26 September 2011

Stephen King’s The Shining

I’ve been slowly examining the works of Stephen King, after enjoying The Dark Tower so thoroughly.  I’ve already read Carrie and Salem’s Lot, so I seem to be going in chronological order.
I had seen Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation a few years ago, and so I suppose I went into the reading constantly fighting certain expectations.  There were innumerable differences between the film and the novel, however, and that actually proved to my advantage, as I was able to be surprised at the reading.
In the version I read, King gave an introduction where he talks about the choice he had to make in writing, whether to delve into the character of Jack Torrence and explore his own complicated inner demons: an alcoholic, abusive father; his own alcoholism; and his own authority issues.  King said he felt it made the novel stronger, and I have to agree wholeheartedly with him.  In fact, it is this delving into Jack that makes the novel so different from what I expected, having seen the film.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the novel, however, was the character of Danny, and how well King seemed to capture the internal world of a five-year-old psychic.  The way he approached the world, how he could switch so quickly, so mercurially between emotions, perfectly captured what little I remember of being that age.  I enjoyed how, when Danny would encounter concepts he didn’t yet understand but nonetheless knew because of his Shine, King would capitalize them.  (Example: Danny was reading his father’s thoughts, who thought Wendy and Danny might be sad or lonely but would be okay in the LONGRUN.)  This seemed an excellent way of capturing that confusion of childhood: knowing but not yet understanding.
Wendy was also far more interesting in the novel than in the film, which surprised me as well: She had barely made any impression on me in the film - I couldn’t even remember who played her until I looked it up.  Wendy in the novel was much more realized, and strangely I always pictured her as Toni Collette.  Who was, incidentally, not in the movie.  Shelley Duvall was...and I have to say I found her incredibly annoying in the film.  According to many sources, so did Kubrick, so there we go.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to me, though, was the difference in the endings, which I think points to a fundamental difference between King and Kubrick.  I’m a big fan of both, and I accept their differences.  So as I consider the relationship between The Shining in prose and in film, when I ask myself if it was adapted well, I have to say “No.”  But The Shining was still a great film, and it definitely stands the test of time.  It simply can’t be related to the novel - they are two totally different entities.  And I think that’s okay.

Books: Reading Tom Sawyer.  I have a small collection of the classics that I need to read on my iPad while I am out of town.

Bottles: Nothing lately...hoping to visit the wine bar when I get back, or maybe one in Vancouver.  Apparently there's one in Yaletown.

Writing: Nearly killed Shawn again in Into the Shining Sun.  I always feel so guilty every time I do it.  And sadly I know this won't be the last time, either.

Guitar: Didn't start any new projects since I'll be gone, but hopefully I'll have access to my cousin's acoustic again and can brush up on some songs like "Mother" and "Goodbye Blue Sky."  I brought my The Wall songbook just in case.

22 September 2011

The Genius Factory by David Plotz

The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank was my most recent read, and I found it simultaneously fascinating, grotesque, poignant, and comical.  Though it sounds like a fiction book, it is in fact non-fiction, and author Plotz frequently refers to how the entire concept of the “Repository for Germinal Choice” - the Nobel Prize Sperm bank, in other words - sounds like something out of science fiction.

The book tracked Plotz’s journey through researching the history of the bank, tracking down employees, donors, mothers who used the bank, and children born through the bank.  Perhaps the two most compelling sub-plots in the book were the story of Donor White, who had fathered numerous children and was overjoyed by the fact and hoped to reconnect with them, in particular a girl named Joy; and the story of Tom, who found out he was a Nobel Sperm Bank baby and began searching for both his donor and any half-siblings he might have had.

I was impressed how even-handedly Plotz approached the entire subject; he even recounts how he went through the preliminary stages of donating sperm himself (the application and test donation, as it were) just so that he could empathize with and understand the donors he was interviewing and the process as a whole.  While some of the people in the novel might have been easy to characterize as crazy, racist, or worse, Plotz fleshed them out as fully-formed human beings, with virtues and foibles both.

It was a strange read, and an enjoyable one.  I do not think I have ever read a book quite like it, but I got a lot out of it, and I’d certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a fascinating read.


Books: Just finished The Shining.

Bottles: Just been drinking Alamos Malbec lately.

Writing: Well, nearing the halfway-ish point in the rewrite.  That part I've rewritten so far has doubled in length.  I wonder if the trend will continue for the entire novella.  It might bump it up to novel status which wouldn't be a bad thing, as long as it's not all crap.

Guitar: Started on "Times Like These."  Also working on "Hey You" and "Young Lust" still.

14 September 2011

Franciscan Estate 2007 Napa Valley

This Cabernet from Napa Valley’s delectable 2007 vintage did not disappoint.  It was ruby colored, full bodied, with an intensely oaky nose.
Upon drinking, it revealed several flavor layers: the inky berries, hints of pepper and spice, sharp oak, and that indefinable taste that I have come to associate with Napa wines.  It was one of the driest wines I have had from Napa, and the dryness lingered on in a mouth-puckering finish.
This wine was enjoyed immediately after the Orin Swift The Prisoner 2009, and on the whole I think The Prisoner was more enjoyable by itself, though I suspect the Franciscan Estate would go excellently with a meaty meal.


Books: About to start in on The Shining.

Bottles: Tried a glass of Napa Cellars' Sauvignon Blanc, but didn't really take any notes.  Got a little too drunk a little too fast; I think it was either stronger than I expected or I drank it too fast.  Also I was having it with dinner and my stomach was pretty empty when I started.

Guitar: Started on "Times Like These" by Foo Fighters.  Still working on "Hey You" and "Young Lust;" the latter is proving troublesome in some spots, due to the tabs not making what the recording sounds like.  The former is just difficult to make the chord changes fast enough all while arpeggiating the chords.

Writing: Well, five chapters and 14,000 words in to the second draft now.  At this point in the first draft it was only 9,000 words long.  I'm actually kind of pleased that I've been expanding it as I go, finding new things.  The hard part will be paring it back down again, removing things that are useless.  It is hard to kill your babies.

08 September 2011

Orin Swift The Prisoner 2009

I’ve been a fan of Orin Swift ever since sampling his 2007 Papillon Bordeaux blend, and The Prisoner 2009 was not a disappointment.  A primarily Zinfandel blend, it was young and vivacious, but not overwhelmingly so, and it mellowed quickly in the glass.
It was a deep plum color, with a spicy nose that displayed surprising meaty notes.  I think I also smelled hints of rhubarb, a first for me!
It was fruit, medium bodied, with soft round berry flavors and a smooth feel on the tongue.  The finish was quick and clean, without being terribly drying.
I enjoyed the wine with friends, sitting outside the hotel in Avon, Colorado, enjoying the night air.  It went over well with everyone.  We purchased it at a store for about $30, and I don’t expect it to be hard to find again.


Books: Just finished The Genius Factory, and about to start in on The Shining.

Bottles: Tried out Trader Joe's Zinfandel but didn't have a chance to take notes.  I do have a second bottle.  So far it's been an imminently drinkable table wine.

Writing: Into chapter 2, proceeding apace.

Guitar: "Young Lust" and also "Hey You" - one leads and fills, the other rhythm parts.  I also play "Coming Back to Life" most days and am pretty close to keeping up with the recording, which makes he happy.  Soon I will have to make a start on the third solo, which I have so far avoided.

02 September 2011

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary is a collection of short stories about anthropomorphic animals.  It was a highly amusing read, rather on the short side, but this made it all the more enjoyable - I was able to fly through the stories, chuckling at both them and at the illustrations within the book.

Each story told, in essence, a story about people - sometimes eccentric people, and sometimes people that you feel like you know.  Classic archetypes, as it were, or perhaps just universally annoying characters.  However, Sedaris has replaced the people in the story with animals - sometimes with an animal that reinforces the nature of the character, but just as often with one that has no bearing, really.  Sometimes he even seems to play against type in choosing the animal.

Reading this book I was struck by the wit and playfulness of Sedaris’s prose, and I have added a few more of his books to my “to read” list.  I will hopefully have more to share soon.


Books: The above.  Working on The Genius Factory still.

Bottles: Nothing new lately.

Writing: Finished a new first chapter.  I like it for the most part, but it'll still need tweaking.

Guitar: Working on "Young Lust" and also "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2."