Detroitblogger John, aka John Carlisle, spoke to my feature-writing class today. A joy. He talked about starting his blog as a way to keep his writing skills sharp, which morphed into his Metro Times column (down on the DL), which morphed into being named Detroit’s Journalist of the Year, and a reconciliation of sorts with his current employer, a suburban chain where he doesn’t write anything other than headlines.
I was struck, once again, by how far we’ve fallen as a business and how much we’ve changed as a craft, that a writer as talented as he is has to literally hide it away, and this in a town where the newspapers once stood in national company as places where a writer could really flex. I wanted to work at the Detroit Free Press once, and no, it wasn’t the Gannett sale that wrecked the place. Some great writers passed through that newsroom, a tiny few might still be there, but when I look for good examples of the craft to share with my students, I almost always go to the big four or five — WSJ, NYT, WashPost, St. Petersburg Times, et al.
And that’s a crime.
I should be out riding my bike or something, but I’m not. I skipped lunch today, and just broke the fast with some pasta with cannellini beans, rosemary and onions. It made me feel so warm and happy I just want to enjoy the feeling for a while. How do people who live forever on zero-carb diets do it? How can one feel warm and happy without beans and pasta? No wonder they’re so nasty all the time.
I wonder if anyone has done that research before — correlating one’s diet with their politics. I follow a few blogs not listed on the sidebar, and it’s so strange how often a switch to paleo eating is followed by aggressive assertion of right-wing political views. They eat a few steaks and start thinking they actually went out and slaughtered the beef themselves, using only their stone-tipped spears that they sharpened themselves. No government program for them, no sir!
Maybe it’s the growth hormones talking.
Not that I have ever turned down a nice steak. But then, I’m a moderate.
My head has been immersed in politics and policy all day, and I’m craving a palate-cleanser. When I do, I pop in on T&L and see who they’re taking apart (or not). I’m totally with them on Jennifer Lawrence and Beyonce, ditto Emma Stone and Shelley O. I LOVE that dress, hate the brooch. Maybe it’s part of her security equipment.
And when I’m done palate-cleansin’, I may take us out to see “The Hunger Games” this weekend, but only if I have two signed affidavits that it doesn’t suck. I just sampled some pages from the book online, and I’m not sure if I’m up for two hours of dystopia, but on the upside? Jennifer Lawrence. She seems to be playing the same character she did in “Winter’s Bone,” only with more sci-fi and Elizabeth Banks, and no meth. And she looks so cute in that black dress, right T&L?
Is this book any good? Anyone?
Late afternoon brought a phone call: Lance Mannion, telling me that Mrs. Mannion was the college classmate of the Romney aide who made the Etch-a-Sketch faux pas today. For the record, I loved it. Romney, and his staff, have such a tin ear for this sort of thing that it will make for a truly entertaining campaign season. One step forward, two gaffes back. If nothing else, it will be more entertaining than the escalating spiral of the-world-is-ending campaign speechifying, which Eric Zorn has been dutifully cataloging.
What else? Here’s a Gawker rant on fabrications by This American Life contributors who aren’t named Mike Daisey.
And with that, I’m off to Lansing. Happy Thursday, all.
Connie said on March 22, 2012 at 7:25 am
Hunger games is a great book with a compelling story. It is however about teenagers killing each other , I doubt if I will go to the movie.
basset said on March 22, 2012 at 7:50 am
No desire to see “Hunger Games,” but I will point out that the author of the book is an IU alumna.
And we are having the neighbors over for dinner and “Citizen Kane” in a few nights, last time we were at their place and watched “The Third Man.” How civilized.
Planning commission meeting tonight, the only time I wear a tie these days… have a nice loud IU number ready to go. Don’t much care about the fortunes of the basketball team or any other but it’s that time of year and I do take pride in having a degree from there. And if anyone else says well, it’s just a public, state school… they can bite me too.
Linda said on March 22, 2012 at 7:51 am
And adding to Hunger Game’s cachet is its status as a book parents want to ban. So there’s that.
beb said on March 22, 2012 at 8:05 am
Every time The Mittster comes up with a new gaff I’m reminded of Jon Stewart’s segment on The Daily Show where he played Satorums riff that college is elitist then asked “Why isn’t Romney crushing this guy?” Which he answers by playing one of Romney’s gaffs, maybe it was “I like firing people,” then Stewart asks, “why isn’t Santorum crushing this guy?” I feel like I’m stuck inside a three Stoogies movie.
I’m with Connie about the Hunger Game (not that I’ve read the book) but a story about teens killing each other doesn’t sound like entertainment.
Prospero said on March 22, 2012 at 8:39 am
I think it’s high time to retire “for this sort of thing” when describing the RMoney campaign’s tin ear. When the tin ear is about every single thing that comes out the MF’s mouth, “for this sort of thing” has lost all value as a descriptive modifier. Hell I read Flowers in the Attic (not awful) and sat through the movie (lame, although Louise Fletcher was a scary hoot playing a Big Nurse variation), because it was one of those Ban the Book freakout occasions.
I’ll go see Hunger Games for the cast. Jennifer Lawrence for one, and Woody Harrelson for two. He has become a very good actor, going back to No Country, at least. In fact, he and Rosie made White Men Can’t Jump a good movie. I also think the premise is interesting (I’m sure I’ve watched Running Man 20 or 30 times, and God knows how many times I’ve read The Lottery), and I generally love post-apocalyptic. I’m still waiting for somebody to film Ridley Walker (with trepidation), greatest of them all. And I think an animated version of Oryx and Crake is in order, preferably from the crew that made Howl’s Moving Castle.
How did Emma Stone get those jeans on? WD-40? Crisco? Detachable feet? And who exactly is Emma Stone? Mighty cute. Oh right, she was in Zombieland (which I recommend, a funny movie with an exceptionally funny extended cameo by Bill Murray as himself which seems to have been improvised, mostly).
Dorothy said on March 22, 2012 at 8:55 am
I bought the book on Saturday, and am just about 20 pages away from finishing it. It’s a page turner, but it’s also written for young adults, despite the fact it’s being read by everyone and anyone these days. It’s compelling, but it’s not Great Literature. I’ll wait until the movie comes to cable.
