lunes, 29 de julio de 2013

Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway (1997)

As I have recently re-read Mrs. Dalloway, I thought it would be interesting to watch one of the film adaptations, and as I'm such a nerd, I chose the chronologically first one, Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. Here's the trailer:

Sorry for the crappy quality, but I couldn't find a YouTube link.

The cast is quite good, to be honest - Vanessa Redgrave as Mrs. Dalloway (Atonement, Nip/Tuck, Call the Midwife and future Vida Winter in The Thirteenth Tale), Lena Headey as young Sally Seton (Game of Thrones, 300, The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Rupert Graves as Septimus Warren Smith (Sherlock, V for Vendetta, The Forsyte Saga) and a bunch of traditional British household names. The performances some times came out a little tepid, but they were good in general - except for Lucrezia's fake Italian accent, which was consistently terrible. I can't say the same about the general feeling conveyed by the film, though. 

It was directed by a Marleen Gorris, unknown to me until today. And the best I can say about her work is that it is okay. It is an okay adaptation - it's literal, to the extent of lifting whole passages from the novel. A reader's dream, I suppose. However, the final product is bland. I really can't say anything better, even taking into account the problems of adapting a stream-of-consciousness, internal-monologue-filled novel. This Mrs. Dalloway is robbed of its liricism and dynamism, which makes for a very tedious adaptation. 

I guess it could be an useful tool for teaching the novel, but I wouldn't recommend this film for entertainment. I hope I like The Hours better!

viernes, 26 de julio de 2013

Good Evening, Mrs. Craven: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes

Good Evening, Mrs. Craven: The Wartime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes is a collection of 21 short stories that appeared in The New Yorker from 1939 to 1944, all written (obviously) by Mollie Panter-Downes. And it's my second Persephone book! And again, a book about the Second World War.

As every collection of short stories, reviewing this is difficult. Considering the collection as a whole, it is really really good. The Wartime Stories started out funny and got progressively darker as the war continued. The stories are straightforward and succinct, but they don't leave you with that feeling of missing something. They portray the not-so-nice aspects of the Home Front, contrary to the endurance and happy face that is usual of many WWII stories. I really liked it. Of course, as in every collection, I liked some stories better than others, so I thought about making a diminutive summary of each one with a rating. Here we go:

lunes, 22 de julio de 2013

How books can open your mind

In this fascinating and really short TED Talk, Lisa Bu talks about how she turned to books after her initial dream to become an opera singer didn't come true. In over five minutes, she is able to convey her enthusiasm about reading, how books can make you happy when you didn't expect it and how they can help to broaden your horizons and make you more open-minded. That's quite a feat for such a short time! 

The people from TED have also put together an amazing and huge reading list composed of books mentioned by famous TED speakers, among which are the ones mentioned by Lisa Bu in this talk and the ones mentioned by Chip Kidd in that awesome talk about designing book covers. If you have run out of ideas for your summer reading, why not try to make a dent on the list?

Note: I'll be away for a week or so, but I've scheduled a couple of entries to appear during my absence. Hopefully this will work and I won't come back to find an imploded blog or some such thing.

sábado, 20 de julio de 2013

Book Blogger Hop: What is your favorite classic novel?

First book blogger hop! And the first question I'm ever answering for a BBH couldn't be more suited: What is your favorite classic novel?

I mean, I mainly read classics! And because of that, I feel entitled to cheat on my first day and list two favorite classic novels instead of just one:

For a more contemporary classic, If on a winter's night a traveler, by Italo Calvino, blew my mind when I read it. The best way to describe it is as a Choose You Own Adventure for grown-ups. If that doesn't spark your interest, I don't know what will. I haven't reviewed it on this blog because I read it a while ago and this blog is fairly new, but here's my Goodreads review.

My other choice is a little bit more classic: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë. When I started reading classics by choice and not because they were assigned at school, I only found stories happening to dudes. The ladies were there just to faint and be a love interest. Basically, I mean this:

Copyright: Kate Beaton, the writer and cartoonist of Hark, a Vagrant!
And then I came across Jane Eyre. Outspoken, strong-willed, compassionate and intelligent. A classic woman I could look up to. My favorite quotes from the novel really show what I mean:

“Jane, be still; don't struggle so like a wild, frantic bird, that is rending its own plumage in its desperation."
"I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being, with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you.” 

