Friday, July 29, 2011

George R.R. Martin Sighting

Have you read the latest edition from the “Fire and Ice” series, probably the bestselling fantasy novels in stores today? Or maybe you've gotten hooked on the new HBO series about the books entitled “A Game of Thrones?” Are you a longtime follower of the man they call “the American Tolkien” or have you recently joined the legions of his fandom?

I usually refrain from talking about my day job on my blog, but yesterday at lunch I noticed a man standing not ten feet away from me with a black cap and a fluffy white beard. I nearly did a double take when I recognized the man as George R.R. Martin himself eating lunch right by me! Needless to say me and those around buzzed with giddy excitement. The reclusive author came onto Google campus and did a book signing in Mountain View before stopping by our Google cafes for lunch.

His handlers weren't letting anyone near him, but it was cool to see “the American Tolkien” up close. Nonetheless, people lined up to see him and the crowds astonished me as I'd never seen that level of fame and fandom bestowed on an author before. You would have thought Brad Pitt or the President had stopped by.

It makes me curious as to other peoples' experiences upon seeing famous authors up close? Anyone ever caught a glimpse of one or heard one speak? Who's a famous author that you'd like to one day meet?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An Author’s Persona…Cool or Just a Bunch of BS?

Do you picture an archetypal author as a bearded man who smells of pipe tobacco, clacking away at a typewriter in his lone cabin in the mountains? Or perhaps you envision a bluestocking woman in Paris copying memoirs by hand, a new man staying in her artist’s studio every evening? Who comes to mind when you picture the quintessential writer: Jack London, Virginia Woolf, Salman Rushdie or maybe Gabriel Garcia Marquez? 

Readers usually focus on the fictional characters within an author’s works, but oftentimes the writers themselves have an aura or mythos surrounding their real-life self. Take for instance the tumultuous lifestyles of artists like Hemingway, Pablo Neruda, and Silvia Plath, just to name a few. Some of the images we conjure in our minds may be accurate, but other elements of an author’s real-life “persona” include legends crafted by the media or even by the authors themselves. 

Would it change your reading of Ezra Pound’s poems to know that he was also a fascist? Or does the image of Jane Austen living out her days as a spinster effect the way we read her stories that tend to end in happy marriages? What do you think…are the personas built around authors themselves something to cultivate or is it all just smoke and mirrors?  

Monday, July 25, 2011

Captain America: Comic Book or Graphic Novel?

Comic books are just for kids, right? Or are they graphic novels that push the boundaries of illustrating and storytelling? Are we seeing the acceptance of the comics as an art form equal to Shakespeare or is it simply the flavor of the decade, so to speak? 

I saw the new Captain America film in theatres this weekend and it turned out to be a decently entertaining movie, but it got me thinking about the battle in the art world between those who write-off comic books as popular tripe versus those who consider them graphic novels worthy of literature. Originally, comic books sold for a few cents to children wanting to pass the weekend without feeling like they read a grownup book. Today, however, comic books are asserting their role as genuine works of art, styling them “graphic novels” that speak to both kids and adults. 

Oddly enough, sales in comic books are declining, whereas comic book movies keep turning into box office hits. Is calling a comic book a graphic novel just a horse of another color or are we seeing the emergence of a more sophisticated form of expression? Are characters like Captain America, Batman, and the Green Lantern epic archetypes or just Freudian boyhood fantasies on steroids?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Borders Going Out of Business Sale

Got Border's bucks? Use them or lose them. Borders is having their going out of sale clearance from this weekend until the end of the month, which means lots of cheap books for you and me.

Normally, I don't like to make a plug for a corporation, but this looks like an opportunity for book buyers everywhere. They're offering 40% off up front for most books and I know I'll definitely try to take advantage of this opportunity this weekend. It's sad to see any bookstore go, but at least there'll be some nice deals for those who get in early.