Full disclosure: I’m going to buy the next two books at the Kenyon bookstore after I do CPR training this morning. Once I’ve started the series, I have to finish it, don’t I? (Julie I seem to remember you really loved the books, right?)
Zannah said on March 22, 2012 at 9:02 am
Books 1 and 2 were good. Book 3 was disappointing. Fair warning.
Julie Robinson said on March 22, 2012 at 9:15 am
Yes, I did love them, but I have an affinity for YA dystopian literature that comes from my years as a volunteer school librarian. Here’s the Ebert review:http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120320/REVIEWS/120319986
Themes: totalitarian government manipulating reality TV to keep its citizens in line, hoarding resources at the expense of others, personal integrity, and family loyalty, just to name a few. The Ebert review suggests that the backstory may have been glossed over. I’ve said all along that I hope the movie isn’t just a female version of The Gladiator, not just for the plot points that would be missed, but also because I don’t want to watch teens killing each other either.
Jen said on March 22, 2012 at 9:43 am
I’ve read the entire “Hunger Games” trilogy twice and really enjoyed it both times. I wasn’t disappointed by the third book, but I know a lot of people who were.
The concept of “The Hunger Games” is not the most original idea ever – it’s the same basic idea as “Battle Royale” and “The Running Man” – but Suzanne Collins does a good job with it. The only people I know who haven’t liked reading it are people who just had a really tough time reading about teenagers killing each other in an arena.
To compare it to other super-popular YA books, “The Hunger Games” isn’t as good as “Harry Potter” but it’s quite a bit better than “Twilight.” Frankly, one of the things I really like about “The Hunger Games” is that the main character is a strong female. After seeing so many teen girls go ga-ga over “Twilight,” where the main character is boring, weak, stupid and obsessive over her boyfriend, it’s just nice that they’re reading a book where the main character is strong, smart, tough and not terribly interested in boys. (She’s more interested in not dying, and keeping her family and friends from dying.)
I would urge Nancy and anyone else who is considering it to go ahead and try “The Hunger Games.” It’s a quick read, so even if you read the first book and don’t love it, you have invested very much time in it.
Mark P said on March 22, 2012 at 10:01 am
I’m a middle-aged male (OK, I might be slightly older than that) and I liked the Hunger Games trilogy. In fact, I thought it was a pretty brave effort for a YA series. I don’t think the author pulled any punches. It was quite a bit more serious than Harry Potter. I think it appeals to a different audience, one whose fantasies don’t involve magic wands.
Prospero said on March 22, 2012 at 10:03 am
When did the entire idea of YA come about? There were Tom Swift books when I was a kid, but those were more prepubescentally targeted, and slightly less uncool than the Hardy Boys. My brothers and I read the wonderful Fu Manchu novels by Sax Rohmer (Inspector Neyland Smith ruled), and we all loved Sherlock Holmes. I believe JK Rowling is a talented writer that had a great idea, and the Potter books are beautifully written and thoroughly engrossing. She’s a master of characterization and the plotting is ingenious. Twilight never held any interest. If I’m reading about vampires, it’s going to be Anne Rice and LeStat.
brian stouder said on March 22, 2012 at 10:13 am
Our 13 year old daughter loved the books, as did her friends, and then her mom. Shelby’s class organized themselves so as to view the movie together, this weekend – and I’m sure they’ll then have a lively discussion about how the movie differs from the book, which is a pretty valuable lesson in reading comprehension and critical thinking.*
As for me, I got an an Ayrton Senna movie/documentary for my b-day, and will probably watch it this weekend (I know how it comes out)
*did I mention how engrossed I am with Diane Ravitch’s book The Death and Life of the Great American School System? I’m 2/3s through, and it is by turns fascinating, scary, illuminating, and uplifting
Julie Robinson said on March 22, 2012 at 10:14 am
There’s a comment on Linda’s link that sums up the book perfectly: “The Hunger Games is a story about the kind of impossible choices people are asked to make when government is corrupt and unjust.”
And note, the parent asking to ban the book HAS NOT READ IT herself.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 22, 2012 at 10:14 am
The movie has Stanley Tucchi (sp?), so there’s that.
Prospero said on March 22, 2012 at 10:32 am
Robert Reich doesn’t think much of Paul Ryan’s budget. How do GOPers expect to sell this turd to the Teabangers, that want government hands kept off their Medicare? How do people that claim a Christian foundation for their political beliefs reconcile unadulterated Randian social Darwinism with WWJD? That is an impossibility, without heaping dollops of intellectual dishonesty.
MichaelG said on March 22, 2012 at 10:55 am
Going back to yesterday: You’re absolutely right, Mary. I missed the magic feather. I humbly withdraw my comments.
Yes, Prospero. Just so. And the problem with Reich is that he has a brain and knows how to use it.
Scout said on March 22, 2012 at 10:57 am
I read the trilogy in about a week. Once I read the first one, I had to read the other two immediately. I’ll see the movie, although I admit it is not for pure entertainment. I try to stay away from disturbing imagery. However, the books hooked me, I’m intrigued by the cast, and I’m curious as to how the filmmakers visualized the story.
velvet goldmine said on March 22, 2012 at 10:58 am
Prospero, I enjoyed your Tom Swift ejaculation, har har. It’s true that good books are good books. “YA” novels that are planned series are always interesting, because the author’s success at building a universe becomes almost as important as the quality of writing itself.
For that reason, I give the Twilight series a C+ because while the writing is cringe-worthy in places (large places), Meyers created her own intriguing subworld in the vampire genre — the highly individual powers each vampire has, the rebel “vegetarians” who hunt for mammals but not humans vs. the Nazi-like purists who feed only on people, etc. etc.
As for the Hunger Games books, forgive this cut and paste from something I previously wrote on FB:
Interesting take on what a post-apocolypse society might be like — an elitist central city with a high-tech and frivolous lifestyle, surrounded by city-states controlled by the elitists — living lives that we would think of as medieval or at least pre-Industrial.
For me, because I’m interested in wild food and medicine, I was fascinated by descriptions of Katniss using these skills to keep her family going before the action of the book begins, and to stay alive during the actual games. (“Katniss” is actually a kind of wild food I’m planning to naturalize near my pond.)
