Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
While looking for something to read on a recent plane trip, I finally cracked open Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's Beautiful Creatures, a book that has been idling on my to-be-read shelf for over two years.
Beautiful Creatures is set in Gatlin, South Carolina, a tiny town populated by "the stupid and the stuck... the ones who are bound to stay or too dumb to go". The novel's protagonist is sixteen-year-old Ethan Wate, who, still recovering from his mother's death and his father's resulting near-breakdown, is counting down the days until he graduates from high school and hightails it out of Gatlin. Ethan's single-minded focus on escaping his hometown wavers, however, when Lena Duchannes arrives in town. Lena is quiet and deliberately standoffish, but Ethan knows there's something strangely familiar about her.
Much to my delight, there was no love triangle in this story. I can't even remember the last YA book I read without one, and I was so pleased about it I managed to forgive Garcia and Stohl for using one of my least-favorite literary cheats: dressing their heroine in Converse and emo outfits as evidence of her other-worldliness. (Note: Buying your clothes at Hot Topic instead of American Eagle doesn't make you special and hardcore and magical, kids. It just makes you a different flavor of mall rat.) In addition to the lack of a love triangle, the story was blessed with interesting secondary characters and an atmospheric—if clichéd—deep South setting. For once, my Converse-related irritation (which is normally a formidable force) didn't stand a chance.
As you may recall, this was the series Warner Bros. bought the rights to, like, the second the first book came out, clearly hoping to enjoy a piece of Twilight-esque pie. I don't think Garcia and Stohl's series will ever achieve that level of popularity, but the first installment, at least, was love-triangle-free and more than entertaining enough to while away a plane ride, and for that I am sincerely grateful.
According to Variety, DreamWorks and Working Title Films are planning a new movie adaptation of Daphne DuMaurier's 1938 novel Rebecca. This version will reportedly stick closer to the original source material than Alfred Hitchcock did when he adapted the story in 1940, but there's still no news on casting or a release date.
Persuasion: An Annotated Edition, edited by Robert Morrison
Before I get started, let me clarify something: this isn't a review of Jane Austen's Persuasion. It's more an extended hissyfit about the annotations featured in this particular edition of Persuasion, and therefore I'm going to assume it's only going to interest my fellow hardcore Austen nerds. (Sorry, non-hardcore-Austen-nerds. Try again tomorrow.) Anyway: VAGUE SPOILERS AHOY.
I received this edition of Persuasion for my birthday, and—seeing as I'd suggested it to practically everyone I know as my ideal potential present—I was totally stoked about it. I read all of the annotations first, independent of the text, and then went back and re-read the book, finding at least 80% of editor Robert Morrison's notes both relevant and interesting.
Unfortunately, that left the remaining 20%, which ranged from immaterial to incorrect to simply baffling. Examples include, but were not limited to:
IMMATERIAL STUFF: Morrison's fondness for defining common Regency-era words: "'Consequence' is 'social status'"; "'Intelligence' is 'news' or 'information'", etc. I suspect most people willing to shell out $35 for an annotated edition of one of Austen's less popular books are already familiar with these terms.
INCORRECT STUFF: I really started to worry when Morrison defined "to be vain of" (used in Vol. II, Ch. 3 to describe Sir Walter, who found "much to be vain of" despite the "littleness" of Bath) as "to disregard, to treat with contempt". Uh... I'm pretty sure it means "to be vain about", at least in this context.
SIMPLY BAFFLING STUFF: There was a lengthy explanation of a minor change Morrison made to the text (replacing she with he in the line "she was at this present time... wearing black ribbons for his wife"). The original line refers to Elizabeth, Anne's older sister, wearing mourning for her cousin Mr. Elliot's recently deceased wife. Morrison's change switches the focus to Elliot himself, arguing that Elizabeth disapproved of the marriage in question, and therefore wouldn't be wearing black. Now, I'm no expert on early-19th-century social mores, but the Jane Austen Centre points out that "a show of respect was expected even for distant relatives". Wearing mourning for a relation (even despised one) was customary, particularly for upper-class women like Elizabeth. Sincerity was not required. Why on earth would Morrison tweak a nearly 200-year-old text in order to "correct" a phrase that is equally plausible in its original published state?
Don't get me wrong: I'm still really happy Nathan paid attention to my subtle-like-a-brick hints and gave me this book for my birthday. It's a handsomely illustrated and beautifully bound edition, and I learned quite a bit from it. But I can't help but wish the annotations featured in this book had been blessed with a red-pen-wielding editor of their very own.
There's a creepy-yet-brilliant Tumblr site called The Composites that uses law enforcement composite sketch software and the original author descriptions to create images of famous literary creations. We think the final results are generally more appropriate for Halloween than Valentine's Day, but who knows? Maybe someone reading this will think the composite version of Jane Eyre's Mr. Rochester is just as dreamily Byronic as they'd always imagined him to be:
I've never heard of NPR's current Back Seat Book Club pick—Shooting Kabul, by N.H. Senzai—but this month they're asking kids to send in both questions for the author and photographs of beloved people and places.
Okay, dear readers, we are within a gnat's whisker of a mostly-functioning new site. The plan is for new posts to go up both here and on the new site until the end of the week, after which they will only appear on the new site. (We'll leave a link up here, of course.) The last remaining hurdle—and it's a big one—is that we need to fix every single internal link in every single post we've ever written (*sobs*), so... uh, please be patient with those. They're gonna take a while.
Note: If the ads on the new site are floating around your monitor, screwing up the formatting, try a hard refresh (Press Shift key + F5). Hopefully that will fix it!
Main site update: More data has been transferred. Images have begun appearing. Megan (our designer) is tweaking things, Nathan (our computer guy) is making her tweaks a reality, and Julia (me) is lolling around, enjoying the annotated edition of Persuasion I got for my birthday while everyone else is doing all the work. Still, this vacation atmosphere is going to have to end someday, so I'll be back to our regular posting schedule next Monday.
Last week, Flavorwire put together a slideshow of 15 Famous Authors' Beautiful Estates. It was fun to flip through, although surprisingly few of the homes had my heart burning with real estate envy. Anaïs Nin's California home was very 60s groovy, and I liked Robert Graves's Majorca house, but the rest of the houses fell between "Aggressively Spectacular" (hi, J.K. Rowling!) and "Modern McMansion" on the curb-appeal scale. I think my problem is my imagination is limited, and even if I started to fantasize about magically inheriting a house like Evelyn Waugh’s Piers Court, I would be unable to picture a fleet of pre-paid servants coming with it. And then who would scrub all those bathrooms?
...or, worse yet, what if the house didn't even have modern bathrooms? Some of those really historic homes have codes preventing major alterations, so you might be stuck with pre-20th-century plumbing, and I don't care how beautiful the house is: I love modern plumbing with all my soul.
ABC has green-lit an adaptation of Judith Krantz's 1978 best-seller Scruples. I have never read anything by Ms. Krantz, but the book sounds luridly entertaining:
The novel details the life story of protagonist Wilhelmina Hunnewell Winthrop ("Billy"), as she evolves from the overweight "poor relation" in an aristocratic Boston Brahmin family to become a thin, stylish woman who is left a vast fortune by the death of her much older first husband and who founds an upscale Beverly Hills boutique...
This won't be the first time Ms. Krantz's work has been adapted for TV. (Actually, it won't even be the first TV adaptation of this particular novel.) There was a steady market for Krantz-inspired TV miniseries throughout the eighties; we'll have to see if her stories are as successful in the post-Keeping Up With the Kardashians era.
Note: The blog posts have successfully migrated to the new site, but the main site's collection of information is still in limbo. Thank you for your patience!