Book Review: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

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I saw the movie of this book several years ago so it’s one of those rare experiences for me in that I’m reading the book afterwards. Normally, I find that a challenge because I’m constantly anticipating what’s about to happen. That didn’t happen with this book because the movie is very different… and so much better.

The Silver Linings Playbook is narrated by Pat, who is living in “the bad place”, as he calls it. His mother is there to take him home after… is it months or years? Pat can’t tell. He can’t remember why he was living in the institution either. Pat only has one goal: to be reunited with his beloved wife, Nikki, by focusing on being kind instead of being right, reading great American literature and by keeping up his gruelling exercise regime. He feels he was unkind to her, didn’t involve himself enough in her interests and let himself go during their marriage and if he can only rectify these things, then Nikki will welcome him back with open arms and everything will be alright again. Because he believes in silver linings. Continue reading

What to Do When You’re a Bad Writer with a Good Story

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These days it seems like writing a book is on everybody’s bucket list. And if you’ve got a great story, then it deserves to be told. But what if you’re a bad writer? Just because everybody wants to write a book doesn’t mean everybody is capable of doing it.

If you can recognise that you’re a bad writer, congratulations. It puts you one step ahead of all those people who can’t see it and persist in trying to write and circulate a book that is never going to get published, at least not in its current terrible form. And if you’re committed to getting your story out there regardless, here are a few options to help make it happen. Continue reading

Book Review: Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg

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This is another book that I’ve already seen the movie of before reading it, before I even knew it was an adaptation, before I even knew there was a book. The more I read, the more I worried I was going to be left unsatisfied by it because it was exactly like the movie. The adaptation had been very faithful to the text. Usually that’s a good thing. But because I was reading the book after having seen the movie, I was looking for the differences, the details that can’t be replicated or demonstrated on film. I wanted a different experience, not the same one I had while watching the movie.

I got that and so much more. It’s not a perfect novel (it could be called slow) but it is so close that I can’t give it anything other than 5 stars, which anyone who reads my reviews and ratings will know is not something I do often. I’m a hard marker but this is a great book. This is a book that should be and will be read for decades to come. This is a book that should also be used as a teaching tool for all others wanting to write a book. Continue reading

Book Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

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This is a book for a very particular time. That time is the years after the planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York. Published in 2005, the backdrop of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is 911. The story spans the course of a year as nine-year-old Oskar Schell finds a key in his father’s wardrobe and then spends another year looking for the lock it belongs to.

Unfortunately, more than ten years since it was released, the fact of 911 isn’t enough to make it “heartbreaking”, “tragic” and “intensely moving”. The fact of 911 has faded into recent history (as all events do), but history nonetheless, and so we must look at the story and the writing itself for whether the book will stand the test of time. I have doubts. Continue reading

Book Review: Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher

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This is the second in my series of reverse reviews, reading books I’ve seen and enjoyed the movie adaptations of.

Postcard from the Edge is the story of Suzanne Vale, a Los Angeles-based actress struggling with drug addiction and a so-so career. When we meet her, it’s day one of her thirty day stay in rehab and she’s keeping a diary at the suggestion of one of her counsellors. Through Suzanne’s diary, we also meet the other people she’s undertaking rehab with at the same time and none of them are all that important to the overall story. Continue reading

Book Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Other Pieces by James Thurber

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I bought this book because I’m embarking on a reading challenge, which is to read a series of books that have been made into movies that I’ve already seen and thought were pretty good. Usually I find it hard to read a book if I’ve already seen the movie of it because I spend a lot of time doing comparisons. “That’s not what happened in the movie.” Or anticipating what’s about to happen. “This is the part where he gets shot.”

This is a book of James Thurber’s short stories, one of which is “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. It was probably a good book to start this challenge with because the titular short story is only five pages long. It’s hard to get caught up with comparisons on such a short piece of text. In fact, apart from his name and the fact that Walter Mitty gets caught up in daydreams to alleviate the boredom of his life, there aren’t too many similarities between the short story and the movie starring Ben Stiller. But it’s a good short story. Continue reading

Adaptation

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The ultimate question in adaptation is whether something that is successful in one medium can be as successful in another. And there is no way of ever knowing the answer without going through the process.

There is no formula. There is no reasoning. It all comes down to chance with a lot of skill on the side. And sometimes it can come down to chance with no skill on the side at all. There are numerous examples of great films adapted from great source material, terrible films adapted from great source material, great films adapted from terrible source material and terrible films adapted from terrible source material. Sometimes the novelists themselves are great at adapting their own books. Sometimes the adaptation needs the touch of someone who can step away from the book a little. So what is the key to a great adaptation? Continue reading