Mook Review: The Leftovers

The Leftovers – Novel by Tom Perrotta

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

I really, really enjoyed The Leftovers.  Tom Perrotta (of Little Children fame) writes a beautiful depiction of post-rapture life in suburbia, complete with teen angst, cults, love, and betrayal while somehow managing to come across in the most subtle of ways.  Perrotta’s fictional Mapleton, and those who reside there, are well rounded characters that represent all types of coping methods.  Some look for answers, others lead the community, many try to forget, and a certain group hinges on brutal remembrance.  While I didn’t find the plot incredibly riveting (it was slow and stagnant at times) I felt myself drawn to this book.  I wanted to get to the end.  I needed to know what happened.

The story centers around the Garvey family; a family that becomes less and less like the nuclear clan one typically thinks of when they hear that word.  Kevin, the father and leader in more ways than one, internalizes his desperation to hold his family together.  After his son disappears to follow a religious movement under the figurehead Holy Wayne, and his wife joins a cult-like group called the Guilty Remnant (whose focus is to provoke the memories of lost loved ones and prove the meaningless of life post-Rapture), Kevin tries to hold on to his daughter, Jill, who is depressed and lost in light of the situation.  The Garvey’s are nothing spectacular, but an accurate representation of the American-dream family after trauma. Disjointed, disconnected, and disturbed.  And although their unit remains in tact after the Sudden Departure, unlike many that had been torn apart, the Garvey’s still find it nearly impossible to go on.

The Guilty Remnant was the main part of The Leftovers that really drew me in.  Historically, I enjoy learning about cult-like phenomena and find so many aspects of it interesting.  I am sickly fascinated by it.  Perotta did a great job of bringing a fictional cult to life and I found myself more invested in Laurie’s chapters than others.

Ending the leftovers in the way he did, Perotta left a lot to the imagination.  I typically don’t like ambiguity in my books as I prefer to have a concrete ending, however I didn’t mind this one so much.  It was fitting for the characters, the plot, and the setting.  I definitely recommend this read.

The Leftovers Series by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta

via IMDB.com

via IMDB.com

The Leftovers as a novel served as a stand alone.  There was no inclination of their being a sequel, and really no need for there to be.  You can imagine how intrigued I was to then hear that this novel was not only being adapted for television, but that the author himself created the show in partnership with Damon Lindelof (of LOST fame.)

I knew before watching the series that it was going to be very different.  A novel like The Leftovers was too final and ambiguous to translate to TV without many changes.  In many ways, turning The Leftovers into a series really did not make sense.  Despite this, I had a good feeling about the show for three reasons… 1) The author was heavily involved in making it, so the integrity of the story had hope to stay the same 2) LOST was arguably the first TV series where people became obsessive, binge watched, and actually took TV seriously and 3) HBO typically produces amazing, award-winning series’.

For the first few episodes, I was thrown off.  I had a lot of questions about the surface-changes made (Why make Kevin the Chief of Police rather than Mayor?  How come Jill didn’t shave her head?  Did they really have to make Pastor Jamison into Nora’s brother?)  But as the series went on I began to realize in order for the series to be successful on its own, the creators of the show needed to make certain liberties.  Kevin transforms from the desperate, and sometimes boring, Father in the books to a strained, and perhaps crazy, police officer on screen.  As different as the character appear, Kevin still tries to hold onto any sense of normalcy and succeeds as the lead actor (and Justin Theroux being smoking hot has almost nothing to do with it).

By the last few episodes, I was not only hooked, but found myself enjoying the show even MORE than the novel… which almost never happens.  That isn’t to say I find the television series better, necessarily, than the book.  They are quite different.  The one part of the book I wish had more presence (or a stronger presence) in the show would be Holy Wayne.  While in the book this convention has depth and complexity, it doesn’t translate well on screen.

I do strongly believe that The Leftovers on HBO will last many seasons and pick up more viewers as they go on.  I was very impressed by season one and I am itching in my seat for season two – I can’t wait to see what they have in store for the residents of Mapleton.

