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Archive for the ‘Books’

The recent horror in Game of Thrones had better be for a reason.

May 25, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television No Comments →

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There’s been a lot of controversy over “Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken”, the 6th episode of the 5th season of Game of Thrones. Many viewers were upset because something horrible happened to one of the major characters that reminded them over previous instances when this horror occurred on the show. Can’t the writers think of something besides that, they demanded. The previous times, the horror unfolded pretty much as it had happened in the books. This time, since the series has started to differ from the books in a big way, the horror is a development cooked up by the showrunners. (Differing from the books is a good decision, because if you’ve read Book 5, it’s a slog. Too many minor characters who are not real characters but expository devices; too much of Daenerys moping over Daario. That book makes you wonder if GRRM made a mistake in killing off all the really interesting characters.)

Game of Thrones is a show that delights in upsetting its audience and throwing them for a loop. However, those unpleasant events served not just to upset the viewers, but to move the story along. In this case the story was going there anyway, did they have to throw in that horror?

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Our problem with episode 5.6 is not just that horror, which is not a big surprise because the current season has been building up to it. Our problem is that the episode was strangely flat and badly-paced. Momentous things happened, but the way they occurred seemed too casual and throwaway. Example: Jorah Mormont learns that his father the Old Bear is dead, but then the moment is forgotten. Game of Thrones has been consistently first-rate, so it’s almost shocking to see lazy filmmaking.

Ramsay Snow-Bolton has been built up as a cut-rate Joffrey Baratheon, but he’s not nearly as compelling. If you just wanted another Joffrey, you should’ve kept the original Joffrey.

The encounter between Jaime Lannister and Bronn and the Sand Snakes, which had promised to be one of the (non-book-based) highlights of the season, was a particular non-event. They’re all supposed to be terrific fighters, even if one of them is missing a hand, but the action scenes were a snore. Someone in that fight may have gotten a lethal dose of poison, but the significance is lost on non-readers (So that person better not die of the poison).

The horror that transpires at the end of that episode had better be for a reason. (We mean storytelling-wise, not “But these things always happen in Westeros”-wise.) Theon Greyjoy had better wake up from his Reek stupor and flay Ramsay Bolton alive since that’s the Bolton sigil anyway. Sansa had better stab Roose Bolton in the heart, take Walda back to her father and kill all the Freys. The people of the North had better rise up and overthrow the Boltons. Stannis Baratheon’s army had better show up and name Sansa Queen in the North. And when Littlefinger returns with an army from King’s Landing and the Vale, Winterfell had better crush them and Sansa cut off Littlefinger’s head.

These things will probably not happen, but all storytelling decisions have consequences and this is the payment for the horror.

László Krasznahorkai has won the Booker International Prize

May 20, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies No Comments →

The Hungarian author László Krasznahorkai, whose sentences roll out over paragraphs in what his translator George Szirtes has called a “slow lava flow of narrative, a vast black river of type”, has won the Man Booker International prize for his “achievement in fiction on the world stage”.

Chair of judges Marina Warner, the academic and writer, compared Krasznahorkai’s work to Kafka – the author’s own personal literary hero – and Beckett. “I feel we’ve encountered here someone of that order,” she said. “That’s a trick that the best writers pull off; they give you the thrill of the strange … then after a while they imaginatively retune you. So now we say, ‘it’s just like being in a Kafka story’; I believe that soon we will say it’s like being in a Krasznahorkai story.”

Read the report at the Guardian.

Meanwhile Son of Saul, the debut feature by the Hungarian Laszlo Nemes, has been tipped to win a prize at Cannes. Nemes is a former assistant of Bela Tarr, who has adapted Krasznahorkai’s novels Satantango, The Melancholy of Resistance, and others for the screen.

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We used to laugh at people who used umbrellas on sunny days, and now we’ve become those people. It’s Fury Road out there, and you can’t even drive fast because the traffic is at a standstill. Even with an umbrella, five minutes under the sun and your brain starts vaporizing. You can feel your skin crisping and rising off your bones. We were supposed to watch the Don Quixote puppet show at Instituto Cervantes but our systems kept shutting down in the heat so we went home and slept. That’s it, we’re going to hide in our room and think about Budapest until the rains come.

