I started writing in this blog because I was missing something in my life. I had a wonderful family, a loving husband, fantastic friends, a charmingly malicious Cat, and the many blessings and advantages of living where I do.
But there was something missing.
My job was, by all standards, a good one. I was part of the health care system, doing what I had been trained to do, working a full time job right after graduating. But the work I was doing was not challenging, and the nature of it did not allow for much creativity (Rightfully so, while helping to diagnose leukemia is not the most appropriate time to nurture the artist within).
I needed a creative outlet, and I always liked the idea of unstructured, journal-style writing. I really never thought that I would enjoy writing “Hey Bookworm” as much as I did. I figured I would get 3 or 4 posts in and then I would either lose interest or feel the self-consciousness that comes with creative expression.
But here we are 76 posts and 3 years later. Still part of a kickass family, still wildly in love with J, same fabulous friends, the Cat is as much of an asshole as she ever was. Now I have a job that challenges me and frustrates me and makes me want to pull my hair out, but also keeps me looking forward to every single morning. And as much as I love Hey Bookworm, energy is a finite resource best spent elsewhere right now, so it is time to say goodbye. This blog address expires in October, and I have decided not to renew it. I will be creating a little book to keep on my shelves at home so I can peruse it whenever I need a reminder of that time I was brave enough to put words of my own into the universe.
Thank you to everyone for reading my little musings, maybe giving a giggle or two at my dumb jokes, and allowing me to indulge my creative side.
In case you haven’t heard, there’s a little bit of excitement happening in my hometown of Toronto this year. Our local baseball team has made it into the ALCS finals for the first time in 22 long years. I might not be a huge sports buff, but I can’t get enough of the energy that pumped up sports fans give off (read: I love bandwagons). I spent a good portion of my vacation in Nicaragua last week huddled around a tablet, praying the WiFi didn’t give out (it did, it was Nicaragua).
At any rate, the city is electric right now, and even the Toronto and Kansas City Public Libraries are getting in on the fun!
After a heartbreaking loss by the Jays last night, Kansas City posted the following picture to their Twitter account:
Well, my peeps down at TPL got in on the fun today:
Reading down the spines, TPLs (much more clever) message to KC reads “Warning Kansas City, It ain’t over till it’s over.” Well played, fellow bookworms, well played.
When I was little, my friend A was my Barbie Playing friend. Many a weekend I would bring my Barbies and their maroon convertible (with the lights that turned on) to play at her house (she had the Barbie Dream house).*
*Although, I need to give some credit to my mom on this, because I did have a sweet Barbie condo with a rooftop patio made out of some fruit crates. And this was in the days before Pinterest. It was awesome.
Anyway, lining the top of her bookcase, A had a row of beautiful Collectors’ edition Barbies, still in their boxes. Holiday Barbies in beautiful velvet ball gowns, exotic Barbies in satin kimonos, and Princess Barbies in taffeta and lace.
All still in their boxes. How is it even possible for a 9-year-old to have such restraint!?
I remember asking her why these dolls weren’t in play, and her response “Because they’re special and I have to keep them nice.”
I was a little bewildered, being from a family of 6 kids, keeping something nice instead of opening it and playing with it as much as possible until it belongs to the next kid in line was totally foreign to me. But hey, we had 2 Kens, life was good, and we’re friends to this day, despite these differences. Needless to say, I was never the kid who kept things nice. Nor did I grow into this skill, as evidenced by my owning nothing of value that is undamaged. The more special something is, the more I want to use it, enjoy it, and share it.
Claire Fallon, a very talented Books and Culture writer for the Huffington Post and fellow book lover wrote an article entitled ” You don’t have to destroy a book to love it: A plea to readers”, in which she makes a lot of good points. The “Plea” argues that cracked spines, inscriptions, bent pages and torn covers are a sign of disrespect. That these books are ruined. She scours bookstores looking for pristine copies and strongly resist giving out the books she likes best. She is the Collectors’ Edition Reader. From her article, it was implied that any different treatment translates to less respect.
Now, Ms. Fallon and I agree on one key point: Books are special. But we disagree greatly on what that means.
The only way a book is ruined is if the words are completely obscured. So book burners and 3-year-olds with sharpies- this doesn’t apply to you, you’re still jerks.
But, one corner of a book stained with coffee? That just means the book was engrossing enough to be read on the subway, while juggling a laptop, lunchbag, purse, and leaky coffee travel mug. Bent covers and cracked spines are a sure sign of reading a book in bed until you fall asleep and drop it on the floor. Notes in margins and inscriptions in covers are a bonus of used books! It gives them history, like they’ve lived lives. The more I love a book, the more I give it away. I’ve bought 3 copies of The Happiness Project since it came out. Why wouldn’t you want to share something that brought you such joy?
As a child, my Barbies were out of the box before the wrapping paper hit the floor. I don’t have special occasion dishes, I don’t save good wine, I eat dessert before dinner*, and I often use the floor to mark the place in my books.
*I may have impulse control issues
So, while I respect fellow bookworm Claire Fallon, and her opinion, I maintain that we may not “have to destroy a book to love it”, but that destruction is often the sign of a well-loved book.
Last spring, I wrote an article about 10 terrible truths of spring cleaning. This year, myself, J, and Sophie the cat, made the decision to avoid THAT particular hassle and opted to move instead. It was a quick move, 2 weeks between signing the lease and moving our stuff. But with J and I being particularly organized people, and me with 12 moves under my belt, I was pretty sure it was going to be an “easy move”. Now, for the most part I was right, we had a dozen wonderful people helping us, we moved everything in one U-Haul trip, the weather was great, and nothing broke. However, no matter how “easy” a move may be, it doesn’t change the fact that there are…
10 Terrible Truths About Moving
1.Necessity may be the mother of invention, but she sure isn’t pretty.
Do you remember that Folgers commercial where the couple is spending their first day in a new house and they can’t find a coffee mug, so they smile and shrug at each other and drink their coffee out of gravy boats? Cute, right? You know what isn’t nearly as cute in real life? Ranch Dressing out of a ziplock bag.
2. Your belongings will not:
a) Fit in the new place
b) Make it to the new place
c) Work in the new place
d) Assemble properly in the new place
3. It will be 3 days before you know what time it is.
The stove says 7:15. The alarm clock says 8:04. The coffeemaker says 6:45. The microwave is blinking 12:00 am. Both cell phones are dead because the chargers are still packed. The only thing to do now is to rise and set with the sun. Cancel all appointments and fashion a sundial out of a grapefruit half and a drinking straw.
4. No matter how carefully you plan and pack and group priority items in order to have everything you need accessible to you, you did it wrong.
It was a solid week until I saw paper towels and garbage bags at the same time. I’d spill things at the new place and have to mop it up with tissues. Meanwhile at the old place, I had to stuff garbage into grocery bags. Then, inexplicably, everything shifted and I had all the paper towels I could ask for at the new place, but nary a garbage bag to be found.
5. No Pens, possibly ever again.
This post was originally drafted with a stub of a pencil. When that wore out, a pink highlighter was the only writing implement to be found.
6. Get ready to eat nothing but Pizza for days on end.
…at least get vegetables on it. No need for scurvy today.
7. The unpacking of books is held up by creation of the “I should re-read this” pile.
Which, for some reason, cannot exist on the shelf with the other books. Beware, this pile may end up toppling onto an already nervous cat.
8. Whatever street you need to maneuver the U-Haul truck down, that’s where all the yard sales are.
People will inevitably park in the middle of a 2 lane street, and then leave the door open so that they can dash across the street and to snag the sheep n’ goat salt and pepper shakers. Then, regardless of polite honking from the 17-ft truck, they meander back to their cars, speaking animatedly to their companions about their victory.
9. You will have to go to all sorts of lengths to protect your fragile items.
Think you have enough bubble wrap? You don’t. So you supplement with a newspaper, and you’re all set right? Nope. Do you start wrapping your dishes in tea towels, socks, blankets. Before you know it, you’re packing the serving dishes in the same box as your sweaters, and it seems like the best idea you’ve ever had.
10. At the end of the day, you’ll have the best, most well- deserved nights sleep of your life.
…on a bare mattress with your winter coat as a blanket.
For better or for worse, books and movies are forever intertwined. There are only so many original screenplays that can be written, and people want to see their favorite books become moves (again, for better or for worse).
To be fair though, movies based on books get a blanket bad rap from book lovers. It’s almost like a test: real book lovers hate movies, like real coffee lovers hate Starbucks, and real movie lovers only watch “films”. Scripts are written for movies, regardless of where the story has come from. As such they are specifically crafted with the time constraints and media constraints of movies (sorry- films). Books, with a few notable exceptions *cough* Nicolas Sparks *cough*, are not designed to resolve within 2 hours with a manageable cast, an inner monologue easily represented by voiceover, and only the most accessible and obvious symbolism. So, we can hardly expect that through the book-to -movie process there will be no loss of depth, tone, or favorite lines and/or characters.
There are limits.
There is nothing sadder than having ones’ favorite book, with all the best parts ripped out, devoid of all subplot, with love triangles added in all nilly- willy, with the lead character played by the latest “It girl” actress/ singer/ perfume designing socialite.
So here is my (very brief and incomplete) run down: ” Movie Adaptations of Books: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.”
