Fresh Off the Boat – Reading Challenge (January)

So I’m at a decent position in terms of my new year’s resolution to read more books, and am on track with the reading challenge I’m currently doing.

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Who wrote it?

Hey y’all,

So I realized that I’ve taken a different approach when looking for new books. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to notice– it started back in March earlier this year I suppose.

I used to look for books by searching through the bestsellers and top 10s of different stores. However, I was quick to realize that a lot of these books weren’t actually that satisfying or good. I’m guessing there’s a lot of paid advertising involved in some of these lists.

Anyway, I now think of a certain author, and only then do I search for a book. For example, I wanted a Neil Gaiman book, so I went and search up his works and picked one. I did the same for several other authors. I find that I find much better books this way. I’m not relying on any lists, nor am I simply picking up the latest hot book (which doesn’t really stay popular for that long in many cases). I’m relying on what I know about the author and their writing style, and through that I make my decision.

Speaking of books, I remember last year, one of my creative writing profs were telling us about how you can judge if a book is actually good or not. You go to your nearest Salvation Army/Thrift Store and look at their books section. See which book has the most amount of copies. These are basically the books that although people bought (probably because of all the hype around them when they were first released), but ended up realizing that they weren’t really worth another read.

So here are my finds at a local thrift shop:
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Surprising? Not surprising? What do you think?

– Karen

Musings After Sandman Volume 3– Gaiman’s Scripts

I felt the need to just ramble about how I felt after reading Sandman. And here are my unfiltered thoughts (though I edited for grammar)– just thought I would share it with you guys! You may notice it is a bit different from my usual style of writing, but that is because I was just pouring out everything that went through my mind after reading the volume!
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I have nothing better to do on this fine Tuesday afternoon. I have braved through all my classes, and am now waiting for my HR meeting.

Anyway, I was at the gym earlier (shocker!) and instead of bringing my usual iPad to watch an episode of Supernatural while I run, I read volume 3 of Sandman. The stories were okay. Like the first book, I found myself loving certain parts of the book a lot more than the rest. I remember for book 1, it was when we were introduced to the Sandman’s sister– Death. She is amazing. Dare I say perfect? We see her again in one of the short stories in this volume.

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I still don’t entirely get Sandman. But I respect Neil Gaiman as a writer– a lot. He has that dark vibe to him, much like how you would expect Tim Burton to write if you got a chance to read his scripts. What was my favourite part of this graphic novel was the very last section of the book. Gaiman told us he would allow us a peek behind the curtains of how he writes his graphic novels. Actually, I’m wrong in saying that. He explicitly told us that this was not the Neil Gaiman style of how to write graphic novels, but simply how he writes The Sandman.

I did not think that writing the script for a graphic novel would be so intense. It seems like it would take ages to finish a page (I’m sure it does). I know I breezed through the pages of the novel, spending 2-3 minutes max on them. But the effort it takes to write one of these pages is commendable. He included notes from both him and his artist, Kelley Jones, in the margins of the script.

Gaiman writes his script out in a manner similar to writing a letter. To introduce each page, he would write to Kelley how he wanted the page to go. Additionally, he would also add random thoughts that he happened to ponder on. One of these included how he had a strange phone call the night before and it freaked him out. I loved this. It personalized the script, and made it so much more inviting to Kelley (or at least I would think I would feel that way if I was him). You are no longer reading stone cold instructions, but something from a friend.

After taking Creative Writing 203, we were told that we were not supposed to give the artist too much directions in our children picture book drafts. I wrote my story (which I was not satisfied with– and neither was my TA judging from my mark), and the only instructions you could get from what I wanted the illustrator to do was which page I wanted the text on. It was important that you allowed the artist freedom. Gaiman’s approach was completely different..

If you could read how detailed he makes each scene, it really is amazing. He not only tells the artist roughly what he wants the character to be doing, but he goes as far as to say that outside the window, we should get a lighting that suggests “early summer or late spring”. Each page’s panels have about half a page of text instructing Kelley on what he should do. Gaiman also says that he’d send Kelley reference pics (which us as the reader does not get to see). Gaiman does say that he has to first know who his illustrator is before he writes his scripts, so I am assuming he keeps in mind what he believes Kelley can produce.
I think this is amazing, but of course, I am thinking through the mind of the author. I would love for my artist to paint exactly what I imagined in my head. I wonder how Kelley feels. I wonder if this is the approach many other comic book/graphic novel writers use when they write their scripts. Or maybe it’s because Neil Gaiman is a such a big shot, so he gets to do things this way. Or maybe it’s a neutral agreement between solely Gaiman and Kelley. It’s weird how I refer to Gaiman by his last name and Kelley by his first. But I like it like that.

Seeing the script, I no longer think of graphic novels as very short pieces with several hundred words. Sure, each chapter may come in a small little compact booklet, and yes, we may only see the few hundred words that the writer chose to express physically with words in font.
But it is so much more than that.

-Karen

To read or not to read?

The second season of Game of Thrones premiered on Sunday! My friends and I had a little premiere of our own at Monica’s house. At first, we were going to cook food inspired by the books/ TV show, but since it was the last week of university and everyone was super busy and preoccupied, we ended up going to Safeway to choose Game of Thrones-like food. Basically, we bought roasted chicken, loads of bread, bread dip, salad, cheese and sausages. Very Westeros-esque? Well, we tried. Oh and to add to the authenticity, we ate with our hands and dressed up.

Our take on food from Westeros. Thank goodness for Safeway!

I attempted to dress up as Irri...

The first season of Game of Thrones corresponded to the first book in George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I watched the first season before moving on to reading the books and I did not like that experience. I then read the second book, and am now on the fourth book (which for some reason, I cannot get past. I keep putting it down because I can’t seem to get absorbed into it). After watching the first episode of season 2, I can now safely say I definitely prefer reading the books before watching the TV show.

IT BEGINS!

I think one thing that annoyed me to watching the show first was that it robbed me of my chance to create my own interpretations of the characters and setting. While reading the first book, I already had premade images of who the characters were and where they lived. For the second book, although some characters were in the first book and I did not get to mentally create them myself, there was still lots of new characters and settings. I found it really fun to watch the second season and realize certain scenes were just as I imagined, or even the opposite—they were nowhere near what I had in mind!

Although creating my own characters based on what I read is, in my opinion, one of the most important part of the experience, there was also a negative part to reading the books first. As I was watching the season two premiere, I realized I knew what was going to happen next. It was as if everything was spoiled. I hate knowing how something is going to end before I watch it. But despite this, I still enjoyed reading the books first.

On a similar note, I watched the Hunger Games with a bunch of friends the day after it was released. I have already read the whole series well before the movie was even announced, so I found that I had forgotten a lot of the plot. However, as I sat in the cinemas watching the movie, I found a lot of bits and pieces were coming back. And then I remembered how the series ended and I actually started crying in many of the scenes that reminded me of the ending. People were obviously thinking I was crazy because the scene that was playing was not even sad. But for me, I kept thinking about the ending and thus wept. Story of my life.

My opinion towards the Hunger Games movie is that it was really well made. A lot of movies end up deviating quite a bit from the book and making a lot of changes. I thought this movie stayed well on track and kept changes to a minimum. Along with Holes, I would say the Hunger Games were one of the movies that allowed for a pretty accurate portrayal of the book.

So what is your take on the topic? Book first or movie first?

-Karen