Help for young book nerds

May 20, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books No Comments →

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Are you between the ages of 6 and 16?

Do you read a lot of books?

Have you read The Lord of the Rings and/or Dune and/or The Once and Future King? If you have not read any of these, you are not the nerd we are looking for.

Are you bored and/or insulted by the Young Adult books that are recommended to you?

Do you want something good to read?

We feel your pain, we used to be you. Fortunately we had libraries to go to, and sympathetic elders who knew we wanted more than “age-appropriate literature” (“Give the child the T.H. White, it’s already read the Old Testament”).

We might be able to help with our Young Nerd Program.

We don’t want to be your friend or meet you personally, we’re not a pedophile. We’ll send you the reading matter or leave it at a drop for your parents to pick up. Email us at saffron.safin@gmail.com. Write the note yourself, we don’t want to hear from your parents. Do not gush. Do not try to impress us, that’s annoying. Do not even mention your IQ, grades, or school honors, we’re not impressed. Tell us what you’ve read and what you want to read. Note: We are partial to old books (Jane Eyre, Huckleberry Finn, The Odyssey, that stuff) so you may want to mention titles like that. And mind your grammar, we’re not giving books to kids whose subjects and verbs don’t agree.

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If you know kids who meet these criteria, forward this to them.

If you wished Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life were longer, your wish has been granted.

May 18, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books 1 Comment →

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Saffy says: As Felis imperator I hereby declare a moratorium on book-buying.

We didn’t even know a new Kate Atkinson novel was due! Thank you, publisher. According to the blurbs this is a companion to Life After Life, in which Ursula Todd lived her life over and over with variations to allow her to do something that would save millions of people. In the new novel, A God In Ruins, Ursula’s brother Teddy expects to die in battle, but doesn’t. This is what happens next.

The trade paperback is now available at National Bookstores, Php645. We’re going to claim that it was our enthusiasm for the work of Kate Atkinson that got her novels in stores. It’s probably not true, but we’re going to claim it.

Wolf Hall: The realpolitik of sex and power

May 15, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television No Comments →

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On the day of execution, the prisoner is led out of the tower to a small stage in front of an eager crowd. The prisoner, a woman who once had the King of England under her thumb, looks pale and child-like. As she approaches the stage, trailed by her ladies-in-waiting, she opens her wallet and hands out coins to random spectators. She keeps glancing up at the tower, as if she expects some last-minute reprieve. In the audience is the king’s secretary Thomas Cromwell, who had engineered her rise to power then at the king’s behest, engineered her fall.

That is the penultimate scene of the BBC miniseries Wolf Hall, and this is not a spoiler—for nearly 500 years, people have known the outcome of that royal drama. What is admirable about Peter Straughan’s adaptation of the novels by Hilary Mantel is that we know exactly what’s going to happen, but we still lean forward and stare at the screen, drawn in by the almost-unbearable tension and the bleak beauty of the scene. Wolf Hall is so good, it is spoiler-proof.

Read our TV column The Binge at BusinessWorld.

Please bring strange things: A poem for wanderers

May 13, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Places, Traveling No Comments →

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Prater, Wien

Initiation Song from the Finders’ Lodge
by Ursula K. LeGuin, from her novel Always Coming Home

Please bring strange things.
Please come bringing new things.
Let very old things come into your hands.
Let what you do not know come into your eyes.
Let desert sand harden your feet.
Let the arch of your feet be the mountains.
Let the paths of your fingertips be your maps
and the ways you go be the lines on your palms.
Let there be deep snow in your inbreathing
and your outbreath be the shining of ice.

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Terror Museum, the former Nazi HQ then Communist prison, Budapest

May your mouth contain the shapes of strange words.
May you smell food cooking you have not eaten.
May the spring of a foreign river be your navel.
May your soul be at home where there are no houses.
Walk carefully, well loved one,
walk mindfully, well loved one,
walk fearlessly, well loved one.
Return with us, return to us,
be always coming home.

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Blue dog on palazzo balcony, Venice