…Sounds like a lot of the backstory that intrigued me will be missing from the movie, but I’ll still giving it a go this weekend.
Bitter Scribe said on March 22, 2012 at 11:13 am
I vote with the people who find the prospect of teenagers killing each other distasteful. As far as empowerment for young women goes, there should be a middle ground between offering up your carotid artery, and shooting an arrow through someone else’s.
Prospero said on March 22, 2012 at 11:19 am
Now this is some interesting movie news. Winter’s Tale is a great novel. (Although, I liked Refiner’s Fire a bit better.) I always kind of hoped Terry Gilliam would direct this movie.
Akiva Goldsman? Well, there is Fringe in his favor, but he also was partly responsible for the deadly bad Da Vinci Code.
Those used to be called Tom Swifties, Velvet (and I didn’t know Tom began as a boy reporter):
I think I read pretty much whatever I chose too when I was a kid. Big trouble with the nuns once, around fifth grade for reading The Ugly American during a class. Those women thought my parents were irresponsible pagans.
Sue said on March 22, 2012 at 11:19 am
Two things to remember about The Hunger Games trilogy:
It’s a young adult book.
It’s written by someone with a background in children’s episodic TV (Nickelodeon or some such), so more than its share of end-of-chapter cliffhangers.
But… the first book is pretty good, if you can get past the idea of kids forced to kill each other. Personally, I really didn’t get past that, it was lurking in the back of my mind all the time and I actually read with some dread during the whole book.
I did like the way the author immediately found the lead character’s voice, within a page or two – a combination of a strong and protective personality, carefulness in her dealings with the power structure and cluelessness about her affect on others. Very good.
Here’s the one thing I haven’t heard in all the discussion: Left or right could use this book to illustrate a “See? This is what will happen if the other side wins” argument.
Right: This is what will happen when the government takes over every aspect of our lives – the first sign of rebellion and we’re nuked into submission then that submission is constantly reinforced through horrifying actions by the Capitol.
Left: This is what will happen when the everyone-for-himself hivemind finally establishes power. It will be like an Ayn Rand novel where the rugged individualists who don’t give a shit about anyone else take over and go insane with power; after all, in the book the Tributes travel everywhere BY TRAIN.
velvet goldmine said on March 22, 2012 at 11:26 am
I’m sure the movie doesn’t take the option of leaving most of the violence off screen, but the out clause in the book is that the main character is essentially just trying to survive all of this.
Can’t say more without spoilers, but even within the exceptions to that, she only acts when it’s literal self-defense, and her methods are quite a bit less hands-on then some of the other gameplayers are apparently employing.
Propsero, I’ve always loved the Tom Swifties.
Deborah said on March 22, 2012 at 11:31 am
I also wonder when did YA books come to be? And when did large numbers of grown-ups start reading them? When I was a kid there was Nancy Drew etc but my mother would never have picked one of my ND books to read for herself. And she wasn’t keen on me reading them either. She encouraged us to read things like Huckleberry Finn.
brian stouder said on March 22, 2012 at 11:35 am
From what I hear (here and elsewhere) about Hunger Games, Huck Finn sounds like a 19th century variation on the same theme…
alice said on March 22, 2012 at 11:38 am
You know you’re out of touch with pop culture when you see “Hunger Games” & think it’s a new diet.
LAMary said on March 22, 2012 at 11:41 am
I think Judy Bloom really started the YA trend back in the seventies. That’s my first recollection of being aware of adults being interested in books aimed at adolescents. I had a librarian mother in law and a librarian friend at the time who talked about it.
jcburns said on March 22, 2012 at 11:42 am
There are genres out there that just boggle my mind. ‘Young adult’ seems sedate by comparison. I congratulate the ‘Hunger Games’ filmmakers for being able to resist dropping in a vampire or two, just for laginappe.
Scout said on March 22, 2012 at 11:42 am
alice wins the thread.
velvet goldmine said on March 22, 2012 at 11:45 am
Ah, Judy Blume. In my sophisticated middle school set, all you had to say was “Ralph!” and you could convulse every preteen girl within hearing distance.
Judybusy said on March 22, 2012 at 11:46 am
The book discussion is really timely, as I just shopped for a niece who’s turning 14 tomorrow. Via her mom, she requestd the latest Twilight book, but given what I’ve heard of the main female character, I declined. Our library has an on-line teen books section, so from there I learned about Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare and Every Other Day by Jennifer Barnes. The first is a steampunk novel and the latter is about a young girl who has the powers to fight demons only every other day.I read reviews on Amazon, then bought them at a wonderful local children’s independent bookstore called Wild Rumpus.
I have to admit, if I had an 11-year-old I don’t think I’d like having The Hunger Games read in class. And, no, I haven’t read it, because it sounds too gruesome. (I did buy the Kindle version, and began it, but the writing just didn’t hook me.) However, instead of demanding the book be banned, I’d talk with the teacher about my concerns. If my kid were that disturbed by it, I would consider her not attending the reading. Then again, Where the Red Fern Grows is still etched in my memory after reading it in sixth grade, and that had some really disturbing events in it.
I talked with my sister yesterday, and the niece has read all three Hunger Games books, and as a treat, one of her friends is taking her to a midnight showing tonight! (No school tomorrow.)
Anyone else remember Logan’s Run? In my memory, that was another great dystopian read.
Prospero said on March 22, 2012 at 11:46 am
Sue, that description of the Katniss character applies perfectly to Ree Dolly.
Velvet, Guess you probably watched Johnny Quest too, then. Let’s get this bucket movin’, Race. AAiiieeee!!
My mom and dad had a Heritage Club subscription, so there were always beautifully appointed editions of great books comeing to our house. The first “real” book I ever read was The Mysterious Island.
The most outstanding aspect of Huck Finn is Huck’s constantly frayed conscience over his social “duty” to turn Jim in and his innate moral imperative to protect his friend at all costs.
Jakash said on March 22, 2012 at 11:47 am
I gotta agree with you, Bitter Scribe. (As I almost always do.) We see lots of movies. I certainly thought Jennifer Lawrence was fantastic in Winter’s Bone and her appearance on Letterman really made her seem like a sweet, down-to-Earth young woman whose success hasn’t gone to her head yet. But, other than the cast, nothing I’ve read about Hunger Games, either here or anywhere else, has given me the slightest inclination to see it. FWIW, we saw all the Harry Potters, none of the Twilights.
I’m going way out on a limb here and commenting on the T and L links. They say something about how Emma Stone isn’t a “girly-girl” and often underperforms on the red carpet, but looks swell in the jacket and jeans. Isn’t that the case with lots of people? They look great in normal clothes, but there aren’t necessarily many knockout gowns that they can pull off? I think it’s kind of sad that, to be a successful actress, you have to play this red-carpet game, whether you’re a girly-girl or not. I’d be happy to see actresses dress more normally for some of these events and not be held to some standard of having to look like a supermodel in what are often ridiculous dresses. Of course, I’m not in the demographic that is being sought.
And, yeah, Prospero, how DID Ms. Stone get into those pants? She was also good in a pretty fun movie called Easy A, and, of course, she was the writer in The Help.
Sue said on March 22, 2012 at 11:50 am
Wild Rumpus is a fabulous name for a kid’s bookstore. I want to visit just for the name.
Judybusy said on March 22, 2012 at 11:53 am
I’m quite sure I’ve mentioned her here before, but Penelope Lively is a very fine author who writes literature for kids as well as adults. It appears she began publishing in the early 1970s.
velvet goldmine said on March 22, 2012 at 11:58 am
I hate to tell you this, Judybusy, but all the steampunk is pretty much on the cover of Clockwork Angel and related books. Her novels are pretty much Twilight redux, right down to the pretty (but doesn’t know it) girl torn between a werewolf and a vampire, or “shadowhunter” or some such shit.
nancy said on March 22, 2012 at 11:59 am
The fictional bookstore in Laura Lippman’s Tess novels, which has a women’s-lit focus, has a pretty good name, too: Women and Children First.
Jakash said on March 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm
I don’t know which came first, but there’s an ACTUAL bookstore in Chicago by that name, NN.
velvet goldmine said on March 22, 2012 at 12:06 pm
@36: I do love that name, as well as the descriptions of the store — and the aunt who runs it.
My husband wants to open a bookstore (which is one of those enterprises I suspect is more fun to plan than to actually do). Since he’s not averse to having non-book offerings like coffee and muffins there, as well as hosting some non-book events like movie nights, he is planning to call it “Bookish.”
I think he also has a good alternate name, but it has slipped my mind.
cosmo panzini said on March 22, 2012 at 12:08 pm
The Eric Zorn column you link to today reminds me of when I had surgery on my right foot a few years ago and was laid up for a little while with not much to look at on TV, so I stumbled on a religion channel called TBN. For Trinity Broadcast Network, I think. Anyway, it was the most amusing thing I had ever seen. The male charlatans, (sorry, I meant to say men of god) all had this elaborately coifed silver hair, and the women whoooa, had some seriously Big Hair, either silver or blond. The general format seemed to be, a preacher would come on the show, talk a little with the host and his wife, then preach a little and maybe sing some. What struck me right away was the message was very nearly the same every time: We are persecuted for our Christian beliefs, we must hold strong against the forces which want us wiped out (yes) and if we’re strong and pray and tithe, we will be rewarded with ultimate victory. That victory word is used often by these folks. Now, I’m not sure who was first with the “We are just victims” message, but it must resonate with people who vote in GOP primaries, because the message put up by Romney and Santorum is only a slight variation of the TBN hokum. Absolutely amazing that this never wears out.
Jeff Borden said on March 22, 2012 at 12:10 pm
Women and Children First is the actual name of a very successful bookstore on Clark Street in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago. If east Lakeview if “Boy’s Town” –Johanna and I lived in an apartment just one block from the epicenter at Halsted and Rosco– Andersonville is a very lesbian friendly area, so the book store’s location really fits. It’s kind of cool that a store with readings for little kids also hosts a lot of lesbian-oriented events.
I will avoid “The Hunger Games.” I greatly admire Jennifer Lawrence and have been recommending “Winter’s Bone” to total strangers, but nothing about this movie speaks to me. Then again, I have not seen “Avatar” and don’t intend to because, again, the story just doesn’t connect with me at all.
I laughed out loud over the latest Willard the Windsock gaffe. The sky high gas prices and the general volatility of the markets could be pretty bad for Obama, but Lord, he just has to beat this empty suit of a man, doesn’t he? Then, the GOP will go even madder and Frothy Santorum will be the front-runner for 2016, probably aided greatly by a new seven-figure gig at Fox News that keeps him in the public eye.
Sue said on March 22, 2012 at 12:19 pm
I just found the Wild Rumpus website.
“Remedial Book Club for Immature Adults” – I must join.
Plus, Ethel the chicken and Carlos the tarantula? Gertrude and Alice B. the mice? I need to find a way to get there.
Jolene said on March 22, 2012 at 12:24 pm
Women & Children First has been around a long time. I have vague recollections of visiting it when I lived in Chicago in the late 70s and early 80s.
Pretty impressive for a small store to be in business so long, assuming it is, in fact, the same place.
nancy said on March 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm
Laura went to college in Chicagoland. Maybe it’s an homage to an old friend.
Catherine said on March 22, 2012 at 12:27 pm
My 14 YO girl loved Hunger Games, and said it might even be better than Harry Potter. Coming from her, extremely high praise. My 11 YO girl still finds it too scary though about half her friends are total fangirls. OTOH, she read the Twilight series about 8 times through, read lots of fan fiction, and then all of sudden just decided that the whole thing was stupid. Girls can read crap and even enjoy it, without adopting the attitude or values of the books.
A series that all three of us have enjoyed (OK there’s only two books right now) is Matched, by Ally Condie. It is set in a dystopian future, too, but not as harshly dystopian as Hunger Games. In some ways, that provides more food for thought and discussion, because the world is not so dissimilar from ours. Hunger Games has definitely sparked discussion about reality TV, though. If thinking reality TV is shite is the value Suzanne Collins is promoting, I’m down with that.
Catherine said on March 22, 2012 at 12:30 pm
Velvet, here’s a possible business model for your husband: http://www.flintridgebooks.com/ (a friend of a friend’s place, good vibe and nice coffee/pastries)
velvet goldmine said on March 22, 2012 at 12:32 pm
Much thanks, Catherine — I will pass it along!
