Archive for the ‘book clubs’ category

Hollywood vs. Lewis Carroll with “Alice in Wonderland”

March 12, 2010

Tim Burton’s extension of Lewis Carroll’s beloved classic, Alice in Wonderland, is sweeping across theatres and garnering rave reviews. It certainly did catch our attention too, and made me wonder about the link of influences upon artists.

Lewis Carroll has traditionally been a major influence within the English-speaking world, no doubt because in some way or another, we have all encountered his works from an early age. Even Queen Victoria was a fan! But by far, it was Alice in Wonderland that garnered the most attention across the board, ranging from Tolkien to Bette Middler.

Carroll wrote during the mid-1800s, but his work was so fantastical that even now in 2010, it remains timeless and accessible. His influence on Tim Burton is quite plain to see in Burton’s latest blockbuster, which casts Alice as a grown-up version of herself. Joining Tim Burton is music composer Danny Elfman, who he commonly collaborates with, as well as actors Johnny Depp (in which will now be his seventh film with Burton) and Helena Bonham-Carter (Burton’s romantic partner whom he now has a son with), who has also worked in a numer of Burton’s films. The influence on each other is constant, each artist feeding off the other’s works. Ultimately, it remains to be seen what future spark of inspiration this latest vision of Alice might create in someone else.

Want to know more? Visit the infloox site to see how many other inter-artist connections you can find.

Elizabeth Gilbert on her favourite books

February 23, 2010

Since the release of Eat, Pray, Love in 2006, Elizabeth Gilbert was catapulted into a household name overnight. Now readers can dip into the sequel, Committed, as Gilbert continues her memoir of her worldwide adventures.

From her background as a magazine short story writer (anyone remember Coyote Ugly?), Gilbert cites a sizeable list of authors and books as influences, both stylistic and in terms of content. From her earliest roots, she remembers the Wizard of Oz (the book!). She went so far as to say, “I am a writer today because I learned to love reading as a child—and mostly on account of the Oz books. … If you have a child and a lap, you really should own the entire set.”

Topping her adult reading list by far is Charles Dickens: Bleak House and David Copperfield rank amongst her favourites. Of the latter, she has said, “David Copperfield was Dickens’ own favorite among his novels—no better recommendation than that!”

Fans of Eat, Pray, Love looking for a few good book recommendations should take notes from Gilbert herself. She owes a lot to Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and jokingly says, “I keep this in the bathroom and read from it, literally, every day. I like his humble, common-sense and somehow very contemporary philosophy.”

For more on Elizabeth Gilbert’s favourite books and authors, have a look at her infloox page or add to it yourself if you know of more influences!

Anne Rice releasing video book

February 12, 2010

Love her or hate her, most people have something to say about Anne Rice. She has recently announced that she will be releasing a video book for her story, The Master of Rampling Gate, published in 1984. Older fans will no doubt be intrigued by the return to her earlier works.

At the height of her career when her Vampire Chronicles had turned her into a star, Rice suddenly switched gears. Struck by the death of her daughter Michele, she turned in on herself and started exploring religion. Despite the fact that Rice had previously lived as an atheist, she returned to Catholicism. This massive change was not lost in her work either. Vampires gradually gave way to historical religious fiction, and fans began to change their minds as well. Unfortunately Rice did receive a lot of negative feedback from the press about her new direction but claims that she is happy exploring this other aspect of good versus evil.

The new Rice videobook will essentially be a multimedia book, combining text with video snippets, and is slated for a March 1st release date.

Are you a fan of Anne Rice? Head over to her infloox page to add what you know about her literary influences or people she has influenced.

Remembering Paul Quarrington, a fixture in the CanLit scene

January 21, 2010

paul quarringtonEarlier today marked the sad passing of Paul Quarrington, a key figure in Canada’s literary scene. Most of you may have heard of him in association with his best known novels, Whale Music (which was also released as a film by the same name) and King Leary. For over three decades, Quarrington had delved into the world of novels, screenwriting, filmmaking and music. In addition to this, he played a prime role in a number of Canadian literary organisations and major events.

Since this blog is primarily related to exploring people’s influences and inspirations, in essence finding out exactly what makes them tick, I set out to research Quarrington’s own favourite authors. Being so heavily involved with the lit scene, it was no surprise to find that a lot of his literary influences were also acquaintances. For example, of Timothy Findley‘s novel, Not Wanted on the Voyage, Quarrington reviewed it as “a dazzling display of literary thaumaturgy, magic in its purest sense…”. By the same token, Findley once publicly described him as “an extraordinary writer with a rare gift.”Whale Music by Paul Quarrington

From a young age, Quarrington was also a massive fan of many different types of music. This passion wrote itself into a lot of his work, as is evident by Penthouse Magazine’s review of Whale Music, describing it as “the greatest rock’n’roll novel ever written.” Quarrington often cited The Beatles as well as various blues as influences. And of course he stayed true to his fellow Canadian artists too, writing that Leonard Cohen produced “the highest level of poetic craftsmanship” in his works.

