literary adaptation

2017 Reading List #22: Drums of Autumn, by Diana Gabaldon

I’ve been very absent from my little blog here for far too long, so apologies for that.

In truth, a bit part of my being M.I.A. was reading Drums of Autumn, which is no insignificant read at 880 pages. But this week I completed my journey through the book and enjoyed pretty much every second of it.

I completed Drums of Autumn in just over six weeks, which is about on par with how I’ve read the previous books in the series. I also did my best to not be distracted by other novels while in the process, though I did read a few plays and a book of poetry alongside it (to be fair, three of those plays were for my teaching obligations, so real life has to find its place among my personal reading projects).

Drums of Autumn finds Claire and Jamie Fraser in the Colonies, but it balances their storyline with coverage of their daughter, Brianna, and her beau, Roger Wakefield, in England/Scotland/Boston in the 1960s and 1970s. I won’t say too much so I don’t give it all away, but their storylines eventually merge, though not without lots of trials and complications and physical harm to Jamie (because that’s how Jamie works).

One thing I found most enjoyable about the book was how invested I felt in Brianna and Roger’s characters. I was a bit nervous knowing that Gabaldon would introduce more leading characters to rival Claire and Jamie, but Brianna and Roger are equally compelling. And, as this book finds Claire and Jamie creating new lives in North Carolina, Gabaldon also introduces several important Native American characters that I’m happy to say are complex and interesting, not just caricatures or stereotypes. I’ll be interested to see how this plays out in season 4 of the TV series.

And speaking of the show, season 3 isn’t set to air until this fall (sadly), and my biggest concern for it and future seasons is seeing more of Brianna on screen. When she joined the cast in the season 2 finale, I wasn’t blown away by her acting skills, but I have high hopes she’ll improve, especially since she grows into a leading character. Let’s hope for the best.

Since finishing Drums of Autumn on Tuesday night, I’ve felt like a newly free woman. I’m now reading Angie Thomas’s debut novel, The Hate U Give and really liking it so far, so I’ll be sure to post again soon. And as for my future with the Outlander series, I’ve got book 5, The Fiery Cross, waiting on my bookshelf, and I’m quite sure I’ll take that on later in 2017. For now, I’d like to move along with some shorter projects that don’t require quite the same effort.

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Book #32: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, by Edward Albee

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

During the course of my Modern American Drama class, there have been several benchmark plays that I’ve been most excited to read, particularly those that are renowned as classics. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? obviously has a spot on that list; the play and 1966 film adaptation are both modern classics. After finishing the play, I had a hard time really deciding how I felt about it. It’s incredibly l0ng for a play and it feels repetitive and bizarre on the page. After watching the film, though, the story makes much more sense, and I had a much clearer understanding of the play as a whole.

In comparison with Albee’s other works, Virginia Woolf is a more mild form of Theatre of the Absurd, but that also doesn’t mean that it’s a “normal” play. Suffice it to say that I really, really wouldn’t want to find myself stuck in the lives of these characters. It would not be pleasant. If you don’t know anything about the plot (like me before reading it), the play takes place in real time as George and Martha invite Nick and Honey over at 2:30 in the morning for a drink after they’ve all been at a party together. Martha’s father is the president of a university where George teaches History, and Nick is a new, young member of the Biology department. This all may sound a bit mundane, but the play moves quickly and is much more shocking that you might imagine.

I also got to kill two birds with one stone by watching the film adaptation since I’ve set a goal of watching ten films from the AFI Top 100 list this year. I’m not sure I’ve ever really seen Elizabeth Taylor in anything before, but she’s absolutely amazing in her portrayal of Martha, a performance for which she won an Academy Award. There are a few small changes to Albee’s version, but the film is almost an exact representation of his work. Even though it’s nearly fifty-years-old, it’s still very modern and one you should definitely watch if you’re a fan of classic films.

Book #28: Picnic, by William Inge

Book #28: Picnic, by William Inge

First of all, I need to make a disclaimer: if you noticed that I jumped from book #25 to #28 from my last review to this one, it wasn’t because I’ve forgotten how to count. Actually, it’s because I’ve fallen into a rather embarrassing spiral of reading free crappy teen novels on my iPad. Yeah, it’s kind of an issue. I’ve sped through three books since Sunday and I’m already progressing with another. That being said, I have no intention to write critiques of all these silly reading ventures, but you can find the titles on my 2014 Reading List. If you’re interested in my feelings, though, feel free to ask.

Okay, now back to real literature. Picnic wasn’t a title I was familiar with until the Modern American Drama class that’s continuously enlightening me about great plays. Like the last play we read (Tea and Sympathy), Picnic is neither a drama or comedy, but falls somewhere in between. It does have some funny moments — these are especially apparent in the 1955 film adaptation — but it feels more like a dramedy or coming-of-age story than anything else.

What’s been more interesting to me lately is that these past two plays both center heavily around a romantic plot, and both also happen to have seemingly happy endings (this isn’t exactly the case for Picnic when you start to think about it too much, but it’s nice on a surface level). While many dramas that feature an important love story tend to end tragically — consider Desire Under the Elms or The Glass Menagerie, for example — these two end on lighter notes. It’s a bit refreshing to read a story that isn’t completely emotionally exhausting for a change.

And in regards to the film adaptation, I really enjoyed it overall. There are scenes that seem a bit silly and dated, but it generally works. The casting of William Holden as Hal seemed quite strange since he’s about fifteen years too old for the part, but he still played the role well. It’s also a bit upsetting to see how lovely Kim Novak used to be when we know what she looked like at the Oscars this year. Yikes.

Anyway, now that I’ve read my first Inge play, I’m interested to read some of his others. My copy of Picnic is featured in a collection of four of Inge’s most famous works, so I definitely plan to read more in the near future.