“I would always rather be happy than dignified.” 

“Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal — as we are!”  

Okay, I'm leaving it at that. I don't think you'd like to read a dozen of quotes. In case you feel so inclined, go here. Refreshing, specially for a 19th century novel.

viernes, 19 de julio de 2013

Few Eggs and No Oranges: The Diaries of Vere Hodgson 1940-45

Vere Hodgson lived in London during Second World War, working for a charity. Conscious of the momentous times she was living and having relatives living abroad, she decided to start a diary to record her day-to-day life in the Home Front. Few Eggs and No Oranges is a selection of her diary entries.

It is obvious that Vere Hodgson wrote this home-front diary to be read by a broader public, because it is engaging and some times even humorous, she is thorough about key events of Second World War and the effect they had on day-to-day life. Besides, even if she describes herself as a common Londoner, she had had direct contact with Mussolini as teacher of his daughter, and commented on some of the events with more inside knowledge than any ordinary person would.

However, there was something I didn't entirely like - Vere's voice. She was too enamoured of Churchill and full of British pride to be critic, and appears more concerned about buildings than people. The only really emotional Vere we glimpse is when Auntie Nell dies. I guess the second part wasn't really so, given that she worked as a welfare assistant, but I expected more accounts of raided people and how they coped than tours of the ruins.

An excerpt from the last entry in the diary:

(May 1945) Victory in Europe Day, Tuesday 8th. Today we have been celebrating! [...] In the evening we had our own party. We were quite a United Nations. A Russian, a Swiss, a Channel Islander, a Scot-cum-Welsh and me, a true-blue English Midlander. [...] We drank numerous Toasts... Churchill, Stalin, Auntie Nell, Kit's father in Guernsey... [...] God bless him [Churchill].

lunes, 15 de julio de 2013

Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf

Writing a review of a book by Virginia Woolf is scary. She was a better writer than I can describe without gushing, rivers of words have been written about her and her books, and people have this nagging feeling of guilt about not having read her. Or a tremendous infatuation with her work, which I understand. So I have this feeling of incompetence about reviewing Mrs. Dalloway, but I'll try anyway.

My Penguin edition has a great little summary on the back cover: Clarissa Dalloway, elegant and vivacious, is preparing for a party and remembering those she once loved. In another part of London, Septimus Warren Smith is shell-shocked and on the brink of madness. Smith's day interweaves with that of Clarissa and her friends, their lives converging as the party reaches its glittering climax. Past, present and future are brought together one momentous June day in 1923.
Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
  For Lucy had her work cut out for her. The doors would be taken off their hinges; Rumpelmayer's men were coming. And then, thought Clarissa Dalloway, what a morning - fresh as if issued to children on a beach.
  What a lark! What a plunge! For so it had always seemed to her when, with a little squeak of the hinges, which she could hear now, she had burst open the French windows and plunged at Bourton into the open air. How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (for a girl of eighteen as she then was) solemn, feeling as she did, standing there at the open window, that something awful was about to happen [...].
What a perfect start! Every time I open this book, I feel like Clarissa plunging into the early London morning. I've read those starting paragraphs as many times as the Lolita ones and I can safely say they are my favourites. Woolf introduces every theme of the novel in few words. It's like the first movement of a sonata. We have the party, the vitality of Clarissa Dalloway, her reflections on life and death, the past at Bourton and the 'something awful'.

viernes, 12 de julio de 2013

The Graphic Art of Harry Potter

With names that could have been invented by J.K. Rowling, Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima are the creative minds that designed every graphic prop for the Harry Potter films. From the Daily Prophet to the Ministerial Decrees, including the most perfect Marauder's Map someone could have imagined.

Apparently, the Coningsby Gallery hosted an exhibition in June which featured many of the Harry Potter film props. If you are as terribly sad as I am because you couldn't visit the exhibition, there's good news! The Telegraph has assembled an awesome gallery with a selection of the designs. And the Creative Review has a little interview with both designers, and features some designs not included in the Telegraph selection.

Mina and Lima have started their own design studio, MinaLima, and have designed book covers, merchandise and props for other films, including The Golden Compass, wich -letting aside other problems- was visually stunning. Their page is worth having a look at. And best of all is that they sell prints!

My favorite print is the Advertisements from The Daily Prophet: