Posts Tagged ‘literature’

I compiled this for my own personal record-keeping, but thought I’d share.

I try to read at least one novel or story collection a week, and I aim to write at least a brief review for each (I rarely hit that goal, though, especially with my other reading/writing requirements). I’m probably omitting some books I’ve forgotten from this list because I started compiling it at the end of July,  and I’m not including kids’ books I read with my daughter or scholarly non-fiction/philosophy/etc. only people like me read (each of which would have a separate list if I had time to put it together).  This list is organized in a roughly chronological order of when read.  Books marked with an asterisk were re-reads.

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Thoughts on Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake by way of wilderness and post-apocalyptic genre traditions
"Snowman wakes before dawn"

“Snowman wakes before dawn” – Oryx and Crake fan art by Jason Courtney
More images: http://www.perdador.com/f6update/illustration_f9.html

I gave a guest lecture yesterday on Oryx and Crake for a colleague’s 200-level Environmental Literature course.  My presentation was organized around the ways that the book participates in genres, challenges some of  their conventions, and updates the “classic” dystopia (WeBNW, 1984, et cetera) by moving the locus of power from the centralized state to a more nebulous net of corporations and their mercenaries.

Because nearly any lower-level survey of environmental literature will necessarily include readings drawn from the mostly-American, white male-dominated, wilderness tradition, my prep also involved looking for ways to connect what is going on in Oryx and Crake with those texts that students had recent familiarity with.  I’m not sure how well the lecture worked in setting this up, but the result was something that, in retrospect, seems quite obvious.  However, I hadn’t previously fleshed it out, which was kind of weird (I guess wilderness writing hasn’t been on my mind much recently).  My main take away point is this:  Post-apocalyptic protagonists share a number of traits with protagonists or narrators of the wilderness genre.  This has interesting implications for connecting a reading of Snowman in Oryx and Crake to both genres.

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Because what the internet needs is another commentary on the film adaptation of The Hunger Games . . .

Going into the release, I quickly reread the first book (for the fourth time) so that I could more easily be pedantic and nitpicky about how they adapted the film, what they chose to play up or omit, and how well it worked as a representation of the overall feel and main themes of the book. Most of the time this kind of thing leads to fannish and annoying pointing out of differences as if trying to show off what a smart, super-fan one is, but I’m going to try to stick to things that actually make a difference in overall tone.

As a whole, my take was that the films was “good but not great” for reasons I’ll explain in a second, and I’m sticking to that even if it makes me a killjoy for those who have wholly embraced it as everything awesome is supposed to be (Scott Tobias’ review at The AV Club is a pretty close mirror to my own thoughts . . . if I weren’t going to itemize and explain every detail I though worth considering).  As for the latter folks swept up in the hype, which seems to be far too much of the internet, witness, for example, the simplistic, uncritical accolades from “film critic” Margot McGowan at SF Gate. McGowan’s absurd “review” is narrow in scope and merely lauds the film for not breaking the from those elements that allow for a feminist reading of the book (which is a dubious position for many reasons that other, more capable folks have pointed out).  Not that it isn’t a reasonable point to care that Katniss isn’t sexed-up in the film, but in the book that concern is primarily and textually Katniss’ . . . transferred over to the reader via her inner monologue. And the ultimate choice on whether or not to go this route in presenting her is Cinna’s, which he decidedly goes against.  Further, concerns McGowan raises about gender equality (in numbers of tributes? seriously?) are patently absurd, as is the ladies working together to save each other angle she generates.  The film is loyal to the book on these counts, which isn’t the same as it being “awesome,” which implies levels of both loyalty and creative changes to the source material that still capture the spirit of the novel and enthrall the audience.

[major spoilers follow]

Let me start with the things the film did pretty good or exceptionally well:

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