A book review, of sorts.
For my first foray into Yuletide this year, I took a bit of a risk: I requested a book that I hadn’t actually managed to read yet. I’d been looking for a copy for more than two years, after falling utterly in love with an old TVB adaptation of the story
. But finding a complete copy in English was impossible. My library did have the first volume, but the other two I could only find at online bookstores for outrageously high prices. Finding it in Chinese was easy enough, but it’s set in the 17th century and hence full of archaic and literary language, and besides that, it’s extremely long
. (How long? Well, the English version1
spans almost 1,600 pages, and according to Wikipedia, this War and Peace
-length translation is “highly abridged.” o_o )
I’m generally a book person, though, or at least a primary-source person, so when I decided to nominate the TV adaptation for Yuletide, I really wanted to include the original novel as well. So I did. And then I sort of panicked about having not actually read it, and went looking for a copy again—and found one
So I’ve now finally read the whole book. Or the whole “highly abridged” English version of the book, at any rate. And needless to say, I have thoughts. A lot of them are thoughts about how the book measured up to my expectations, based on what I knew from the TVB series. Aaaand a lot of them are also just "slash goggles: on."
In brief, The Deer and the Cauldron
traces the adventures of a street-urchin trickster anti-hero, Wai Siu-bou,2
as he (in one reviewer’s words) “traipses all around the countryside avoiding problems and creating even more of them.” Much of the drama stems from his increasingly hopeless efforts to navigate a lot of very contradictory loyalties—in particular, his close friendship with the young Emperor of China, and his simultaneous membership in a secret society whose aim is to overthrow the empire.
The relationship between Wai Siu-bou and the Emperor Hong Hei anchors the rest of the story, and it was what I loved about the TVB series and was hoping to see more of in the novel. And there is
more of it in the novel. Actually a lot more. But... also sort of less? I’ll come to that in a bit. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.
One thing can be said, though: if you're looking for subtext, the novel is most accommodating. “Several of the officers and courtiers noticed—with surprise, for he was normally so grave and mature in public and never showed any sign of emotion—that Hong Hei’s eyes were red and swollen with weeping. When they saw Wai Siu-bou’s tear-stained face as well, they assumed that he was responsible and wondered of exactly what nature the boy-Emperor’s relationship with his young favorite might be.
” ( All the subtext.Collapse )( Character dynamics: book vs. showCollapse )( Other pointsCollapse )
So. I don’t have a good place to end this post, but those are my extremely long-winded thoughts about The Deer and the Cauldron
(as relentlessly juxtaposed to the TVB adaptation that induced me to read it). I liked it—I really did, even in spite of the very mediocre translation and other assorted faults. But it does sort of bother me that there are things I still like better about the TV version, because I feel like the original book canon is the “real thing” and deserves according priority.
This is why I always try to read books first. It makes sense to complain about changes made in adaptations, but it’s sort of a problem when you want to complain about the original text having not been more like the way it was later adapted. :P( Footnotes!Collapse )
[This entry was originally posted at https://grayswandir.dreamwidth.org/285318.html.]
In the course of my education, I've discovered that the best way to get anything done is to have something else to procrastinate about. At the moment, I'm procrastinating about Russian grammar. And Russian spelling, and Russian vocabulary. And the writing of long emails in Russian.
I'm procrastinating by means of Shakespeare. Which I guess is more productive, anyway, than procrastinating by means of Star Trek
, which was the other option.
Until fairly recently, I was actually -- as absurd as it may sound -- sort of opposed to the idea of seeing Shakespeare on film, or even at a theater: I was quite sure that the only way to really appreciate Shakespeare's work was by reading it. And I still hold that Shakespeare does need to be read
; but I've also finally realized how much one gains by watching different versions of the plays. Gods know when I'll ever actually get to see a Shakespeare play on a stage, but for the time being, I've been making use of Netflix for... slightly more academic purposes than usual. Sort of.
