Monthly Archives: April 2011

Winter is Coming

For those of you that didn’t tune into HBO last night or watch it online later, as soon as you get home from work today watch Game of Thrones. Trust me.

Game of Thrones is the first book of an epic fantasy series called The Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, and it’s one of my personal favorites. Now you might be aware of my constant disappointment in adaptations of my favorite books, but I think you’ll be surprised to know that I loved the first episode that aired at 9 PM last night. It covered roughly the first 85 pages of the first novel, and although I was surprised by how far it got, I believe it did a good job of keeping all the crucial introductory material. We were introduced to the Night’s Watch, a band of fierce rangers that guard the Wall and patrol the wild lands on the North; the House of Stark, the main good guys throughout the series; King Robert Baratheon, a drunkard king with a good temper and a slightly sick sense of humor; the Lannisters, Queen Cersei Lannister, her devilishly handsome twin brother Jaime, and their dwarf brother Tyrion who is better known as “The Imp;” and the surviving  Targaryen siblings.  Even though we meet a huge group of people in the first episode, we’re still confined to Winterfell, the castle home of the Starks far to the North where they aid the Night’s Watch in keeping the wilds of the North away from the prosperous South. Once the show moves to the capital at King’s Landing, we’ll get to meet a far more colorful bunch.

The first episode did a fantastic job of setting up the main conflicts, introducing us to the world and the main characters, and setting the gory mood for the rest of the series. Now it’s HBO so one has to expect a certain amount of blood and boobs, and Game of Thrones does not disappoint. There are 3 beheadings, 1 scene of gore, 2 creepy White Walkers with ice cold eyes, at least 8 pairs of bare breasts, a few butts, and 4ish sets of people having sex (if you watch it, you’ll understand the “ish”). You don’t have to guess which characters are the good guys and which will make your skin crawl, although you may be surprised by one man later. (I’m trying so hard not to give spoilers here but still stir up some anticipation, guys. I think my boyfriend hated watching it with me because I kept having long sighs or hiding my face before scenes, giving away spoilers through body language.)

The one part that surprised me was the time allotment between stories. You see, there are two continents, and the Stark/Lannister storyline takes place on one while the Targaryen storyline takes place on the other. When reading the books, the story stays on the main continent the majority of the time, probably since there are more characters involved in that plotline. The story shifts to Daenerys and her vile brother every few chapters for glimpses of their life. From what I remember (it’s been a few years since I’ve read the books), it always annoyed me when we shifted over to Daenerys just because the other plotline is so good and her brother creeps and annoys the crap out of me. I expected maybe one scene with them per episode, but they were given a fair amount of time. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just something that I didn’t expect.

While all the actors did a fantastic job portraying their characters, my favorite part of the adaptation so far might just be the scenery. The characters have already come to life for me through the books, so watching the storyline doesn’t bring that much surprise. But I usually skip details about scenery when reading. I mean yes, they describe the Wall as very large and covered in ice, but it’s hard for me to really imagine and grasp images about settings. I just thought of the Wall as a big, frosty Great Wall of China when reading. But ooooooh, that long shot of the 3 Night’s Watchmen coming out of the Wall and riding into the North was absolutely stunning, breathtaking, and overall epic. All of the scenes were beautifully done, paying attention to the smallest of details. I loved it.

In short, if you can manage it, watch the first episode of Game of Thrones as soon as possible. You’ll be hooked, I promise.

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In defense of pulp fiction

So lately, it’s come to my attention that there are some serious literature snobs that walk among us. Now I still have all of my English textbooks and reading material from college, but that doesn’t mean that I read Edmund Spenser’s “Faerie Queene” for poops and giggles. I’ll get out my hardcore reading materials sometimes when the mood strikes or when I need to look up a reference, but in general, I read “pulp fiction.” Now I thought I was snobby for still having my lit books, but no, there are people who refuse to read anything but “classics” and nonfiction because pulp fiction books are “beneath” them. I so do not get this attitude.

I’ll keep my argument for pulp fiction short and sweet. Just because most things that a published now aren’t “high brow” doesn’t mean that they aren’t worth reading. They still have similar themes as classics, and they often make allusions to classics. The difference is, they’re more accessible to the general public. And when you’re a writer, you have to ask yourself, is making my message a literary piece of genius and art more important than making that message readable and enjoyable for a larger audience? Honestly, I always veer towards the latter because the purpose of my own writing is to change someone’s life like books changed mine. Even just one person is fine with me. I’m sure the James Joyce is very proud of his “Ulysses,” but most people put it on their shelves to look smart and actually haven’t read it. Hell, I have it on my shelf from my Irish literature class, and I’ll admit right off that it confused the hell out of me and the message wasn’t worth all the digging that it took to get to it, so I switched to SparkNotes a few chapters in. And an entire chapter without punctuation? Oh my god, shoot me now. It was cute for a few pages but after a while I just felt like my brain was melting.

Pulp fiction doesn’t always dumb down messages, it just doesn’t beat you over the head with them like I feel that hardcore literature does. And pulp fiction can open someone’s interest for “higher reading.” I can’t believe that I’m about to defend the Twilight Saga, but I have to admit that it’s done some good for reading in a younger generation. Some of the classics have been redone with Twilight-esque covers and little seals that say “Bella’s Favorite Book” (Wuthering Heights) or “Edward and Bella’s Favorite!” (Romeo and Juliet). Now when I was working at a bookstore, these editions were actually quite a pain in the ass (I hate having identical titles shelved in different sections of the store based on covers or editions; it makes everything so much more complicated). But I can appreciate the fact that maybe Twilight has done something good in terms of getting younger girls to read more classics. 

The point is that pulp fiction has an impact on popular culture which makes it relevant to read. Yes, we should not forget the classics, but unless you’re a lit scholar or professor, reading only the classics greatly hinders your common knowledge. I believe that a healthy dose of both is necessary for a well-rounded individual. Which means that I really have to beef up my nonfiction/classics reading because I generally just read the pulp fiction. I read the newspaper on the Metro ever morning and listen to CNN while I cook dinner; when I sit down to read for myself, I try to escape this world and live in one more fantastic for just a little while. Everyone needs an escape from reality sometimes. And there’s nothing wrong with that.