"A commonplace book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that “great wits have short memories:” and whereas, on the other hand, poets, being liars by profession, ought to have good memories; to reconcile these, a book of this sort, is in the nature of a supplemental memory, or a record of what occurs remarkable in every day’s reading or conversation." - Jonathan Swift, "A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet"

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Review: The Hunger Games Movie

I don't have time to write a long review, but I saw The Hunger Games Friday night and wanted to share a few thoughts and a few fangirl squees.

Overall impression: I was not disappointed. Granted, I saw the trailer before I started reading the books, so of course the characters all conformed to my expectations perfectly - but they also surpassed them. I was especially impressed by Jennifer Lawrence, although I expected no less after seeing Winter's Bone. Aside from all the Katniss's conflicting affections and incredible strength and snarky personality, it's damn hard to act out all the physical pain and grit without rolling your eyes around in your head (ahem...Elijah Wood....ahem), but she nailed it. I really believed her exhaustion and desperation with the burn on her leg and it had the impact it should in a movie that's all about people fighting for their lives and trying to preserve their physical bodies as well as their self-worth and individuality.

Design: Again, good stuff. I did think the opening sequence in District 12 was a little over-the-top on the depression-era old people faces, but I liked the overall atmosphere, especially the images of all the kids dressed up in their best, hair slicked back, looking so innocent in a way. And I loved how crazy they went with the Capitol fashions. And how much screen time they gave to the crowds.

Action movie v. social commentary: Again, glad they spent so much time on the crowds, the media hype, the game makers, and the political machinations behind the scenes. I thought that was all a great way to put us in Katniss's mindset - that she's always being watched, being judged, being controlled. And it made the movie complementary to the book because it didn't just cut things, it added things, too - which is always good. The downside was that the more time they spent on that, the less time they spent on other important things.
Like the ending. I was really disappointed with the entire ending sequence, starting with the mutts all the way to the final shot. The end of the book was so great, the way it pushed you to the limit with the finale of the games, and then placed you in a kind of horrible tension limbo when Katniss is recovering, and then plunged you into another, even bigger danger, and also complicated the Katniss-Peeta relationship beautifully at the last moment. The movie did none of that. In fact, overall, I thought the first half was way better than the second half. It just felt like they ran out of steam and out of time.

Favorite moments: The countdown and the moments just before Katniss enters the arena; the relationship between Rue and Katniss; when Peeta made Katniss smile with his joke about the bow; when he admitted to having beat himself up over not going out to her in the rain; when he touched her braid at the end; when Katniss made snarky comments to Cato and the gang from her tree; when Seneca found the berries; when Haymitch was rude to Effie; when Katniss wouldn't answer Peeta's questions ('why are you doing this for me?') because she doesn't know the answers; when she saw herself on fire on the screens at the tribute parade....so many more.

It just felt great to sink into something wholeheartedly and passionately in a way that sometimes only nerdy fandom can let you do. I really wanted to enjoy the hell out of this movie and I did, and I laughed and cried (and may have cut off circulation in my friend's hand during the tracker jacker scene), and it felt good. And I'm thankful that people aren't afraid to write books and make movies based on crazy ideas and make them into really great stories.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A deconstructed book

Just noticed that the book I checked out of the library yesterday has been deconstructed and reconstructed in a singular way. It seems they're cut the front and back covers off of a paperback edition and simply pasted them onto the the front and back of the hardcover (which must have lost its jacket).

I used to have a horror of damaging to taking apart books in any way, but now I think it can yield interesting results. A page fallen from an old book, a piece of a book missing its other half, a book encased in the cover of another....

But now I must get back to the contents of books and stop distracting myself with their aesthetics.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

An early morning wish

If I could pop over to Hogwarts to learn just one spell, it would definitely be the summoning charm, because then I could just yell "Accio book" or "Accio cup of tea" or "Accio dinner" when I'm sunk in thesis writing sessions and don't want to move.

Oh, and a time turner would also be useful.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


I've been having one of those weeks when nothing in particular happens. My work on thesis has just become one long stream of writing and reading and thinking that flows through every day and (to continue this metaphor a bit further) just runs underground for a bit every night only to reappear the next morning when I wake up. All my other work has taken on secondary importance. I no longer segregate my serious thesis writing to the weekends. Even my meal times have become part of it - more often than not I find myself sitting at a table with my computer, a few heavily ear-marked books, and a cup of tea or plate of food in front of me.

This is by no means a complaint. I enjoy the work very much, especially the continuity of it. But it sometimes feels as though the days are slipping by without my really noticing them. I try to get outside, sit in the sun, acknowledge that there's a world outside of my head, but at other times I just sink into the thought world. I notice the time passing, but I don't necessarily feel it, in the way that one feels the rhythms of the day in one's body.

In my down time, too, I always tend to turn back into my mind. Exhausted from reading and writing so intensely during the day, I find I can't do much more than re-watch episodes of Game of Thrones before stumbling to bed.

However, I have kept my resolution so far of spending 10-15 minutes a day taking care of my body, and, for a college student, I sleep obscenely well and long. And then every morning I'm up again, thinking about how I'm going to finish off Chapter 6 of my thesis and how I'll fit in that homework that's due on Tuesday and how amazing I hope season 2 of Game of Thrones is going to be.

Academia a funny kind of life.