DellaDash said on March 22, 2012 at 12:35 pm
My favorite novel that deals with warrior children is ‘Ender’s Game’ by Orson Scott Card.
Unlike Ender’s world, the dystopia of ‘Hunger Games’ lacks nuance or complexity… for the most part, everyone is either good or evil. As Sue says, this is a story aimed at young adults who have barely hatched out of a cartoon/comic book mentality in which killing, dying, and becoming undead are appealing constructs to fuel easily fevered imaginations…not to be taken too seriously. And as Jen says, the main protagonist is a strong young woman who volunteers to participate in the games in order to save her younger sister…sibling sacrifice.
I’m not sure if I read (listened to) all three books all the way through because at some point the story went off the rails for me. For a while, though, it was unpredictable and entertaining enough to keep my attention…easy rather than compelling. I didn’t have to give it my full attention, or stop and rewind in order to savor especially delicious prose (that isn’t in the offing).
Judybusy said on March 22, 2012 at 12:38 pm
Oh, no, Velvet re Clockwork Angel! Many of the reviews on Amazon talked about the strong female protaganist. Drat. Well, reading countless Harlequin romances and Jane Austin as a teen didn’t prevent me from becoming a raging feminist just a few years later. (Don’t get me wrong: still love Austin, but one could argue the women in her books are obsessed with and defined by their relationships with men.)Also, because there are no boys in the family the father takes them hunting, snowmobiling and other so-called non-feminine pursuits. The family also does a real hiking and camping trip every year in Colorado, so they are pretty well-rounded kids. And then there are my partner and me as role models….
Sue, there are also residents cats at Wild Rumpus. The best sight is seeing all the kids roaming around, and parents reading to them in the many chairs. The door also has a little door built within it for the smallest customers.
Sue said on March 22, 2012 at 12:44 pm
A bit of a spoiler here, so don’t read further if you are planning on reading Hunger Games.
Della, one of the tips for me was the appearance of rewards as part of the competition, floating down after they had been ‘earned’, like the coins or power items that appear in video games. I don’t know if the author did it on purpose or if it’s just so common these days that it’s just part of the culture now.
velvet goldmine said on March 22, 2012 at 12:50 pm
@47 Della, you make me mortified for liking the Hunger Games books! Fortunately, I think there’s much more to them than killing (and there’s no “undead,” although I realize you’re probably conflating with Twilight for effect).
I think Hunger Games sparks some people’s imaginations because there’s an ongoing rage against authority — and some fairly ingenious ways at dodging the fate of becoming a pawn — that make the books so intriguing.
@48Judy — I heartily agree that kids can enjoy good stories without absorbing their more milquetoast aspects. I actually kind of like the first series, which is modern day, but for some reason Clockwork Angel, which kicks off the Victorian era series, left me cold.
My kids usually introduce me to these books when I’ve run out of things to read, and more often them not grow out of them, leaving me to either agree with them or feebly defend the books, depending on the series in question. Neither of my kids ever got into the Hunger Games, and my daughter is a little embarrassed by Twilight now — although she admits the movies probably had a hand in tainting the experience.
Sherri said on March 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm
I just read the first Hunger Games book, and thought it was okay. Katniss was very much the YA heroine, angsty and trusting no one. The world was clearly inspired by Imperial Rome: the districts are forced to send their resources to support the Capitol district, the city is named Panem (panem et circenses = bread and circuses, what the emperors gave the people in Rome to keep them happy), and of course, the hunger games themselves being gladiator matches.
DellaDash said on March 22, 2012 at 1:05 pm
You are so right, Sue…which reminds me…I’d like to reinforce the recommendation for ‘Ready Player One’ by Earnest Cline, made a few threads back…for all the inner-YAs here who might be amused by stories with power items, but would like them wrapped in a more sophisticated and intricate (almost Kafka-esque at times) narrative.
Jolene said on March 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm
Bill Maher has a good op-ed in today’s NYT. I know he’s not everyone’s favorite comic, but it’s a good piece.
Sue said on March 22, 2012 at 1:12 pm
Spoiler again, don’t read if you don’t want to know:
Velvet, I think Della’s referring to the mutts (mutants) at the end of book one. Not classically undead, true. That was the only twist in the story that I really objected to, it just seemed so hack-writer-ish.
Julie Robinson said on March 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm
Oh, how I love book-thread days! More to put on the to-read list. And I’ll mention the Delirium series also, where the sickness that threatens the world is love, and everyone’s okay once they have their government-proscribed lobotomy. The second book just came out and I hate that it’ll be a year or so until the conclusion.
alex said on March 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm
I’m not sure who was first with the “We are just victims” message, but it must resonate with people who vote in GOP primaries, because the message put up by Romney and Santorum is only a slight variation of the TBN hokum. Absolutely amazing that this never wears out.
Cosmo, I think the “we are victims” message is part and parcel of Christianity and it’s why this strange bird of a religion has taken such hold in the world lo these past two thousand years. People see themselves as the oppressed in scripture: The meek, the chosen few, the Children of Israel awaiting the Promised Land. It validates peoples’ sense of victimization and promises that good things are coming their way as remuneration for their sufferings while a horrible fate awaits their enemies. In a hardscrabble world where life is short and unpleasant, it remains a powerful opiate.
That has to explain it because it’s completely lost on me otherwise.
velvet goldmine said on March 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm
@54 I was wondering about that, Sue. Those mutts were definitely a little too trippy, although certainly dramatic.
Edited to say that the mutts are probably a useful foreshadowing of some of the least interesting aspects of the second two books, in terms of the weird science that’s more bizarre than good storytelling.
DellaDash said on March 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm
Velvet…didn’t mean to make you feel that way.
I’m such a fiction slut that it takes a lot for something to hold my interest. Unlike most YA books, ‘Hunger Games’ did, to a great extent. Most of all, I feel strongly that books and music are too subjective to ever put anyone down for liking something that’s not exactly my cup of tea. (Well, I have to admit that my opinion of a former boss who urged ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ on me was altered.) There are many, many guilty-pleasure reads I keep to myself to avoid getting bashed for my low-brow tastes.
Anyway, the truth of the matter is I only vaguely remember the mutants. By that time I must have been skimming, because the killing off of some of the characters was unnecessary, I thought, and took the heart out of the whole mis-adventure for me.
velvet goldmine said on March 22, 2012 at 1:28 pm
No offense taken, Della — my shame was tongue in cheek. I do try to have your respect for people and what they read, even it’s something like Nicolas Sparks. Would that my husband and son could withhold their contempt when they go on and ON about how useless Jane Austen is, just to see my daughter and me turn purple.
beb said on March 22, 2012 at 1:35 pm
Judybusy, the important thing to remember about the woman in Jane Austin’s books is that at that time where were few ways for a respectable woman to make a living except by marrying well. I don’t think they could inherit money, hold property except though their father/husband. It really was a dire time for woman.
This is too damn scary. Prospoero write : “The first “real” book I ever read was The Mysterious Island.”
It was just before Christmas. I was in 4th grade so my must be been 10. My parents wanted to do some shopping and for some reason I couldn’t stay at home. So they dropped me off at the South Bend library tp read while they shopped. I found the children’s section on the Mezzenine level, a word I’d never heard of before, and one apparently my parents hadn’t heard of either because when they came to pick me up they couldn’t find me. I was right out in the open they just didn’t realize that there was a floor between 1st and 2nd. Anyway I’d selected The Mysterious Island for some reason. started reading it and was hooked. A week later I checked it out from the Mishawaka library where I had a card and was so obsessed with it I took it to school, and got caught reading it in class. And had the confusing honor of having my hand slapped for reading in class, then being praised for reading such a big book!
The origins of the YA (young adult) section of literature basically drifts back to the beginning of universal education. And maybe even before that. When Robinson Caroso appears in Children fiction rather than Literature, things get confusing.
But fiction aimed at children includes the dime novels of the 1880s, and various children’s series like Nancy Drew, The hardy Boys, Don Study (an Indiana Jones precursor) and Tom Swift. Those series started around 1910 and later. And reflected the intersection of cheap, high volume printing and large numbers of literate teen-agers. Many types of pulp magazines which appeared on the newsstands, like Doc Savage, The Shadow and much of the SF field, were aimed at junior high students. I suspect YA fiction became a distinct genre after the war and growing larger every ear. When I graduated from the children’s library to the adult library a found a small cubical of “YA” branded fiction, which included the Winston SF titles of the times. But Heinlein’s juveniles and most of Andre Norton’s YA books were in the Children’s library. The final turning point has to be when movies were started being made from YA novels (The Outsiders, etc.) beginning recognition to the field.
I know I find myself looking over titles in the children’s and YA sections in bookstores because often I can’t find anything I like in the adult sections. SF has turned into war porn and imitation Tolkein. Mysteries are taken over by gruesome thrillers. YA books in contrast continue to have high standards of story-telling and avoiding of the really shocking and unappealing.
Prospero said on March 22, 2012 at 1:43 pm
Y’all do know that “wild rumpus ” is borrowed from the great kid’s writer that claims to dislike kids, Maurice Sendak.
“And now,” cried Max, “let the wild rumpus start!”
― Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are
And Max and the wild things go wild. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cOEFnppm_A
Read Ender’s game 25 years ago or so, and liked it. Years later, to my chagrin I realized that Orson Scott Card is a social Darwinist asshat, with a strong affinity for Ayn Rand, who claims to be a Democrat but wrote an infamous piece backing McCain in 2008, and has endorsed Newt this year. Card is one LDS that’s not pulling for RMoney.
How do televangelists steer clear of mail fraud laws when they beg for cash donations to be sent via USPS? This has always mystified me. They would seem to be sitting ducks for the FBI or Secret Service. And that would do my heart good.
When my daughter was young, she was not a keen reader, which bothered me no end. A first or second grade teacher forced Stuart Little on her and she despised it. A couple of years later, I bought the Madeleine L’Engle Wrinkle in Time books and read them with her. Problem solved. A very strong female protagonist. The famous first sentence: “It was a dark and stormy night.” Witches, or angels, time and space travel. Serious adventure and danger. Then it was “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” on her own. Somehow I missed that CS Lewis when I was young and only read it as an adult. Maybe that’s who really started YA fiction. There is certainly a preponderance of gore and dying. Somehow, I got hold of the Perelandra books by Lewis instead when I was young.
DellaDash said on March 22, 2012 at 1:54 pm
Good Lord, I cannot stand Nicolas Sparks and would probably shrink from those who love him! Guess I AM a snob.
While we’re at it, I’m going to heap a little controversial scorn on ‘The Bridges of Madison County’, although the movie was a little easier to swallow than the book. Waller doesn’t have a clue about women, or literary heroines. It was all fine and noble for Francesca (I believe that was her name) to choose to stay with her husband while he was alive. But after he died and a decent period of mourning had passed…to not seek out her lover because she was worried he might also have died…or not be available…so that they lived separate lonely lives apart, yearning for each other until they both died? That’s just cowardly. And exasperating. Neither comedy nor tragedy. Bah!
On the other hand, I can practically quote every Austen word-for-word, like mavens of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’.
DellaDash said on March 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm
Love, love, love all things Madeleine L’Engle, Prospero. Just think of her works in terms of a younger demographic (and a younger inner child).
Julie Robinson said on March 22, 2012 at 2:10 pm
Della, my mom pretty much spoiled Madison County for me…”eh, it’s just another movie about adultery”.
Maggie Jochild said on March 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm
I have always wondered if the phrase “women and children first” gained general cultural currency when it was the major headline after the Titanic went down. Was it an encapsulated idea before then — more than just a value, but an actual ready-made phrase?
