Friday, 16 September 2016

The Grimm Brothers

     This book researches the Grimm Brothers- Jacob (born 1785) and Wilhelm (born 1786).  It destroys the myth that two men travelled far and wide to record these tales.  Actually, they got many of their stories from their sister Lotte's friends. Those women remembered the tales from their youth.
  Jacob and Wilhelm began publishing volumes of fairy tales and after the second volume was printed, male scholars took the work seriously and began digging up old manuscripts to contribute to the collections.  There were 7 editions, (210 stories in all) often with two volumes per edition, from 1812 to 1857, called "Children's and Household Fairy Tales".
   When the first editions were published, there was much criticism because, although they were targeted to children, it was felt that aspects of the stories were not suitable for children.  So...
Quote: "They transformed the too shocking, amoral stories through the lens of middle-class concepts: wicked mothers became evil stepmothers, nude princes were splendidly dressed, and Rapunzel's pregnancy remained undiscovered by the wicked witch as well as by the young reader."

Fairy tales have been told since the Middle Ages.  They speak to our psyche in strange ways. They are compelling in their portrayal of the human condition.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Fairy Tales

   An interesting change for a book club.  We are planning to discuss the Grimm Fairy Tales, in particular "Snow White".
   I remembered a book about fairy tales that I read many years ago.  "The Uses of Enchantment" by Bruno Bettelheim is about the meaning and importance of fairy tales. So I reread this book in preparation for discussing fairy tales.
   Doesn't it seem strange that such apparent violence and brutality can be a positive influence in a child's life?

  Bettelheim is a therapist who works with severely disturbed children.  He works to restore meaning to their lives.

  He believes that children find fairy tales more satisfying than all other children's stories.  Of course, they don't know why they enjoy them, but Bettelheim thinks it is because fairy tales deal with universal human problems.  
  Good and evil are obvious, the bad always loses and the child feels a connection with the good.  There is an assurance that the child can succeed in life.  In many fairy tales, the hero is out in the world alone and separation anxiety is a normal problem for children. 
Quote (book cover) "Bettelheim shows how the fantastical, sometimes cruel, but always deeply significant narrative strands of the classic fairy tales can aid in the greatest human task, that of finding meaning for one's life."

   There is a chapter in the book on each of several fairy tales.
  "Snow White" focuses on the oedipus complex and, although I found it interesting, it is very complex.  All aspects of the story are analysed.

  Who knew that fairy tales have such symbolism and existential dilemmas?

Friday, 9 September 2016

"Light Between Oceans"- the movie

   I read this book in 2013, 2014, and 2015.  Three times!  Obviously, I loved it!  You can read my review here. You will notice that my review was done in 2013, when I had just begun my blog and it really was a video book blog.  That technology was not fun for me, so I settled for photos.

   The movie was in town and we were anxious to see the beautiful scenery of the Australian coast.  We realize that movies today are not made for seniors and expected some challenges with the sound.  But there were more than challenges!  
   Most of the story takes place on an island with the lighthouse keeper and his wife, who desperately wants a baby, but has three miscarriages.  For the first half of the movie, there were waves loudly  pounding the coast.  As well, there was a musical background. Sound overload!  We couldn't hear much of the dialogue. And the pounding of the waves made me crazy.  Was that on purpose?  Because the lighthouse keeper's wife really did lose her sanity. Perhaps I was meant to understand her loneliness and isolation.  I only experienced disappointment.

  The director was asked: What was it like working with actors on these raw emotional scenes, while everyone was wrestling with the environment?
  He answered: The weather helps. I mean, I don’t want to control the weather. I don’t want to control the actors either. I want to put them in a place where they can have an experience. If you live on this location, like we all did, and the wind is keeping you up at night, when you show up the next day you’re rattled. It emotionally, psychologically drives you crazy.

   Although there were some lovely panoramic scenes, mostly the videography was terrible.  And the sound was a problem even for our daughter with good hearing.
  One more time we were reminded that a movie can very seldom capture the details of the story that make it so compelling.  Maybe I should read that book one more time!

Monday, 5 September 2016

Kent Haruf

Kent Haruf (rhymes with sheriff)
    Kent's father was a Methodist minister. Kent attended Wesleyan University in Nebraska and later was involved with the writers' workshop there.  He taught English in Turkey with the Peace Corps.  He also taught college in Nebraska and Illinois.
  Kent has written 6 novels. I blogged about his last novel in 2015, "Our Souls at Night".
   This week I decided to tackle a trilogy: "Plainsong", "Eventide" and "Benediction".  Kent's books take place in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado, and he really describes the landscape well.

