic in your life, lady. Don’t go by the movies, either. Get the books, grab a dictionary, sit down, and read it.

Thoughts, comments, questions? Think I’m evil to have such a horrid opinion of the Twilight Saga? Let me know.

-Rae-

P.S. New Moon has been nominated for four Razzies this year including “Worst Supporting Actor” (Robert Pattinson), “Worst Screen Couple” (The threesome), “Worst Remake, Rip-Off, or Sequel,” and “Worst Screenplay.” Interesting, isn’t it?

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