(Notable mentions include: Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter (all 7), The Hunger Games (so far..), The Wizard of Oz, Silver Linings Playbook, To Kill a Mockingbird, Matilda, and the myriad of other movies I have forgotten that you will all angrily email me about).
Best Thriller: Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Thomas Harris’ classic could have so easily fallen victim to the horror movie trap and turn up as a gory, sexualized, sensationalized horror flick (hello, Gone Girl). I can see it now, a hollywood starlet plays Clarice Chassidy: A young, sexy new police officer/ former exotic dancer/ single mom, looking to turn over a new leaf and prove herself. Her police uniform fits like a glove and at some point, somehow, she ends up soaking wet.
However, this movie was carefully crafted and maintained its status as a psychological thriller, with all of the subtlety and character complexity with which it was written. Not only is this an excellent movie because it is based on an excellent book, it is a very good movie by its own right. Creepy enough to keep even the most seasoned horror fanatic up at night, but subtle enough that even I, the worlds biggest horror movie chicken, enjoy it.
Most Deserved Writers’ Stamp of Approval: Fight Club
Unless the writer is directly involved with (or making money from the success of) the movie based on their book, they tend to keep pretty quiet about the movie, save for smiles and waves at the premier. Any why wouldn’t they? You sell your lifes work to be adapted, sometimes butchered, at the very least have parts added or removed and characters changed. However, upon release of the movie, Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk gave an interview, where he actually complimented the changes made in the movie. In regards to the addition of a successful romantic arc to the move, he said that the whole time he was writing Fight Club, he intended that “The story is about a man reaching the point where he can commit to a woman”. He went on to call the changes to the dialogue “beautifully composed, attractive and funny” and that the screenwriters “made connections he had never thought to make”.
High Praise, Indeed.
We know that Fight Club was a great movie, and would be fans of it regardless, but having the kudos of the one person in the world who should be pre-disposed to disliking it lends a lot of credit to the flick.
Best New Contender: The Great Gatsby (2013)
Only Baz Luhrmann can express the gin-soaked, charleston-dancing long strand pearls and flapper girls Jazz age with such a seamless blend of frivolity and shadowy foreboding. You could feel the forced smiles and sense every undercurrent and behind the scenes argument. It was not just the casting, or the visuals, or the cinematography, this is one of those very rare situations where everything lined up perfectly.
The themes and general attitude of a book are the hardest parts to capture on film, but Gatsby really got it right.
And this might be a controversial statement, but in my opinion, Leo made a Great Gatsby.
The Bad: Because sometimes it just doesn’t work…
Worst “should have been a home run”: Confessions of a Shopaholic
Confessions of a bookworm? I’m a terrible flyer. To get through a long flight without running up and down the corridor screaming “we’re all going to die!” I require the following:
One very large glass of wine
Sophie Kinsellas latest “Shopaholic” book.
So, you know it’s not book snobbery that makes me dislike this movie so much. I love beach reads! This movie was painfully un-funny, with none of the subtle silliness that the books have. Somewhere in all this, we crossed the line from simple, fun and charming to frothy, empty and devoid the substance (however little) the book had. The characters were one dimensional, the plot was flat and the dialogue was stilted and campy. *dimple grin and zoom in close-up* “That’s our Becky!”
The real irritating thing about this is that this should have been easy. Its a Rom-Com for crying out loud. How to lose a guy in 10 days-simple, fun and charming. 13 going on 30– Simple, fun and charming. Life as we know it-Simple, Fun and Charming. Raising Helen– Simple, Fun and Charming. IT IS NOT DIFFICULT TO MAKE A ROM COM WORTH WATCHING! Especially when you have a book the reads like a script.
Watch instead: Any of the above movies. Or, from the book-based: Where the Heart is.
Worst Kids’ Retelling: The Cat in the Hat (2003)
No. Just No. Dr. Seuss’ first grade tome cannot be made into a live action suck fest. We already lost The Grinch, for crying out loud. I don’t care how many parents are out there, desperate for an escape from made-for-children media, The Cat in the Hat is no place for weird sexual innuendo and a slathered on layer of secondary plotline. As much as I appreciate that Mike Myers needs a movie he can show his kids, this surreal, obscene movie and super creepy cat costume are trying to make too much out of a simple, first grade classic. To quote a very wise fish in a pot “Do I like it one bit? No, I do not!”
Fun Fact: After this movie came out, Dr. Seuss’ widow, Audrey Geisel, forbade the movie industry from making any more live-action movies from his books. True Story.
Watch Instead: The Lorax
The Downright Ugly…
The Scarlet Letter (1999)
This “loosely based retelling” of Nathanial Hawthornes classic is basically a soft core porn with period costumes. With complete loss of all themes and social commentary, huge plot changes including an entirely different ending and the addition of a good Hollywood dose of sex and violence, this is a “Retelling” about as much as I am a “Supermodel”. This movie fails as entertaining AND fails as true to the novel. Also, is that Gary Oldman? Gross.
