Books on the Big Screen and going Beyond the Book

I think it’s hard to have a publishing-related blog this week and not write about the Random Penguin in its Penguin House but this is all I will say on the matter (Random Penguins need quiet nights in too especially with such big decisions to make! We will interrupt his evening in the future, next week perhaps). Speaking of quiet nights in, I am currently curled up on my sofa with a bowl of cereal watching Stardust, a lovely evening after a day of scanning and research and Turpin forms and proofreading at Berghahn Books.

The thing about film adaptations is that most people don’t like them. Of course, I am generalising but it seems to be a given that if a book is adapted for the screen a lot of people won’t like it and a lot of people will complain until they’re red in the face about how the conversion from book to film has ruined their darling and the best/most important parts have been cut out.

There is no way of keeping all of the fans happy but there is no denying that book-films bring more fans to their authors. More people will read the book after seeing the film. Personally, I love it when books I enjoy are turned into films and in a lot of cases, when I discover a book-movie I will then read the book it is derived from even if it’s not something I would normally read. I like playing ‘spot the difference’. There are very few I have disliked, even those that bend the story of their book to breaking point.

Some call this blasphemy, I call it perspective. I never watch a film with the expectation that it will be like the book, it would only end in disappointment. Films cannot be like their page-filled counterparts; there are some things in books that cannot be done in films and there are some things that simply don’t work on the big screen. Books can hold a lot more meat so, of course, things will be cut – and that is okay. There is no one universal way to interpret a book so the film will never be as you imagined.

There is one film, the one I am currently watching, which I think sticks incredibly well to the story of the book. Things have been changed, they had to be. If I remember correctly, the book is a shade darker than the film (which was aimed at a PG-13 audience) but the transition seems to fit. They have masked the darker parts with humour – some of them, anyway. It has a special place in my heart, it’s written by my favourite author and some of its scenes were filmed in my hometown, if the pictures and writings on the wall of one of our local pubs are to be believed.

I’m currently reading Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart for the first time, having owned it for years and seen the film and while it is rather different so far it still feels like the same story. Only in the film Meggie doesn’t annoy me quite so much but that may change, I am only halfway through and I will be reviewing it once I’ve finished and before I move on to the next book in the series. (I know, I know I have at least two books to review already – make that four… soon! Soon!)

Anyway, films go beyond the book. And that brings me to the second part of this blog post – going beyond the book.

This morning, when I checked my emails, I was caught by two articles from Publishing Perspectives (1, 2) about Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of InnocenceThe Museum of Innocence is both a novel and a museum situated in Istanbul, a novel which I now want to read and a museum which I can only dream of going to. Upon reading these articles there was one thing that sprung to mind: The Night Circus

I cannot think of a more perfect book to go ‘beyond’ with. If you haven’t read it, you should (review to come). The Night Circus could be such a beautiful exhibition – combine Morgenstern’s imagination with the work of talented artists and set designers and that circus could, in part, come to life. It is definitely something I’d love to see. 

There is something enchanting about books which aren’t just books, books which have things you can see and touch beyond the words on the page. It’s something I would definitely be interested in helping to create some day, if my publishing career should lead me down that route. I hope it does.

Of course, The Night Circus  is an obvious choice for such an endeavour but what other novels would suit being brought to life in … well, whatever form best befits them really, are there any titles that you would like to see, touch, smell, taste? Let me know what you think in the comments, possible-readers! I’m curious.

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Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth

She turns to face the future in a world that’s falling apart.

For sixteen-year-old Tris, the world changes in a heartbeat when she is forced to make a terrible choice. Turning her back on her family, Tris ventures out, alone, determined to find out where she truly belongs.

Shocked by the brutality of her new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her. The hardest choices may yet lie ahead…

A debut novel that will leave you breathless.

Blurb taken from Amazon.co.uk

Breathless, not completely accurate but not too far off the mark. When I started reading Divergent, I discovered that I couldn’t stop. It had me hooked from the beginning. Perhaps, even, before the beginning. I’d seen it during my perusal of the internet and it  had followed me ever since. I finally relented while doing a small marketing excursion to my local book shop, I couldn’t leave without buying something after they’d been more than willing to answer my questions (at least that is my excuse).

It is not a perfect book, there are a few moments in which my inner editor wanted to change words and get rid of some repetition but that said, it did not hamper my reading. It is not the quality of the writing which hooked me, though the writing is very good; it was the emotion. Roth is excellent at making you feel exactly what her characters are feeling. When Tris was scared, I was scared.

Like the book, Tris is not a perfect character. There are moments where I want to smack her (even more so in Insurgent) but there are also moments where I want to give her a high five. She’s three dimensional, she’s believable.

One of the things I love about this book are the factions: Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Candor (honesty), Amity (peacefulness) and Erudite (intelligence). In a dystopian Chicago, the citizens must choose where they belong, which trait they believe in over all others. Those who do not, or those who fail, become Factionless. They believe that living in factions is the only way to survive and put their factions before their blood. Amidst these factions are the Divergent, who do not fit neatly into one, instead having traits of several. I’ve been really into dystopias recently, like a lot of others I am unsurprisingly on-trend, and the factions won it for me before I’d started reading. I was intrigued by the idea, by how the characters would fit into their factions and I was not disappointed.