Mook Rating  ★★

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Mook Review: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars Novel by John Green

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

Green’s most popular novel, The Fault in Our Stars, is famous for a reason.  Personally, I’ve found it difficult to identify books about cancer that aren’t just about cancer.  While the subject of this particular illness (or any for that matter) is hard on many, and most fiction written about the topic triggers an endless supply of tears, I really feel that just because a novel is heartbreaking doesn’t mean it is good.  At the risk of sounding insensitive, I am in no way trivializing something that hits so close to home.  However, when it comes to fictionalizing these very sad stories it becomes hard to disassociate heartbreak from what is actually well written and enlightening.

That aside, The Fault in Our Stars breaks boundaries in terms of being profound and John Green, as in all of his novels,  is prolific.  Hazel is the kind of narrator you have no choice but to admire.  She is extremely self-aware of her own mortality, almost to a fault, and it makes Hazel a very honorable character.  Augustus “Gus” Waters strikes the perfect balance to the very realist/pessimist character of Hazel.  He is optimistic and passionate… and everything that Hazel needed.  It’s impossible to not fall in love with their love story.

Where Green really removes the “cancer” stigma is through the actual plot.  It is not about Hazel and Gus’s illnesses, it is about the two of them finding answers and finding each other.  The scene where Hazel and Gus visit Peter van Houten only to find that he is an angry drunk, who couldn’t care less about answering their questions, is agonizing.  You truly connect with the characters and feel their same distresses and pains.

Of course, as with almost any great novel, I cried through the end of this story.  I cried hard and long… as a reader, I just couldn’t help it.  As sad of a story this is, I highly recommend it to almost anyone.  You can’t help but fall in love with this story just as much and Hazel and Gus fall with each other.

 

“The Fault in Our Stars”  Directed by Josh Boone

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

They marketed this film as “One Sick Love Story” and, as we know, it is awfully true.  “The Fault in Our Stars” film hit the silver screen with a bang and backlash.  There were a lot of people upset by this film, and understandably so.  However, I think for most viewers this was the kind of movie they didn’t expect to be so connected with in such a short amount of time, to the point of extreme sadness and many, many tears.

I have to commend Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort.  They are, simply put, amazing.  The casting on this film really hit the nail on the head, as Woodley and Elgort have incredible chemistry that is absolutely necessary for a story like this.  And I couldn’t leave Laura Dern out as a wonderful asset to this movie as well – as Hazel’s mom, she is everything you need her to be.  Strong, yet sad, and willing to do just about anything for her daughter.

I do understand that “The Fault in Our Stars” got a lot of heat for the Anne Frank scene.  Personally, I did not find that scene in the novel to be much of a turning point.  However, in the movie it definitely makes a stronger statement.  The issue here is they are comparing Hazel’s struggle, a very personal and unavoidable affliction, to a man-orchestrated genocide of an entire nationality.  It comes across in the film as a little bit rude and impersonal, however I know this is not how Green intended the message.  At this point in “The Fault in Our Stars” Hazel and Gus have just had their hearts broken by their favorite author and are extremely let down.  Hazel, even at her most frustrated, pushes through her hardship and resentment by forcing herself to climb all of the steps in the Anne Frank house.  It is supposed to be a moment of accomplishment, yet it can be viewed as insensitive by the author.  In my opinion, it did not anger me as much as some, even though I understand why.

Without truly giving away the entire story, do yourself a favor and go see “The Fault in Our Stars.”  There is something about seeing young actors succeed that is very uplifting, even with a film as distressing as this one.  “The Fault in Our Stars” will be a movie people remember and talk about for years to come, and it definitely made a huge impact on today’s generation.  Okay? Okay.

Mook Rating  

Mook Review: Divergent

Divergent Novel by Veronica Roth

via veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com

via veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com

Anyone who observes my reading habits knows that The Hunger Games left a huge, YA dystopia hole in my heart.  This genre has blown up in recent years, dominating both the book shelves and box office, but many competitors in the genre have fallen flat and not lived up to their expectations.