Watch Instead: Easy A. or literally anything else.
…and why its all a moot point
But in the end, hotly debating the merits of books-turned-movies is all for naught. First prize will always go to “Clueless” (1995), the modern day retelling (well, 1995 retelling) of “Emma”. Modern day retellings are tricky, but this one maintains the basic themes of the book without being campy and obvious. Even without the backing of the classic story of mis-read signals, Clueless is ,like, a totally phat movie. Watch it now, it will totally make your day.
At the end of every long, cold grueling winter, I say it. After 6 months of bundling up, being stuck indoors, darkness from 4pm to 8am, I say it. Whenever we get the first hints that spring is coming, that salvation is nigh, when melted snow floods the streets and a balmy 2 degree afternoon temps us out of our caves, I say the same damn thing:
We are never, EVER , doing that again.
Oh sure, we all fool ourselves while we’re in the throes of it, thinking winter isn’t so bad. Strap on a snowboard and have a couple of fun days careening down a hill. Creating hot versions of our favorite alcoholic drinks. Take to a flooded tennis court with skates and a stick, drinking coffee and Baileys and waxing poetic about “Canadian institutions”, and the “beauty of having four seasons”.
But I say to you friends, look around! See how much happier everyone was this week? Are you enjoying the bounce in your step now that spring is just about sprung? Notice how much less you want to strangle the person in line in front of you at the Starbuck who took the last chocolate caramel cake pop? It’s time to cast off the shackles of winter- for good! I present to you:
Operation Eternal Sunshine
Find new country of residence. This is the trickiest part, because it has to be played exactly right. Our new country of residence must fill the following criteria:
Weak enough that we can all live like Kings, but with enough of a world consumer presence that I can get an ice-cold Coca Cola whenever I damn well please.
Progressive and Non-religiously driven government OR
Unstable enough that we can eventually overthrow it and install a government of our choosing, but stable enough that there are roads, schools and no robust mercenary presence.
I know what you think i’m going to say- the hotter, the better. However, that would be short-sighted, and we’re smarter than that. We want a climate that is hot enough that my warmest article of clothing is a jean jacket, but cool enough that only spiders of a reasonable size live in our bananas.
Other Desirable Amenities
Soil fertile enough to grow a fruit tree
Healthcare evolved to post- bloodletting or better.
Moderate population density (humans)
Low population density (snakes)
English-speaking a plus
One day, in the not-so-distant future, I will come for you. We will all move, en masse, in the middle of the night, to our new country. We bring pre-fabricated homes in on trucks, and set them up with the utmost stealth. Then, when our new neighbours wake up, we act like we were always there. Even act a little offended that they don’t remember you, even after that one time that you brought in their mail while they were away.
Trust me, this works. Acting like you were always somewhere, when in actuality you just showed up, is actually the secret to success.
I love interesting book dedications, mostly because book dedications tend to be fairly non-descript. Authors thank their spouses, parents, children, editors, and their deity of choice. I get it, peeps need to be thanked! If I ever write a book (spoiler alert: I won’t), I’m going to dedicate it to the Oshawa Public Librarians who let me take out way more Sweet Valley High books at one time than I was supposed to. But until then, have a look at these awesome dedications:
“My first stepfather used to say that what I didn’t know would fill a book. Well, here it is.”– Tobias Wolff, ‘This Boy’s Life’
“I want to thank everyone who helped me create this book, except for the guy who yelled at me in Kmart when I was eight because he thought I was being “Too Rowdy”. You’re an asshole, sir.”– Jenny Lawson, ‘Let’s Pretend this Never Happened’
“I dedicate this book to George W. Bush, my Commander-in-Chief, whose impressive career advancement despite remedial language skills inspired me to believe that I was capable of authoring a book.” – Pedram Amini, ‘Fuzzing: Brute Force Vulnerability Discovery’
“To my wife Marganit and my children Ella Rose and Daniel Adam without whom this book would have been completed two years earlier.”– Joseph J. Rotman, ‘An Introduction To Algebraic Topology’
“What can I say about a man who knows how I think and still sleeps next to me with the lights off?”– Gillian Flynn, ‘Dark Places’ (Note: Gillian Flynn also authored ‘Gone Girl’- Foolish is the man who closes his eyes around that crazy lady!)
“For Colin Firth–You’re a really great guy, but I’m married, so I think we should just be friends.”– Shannon Hale, ‘Austenland’
“For my parents, even though they never bought me a robot.”– Prudence Shen, ‘Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong’
“To my brothers and sisters. What…a bunch of assholes.”– Chelsea Handler, ‘Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang’