Whispers In The Dark

Just finished re-reading The Hobbit – the first chapter book I remember reading as a child.  My dad read it to my brother and me when we were in single digits and even then, I fell in love with Gollum and all the darkness he represented.  Riddles In The Dark is one of the finest pieces of writing ever written and I am tweaking like a meth-head in anticipation of seeing it up on the big screen courtesy of Peter Jackson and Andy Serkis.  As a kid, I was fascinated by Gollum; I wanted to know how he’d come to live in that mountain and why he’d stayed there.  Why did he speak of himself in third person and call himself “precious”?  Why did he ask himself questions as if some other part of him would answer and what was the deal with his sick obsession with that ring?  Much later, in college, I read The Hobbit again and marveled at Tolkien’s skill in creating a creature so wholly vile and repulsive yet worthy of pity.  A creature whose behavior and mannerisms, whose thoughts and physical attributes coincide so perfectly with a being who’s lived in nearly complete isolation and darkness for decades or more.  A cave-dwelling creature whose one friend is this precious ring, which has served him well, allowed him success as a hunter, thereby saving him from starvation or capture (by the goblins) but which has also caused a level of destruction from which there is no return.  Reading The Hobbit as an adult, Gollum reminds me of a heroin addict living in the sewers, thieving and mugging enough to maintain but never getting even half a step ahead because the need and the absolute love of that which is killing him is too strong to fight.

I feel such gratitude to Peter Jackson and the brilliant Andy Serkis (and anyone else who was involved) for making the CGI version of Gollum in their fantastic adaptation of the LotR trilogy every bit as sad, disgusting, insane and pitiful as Tolkien intended.  I was nervous, scared even, as I walked into the theater back in 2001 to see The Fellowship of the Ring that Gollum would be misrepresented, that they’d have neglected some detail or exaggerated others.  But the Gollum I saw made me fall in love with the character all over again – a perfect visual translation of the creature Tolkien created.

Now, less than two weeks away from the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I feel no trepidation.  Only eager excitement to see Gollum again and to watch that most beloved sequence of events that compiles Riddles In the Dark, my favorite chapter in the whole tale (from The Hobbit to The Return of the King), unfold onscreen.  I cannot wait.

~Nikki

Will You, Won’t You Be The One I’ll Always Know

It’s no secret that I consider Pride and Prejudice to be one of the greatest works of literary fiction ever written.  It was required reading for me in high school and then again in college and I’ve read it a few dozen more times since then.  Its satire and wit engaged me immediately and the perfectly-paced evolution of the relationship between its 2 main characters, 2 of the most complex, interesting characters I’ve ever read, left a profound lasting impression.  A couple of years ago, I decided that since I absolutely adore it as I do, I should read the rest of Jane Austen’s novels, too.  Sadly, since she died at the young age of 41, there are only 6 in all.

Persuasion was the 2nd of Austen’s books that I read.  And while I still preferred P&P, I did really enjoy it.  It was a little less cynical and also less jovial.  More romance than comedy, more heart than humor.  While there were comedic elements, nearly every character was more serious, more sober than farcical, in comparison to the beloved Pride and Prejudice.

Next came Mansfield Park.  And I made one damning mistake before I’d read this one: I watched the movie first.  I liked the film so very much but found myself wanting to root for the so-called “bad guy,” the charismatic playboy who was a little too charming.  I expected to find him less appealing when I read the book.  Boy, was I wrong.  While reading it, I felt even more drawn to him and found the character of Edmund, the “good guy” who eventually wins the girl, much less likable than his on-screen counterpart.  I don’t mean to dog this book; it is definitely worth a read.  I just made the mistake of watching its film adaption first and, as usual, rooted for the wrong guy.

A short while later, I got around to reading Northanger Abbey, a nice, sweet little book that aroused no strong feelings in me one way or another.  I neither disliked it nor did I love it.  It was good.  Charming.  Cute.

Just this afternoon, I finished Sense and Sensibility, probably my second favorite of Austen’s works.  Its characters, though not all likable, are all complicated, detailed characters with personalities so real, I felt as though I knew them intimately by the time I reached the end.  Not quite as snickery as P&P, but nearly as deep, it is an excellent read.  And it showcases what I believe to be Austen’s greatest gift (though she had oh so many): her ability to write people so very well.  She must have been a true student of human nature and behavior to have nailed them all with such precision.  At times poking fun at the folly of humankind, though never maliciously, and at others, revealing the deepest of emotions we’re capable of feeling, she covers it all so acutely, so realistically, you’d swear she could read minds.

I have yet to read Emma, so its place in line remains to be determined, but I’ll keep you posted, since I’m sure you’ll eagerly await my verdict on it. ;)

-Nikki

Break On Through To The Other Side

Unlike my partner, I have not seen any of the Harry Potter movies.  Not that I have anything against them, and I admit I have occasionally been tempted to give them a shot.  It’s just that I feel so strongly that the books are COMPLETELY PERFECT, that I don’t want to taint them by altering the images in my head of the characters, the castle, the…everything, by seeing someone else’s images of all of it.

Because I haven’t seen them, I cannot say which are the best/worst, their strengths/weaknesses, and so on.  But I can tell you which of the 7 books is my favorite.  And, actually, it’s a tie.  Book 5, HP and the Order of the Phoenix, and book 7, HP and the Deathly Hallows.  Each book, in my opinion, took the series to a previously unreached level.

Order of the Phoenix was so dark, so heavy, it gives me chills thinking about it.  This installment fully crossed the line from childrens’ novel to adult fiction.  It was clear from page one, when Harry’s thoughts were consumed with anger, jealousy, anxiety and bitter angst, that the child had been left behind.  His vivid, violent visions and the awkward tension that followed him everywhere he went (because of the false rumors the Ministry had spread over the summer) carried the solemn tone throughout.  This book also introduced Dolores Umbridge, one of the most incredible characters ever put on a page.  Don’t misunderstand me; I hated her.  Hated her like I’ve hated no other fictional character in my life.  (And I read A LOT.)  The very sight of her name on the page made my blood pressure rise.  And kudos to JK Rowling for being able to incite such intense emotion in a complete stranger with nothing other than black ink on a white page.

There was so much suspense, so much intensity, so much heart.  I loved Dumbledore’s Army and the clear, concise line that was drawn in this volume, the line between those willing to fight with Harry, and those wishing to fight against him.  Everything, from the introduction of Luna Lovegood to the explanation of thestrals, from the hideout at Number 12 Grimauld Place to Occlumency lessons with Snape, I couldn’t have loved it all any more.

You’ll have to wait until next week for my take on Deathly Hallows.  But first, which of the books is your favorite?

~Nikki