Sunday, September 21, 2014

Top ten adaptations

One of ten top adaptations tagged by Guardian and Observer critics:
The Fallen Idol

Graham Greene went to his grave justifiably disappointed in the many movie adaptations derived from his novels. The Comedians, The Honorary Consul, The Human Factor, the first adaptations of The Quiet American and The End of the Affair: all of these fell short, or actively betrayed their source-novels. One of the fascinating conundrums of Greene's career is that this highly perceptive former film critic, fitfully brilliant screenwriter and author of so many novels dubbed "cinematic" should have suffered so badly at the hands of filmmakers, particularly in Hollywood.

The few successful films of his work tended to be adapted by Greene himself and/or made in Britain: John Boulting's Brighton Rock, Alberto Cavalcanti's Went the Day Well? and the long-unseen The Fallen Idol, which Greene and director Carol Reed made in 1948, a couple of years before they embarked on the worldwide hit that was The Third Man. Freely adapted from Greene's 1935 story The Basement Room, The Fallen Idol follows Philippe (Bobby Henrey), the 7-year-old son of the French ambassador in London, who stumbles onto the adulterous affair between his father's valet Baines (Ralph Richardson) — the eponymous object of his worship — and Julie, an embassy secretary (Michele Morgan).

As pregnant with secrets and lies as any of Greene's spy stories, The Fallen Idol is also one of the great movies about childhood innocence accidentally violated by adults, harking back to Greene's literary idol Henry James' What Maisie Knew, and forward to LP Hartley's The Go-Between (whose 1970 adaptation by Joseph Losey is one of the great movies of its period). Reed, an often inconsistent film-maker, handles the brutal mechanics of the plot superbly, with the marbled interiors of the embassy contrasting sharply with his almost neo-realist outdoor shots of postwar London.
Learn about the other entries on the list.

Read a 2007 review of The Fallen Idol.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Five YA-lit lovable misfits

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog, Dahlia Adler tagged five lovable misfits from Young Adult literature, including:
Anika Dragomir (Anatomy of a Misfit, by Andrea Portes)

As you can tell from the moment you meet her, third-most-popular-girl-in-school Anika Dragomir is straight-up hysterical. She’s irreverent, she’s insightful, she’s half-Romanian, and she does pretty much everything with a mind on keeping her safe spot in the school’s lineup. That includes keeping her relationship with far-more-misfit-esque Logan on the down low. Even as she’s falling for him. Even as she’s learning about the terror of his home life. Even as he remains on her mind while she’s wooed by the hottest guy in town. This book is both heartbreaking and hilarious, and will affirm that it’s never too early to stand up for what you believe and who you love.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books for old-fashioned adventure in the 19th century

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and We Are Not Good People from Pocket/Gallery. He has published over thirty short stories as well.

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog he tagged five books and series for old-fashioned adventure in the 19th century, including:
The Aubrey/Maturin Series, by Patrick O’Brian

Ideal For: Anyone who thinks they can eat a meal of salted beef and ersatz coffee and then swing onto an enemy ship and shoot someone in the face with aplomb.

If you’ve ever wondered what every single line of rope on a 19th-century warship was called and what it did, simply read these 20 novels and you’ll be able to make obscure seafaring jokes with the best of them. Interspersed with this detailed examination of life on the sea during wartime are sea battles, boardings, raids, romance, intrigue, and perhaps the worst weevil-based joke ever committed to paper. O’Brian packed in more adventure on the high seas and all over the world than most people will experience in their entire lives.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Aubrey/Maturin Series by Patrick O'Brian also appears on the Telegraph's list of the ten best historical novels, Bella Bathurst's top ten list of books on the sea. Master & Commander is one of Peter Mayle's six best books. Dr Stephen Maturin is on John Mullan's list of ten of the best good doctors in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 19, 2014

Top twelve authors' beards

One entry on the Telegraph's top twelve list of authors' beards:
The Russian writer Leo Tolstoy had a beard as long as War and Peace. Apparently in the winter it froze and small icicles had to be lovingly removed by his wife.
Learn about the other entries on the list.

Also see: John Mullan's list of ten of the best beards in literature.

War and Peace appears among the Telegraph's ten best historical novels, Simon Sebag Montefiore's five top books about Moscow, Oliver Ford Davies's six best books, Stella Tillyard's four favorite historical novels, Ann Shevchenko's top ten novels set in Moscow, Karl Marlantes' top ten war stories, Niall Ferguson's five most important books, Norman Mailer's top ten works of literature, and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best battles in literature, ten of the best floggings in fiction, and ten of the best literary explosions.

