His Dark Materials

So, on Sunday I was hungover, feeling a bit sad and a bit moronic at all the stupid things I had said the night before. I settled down on the couch, wrapped in my snuggie and flicked through the channels to see what was on. On Film4, “The Golden Compass” was on. I had seen it before at the cinema on my University campus when it first came out and I remembered being incredibly disappointed then but my memories were a bit vague. All I could really recall from the film was that there was a lot of steampunk inspired devices and I think that was before it became cool and then mocked.

The Dark Material books are some of my favourite books of all time. I have a deep seated dislike of religion for various reasons which I won’t bother going into and I love the over arching theme of how insidious and controlling the religious establishment can be. Although, to be fair, I doubt it would be noticed by the audience at which the books are intended in much the same way you don’t see the religious overtones reading the Chronicles of Narnia for the first time – presumably as a child.

This isn’t the only reason I love them of course, first, I always cry at the end. Always, without fail. A beautiful and apt ending. I love Lyra, the protagonist, and while I am nothing like her, I can always relate to her. The first book draws you into this amazing world, (I still wonder what my Daemon would be) and I can’t really express how much I wanted to live there when I first read the books. I must have been about 15 or 16. I got my dad to buy them for me, in one of his strange infrequent generous fits. I can’t remember how long it took me to read them, all I remember is that I couldn’t put them down. I love the Gyptians, the Panserbjorn, the Witches, the Gallivespians. I adore Lord Asriel. I love the cold, calculated demeanour of Mrs Coulter. I want to meet and marry Will.

This really isn’t coming out right. I like to think I could write a letter to Phillip Pullman explaining all the ways I love these books, (including my age of course, 26 and one quarter) but evidently that would not go to plan. This, my friends, is why I could never be a writer. I just can’t express.

Basically, I adore these books and to see the first one lose so much in translation to film really breaks my heart. I read that Phillip Pullman was happy with the adaptation (and actually suggested the scene where Mrs Coulter hits her Daemon (an as aside, so we ever learn her Daemons name?)), but one wonders whether he felt he had to say this or whether it was truly felt.

Like the merging of two characters into one, that was annoying. The far too early introduction of the priest who is assigned the task of killing Lyra. The complete butchery of the original order of the storyline. That isn’t to say that the film on its own isn’t an enjoyable film. It is just compared to the book it is very minimal and I am not sure you could really follow what is happening without prior knowledge. Maybe that is just me, I like having the extra depth of knowledge that only reading the book can bring. (Also, this is also why I was somewhat disappointed in the adaptation of “We Need to Talk About Kevin”, but I also said that would be the main issue in adapting it for film, that you just can’t get the depth of what his mother is really going through, the whole build up, the gradual reveal. That isn’t to say, once again, that it isn’t a good film, but the extra depth of knowledge from reading the book definitely helped you follow what was happening). You know, that argument could be applied to pretty much any film/TV adaptation. I still love Game of Thrones in both formats though.

In conclusion, watching the film on Saturday was an upsetting experience, but I will almost certainly be reading The Dark Materials trilogy again. I would suggest you do so too.

Currently I am reading “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, which I am only a very small way in and already loving. I have also finished “Woman on the Edge of Time”, my word. What an incredible book, massively heartbreaking. I want to do a longer post on this, but will see if I have time or the competence to do it full justice.  

 

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E-Books

So this article was on the Guardian website. Since I am obsessed with my Kindle, I felt I should read it.

 http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/feb/05/ebook-sales-downmarket-genre?INTCMP=SRCH

 Quite honestly, I do agree with the argument that e-readers of all kinds do encourage the buying of books you would never normally purchase.

 First of all, as pointed out in the article, who doesn’t sit and download all those classics that you were always going to read when you got round to it. Even better, a lot of them are free! So it isn’t costing you anything to feel a bit more intellectually superior than you did yesterday. Also, you can show off all your fancy classics to your friends and ask “Have YOU read this”, very pointedly implying that they haven’t. This is turn saves you from having to discuss it in any depth, as you haven’t either. Unless your friend, has read it (and lets be honest they probably have, you aren’t really any kind of intellectual heavyweight, and all your friends are smarter than you), in which case you just look like a dick.

 Secondly, I would consider myself a bit of a book snob, I do like to read classics – although, if I am honest, I can find it a bore of a chore sometimes. I like to read contemporary fiction and try to avoid anything too popular and overblown. Hence why I have not read those dragon books, by Steig Larsson (Note: I am aware they are not about dragons). Although I did read all the Harry Potter books and loved them.

Then to the heart of the matter, I am somewhat inclined towards more down market fiction. This, I maintain, was caused by my probable too early reading of Virginia Andrew books. Not due to any inbuilt mental deficiency which was present at birth. However, I am unable to buy these books in person. It always has to be done online so that people can’t see my shameful secret. I only use book stores for purchases which make me look intellectual and that demonstrate I have an incredible natural taste in literature. Apart from that one time I bought the Hunger Games trilogy, which was so embarrassing because there are few things more so, than when you are raking around the young adult section, desperately trying not to attract attention from actual young adults or the parents of young adults or even worse one of the customer advisors.

Then once you have found your purchase, you have to go and pay for it and make an awkward comment about “Oh it’s for my niece”, and then break down and tell them (because you have an inability to lie), “No it’s for me I can’t help it, I just have this constant insatiable craving for teen fiction. It’s why I read Twilight.” Then you get the look of shame from the person and a slight shake of the head and you go home and want to cry, but you can’t, because you are reading amazing teenage fiction. (For the record, ‘Twilight’ is terrible, but so very moreish you can’t quite seem to put it down, whereas “The Hunger Games” books are just amazing.)

However, trashy books are not something I buy all that often, I don’t want any physical evidence of these in my bookcase. Although, my bookshelf is stacked two deep so all the embarrassing ones are at the back. Just in case, you know, you want to come round and hang out sometime and want to have a look at my shameful secret.

It is the same with books based on films, especially films which haven’t been released yet but have had a big press build up, you don’t want to buy these in person because then you are the person who buys books just because there is a film based on them coming out. Hence why I bought World War Z and Atlas Cloud online where no one could see my shame. Apart from the packer. Although I bought “The Hunger Games” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin” before the films had been announced (Yas! Managed to salvage my dignity). The Kindle though, oh my cheeky little minx of a Kindle, lets me buy anything I want online, with no one any the wiser.

 Hence, the purchase of Modelland. I actually bought two copies of this – one for my friends birthday, who still has not read it, and the one for my Kindle, which quite frankly, was overpriced. I also feel that as I bought two copies Tyra is now legally obligated to turn me into a supermodel. I am now probably going to immerse myself in a land of terrible novels composing of Danielle Steele, more Virginia Andrews and maybe some Mills and Boone, for good measure. Also, probably more teen fiction. Well, I DO still have to read the book following “The Knife of Never Letting Go”. Which to be honest as it contains the whole of the title of “Never Let Me Go” (which, I will point out, I also read before the film was announced), confused me quite a lot. Although Never Let Me Go, is superior and a book I just couldn’t put down. If you haven’t seen the film, or read spoilers, you should read it, if only for the point where everything clicks and you work out what is going on.

 Anyway, where was I going, oh yes. My Kindle will inspire me to read more trashy novels also known as “Vaginal Fantasy”, a delightful concept apparently created by the wonderfully talented Felicia Day – you should check out her website (http://feliciaday.com/) or goodreads account (http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3440476.Felicia_Day) for more details.

 Having said that, I am not giving up all my book credentials just yet. I intend to very much mix and match, after reading Game of Thrones, I needed some mind down time, hence Modelland. Currently I am reading Woman on the Edge of time, which is spectacular and I get excited every time I find I have time to read it. Then I have War of the Worlds, which I am so excited about reading, then I have one about Bess of Hardwick, ok so, I have a lot of books to read. guess the whole point of this is, there is no fun in being a snob, not only about books, but about anything. You secretly love 90210 (well, in my case, not so secretly), that’s fine, but you also watch a range of other excellent programming like Deadwood, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos, Mad Men. Just because you like one thing which is a guilty pleasure, doesn’t negate all the other awesome stuff you do love. And if anyone judges you on that, they are clearly a prick

 

THBC (Thigh High Boot Camp)

Right, so I finished Modelland, and what can I say? I cringed? Yes, I did. I did also enjoy reading it though, and after all, is that not the purpose of a book?

It is not literature, but it is enjoyable nonetheless. While you can tell an editor has edited it fairly heavily, there are still points where you think, that really doesn’t make sense. Like why Ci-L is so angry at herself. It just isn’t clear. None of the major plot points are well explained, I was left wondering at times what had actually happened. I struggled to differentiate between the characters – there was very little character development. Even the main character who shows the most growth was a bit bland. Although this probably serves the purpose of allowing readers to project themselves onto the main protagonist. Basically, it does the job and no more.