Looking through his website, I was amazed by the sheer number of written and video tributes that have come pouring in from around the country. Pick up one of his books if you have a chance and join us this week in remembering Paul Quarrington.

Crichton’s “Pirate Latitudes” set sights on silverscreen

December 1, 2009

Some time after Michael Crichton passed away from cancer late last year at 66 years, he left behind an unfinished manuscript that was discovered amongst his files by an assistant. Just when the literary world thought they’d seen the last of Crichton, readers are now thrilled to land their hands on a brand new novel by him. An additional author was hired to complete the work, and it has recently been published as “Pirate Latitudes”.

Perhaps even more interesting for mainstream audiences is that Steven Spielberg is now on board to create a film based on the story. According to Spielberg, “Michael and I have had almost two decades of solid collaborations. Whenever I made a film from a Michael Crichton book or screenplay, I knew I was in good hands. Michael felt the same, and we like to think he still does.”

It is not hard to imagine the tremendous influence that Crichton has had on people during his lifetime, but what of his own influences? A dig through the archives reveals that a lot of his favourite literary works are rooted in the classics, and of course a healthy dose of science fiction. He long admired authors like Mark Twain and Arthur Conan Doyle for their writing styles and techniques, often citing them at the top of his list of favourites. Alfred Hitchcock was also often favoured by him – no surprise since Crichton’s work has consistently displayed a strong cinematic quality.

While Crichton was an English Literature student at Harvard, he did not fare very well. So much so, that one day he tried an experiment. He submitted an essay written by none other than the renowned George Orwell. The professor returned the paper with a paltry B-minus – one step up from Crichton’s C average. Following this incident, Crichton mused, “I thought, if George Orwell only deserves a B-minus, this was vastly too difficult a field for me. I aspired to be Orwell, and he was just scraping by at Harvard.”

Are you a fan of Michael Crichton’s work? How has he influenced you or your writing?

Stephen King’s “Under the Dome” the next bestseller

November 13, 2009

You might ask yourself, “How far would Stephen King’s fans go to read his latest book before the publication date?” Well, his UK publisher asked themselves the same thing. Then they broke down his latest tome into 5000 pieces and seeded it across various fansites, inviting readers to a game of literary hide and seek. Some people took it to extreme lengths, even hiding snippets of the manuscript by hanging it from bridges and scribbling it on public walls, to hiding it in code online. It is predicted that while Under the Dome is no Lost Symbol, it will certainly hit the bestseller lists, and fast!

King is a self-described voracious reader, and his influences span a number of genres and literary periods. Perhaps the most obvious is H.P. Lovecraft, who is even referred to blatantly in some of King’s works. From Bram Stoker, to William Golding and Tolkien, and the list goes on, there is no doubt that King is one to creatively use inspiration to create highly memorable stories. More notably, it is nice to see a writer of his stature keeping up to date with modern literature, even straying into realms outside of his expertise. While discussing the Harry Potter series, King said “The miracle of the Harry Potter series is that it keeps getting better. The genius of Ms. Rowling was her decision (probably never even seriously considered at the time) to follow Harry through his schooling. As a result, Harry’s fans have never left him behind. The question is whether Ms. Rowling will be bound to him for life, as Arthur Conan Doyle was bound to Sherlock Holmes.”

Have you read Under the Dome yet, or are you planning to purchase it soon? A note to the tech-savvy: the digital e-book retails at $35 and will be available on Dec 24th.

Watch this video to hear Stephen King talk about Under the Dome:

This year’s publishing sensation – fairytales do happen

October 15, 2009

Although Audrey Niffenegger had originally published her first novel in 2003, she has found a whole new wave of fans this year following a movie adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Originally an artist and a professor, Niffenegger had an idea to create a graphic novel that portrayed the tale of a simple man with a genetic disorder that causes him to time-travel, and his wife who has to deal with his frequent and sometimes dangerous disappearances. While thinking about it, Niffeneger realised that it was tough to convey time travel through images, and decided to write it as a novel instead. The inital release was relatively small, but once the book was mentioned and endorsed by a fellow author and family friend on The Today Show, Niffenegger’s name soared on the bestseller lists. It wasn’t long before the film production company owned by Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston picked up the rights to adapt the novel for the big screen.