Anna Karenina is on Bethan Roberts's top ten list of novels about childbirth, Hannah Jane Parkinson's list of the ten worst couples in literature, Hanna McGrath's top fifteen list of epigraphs, Amelia Schonbek's list of three classic novels that pass the Bechdel test, Rachel Thompson's top ten list of the greatest deaths in fiction, Melissa Albert's recommended reading list for eight villains, Alison MacLeod's top ten list of stories about infidelity, David Denby's six favorite books list, Howard Jacobson's list of his five favorite literary heroines, Eleanor Birne's top ten list of books on motherhood, Esther Freud's top ten list of love stories, Chika Unigwe's six favorite books list, Elizabeth Kostova's list of favorite books, James Gray's list of best books, Marie Arana's list of the best books about love, Ha Jin's most important books list, Tom Perrotta's ten favorite books list, Claire Messud's list of her five most important books, Alexander McCall Smith's list of his five most important books, Mohsin Hamid's list of his ten favorite books, Louis Begley's list of favorite novels about cheating lovers, and among the top ten works of literature according to Peter Carey and Norman Mailer. John Mullan put it on his lists of ten of the best erotic dreams in literature, ten of the best coups de foudre in literature, ten of the best births in literature, ten of the best ice-skating episodes in literature, and ten of the best balls in literature.

Master and Man and Other Stories is one of Rosamund Bartlett's five top books on Russian short stories, and Tolstoy's Tales of Army Life is one of John Gittings's five top books on peace.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Top ten stories of mothers and daughters

Meike Ziervogel is the author of the novellas Magda and Clara's Daughter.

One of her top ten stories of mother-daughter relationships, as shared at the Guardian:
On Matricide: Myth, Psychoanalysis and the Law of the Mother by Amber Jacobs

The goddess Athena sprang forth fully armed from the head of her father, Zeus. The part of the legend far less well-known is that Zeus had swallowed the pregnant Metis, and it was she who gave birth to Athena inside Zeus. Jacobs here offers a brilliant reinterpretation of the Oresteia myth, and in doing so shows us how we can change our thinking. It’s a must-read (and you don’t have to have read the Oresteia first).
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Seven of the sharpest modern satires

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Joel Cunningham tagged seven of the sharpest modern satires, including:
...Sweetness #9, by Stephan Eirik Clark, an up-to-the-minute satire of the high-stakes world of the flavor industry—the chemical tinkering that goes into creating real flavors for entirely fake processed foods. David Leveraux thinks he’s won the chemist lottery when he lands his dream job as a “flavorist” for a secretive corporation, never mind that he has to start off in the animal testing department, determining whether the delicious additives the labs are cooking up have any unwelcome side effects. Side effects like, say, anxiety, obesity, and general malaise, which he discovers in animals given an experimental artificial sweetener called Sweetness #9.

David considers blowing the whistle but keeps quiet for the sake of his career, setting off a ripped-from-the-email-subject-lines debacle. Within a few years, Sweetness #9 is everywhere, and consequently everyone is eating a lot of it, and a lot of people are feeling anxious, and fat, and generally unhappy with their lives. But lots of us feel that way anyway, so is fake food really to blame? Is there something more damningly artificial at the core of our culture than simply the chemical bonds that make Twinkies taste good? Should we stop eating junk that makes us feel bad and take care of ourselves instead? Eh, that sounds like a lot of work.
Read about the other entries on the list.

My Book, The Movie: Sweetness #9.

The Page 69 Test: Sweetness #9.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ten books to read before you go to Paris

For Fodor's, Jessica Colley tagged ten books to read before you go to Paris, including:
The Flaneur by Edmund White

The best city portraits grant access to daily life that tourists don't encounter during a typical visit. The Flaneur accomplishes just this, leading the reader on a stroll through Paris without any particular goal, but to observe the everyday theater of the city streets. This very French concept of strolling and loitering without any particular place to go comes to life in White's pages. After living in Paris for almost two decades, he accurately captures Paris in all of its intricacies.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see: Lisa Appignanesi's top ten books about Paris.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 15, 2014

Top ten literary canines

Mikita Brottman, PhD, is an Oxford-educated scholar, critic, and psychoanalyst. Her new book is The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Literary, Royal, Philosophical, and Artistic Dog Lovers and Their Exceptional Animals.

One of Brottman's top ten literary canines, as shared at the Guardian:
Argos is the loyal hound who belonged to Odysseus, who recognises his disguised master after an absence of 20 years. In joyful anticipation, Homer tells us that "he dropped his ears and wagged his tail". But Argos, understanding that his master is in disguise, can't approach him and Odysseus can't acknowledge the dog without giving himself away. Odysseus sheds a secret tear, and Argos, after waiting so long to see his master again, dies after a single glimpse of him.
Read about the other dogs on the list.