The Divergent series is a nice breath of fresh air in a very crowded genre.  While it doesn’t have the ambition and breadth of skill that The Hunger Games does, and at times the love story can seem contrived and silly, I enjoyed it.  The first and second installments definitely have a stronger presence than the last (we can discuss my opinions on Allegiant at a later time) but it is an interesting world that Roth created, albeit a little unrealistic.

Tris Prior is a successful heroine and I really found myself rooting for her and connecting with her bravery.  She is earnest, smart, and gutsy.  She fails and then thrives.  She finds herself in very typical, teenage predicaments but holds her own in a war that is far beyond her sixteen years.  Personally, I feel that Tris is a great role model and holds her own in this story.  There are, of course, very cheesy moments of bubbling love that seems just slightly unbelievable, but then again I am a 25 year old woman reading a novel targeted for teens.

The whole faction system at times did seem a little unrealistic and not very thoroughly explained.  It almost seemed like the author had a very surface level idea that she manipulated to seem more complex, without actually creating it from the ground up.  But, all in all, I enjoyed Divergent and it definitely sucked my attention in.

“Divergent” Directed by Neil Burger

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

For obvious reasons, I was skeptical about this film.  There have been so many adaptations of YA novels lately that have completely bombed (“Beautiful Creatures”, “City of Bones”, “Ender’s Game”, etc) and I was worried that “Divergent” would not hold its own, especially in comparison to the widely acclaimed “Hunger Games” movies.

Shailene Woodley is a talented actress, and between her role in both “Divergent” and “The Fault in Our Stars” (which is set to debut a little later this year) she has set herself up for box office success.  However, I didn’t feel that her impact as an actor really carried the movie all the way through.  There were so many directions the movie could have gone in to make it less cheesy.  For starters, Abnegation is a faction that is supposed to be about selflessness and not relying too much on oneself.  It really, really bothered me how much makeup both Tris and her mother visibly wore.  I wanted the Abnegation to be simple people, and the costuming just didn’t really connect which I think was a huge slip up in the making of this film.
Another big issue for me was the music.  Going into this film, I figured that the track listing for “Divergent” was going to be yet-another companion album to the movie (a marketing scheme I totally do not understand; why release an album full of songs by top artists that aren’t even in the film?).  When I realized that these songs were actually in “Divergent” I was pleasantly surprised… for about five minutes.  It completely took away from the integrity of the film.  Again, it was just very cheesy.All of that aside, there were parts of the movie I liked, but not enough to be impressed. I was a little bit let down.  I will still hold out hope for other YA adaptation (“The Maze Runner” is my latest obsession and set to release in September, and long-time childhood favorite “The Giver” will release in August) but after another disappointment, I do feel my faith wearing a bit thin.

Mook Rating  

Mook Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Catching Fire – Novel by Suzanne Collins

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

Let it be known, Catching Fire is my favorite installment of the trilogy.  Where The Hunger Games wows us with this sick dystopian world, the contrived Capitol, and the defiant emergence of Katniss, Catching Fire really ups the stakes for the story and we begin to see the severity of Katniss’ survival in the Games and what it means for the other district citizens.

Catching Fire is so successful in what it sets out to do.  With most trilogies, the middle installment naturally acts as a bridge between two major plot points, but often they are either dull and just filling a gap between two pieces of information or completely overloaded with material that you get kind of lost.  What I love about Catching Fire is that it IS a bridge between two major plot points,  but can still stand alone on its own.  It introduces very important new characters and themes, reveals more depth to existing characters, and reinforces and reiterates what is important about this story without constantly repeating itself.

If I could, I would read Catching Fire again and again and again.  It is an exiting piece of work and it really begins to construct the rebellion brewing in Panem, which leads seamlessly into Mockingjay.  The rapid events at the ending of the story happen quite quickly, and was something I had to reread in order to truly understand, but if done well could transition onto screen perfectly.  Catching Fire is definitely the strongest of the three books; an opinion I know I share with most fans of the series.

 

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” – Directed by Francis Lawrence

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

Francis Lawrence’s adaptation of “Catching Fire” makes “The Hunger Games” seem like childs play.  As a huge fan of the first movie (you can read my review here), I was interested and skeptical in how this film would pan out with a new director.  “Catching Fire” hits us over the head with brilliance and does the book incredible justice.