Anyway. Ten films so far. I'm sure you guys are dying to know what I thought of them. ;) There's some picspamming, anyway...( Hamlet - 1948: Laurence OlivierCollapse )( Hamlet - 1990: Kevin KlineCollapse )( Hamlet - 1996: Kenneth BranaghCollapse )( King Lear - 2008: Ian McKellenCollapse )( Othello - 1995: Laurence Fishburne, Kenneth BranaghCollapse )( Macbeth - 2010: Patrick StewartCollapse )( A Midsummer Night's Dream - 1968: Ian Holm, Helen MirrenCollapse )( A Midsummer Night's Dream - 1999: Kevin Kline, Christian Bale, Stanley TucciCollapse )( Much Ado About Nothing - 1993: Branagh, Emma Thompson, Robert Sean Leonard...Collapse )( Twelfth Night - 1996: Ben Kingsley, Helena Bonham Carter, Stephen Mackintosh...Collapse )( Oh, and also Titus, which was too bad to watch.Collapse )
Looking this over, I wonder if I should be ashamed that half of my reactions seem to consist of damn these guys look good in period garb
. Er. So much for my intellectual pursuits...
- Tags:ben kingsley, ian mckellen, keanu reeves, kenneth branagh, kevin kline, laurence fishburne, literature, movies, patrick stewart, picspam, robert sean leonard, shakespeare
- Music:Ben Kingsley
Heh, I love how everybody is already making posts about how they feel about 2011 so far. As for me, I am definitely not off to a terribly productive start. So far, I have slept a lot and read a lot of Dinosaur Comics. And also my sister and I sat around and watched like two hours' worth of Flight of the Conchords stuff on YouTube. Oy. Though I did watch Becket
on New Year's, so that was at least something. (It was very good. Strange, though, seeing O'Toole play Henry II again
, but play him as such a completely different character. And once again, I have so much trouble picturing Peter O'Toole as not gay
. WHY IS HE ALWAYS SO GAY?)
Also, I've noticed that I suddenly seem to have started saying "twenty" when talking about the year, as in "twenty-eleven" instead of "two-thousand-ten." Maybe because "eleven" is just too many syllables already.
Anyway, to follow up my last post, which was about the books I read in 2010... Here's a 2010 book meme post! ( Book meme.Collapse )
...Okay, enough book posts for a while. Though somehow I made a lot fewer book-related posts than usual in 2010, in spite of reading more books than usual. So I guess I'm just making up for it after the fact.
1. Today, I climbed up on the roof and cut down about 60 pounds worth of branches that were lying on it, and swept away a great mountain of leaves. :) Felt much more productive than going to the gym (which I seem to have stopped doing as of several weeks ago).
2. Monday, as tilly_stratford
reminded me, was Talk Like William Shatner Day, in honor of which my sister and I paused dramatically at each other a great deal, and watched two episodes of Star Trek. Since then we've watched four more episodes, and I'm now endeavoring not to relapse into an obsession, because I really don't have time for that... but god
. That show. I have never in my life been exposed to anything, anything
more addictive and consuming than that show. I can handle drugs, you guys, but one hit of Star Trek and it's all over for me.
3. ( Here, have a book meme.Collapse )EDIT: And now (the 26th) I discover that it is Leonard Nimoy's birthday, and that he is also now 79. I had no idea he and Shatner were born, like, four days apart. o_O
Okay, and on a (mostly) totally different topic, I also just read Lord Byron's Cain, a Mystery
. ( In which I ramble about Byron, Satan, Cain, and Steinbeck.Collapse )
So my English Lit class is over, and what's the first thing I do? Decide it's time to finally read Gulliver's Travels
It was actually far more entertaining than I had expected. Swift's style is very prosaic and straightforward, which is probably why every time I've tried to read the book in the past, I was bored within the first couple of pages. But having gotten accustomed to his dry sarcasm from the excerpts in my Lit textbook, I was ready to give him another try. He's... quite a character, that Swift.
Mainly, I find myself astonished at how I can have ever imagined 1700 was a long time ago. I mean, I never thought 1800
seemed all that far in the past, but 1700 was another matter. The wigs and stockings had me confused, I guess. Diderot and Voltaire set me straight about the later part of the century, but I was still a bit wary of Swift. I see now that I was being an idiot. Gulliver's Travels
begins in 1699, and is scarcely any less relevant now than it was three hundred years ago.( Some random observations. With spoilers.Collapse )
What's really funny is that the whole book reminded me, more than anything, of Star Trek
. Okay, I know, I know. But in an age when the idea of interstellar travel was beyond any reasonable conjecture, Gulliver was nevertheless making the same kind of journeys the Enterprise makes, to strange new worlds where no man has gone before
; and in most cases, the beings he discovers there are even less like his own people than the aliens on Star Trek
are like earthlings. And, most importantly, in every case, by observing the behaviors and cultures of other creatures, he learns something about humanity, for better or worse. Only I'm afraid Swift was much less optimistic, and much less forgiving, than Roddenberry was.
Anyway. I should stop, because I have to go buy another computer monitor, since the one in my room has died again. God, I'd almost forgotten how preposterously long my posts get when I don't have a zillion more urgent things to be doing. You can all see how profitably I spend my free time. Whee.
People recommend books to me. I read other books. Fail? Yes, sort of fail. But not entirely fail, since at least I can cross something
off my reading list...
Anyway, this time the book is Steinbeck's East of Eden
. I think I started reading it ten years ago. I made it through the first three hundred pages or so, and then gave it up, bored to death of both the plot and the characters, and thinking that everything about it felt too contrived -- far too contrived for Steinbeck, especially. I felt like he was stepping out of his league.
I don't know if it's just because my expectations have changed, or whether the second half of the book was really so much better than the first half (it did get better as it progressed, even within the second half), but having finished it, I can say that I underestimated Steinbeck, and that although East of Eden
could probably have been better, it was very good. It did what it was meant to do.( Some general thoughts on Steinbeck.Collapse )
Last post on this subject for a while. I promise.
I said yesterday that Tolstoy was a mediocre philosopher. He is. I also said he was a good writer. That was an understatement. ( So here's a more balanced report. No spoilers.Collapse )
I don't know what I'll be reading next. The reason it occurred to me how far I'd underestimated Tolstoy is because I've been trying to start on some other book, but nothing I pick up comes anywhere close to Tolstoy's eloquence, and I find myself doing more criticising than reading. So far, King Lear
is the only thing I've tried that I haven't been able to find fault with. ...So much for lighter reading. :P
Well, I've finally finished reading War and Peace. It turned out to be, at bottom, a 1400-page treatise on determinism. I feel it only fair to warn those of you who may be interested in reading it. The characters are good, the writing is good, it's easy to read, and there are some interesting ideas along the way. But ultimately, the point is that free will exists only as a kind of necessary unknown factor without which we could not call ourselves human, but has no meaning; ultimately the point is that everything done by anybody was predestined by God from the dawn of time (or rather outside of time), and no one could ever have acted any differently than they did. Especially not Napoleon, which is what makes him the most odious of all. Apparently.
I will also add, though of course this is entirely my own opinion, that Tolstoy is a thoroughly mediocre philosopher. His arguments, when they aren't the same ones that have been advanced for centuries, are almost irrelevant; his metaphors are mostly complete nonsense; and even when he makes a valid point, he often does so by proofs which are completely inscrutable. Dostoevsky made a better argument for determinism in five or ten pages of Notes From Underground -- and Dostoevsky didn't even believe in it.
I think it may be time for some lighter reading.
1) The Spirit
has reminded me why I never go to the theater. ( Ten dollars for *that*?Collapse )
2) I'm a bit over 300 pages into War and Peace
. I was worried that it would be slow reading, and 1400 pages of it, at that -- but it's actually surprisingly fast-paced; more so than a lot of other authors of the period, anyway. My only difficulty with the book so far is in keeping track of its ( typical Russian superabundance of characters.Collapse )
Oddly, War and Peace
is also having the unexpected side-effect of making me ( really excited about Napoleon.Collapse )
3) I guess this post would be the place to tell me what books I should buy with my gift cards. ;) Of course, I've already got a list; foremost among the books I'm planning to buy are ( these.Collapse )
But anyway, I'm shopping at Bookman's, where everything is used and cheap, so if I have any money left over, I'll want to know what I should spend it on. And it's always nice to have options! :)
At long last, finals are over. I have no idea how I did on my College Algebra final, and luckily I don't have to care, because unless I utterly failed it, I should still get a B in the class. And if I did
utterly fail it -- I'll still get a C.
So. It's time once again for my embarrassingly short list-of-books-I-read-this year. I'm still a hell of a long way from "read your height in books," but I did better than last year
, anyway. (And as usual, I'm not including stories and plays from collections -- just whole novels.)
Here, then, are the books, complete with commentary of great prolixity and spoileriness.( Toilers of the SeaCollapse )( er, here, have some extended rambling about Hugo and MelvilleCollapse )( Brief LivesCollapse )( FrankensteinCollapse )( CoralineCollapse )( Nineteen Eighty-FourCollapse )( reread: The Man in the High CastleCollapse )( V for VendettaCollapse )( Atlas ShruggedCollapse )( Tao Te ChingCollapse )( The StrangerCollapse )( Big FishCollapse )( Lots of Batman stuff...Collapse )( WatchmenCollapse )( The Golden CompassCollapse )( The Valley of FearCollapse )( The General in His LabyrinthCollapse )( DraculaCollapse )( This Side of ParadiseCollapse )( War of the WorldsCollapse )
Aaaand there you have it. I may not read much, but I sure do make long posts about it...
- Tags:alan moore, albert camus, ayn rand, batman, booklist, books, dracula, f scott fitzgerald, frank miller, frankenstein, gabriel garcía márquez, george orwell, h g wells, herman melville, literature, neil gaiman, philip k dick, sandman, sherlock holmes, v for vendetta, victor hugo
I finally watched "The Crooked Man," after waiting as long as I could (and watching "The Naval Treaty" a second time with my sister). Not bad. I mean, it wasn't much of a mystery
, like, at all
-- but that's Doyle's fault.
Watson was better in this one, on the whole, although he had a few moments of headdesk-inducing idiocy right in the middle. I'm starting to get the impression that Watson is just there to keep people from getting too irritated at Holmes' utter disregard for social etiquette. Holmes almost never greets anyone, shakes hands, acknowledges gratitude, or anything of the kind. Luckily, Watson is there to be polite for him.
Anyway, the last scene was pretty adorable. :D
And from hamsterwoman
: ( another book meme.Collapse )
After more than a month, I finally finished reading Gabriel García Márquez's The General in His Labyrinth
. (Not that it's long -- it isn't. I just haven't had much time for reading lately.)
It was very good. It's a historical novel -- a fictionalized account of the last months of the life of General Simón Bolívar
, "The Liberator," who secured independence from Spain for a number of Latin American countries. But the story isn't about heroics, conquests, or successes of any kind. The General is mentally and physically exhausted, and indeed almost an invalid, at the age of 47. The themes are much like those of One Hundred Years of Solitude
-- decline and disillusionment and destitution. And, well... solitude.
I'm not sure what to say about it except that it's Márquez: simple and vivid, bleak, sincere, unforgivingly human, at once profound and mundane. I can't even put spoilers behind a cut, because there are no spoilers. It's not that kind of novel. There isn't climax or resolution or twists or surprising revelations... there's just this meandering account of the General's final journey, interwoven with memories and reflections on his former glory, successes tainted with the growing realization of futility.
Needless to say, I enjoyed it a great deal. I need to find more books like this one.
(ETA: Oh, hey. I just found this One Hundred Years of Solitude
icon I made for a roleplay sockpuppet
, like, two years ago. *keeps it*)
So, Frankenstein is another one of those books I've been meaning to read forever, but never quite got around to. I'm about halfway through it now. It's a pretty easy read, even in spite of its often needless verbosity. I'm... enjoying it, actually, I guess, even though the plot is not particularly engaging, and the style is rather unremarkable. Maybe I'm just so delighted to have a break from reading about Julien Sorel's tedious exploits that almost anything seems enjoyable... Ahem.
But apart from all that: Dude. Seriously. This is one hell of an eloquent and erudite two-year old monster. The thing is making offhanded references to Paradise Lost. What.
Frankly, if I were Mr. Frankenstein, I would be much less terrified by the fact that my gigantic, livid, misbegotten undead beastie was thundering toward me in a desolate place than by the fact that this thing's first words to me, rather than "Uuuuurgh," or even "Daddy," were, "I expected this reception." Followed by an outpouring of carefully enunciated entreaties sprinkled with biblical allusions. And angst.
Oy, Shelley. I'm sorry, mam'selle, but you -- are a silly person.
(The quote in the title, by the way, is not from Frankenstein. It's from a Russian folktale called "The Jester," which, alarmingly, is actually far much more sensible than this maddening "science" which the preface of Frankenstein boasts as "not of impossible occurence"...)
Okay, and now for some separate, spoilery comments on Moby Dick
, now that I've finished it. It is the strangest and most fantastic thing I've read in years. In fact, although my favorite book remains very certainly The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
, I don't think Moby Dick
can be too far behind; and Melville may possibly have drawn even with Hugo in my ranking of favorite authors, just a short step below Dostoevsky and Nietzsche. Which, by the way, came as a complete surprise.( Spoilers ahoy. Many, many spoilers.Collapse )
Now I understand why 2addersfanged
wanted me to write Melville/Hawthorne slash. But you know... I'm not sure Hawthorne deserves the honor. In any case, Melville: my hat is off to you, sir. My hat is plucked straight from my head and deposited somewhere in the vast Pacific. You are a strange and wonderful man.
(I wrote this a few days ago, thinking I'd be able to get online sooner. It's therefore a bit outdated; I've actually finished reading Moby Dick now, and a post about that is forthcoming. In the meantime, I'm leaving this post as it is.)
Contrary to what most people think, I'm not actually a very prolific reader. At all. In fact, I've read exactly ten books this year -- or eleven, if I finish Moby Dick
before January -- and that includes three short children's novels. I mean, I read pieces of other things… I read about half of a collection of Nathaniel Hawthorne's short stories, several chapters of The House of the Seven Gables
, the first quarter of The 1,001 Arabian Nights
(which I'm still reading; at the moment I'm about halfway through the story of Aladdin), and a few chapters of The Iliad
, The Red and the Black
, and Nietzsche's Antichrist
. I intend to finish reading all of these at some point... hopefully within the coming year...
In any case. Some of you have been trying to "read your height" in books, or read a book for every week of the year, or something of that sort, and then commenting on those books in your journal in little blocks. I've entered on no such ambitious enterprise, but now that the year is out, I figure I'll take a moment to comment briefly on the books I did
manage to read this year. No spoilers, or at least only very minor, oblique spoilers. In the order in which I read them, then:( The Master and MargaritaCollapse )( LolitaCollapse )( One Hundred Years of SolitudeCollapse )( The Dark Tower: The GunslingerCollapse )( Number the StarsCollapse )( The Devil's StorybookCollapse )( The Devil's Other StorybookCollapse )( Lord of LightCollapse )( Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsCollapse )( Guards! Guards!Collapse )( Moby DickCollapse )
- Tags:booklist, books, gabriel garcía márquez, harry potter, herman melville, literature, memes, mikhail bulgakov, roger zelazny, satan, stephen king, terry pratchett, vladimir nabokov
Thanks to everyone who took the poll! It looks like the mouse icon wins. :) I may use one of the "I corrupted them all" icons later, too.
I tried to find another way to use Dostoevsky's picture, and this inspired a small set of author icons with handwriting and signatures, like so: ( Dickens, Diderot, Dostoevsky, 2 Eliot, 2 Gaiman, Hugo, 2 Joyce, 2 Nietzsche, Stoppard, Vonnegut, Wilde.Collapse )
ETA: ( Second batch: Austen, Byron, Doyle, Dumas, Fitzgerald, Poe, Pratchett, Tolkien, ShakespeareCollapse )EDIT
: Fixed it so that the images work again, and added a bunch more.
- Tags:authors, books, charles dickens, denis diderot, friedrich nietzsche, fyodor dostoevsky, icons, james joyce, kurt vonnegut, literature, neil gaiman, oscar wilde, t s eliot, tom stoppard, victor hugo
- Music:Pink Floyd: Childhood's End