Friday Reads: Techniques of the Selling Writer

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 I’ll be honest, Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain doesn’t look all that promising. Something about that dollar sign, you know what I mean? But it gets amazing reviews and more than one person has recommended it to me, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I’m only a few chapters in but I’m so glad I looked past the cheesy cover and started reading it anyway. I’ve already folded some pages over and I have a feeling this will join my list of the best books about writing.

What are you reading? 

Book vs Film: Labor Day

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I read Joyce Maynard’s Labor Day back in April and I just recently watched the film adaptation starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. As I was reading the book I remember thinking that it would make a great movie. I could see certain scenes playing out in my mind. Director Jason Reitman brought many of those scenes to life just as I imagined them. One of my favourite scenes in the book, the one where the convict gives a lesson on making pie, was also one of the best scenes of the movie. But overall I felt the movie fell pretty flat. The book never felt overly sentimental or romantic, more sad and twisted. But the film was kind of sappy. Or as one critic put it, “more sugary than a cronut.”

Author Joyce Maynard really liked the adaptation, though. In fact, she liked the thing that I disliked the most:

When I write, I have a little movie playing in my head. I’m typing as fast as I can—this was certainly true with this book—just to keep up with the movie that I’m watching. I hope that I will write a movie, because I think in movie pictures, And it is almost scene for scene in the movie, except for the brilliant thing Jason did with the flashbacks of Frank’s story, sort of stretching that out across the movie. I hope it worked for you; it worked for me.

(Source: Roger Ebert Interviews)

Those flashbacks didn’t work for me at all. And I thought Kate Winslet was going to be perfect as the agoraphobic mother, but both her and Josh Brolin didn’t really do the characters Maynard created justice. So I ended up feeling disappointed by the end of the film. Disappointed with an incredible craving for peach pie.

There are many harsh film reviews of Labor Day out there, so I won’t dwell on it. (But read this one, if you’re interested.) What I will say is that the movie was pretty true to the book in many ways, but not in any of the ways that made the book good. But reading Labor Day is well worth your time. Joyce Maynard is a fantastic writer and I’ll definitely be reading her other books.

Friday Reads: Garlic and Sapphires

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I know, I know. A screen shot of an audiobook isn’t as pretty as an actual book cover, but honestly I love audiobooks so much and I think they deserve a spot in my Friday Reads posts as well. This week I’m just finishing up with Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires. I have loved every minute of this book. I’ve been putting my earphones in more than usual just to sneak a few minutes in here and there. Her story of being THE restaurant critic in New York is almost too crazy to be true. The only flaw with this book? It makes me really, really hungry.

What are you reading? 

Brody’s Bookshelf: the books read in Jaws

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I watched a really great documentary over the weekend. Inside Jaws is free on Vimeo, but I’ll warn you that the only people who will enjoy it are really, really big fans of the movie. I’m a huge Jaws fan and even I thought it started to drag midway through (it’s about 2 1/2 hours long). But I did learn some facts about the production that I didn’t know and really enjoyed listening to the old audio clips from Spielberg and members of the cast.

If you’re a Jaws fan you’ll probably remember the scene towards the beginning of the movie where Chief Brody is sitting at home, flipping through some books about sharks and become increasingly worried. I’ve always really liked that scene because I would approach that situation in the exact same way: If something interests/worries me, I grab a bunch of books on the subject and get reading. And I’ve always been curious about what books he’s actually looking at in that scene. Luckily, Inside Jaws answered my  question. As it turns out, in addition to the February 1968 issue of National Geographic, Chief Brody also flips through several books on sharks and marine life, and here they are in no particular order:

Sharks & Rays
by Spencer Wilkie Tinker

Danger in the Sea
Alec Fraser-Brunner

The Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea
Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Sportfishing for Sharks
Frank Mundus

About Sharks and Shark Attack
David H. Davies

Dangerous Marine Animals
Bruce W. Halstead

This is very nerdy information, I realize, but I have no doubt that someone else out there has always wanted to know what books Chief Brody looked at as he came to terms with the fact that a hungry shark was swimming around the beaches of Amity Island. If you’re a big fan of the movie I highly recommend reading the book The Jaws Log by Carl Gottlieb. Oddly enough, I didn’t really enjoy reading Peter Benchley’s Jaws, making this one of the few instances that I’d say the movie is better than the book.

Friday Reads: A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man

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I had a professor who was kind of obsessed with James Joyce. We only read a few of his short stories for the class, but my prof would go on and on about Joyce whenever he had the chance. But I never really loved the stories we read, and I always assumed it was because I wasn’t smart enough. And now that I’m finally getting around to reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, I can safely say that I still don’t feel smart enough to read Joyce. But I’m doing it anyway, and somewhere in the world my professor is happy.

What are you reading? 

 

Canada: a reading list

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Despite the fact that I’m celebrating Canada Day in a very un-Canadian way (at home in the city, not at a cottage), I’m still a proud Canuck. I always have a bottle of maple syrup on hand and I can have a lengthy discussion with anyone who asks about what makes the perfect butter tart. And while I do admit that I don’t like hockey (never even been to a game), poutine, or Tim Hortons, that doesn’t make me any less of a Canadian. Because believe it or not, we are so much more than those things.  If you’d like to get a better grasp of Canadian history and culture, here are some books to get you started. Happy Canada Day!

Only in Canada You Say: A Treasury of Canadian Language 
by Katherine Barber
Apparently there are 17 distinctly Canadian words for ice. Who knew?

Souvenir of Canada
by Douglas Coupland
A look at what it’s really like to be Canadian. Funny, but probably only if you’re from Canada.

Why I Hate Canadians
by Will Ferguson
Some real gems in here, including the chapter entitled “Death by Niceness”. Also check out How To Be A Canadian by the same author.

Canadians at Table: Food, Fellowship, and Folklore: A Culinary History of Canada
by Dorothy Duncan
Food in Canada is more interesting than you might think. If you want to try some recipes, the Laura Secord cookbook is a personal favourite of mine.

50 Canadians Who Changed the World
by Ken McGoogan
Canadians are awesome. This book will show you why.

Friday Reads: Mildred Pierce

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 As soon as I finished watching the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce a few years ago, I knew that one day I would read the book that it was based on. I loved the story and found the character of Mildred, played by Kate Winslet, to be incredibly intriguing. I finally started reading James M. Cain’s novel this week and so far it is even better than the series. I know, I know, the book is always better. But I’m telling you the miniseries was incredible, probably because it remained very true to the novel, even down to the dialogue. I haven’t seen the 1945 film version of Mildred Pierce starring Joan Crawford but something tells me I’ll be watching it very soon.

What are you reading? 

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