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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Another wish list

Doing that book meme made me think about some of the books I used to love but don't have access to thanks to bad book borrowers or just plain bad luck.

First on the list is a little number called Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach. I did a course during my studies called 'Utopias and Dystopias' which absolutely rocked, firing up my reading for a number of years, spinning off into a personal exploration of women's sci fi and speculative fiction writing. The premise of Ecotopia is that two US states (Washington and the other little one next to it north of California) break away from the rest of the USA to form an environmentally sustainable society and manage to survive the economic and military attacks that ensue from the rest of the oiks. Can't remember if it all ends in tears or not but I do remember really enjoying it, lending it to someone and of course never getting it back. Have ordered a new copy through Abebooks which cheers me immensely, as it is quite hard to find in Australia. When I have re-read it I will let you know what happens.

I also thought about J.P. Martin's Uncle series which I read at primary school. No one I know except my ex-husband has read these books, and even that wasn't enough to hold the marriage together. Illustrated by Quentin Blake, they are very odd and very funny books about an elephant who lives in a surreally enormous castle called Homeward with his friends The Old Monkey and The One-Armed Badger. He tries to have a good, kind life looking after all the strange people who inhabit his home, constantly finding new areas he's never been to, but is forced to defend himself against the Badfort Crowd, led by Beaver Hateman with such characters as Hitmouse, Flabskin and Hootman. It's a bit of a parody of the Gormenghast trilogy, but I didn't work this out until I discovered one of the books a few years ago at a local charity stall (Uncle and His Detective). The nice ladies said I could have the book for 20c, but I was so chuffed at finding it that I gave them $1 for it. Then I went home, all inspired, and checked the internet to see if I could find any more in the series. It turned out that there had only ever been one edition published, and the next most affordable copy was US$200! Holy shit. I still check out every charity stall, second-hand shop and garage sale for the distinctive covers, but no luck so far. I mean, my primary school library had them all, as did the ACT Library system, but all got sold off through the years to allow them to buy fancier children's books. Sigh.

Having mentioned Patrick Susskind's Perfume in the meme, I don't think I actually own a copy at the moment. I keep buying it whenever I see it, and lend it to the next person who wants something good to read, but then never seem to have one in the house. I guess I'd better buy another one if I'm ever thinking about flying over the South Pacific, just in case...

Finished my Sherri S. Tepper book, The Visitor. It picked up pace about 3/4 through, and I found by the end I was loath to put it down, grunting at Best Beloved whenever he tried to get me off the bed to go out for dinner (only seem to be able to read on the bed these days, otherwise there is always seems to be something more urgent in a room to do). So it all ended well, but it isn't a patch on Beauty, which I highly recommend to anyone who like fairy tales and/or sci fi. A dystopian take on Sleeping Beauty, it involves time travel between fairytale past and speculative future.

And I must buy another copy of Angela Carter's edited collection Wayward Girls and Wicked Women, speaking of someone who liked a fairytale or two. I lent it to a friend to take travelling (years ago) and she committed the sin of swapping it on her travels for something else to read, and not buying me a replacement copy later. Last time I lent anything in print to her, I tell you. Mmm. Glad I remembered that. Time to go back to Abebooks.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes - I lost my copy of 'Gentlemen prefer blondes' to a friend.... I've never seen that around anywhere else again. Great book though. Much better than the movie - and such a cute cover.

Ampersand Duck said...

Isn't that the way though? Name me five books that have movie adaptations better than or comparable to the original book. Over to you, Laura? Anybody?

Lucy Tartan said...

now there's a loaded question! uh oh...think I'm about to nerd out into thesisland.....

The neutral answer is that there are shitloads of fabulous movies based on mediocre, forgotten novels: it's often a surprise to find out the movie was based on a book at all. Vertigo might be the classic example. Smart publishers like Bloomsbury and Vintage and Orion are now bringing out paperback editions of obscure books that had great movies based on them.

But with 'real' books, that have some sort of independent life of their own, it's much harder to choose a list of surpassing adaptations that most people would go along with. I'm more interested in the reasons why people will disagree so passionately over what makes a good adaptation than in what they will actually nominate.

I like this post, Ampersand. (My brush with the book meme got me thinking in similar ways.) None of your books here are familiar to me except Perfume and that only by name. The SF sounds specially good - I'll have a look in the library for Ecotopia.

Ampersand Duck said...

I don't think movie adaptations don't have to stick faithfully to their novel of origin unless the books are classical favorites, i.e., part of the 'canon'. In my experience people don't like messing with old favorites. An exception is the latest version of Mansfield Park, when the writers incorporated parts of JA's early and diary writings into the plot.

More modern books can take a bit of artistic licence; I think in this case the adaptation fails only if the changes are made with no creativity and sensitivity to the original vision. Take Hitchhikers, for instance. I was really enjoying it for the majority of the film, thinking to myself, yes, Douglas would have enjoyed that. But when I realised that (a) Arthur was more hero than zero and (b) he was going to get the girl in the end, I felt jaded at the perceived necessity to 'Americanize' the film. It just wasn't sensitive to its roots. On the other hand, High Fidelity worked for me even though it shifted continents, because it stayed faithful to the vision of the author in the broadest sense.

I'd love to go further with this, but there's a big pile of the scholarly edition of Robbery Under Arms that I have to typeset (this being the novel, having just set the stage version last week). Did I mention that I specialise in (computer) typesetting scholarly editions? I've done the entire series of the Academy Editions of Australian Literature, plus a marvellous edition for OUP of the Complete Works of the Earl of Rochester (now there's a fun post when I've got time!). Thousands of bloody footnotes, all to be adjusted manually, thanks to Adobe never quite coming to grips with multiple layers of automatic footnotes. Sigh!

Ampersand Duck said...

Hmm, didn't mean to put 'don't ' twice in that first line, but you know what I mena, hopefully...

Ampersand Duck said...

argh! hate not being able to edit my spelling in comments... MEAN!

Lucy Tartan said...

No you didn't specifically mention, but I sort of picked it up from random passes through your archives. That sounds like a pretty interesting job.

I agree with you about Hitchhiker's. It's really not necessary to insult the intelligence of the audience that way.

harry said...

'Chocoalt' the movie was much much better than the book. It was far more developed in all ways - character, the feeling of magic and even plotwise.

Ampersand Duck said...

Yeah, I just read that recently, way after watching the movie, and I agree with you, Harry.

Lucy Tartan said...

plus Johnny Depp, who really belongs in an Austen novel, he's such hott stuff.

harry said...

I agree about Depp.
I'd turn for him.

Laura: What? Gay?
harry: No, into a MAN baby!