Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book vs Movie: I Capture the Castle

True story: when I was a teen, I was OBSESSED with the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Like, unhealthily obsessed. And in seasons 4 and 5, my BFF Carol and I had huge crushes on Marc Blucas, the actor who played Buffy’s college boyfriend. Like serious ‘write fan letters, hang pictures in our lockers, hunt down his other movies, write notes about him’ crushes. He was a total all-American boy beefcake. So, imagine my surprise when I’m browsing the Netflix instant library a few months ago and see his name in the credits of a BBC-produced film. I texted Carol immediately (because we still alert each other as to MB’s whereabouts). And then I realized that I Capture the Castle is the book that’s been sitting on my shelf in Nashville for years after my mom read it and passed it along to me.

Well, because I’m a book-before-the-movie type of person, I left I Capture the Castle and Marc Blucas patiently waiting on my Netflix queue until I headed home again and could grab my copy. I was actually excited to finally read it after all these years. My mom had recommended it to me back in my early college years or so, and the recommendation has only been reinforced since then; a fellow book club member who shares many of my reading tastes gave it the highest praises, citing it as one of her favorites.
Dodie Smith’s classic is about a family living in squalor in an old English castle in the 1930s. Seventeen-year-old Cassandra guides us through the story via her journal pages. She’s just on the cusp of childhood and adulthood and not quite certain where she belongs. Her older sister Rose longs for beautiful things and a rich lifestyle. Their father once wrote a great book but has been in a writing slump for years and refuses to get out of it. Stepmother Topaz is an eccentric soul, latching on to art and its creators. And little brother just tries to stay out of it. Life seems pretty mundane until two American brothers suddenly arrive  and stir things up (in a nutshell).
I think this was a case of my expectations being too high. I enjoyed this, I really did, but I just didn’t see the magic that lots of people have found in the story. Cassandra was introduced as such a strong, independent character as opposed to her sister, a characterization that was reinforced throughout her journal entries. But eventually, I lost faith in her rationality. Cassandra was never as petulant as Rose, but I didn’t hold them on such a different level by the end. Maturing as a result of new experiences is one thing; I think the point, by the end, was to show a stronger, more mature Cassandra, but I didn’t like the path that took her there, nor felt she was the same independent girl who viewed the world with a naive fascination. And that’s something I don’t believe Cassandra would have lost, no matter her experiences.
After I finished the book, I finally watched the movie. Sometimes, I actually like the movie version better, as in the cases of Harriet the Spy, Atonement, and Julie & Julia. Minor plot shifts, the visualizations, or an actor’s characterization can bring a new dimension to the story. But this one just didn’t really add anything. I felt like I was seeing the same exact story I had just read. Maybe it was due to the fact that I wasn’t totally enchanted with the story in the first place, but I probably could’ve skipped it. Except I got to enjoy MB on my TV screen once again. Ahhh.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Nonfiction | A man so cool, they named DVDs after him

Eeep, I have been MIA for quite a while. I know it’s bad when I have my next book club meeting in two days, and my post on last month’s book is still one of my most recent posts. Somehow, I imagine fall as this wonderfully peaceful time of winding down from summer and getting nestled in for winter…but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Do you remember the days when your weekends just sprung up like any other day of the week, open for spontaneity and without plans? Yeah, neither do I. Something happens in adulthood where suddenly every weekend is planned, and even weeknights quickly become booked. So strange! But maybe winter will slow things down…(though I’m not holding my breath).

A few months ago, I heard Dick Van Dyke on NPR’s Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me, where Peter Sagal provided the excellent introduction I am using as this post title. Dick Van Dyke has always been one of my favorites. When I was a kid, I could recite every line to Mary Poppins (which served me like counting sheep when trying to fall asleep) and spent my evenings watching Nike at Night. Needless to say, Dick Van Dyke has always entertained me, and after I heard about his memoir on Wait, Wait and I saw it at the library, I picked it up.

My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business chronicles DVD’s career from his early high school days at a radio station to the present. His life is barely controversial, and he’s candid and honest with his storytelling. The main point he drives home is that…he has no idea how all his success happened; he maintains it’s all luck. And maybe it is, but the guy is a fabulous entertainer. He’s got a rare talent of physical humor and has a pretty good stage presence. As entertaining as Dick Van Dyke is on the stage, screen, and radio…he maaaaay not be the most entertaining writer.

Some of his stories were so interesting, especially reading about the how the TV industry worked in days past. I have zero doubt in my mind that I could have dinner with DVD and he could recite every line from his book, and I’d be enthralled, intrigued, entertained, etc. But that’s the thing with DVD…so much of his personality is dependent on his physical presence that his words typed on a page read kind of dry. I don’t love him any less, but I think I’ll stick to watching a man “so cool, his initials have entered the international lexicon” on my TV screen.