Just like the Third Quarter Quell, everything about “Catching Fire” is bigger and better.  The actors have developed stronger skills, the costumes are avantgarde and absolutely brilliant, and the special effects blow the previous movie out of the water.  The Tribute Parade and CGI animals in the arena were the most notable differences for me.  In “The Hunger Games” the Tribute Parade is almost embarrassing.  The special effects were sub par and it was really the only part of the movie I truly didn’t like.  Similarly, the “mutts” in “The Hunger Games” were very fake looking and, while scary in thought, weren’t realistic.  The current films Tribute Parade is as if we are transported to a dystopian ancient Greece, and Katniss and Peeta’s costumes are astonishingly executed without the cheesy flames of the first film.  And the baboons in the arena?  Absolutely terrifying.

Most importantly, the journey we, as viewers, go on with our beloved characters is emotional and real.  In a moment of purity, Effie breaks down in her disappointment with what has happened with Katniss and Peeta and expresses her loyalty to them as a team.  It is touching and moving, and I found myself getting choked up at most points throughout the film.  Newcomers like Finnick and Johanna elevate the storyline and bring realness to what is happening; like Katniss and Peeta, they are victors and they have also been betrayed by the Capitol.

All biases aside, something needs to be said about Jennifer Lawrence’s role as Katniss.  The final scene is astounding, her facial expressions flawless, and it is as if you are completely inside Katniss’ head without her saying a word at all.  The last few minutes of the film has me clenching the side of my seat and ended with a cliff hanger of astronomical proportions, leaving me beyond anxious for “Mockingjay Part One.”  Catching Fire is absolutely brilliant and I personally felt it was as near flawless of an adaptation as they come.

Mook Rating  

Mook Review: “Into the Wild”

Into the Wild – Novel by Jon Krakauer

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

The nonfiction book “Into the Wild”, written by Jon Krakauer, documents the life of the adventurous, intriguing, and outrageously intelligent Chris McCandless.  In 1990, just after graduating from Emory University, Chris left his entire his money, possessions, and family behind him to venture into the wild and pursue a greater way of being.  Krakauer delves into the story as much as anyone possible could, and gives as much detail on the interesting young man as possible, without actually being McCandless himself.  This, we come to learn, is because of Krakauers alliance to the same school of thought as McCandless, his similar passions, and wildly ambitious nature as a young man that almost led him to his own death.

Through letters and diary entries, interviews with those whose lives McCandless has touched, articles written on him, and stories of other young men who sought out the wild so eagerly they felt invincible, Krakauer tells us this story.  It is wonderfully written, insightful, and captivating, something I found remarkable considering Krakauer had never met McCandless and there was hardly anything known about him post-disappearance.  This novel is less of a biography, and more of an extended essay that touches upon the romance of nature, the slight of invincibility, and the truth of what actually happens to those who think they are above the twentieth century.

I am hardly critical or not understanding of why people seek the wild and abandon cultural norms.  In fact, the idea of the wild intrigues me but the collection of stories Krakauer puts together, in addition to the journey of McCandless, definitely teaches you to be mindful of any kind of epic wild journey you may embark on. Regardless, this biography is stimulating and wonderful, and I truly fell in love with it.

 

“Into the Wild” – Directed by Sean Penn

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

The first I’d ever heard of “Into the Wild” was when I caught the movie midway through on HBO several years ago.  I became immersed in what little was left of the story, and was always intrigued by it, but it was not until some time later that I actually came back to it.

Emile Hirsche and Sean Penn make the epic tag team duo as actor and director.  I was a little bit worried about how this would play out as a Mook; Krakauer uses stories of other travelers to support the story of McCandless, while “Into the Wild” only focuses on McCandless and his journey to his untimely death. 

One thing that always impresses me are actors who can create drama, depth, and intuition when it is just them singularly on screen. The majority of this film is McCandless on his own, and it takes a truly great actor to convey the transcendental and emotional person that he was.  On that note, Hirsche succeeds immensely.  The entire supporting cast helps create a dynamic climax as well, along with some phenomenal cinematography that captures the beauty of nature – the thing that drew McCandless out of his traditional life and into the wild at the young age of 22.