The books I read as a child, urged on me by my bibliophile mother, leaned heavily on “children’s literature” from earlier eras: Rebecca of Sunnybrook, Freckles, Pollyanna, Anne of Green Gables, The Five Little Peppers, all of Twain, Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, Beautiful Joe, Wind in the Willows, Sherlock Holmes, plus Joan Aiken and L.M. Boston’s work. It wasn’t until decades later I noticed how many of these stories were about orphans — beloved heroes of my mama who had been orphaned as a little girl during the Depression. When I was allowed to select books from my own era, I disdained Nancy Drew as too predictable (except that girl George, she really caught my interest) and even the Hardy Boys were so straight-arrow as to be boring. I preferred the adventures written by Troy Nesbitt, Trixie Belden (major role model for a lesbian child), Donna Parker, and above all else, the works of Marguerite Henry. Didn’t have Judy Blume or Madeleine L’Engel yet. Lois Lenski and Eleanor Estes wrote about working class kids so accurately they made me weep. Now I’d recommend Philip Pullman over Harry Potter, and if they were a teenager I’d hand them the Chanur series by C.J. Cherryh and anything by Leguin over vampire crap.
velvet goldmine said on March 22, 2012 at 2:14 pm
Madeline L’Engle was another author I didn’t discover until my second childhood, but she is amazing. I may have mentioned this before, but she lived the next town over from where I am now. The house she lived in was the one that inspired the farmhouse/lab that the Murrys live in the “Wrinkle” books. I keep meaning to go ferret it out.
adrianne said on March 22, 2012 at 2:15 pm
Count me and my 16-year-old son as ‘Hunger Games’ fans. We’re going to see it this weekend. Previews of the movie look very true to the spirit of the books. They’re a great read.
DellaDash said on March 22, 2012 at 2:19 pm
I’ve always despaired of having Anne of Green Gables’ imagination. She was one of my biggest childhood (imaginary) role models.
Prospero said on March 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm
And of the extended series, there were the sports entries, Chip Hilton and the Highpockets and other sports themed novels by John R. Tunis et al. Tunis’ books notably dealt with racism and integration in the USA, through a sports prism.
Best new music I’ve heard in quite a while:
From my favorite magazine.
There is a collection of Madeleine L’Engle’s papers at Wheaton in Illinois. She was a NYC broadway actress and said that the night hours and union scale pay freed her to write books. The entire idea of folding time on itself was an early iteration of wormholes, but I like her name much better: tesseracts.
Dexter said on March 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm
I live in the little city where the Etch-A-Sketch brand was produced for many years. Of course, the Ohio Art Company has farmed out their production facilities to lesser companies and only the offices are still here. All the Ohio Art Company toys are made in China. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Just a mile and a half west of the old toy factory, billions of Dum-Dum suckers are sent out the door to the waiting world. That industry is one of the few left here…that and Titan Tire.
Deborah said on March 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm
OT, and shameless self promotion… the project I had worked on for the last 5 years is in Interiors magazine this month. Here’s a link if you’re interested. Please don’t feel obligated:
http://www.interiordesign.net/article/549283-Food_For_Thought.php My role was the design and art direction of all of the story telling elements, done in many mediums.
Rick Steves also talks about the project on his blog: http://blog.ricksteves.com/?p=7161 Rick zeros in on some paintings in the ballroom, that are pretty terrible and I didn’t have anything to do with those. They were added by the client.
DellaDash said on March 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm
Even though I never got into the ‘Twilight’ series, I went to the first movie with a friend who did. It was really fun to be in a theater packed to the gills with squealing, shrieking, swooning girls! Almost interactive. ‘Hunger Games’ will probably be the same.
DellaDash said on March 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm
Hmmm…Deborah. Gorgeous photography. What are some of the less obvious storytelling elements and mediums, as well as some of the design and art direction tasks on a project like this?
Prospero said on March 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm
Very cool stuff, Deborah. I particularly like the part about testoring the WPA mural, like the ones the philistine GOPer goobernors are trying to shitcan in other places. The stained glass is stunning, particularly that huge rosette in the rotunda ceiling. That whole job must have been a lot of fun. I always enjoyed restorations, because of research required to match traditional materials, colors, etc. Were the “crop columns” part of your work? Very impressive.
Della, your description of the Twilight fans reminds me of a night years ago when I came out of the Red Line in Boston at Park Street, somewhat stoned, and found myself in the midst of a crowd of boppers dressed to the nines to see a Go-Gos show at the Music Hall. That was magical. Big hair, bublegum and leg warmers, speaking another language than standard English. A perfect serrendipitous pot moment.
Jolene said on March 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm
Gorgeous building, Deborah. Must have been exciting to work on this project. And yes, tell us more about what you did to make it work.
Connie said on March 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm
So Dexter, DumDums are still there? Lifesaver abandoned Holland Michigan for Canada a few years ago and made it very clear it was due to the sugar tariffs.
This week I am recommending “The Fourth Wall” by Walter John Williams. A movie is being made and presented as an internet delivered serial, though the creator/producers may have other motives. And people involved in the movie are dying. It was laugh out loud funny in several places. It shares some characters with the author’s previous work “This Is Not a Game.”
Dorothy said on March 22, 2012 at 3:39 pm
Boy oh boy – I wonder what other reviews will be like when they hit the papers tomorrow: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2012/04/02/120402crci_cinema_denby
Prospero said on March 22, 2012 at 3:47 pm
Mad Men catchup.
Design that is the polar opposite to Deborah’s tasteful project.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 22, 2012 at 3:56 pm
Julie, I’m with your mom; another book *romanticizing* adultery. Anyhow. Can’t resist posting this:
Enjoy, Mitt. I smell Thomas Dewey a mile off. (For anyone needing a refresher – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_E._Dewey – the parallels, as you read through, are notable.)
David Edelstein on “Fresh Air” today was pretty hard on “The Hunger Games,” except for individual actors. His final line on the director & producers will leave a mark, even if it makes billions (as I suspect it will no matter what the reviews say).
Deborah said on March 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm
An example of other mediums on the project were large mosaic portraits of two important Laureates who worked with Dr. Borlaug. The original paintings were done by Kinuko Craft http://www.kycraft.com/whats_new.html and they were translated into mosaics by a place in Montreal, Mosaika http://www.mosaika.com/kinuko-pan1.html. (requires flash). The details were amazing. My role in this part was coming up with the idea, choosing the location and size, choosing the artist and finding the place to have the mosaics made, coordinating the install etc. There are over 100 various elements like this in the project. Because of the historical restrictions the storytelling elements had to resemble art and had to be able to be removed at the end of the 50 year lease. So it was all pretty complicated.
And yes, I art directed the grain sculptures in the corners of the rotunda, they were fabricated in Boston. They were originally supposed to be all bronze but because of the restrictions of mounting onto historical structures they had to be made of aluminum (much lighter) and stained to look like bronze.
The stained glass window was made in Munich and I had to do a lot of communicating with the studio over the years. The artist who worked on the window died about three months before it was finished, he was Afghan and his wife finished it.
I got to work with and am now friends with a lot of artists on this project, that was definitely the fun part.
Prospero said on March 22, 2012 at 4:24 pm
David Denby seems to think the violence was downplayed to the detriment of The Hunger Games. I imagine he’ll find himself lonely in that critical position.
Though the satiric point of making some of the plutocrats monsters out of an eighteenth-century farce eludes me, the actors try hard for vulgar panache, and they perform with professional skill.
Seriously, Dave? What part of let them eat cake and current American and world politics do you not understand? And Stanley Tucci in the role of Richard Dawson.
The grain sculptures are superb
coozledad said on March 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm
The John Locke Foundation supplies editorial rubbish to our local paper, The Courier-Times (Roxboro). John Hood is basically a knob polisher for Art Pope, who was a knob polisher for Jesse Helms, and he’s a lying son of a bitch when he says this doesn’t represent the views of the foundation:
It was up for three days before they decided it didn’t represent their views.
Prospero said on March 22, 2012 at 5:13 pm
Cooz, That Wonkette item reminds me of when George HW Bush said this in 1988:
To kind of suddenly try to get my hair colored, and dance up and down in a miniskirt or do something, you know, show that I’ve got a lot of jazz out there and drop a bunch of one-liners, I’m running for the president of the United States…I kind of think I’m a scintillating kind of fellow.
I’m not sure W ever said anything quite that humorous. Course, Poppy also once said, also in 1988:
For seven and a half years I’ve worked alongside President Reagan. We’ve had triumphs. Made some mistakes. We’ve had some sex…uh…setbacks.
Minnie said on March 22, 2012 at 6:33 pm
Speaking of books series set in created worlds brought to mind Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” novels. They’re full of punning parodies of politics, the academy, and elvish lore. Repeating characters and anachronisms abound.
If you like audio books Nigel Planer interprets Pratchett as if the author were speaking through him.
The first time I recall seeing Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary in “Downton Abbey”), was as Susan Sto Helit, Death’s granddaughter, in a 2006 made-for-TV movie based on Pratchett’s book “Hogfather”.
Hmmm. I can’t figure out how to italicize names of books, tv series, and movies. I’ll go back and put them in quotation marks.
Prospero said on March 22, 2012 at 7:17 pm
Minnie … creates italics.
beb said on March 22, 2012 at 7:26 pm
Minnie, just type
< bracket I and the other angle bracket > before the title you want in italics and < bracket, /i and the other > at the end of the title. This is standard HTML code.
Judybusy said on March 22, 2012 at 7:28 pm
Deborah, thanks for posting about the project. It’s stunning. Is it open to the public? I have friends in Des Moines who might be interested.
Deborah said on March 22, 2012 at 7:39 pm
Yes it’s open to the public. And it’s also available for parties and weddings and such as a way to raise a little revenue. Although I would die if some drunk guest destroyed something I spent so much time on.
Casey said on March 22, 2012 at 7:46 pm
My daughter dragged me into the HG trilogy just before Christmas. In fact we spent the day after Christmas reading the third book together – she had her christmas gift copy, I had the library copy that I waited 10 weeks for in the hold line. She reads fast and it was frustrating hearing her exclaim or groan in despair ahead of me. My husband was entertained watching us – his idea of reading for pleasure is Groundwater Today.
I like all three HG books. Especially the lead character. Light years better than the vampire lover. And better than my daughter’s latest read- Sirens about a disaffected teen girl who discovers she is actually adopted and descended from a matriarchal line of sirens who mate with an unending series of men, then kill them. All except for the protagonists’ line of sirens who have discovered a way to keep from murdering their lovers. Bleh. Don’t know which was worse, Sirens or Twilight. At least in sirens it’s the girls in the power position, not pining away for a vampire/werewolf lover.
Ever since she discovered the movie would open the day after her 16th birthday, my daughter has been planning tonight’s midnight show as the main event of her birthday celebration. And that’s where she and several friends are now. She started the line up at 2:30. Too bad the theater doesnt sell reserved seats. Some do, none here. So the girls will have 8+hours of board games, spoons and greasy pizza. My husband and I show up at 11 to join them in line and bring them home for a sleep over. Lucky for the girls, it’s spring break here, not so for my husband.
We did the midnight shows for both installments of the last Potter movie and we all had fun, many kids there (including my daughter) were in costumes. Quite the party atmosphere. We didn’t and won’t do it for the Twilight series.
DellaDash said on March 22, 2012 at 7:51 pm
Okay, got the italics, finally. There was a thread about this when I first came here.
Now, how do you link to something with a word or phrase in bold?
Minnie said on March 22, 2012 at 8:32 pm
Ah, html, I’ve heard of that. Let’s see what happens here when I try to create italics. Shazam!
Thanks for the help.
Suzanne said on March 22, 2012 at 9:29 pm
I haven’t read Hunger Games although I’ve heard they are good. Loved Harry Potter.
alex said on March 22, 2012 at 9:37 pm
Linking is a bit more complicated.
On edit: I tried to illustrate but no luck. So instead, here’s a link that shows you how.
DellaDash said on March 22, 2012 at 9:50 pm
Cool. I’ve bookmarked the site. Thanks, alex.
Deborah said on March 22, 2012 at 10:54 pm
Ohmygod, I have just watched the first 2 episodes of Downton Abbey on DVD and I am so hooked. I know what I will be doing this weekend. So good.
Prospero said on March 23, 2012 at 8:08 am
Yeah. You can’t just type illustrations of the codes. They disappear.
HTML reference page.
Dave said on September 18, 2012 at 12:19 pm
There should be at least one Detroitblogger John shout-out amid the “Hunger Games” claptrap. The man is brilliant, and the few Detroit journalists who still have a conscience must feel sick to their stomach after rushing to read his newest piece. It seems so simple and true and needful, why can’t they do stories like that?
Edward Stratemeyer is ground zero for so-called Young Adult literature. The man wrote or originated EVERYTHING for two generations of kids.