Monday, February 07, 2011

Book Fog

For the first time since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I am caught up in a book I simply can't put down. I have neglected many responsibilities this weekend, including ATLOS, ATLOSCon 2011, Cultivating the Virtues, my husband and children, my knitting, and of course, housework (which, granted, is something I neglect rather frequently but considering my in-laws are coming to town soon, this is particularly bad).

I'm in such a book fog and shamelessly neglecting my other values all for The Hunger Games trilogy.

It's truly been ages since I've been sucked into a book or series like this. I'm enjoying this feeling so much and I wish everything I read could be this compelling. I'm nearly done with the second book, Catching Fire. And may I just say OMG OMG OMG. And also, !!!!

I'm mentioning this only because you might not hear much from me until I'm all finished with Mockingjay.

TTFN!

8 comments:

C. August said...

Ah, good. I've been wondering what to read next, and had no interesting prospects (granted, I haven't looked too hard).

I guess I'll be stopping by the bookstore on my way home tonight.

Katie Davis said...

I could not stop reading these books! I just finished them a couple of weeks ago and I can't get Katniss and that world out of my head. I'm glad I'm not the only one who totally ignored just about everything to finish each book :-)

Jason said...

This might be too long for one comment on Blogger so I'm going to break it into two.
Part 1:

I've been meaning to read these. I did check out about fifteen or so pages of The Hunger Games (the first one) in Barnes and Noble. It definitely has a much slicker, more efficiently structured, more colorful and stylistically dazzling and mature writing style than Harry Potter (though I do like Harry Potter, I'm in the middle of the 5th now).

Take the opening scene:

“When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.

“I prop myself up on one elbow. There’s enough light in the bedroom to see them. My little sister, Prim, curled up on her side, cocooned in my mother’s body, their cheeks pressed together. In sleep, my mother looks younger, still worn but not so beaten-down. Prim’s face is as fresh as a raindrop, as lovely as the primrose for which she was named…”

The colorful characterization is directly integrated with the action and thematic atmosphere of the story. We get these intensely personal and sensual characterization bits along with a seamlessly progressing story.

Jason said...

Part 2:

I find the characterization in Harry Potter to be too explicit and inefficiently written, and it often makes the story drag and seem somewhat hollow.

From the 5th, Order of the Phoenix (Pg. 42, hardcover): "Up and down he [Harry] paced, consumed with anger and frustration, grinding his teeth and clenching his fists, casting angry looks out at the empty, star-strewn sky every time he passed the window. Dementors sent to get him, Mrs. Figg and Mundungus Fletcher tailing him in secret, then suspension from Hogwarts and a hearing at the Ministry of Magic--and still not one was telling him what was going on.

"And what, what, had that howler been about? Whose voice had echoed so horribly, so menacingly, through the kitchen?

"Why was he still trapped here without information? Why was everyone treating him like some naughty kid? Don't do any more magic, stay in the house..."

Introspection does not generally belong in fiction. Solid fiction shows us in action terms or narrative description, through their body language and tone of voice, and more pointed and sharply written dialog that doesn't drag on, what a character's deepest thoughts are.

Again, I do like Harry Potter, I'm just much more impressed by the bit I've read in Hunger Games, which seems to use sharper, economical, colorful, and more structured writing to paint more alive, compelling, complexly drawn characters. As heroic as Harry Potter is, stylistically, he comes across as too pedestrian and not esthetically action-oriented enough.

Jenn Casey said...

C--let me know what you think! I'm interested to know if you enjoy the books. I am riveted by the story.

Katie--hooray for ignoring the children when there's good fiction in the house! :o)

Jason--thanks for your comments. I am also very impressed with how Collins has constructed the narrative. It's fascinating.

However, I'm not sure I agree that introspection has no place in fiction. I'll have to think about that more, but certainly learning about the workings of a character's mind is helpful. There are many different ways that can be handled, of course, but I do think it belongs in fiction. And it's been around for ages--"To be or not to be" (a play, but still)--that's pretty introspective. Katniss introspects all over the place in the Hunger Games novels, which is natural in part because of the 1st person present voice.

I also think it's worth considering that these two sets of books are written for different audiences. Rowling set out to write stories for children, and Collins' series is aimed at young adults/adults. That probably accounts for some of the differences in how they chose to write their stories. Rowling's targeted audience, still very young, will need help drawing conclusions and seeing nuances that teens and adults will find easily.

Or have I misunderstood what you meant? Interesting discussion, thanks.

Jason said...

Hmmm. I guess my main point is not even about introspection. What The Hunger Games seems to do well is convey a lot of depth with a little. It's very dense. It implies and shows things instead of bluntly spelling it out.

It gives you the pieces but your mind has to do the final integration to grasp the dramatic meaning. This style is sometimes referred to as minimalism, particularly with contemporary classical musicians like Arvo Part (like the piece "Spiegel im Spiegel--http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtFPdBUl7XQ), but I think the more accurate label would that it employs precision and essentialization.

Another nice little bit from the beginning of the book (pg. 6):

"In the woods waits the only person with whom I can be myself. Gale. I can feel the muscles in my face relaxing, my pace quickening as I climb he hills to our place, a rock ledge overlooking a valley. A thicket of bushes protects it from unwanted eyes. The sight of him waiting there brings on a smile. Gale says I never smile except in the woods."

This is a much more sophisticated, deep, efficient, and compelling way of describing the feeling than bluntly saying the equivalent of "she likes him because he has a sharp sense of humor and is very honest, integrious, hard-working, etc." We get that she likes him without the author having to waste words saying it.

hroerig said...

Hah! I just finished reading the entire Amelia Peabody series on your recommendation, and now you've once again added to my book list!! Thanks much, see you in March!

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

I'll have to take a look at that trilogy. I have been avoiding packing--somewhat--by reading Greg Bear's Sci-Fi duo, The Forge of God, and the The Anvil of Stars. Excellent, I might add.