Posts Tagged ‘cranford’

So Sorry: Bk7-20

I have been intensely busy the past month or so, and I have never felt like  commenting on the books I’m reading. Since it’s reading week, I decided to update a little on my progress through the books, and if you look at my Twitter account, I am up to 20 books! Crazy! Just for one semester, not to mention the books that I’ve been reading on the sidelines, which I will also mention.

So, I will begin my list with perhaps small commentaries just to make up for my lack of visiting:

Book 7: John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger, which is a playscript by a Brit playwright from the 60s. This play started the ‘angry young man’ theatre, and it is easy to see why because the main character is a complete and total jackass. He is so verbally abusive and thinks he’s God’s gift to the world. I can’t stand him. But good play, I guess.

Bk 8: Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women. Quite a nice book about a girl’s transition to womanhood in the 30s-40s rural Ontario. The book is a collection of short stories gathered together based on the main character, Dell, who deals with changing ideas of womanhood and sexuality.

Bk 9: The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley. Interesting, annoying, revolutionary all rolled into one. I wasn’t too fond of his opinions of white people and the detailing of his transition into the Nation of Islam, but I liked reading about his life becoming a man. I also cried when we saw Spike Lee’s portrayal of his assassination. It seemed like Malcolm X was finally on the right path for civil rights (not just black rights), and some assholes had to go and kill him.

Bk10:  Sharon Pollock’s Doc, a short play on the memories of a workaholic doctor father and his writer daughter. It was quite interesting as it played with how memories could be performed on stage.
Bk 11: Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake (selected poems). Not too bad. Helped me to understand more fully the context for ‘The Chimney Sweeper’ which I’d had to read before.

Bk 12: Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (selected poems). I think I liked Wordsworth’s poems more than Coleridge’s. We also read a hand-out of Dorothy Wordsworth’s prose (Wm’s sister) and she was quite a great writer too.

Bk13: Elizabeth Smart’s By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. Partially autobiographical poetic prose. Having to read it so fast, I missed a lot of the potential of the poetry, so I didn’t really understand much of it.

Bk 14: May Sarton’s Mrs Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing. I found this one more interesting than the last one because it revolved around a poet and her writing. There was some detailed discussion on how she came to write her poetry and her muses, and we get snapshots of the people who have been pivotal to her writing. As a writer myself, this grabbed me and gave me a feeling of inspiration. Not that I’d be able to write poetry as good as Mrs Stevens’.

Bk15: Adrienne Rich’s Poetry and Prose (selected). I have loved her poem ‘The Burning of Paper Instead of Children’, though I can’t exactly define it. And reading her poetry was quite nice and gave me more inspiration. I think I’ve written two or three poems.

Bk 16: selected poems of Emily Dickinson. She is quite morbid; a lot of death in her poems.

Bk 17: Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Purloined Letter’. Not exactly a book, I’ll grant you, but long and tedious enough to read. I would have rather been at the scene, watching as they went through the house for the letter, rather than hearing about it second-hand. Then for Poe’s hero to suddenly come up with the answer to the riddle without having told us any clues at all… no offence, Poe, but perhaps that’s why you didn’t get much money for your works.

Bk 18: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Final Problem’ and ‘The Adventure of the Empty House’. I read the first one, but not the second one because I didn’t have time. But I did get to see the recent movie with Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law, and I was quite impressed with RDJ’s portrayal of Holmes. However, poor Doyle killed off Holmes and had to resurrect him for the sake of the fans.

Bk 19: Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield (Chps 1-13). I could only read 3 chapters because my presentation for Elizabeth Gaskell was on the same day that the reading of this fell on, but I think that I read more of it than the rest of the class. Because of this, I haven’t much to say about it except how sad it is that a little boy gets sent by his guardian to work in a factory.

Bk 20: Four Stories by American Women (Rebecca Harding Davis’ ‘Life in the Iron Mills’ and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’.) I haven’t read these yet.

Wow. Lots of reading. And of course, I am apparently masochistic because I read Elizabeth Gaskell books that I didn’t really need to read:

Wives and Daughters. I saw the adaptation first, and Justine Waddell is adorable as Molly Gibson. I got hooked on the love story between her and Roger Hamley, so I started reading the book, and I got hooked on the book. I finally finished it yesterday, but I didn’t feel the closure that I have after finishing other books, mainly because Gaskell died before she could complete this one, and the editor of Cornhill that the book was serialized in added in a synopsis of what Gaskell figured would happen. But it is not as interesting as actually reading the events in narrative form.

I did like, though, how Andrew Davies ended his screenplay. The adaptation was quite faithful to the book, which I found nice because it gave me a picture of the surroundings, but Davies veers off Gaskell’s figured ending by getting Molly to go to Africa with Roger when he is finishing his expedition. I think this is quite nice (even if it is a little bit modern in form) since Molly has been learning a lot of natural history and science through her love of Roger and she can be his companion and coworker.

I would have liked to have seen more, though ;). After reading so much of the two lovers being apart and not knowing their real feelings towards each other, I want to know more of what their life would be like when they are finally together. It always seems in Victorian literature that writers only give us a glimpse of these after-lives, and very rarely do adaptations leave that pattern. Apparently, we have to be content with imagining it happening.

Also, if there were a modernized adaptation, wouldn’t Cynthia be perfect as a struggling fashion designer? I like the story between the two step-sisters so much that I am almost tempted to drop everything and write my own modernized adaptation.

Cranford. I have only read most of this novella, but it is quite hilarious and intriguing, even if the subject matter (the spinster ladies’ lives in small-town Cranford) may seem quite a bit dull. We are taken through the hilarious episodes of the cat that swallowed the lace to moving stories of the Jenkyns’ sisters’ history. I was sad though that Captain Brown died in the second chapter. I know from my research that since Gaskell had never meant to write more than one installment for Cranford, she was sad too that she had killed him off so early.

I do like how this transferred into adaptation. Instead of just the novella of Cranford, the creators of the series mixed in two of Gaskell’s other novellas, Mr Harrison’s Confessions and My Lady Ludlow. These last two novellas were displaced from their own towns and placed into Cranford so that the result was a completely new storyline where the characters of all three towns interact in some way, and yet the adaptation hasn’t lost the spunk of the originals, though I haven’t read the other two novellas yet. Captain Brown was also kept on instead of killed off, and we find out in real-time why Miss Deborah Jenkyns died. I quite like it.

It’s also nice to see the dexterity of certain actors between the series and other shows. Michael Gambon, for one, the man who is now famous for portraying Albus Dumbledore the second time around, plays Mr Holbrook in Cranford and Squire Hamley in Wives and Daughters, and you wouldn’t recognize him much at all. His manner and looks are so different, it’s no wonder they gave him a BAFTA for his portrayal of the squire.

Then there’s Francesca Annis who played Mrs Gibson in W&D and then Lady Ludlow in Cranford. Another fantastic turnover. She goes from bubblingly annoying to very grave and grand. I was surprised when I saw Keeley Hawes in W&D because I hadn’t recognized her in the promotional pictures for the series and I’ve seen her in Spooks which brings her quite a different character. Then there’s Bill Patterson who plays the sarcastic but loving doctor Gibson in W&D and who played a character (forgot the name) in Little Dorrit, who was quite annoying. Tom Hollander who plays the stupid Mr Collins in P&P 2005 played Osbourne Hamley in W&D and looked quite hot doing so that my opinion of him got higher. I can’t stand Mr Collins! And Anthony Howell as Roger Hamley… would be nice to see him in other shows, but I don’t think he works in TV or movie productions much anymore.

I could go on, but I think I’ll stop.