Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Geek romance at its best

I could hardly put down the last top 100 (actually more like 150) book I just read. Possession by A.S. Byatt was almost like porn for word geeks. Its the story of two literary scholars, Roland and Maud, who study the poetic works of Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte, respectively, as they try to discover the mysterious connection between the two authors. It begins when Roland discovers a draft of a letter in one of Ash's personal books written to an unknown woman, who is evidently not his wife. Unlike much of his other letters, this one is very personal and almost passionate, so unlike Ash who is considered a dry scientific scholar through and through. Using clues in the letter, Roland begins to suspect it was written for Christabel LaMotte, a poet very popular with feminists and a dedicated lesbian. Did Ash send the letter? Did she reply? His questions lead him to Maud, an authority on LaMotte, and the two begin a quest to discover the connection between the two that wil change traditional scholarship completely. I don't want to go too much into the search because each clue is so integral to the plot, and I so much want everyone to go out and discover them personally.
Its part detective mystery, part steamy romance, and total geekery at its best. Full of traditional poetry and amazing word use, this is easily one of my top favorites. The character development was top notch, especially the relationship between Maud and Roland, which was in no way formulaic boy meets girl and they get wrapped up in the romance and immediately fall in love (or into bed). The interactions between them are honest and real. And of course I love the historical background story. It is important to note that these poets are entirely fictional, which makes it pretty impressive that the author wrote pages of epic poety in their styles throughout the book, Ash being very male and LaMotte strong female. Byatt tells their histories in so convincing a fashion, I had to look them up to see if they actually existed. Very moving page turner. Really, don't bother with the movie; it's a pale imitation. It's nearly impossible to reach the depth of this story in two hours, although I love Jennifer Ehle and Jeremy Northam as the star-crossed poets.
A thick read, over 500 pages, but well worth it. There were some extra characters that dragged the story down for me, and the old style poetry can get a little thick, but very deserving of the honor of top book of all time. Especially for word geeks.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Just to clarify...

There has been some confusion about what the whole "tower of creative awesomness" is about. Here's a photo story to clarify:

This is a tower of creative awesomeness.
Where I will write


While wearing

In the company of a

The shelves will be filled with books, there will be a place for all my supplies, an old typewriter, and my art desk.
It. Will. Be. Mine.

Just for future reference. Hope this clears everything up. And don't laugh, it could happen. One day...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Feeling a malenky bit bezoomny in me gulliver, brothers.

Robbery, severe beatings, general havoc, theft, more beatings, and a viscous rape. All in the first thirty pages of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. All committed by fifteen year old Alex and his droogs. And that's just the beginning. Oh, man where do I even start...
First, its important to realize that this boy Alex is living in a frightening alternate universe where there are basically no laws that govern the night. Its a good idea to stay indoors because boys like Alex are on the prowl, looking for mischief and aching to draw blood. There are not many police about at night, and really parents aren't governing their kids as they should. Alex is a known criminal. He loves the thrill of violence, especially when the blood begins to flow, tearing up the night with his cronies and going home to his parents' house like nothing happened. His passion for violence is matched only for his passion for classical music, especially triumphantly powerful composers like Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven. The music conjures up images of chaos and destruction for Alex, almost as satisfying as the acts themselves. So far, he has escaped harsh punishments, but one night his luck runs out and he's taken to prison for murder.
Ok, I never saw the movie, but I heard it was pretty disturbing. The story is difficult to follow at first because Alex speaks the nadsat language of his generation, but it doesn't take long to catch on. And its scary to think about children, yes he's fifteen in my mind that is a child, so devoid of empathy. I guess its not so far-fetched considering the horrible things kids see and hear now. They are constantly being desensitized by movies, music, and video games...but that's another argument. It's more for Alex. He derives pleasure from the violence, and he doesn't want to change no matter how hard they try. While he is in prison, he learns how to work the guards, pretending to study the Bible and ask for help in changing so he can re-enter society as a clean fellow. He knows there's some research going on to "cure" criminals and he's pretty sure he can fake it enough to get out and get back to business. Of course, he's a prime candidate for re-education. And he's all for it. All he has to do is watch some movies...
What is the meaning of freedom? Burgess explores this question as Alex undergoes aversion therapy to "'cure" his violent nature. Take away a man's freedom of choice, is he still a man? Is it really better to force behavior change rather than allowing a person to be who they are, even if it's violent? Are we doomed to become mindless automatons, living by routine, no more unique than a piece of fruit? Very thought provoking and moving. Honestly, I felt sorry for Alex. Was he a product of his generation, or truly evil? He's used and abused, and in the end...maybe he grows up a little.
What I found interesting beyond the scope of the book was the forward by Burgess. A Clockwork Orange was not his favorite book. Far from it; he almost wishes it would die. Other works he found personally more satisfying as a writer are forgotten. He theorizes, and I fear, that many artists feel the same about their early works. What one may write as an amateur is celebrated as the creator moves on to mature and meanwhile everyone is still talking about the "breakthrough" or "debut." How can the artist recover from that? I always like hearing the story from the author/artist's perspective; their take on the work we talk so much about. I wonder what Beethoven would think about Fur Elise being a ringtone and how Shakespeare would like our studying Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet in high school as opposed to his less critically acclaimed works.
For myself, I guess I'll just have to save the best for last. Keep 'em guessing, keep 'em talking.

I highly recommend his version as it has a previously unpublished chapter (in America). Such a tragedy considering the last chapter seems incredibly important to the development of Alex's character. Another fear of mine as a writer...if I go the official publisher route one day, I will fight tooth and nail to keep my words in their entirety!
I need something fluffy now...