Readersforum's Blog

June 4, 2013

Another World is Possible: Game of Thrones and the Politics of Imagination

winteriscomingBy Brad Nguyen

In his 1989 essay ‘The End of History?’ Francis Fukuyama argued that the end of the Cold War represented the ‘total exhaustion of viable systemic alternatives to Western liberalism’. Although popularly derided as a neo-conservative example of counting your chickens before they’ve hatched, a closer reading of the essay reveals that Fukuyama is not really arguing that Western liberalism is the teleological endpoint of humanity – to be at the end of history merely means that, from the perspective of the present, there are no real ideological competitors within our horizon of knowledge. Fukuyama even expresses ambivalence for what he identifies as the current post-historical era:

The end of history will be a sad time… The worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism, will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands. In the post historical period there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual care of the museum of human history.

‘The End of History?’ ends on a paradoxical note: Fukuyama suggests that history can ‘start again’ though this will require fundamental contradictions in modern liberalism to make themselves evident. He even ironically suggests that the ‘very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history’ is sufficient to serve this purpose.

Click here to read the rest of this story

Advertisements

May 20, 2013

10 Biggest Book Adaptation Flops

By Gabe Habash

For this list, we didn’t just want book adaptations that were a critical/audience failure or a box office failure–we wanted both. That’s why the films you see below might not be the biggest money losers or the most panned; instead, they’re a combination of the most hated and most wasteful uses of celluloid out there. If none of these movies were made, over $913,000,000 would have been saved and approximately 4 billion viewing hours would have been saved.

(The following films were either critical or money failures, but not both, so they couldn’t make the list: The Great Gatsby [the Redford one], Lolita [1997], Treasure Planet, Beloved, The House of the Spirits, many more)

Click here to read the rest of this story

May 14, 2013

The Great Gatsby Movie Needed to Be More Gay

Tobey Maguire plays Nick Carraway as guileless heterosexual—but in the novel, his sexuality's ambiguous, and he's linked to Gatsby & co. by their shared need for deception.

Tobey Maguire plays Nick Carraway as guileless heterosexual—but in the novel, his sexuality’s ambiguous, and he’s linked to Gatsby & co. by their shared need for deception.

By Noah Berlatsky

“Come to lunch someday,” [Mr. McKee] suggested, as we groaned down in the elevator.
“Where?”
“Anywhere.”
“Keep your hands off the lever,” snapped the elevator boy.
“I beg your pardon,” said Mr. McKee with dignity, “I didn’t know I was touching it.”
“All right,” I agreed, “I’ll be glad to.”

. . . I was standing beside his bed and he was sitting up between the sheets, clad in his underwear, with a great portfolio in his hands.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is usually thought of as the story of… well, the great Jay Gatsby, poor boy made nouveau riche, and his efforts to win the aristocratic Daisy Buchanan away from her boorish aristocratic husband Tom. But the quote above is about Daisy’s cousin, the narrator Nick Carraway. In the passage, as you can see, Fitzgerald makes a flamboyant phallic pun (“Keep your hands off the lever” indeed), and then shows us McKee and Nick virtually in bed together. Many people skim over that scene—as I did more than once. But once it’s been pointed out, it’s difficult to see it as anything but post-coital.

Baz Luhrman’s recently film version of Gatsby makes a nod to this incident: Mr. McKee, a photographer, is very interested to learn that writer Nick is also an artist. But while McKee may still be gay, film-Nick (Toby Maguire) is adamantly not. In the book, Nick meets Mr. McKee at a party and goes home with him. In the film, he still goes to the party, but ends up canoodling and maybe probably having sex not with a man, but with a woman. Film Nick is first attracted to Gatsby’s parties by a glimpse of a lovely flapper flitting through the bushes. He seems visibly affected by the sensuality of Myrtle Wilson, Tom’s mistress. In the book, he recognizes her appeal, but seems unmoved or even disgusted by it. In one telling passage while at the party, he notes that he “was simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” In the next sentence, he says Myrtle pulls her chair over and “her warm breath poured over me.” A couple paragraphs later he’s sneering at her “artificial laughter.”

It’s not a shock that the film decided to erase the hints of gayness. Even in 2013, gay content is controversial, and gay characters can be hard for a lot of people to accept, in various senses. You could argue that it’s a cowardly choice, and I’d probably agree with you. But Hollywood is cowardly almost by definition. No surprises there.