 In this novel there is an interesting assortment of characters- a high school teacher with two sons, a pregnant, homeless girl, two older bachelor farmers.  It really could be a slice of life in any small town.
 I could not figure out the reason for the title. I read this: "The title comes from a type of music sung in Christian churches, and is a reference to both the Great Plains setting and the simple style of writing".  This novel was made into a T.V. movie.

  In this second novel, some characters continue.  The McPheron men, who had provided a home for the pregnant teen, are lonely when she leaves for college and takes her baby.
  There is some sadness and also some romantic involvements in this book.
  A welfare family was added to the story and I hated that storyline.  It was full of abuse and bad language.  There was no redeeming feature in that.  Two other storylines were added that contained abuse and violence.  

   I'm not sure why these three books are called a series because none of the characters are continued in this book.  The town is the same.
  It is about an elderly man's last few weeks as he died of lung cancer. He had a loving wife and attentive daughter but his son had not been heard from for many, many years.  No resolution to that.
   I thought it was going to be without the abuse of the last book, but a fight breaks out in the church when the minister speaks about the Sermon on the Mount.  The whole scene was so bizarre to me.

   What I was missing from these books: character development, insight and understanding.  It really was just a town of people going about their everyday activities and it was often not clear why they were doing the things they were doing.

   Many people love Kent Haruf's writing.  I found this series plodding, with too many abusive characters.  The author wrote a lot of fight scenes in detail. 
   I cannot get over the lack of quotation marks.  There is not even a new paragraph when someone is speaking.  It seems so strange to me that an English teacher would ignore the rules of writing.
   The first book had a title at the beginning of each chapter to indicate who the chapter was about. But in the second book, you often didn't know who the chapter was about until you got a few paragraphs in.
   I thought the writing was very poor in this series.
   But I did enjoy Kent's very last book "Our Souls at Night".  He wrote it just before he died and it is sensitive and lovely.  You can read my review here.
  I am not finished with Kent Haruf's writing.  Our library book club is planning to read "The Tie Than Binds" in October.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Debbie Macomber

   I visited my friend Gayle while she was in respite care. Gayle is a great reader and was equipped with lots of books. 

   One choice for this stay was Debbie Macomber's "16 Lighthouse Road".  It is the first of the twelve novels in the Cedar Cove Series, which centres on an interesting group of people in a small town in Washington State.  All of the titles in this series are the street addresses of the main character of that novel. ("16 Lighthouse Road", "201 Rosewood Lane", "311 Pelican Court", etc).  Gayle loved that special touch and enjoyed reading about good ordinary people.  It was light reading for Gayle, but perfect for a stay in long-term care.

   Debbie Macomber is a very prolific author of contemporary women's fiction.  Her books can be read by any age in any circumstance.  Many of her books have been made into T.V. movies.  She writes about family and relationships- just what women are interested in!
  I found this uplifting story on Debbie's website:

I’d been writing for five years and had four completed manuscripts yet had not sold a single word of fiction.  The rejections came so fast I swear they hit me in the back of the head on the way home from the post office.  I wondered if I’d ever be a good enough writer to sell a book.  After the sale of an article for which I’d received $350 I was able to attend my first writers’ conference.  Because of the conference, I had the opportunity to meet with an editor who had read the first fifty pages of my manuscript.  I loved this story and felt it had all the elements of a wonderful romance.  If this book didn’t sell I didn’t know that anything I wrote would.
To say the editor didn’t like my book is an understatement.  In fact she said the best thing I could do with it was throw it in the garbage.
Devastated, I decided that I should give up trying to sell adult fiction and write children’s books instead.  I attended a workshop for children’s books and the author said something that I’ll never forget.  “Your book has a home.  Your job is to find it.”  That little bit of encouragement is all I needed.  I grabbed hold of it with both hands and clung to it as I submitted the very manuscript that had been so brutally rejected.  That book, Heart Song became my first sale.  Heart Song found a home with Simon & Schuster.  That small encouragement meant everything.  I believe if I had given up, and surrendered to defeat as a writer I would have lost a piece of my soul.