October 28, 2012

A Clash of Kings by G. R. R. Martin

As my autumn escapism is still in full swing, I stick with fantasy, and 3 days ago I finished "A Clash of Kings" - the second book of "A Song of Ice and Fire" by G.R.R.Martin. The book is good, but not so good as the first one, which is a bit disappointing. But let's begin with the positive things.

First, I like the world. It is fantastic, and still not so fantastic that the reader feels no connection to it. It borrows a lot from the Wars of the Roses, and there is not much magic in it, so we can feel that it is real. In the second book the reader sees more locations of this world, hears more about its religion and legends and it adds to a better understanding of it. However, I don't like that there appears more magic in the second book than in the first one. The books are mostly about politics, wars and the place of people in the middle of the havoc. And when magic becomes a political force, everything is much less predictable and plausible.

Second, characters die in this world. Not only nameless masses or distant relatives, but main characters, even POVs. Oh, I like it! Authors do not usually do this, and it's shocking, but it adds to the reality of the world, where everything can happen. In this aspect the first book was terrific. We observe not only how the main character, with whose eyes we were seeing and whose thoughts we were hearing, dies terribly and unexpectedly, but also how life goes on, and how his death is not the end of the world. There were no such moments in the second book. The biggest death is when one of the claimants to the throne is killed, but the reader do not really feels for him, and he is not a POV.

Probably the most important feature of the series is narration from the different points of view. There are no BAD characters in the book, as everyone has its own reasons, and the reader can see the events from the different points of view. The parts of different characters are engaging to a different extent, though. In the first book my favourite was Daenerys's part - the story of finding courage, learning to rule, adopting a different culture.... It was fascinating. In the second book she is completely dull. All she ever says is that she is the mother of dragons and therefore will do whatever folly she wishes. In this book Tyrion becomes my favourite, as he is clever, cunning and always in the middle of all the intrigues. But generally the chapters are longer in the second book, and information dumps are too obvious.

So, if the first book is definitely a must-read for the adepts of the genre, the second one is not so perfect. I'll still keep on reading them, as I'm interested in what will happen to the characters. Besides, I like the series too, and it's better to read a book before watching them.

P.S. Oh, I forgot to mention how I LOVED the comet which somehow holds together all the stories of the different characters and how differently they interpret it. I can't fail to see here an allusion to the William the Conqueror's comet, and I feel that it is really all about dragons. But people worry only about things that concern them, and for each of them the comet means something different.

October 13, 2012

Let’s Read Plays challenge.

I've decided to participate in Let's Read Plays challenge, as: 
1) I always feel I need to read more Shakespeare or reread some of his works in the original 
2) I generally like plays 
3) It is a good distraction from all the chunky books I usually read

So the plan is to read at least one play each month, according to the monthly topic. And here are the plays I have chosen: 

  • Nov '12 - Shakespeare's Tragedy: Macbeth by William Shakespeare
  • Dec '12 - Shakespeare's Comedy: Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
  • Jan '13 - freebie: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
  • Feb '13 - Shakespeare's History: Henry V by William Shakespeare
  • Mar '13 - Greek: Oedipus the King by Sophocles
  • Apr '13 - Shakespeare's Comedy: A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
  • May '13 - Shakespeare's Tragedy: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  • Jun '13 - Oscar Wilde: An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde
  • Jul '13 - Other author: The Seagull by Anton Chekhov
  • Aug '13 - Shakespeare's Comedy: As You Like It by William Shakespeare
  • Sep '13 - freebie: The Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov
  • Oct '13 - Shakespeare's Tragedy: Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

I will read more, of course, if I'm in a mood. I'll also read non-English plays in Russian (especially as there are two Chekhov plays!), but as the challenge language is English, I will write about them in English. Three of the plays will count for my Classics Club list, which is also good :)

October 9, 2012

Rereading The Hobbit

I've decided to reread "The Hobbit" and I am anticipating the pleasure of it. 

I have a long story with this book. I first read it when I was a child and I totally didn't like it. Maybe it was just a bad translation  but I remember my irritation at stupid verses and phrases, the meaning of which I couldn't understand. Then in my teens there came together with the first good widely-available translation a fashion for "The Lord of the Rings". My best friend gave me a book, which I read in 4 days, and then immediately reread. That translation is still my favourite (I can even remember some lyrics), although I have seen 3 or 4 more of them, but they either have a very simple language, or the verses are poor, and in one of them the names were translated, can you imagine it?? There is a "bag" in "Baggins", but I surely don't want to see a name, derivated from the Russian word meaning "bag" in my book!

So, I became a fan, but I took "The Hobbit" again only several years later, after I had already read "The Lord of the Rings" several (~14) times and after I had read all the other Tolkien's works, both about the Middle-Earth and others. By that time I have, of course, being reading them all in the original and enjoyed it immensely. Then I thought that "The Hobbit" could't possibly be as bad as I remembered if all the other works of the same author were just perfect. And I started to read it again, a bit afraid of being disappointed. But I wasn't. I enjoyed the puns, the language, and especially the lyrics, so linguistically fit to the whole surroundings. I wanted to find the edition I disliked so much in my childhood to see if it really was the translation or my age, but I couldn't, because it was taken from the library. And so be it.

Why do I want to reread it now? There are two reasons, one good and one bad, as news usually are. Let's begin with the good one, as I always do.

1) The film is coming! I'm really looking forward to it, especially now that I have watched the video diaries of the shooting process. I bet you can find them on YouTube (here is the first one, and if you are hooked you can easily find the rest of them, there are 7 or 8 episodes) and they are really worth watching not only to the fans. I find it very interesting to see how the scenery is done, how they shoot Gollum scenes and how they make the gnomes look so nice. I actually believe that Peter Jackson can't spoil it, as I really liked his "Lord of the Rings". Yes, they've cut the ending and Tom Bombadil, but for a Hollywood movie the plot was very well preserved. The cast was also good (with some exceptions, yes, but enough has been said about the poor elves) and the scenery is completely fascinating! So I'm looking forward to more New Zealand! And the dragon, of course!

2) The second reason is a pact I made with my back, according to which it tries not to give me so much trouble, and I don't sit hours at lectures (and do not worry about it!), eat some healthy stuff instead of painkillers, lie down and generally relax for the whole week. And what can be better for relaxation than "There and Back Again"? See you!

October 3, 2012

31-40 из "1001 фильма"

31. Восход солнца (1927, Sunrise). Фридрих Вильгельм Мурнау
Фильм состоит из двух частей – прекраснейшего триллера и довольно однообразного изображения городского веселья. Ночные сцены сняты просто отлично, камера, пробирающаяся по кустам на место тайного свидания особенно хороша. Актёрская работа ничем особенно не выделяется, но вот операторская выше всяких похвал! Рекомендую!

32. Генерал (1927, The General). Клайд Брюкман, Бастер Китон
Немного повзрослевший, но совсем не возмужавший Китон на этот раз добивается успеха на гражданской войне и гоняется за плохими парнями на своем паровозе. Ну и, конечно, интересующая его девушка это особенно оценит. Пожалуй, лучшая комедия Китона, безусловно рекомендуется!
33. Неизвестный (1927, The Unknown). Тод Броунинг
            Сюжет несколько странен: в одном цирке работают безрукий актёр и девушка, которая боится мужских прикосновений. Поскольку он единственный её не лапает, они, естественно, становятся лучшими друзьями… ну как друзьями, вы же понимаете. Не буду спойлить, но в сюжете ещё много странностей, и это делает его крайне занимательным. Лон Чейни, конечно же, тоже выше всяких похвал. В общем, рекомендую!

34. Октябрь (1927). Сергей Эйзенштейн, Григорий Александров
Единственное, что порадовало меня в этом фильме, это кадры развода моста Лейтенанта Шмидта разворотом. Я знала, что у него был разворотный механизм, но никогда такого не видела. В остальном – много беготни и толкотни на улицах Питера, всё это очень идейно, но бесконечно скучно.

35. Певец джаза (1927, The Jazz Singer). Алан Кросленд
Фильм про то, как плохо иметь родителей-евреев, которые заставляют тебя петь гимны и выгоняют из дома, если ты вместо этого поешь джаз. Забавно использование звука: озвучены не только песни, но и пара диалогов перед и после песен. Как первый звуковой фильм – интересен, а в остальном ничего выдающегося.

36. Наполеон (1927, Napoleon). Абель Ганс
Ооооочень длинный фильм о жизни Наполеона и его любимого орла, начиная с детства. Особенно занудны сцены интеллектуального монтажа: ну сравнивается какое-то там собрание с бушующим морем, все всё поняли, зачем в течение 15 минут чередовать кадры? Возможно, фильм будет более интересен тем, кто может отличить Марата от Робеспьера, но это не мой случай.

37. Младший брат (1927, The Kid Brother). Тед Вильде
Отличная комедия, в которой находчивость, как всегда, оказывается полезнее грубой физической силы. На мой взгляд, конечно, Китон лучше, но Ллойд тоже очень и очень неплох, так что рекомендую!

38. Толпа (1928, The Crowd). Кинг Видор
Прекрасный фильм о судьбе «маленького человека» в мире конвейеров, рекламы и экономических кризисов. Особенно впечатляет начало фильма, где герой наездом камеры «выбирается» из толпы, и конец, где герои опять смешиваются с толпой в кинотеатре, а камера отъезжает на общий план. Рекомендую!

39. Пристани Нью-Йорка (1928, The Docks of New York). Йозеф фон Штернберг
История любви, короткой, как летняя ночь и невозможной, как хэппи-энд. У корабельного работника есть только одна ночь на берегу, и она начинается спасением из воды девушки, которая собиралась утопиться. Они ничего не знают друг о друге, но они проведут эту ночь вместе. Снято реалистично, правдиво и очень впечатляюще. Рекомендую!

40. Андалузский пёс (1928, An Andalusian Dog). Луис Бунюэль
Отвратительный фильм. Возможно, конечно, я ничего не понимаю в сюрреализме, но я не получаю никакого удовольствия от наблюдения мертвых ослов, муравьев, ползущих из ладони, и так далее. Смотрела его давно, не имею желания пересматривать и никому не советую смотреть, если Вам дорог Ваш рассудок. Смысла там, кстати, всё равно никакого нет.
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