Friday, March 04, 2005

Worlds beyond pages

There's one good thing in not having any internet connection at the workplace. I've managed to read so many books last month and I finally finish The Pickwick Papers. But not before I read John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

The Grapes of Wrath, a critical and controversial piece when it first came out is a bit depressing for me. You know how some stories will tell us about the hardships that ppl have to go through to achieve their dreams. The journey is long and filled with many obstacles but there's always light at the end of the dark tunnel. Well the light at the end of this tunnel is not that visible anywhere in the book.

The adventure of the Joads is quite common to Southern Americans in the 30's. Driven off from their own land by the big bad banks they are forced to find another stead to rebuild their home. They put all their hopes in a handbill offering work picking fruits and started their journey from Oklahoma to the golden state of California with an old beat-up truck and about a hundred dollars in their funds. As you may guess, it's not all that 'golden' in California.

But what makes the book so amazing is that it offers the cold hard truth on how big corporations in America can take advantage of their own men for the sake of profit. They don't care if the ppl are already poor enough as it is and that the children are dying. All they know is the fruits need to be picked and labor cost minimized as much as possible. The fact that they have to employ more guards and buy more guns to control the riots just slipped their minds. But I guess nothing change much with American corporations. They take care of their own now but manipulate ppl from other poor countries instead.

I read Charlotte's Web in one seating. If you're wondering how this is possible during office hours I will maybe consider blogging about what it's like working here. Maybe.

I only discovered that this is actually a children's classic literature after I worked at the bookstore. I'm not that knowledgeable when it comes to children's lit. I grew up with Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, the common books that most federal schooled children know of. I remember my favourite series when I was in primary was the 'choose your own adventure' Malay books. Even though my parents encourage reading they don't buy that many books for us so I just settled with whatever I can find at the school library.

So I was amazed when I see a whole load of wonderful titles that I've never even heard before. It was like discovering a treasure trove. I unearthed Where the Wild Things Are, Elmer, Runaway Bunny, P.D. Eastman and Dr. Seuss. I found out that the creator of Babe, one of my favourite movie wrote a whole bunch of other stories as well. But now let's get back to Charlotte's Web.

I can't help but compare this book with The Sheep-Pig, one of the reason being both of them has pigs as the main character. While The Sheep Pig is delightful and humorous, Charlotte's Web is a bit sombre in its tone. The ending was spoiled for me when I was reading a discussion on "books that make you cry" at Community Forums. I already knew someone's going to die so maybe I'll be emotionally prepared and I was. But the way White described the conditions following the character's death just makes you feel so sad. So my eye did get a bit watery at that time.

I also read Seasons of Splendour in one seating. It's about Indian folklore written for young readers. But I'm not going to say anything more about this yet. I'm planning to compare this with Tales of a Chinese Grandmother, a book about Chinese legends also written for young readers.

I'm not one to go for movie novelization. I think they are redundant and doesn't complement the movie, the original medium the creator wanted it to be viewed. The only novelization I would definitely read are the ones for Star Wars. But after watching Constantine twice, I just can't get enough of it. For one, I heard that there's an additional scene after the credits which I didn't get to see. And then I saw a still in Galaxie showing Angela looking at Constantine's criminal record. I don't remember seeing that in the movie. There's also the question of what is a half-breed and who (or what) Papa Midnite really is. And a visit to Hellblazer site revealed a character whom we didn't get to see - Ellie, a succubus who Constantine has a brief affair with. I was just wondering if it was censored or the director decided not to put her in.

Reading the novel was not as good as watching the movie. And I don't mean it's because I can't see Keanu's face on each page. I have no problem conjuring up his face anytime I want . There are certain differences with the movie. Certain things were not in the movie like Ellie, and some were not in the book like Chaz sassing the bouncer. I don't wish to elaborate on this. Go see the movie first.

Once again I tried to dip into some fantasy when I picked up Terry Pratchet's Equal Rites. I got through to page 32 when I decided I just don't care anymore. I'm sure that he's a great author and Discworld is a wonderful place to visit but it's just not my cup of tea. Although reading has become a form of escapism for me, I just don't want to escape too far away from the real world. The only true fantasy that I've read are the Tolkien's books. What I mean with 'true fantasy' is the world that the stories are set in can stand on its own. It has its own map, its own set of different races, and even its own history like Middle Earth and Discworld.

While other favorites of mine like Michael Ende's The Neverending Story, Clive Barker's Imajica, Weaveworld and Abarat are considered as fantasy, they still have some connection with this world that we're familiar with. It's just that they insinuate there's another world out there co-existing with ours. The authors tell such wonderful stories that it can make you believe that there is a sickly princess waiting for us to name her, that a world exist in a single yarn of an old rug, or that there is an Abarat beyond our very own shores. Will I ever try fantasy again? Sure, why not. But as long as I feel this world is good enough to live in with all its manipulative corporations, selfless friends and reluctant heroes, I'll let fantasy rests for a while.

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