I have, however, established that Tyra Banks hates actresses. “Second string Bellas (Bella being Tyra’s word for models, apparently) will opt for the silver screen. Miming in the multiplex, so trite, so uncouth.” This hatred for actresses is very much a running theme.

She also tries to input some model in training advice. For example:

“The first thing you must know about cosmetics, feeble minded females, is to forget everything Mommy and Daddy ever told you about sharing. Unless, of course, you want your face to fall off, just like it has now – shared utensils give you creepy conjunctivitis, gory gangrene, bubonic boils, atrocious abscesses, styes, and staphylococcus! So, from this moment on, you have my personal permission to be stingy, selfish wenches when it comes to your maquillage.”

Also, a warning about knock off designer goods:

“You may think you are sporting the latest fashions and fooling your pitifully clueless circus of friends, but you are merely concocting a deceitful world of pseudo luxury and corrupt make-believe, while the hardworking artisans who dedicate their lives to producing authentic wares are robbed blindly. And who produces these fake wares? Poor starving children who roam homeless in public squalor and live poverty-stricken in rodent-infested shanties.”

Thanks Tyra, I couldn’t have worked any of these things out for myself.

She seems to spend a lot of the novel trying to justify modelling by trying to make it seem really really hard. She also has classes with special names, directly ripped off from pop culture, the worst offender being WOW – War of Words. Didn’t think models really needed to speak? Just saying.

Also, I think my favourite quote may have been:

“Why is it the bitter bitches have the worst halitosis?”

May have to use that at some point.

I am being awfully mean. Like I said, I did enjoy it, despite how terrible it was. I do love a trashy novel. She does try to impart some really good life lessons – mostly to the teenagers who this book is aimed at (not sad 26 year old women). Such as:

“Listen to me. You’re different. Way different. You know that. You’re gonna experience lots of cuts and slices here but you’d better suck it up – the girl who is sucking your blood is hurting way more than you. Never stoop to her level.”

Also:

“Their imperfections are what make them shine with the most scintillating, effervescent inner glow you have ever seen.”

Basically, it is a book about one girl discovering herself and growing and it is probably quite a good life lesson for many insecure teenage girls. Also the obligatory love life story line does encourage girls to look for the right things in a relationship – not just trying to please their partner.

Unfortunately it does imply anyone can be a model if they believe in themselves. Also where it pretty much explicitly states where men are female play things (in direct contradiction of later plot line developments as described above):

“And anyway, girls, males are accessories at Modelland. Don’t ever forget: we’re the stars, not the boys. Yeah, they do some modelling stuff, but basically we have them here to work for us: build our buildings, provide security and eye candy…that sort of thing.”

You know Tyra, I really get that you are trying to encourage girls not to play second string to men, which is completely fair, but maybe we should all just treat each other as equals? Just a thought.

I also had an awesome quote from Tookie (the main character) about what she wanted her first kiss to be like (clue: it was ridiculous) but apparently I forgot I was reading it on my Kindle and didn’t have my notebook to write it down and as a result didn’t highlight it, and while there aren’t a lot of pages, I really can’t be bothered trying to find it.

I guess the only other thing I have to mention are the ridiculous country names (Kremlingrad (Russia), Canne Del Abra (somewhere they make candles apparently, read it out loud) NorDenSwe (I know, I know)), the various made up words, Intoxibella, Smizes (I know she uses this in real life, it really doesn’t make it any less sad), oh and the fact Nurses are called Purses. Her attempts at humour. These appear mostly to consist of Tookie’s beautiful older sister being stupid, because obviously you can’t be smart and beautiful. That would just be ridiculous. The two gems I made note of were “I’m on my periodical just now! It makes me forgetful!” Oh lol, Tyra, lol. The second one being “Are you making in with yourself?”. You are so right Tyra, you can’t have brains and beauty, I love that you parodied that in such a wonderful, witty and orginal way. OK, I know I am being catty and bitchy. Maybe I am just jealous that Tyra Banks can get a book published and I can’t.

Like I said it is enjoyable and if you love a trashy novel it is well worth a read. It is ridiculous and over the top, but very colourful and engrossing in its own way. The saddest part? I am looking forward to reading the next one that comes out. Well played Tyra, well played.