What is surprising, perhaps, is how much eliminating Nick’s queerness matters. There are many, many things wrong with Luhrmann’s clumsy, ADD Gatsby. But the thing that is most wrong is Nick.

Click here to read the rest of this story

May 6, 2013

What makes The Great Gatsby great?

'I want to write something new' ... F Scott Fitzgerald.

‘I want to write something new’ … F Scott Fitzgerald.

As Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic bursts on to our screens, it’s not hard to see why this cautionary tale of the decadent downside of the American dream has returned to haunt us, writes Sarah Churchwell.

They called him an “ultra-modernist” and dismissed his books as overrated and forgettable, just “so much unnecessary evanescence travelling first class”. When his third novel was published, on 10 April 1925, a characteristic review complained: “The boy is simply puttering around. It is all right as a diversion for him, probably … But why he should be called an author, or why any of us should behave as if he were, has never been satisfactorily explained to me.” At the last minute, he had asked his editor if they could change the new novel’s title to Under the Red, White and Blue, but it was too late. F Scott Fitzgerald’s ultra-modernist novel about jazz-age America would be called The Great Gatsby, and one anonymous reviewer spoke for most of its first readers in describing it as “one of the thousands of modern novels which must be approached with the point of view of the average tired person toward the movie-around-the-corner, a deadened intellect, a thankful resigning of the attention, and an aftermath of wonder that such things are produced”.

The Great Gatsby would indeed create an aftermath of wonder – in ways that its initial audience could not have imagined. Almost 90 years later, Gatsby is regularly named one of the greatest novels ever written in English, and has annually sold millions of copies globally. This slim novel of fewer than 50,000 words, a story of secret visions and gaudy revels, of sudden violence and constant envy, shimmers with a magic that readers have long recognised. But over the past two years, both The Great Gatsby and its author have been seeing a marked resurgence of interest. In the last 12 months in Britain alone, there have been stage versions at Wilton’s Music Hall and the King’s Head theatre in London, the eight-hour reading, Gatz, was staged by the American Elevator Repair Company last year to rave reviews, and the Northern Ballet’s dance adaptation will open soon at Sadler’s Wells. Some of Fitzgerald’s long-overlooked poems, letters and stories are suddenly being published and are circulating online. Several new books are in the works, one about The Great Gatsby‘s enduring appeal, and two about Fitzgerald’s time in Hollywood, while my own book, which traces the genesis of The Great Gatsby, is about to be published. Gatsby has been thoroughly inspected and crawled over, lifted up and shaken out for every last detail it can surrender to its fascinated readers, but this remarkable novel has some surprises left.

Click here to read the rest of this story

April 10, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – a sneak preview of first footage

Running rings round Tolkien? … Peter Jackson on the set of The Hobbit.

Running rings round Tolkien? … Peter Jackson on the set of The Hobbit.

Peter Jackson’s preview of the sequel to the Rings prequel shows the director taking fresh liberties with Tolkien’s work.

By Ben Child

The first instalment in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, may not have swept the board at the Oscars or even ended up as one of the year’s best-reviewed films, but audiences seemed to warm to the New Zealand film-maker’s epic, expanded take on (the first third of) JRR Tolkien‘s gentle and breezy 1937 children’s fantasy. At some point along the line there are going to be some very confused youngsters dipping into the 250-page book after watching all three movies and wondering what on Middle-earth happened to Radagast, Galadriel, Saruman and all that fighting, but hey … childhood’s tough.

Click here to read the rest of this story

March 28, 2013

Gone Girl: what makes Gillian Flynn’s psychological thriller so popular?

GoneA tale of marital meltdown has Hollywood hot under the collar and is up for its first literary award – and deservedly so.

By Alex Clark

It’s a pretty impressive comeback: less than five years after the financial crisis brought Gillian Flynn’s decade-long career at Entertainment Weekly to a close, she has hit the jackpot. Gone Girl, published in the US in June 2012 and out in paperback in the UK at the beginning of this year, has now sold more than 2m copies throughout the world – 300,000 of them over here. It stormed the New York Times bestseller list and the film version is set to be produced by Reese Witherspoon; it will feature in this spring’s Richard & Judy Book Club and, less predictably, last week saw its inclusion on the Women’s prize for fiction longlist, where Flynn is keeping Hilary Mantel, Zadie Smith and AM Homes company. As she might tell her former employers, that’s entertainment.

Click here to read the rest of this story

March 14, 2013

Virginia Woolf on the Language of Film and the Evils of Cinematic Adaptations of Literature

woolfessaysBy Maria Popova

“The eye licks it all up instantaneously, and the brain, agreeably titillated, settles down to watch things happening without bestirring itself to think.”

“Cinema, to be creative, must do more than record,” Anaïs Nin wrote in 1946 in the forth volume of her diaries. But the question of what this elusive, quintessential creative duty of cinema might be long predates Nin’s observation.

In the spring of 1926, when film was still young and silent, Virginia Woolf found herself at once captivated and concerned by the seventh art and penned an essay exploring its perils and its promise. “The Cinema” was originally published in the New York journal Arts, and a slightly edited version titled “The Movies and Reality” appeared in The New Republic shortly thereafter. It can now be found in The Essays of Virginia Woolf, Vol. 4, 1925-1928 (public library).

Woolf begins with a reserved meditation on the nature of moving images, which at first glance appear to speak to our most primitive underpinnings and invite a strange kind of cerebral resignation, but upon deeper reflection serve as a lubricant between brain and body:

Click here to read the rest of this story

February 17, 2013

Philip K Dick novel heads to TV

CastlePhilip K Dick’s Hugo Award-winning novel The Man in the High Castle is to be adapted for digital channel Syfy.

The novel will be adapted into a four-hour miniseries. Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions will produce, alongside Headline Pictures, Electric Shepherd Productions and FremantleMedia International. “The X Files” writer Frank Spotnitz will write the first two hour-long episodes, and supervise the writing of the second two hours.

Click here to read the rest of this story

February 2, 2013

Think of Bread in General: On Making Books Into Movies

 

Hobbit

By Alan Levinovitz

When Christopher Tolkien recently broke a 40-year public silence in Le Monde, he did not have kind words for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: “They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25, and it seems that The Hobbit will be the same kind of film.”

Tolkien snubbed an invitation to meet with Jackson, and, as his father’s literary executor, he has sworn not to allow adaptations of material over which he has control (like The Silmarillion). Had it been his choice, Jackson’s blockbusters would likely never have been produced, and certainly not in their present form. But it wasn’t his choice. In 1969, United Artists made a prescient purchase from the elder Tolkien: £100,000 for full rights to movies and derived products for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. And that was that.

The result, according to Christopher Tolkien, was nothing less than disastrous: “[J.R.R.] Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time. The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing.”

Admirers of Jackson’s work may find such comments a touch melodramatic, if not downright inaccurate. Salman Rushdie, for instance, appears to favor the films over the originals: “Jackson’s cinematic style, sweeping, lyrical, by turns intimate and epic, is greatly preferable to Tolkien’s prose style, which veers alarmingly between windbaggery, archness, pomposity, and achieves something like humanity, and ordinary English, only in the parts about hobbits.”

Then again, there’s A.O. Scott on The Hobbit: “Tolkien’s inventive, episodic tale of a modest homebody on a dangerous journey has been turned into an overscale and plodding spectacle.”

Taste is a difficult thing to arbitrate, making debates like these fun but virtually irresolvable. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that the participants all share a common assumption, which often remains unexamined. Rushdie puts it simply: “Everyone accepts that stories and movies are different things.” Indeed. But how, exactly? Is one a higher art form than the other? More illuminating? More demanding? Does one strengthen children’s brains while the other is more likely to rot them?

Click here to read the rest of this story

January 24, 2013

The 10 Most Anticipated Book Adaptations of 2013

hunger-1-0114By Gabe Habash

In our 2012 Most Anticipated Book Adaptations article, we picked The Great Gatsby for the #4 slot. Since the writing of that article, the calendar has changed to 2013 and The Great Gatsby still hasn’t come out. And even though it’s supposed to release in May of this year, we’re going to give its spot this year to a new movie, because we don’t do repeats at PWxyz. It’s just a rule, plus we needed to make room for all of the YAey adaptations this year, because you can never have too much teens-in-peril with supernatural garnish. So here are the 10 movies from books we hope are at least somewhat sort of partially worth the hype.

Click here to read the rest of this story

Older Posts »

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: