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Posts Tagged ‘book’

My Conflicted Feelings about Bree Tanner

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2010 at 9:47 am
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 24:  Author Stephenie M...

Image by Getty Images North America via @daylife

Here’s the thing. I don’t think Stephenie Meyer is a very good writer.

I know I’m not her target audience but, in my own defense, I am a voracious reader as happy with a fun, well-written young adult book as I am with an engrossing Russian novel; as happy with JRR Tolkien as I am with Lorrie Moore.  I love reading.

So, when Twilight first came out and shot up the best seller lists, I was curious. And I really wasn’t all that impressed. But, I figured maybe it was just me, maybe it was my mood at the time. And as the subsequent books came out, I gave them a chance.

And each time, I found them — eh.

Now she’s out with a new novella in the same series, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner and I also found it, eh.

And I’m not the only one.  The Guardian said the book is “woefully, leaden-footedly pedestrian throughout.”

Indications are that even Meyer may be close to having had her fill of vampires.

It’s really all besides the point, though.

As The Washington Post pointed out: “The satisfaction of “Twilight” novels cannot be measured by such terms as “good” and “bad.” This goes double for “Bree,” which was not originally intended as a stand-alone novel and which all fans will read and all haters will skip regardless of the reviews.”

And the numbers back that up.

“Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight Saga, has yet another smash hit on her hands,” the Associated Press wrote earlier this week, reporting that Bree Tanner had sold more than one million copies since being published June 5.

And really, that’s the important thing. Meyer has written a series of books bought by millions, which means that millions have been reading. And I think that’s great. Maybe she’s not the world best writer. Big deal. She’s got people reading and, as far I’m concerned, for that she deserves a medal.

Because maybe those people reading her books will then move on to other (and hopefully better) stuff.

After all, it’s the reading that’s fundamental.

Natalie Merchant and the 'Flat, Dead Pages'

In Entertainment on April 20, 2010 at 9:02 am
NEW YORK - APRIL 13:  Singer Natalie Merchant ...

Image by Getty Images North America via Daylife

In February, Natalie Merchant appeared at a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference where she performed songs from then-upcoming album, Leave Your Sleep.

The album, 26 poems set to music, came out last week and is a delight to listen to. But that’s not why I’m writing about it.

When Merchant performed at TED, she spoke of the joy of taking the poems and setting them to music.

Unfortunately, as Carolyn Kellogg, the smart and talented writer at the LA Times pointed out, Merchant wasn’t all that delicate.

“What I’ve really enjoyed about this project is reviving these people’s words, taking them off the dead flat pages, bringing them to life,” Merchant said.

“What poet sees his or her work as being written for “dead flat pages’?” Kellogg responded.  “Most poems are written for the page, and many poems use the page layout as part of their expression. That would include the work of e.e. cummings, one of the poets whose work Merchant has set to music.

“Seems to me that poems set to music are a nice novelty, but that doesn’t make them new and improved. It transmutes them as lyrics, but it would be a mistake to think this improves on their original form.

“Flat pages? Sure. Dead pages? Maybe not.”

Kellogg is dead on in that regard.

Where I think she is a little off is in her sort of dismissive “seems to me that poems set to music are a nice novelty.”

Without a doubt, setting a poem to be music — no matter how beautiful the result may be — doesn’t mean it’s better.

At the same time, there’s always the chance that the adaptation — which is really what Merchant’s come up with — is quite good in its own right.

My Fair Lady vs. Pygmallion, for instance. Or Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres and King Lear? Emma and Clueless?

The Godfather the movie and The Godfather the book?

Merchant maybe came across as a little full of herself, maybe a little less than elegant. But the thought of adapting a work of art to another medium, adding a little of yourself and exposing a new audience to the original work (and Merchant is selling her album with a 74-page book with the poems and essays on the poets) is an admirable one.

Certainly a little more than a “nice novelty.”