I think the only thing that did disappoint me was the cover; it’s nice, it’s a nice design but it’s not the American cover (see below). I adore the American cover and wish that I could have purchased that version. It is a lot more powerful and a lot more intriguing than the British cover. If I based my decision to buy it on the design alone, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. (I am so glad I did!)

Divergent by Veronica Roth (America cover)

This book has haunted me ever since I finished reading it, I had to read it again and then when I’d finished I lasted about a week before my will-power relented and I bought Insurgent, the second novel in the series. I was going to wait it out until nearer the release date of the final book but inevitably my urge to read got the better of me. There are two lines which have stuck with me more so than any other lines from any other books, so I will end this review with them:

‘I am selfish. I am brave.’

Rating: 4.5/5

Books in Boxes

While I was wombling around on Tumblr (verb influenced heavily by a certain course friend who will know who she is and probably find much amusement in its usage), I found the wonderful box-art of Marc Giai-Miniet. I’m not sure if box-art is the word for it but, as they are constructed from boxes, it seemed apt.

The pieces are beautiful and there is not much I can say to express quite how wonderful they are and quite how much I love them so I will leave you with some pictures instead.

Omega

Le grand départ  Memoria

Livres interdits

La mine

A Chance Meeting and a Ladybird Exhibition

One of the things that I love about Oxford is its book culture. It is so full of people who love books, be they OICPS Publishing students Trainee Professionals, Publishing and Research Professionals, tourists, C.S. Lewis enthusiasts, Tolkien enthusiasts, Lewis Carroll enthusiasts (guilty as charged!), students, teachers… the list is endless. 

Today, I met a lovely middle-aged couple at the bus stop and after answering their questions about bus times and ticket prices, we got onto the subject of my Masters and subsequently books. They told me that they had visited a Ladybird Art Exhibition in Grantham, which runs until the end of October and I now rather want to go to. It displays original artworks from 1960s and 1970s Ladybird science titles.

The husband, whose name I stupidly forgot to ask, remarked about the colours, the brightness and the lack of subtle shades in their design. He had a theory that their choice in colour, at the time of their creation (all of them were hand painted), was heavily influenced by possibly ongoing post-war shortages. While I am unsure if this is correct, it makes me want to find out. His enthusiasm for the exhibition and its quality was enough to get me at least a little bit excited about it.

Now, science isn’t my usual area of interest – I am ever the Children’s and Young Adult fiction enthusiast – but there was one title I found while researching which has me intrigued:

The Ladybird Book of The Night SkyThe Ladybird Book of The Night Sky.

While there are more sophisticated books about the constellations, which make use of the ever-improving astrological technology of our age, the Ladybird title has its own sort of charm. As all* of the images are painted by hand, there is little assurance of its accuracy. Rather than being the be all and end all of children’s astronomy books, it becomes astronomy through the eyes of the painter(s) and that concept is very tempting. Having sourced some second-hand copies, my finger is hovering over the ‘buy’ button and it is taking a lot of control** not to click.

Its age is part of its charm, with vintage being ‘in’ it’s not difficult to find myself leaning towards it (though I have always been interested in antiques, my book choices tend to be much older).

Claudine King-Dabbs writes of the book:

It demystifies the same sky observed by Isaac Newton – and seeks to explain the mechanisms and movements of the planets and stars – to unravel and explain the mysteries of our solar system, again, like Newton.

The link to her article on the conception of the exhibition can be found at the end of this post.

The night sky has always been something that fascinates me (I own a rabbit named Orion as testimony for my love of the stars, and rabbits; despite Orion treading on/hunting Lepus, the rabbit constellation, which is something I didn’t think about when giving him the name… but I digress), so it is unsurprising that it is this book which had pulled me in. Science for people who do not go out of their way to learn about the subject.

Without this chance meeting, I would never have known about the exhibition or even the above book; the people here have such enthusiasm about the printed (and now digital) word and love to share it if the conversation wanders down that path. It’s lovely to experience.

When the bus arrived, we parted ways and I spent the whole journey home thinking about Grantham, a place I have never visited, and the books on display there.

The Exhibition takes place at The Grantham Museum from 10am until 4pm and is free, so I highly recommend a visit. More details about the event can be found here.

For those interested in the event’s conception, the article can be read here.

While we are on the subject of events, my Resources page will list relevant museums and such with permanent book-related exhibitions (temporary exhibitions might also be listed depending on the amount of time I have free to take care of the upkeep of such a list).

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*from what I can gather, having never seen inside the book I can only assume that all of the images are painted.

**The control is necessary, I already spent an alarming amount of money on books for my degree today. Adding another onto that total is not in my best interests, nor would it make my bank account very happy.