So what books have you been itching to get? At 40% off, will you double the number of books you usually buy? Aren't you at least a little excited (wink wink)?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Book Awards...How Many of These Things Are There?

Nobel Peace Prize, heard of it. Pulitzers, heard of those too. But what about the Pen Faulkner, Booker, Orange, Hugo, Nebula, Bram Stoker, Edgar A. Poe, National Book Award, Newbury, Caldecott Medal,  Hemingway, Somerset Maugham, and T.S. Eliot prize awards just to name a few more?

There seems to be an inexhaustible number of book awards out there, and like too many T.V. award shows it can leave readers a bit confused. In my efforts to broaden my horizons I've decided to start reading books from a few lists that I like in order to better understand certain genres and also to push my reading in directions I might not have previously considered. Currently, I'm enjoying winners of the Michael Shaara Prize for Excellence in Civil War Fiction and have really liked some of the books I've come across so far. 

Obviously, some great books never get awards, but that doesn't mean that there aren't some neat finds on every book award list. What are some of your favorite prize lists to peruse? Perhaps something a bit unusual (hint hint)?  

Monday, July 18, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part II

Hello Harry Potter fans, this weekend I watched the last of the films on the big screen, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part II.” Overall, a pretty decent conclusion to the overarching film series that began over a decade ago. Don't worry I won’t give away any spoilers here.

Inevitably the discussion always comes up when readers of the books compare notes with the films themselves, and I think it's important to remember that the purpose of film isn't to simply translate a book verbatim into a motion picture. That being said there were of course things I loved in the books that I hoped to see in the movie, but it's not always meant to be. There were definitely a few memorable scenes and a lot of funny jokes from the books that got cut out, but what can you do.

So, who else out there identifies as a fan of the Harry Potter books and has also seen the latest film? Or any of the previous films for that matter? I suggest reading the books first as the films can be a little difficult to follow at times without the background information, but I leave that up to you.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Hobbit Comes to Film

That's right, down in New Zealand Peter Jackson is about midway into filming scenes for the upcoming two-part movie based on J.R.R. Tolkien's classic The Hobbit. Many returning actors from the LOTR trilogy will appear, including Gandalf, Bilbo (old and young), and somehow even Legolas and Frodo. Don't ask, I'm not quite sure how they could possibly work Frodo in unless they do some strange flash-foreword. Also, expect dwarves....lots and lots of dwarves.

Apparently, two films are in the works, the first of which will be a straight-up version of the book The Hobbit, and a year after that an interpretive Tolkien story that's supposed to bridge the gap between The Hobbit story and the LOTRs. Needless to say, I'm very excited that they're making the films, however, as a book-lover and Tolkienite, I do worry a bit about what exactly the second film will entail considering no specific book was written to bridge the generation between Bilbo and Frodo's times.

Nonetheless, I believe that film helps generate people's interests in books, so in the end I still think Tolkien will have the last laugh (so to speak). I know Harry Potter is coming out soon, but tell me that some of you out there are pumped up about the next series of Middle Earth movies. Any fellow Tolkien fans out there?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer Retreats

Sometimes picture yourself high up in the mountains in a cabin pounding away at the great American novel on a typewriter? Or perhaps you see yourself lounging in a remote beach community in the tropics while you pen your memoirs by hand. If so, you've probably got summer retreat fever...something that I think most authors catch at some point during the warm season.

With the advent of summer it's hard to sit inside a stuffy office, school room, or even your house while the natural world seems to delight in its own glorious existence. I sometimes like to visit a family country house or spend time down the coast where it's warm by the beach, but other times I just enjoy getting inspiration in my summer garden right at home. I suppose the key ingredient whatever keeps you writing.

But everyone finds their happy summer retreat writing place in different locations. Where do you like to go this time of year for inspiration, peace, solace, and a nice quiet zone to work? Do you prefer a mountain retreat, a tropical getaway, or perhaps you like the big urban sprawl?