Archive for the ‘book reviews’ category

New Tom Clancy Thriller Draws On All Forces

April 9, 2010

I was pleasantly surprised recently to hear that Tom Clancy is finally publishing another book after seven years of silence from his camp. Although he claims that he has never actually seen a classified government document, he will gain much help and insider info from his co-writer, US Navy veteran Grant Blackwood, who had previously spent time on a guided missile frigate.

With as much publicity as he garners, coupled with the controversial military topics he picks, it’s hard to ignore Clancy. Reading through a few interviews, I was very interested to note who he nominates as his influences, as well as how some of his most famous readers have reacted to his work.

Clancy deeply admires the works of a number of British writers and lists Frederick Forsyth and Alfred Hitchcock at the top of the ranks. In an interview, he firmly stated, “Were I to pick a single decisive influence, it would be Freddy Forsyth’s Day of the Jackal,” going on to say that it is probably the best thriller ever written and that it has redefined the genre. From Hitchcock, he learnt how to create the characters that legions of faithful readers have come to love and cheer on.

Speaking of faithful readers, it amused me to no end to find this quote by the Former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, who mentioned, “A lot of what I know about warfare I learnt from reading Tom [Clancy].” Even Ronald Reagan is a fan as documented by his wife, Nancy Reagan: “Ronnie especially enjoys history, biography and the novels of […] Tom Clancy.” But not everyone is  a fan. In an interview, another previous US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice showed her disapproval of Clancy’s work and fictitious US military warfare by saying, “No-one [but Clancy] could have imagined [terrorists] taking a plane, slamming it into the Pentagon … [or] into the World Trade Center, using planes as a missile…”

Love him or hate him, there’s always much to be said about Tom Clancy. Know of any more famous readers? Have your say on his infloox page!

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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!

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?

“Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov

August 18, 2009

On August 18, in 1958, Vladimir Nabokov’s extremely controversial novel, “Lolita” was published. It told of a man’s obsession with a precocious 12-year-old girl, which later turns into a sexual relationship. Nabokov had actually finished writing in 1953, but unsurprisingly was turned down by four publishers before G.P. Putnam’s Sons accepted the manuscript. The four who rejected Nabokov would have been kicking themselves for it later, as they grossly underestimated the public’s love of a racy little tale. The book reached bestseller status and soon became so successful that it even allowed Nabokov to retire from his job as a professor.

So, what exactly were people saying about “Lolita” back then?

“The filthiest book I have ever read […] sheer, unrestrained pornography.”

– Editor, Sunday Express (London)

”I like it less than anything of yours I have read. [The writing is] terribly sloppy all the way through.”

– Mary McCarthy, American author & political activist

”Repulsive, […] unreal […] too unpleasant to be funny,”

– Edmund Wilson, Literary critic and writer

Over time, strangely enough, this very novel has come to be regarded as one of the classics of modern literature. Since its publication all those decades ago, it has garnered copious amounts of praise and has been adapted for film in a few different versions. What do you think about this book? Filthy smut? Or literature classic? Comment below!

For more on Nabokov, have a look at his Infloox page