So where does an artist derives enough literary influence from in order to create such a massively bestselling first novel? It seems that the answer is actually quite varied. Amongst her favourites, Niffenegger names Tolkien, Poe and Anne Rice as a few that she constantly returns to over the years. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series is a delight for her “essentially atheist nature,” while authors like Richard Powers and Dorothy L. Sayers were crucial in influencing The Time Traveler’s Wife. More recently, Niffenegger has been working on a second novel, titled Her Fearful Symmetry. Set in the Victorian era, Niffenegger is grateful to the author Henry James, a key figure in 19th century literature.  Read more about Niffenegger’s writing style and influences on Infloox.

Inside the mind of Herta Muller, 2009 Nobel Prize winner

October 8, 2009

The 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature has been announced and the winner is… Herta Müller!

Wait, who? It’s a question that most readers across the English-speaking world have been asking today, accompanied by much head-scratching. The facts are that Müller is a 56-year-old Romanian-born German author, whose award-winning writing focuses on the hardships in living under the harsh dictatorship of Romanian leader, Nicolae Ceauşescu. If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of her, keep in mind that while most of her numerous works have been published in German, only a mere five have ever been translated to English.

Müller spent over 30 years living in Romania. During her university years, she studied Romanian and German literature, and was a member of Aktionsgruppe Banat, a literary society that fought for freedom of speech. While German is her first language, Muller has also publicly stated that she finds Romanian to be a lot more poetic and poignant, and has derived much influence from its folklore and folk music.

In her working years, Müller had several scary run-ins with the Securitate, the secret police group of Communist Romania – she was threatened, slandered, captured, interrogated, critised by Romanian press and eventually banned from publishing in her own country. Later, she made the move to Germany with her husband, Richard Wagner (also a writer), where she was allowed to publish without fearing censorship. Of her novels, she describes them as “autofiction”, meaning that while the facts are based on her real life and real experiences, the stories are crafted as fiction.

Today, October 8 2009, it was officially announced that Herta Müller has won this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, making her the 12th woman in 108 years to win this prize. The Swedish Academy commended her for her bravery and passion in relating the hardships suffered by an entire nation, saying that “with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose,  [she] depicts the landscape of the dispossessed”. The awarded prize is a whopping $1.4 million.

Learn more about Muller and her influences at Infloox.

Philip Pullman, Khaled Hosseini top ALA’s most frequently challenged banned books list

October 2, 2009

I was quite surprised this week to see so much classic literature topping the ALA’s most frequently challenged list for 2009. To clarify, this is a list of books that are challenged by individuals in the community. They have to submit a “challenge form” stating their reasons, to a school or public library.

First off, here’s the list:

  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
    Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group
  2. His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
    Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence
  3. TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  4. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence
  5. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, and violence
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide, and unsuited to age group
  7. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  8. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen
    Reasons: homosexuality and unsuited to age group
  9. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group
  10. Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper
    Reasons: sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

Now, I want to know: should these books actually be *allowed* to be challenged? Doesn’t that basically just amount to censorship, pure and simple? If parents are truly concerned about their children reading non-appropriate material for their age group (which is a valid concern of course!), perhaps books should be getting ratings, the same way movies do. At least to borrow from a public library would set age restrictions on younger patrons. What do you think? Would you also challenge any of these books? Find out more about other banned books over the years on Infloox.

The Picture of Dorian Grey movie adaptation

September 27, 2009

The beloved literary classic, The Picture of Dorian Grey, is getting a facelift on the silverscreen! Oscar Wilde fans can expect a September ’09 UK release, with the North American date following shortly. A dark and moody gothic horror story, it stars Colin Firth, Ben Barnes and Macaulay Culkin.

The story tells the tale of a young man, the title character, who was the subject of a painting by the artist Basil Hallward. Hallward becomes more and more infatuted with Dorian Grey, believing that he is his muse. Through Hallward, Grey meets Lord Henry, who impresses him with a new lifestyle of hedonism and beauty. Realising that his good looks will someday fade, Grey is granted a wish that his looks will remain unspoiled, while only his image in Hallward’s painting will age. As his wish is fulfilled, Grey continues to become entrenched in debauched acts; each act is portrayed as a new disfigurement in the painting of Grey.

Although Oscar Wilde gained high recognition and popularity as an author, Dorian Grey was actually his only published novel. His other work was comprised of short stories, plays and poems. While he was one of the most successful playwrights of the Victorian era, he also created much controversy due to his mentions and convictions of homosexuality. His circle of influence was wide, as he befriended a number of poets, authors and playwrights such as Lord Alfred Douglas, Walt Whitman, Lionel Johnson and several others. In addition, plenty of musicians and composers have also claimed Wilde as an influence upon their music. Visit Infloox to read more about Oscar Wilde and watch the movie trailer below: