Sunday, December 8, 2013

I Can't Wait for Shark Week

Peter Benchley

Last summer I found myself in the midst of a reading slump.  This wasn’t typical of me, since I usually go everywhere with a book in hand.  But, months seemed to go by.  Nothing caught & kept my attention.

Until I picked up my mum’s worn copy of Jaws.

File:Carcharodon carcharias.jpg
From the very opening scene, I was hooked.  Many modern day suspense thrillers feature non-stop action, over-the-top dramatics, twists & turns… I mean, there’s a lot to be said about shock value… but too much excitement can often turn into implausibility.   

Jaws was different.  It was straightforward and believable.  The characters were people I could meet in the grocery store. Not secret agents.  Not affluent, top-of-their-field specialists.  Brody and Hooper were average, relatable guys.  They had motives that were clear and realistic.

And, honestly, how can you not be fascinated by sharks?  I learned that sharks can’t stop swimming.  They have to constantly keep moving so that water (and thus oxygen) continuously passes over their gills, allowing the shark to breathe.

Next, I had to check out the movie.  I loved that it was filmed in Martha’s Vineyard – I think I’ve seen some of those buildings! – and I was impressed with 1975 movie magic, but overall, I was disappointed.  The ending was completely different from the novel! Hollywood just had to add in the big shocking finale.  Why change the book? 

That kind of thing drives me bonkers.

On a side note:
I love making connections.  My family and I used to watch House, M.D., and I loved the little production company ‘vanity card’ at the end of the show, featuring two guys sitting on the beach & the line:  “That’s some bad hat, Harry.”  Bad Hat Harry Productions got it straight from Jaws. You can even see the shark fin in the water.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Dracula: Not a Twilight Vampire

Bram Stoker

File:Bram Stoker 1906.jpgVampires.

I approached this story with some skepticism --  it's needless to say that Twilight and True Blood have certainly fogged my view of horror's ultimate baddie -- but my latest mantra pushed me forward.  It's a classic. 

Why does that matter?

That is hardly justification to dive into a 500 page novel that was written over a century before I was even born. Yet, I am decidedly fixed on my goal to read as many classics novels as humanly possible.  They must be classic for a reason, right?  I've always loved to read, but I, too,  went through high school with the typical teenage attitude toward assigned books -- what is this rubbish?  I felt I couldn't learn anything from Lord of the Flies and The Catcher in the RyeAnd Shakespeare?  Save me.

In the last five years, I've read a handful of books, but more often than not I found the modern dramas and thrillers to be lacking in substance.  Droll characters, repetitive story-lines, plot holes.  I want to be inspired.  I want a book that'll change the way I think.  There was only one place to look:  the masterpieces of fiction.

Dracula...was nothing like I had imagined.  Told from a series of present-tense journal entries, the story is presented as if it were currently and actually happening.  Blurring the line between fiction and reality.  I love this style of writing, because the path ahead is so unforeseeable.  Paired with intoxicatingly eerie imagery, the novel is laced with fear and suspense. 

The only aspect that bothered me, was the overly enthusiastic camaraderie between the characters. They were constantly pledging eternal friendship to one another....which I found strange and unrealistic. Though, come to think, I encountered similar themes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles. Maybe I mock these strong bonds, simply because it is an unfamiliar feeling in the 21st century.  I mean, I can't even get a "thank you" when I hold open a door for someone.

Otherwise, I found Dracula to be edgy and believable. If I weren't so desensitized, I would have been terrified!  It certainly wasn't Edward and Bella.

Moral of the story, don't let preconceived notions stop you from reading a book -- I promise, it'll be worth it!