Monthly Archives: September 2008

In Which: Genres are Discussed

I’m up to a lot of things.  Nothing gets finished, but I work on writing of various forms when I can.  Real Life Job gets in the way a lot, but hopefull NaNoWriMo will help me get back on track.  When I write, a question I often ask myself is am I writing in the write form?

Clarification:  This generally happens with most ideas.  And the debate is between movie script or story.  I have lots of ideas and several split me on this question.  I read a lot.  I watch a lot of movies.  I want to do both.  What should be what?

Some are easy.  My screenplay, “Karma,” works best as a screenplay.  I can’t see anyone picking that up as a novel and saying “Wow.  What a life-changing novel.”  Counter-point a rough draft I just wrote about a woman with lots of cats.  It could feasibly be a short film, but it would be terrible.  It works better on paper, on the page, letting the reader decide.  Other items work for both and still others work as comics or poems or even sentences.

One Sentence stories are awesome, digression handled.

There are a lot of movies out there made from books.  The argument becomes one of book v. movie, which was better, the book always coming out ahead in many arguments.  I neither agree or disagree as I think it depends on the book.  It depends on the director.  It depends on that items cross-genre-ness.

Take “Fight Club.”  Okay, Palahniuk hit the big time with this excellent book.  We, the readers, were lucky to see a great film-adaption.  Some may argue, but I found the movie an excellent translation of book to screen.  The important parts were left in and things were handled well and I think the two items complement each other.  It is a good idea to read the book AND see the movie.  Perhaps I am naive, but I think several folks might agree.  There are a few other items one could discuss.

Sometimes a film is far better than the book.  I recognize this may not be agreed upon, but the film of “High Fidelity” is a much better translation of the Rob Gordon story.  That’s a pretty good way to put it – a “translation.”  There is a story and it must be translated into a story we can understand.  With “High Fidelity” part of the problem may be the contrasting settings of the two books.  However, the theme remains the same.

The best genres to study what I will now refer to as translations are Science Fiction and Comic Books.  Some comic books work well as (holy crap!) comic books.  They don’t work as well as movies.  The X-Men movies were awesome while at the same time neglecting an amazing amount of backstory.  A film trilogy couldn’t handle the years of storyline – important storyline.  Some comics’ storyline isn’t so important.  Remember when Superman’s head grew ten sizes due to red kryptonite?  Yeah, me neither.  Of course, that’s a different discussion involving rebooting.

That’s not to say the comic book can’t be translate.  “The Dark Knight” translates the very core of Batman uncannily.  I would be willing to claim the film superior to most other translations of Batman’s story.  Including the bulk of the comics.  The closest other translation would be the Animated Series.  But enough Batman.

Science Fiction sees translation often since it lends itself to action and adventure and we love that.  But translations can be confusing.  And terrible.  Poor Isaac Asimov and Philip K Dick have had their ups and downs.  For every “Blade Runner” (better translation) there is an “I, Robot.”  (Jesus Christ)  “I Am Legend” still has no decent translation to screen.

So, the question is:  How do  you best translate a story.  I think there is one ultimate translation that tells a story far better than any other.  It depends on the story and the translater.  “The Dark Knight” had an excellent ensemble of translators and you understand what it’s all about.

The translation idea is best encapsulated in comic books, I would say.  So many writers and artists.  There’s a big difference between a Jeph Loeb story versus a Stan Lee.  Art adds a dimension.  Look at any comic rack.

But that’s that.  I am not so much searching for genres as I am languages.  Translations.  The best a writer can hope for is nailing that language the first try.  Or hoping someone else can find a good language to translate it into.

Frankenstein Takes The Cake

Recently through UPS I received Adam Rex’s latest book Frankstein Takes the Cake. It is a sequel to his previous offering Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich.

For my money, I would say that “Sandwich” is the better of the two.  “Cake” really loses its punch because you get the feeling we’ve been here before.  We’ve seen these humorous rythmes about monsters and such and Rex seems to have put the best stuff in the first book.  There are still some gems to be sure.  My favorite is the series of Kaiju Haikus (Kaiju being the term for Japanese movie Monsters).  But overall, “Cake” is just a fun little book.

I can’t really see any harm in another poetry book about monsters.  Rex does the illustrating as well and does a fine job with it.  The pictures have their own unique style.  The layout and color design help set the tone of the book.  I really like monsters, which is a plus as a reader.

My favorite part of “Cake” is the blog of the Headless Horseman.  The poor guy just can’t catch a break.

What strikes me about this book is that it doesn’t seem like Rex is having as much fun as in “Sandwich.”  That book was crazy with little hidden poems and secret jokes you might only get with a knowledge of monstery.  “Cake” has bigger words and a few more obscure beasts join the fold.  I feel like it’s a stretch.  But there is a shortage of monster poetry on the market shelves today, so I will be quiet.

You can spot Adam Rex at his homepage >

DEAR: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Stop, drop, roll yourself to a copy of this book.  You need to read it right now.  I’ll wait.

You didn’t actually read it yet, did you?  Liar.

It is something that escapes my mind quite often, but Sherman Alexie is one of my favorite writers.  The “Diary” is his first Young Adult book, which is to say “Book for all ages over 11.”  Everyone should read this book, Let me tell you.

It is about a young man named Arnold Spirit, Jr and his adjustment to a white school.  He is fed up with the Reservation school and realizes that if he is to be successful, he needs to go to a better school.  He goes.  He is successful.  That’s really not about it.

Alexie has always been a great resource to learn about Indian life.  He doesn’t tell us about dancing and ceremonies, rather, he tells us about life.  What you actually feel like when you are an American Indian.  The sense of lost hope.  The cultural identity being thrown out the window.  How much it can really suck.  But also, how amazing it can be – at the best of times.

Arnold gets through his days by drawing cartoons.  It’s hard not to compare this book to “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”  “Wimpy” is just a fun romp with no seriousness or lessons learned, though.  “Indian” has lessons a-plenty for those willing to read them.  Don’t give up.  Take chances.  Have hope.  Grab life by the balls whenever you can.

And Arnold succeeds.  The story is semi-autobiographical of Alexie’s own youth.  He did some of these things.  Arnold becomes a star basketball player, he finds a hot sometime-girlfriend, he makes real, true friends with the people around him.  And people around him die.  He is blunt and forward about it and we see what life on a reservation is really like.

He also captures what is like for anyone, anywhere to grow up.  Arthur faces challenges he shouldn’t have to, but so do a lot of people.  Our challenges are generally nowhere near Arthur’s, but we face them and can learn from Arthur’s stoic attitude.  He doesn’t run away from difficult decisions.  He makes them.

It is sad to think that this book will probably be banned in some towns.  There’s some fairly “inappropriate” stuff in here.  You know.  Things adolescents actually need help dealing with.  Thank God for Librarians.  Did you know that most Librarians are extremely opposed to taking books off the shelf?  But that’s another post.