12 July 2009

on the buying of books

I don't think I've ever bought a book for somebody else*. For that matter, I don't buy myself many books, and generally the only ones I buy I either:

So, cheap or rare children's books for Natalya aside, I don't buy many books. I read a lot of them, however, and what started me thinking about this was a brief aside in Nick Hornby's Shakespeare wrote for money wherein he mentions he recommends a good book to buy for new mothers (Beth Ann Fennelly's Tender hooks: poems). I read that (Hornby's book, not the poetry), and thought for a moment if there were any people I knew that I'd give a book as a gift, and then, thinking back, tried to think if I'd ever given one. Again, I can't think of ever buying a book for somebody I didn't already know liked or wanted that book.

What's wrong with me? Lots of people buy lots of books for people. I read a lot of books, and I know a lot of people who read books, and for some of them I can even reasonably gauge if a book I've read would interest them.

I don't mind recommending books, in fact, after I've enjoyed a book, I rather enjoy telling people about it, like, say, when I mentioned to skippy that Paul Melko's The walls of the universe is a fun read with good characters and a great story, even if the book leaves the possibility of a sequel open.

Come to think of it, I'm the same way with movies. I have no reservations pleading the case for an underrated, or overlooked hidden gem of a film, but I haven't found myself actually giving those movies to people. Perhaps I'm happy to merely point people in the right direction.

Maybe it's the fear of rejection. Merely giving somebody a pointer to something leaves the responsibility for actually obtaining that book or movie, and that transfers some of the negativity onto the person, and off of me, if it turns out to be less than enjoyable. After all, it's not like I'm the one who bought the book.

I do know that I have a weird neurosis about receiving gifts, particularly things such as movies, book, and video games that can be purchased many places. Even though it's somebody else buying it for me, I'm almost always certain it cost too much, that I could've found a much better price.

Maybe that gets to the heart of it, then. Perhaps it's just I'm too cheap to buy books and movies. The other purpose, other than to blather on and on without a point, for this very post is to test out a plugin I'm updating for Habari to insert Amazon Affiliate links for books and movies, so that I can make some small pittance of a commission if people decide to buy something. Or if they want more information.

Maybe they'd reserve it from their local library. To be honest, that's what I'd do.

*Two disclaimers on that:

  • "I don't think" because I've long known that collectively, the people I know remember more about myself that I ever will, so I've given up on making blanket "I've never ..." declarations.
  • As mentioned above, I've picked up many a book for other people, either because it was convenient for me to get for them, or because I knew they wanted that specific title. In that regard, it's no different from picking up groceries, the way I see it.

22 August 2008

look before you leap

I realize I'm a little late to the party in bashing Jumper, but I felt (uncharacteristically as of late) like writing, and hadn't dissed the movie thoroughly enough when last I mentioned it. It's not a good movie.

When I described it to my friend yesterday I detailed the first twenty minutes being passable, if not faithful to the book, and those twenty minutes being let down by the ensuing hour or so of crap.

I should point out that I have not recently read the book sharing a title and a few moments with this movie, but I recall liking it enough to be unhappy this movie is so bad. I can't remember it in enough detail to really criticize the film for accuracy, but from what I do recall, and what reviewers have written, there's not much left of the original idea.

Spoilers abound ahead - for the last few of you who ever intend to watch the movie despite my warnings (Don't watch it!) you may want to look elsewhere*

The movie begins with what is probably a common occurrence for the protagonist, David (played by some kid other than Hayden Christensen): he's trying to give a cute girl a snow globe, and a bully thwarts his plan and humiliates him. The globe gets chucked onto a frozen river, through the ice of which David soon plunges. Panic ensues, but nobody could anticipate what happens next: swept along by the river current under the otherwise intact ice, he doesn't drown but finds himself (and a large puddle) suddenly appearing amidst the stacks of his local library. Several books (shelves worth of them, really) are likely destroyed, in what can only be seen as a literal attack on literature, namely the source novel.

In that one scene (or perhaps the later one where he drops an entire house on said library) pretty much every suspicion I had about what the movie's producers thought should be done with Gould's novel should've been confirmed, but I kept going.

And it only got worse. Sam Jackson appears, stabbing some random flickering kid (another jumper?!) in a jungle somewhere. And he's got white hair, which I could see as an unsubtle nod to the fake albino antagonist of The Da Vinci code, which I have neither seen nor read. Regardless, from that point on the movie is more or less a cliched chase action movie.

Now, there's the element of the chase to the novel, too, but it's surrounded by the story of a kid coming to grips with learning to use his power, and to become a well-rounded, decent human being at the same time.

The movie dispenses with the former in a quick montage, and never gets around to doing the latter. David, as played by Hayden Christensen, is a brooding, spoiled brat who finds fit to steal lots of money, but leave childishly-scrawled IOUs in the vaults, to pay for all the toys with which he fills his massive apartment. Davy in the book preferred a cave out west along with the amenities of his childhood house, but the idea of a lair like that only shows up in the movie when we find Griffin, another jumper (and star of Gould's tie-in prequel) who has apparently taken over a small cavern system based on how much space he seems to have.

Key to several plot points is a new jumping mechanic in the movie: so-called "jump scars", a residue left after a jump that allows other jumpers, and Sam Jackson with advanced technology, to follow the first jumper around. Why the screenwriter found fit to add that, and the whole Paladin/jumper war, and all the rest is beyond me inasmuch as the book was pretty good on its own without any of those elements. Davy in the novel also grows up considerably over the arc of the book, whereas even late in the film David's talking about comic books and whining and overall acting like a petulant toddler.

There was a sequel to the book (Reflex) that tends to get shelved with the grown up books (not in Young Adult as Jumper, and it's a good read. From what I've heard a sequel to the movie is also planned, and as David, after half-befriending, teaming up with, fighting, and abandoning Griffin and marooning Sam Jackson somewhere out west, gets the girl and learns the shocking truth about his mother, stands, girl in arm and wistful gaze in his eyes looking vacant at the end, such is not an impossible thing. But it's going to need to be a lot better for me to consider watching it. And re-casting David wouldn't hurt.

* Which, frankly, is sound advice ("look elsewhere") to those people when faced with the movie, but I suppose I'm repeating myself. Don't watch it!

10 August 2007

lost in books

Recently I alluded to a large stacks of books awaiting me. The library's annual summer reading club ended recently, and I'd long since read my required ten books for my slim chance at winning something or other.

I must admit, I miss the summer reading clubs the libraries did when I was a kid, where every book counted toward more gift certificates and free fast food. We'd participate in two different libraries' programs, and to be honest, I can't recall if I'd try to get credit for the same books from both or if I did, in fact, read separate books from each place. Neither possibility would surprise me too much - I read a lot of books as a kid.

Which is not to say that I don't read much now. For years I'd probably averaged reading a book every other week, or so, and even now I've kept that pace, more or less*. Being able to reserve thirty books at a time from the library has helped this considerably - it's been quite some time since I've physically browsed the shelves looking for books to read, time better spent reading.

This month I decided to finally reserve Harry Potter and the sorcerer's stone, since for all intents and purposes J.K. Rowling has finished that series. I really dislike reading trilogies or longer series while they are being written because when I've finished reading something I enjoy, and know there's more to read but I just can't quite get my hands on it, well, that bugs me.

Had I know David Wellington's (excellent) Monster island was merely the beginning of a trilogy, I may well have waited until this year to read them - I finally secured my (library) copy of Monster planet and can't wait to read it. The first two (the middle book is Monster nation) were fun reads, and up there with Max Brooks's World War Z for recent good zombie books.

On a tip from Scott I started Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels, and though I'm not really that enamored with classical British literature I found The Eyre affair engaging and a promising debut, and I've got another three or four books to read before I run out of those. To my knowledge Jasper's not planning any sort of structure or arc for his books, so I can get away with reading them as they appear, if ever I run out.

But back to Harry. I'd naively figured I was just about the last person who had neither read the books nor seen the movies, but it turns out that over three hundred people were ahead of me in the library queue, and that's just for the first book. If I'm smart about it, I'll reserve the first two or three, since typing those words above about two weeks ago (some drafts take longer than others) I've finished the second Thursday Next novel (Lost in a good book), read the second "Holmes on the range" western/mystery book by Steve Hockensmith (On the wrong track), and polished off a graphic novel or two. I also finished off Wellington's zombie last zombie novel (Monster planet mentioned above) but wasn't so impressed with it.

It's funny - in the same span of time that it takes me to read fiver or six novels I can barely write that many paragraphs about them. I don't usually write much about the books I read, only making sure to mark down that I've read them. I've long tracked the books I read on AllConsuming, and recently (from Carina's invite) also listed them on Goodreads. Goodreads makes me rate the books, but there's a big difference from giving a 1-to-5-star rating to a book, to actually writing something about it, but it's a start, I suppose.

* Even if I don't count the comic books, er, graphic novels that I also get from the library. Those are fast reads - I can knock out two or three in a night, except that the ones I read are ongoing serials, and I end up waiting months for an hour of reading. So it goes.

25 November 2006

a gift that keeps on giving

Natalya received two important cards this week, one from the federal government and one from the city library. Though she doesn't have a wallet at the moment, she's never supposed to carry the first card in it, and probably won't need to carry the latter one either, even though she'll probably be using it considerably more*.

I've already begun using her number to reserve more movies, as well as children's music, which I will duly file away to hopefully never need to use as a disciplinary measure.

* It is my hope that she picks up my propensity for memorizing several-digit numbers. I've got two of my credit card numbers, all three of our social security numbers and now all three of our credit cards, as well as a random smattering of phone numbers, available at a moment's thought. But ask me how old I am, and I'm stumped for several seconds.