Generally, I just love the story of Christopher McCandless and I urge you to immerse yourself in who he was, whether you read Krakauers book or watch his biopic.  You will not be disappointed.

Mook Rating  

Mook Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones – Novel by Cassandra Clare

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

As many of my loyal readers know by now, there is nothing I enjoy more than a riveting YA fantasy series. In stating that, I really wanted to like The Mortal Instruments series, and after reading the first installment City of Bones, it wasn’t that I didn’t like it… I just wasn’t obsessed.  Personally, I like a book that I can’t put down.  I like story that is so engaging I think about it when I am not reading it and long after I have finished.  I like a novel that is a quality piece of work and stimulates the mind, and inspires me to write.

Cassandra Clare’s series is just… eh.  The story is ok, and even nonsensical at times, and the writing is nothing to call home about.  While other YA authors such as Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games) and Veronica Roth (Divergent) aren’t necessarily better technically, Clare doesn’t suck the reader in a provide enough page-turning material to make this truly worthwhile.  However, I did find myself consistently going back to this book and, albeit not desperately, wanting to know the truth about Clary and her relations to the demonic world of Shadowhunters.  I can see the audience this book can reach and why it has a following, but in a way I think I am just too old for this.

While the ending to this story was a cliffhanger in the traditional sense of the word, it didn’t really leave me hanging.  I was quite confused by the direction the novel took and wasn’t completely sure how the integrity of the story would redeem itself, but I wouldn’t completely shun the idea of finishing the rest of the series.  Honestly, there are just too many other books I want to read, and none that I want to sacrifice for the second installment of this series.

“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” – Directed by Harald Zwart

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

This movie, to be quite blunt, was awful.  I couldn’t even finish watching it.  I am a firm believer that even if the book is just mildly invigorating, the movie can be much better (ie: my Mook review of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightening Thief”) and I was hoping that expectation would be met in this movie.  I was wrong.  Lily Collins, while beautiful, is kind of pathetic as Clary and Jace, while mysterious, is flat and lacking any kind of depth.

The biggest problem I had with this film was pace.  It was like this movie was on speed.  The first 30 minutes spanned a huge portion of the book and left the viewer with no explanations, no insight, and no passion.  I know I am not the only person with this opinion either, as it completely tanked at the box office and filming for the second movie “City of Ashes” was put on pause (the movie has since been reinstated).

I almost feel that I am not even at liberty to give this Mook a rating since I couldn’t finish watching the film, but I don’t think it would have made much of a difference.  Fellow mookologists, what did you think of this film?

Mook Rating  

Mook Review: The Spectacular Now

The Spectacular Now  Novel by Tim Tharp

via whatanerdgirlsays.com

via whatanerdgirlsays.com

I was a little underwhelmed by this book.  When I went into reading The Spectacular Now, I knew little about the story.  I only knew there was a film counterpart that had debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and had done favorably well.  I’m not exactly sure what my expectations were going into this story, but I just didn’t connect with it.  The carefree, lush narrator Sutter Keely was a frustrating one and since the story is told from his perspective, you can’t escape him.

While I supposed having such an emotional reaction to the main character, albeit a negative one, is a good thing, I still don’t know what exactly was missing for me.  The development of his and Aimee’s relationship wasn’t authentic enough for me to take seriously, although the very realistic circumstances of their lives was effective.  I was waiting for Sutter’s catharsis and growth but was utterly disappointed at the ending of this novel.  If there is one thing I am almost guaranteed to not enjoy, it is an ambiguous ending, and the one in The Spectacular Now was a total let down.

Although I enjoyed the storyline and felt that Tharp captured the essence of his characters in a realistic way, there was something about the story that didn’t grab me.

The Spectacular Now” – Directed by James Ponsoldt 

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

“The Spectacular Now” might be one of my favorite movies of the year.  Unlike the novel, this movie is impeccably authentic, crazily effective, viscerally saddening, and sublimely uplifting all at the same time. I loved it.

Miles Teller is an incredible actor and I loved him as Sutter and his chemistry with Shailene Woodley is wonderful.  It is always satisfying to see a cast of young actors really take the movie on and prove themselves.  I felt the connection between Sutter and Aimee in this movie, where I did not in the book.

Another stroke of genius (in my opinion) was the change of ending.  One of the last scenes of the movie with Sutter and his Mom (played by the awesome Jennifer Jason Leigh) is so touching and I really loved that addition to the storyline.  Of course, seeing Sutter turn a new leaf and actually face his fears was something the viewers wanted, and I felt it brought closure to the story even though it was a small final scene.

Mook Rating – ★★★

Mookology on Hiatus!

Hello faithful readers!  These past few months have been very busy and filled with work, play, and travel.  While I have read a plethora of incredible books, it has been quite difficult to actually see the adaptations.

But fear not!  After a short hiatus, Mookology will be back and better than ever, with a revamped layout and plenty of Mook Reviews (“The Spectacular Now”, “The Mortal Instruments”, and oldie but goodie “Into the Wild” to name a few.)

I’ll be seeing you…

Mook Review: “The Great Gatsby” Part Two – Guest Post!

The lovely Stephanie of The Anxiety of Authorship has offered her pen to a guest mook review – a two part piece focusing on “The Great Gatsby.”  You can read Part One of her mook review by clicking here; an analysis on The Great Gatsby novel and the 1974 “The Great Gatsby” movie directed by Jack Clayton.  Stephanie has now provided me with her review and rating of “Gatsby” directed by Baz Luhrmann, and I must say I agree with her review whole heartedly!  Check it out below…

“Gatsby” - Directed by Baz Luhrmann

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

I wanted to like the new Gatsby movie more than I did. The build-up to it was tremendous–the stunning trailers, the talented actors, the creative and well-respected director, the Jay-Z produced soundtrack featuring huge names in music today. Like Gatsby’s invention of himself for Daisy’s approval, everything about this film is built to impress us. Though Luhrmann delivered the most entertaining Gatsby film to date, it did not reach the greatness I expected.

The main reason I can’t say the movie is great is because it includes a lot of unnecessary scenes, and also adds many unnecessary clichés to the story.  I tend to be open-minded to all kinds film interpretations of books, but I could not stand that Luhrmann turned this into a story within a story with Nick telling it all to a doctor in an insane asylum. The doctor then goes on to encourage Nick to write the story out on paper, leading him to write–you guessed it–The Great Gatsby. I often enjoy unique story structures, especially when there is a writer character involved, but I felt like I’d seen this structuring a million times before. There are other minor clichés in the film, such as cuts to shooting stars in the night’s sky (for some reason that really bothered me), cuts to the green light over and over again, and the hammering of “old sport” again and again. I know that “old sport” is Gatsby’s catchphrase, but I didn’t think he was supposed to say it that much. I think the film also tries to be too sweeping with all of the flash backs to Daisy and Gatsby’s lives before living in New York–again, such scenes were just unnecessary.

Despite the above, there are many things that work. The acting is great. There is a way each character speaks that just emanates the past. Each actor mastered a Golden Age accent specific to his or her character. Leonardo DiCaprio also brings much passion, obsession, and anguish to Gatsby as a character–and it works. I was only disappointed with Myrtle. Luhrmann chose not to focus much on Myrtle, though she’s supposed to be a quite loud and ridiculous personality. There was nothing wrong with the actress per say, but I thought she should have had a larger on-screen presence. The intermixing of modern and classic music throughout the film also works, although not in the way I expected.

It’s odd. I left the theater disappointed and a little embarrassed to be wearing my Great Gatsby book cover t-shirt. But since then, I’ve found the film sticking with me–I’ve been thinking a lot about what works/what doesn’t, thinking about my favorite scenes (Gatsby and Daisy’s first meeting scene at Nick’s house, and the Plaza Hotel scene), and downloading songs from the soundtrack. This must mean something. Although the film includes unnecessary scenes, and might feed into what popular audiences want, I know Luhrmann had good intentions, and I still enjoyed his surrealistic interpretation of such a classic story. I give this mook 3 stars.

Mook Rating – ★★★

Mook Review: “The Great Gatsby” Part One – Guest Post!

The lovely Stephanie of The Anxiety of Authorship has offered her pen to a guest mook review – a two part piece focusing on “The Great Gatsby.”  I am so excited to present her first mook review – please keep an eye out for her follow-up review of Baz Luhrmann’s take on the classic novel.

The Great Gatsby - Novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald

via Wikipedia.org

via Wikipedia.org

The first time I ‘read’ The Great Gatsby was for my eleventh grade honors English class. My teacher didn’t really spend much time on it–I just recall a few class sessions where my friends and I laughed at the name “Dr. T.J. Eckleburg” and repeated the phrase “old sport” a lot. Because my teacher told us we didn’t have to worry about a quiz or a paper, I never actually finished it (*older self scowls at younger self*). I decided to revisit this novel now, after four years of literary study in college, and after finding out there is a Great Gatsby film re-make coming out on May 10, 2013.

The Great Gatsby is a classic for a reason. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s simple yet beautiful prose tells a unique story of love, tragedy, and social class differences with memorable characters–memorable even just by their names; Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway, Daisy Buchanan, Meyer Wolfsheim, etc. The story has just enough action and drama to keep readers going, and just enough meditation and pace to give readers pause. From a writing perspective, I know it’s not ideal to have a main character just act as an observer, but Nick Carraway is an exception to that rule. We only see glimpses of his opinions and personality, despite the story being from his point of view, but this creates him as a mysterious character rather than a boring ‘observer’ protagonist.

There is one very steam-of-consciousness paragraph at the end of chapter two that really catches my interest. I think it implies that Nick wakes up in bed with a man after a drunken night in New York City. This small group of sentences is especially surreal and unexpected in comparison to the rest of the realist writing throughout the novel. Maybe Fitzgerald was just experimenting, but I am so intrigued.

Overall The Great Gatsby is such a well-told story that, despite the decades that have passed between its first publication and now, has managed to remain original and iconic. Although not my number one favorite, I rate it five stars.

 

 “The Great Gatsby” – Directed by Jack Clayton

This generation might not be aware, but there have already been five previous film adaptations of The Great Gatsby–in 1926, 1949, 1974, 2000, and 2002. Since I could stream the 1974 version via Netflix, I decided to focus on that film for this Mook Review. The 1974 “Great Gatsby” film is easily the most famous, starring Robert Redford (a perfect Gatsby) and, unexpectedly, a young Sam Waterston (from the original “Law & Order”) as Nick Carraway.

The film starts off quite slow, panning Gatsby’s mansion and Daisy’s vanity during the opening credits, but I thought the setting of this mood went on for a little too long. Most movies from that time period begin slowly, so I can’t really give fault to something like that, especially because the film itself was enjoyable and true to the story. I can imagine that viewers who haven’t read The Great Gatsby might become confused at times, though. For example, I don’t think the significance of the green light was clear, nor that of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg’s eyes on the billboard in the Valley of Ashes–yet there were many cuts to show these things. The significance was missing.

I appreciated this film’s grittiness. The Great Gatsby takes places during an oppressively hot and humid summer, pre-air conditioning. Everyone, especially Tom Buchanan, is sweating. Sweat rolls down characters’ faces and their shirt underarms are soaked. Adding to that grittiness are rogue flies buzzing around some scenes–and the raw awkwardness some of the characters experience with each other. I really liked this kind of realism. The only thing was, after a while, I still felt like the characters, specifically Daisy and Gatsby, weren’t connecting in a believable way. Maybe that’s the way it should be, though. The book doesn’t make their connection much clearer.

This film was a little bit simple and seemed to cater mostly to those who have already read the book , but it was good in general. With that said, I am looking forward to seeing what Baz Luhrmann does with this timeless story. I think it is going to bring attention to the more surreal qualities of The Great Gatsby, hinted at the end of chapter two (as mentioned above). Once I see the new film, I will return with part two of my very first mook review!

Mook Rating – ★★★★