In Which I Have Nothing Original to Add to the Discussion on: Howards End (1910), by E.M. Forster

Howards EndThis book is #65 on my Classics Club list.

Right. I didn’t have a whole lot to say about Howards End, so I decided to go away and read some reviews to see what other people are saying about the book. And it seems like all the reviews, positive or negative, seem to more or less agree on a few main points:

1. The novel is about class. Some other stuff too, but people mostly seem to agree that it’s about class. Because there’s three families, and two of them are rich enough and marry one another, and one is not. This is all very sad and tragic and allows Forster to make some profound comments on the way that class works in the twentieth century. Don’t ask me what they are, I just know they’re profound. Continue reading

“Put Up Thy Sword!”: Why I Love the 1996 Romeo + Juliet

romeo-juliet-beach

This week’s Classic Remarks prompt was a difficult one to write. The theme was adaptations of classic books, and of course I spent most of this week cycling through my favourite films, desperately trying to figure out which one I love the most. Of course one of the first things that leapt to mind was Jane Austen, but since I’ve spent a lot of time banging on about Austen adaptations already, I thought I’d branch out and discuss something different (I know, I’m also surprised I managed to supress my natural love of obsessing over Austen). Naturally, my mind leapt to a director who’s had a controversial relationship with the few classic novels he’s adapted. Continue reading

Adapting Austen: A Roundup of My Favourite Austen Adaptations

sense-and-sensibility-rain

I’m a sucker for a good Jane Austen adaptation. In fact, I think I’ve seen just about every one in existence, apart from those awkward 1970s BBC ones that are about as exciting as cohabitation with Mr Collins. So, naturally, this week’s Classic Remarks topic is right down my alley. But since I’ve been watching Austen adaptations since I was about thirteen, it’s kind of tough to pick my favourite. So, instead, I’ve decided to group my selections to cover all the bases you might use for evaluating an Austen adaptation. Continue reading

Top Ten Texts Every Lit Major Should Read

I’ve been a lit major for nigh on six years now, and so I thought it only fair that I use this week’s Top Ten Tuesday ‘Back to School’ theme to share some of the wisdom I’ve managed to gain. So I’ve decided to share ten texts I think every new lit major should try and read at some point in their university careers. Don’t be alarmed if these texts at first seem unnecessarily confusing, pointless, and/or completely and utterly useless. That’s more or less precisely how they’re supposed to be. Continue reading

Wherein I Take A Crack At ‘The Problem of Susan’

Narnia Susan

This week’s Classic Remarks prompt from Pages Unbound is brought to you by Susan Pevensie, problem child of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. So, as you might expect:

Warning: major spoilers for the Narnia series ahead!

I always found the ending of The Last Battle so unbearably crappy and depressing. The Pevensies were in a terrible train accident and then got transported to the apocalyptic end of the Narnia they had known and loved to live in a suspiciously small-looking walled garden with all the people they’d met in Narnia, ever? (Remember, as a kid I had no idea that the series was an allegory, but even knowing that fact doesn’t make it any less of a crappy and depressing allegory.) Continue reading

Warlords, Vampires, and Spatial Genetic Multiplicity: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Dracula PosterWarning! It is highly recommended that potential viewers of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 version of Dracula are fully equipped with a few necessary items. These include: (1) the ability to follow an incredibly confusing plotline; (2) a sketchy knowledge of Bram Stoker’s novel; and (3) a plentiful supply of cold water (buckets or cold showers both acceptable). Also, this review contains spoilers.

The fact that Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula is littered with eroticism and religious imagery is nothing new. It’s informed the way we write and perform the vampire myth over the course of an entire century. But in Coppola’s 1992 adaptation of the book (‘adaptation’ is here used in the loosest possible sense) this is taken to a whole new level.

‘Bram’s’?

