Opinion Piece: Thoughts on IT (2017)

Opinion Piece: Thoughts on IT (2017)

the blog from another world

The following article was written by Judith from ReadandReview2016.

This is the second part of another collaborative series with Patrick, from The Blog From Another World, about Stephen King’s IT. With the upcoming release of a new film adaptation of the iconic horror, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to discuss the trailer. You can read our first blog post, about the book and original film, here.

I thought, as trailers go, it looks quite well-made. A number of shots are incredibly similar to the original film. Whilst some may claim this is unoriginal, to me, this suggests the film will be fairly similar in terms of plot, improved upon with a better budget, better casting, and a better utilisation of horror conventions.

Patrick said, “I thought the trailer looked decent. It had lots of mood and seems to have a big enough budget to…

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From One Blogger To Another: IT Discussion With The Blog From Another World

From One Blogger To Another: IT Discussion With The Blog From Another World

This is the first part of another collaborative series with Patrick, from The Blog From Another World. Stephen King is one of my favourite authors, and he wrote one of Patrick’s favourite novels, Carrie. With the upcoming release of a new film adaptation of the iconic horror, IT, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to discuss both the book and original film.

In case you are unaware of the plot of IT, here is a brief synopsis, courtesy of Wikipedia: ‘The story follows the exploits of seven children as they are terrorized by the eponymous being, which exploits the fears and phobias of its victims in order to disguise itself while hunting its prey. “It” primarily appears in the form of a clown in order to attract its preferred prey of young children.’

Patrick said, “What I loved about the book when I read it was the detail. King puts a lot of effort into his character development.” I also loved IT’s length – King provides brilliant detail of the characters’ lives as the plot switches from the perspectives of Bill, Ben, Bev, Richie, Ed, Mike, and Stan as both children and adults.

“The novel deals with the passage of time and the impact that traumatic childhood events have on our adulthood.” Patrick explained, “For this reason, I think the dual time period narrative is very fresh and gives the story a real weight which certain other King novels are missing.”

This style of narration submerges the reader and effectively conveys just how terrorizing It is to each character. IT cemented my positive opinions about Stephen King; he writes thrilling and / or scary material incredibly well – be it in the simple description of a child’s feelings, or about the many forms It takes. Whilst not every passage contains a ‘scare’, enough detail is always given to put the reader on edge.

Pennywise the Clown, the most common form of It, is certainly a fantastic monster. Patrick said, “As an idea, he is terrifying, and sticks in my mind even now.”

“A great horror monster often makes more of an impression that the heroes, and Pennywise is no different. Norman Bates, Michael Myers, Jason, even Darth Vader – these characters are cultural icons more beloved than the lead characters in their respective films.”

However, no book is perfect. Patrick commented, “IT has an overabundance of the clichés which feature heavily in most King novels.” Examples of this include one-dimensional bullies, an alcoholic writer, and a disappointing resolution.

Despite my love of King, the more of his novels I read, the more I see these tropes reappearing – in particularly the English teacher / author who struggles with alcohol. Another significant example of this character type is Jack Nicholson from The Shining. Whilst this is drawn from King’s own experiences (and we are so often encouraged to write about what we know), I can understand why a repetitive reuse of these tropes would come to grate on readers.

IT was adapted into at TV miniseries in 1990, starring Tim Currey as Pennywise the Clown. It was made, at the height of, as dubbed by Patrick, “the Stephen King adaptation craze”.

I thought the film was alright. Visually, the appearance of Curry’s Pennywise was exactly what I had envisaged as I read the book, and I liked the fact there was an adaptation of such a good novel available.

However, for me, Curry’s actual performance often flip-flopped between mildly scary and pantomimic.

IT suffers from a lot of the problems which plagues the miniseries – too much time to fill, and not enough money to make it really frightening.” Patrick explained, “A lot of the performances are very goofy, especially Tim Curry as Pennywise. He’s just so flamboyant and crazy that he doesn’t really scare me.” He continued, “IT hasn’t aged well and some of it is unwittingly hilarious – I’m looking at you Talking Head!”

Finally, Patrick summarised his thoughts on the book and film with a phrase that every book lover longs to hear: “If you want the unadulterated IT experience, read the book.”

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Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article, please give it a ‘Like.

You can read the second blog post in this collaborative series with The Blog from Another World tomorrow, in which we discuss the trailer of the new film adaptation.

– Judith and Patrick

Themes in: D.H. Lawrence’s Short Stories

Themes in: D.H. Lawrence’s Short Stories

Image via blogs.nottingham.ac.uk.

This post was written in advance, and is also the penultimate blog post on themes (for the time being).

I’m going to talk about the themes of war, class and gender and how these overlap across  England, My England, The Horse-Dealer’s Daughter, and Monkey Nuts – three short stories by the Nottinghamshire writer D.H. Lawrence.

Class

In Monkey Nuts, Joe, a young soldier, and Albert, Joe’s corporal have come back from the war and work together unloading hay. There are close, and unified in their working-class status; despite Albert being Joe’s corporal, Joe ‘never thought of [him]… as a master’. This closeness, whilst interpreted as some as brotherly affection, has led to others interpreting the relationship between Albert and Joe as homoerotic.* Nonetheless, this intense relationship which has flourished, regardless of social status, suggests how war was helped to somewhat break down the class system in Britain.

*There are further nods to this as the two live together and even share a bed.

In contrast, The Horse-Dealer’s Daughter presents the relationship between people of differing classes completely differently. Firstly, the classes are geographically separate – Jack, a doctor, lives atop a hill in the village, whereas the working-class homes are below him in the valley, providing a clear metaphor that the working-class are also “below” him in all ways. Secondly, Jack finds visiting the working-class homes to treat the sick ‘stimulation’ for his mind. Free indirect discourse provides access to Jack’s thoughts; he thinks working-class are ‘emotional’, providing an interesting break from his own rational mind. The view that the middle-class are logical and intelligent, whereas the working-class are merely bumbling, emotional and a little odd is clearly discriminatory.**

**The fact that a working-class woman later throws herself in a pond probably doesn’t help matters.

War

England, My England is a story mostly focused on the theme of war. Evelyn is a middle-class man who joins the army, seemingly for something to curb his idleness and boredom – another suggestion that working-class lifestyle and labour is merely a “holiday” for someone belonging to a higher class. However, despite his wife’s enthusiasm and the general atmosphere of patriotism and excitement, Evelyn doesn’t share others’ favouritism of England, and is continuously upfront about what he’s going to do. A key sentence is ‘The distinction between German and English was not for him the distinction between good and bad’. This sentence is significant when context is considered. Lawrence was English, but his wife was German. As a result, Lawrence experienced lots of anti-German animosity because of his wife and was heavily critical of British propaganda. Lawrence saw war for what it was, and is: killing, and however, unsavoury that sounds, that’s the truth.

War is also a theme in Monkey Nuts. As previously mentioned, Joe and Albert are ex-soldiers, and work together unloading hay. Miss Stokes, a land-girl, passes them each day. This mix of both men and women in a working environment highlights how the war not only helped to partially erode class boundaries, but gender boundaries too.***

***If this was a history-themed blog, I could talk at length about women’s work in war and the women’s movement thanks to my History A Level, but it isn’t, so I won’t.

Gender

Following on from this, Miss Stokes is attracted to Joe and manages to hold power over him in such a way that she begins trying to start a relationship with him. However, she ignores his lack of interest and desire to be with her, and he is subsequently pressured into seeing her. This is a subversion of gender stereotypes, as it would be more common for a man to initiate the process of courtship a woman.

Similarly, in The Horse-Dealer’s Daughter, Mabel (the working-class woman mentioned earlier) is rescued from the pond by Jack. He resuscitates her, takes her to his home and lies her by the fire and fetches dry clothes for her. Upon waking, Mabel interprets his life-saving actions as a declaration of his love for her. She begins to urgently repeat, chant and insists to him that ‘You love me’. Again, through free indirect discourse, we learn that Jack is categorically not in love with her, he merely saved her life as his duty as doctor. He is shocked at Mabel’s increasingly affectionate actions, such as kissing and embracing him. This increasingly predatory behaviour causes Jack to admit that he does indeed love her, so as not to upset the emotionally fragile Mabel.

In these two different stories, Lawrence has created female characters who initiate romantic behaviour, regardless of whether the men want it or not. I find this incredibly interesting, although I am not certain as to the reason behind this choice. It strikes me as a subversion – perhaps to emphasis to a male readership how truly horrible sexual assault and/or unwanted advances are, perhaps for another reason entirely.

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Thank you for reading this blog post! Those are my summarised thoughts on the three stories.

I hope you enjoyed it – please click ‘Like’ if you did, or leave some feedback in a comment below.

– Judith

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (5)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (5)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Humble Pie, the autobiography of famous TV chef Gordon Ramsay, and Desperation, yet another Stephen King on my bookshelf I want to read. I haven’t got very far in Desperation yet because I only started it the other day.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

This lets me catch up with the last WWW post, in which I had a giant list of books I wanted to tackle as exam revision.

I gave up on Tess of the D’Urbervilles (by which I mean, I never re-read it at all and just watched the very good BBC adaptation instead). I finally finished Shooting History by Jon Snow, and it was such a tough autobiography to get through. Certain parts were incredibly dense and, dare I say it, dull.

I also read Devil In The Countryside and Being Simon Haines – both of which new books by new authors I was given to review, as well as Lost In A Good Book by Jasper Fforde – the second in the Thursday Next series, following on from The Eyre Affair.

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Lots of books, hopefully! I have the summer to read now and I have some classic novels on my list, as well as some more Stephen King novels.


What are you currently reading?

– Judith

#RBRT Read and Review: DEVIL IN THE COUNTRYSIDE by CORY BARCLAY @CoryBarclay #BookReview #Thriller

#RBRT Read and Review: DEVIL IN THE COUNTRYSIDE by CORY BARCLAY @CoryBarclay #BookReview #Thriller
  • Title: Devil In The Countryside
  • Author: Cory Barclay
  • Published: 2017
  • Started: 23rd April 2017
  • Finished: 19th May 2017

Devil In The Countryside is a historically inspired thriller set in 1588 at the time of the Reformation. The plot follows investigator Heinrich Franz, who is looking for answers after numerous mysterious killings in the German countryside, attributed to the Werewolf of Bedburg.

The concept for the book reminds me of stories like Van Helsing, which is just the sort of thing I enjoy.

I think Barclay’s decision to mix fact and fiction was a bold one, but it made the political and historical context in which the book is set interesting.

Conventions of the genre, such as mysterious characters and gruesome murders were used well, and the writing was mostly easy to follow.

However, I struggled to imagine the settings and characters as authentically German. It felt more like a story about American characters that happened to have Germanic names. For me, this was particularly obvious when reading the amount of American slang used within dialogue – slang I’m quite sure wasn’t around in 16th century Germany!

This was a shame, because I think it prevented me from reading Devil In The Countryside as a historical fiction, and I read it more as a modern thriller.

Similarly, the dialogue also contained a surprising amount of crude swearing.

Normally, this is isn’t enough to discourage me, but in an era of strong religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants, I doubt casual phrases such as ‘God dammit’ would be used in dialogue between priests and religious citizens.

Devil In The Countryside is a reasonable thriller inspired by historical events, and if you enjoy violence or the supernatural, I’m sure it would be a good read for you.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Devil In The Countryside is available to buy as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon UK or Amazon.com.

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Thanks for reading! This is another #RBRT review.  Thanks to Cory Barclay for sending me a free e-book copy to read. You can find his website here: www.corybarclay.com

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith

[BONUS] Read and Review: BEING SIMON HAINES by TOM MACAULAY @TomMacAulay80 #BookReview @RedDoorBooks

[BONUS] Read and Review: BEING SIMON HAINES by TOM MACAULAY @TomMacAulay80 #BookReview @RedDoorBooks
  • Title: Being Simon Haines
  • Author: Tom MacAulay
  • Published: 2017
  • Date Started: 30th April 2017
  • Date Finished: 18th May 2017

Being Simon Haines is a difficult book to categorise. It tells the tale of Simon Haines, an ambitious lawyer chasing his dream: partnership at the legendary, family-run law firm of Fiennes & Plunkett. Simon is awaiting the results of a potential partnership with Fiennes & Plunkett, and decides to travel to Cuba to pass the time in an attempt to rediscover youthful enthusiasm and gather a clear mind before news that might change his life forever.

My Photo [Being Simon Haines]

Although not being able to pinpoint the genre of the book, I quite enjoyed Being Simon Haines.

It was well written, which made it incredibly easy to follow the two storylines presented – Simon’s current life in London, and his past life as a young adult.

I liked the flashback sequences most because, as a student myself, the first-person narrative perspective of a young adult was easier to understand than the first-person perspective of a city lawyer.*

* I also loved the mentions of the University of Nottingham – my very own university!

I struggled with the occasional legalistic jargon, but I don’t think this particularly hindered the book. They say to write about what you know; MacAulay is a solicitor from North London, so it is unsurprising that these things should feature in Being Simon Haines.

I liked MacAulay’s development of characters too – Plunkett is a ridiculous boss with meticulous standards who only communicates in whispers, Giles is a bumbling assistant who only ever seems to make mistakes, and Dan is a laddish best friend with many attractive qualities. The only puzzle seems to be: who is Simon Haines?

I noticed my perception of Simon change throughout the book, as more information was drip-fed – at certain points I felt supportive of him, and at others I felt downright aversion towards him. Whether this was intended or not, I thought it cleverly challenged the notion that comes with a lot of books which is “they’re the main character therefore I have to like them”.

Overall, I don’t think Being Simon Haines is a book I’d have normally have chosen – it’s not a horror, dystopian, or a thriller. However, what it is is an interesting exploration of a man with a dream, and the consequences that come with pursuing ambitions – no matter what the cost.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Being Simon Haines will be available to buy as a paperback on Amazon UK from June 2017.

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Thank you for reading my review!

This blog post is part of the “blog tour” running by Red Door Publishing, who very kindly sent me a proof copy of Being Simon Haines to read and review for free!

You can follow Tom MacAulay here: twitter.com/TomMacAulay80 and follow Red Door Publishing here: twitter.com/RedDoorBooks

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith

Themes in: Crossing the River by Caryl Phillips

Themes in: Crossing the River by Caryl Phillips

This post was written in advance.

This is the final post in this series (for now) and my final book of choice is Crossing the River by Caryl Phillips. Crossing The River is an odd book to describe. It is a piece of historical fiction, with a trans-historical mode. This means that, whilst focusing on issues of colonialism and slavery, it collectively tells the stories of multiple characters, both black and white.  However, despite being a collection of different stories, they are all thematically linked.

Slavery

Phillips wanted to write about slavery involvement in the UK, so naturally, this theme is clear throughout Crossing the River.  At the start of the book, The Ancestor sells his children into slavery. The pairing of money and slaves is continued significantly in the characters of Captain Hamilton and Edward Williams. Captain Hamilton is the owner of a slave-ship who, ironically, believes slave-trading is wrong. However, the financial gains he makes from the slave industry is the motivation behind his continued involvement. Edward Williams is the owner of a slave plantation, who also believes slavery is wrong, and yet participates in the industry regardless. The monetary value placed on a human life, and the commodification of slavery is absolutely vile; apparently it is not enough to benefit from having someone fulfil each and every of your desires, a profit must be made too. Crucially though, the author is unbiased in their depiction of these characters. Their involvement in the slave trade industry is neither praised nor condemned, leaving it to the reader to respond.

Melancholy

Each story seems to have an undercurrent of sadness. The Ancestor sells his children, which breaks his heart. Edward and Nash are separated*, Nash’s letters to Edward are never responded to and Nash is given no reason as to why this is the case.

*It’s hinted Edward’s wife forced communication between the pair to end after she discovered the homoerotic nature of their relationship.

Martha travels across America searching for her daughter, and Joyce sadly gives up her baby. This melancholia is often paired with feelings of loss, abandonment, displacement and/or severed relationships – perhaps to reflect the feelings of slaves across history.  They have been taken from their homes, removed from their families, and forced to suffer at the hands of a slave master.

Journeys

Many of the characters undertake journeys in Crossing the River. There are two types of journeys however: physical and metaphorical.

Physically, Martha travels across America to find her daughter, Edward travels to Africa to find Nash, Travis travels from America to Britain because of World War II, and Captain Hamilton goes on sea voyages as a slave-ship owner.

Metaphorically, some of the characters make the “journey” from life into death. Furthermore, journeys may also represent the trans-historical mode of the novel. Taking a “journey across time” is a popular phrase to describe tracking certain events of themes through history.  By presenting multiple characters’ physical journeys and metaphorical journeys of self-discovery and freedom, Phillips provides the reader with a historical journey, presenting how the issues of slavery and race relations are still as relevant today as they were during the time of the British slave trade involvement.

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Thank you for reading this blog post! This marks the end of this little series, but I may well pick it up again at a later date.

I hope you enjoyed it – please click ‘Like’ if you did, or leave some feedback in a comment below.

– Judith