Archives for posts with tag: books

​Well, that explains it. 

Okay, not really. I’m not quite the poster child for modern day bibliomania. This article certainly resonated, though. 

I love books. Unabashedly. Unequivocally. Sometimes unreal-ly. 

Most of my paper paramours are fiction, after all.

Growing up in a rural area, where the school library was more like a closet, was both a blessing and a curse. Once book fever hit me as a teen, I was able to blaze through most of the available books that appealed to me in any way. I devoured the typical books about girls and their horses, romance novels, and westerns. Things slowed down a bit, once I resorted to the available classics. The Bronte sisters and Dickens will slow most readers’ roll along the lines of printed words, at least until they find their feet, so to speak. Eventually, I bought up the meager supply of paperbacks available locally, and supplemented my voracious intake with Shakespeare from my high school literature text book. A sympathetic library lady, who sporadically made piles of books magically appear through the gift of a visiting bookmobile, was my eventual hero.

Fast forward to learning that growing up did not mean abandoning books. In fact, the desire to read increased exponentially to the more broad availability of material that came to me in my travels. And wherever I  went, I found used book stores and library sales. Yes. I graduated to collecting. 
Early on, I could buy, cull, purge, buy…an endless loop of words. Eventually, I developed areas of interest and found myself reading and owning hundreds of books. I love the way they look, feel, and of course smell. Holding a brand new book for a reverent moment, then cracking it open for the first the is a distinctive pleasure, as is hefting an antique Hamlet, caressing its time worn cover, and reading its time tested words.

There was one occasion when I think I almost crossed over to the dark side of true bibliomania. Long ago, in a library far, far away there was no used book sale. There was just me, perusing the stacks, and finding a long sought after book that I desperately wanted. For a moment…a single flash of obsessive compulsive book lust overcame me and in that flash I contemplated stealing the book. I literally mean a flash. The thought crossed my mind, then, aghast, I dropped the book as if it was the Hope Diamond and I was a recovered jewel thief. A hasty exit and no other such experience, ever. But that tiny incident makes me acutely sensitive to the dangers of obsession and the way the drive for acquisition can taint the most innocent of souls. 

So, I have sympathy and empathy and any other appropriate “athy” emotion for the bibliomaniacs of yore. Especially at the moment. I’m going through my books, and trying very hard to cull and purge and donate. It’s hard. I love having my beloved books lined up on shelves, always at the reading ready, always there to remind me of some fantastic voyage into an author’s mind. I’ve finally come to realize that owning a book I didn’t really like, just to have it for my collection, isn’t what a true book lover’s collection is all about. That is about finding what you love, keeping it, and treasuring it. Much like any other relationship.

The vital key is to drop a book into the donation pile, when I know I don’t really want it for anything other than the art of possession. When a truly unwanted book even gives off the most vague of “My precious…” vibes, it’s time to drop kick it into a volcano and go watch a movie from my gigantic DVD collection…sigh.

This fascinating piece about Salvador Dali’s rare illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland grabbed my attention in a fast moving blip, passing through my Twitter stream. Something about the combination of colors and oddly placed lines drew my eyes closer and closer, until I saw enough to make me want to read the article.

I actually first read Alice and Through the Looking Glass as an adult, though I was almost as familiar with many scenes and characters as if I had read them long before, from quotes peppered throughout some books by a favorite old school novelist who was often lumped into the massive genre called romance. Her name was Emilie Loring, and she wrote novels spanning a large swath of the 20th Century. Though they all embodied sweeping romance, I would term them dramas, for their cinematic qualities that made reading them akin to watching the fine old black and white movie masterpieces from the Golden Age of Hollywood. She was fond of scattering quotes from classic literature throughout her prose, which I suspect were the root of my becoming a Dickens fan and wanting to read Carroll as a grownup. I went down the rabbit hole and through Alice’s looking glass looking for the source of the quotes, which enhanced my enjoyment of the books even more.

Dali is not really my cup of Mad Hatter poured tea. My only real knowledge of his work has been his Melting Clocks, which is a bit like wondering if the Mad Hatter was pouring time pieces, as well as tea, on some occasions. I’ve been of the vague opinion that Dali’s paintings are so far into surrealism that my brain can’t quite catch up.