This seems an obvious place to start, but the way that Coppola chooses to present his film to audiences is interesting. The film’s full title is Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but readers of the book may find themselves a touch perplexed; apart from the characters the film seems to have little in common with Stoker’s story. A case of postmodern irony, or just a marketing strategy? I leave it for you to decide. The opening shots present viewers with Dracula’s (Gary Oldman) backstory, something which Stoker only hints at in the novel. Continue reading

‘Owning’ the Past: Possession (1990), by A. S. Byatt

Possession ByattIf you wish to trace, dear reader,
The history recounted in prose,
By esteemed A. S. Byatt
From the start to the close,
Heed my warnings, which here I give:
Beware of SPOILERS, beware of those
That would seek to ruin a book
To lessen their own woes.

Beware of – currents – swirling swift –
And postmodernist – angst – that creates a rift
Beware of – bees – that sting –
But most of all, beware of bad poetry, of which I write far too much.

Having spent the better half of the last six years in and around universities, I can tell you that they are fascinating, absorbing places, filled with wild ideas and interesting people. But this doesn’t mean that the lives of literary scholars make for a good novel. I’ve spent a great deal of time in literature departments, libraries, and archives, but even I wouldn’t want to read a five-hundred-page novel about them. But then came A. S. Byatt’s Possession, bringing with it a great deal of acclaim and the promise of a really juicy (fake) literary mystery.

Hold on to your hats, people, because somehow the stakes in this novel seem incredibly high, despite the fact that they revolve around the lives of two fake Victorian poets. Continue reading

Fat Men, Fat Gods: The Beauty Myth (1990), by Naomi Wolf

Beauty MythIf you’re a woman in 2016, chances are you’ve probably, at some stage in your life, seen a picture of another woman – whether it be in an advertisement, in a film, or just on the street – and thought, ‘Geez. She’s so much prettier than me’. You’ve probably done something painful or inconvenient or expensive to your body at least once – whether you’ve plucked, scrubbed, scraped, steamed, smeared, or even laid down on a table and let someone put a scalpel to your skin. And if you haven’t, then chances are you’re either: a) living outside human society as a cultureless hermit, in which case you probably won’t be reading this anyway, or b) you’re one of the rare people who are actually happy with their bodies, in which case I applaud you and beg you to kindly TELL ME HOW THE HELL YOU DO IT thank you please and kind regards. Continue reading

Secret Identities Revealed! The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905), by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

Scarlet PimpernelWarning! I will be revealing the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel in this post! If you have not read the book, or if you are an evil French revolutionary trying to capture the Pimpernel, please don’t read any further.

On an unrelated note, I would like to add that this book is #62 on my Classics Club List. Long Live the Pimpernel!

Ah, the elusive Pimpernel! Never did a literary hero have such an unfortunate alias.

I had never heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel until I watched Blackadder the Third. Unfortunately, having watched Blackadder also meant that I immediately knew who the Scarlet Pimpernel was. So much for mystery.

The Scarlet Pimpernel begins in Revolutionary France, where, in the midst of the Terror, some cheeky chap has been smuggling aristocrats out of Paris and helping them escape to good old Britain. The first two chapters are positively chuckle-worthy, as Orczy describes a few of the clever Pimpernel’s methods for sneaking aristocrats out from under the noses of the evil revolutionaries. Continue reading

In the Mood for a Little Victorian?: Lark Rise To Candleford (1939-1943), by Flora Thompson

Lark RiseThis book is #87 on my Classics Club list.

A couple of years ago I began watching a hugely enjoyable BBC series. And then, one season in, I discovered that it had in fact been based on a series of books.

As a person who hates watching the movie before reading the book, you can imagine how much this irked me. So although I’d been given a box set of the series for a recent birthday, I resolved not to watch any further until I had read the source material for myself.

Two years later, and I have finally finished Lark Rise to Candleford. It’s taken me a while and one abortive attempt, but I’m pleased to say that I’ve read this trio of novels about the Oxfordshire countryside. Whether it was worth the two-year wait will probably become apparent when I finally finish watching the BBC adaptation next year. Continue reading