"Argos" is one of Nicole Hill's ten best names in literature to give your dog.

Learn about two dogs named Argos by their writer-humans: Ceiridwen Terrill & Argos and Jehanne Dubrow & Argos.

Also see Cliff McNish's top ten dogs in children's books; Becky Ferreira's 11 best books about dogs; and Ben Frederick's eleven essential books for dog lovers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ten of the best books set in Amsterdam

Malcolm Burgess is the publisher of Oxygen Books' City-Lit series, featuring writing on cities including Berlin, Paris, London, Venice and Dublin.

For the Guardian, in 2011 he named ten of the best books set in Amsterdam, including:
Dubravka Ugresic, The Ministry of Pain, 2005

Amsterdam has always been a haven for refugees and Dubravka Ugresic shows us with great insight the lives of eastern European immigrants in a poorer district of the city.

"I would take the Zeedijk, in the direction of the Nieuwmarkt … Sipping my morning coffee, I would observe the people stopping at stalls displaying herring, vegetables, wheels of Dutch cheese and mounds of freshly baked pastries. It was the part of town with the greatest concentration of eccentrics … "
• The Oudezijds Kolk/Zeedijk area
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top beguiling if unlikely travel books

Sean Wilsey is the author of a memoir, Oh the Glory of It All, and the co-editor with Matt Weiland of two collections of original writing: State By State: A Panoramic Portrait of America, and The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the World Cup. His essay collection, More Curious, is published by McSweeney’s.

One of five beguiling if unlikely travel books Wilsey tagged for The Daily Beast:
History of My Life, by Giacomo Casanova is only not considered road literature because it is seen as pornography; but, in fact, much of it is about the importance of transportation. Casanova, a Venetian, crisscrossed Europe in the mid-1700s, buying and repairing dozens of chariots, phaetons, covered carriages, picking up hitchhikers, and fighting off highway robbers. He chronicles it all in 12 volumes, and every page is worth reading. A random early passage, set in Poland, describes the aftermath of a duel with an aristocrat:
“‘You have killed me. You must escape, or you will lose your head. You are in the jurisdiction of the starostie, and I am grand officer of the crown, and grand cordon of the White Eagle. Lose no time; if you have not enough money, take my purse.’

His heavy purse fell on the floor. I picked it up. and put it back into his pocket, telling him it was useless to me, for if I was guilty I should lose my head, and I meant to go and lay it on the steps of the throne.

“‘I hope,’ said I, ‘that your wound is not mortal. I am sorry you forced me to inflict it on you.’ With these words I kissed him on the forehead and left the inn. I could see neither carriage, nor horses, nor servants. They had all scattered in search of doctor, surgeon, priest, relations and friends. I was alone in a desolate country covered with snow. After wandering at haphazard some little way I met a peasant in a sleigh. ‘Warsaw,’ I cried, showing him a ducat.”
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Stephen L. Carter's six favorite books about the Cold War

Stephen L. Carter is a novelist and Yale law professor. His latest thriller is Back Channel.

One of Carter's six favorite books about the Cold War, as shared with The Week magazine:
Arms and Influence by Thomas Schelling

If you want to understand both the cleverness and the chilly pragmatism of America's Cold War strategy, read Nobel laureate Schelling's at once accessible and compelling 1966 book. You'll likely look at today's conflicts through very different eyes.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Influential books: Thomas C. Schelling.

Writers Read: Thomas C. Schelling (August 2007).

--Marshal Zeringue

Five kids’ and YA books that transcend the age label

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and We Are Not Good People from Pocket/Gallery. He has published over thirty short stories as well.

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog he tagged five must-reads aimed at kids that people of all ages will enjoy, including:
The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton

The ultimate tale of dangerously unsupervised children who curse, smoke, drink, and stab each other, this book was actually written when Hinton was a teenager herself, which explains the melodramatic nature of much of her debut. The tale of Ponyboy and rival gangs in Tulsa in the 1960s, it remains an explosive (and often banned) book to this day.

Why Adults Will Enjoy It: Many books capture the sense of being a teenager, but few can convey that sense back to adults the way The Outsiders can. Once you get past some of the outdated slang and period detail, you’re once again fifteen and simultaneously angry, sad, exultant, and confused. While the events of the story go far beyond what most people experience as kids, the emotional sense of the book is 100% accurate.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Outsiders is among Phil Earle's top ten zeros-to-heros in stories for children and young adults and on one list of nine of the best literary groups of friends.

My Book, The Movie: Chum.

The Page 69 Test: Chum.

Writers Read: Jeff Somers.

--Marshal Zeringue