That still holds for these illustrations, though their softer smudgy colors and Alice subject matter render them just over the edge into the realm of charming. Somewhat. I find them confounding, as well as intriguing, as I try to match them to the familiar stories they depict. Dali and Dodgson seem an odd combination at first, but, on further thought, they just may be a match made in the places where  surrealism and Wonderland meet.

I’m so excited about this announcement , saying Wicked will come to the big screen in a few years. I love Gregory Maguire’s The Wicked Years novels so much. Those books make me want to vacation in Elphaba and Glinda’s Oz. To tour Shiz and The Emerald City.  To be swankified. I’ve listened to the original cast recording soundtrack so many times that it feels as if I’ve seen the Broadway musical. If only the original cast would be transplanted directly into the feature film. I could suspend any level of disbelief, if it meant getting to see Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth reprise their roles as Elphaba and Glinda. Actually, I don’t think it would take much imagination to believe those two brilliant stars are students at dear old Shiz. However, I’ll be happy to watch whatever movie the brilliant minds behind the play gift us with. I’m sure that after the experience I’ll be changed for good.

You know the question some people have to think long and hard about and others snap out an instant answer? The one that goes: If you could go back in time and have a conversation with anybody from the past, who would it be? I’m one of the snap it out people. Rainer Maria Rilke (though I will admit Nikola Tesla is a close second).

I first discovered Rilke’s poetry through the beautiful TV series Beauty and the Beast. The Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton one, not the CW one. That show made me fall in love with poetry. I’m not quite sure how Rilke’s distinctive, gorgeous, and not as accessible as many others poems struck such a cord with me that they rose above all others, but I’m grateful for the introduction to what has become a lifelong love for all things Rilke.

Yes, all things. In addition to his poetry that paints word pictures with its rhythm and lyrical descriptiveness, he also wrote equally lyrical prose. His book Letters to a Young Poet, in which he instructs and encourages a young friend, serves to do the same for me. There’s a particular line about creativity and the ability to write on command being different for different people and the way it must rise as sap in a tree (paraphrased, but the way I remember it many years after reading it), that resonated with me at a time when I struggled to fit into the molds of others with rigid ideas about how one must write. I felt that I had been “given permission” by my mentor from long ago to write the way my brain insisted was my way. That that made it THE way for me. Even still, when I rue the way I work, taking however much time my way needs to plot, and name characters, and order stories, the words “as sap in a tree” creep into my being, I relax, and go about my thing, my way. Even in a passing comment in correspondence, Rilke enhanced my own life, so, so many years after his death.

His death…. I read a story that he pricked his finger on a rose thorn, contracted blood poisoning, and died. What a tragic, yet romantic story. How fitting, though terrible, for a tragic, romantic poet.

This Brain Pickings article gives a taste of Letters to a Young Poet, and a flavor of Rilke himself, a man with such talent, such wordsmithery that he made me love the line “my feeling sinks, as if standing on fishes”.

I literally just finished The Shifting Tide moments ago. I’ve written here before about how much I love Anne Perry’s books, the William Monk series in particular. This one is my favorite of them all. So far anyway.

Former policeman Monk is a man with little past. He started out after a terrible carriage accident with no memory at all, but slowly bits of the life he no longer remembers fully return to him. In large part he is an enigma to himself.

His wife Hester is a fiercely independent woman, a nurse who served in the Crimea with Florence Nightingale. Together they have built a life of fierce love and joy, and hardwon happiness. Monk scrapes together a living as a private detective, while Hester sacrifices her own safety to help those less fortunate. They are a match like no other, and in The Shifting Tide they very nearly lose everything dear to them. The most dear being each other.

Especially with my head still so filled with imagery and action and dialogue and story from this novel, it’s tempting to go deeply onto the details that made me love it so much, but I want to leave all that a mystery for readers to discover for themselves, as is fitting for such
a wonderful mystery novel.

The thing is that Anne Perry’s Victorian mysteries go far beyond the genre used to describe them. They are fascinatingly historical, filled with action and adventure, often laced liberally with travel, and always deeply romantic. They defy pigeonholing in such a way that fans of myriad genres could easily fall in love with them. Especially the Monk series, as they venture well into the realm of medical drama as well.

I think what has made me so enthralled with The Shifting Tide is the way this one novel encompasses all of the genres I just listed, and in such a way that reading it made me feel as if I was actually there on the great Thames with Monk and in the cesspool that the splendour of London hid behind its genteel facade with Hester. Exhilarating, terrifying, beautiful, and awful…it’s all there. For me all of Anne Perry’s Victorian gems are like that, but The Shifting Tide stands out as something special that demands special attention.

I also must say that Anne Perry’s writing always makes me read it with a writer’s eye, even as I become so deeply involved in the story. She is one of those authors I both admire and envy. Which means that while I feel it unlikely that I will ever reach the heights of the beauty of her prose, I find myself striving toward the shining example of the excellence of it. Simply put, reading her writing makes me a better writer. My dreamy writerly hope right now is to someday make a reader feel as I did while reading The Shifting Tide.

What a horrifying, yet perfect day to release the brilliant serial killer thriller, The Silence of the Lambs. That happened 25 years ago. Yes, Doctor Hannibal Lecter was unleashed into movie history on Valentine’s Day. How appropriate… if, like me, you consider the movie a love story of sorts.

I’ve seen it that way from the moment I sat down and braced myself to try to get through something so scary. This was years after the movie had been in theaters and on video. At the time it just wasn’t my kind of thing. Though I’d been devouring movies for most of my life, it took the imaginary accompanying fava beans and chiante enjoyed by Doctor Lecter over a misfortunate census taker to push me over the edge of movie going mediocrity and set off down the road toward film connoisseur.

Simply put, The Silence of the Lambs is a masterpiece. As I watched, I was horrified, as expected. I was also intrigued, spellbound, and so impressed by the story and the way it was told on the screen that I had to know the source material. That led me to discovering the work of Thomas Harris, author of the novel The Silence of the Lambs. Since then I’ve read all of his Hannibal Lecter novels, and from the beginning declared him a genius. He paints pictures with words in a rare and beautiful way. In Hannibal, his Florence imagery made me long to go there. For every scene of ugliness and brutality, there are moments of gorgeous phrasing and evocative description. His prose is spare, yet elaborate, and somehow the adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs takes all this on and elaborates on it.

I fell in love with Anthony Hopkins’ work when I saw The Edge, and started watching everything he’s done. I say started because the man is incredibly prolific. I’ve seen scores of his movies, but they never run out! If not for wanting to see all of his movies, I doubt if I would ever have watched The Silence of the Lambs. Now, just because of that one movie, I discovered one of my favorite authors and genres. In fact, I’m working on a serial killer thriller screenplay, and if you’d told me I’d ever do that before I watched The Silence of the Lambs, I would have looked at you in bugeyed horror, like Doctor Chilton when he realized he was being one upped by a female FBI agent in the making. It was simply unthinkable.

So now on the 25th anniversary of the release of a movie that was not only a chilling study in crime and criminal hunters, but also a subtley romantic story of the crush from hell told in nuanced glances, fleeting vocal adoration, and one alarmingly lingering touch, I celebrate a movie that opened my eyes to a new world of possibility and led me to a future that is now my present screenwriting endeavor. If not for that movie, I might never have discovered that labeling something horror did not mean that’s all it was, that it would be exclusively horrifying, that I wouldn’t…couldn’t enjoy it. Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a movie by its genre.

The Silence of the Lambs remains a testament to the talent that went into its existence. It also continues to make me be creeped out by the obvious elements, but also such simple things as sewing patterns, lotion, and moths. It puts the images in its mind….

Entertainment Weekly article about the 25th anniversary of The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs Trailer

Check out @CartBlanch’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/CartBlanch/status/689509958577065984

This tweeted pic contains some shocking rejection numbers of books by famous authors. As painful as it had to have been to keep going in the face of such disheartening discouragement, it’s incredibly encouraging to see it spelled out so starkly that perseverance really does mean something. These are authors we know through their books and love for the life they gave to unforgettable characters and stories. I’m keeping this where I can easily see it, so the inevitable days of rejection and the stress it can bring won’t sting so badly or so long as they would without the reminder of the amazing company all serious writers keep in the struggle to be seen and heard and thrilled to and cherished.

@CartBlanch’s Tweet