Monday, December 5, 2011
"A River Runs Through It" has always been one of my favorite movies. It is an amazing and powerful movie and since I found out it was originally a short story by Norman Maclean, I have wanted to read it. I looked in several book stores, but couldn't find it so I broke down and ordered it online. I took a break from Sherlock Holmes to read it and it was amazing. I thought the movie was powerful, but the story is simply amazing. It is poetic, beautiful, moving and haunting. The language and pace was unreal. It is really a novella around 100 pages, which gives Maclean enough time to go into detail, but also allows a steady, yet descriptive pace. Beyond the magnificent skill of Maclean this story is a perfect crossing of subject matter, pacing, language and scenery. As I have stated before I have many styles of writing that I love (Bradbury and Hemingway). Each left up to his own devices, though I still enjoy it, can lean towards their stronger style. For Hemingway it is short, direct sentences that allows your mind to fill in the blanks, while Bradbury uses an array of language to excite a feeling from within you that can sometimes be poetic with it's allusions. Maclean I believe can do both and does them both very well. At times he is short and sweet and lets you fill in gaps, but he does indulge in the poetic and romantic prose along the way. I liked this transition. Sentences that are to long, poetic and descriptive can wear me out and my ADD kicks in and I forget what is being described, this is why I totally agree with Twain's comment on Jane Austen- paraphrased- "Reading her makes me so mad, I want to dig her up and hit her in the head with her own shin bone." The scenery is also possibly one of my favorite landscapes, the Rocky Mountains and plains. I love the Rockies and to see the Great Plains crash into the majestic Rockies is truly breathtaking. I have been relatively near Montana where the story takes place, Wyoming, so when Maclean describes these majestic scenes I am entranced. Plus the idea of fly fishing in the Rockies is about the closest human can now get to it's original state in nature, short of getting lost in the woods and eaten by a bear. This story is part London, part Hemingway and part Robert Frost. It is simply beautiful and amazing and the final couple paragraphs I would vote as the best finish to any story I have ever read.
Monday, November 14, 2011
So as I previously explained I recently found a copy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes' stories vol. 1 compilation. At the same time I discovered that the new BBC show "Sherlock" is on Netflix. The original story is called, "A Study in Scarlet" and the title of the BBC episode is called, "A Study in Pink". I was very happy about this, but was left with a difficult choice. Should I wait and read the stories first or should I watch the show? Would it ruin the surprises in the book? Well, at least for the first story it didn't. I think the show was done very well. It follows key parts of the story, but twists happenings and facts so the stories are unique and with different turns. Though each episode of the show is around ninety minutes, Study in Pink leaves out a very large part of the original Study in Scarlet storyline. "A Study in Scarlet" is a great novel and as I came to find out is written in parts. This first story of the compilation seemed rather short and the case is wrapped up fairly quickly and easily by Holmes. I finished what I thought was the end of the story and felt rather disappointed. I should have known better. The next story began in America and includes the story of the Mormons and happenings on their way to Utah. There is no word of Holmes or Watson anywhere. For several chapters I began to think the editor had just slipped another of Doyle's stories in. I didn't read the lengthy introduction (I usually don't, especially when I am excited to read the actual work) so I didn't know. It was a very compelling story in it's own right and by the end low and behold it ends up back in England and serves as an intricate back story to how and why the culprit came to cross Holmes and Watson. So in the overall novel, Holmes and Watson's characters don't turn out to be the meat of the story, but are used to propel the story forward and ultimately to it's end. This also seems to serve as a means of expressing Doyle's opinions on Mormonism. "A Study in Pink" doesn't include any of the American back story, but creates a modern twist off of facts in original story. It basically takes the story a different way. I would hope Doyle might appreciate their creative take. In this way the story becomes similar in some ways to the popular modern forensic science drama/ police drama, but is way less predictive and all around more entertaining. I highly recommend both "A Study in Scarlet" and "A Study in Pink" to fans of Sherlock Holmes and people who aren't fans yet, I believe one of these might get you hooked; Doyle's Sherlock Holmes' stories are as addictive as the morphine and cocaine Holmes shoots into his arms and are way more affordable.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
The other day I was in my favorite kind of place (a book store), but the Judas of all bookstores (Barnes and Noble) and I saw volume one of compiled Sherlock Holmes stories and books... yep, very cool. If you have read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle you know what I mean. Several months ago I read the Hound of the Baskervilles and I was immediately taken in. I felt like a kid that just discovered an unidentifiable object in the back yard and was convinced it was from another planet. I thought, I can't believe that I have lived twenty-six years of my life and never have read these amazing stories. Look, I admit I have no excuse, everyone knows who Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are, but I just assumed growing up (wrongly) that it was just a bunch of stuffy turn of the century British literature, it turns out that is one of my favorite periods of literature, so far. I found a used old copy of the Hound of the Baskervilles at a big covered flee market in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It sat on the shelf as I read other books, nagging at me. I would look at it and it's cheap old cover and something told me it's gonna be awesome, so I picked it up and started reading... needles to say it only took a few days for me to read. I was enthralled the whole time and since then I have been wanting to put my hands on more of his stories; so when I came upon the compilation of stories I was like a kid in a candy store. At the time I was reading "In Our Time" by Ernest Hemingway. "In Our Time" was amazing and I will discuss that more later, but as I finished it the Sherlock Holmes book sat on my coffee table eating at me. If I had been reading a lesser book I would have possibly stopped or sped through it to get to Sherlock, but it's Ernest Hemingway. Every time I stop in the middle of a book a piece of my soul is paused till later, even books that have lost my interest. These books haunt me until I go back and finish them. One that currently haunts me is The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub. I digress, lets talk about Sherlock Holmes. I have never been much a crime mystery reader. There seems to be a lot of crime stories/books around, but only a few writers do it really well. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has to be the gold standard in this field. His stories draw you in. You are trying to guess who the culprit was and how it happened, and the reader always believes they can, but he always finds a way to still surprise you. He does this without having to make a crazy unbelievable twist in the story, like so many mystery stories. This is the brilliance of the character of Sherlock to always connect all the dots and his explanations are done within the context of the story. This combined with the setting of 19th century London makes anything possible. The sun didn't set on the British Empire and it was a city with ties to the entire world. It makes you want to go back in time and walk the streets and hail horse drawn cabs. I think this series is enhanced if you have visited London. The city and it's architecture and diversity lends itself to Sherlock's time. Brilliant stuff. I haven't been this excited to read a story since I finished the Harry Potter series. It again shows that great works are timeless.