Jargoneer's Reading with Intent
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A little late to the party but…
I don't usually set any goals for reading but some of it is down to the book groups I am a member of – one science fiction and one 'mainstream'* (I do tend to flit in and out of this one as it may well be the world's most boring book group. How can you get 10-12 people attending and barely get 30 minutes conversation? This is in a bookshop so the wine is limited, I can understand going to a book group as saying nothing when the wine is flowing freely).
I have also joined a third book group* with the aim of reading all Muriel Sparks' novels in a year. It works out a two a month but this seems viable as the majority of her novels are less than 200 pages, some being really novellas.
I try to read from a selection of genre magazines as I subscribe to them. I see this partly as a good deed, helping to keep the tradition of genre short fiction alive.
*in both the mainstream book group and the Muriel Spark one I am the token male. Initially when I went to the former I began to feel a little paranoid that the reason no-one was talking was due to me. I had visions that in the months I didn't appear everyone was chatting and laughing. It could even be the basis of a crime novel, Murder at the Book Group, were the man is tried, found guilty and executed by a jury of female readers.
I was at a neighborhood event of sorts where some women were discussing putting a book group together. It got a little awkward when I expressed interest as they tried to make sense if this. Sometimes books are just an excuse for a mom get together. Nice to see you here again.
And rather than start with a book let's begin with an adaptation of a novel.
The Lyceum, Edinburgh.
20th January & 2 February
Adapted from Magaret Duras' The Lover & The North China Lover, directed by Fleur Darkin & Jemima Levick
Dramaturgy by David Greig
The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed two dates listed above, this is not because I loved this show so much I went twice. On my first visit to The Lyceum to see this the show lasted around 15 minutes before being put on hold and then cancelled 20 minutes later, due to a PC failure that meant the audio was functioning correctly. This actually turned out to be a blessing as I was seated in the stalls near the stage and the stage design meant that I couldn't see what was happening. This was due to the stage being 'flattened' from its usual rake. When I went back I made sure I was in the Grand Circle.
The reason the stage was made level was for the dancers as The Lyceum decided to adapt Duras' poetic novel using a mixture of narration and dance. This was made more unusual by having an actress playing the older narrator on stage at various times while at others using a recorded voice, which the dancers attempted to mime to. This dubbing at the effect of making the performance a little too unreal and slightly risible.
For those with no knowledge of the Duras' books it is an autobiographical novel set in French colonial Vietnam about a poor French 15-year-old who has an affair with a 27-year-old Chinese man from a wealthy family. (The North China Lover is a film script version of the novel. In the novel the man ends the affair due to his father's disapproval despite the fact he sincerely loves her, a love that is only acknowledged later by the girl. At times the poetic becomes the erotic and this facet of the novel was certainly played up in the 1992 film adaptation when the sex between the two leads was (falsely) rumoured to be read. (It also led to Jane March, in what was her film debut, be nicknamed 'The sinner from Pinner').
This live adaptation came with the warning 'contains nudity and adult themes' which suggested that the erotic would part of the show. Unfortunately when the girl and lover embraced nudity and started rolling about on the stage/bed it had all the erotic power and beauty of two overweight East European men competing in the Upper Vladivostok Greco-Roman Wrestling Championships Preliminary 1st round. I just kept wondering why don't they just dance together, surely dance is capable of conveying eroticism better than rolling about. In truth there was too much sitting rolling and milling around and not enough dancing. On the occasional moments dancing did break out the whole show came alive.
On a positive note the soundtrack of female French pop and electronica from the likes of LCD Soundsystem was excellent.
Overall an interesting experiment but not fully thought through, a few simple tweaks such as making the narrator tell the story from the stage, a ghost among the dancers would have allowed the production to more fully explore the text. In this respect it seems another missed opportunity during the David Greig tenure at the Lyceum. I understand that due to funding cuts the Lyceum has had to be more creative in delivering shows but too often over the last two years they have been trapped in a high concept, low content circle. Perhaps it is time to go back to the basics and make the text the prime focus, a great play, a great night out can be created with two actors and a bare stage. It seems that that the Lyceum never got the irony about adapting a novel and effectively removing the author's voice. Once you have done that what do you have left?
Still, there's always next time – how about a mime version of War and Peace.
Hi! I absolutely loved The Lover as a novel but I guess this adaptation is not for me. Thanks for the picture though: it's nice to be reminded of the hat she wears.
I like your idea for a novel, Murder at the Book Group. :)
I was a (female) member of a mostly female book club. Some of the women were actively looking to recruit male members while I didn't care much one way or the other. Anyway in our case the sessions where men were present were not less lively than the ones where there were none. Maybe the problem concerning your group is that not _enough_ wine is served? ;)
I'm also curious: which genre magazines are you subscribed to?
>6 chlorine: - until you asked that question I didn't realise how many magazines I subscribed to (virtually all in ebook format - most through Weightless books) so here goes -
BI-WEEKLY - Beneath Ceaseless Skies*
MONTHLY - Lightspeed*, Nightmare*, Clarkesworld*, Apex*
BI-MONTHLY - F&SF, Asimovs, Interzone, Black Static
QUARTERLY - Lackingtons, Shoreline of Infinity
I rarely manage to read all the stories in the magazines but all these subscriptions only cost £15/$20 a month or in Edinburgh beer prices, a couple of pints. I probably trick myself regarding money as I usually stagger each subscription so I'm usually only taking out one a month.
I know I could read the stories from the ones marked with an asterisk but I admire the time and effort the people producing them put into them. I've read Interzone, Black Static, Asimovs and F&SF on and off over the years.
Shoreline of Infinity is an SF magazine produced in Edinburgh and if I'm honest is not very good but I have to support the local product.
Given the plethora of outlets now for genre short fiction (in addition to the above I could probably list another dozen plus) this should be a golden age of the SF/Fantasy short story but from my reading that doesn't appear to be the case. There are probably too many outlets diluting the quality and it often feels like the level of the writing is YA. I think I'm also a little disappointed that with all the new voices entering the field SF hasn't produced a New New Wave; the magazines are currently producing a plethora of writers from different ethnic, gender, identity, etc backgrounds which is great but the overall level feels more Orson Scott Card than Ursula K. Le Guin. (Of course this could because the golden age of SF is 12 and I'm an old codger who has a love-hate relationship with SF and who deserves to be slapped about the face with a wet fish).
Just to show how much of an old codger I am becoming one of my arguments with the fellow SF book group members is to name me a great SF writer under the age of 50. My theory is that SF & F has become so accepted that much of the best genre writing is no longer published as genre. While it once seemed possible for the best SF writers to breakout into the mainstream it now seems better to avoid publishing in the genre at all. At this point I would like to cite the example of John Crowley - if Crowley is not one of the best American writers of the last 40 years then I'm a ham sandwich but even when he published (very good) mainstream novels he was more-or-less ignored.
While I'm in old codger mode I feel I have to mention the BBC adaptation of Little Women broadcast over the holidays. I have a soft spot for Alcott's novel which has already been adapted into three films, all of which have merits and are worth watching. I'm less sure about the 1978 mini-series in which William Shatner stars as Professor Captain T. Kirk, Jo's eventual husband (and that's despite thinking being of sound mind and believing that Shatner is the greatest living renaissance man - act, sing, write, he can do it all).
I thought the BBC usually delivers with costume drama but I switched this off after thirty minutes. I was willing to overlook the insipid casting of the March girls and the usual artistic flourishes of the director, i.e. the ability to keep the camera still for more than 15 seconds. (I wonder if future historians will look back at this period of film-making and wonder if there was a worldwide contagion which meant no-one could focus on one thing for more than a few seconds). What I couldn't forgive was the adaptation changing the plot. Heidi Thomas, obviously channelling all her Call the Midwife experience, decided the story line could with some help - to this end, she sent Jo and Meg to the party at the Laurence house but decided that the burnt dress was not required, or let's change how Laurie and Jo meet, etc. I knew we were in trouble when it started with the father at war - some of us are not simpletons, we don't need to be shown a redundant scene but could cope finding out the reason for the father's absence through dialog. There are a reason some novels are classified as great, and it's because they have stood the test of time and weathered the vagaries of fashion - they don't need 'improvement'.
Good to have you back!
Interesting Margaret Duras adaptation. I remember being enamored of the movie adaptation (so long ago....)
>9 Jargoneer: Loved your critique of the new BBC adaptation of LW. I'm always interested to see an adaptation, recognizing that film/television is a different media, and not always agreeing with the choices made to cater to the current audience. I may skip the new adaptation of LW based on your comments (I dislike that whole moving camera thing). Do you think they are aiming at a...ahem...younger audience who expect different things from their television programs? (Bravo, to the directors of both Handmaid's Tale and Alias Grace, who took their time to tell the stories with great attention to detail....it no doubt helped that Atwood was still around to consult)
>9 Jargoneer: I think you’ve saved me from wasting space on my DVR. I was planning to record LW when it airs here in May. Now I don’t need to remember to do it. :)
I subscribe to several magazines, which wind up hitting the recycle bin before I’ve had a chance to read them. However, Vanity Fair and the New Yorker are my favorites. I also have digital access to those, so I use their daily emails to pick and choose articles to read every day. I’ve never thought about tracking them, but it is interesting to see what others, including yourself, are reading.
>10 avaland: >11 NanaCC: - LW may still be worth a glance as a number of people did seem to like. I still have on my DVR just in case I feel the urge to give it another go.
>10 avaland: - I think virtually everything is aimed at a younger audience which seems pointless as most of them are not watching television but are watching youtube on their smartphones. (I understand that's a generalisation but whenever I mention watching television to the young people they look at me as if I'm an purple-hewed alien).
One of piece of television I would recommend is Detectorists, it's about two middle-aged men in metal detecting in a field (always the same field). It may sound incredibly boring but it's great. By the end of the last episode in series 3 it's hard not to feel a little sad that these characters won't be back but grateful the show ended with such a good episode.
>11 NanaCC: - a weekly magazine like The New Yorker is a real commitment. I do visit the website regularly to read some the material that is free to non-subscribers. One of the best things about digital editions is that there freely available to all corners of the globe, before then subscriptions outside North America were always so prohibitive, that and the fact you don't have to find space for them. It's hard enough finding space for all the books.
>12 Jargoneer: Have watched the Detectorists and loved it. We get it via Acorn.tv (streaming). Also glad Line of Duty is still great. Just got the latest seasons (5) of DCI Banks & Scott & Bailey (but I'm only allowed to watch them when I'm on the exercise bicycle).
Did you get to see any of the first season of Legion? I love weird, creative stuff like that. Also, addicted to Fargo (although that last season with Ewan MacGregor was not as good as the previous two).
>7 Jargoneer: That's a lot of magazines indeed!
I discovered many of those magazines in the last quarter of last year and I feel torn about them: on the one hand I want to read current short stories to get a feel of what is happening and maybe discover new emerging authors, and on the other hand I feel there's so much older stuff that I haven't read and for which many reviews are available to guide me towards what I'd like (and so many anthologies of short stories that should be of higher quality than random stories) that I should just stick with the older stuff.
Anyway I guess the answer is in the middle path. I've wanted to try Apex for a while and I've caved in today and bought the ebook version of the February issue. I thought the first short story was good but I see what you mean about YA.
Interesting thoughts about the evolution of the genre, I'll have to keep that in mind.
Oh and I wasn't aware of that meaning of "swagger", thus this sentence had me really puzzled until I decided to look up swagger in a dictionary:
I probably trick myself regarding money as I usually stagger each subscription so I'm usually only taking out one a month
(I'm still not quite sure I get it right, and you'll have guessed that it's because I'm not a native speaker :)
>7 Jargoneer: I used to subscribe to Asimov's, but there just wasn't enough space. Have subscribed to Fantasy and Science Fiction since 1964, though it often goes unread.
>8 Jargoneer: I don't know about great writers, but there certainly are many good ones under 50. I can't keep up. The field has become so diverse that a single Wave of any sort probably can't happen - too many subfields.
>9 Jargoneer: Stopping by to drop a star and to comment on this:
There are a reason some novels are classified as great, and it's because they have stood the test of time and weathered the vagaries of fashion - they don't need 'improvement'.
I find I feel the same way about films sometimes. Last year (?) they decided to redo Ben-Hur - I mean, really??? Even with CGI that chariot race will never be equaled in power, especially knowing it was done with real people and animals.
OTOH, I loved the Susan Sarandon remake of Little Women and fell in love with Gabriel Byrne when I saw it.
I recently rewatched the Richard Chamberlain Count of Monte Cristo and for the first time realized what a really good actor he is, pretty face or not. (And what a pretty face!) None of the other adaptations have matched that version for the shear glory of the impression Monte Cristo makes.
And would someone please make a really, really decent live adaptation of Beauty and the Beast (although there is that wonderful French version from the 40s), and try to improve on all the Jane Eyre's out there?
I'll shut up now :)
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