This month for book club we are reading a novel called Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta and once again like most fantasy novels I am struggling. My whole life I have never enjoyed fantasy novels or movies as much as most people do. Some are so good they have won me over as an adult- Lord of the Rings and Wrinkle in Time come to mind, but most I find deadly dull. And it’s so strange because most people get lost in all the imagination and creative world building where I am just dying. It makes me wonder why?
Even as a little girl I preferred books like Anne of Green Gables and Little Women over Lord of the Rings or Redwall. The only genre I dislike more than fantasy are dystopians which sometimes are an off-shoot of fantasy. One exception is The Giver because that is really about a person and his coming to understand who he is and what it means to be human.
I remember a few years ago everyone was super into Goose Girl by Shannon Hale and I found it very slow and stretched out. It seemed to me a simple fairytale had been expanded well beyond where it should have been. Maybe my problem with fantasy is that I’m not the most imaginative reader in the world. So where other people are envisioning Hogwarts or Middle Earth I’m waiting for the story to start. Movies are better because we can forgo all that nonsense by seeing the images and get right to the story and characters (but honestly many fantasy movies are tough for me to get through such as The Hobbit movies KMN).
I like the Lord of the Rings movies because they have a clear moral goal of destroying the ring and the characters are compelling. I like half of the Harry Potter movies (3, 4, 5 and 7) and the rest bore me. I like Time Bandits because it’s funny and weird. I like fairytales because they are usually romantic and have good music (which brings up a good point that women in fantasy are usually pretty lame and the romance is weak). Most fantasy stories have really bland characters that don’t interest me and so no matter how cool the world building is or fun the dragons are I can’t engage.
People act like I am really missing out on Game of Thrones because I chose to not watch it for its content but I know I would not like it. I know it even kills off its characters rather mercilessly which I would not enjoy as I get very attached to characters. Last year I read the first Dark Tower novel and I enjoyed that because the Man in Black and the Gunslinger were pretty engaging characters. I have been meaning to read more of them. The movie was terrible and turned them into total caricatures with a script that was very sloppy. I also was very disappointed in the recent movie version of A Wrinkle in Time that took a character driven story and made it muddled and preachy.
The last fantasy movie I can think of that I really loved is 2015’s Song of the Sea. This is a beautiful movie about a young boy grieving his mother who goes on a quest with magic and the lore of the selkie to help save his sister. It’s perfect! (Watch my review here) I also love both book and movie of Watership Down but that’s more of an allegory than fantasy in my opinion.
It’s just a strange thing when something that seemingly has so much excitement and creativity is so dull for me. What do you think about fantasy novels and movies? What am I missing? Do any of you feel that way?
This is a continuation of my last post but I decided to separate them out.
Last night I went to a book signing by Ally Condie author of Matched. This is a dystopian novel about a society that controls everything by statistical analysis. I enjoyed it and it was neat meeting the author. She was very personable and friendly, answering questions for an hour. I liked how she talked about the process of writing. It was more scattered, jumping around the text, than I have heard from other writers. I also thought it was interesting how she pulled from little and big things in her life. Something like watching her mother paint became an element in the story.
Matched- (My Goodreads Review) 3 stars.
I feel kind of bad for Condie because her book feels really redundant of a million other similar books that have become popular in recent years; however, it is a shame because I think it is better written than most of those books.
Matched tells the story of a girl who lives in a Distopian society where everything is controlled via statistics for maximum happiness. While I wish the philosophic debate had been handled more than the gooey romance it was an interesting premise. Is it better to have guaranteed happiness or the risk of chosen happiness?
On one hand I appreciate that Condie gives 2 love interests that are compelling for Cassia but neither of them are developed enough, especially Ky. He is basically a staring, brooding, poetry reading presence but no real depth. Finally in the last 3rd of the book I felt like I got to know him a bit more but for most of the book I was thinking ‘Why is she picking this dope over a life-long friend like Xander’.
Still, for these kind of books it was pretty good. I’d recommend it to a girl in its target audience. Most of the writing is good except for the romantic sections. They come off as very corny.
Kind of like Hunger Games I don’t really feel much of a desire to read the entire series. hmmm?
I’ve really enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had this year to meet authors. I don’t know if I will ever write a book but I find the process fascinating. Even writing this blog helps me feel a kinship to other writers and listening to their feedback and advice makes my entries better. If I do write a book I can tell you what type of book it will be- either a memoir or a book that reads like a memoir, that feels like a real story.
An Ordinary Fantasy
The girls I was with Tennille and Jenny, were talking about their favorite books and many of them were teen literature featuring robots, vampires, werewolves, mutants, super heroes ect. I mentioned the books I like and it was interesting to hear their reaction. Some of my favorites they liked but some they found boring. As we chatted I realized I like books about REAL PEOPLE. Even if it is fiction the characters have to feel somewhat real in order for me to relate to them. This is the way I have always been.
I try to be open minded about any genre of books and have books I like from many. However, of my top 10 favorite books half are memoirs or based on a true story, 1 is poetry, 3 are classics and 1 is a contemporary classic:
(If I added an 11 it would be My Life in France by Julia Child.).
Not a magician, werewolf, vamipire or fairytale in the bunch. As my friends and I were talking one of them said ‘I read books to get out of my world not to stay in it’. I found this interesting because I also read books for the same reason. Puzzling hah?
Why do I respond to books about ‘real’ people and feel tepid about what most would consider a fantasy? Is it possible I have a somewhat ordinary fantasy?
I have never been a dreamer. Never had a bucket list or a dream guy or a list of great things I wanted to do. I have never wanted to be more than I already am. The best people in my life have been the most simple people who really believed in me.
Maybe the reason I relate to regular stories is that a lot of the stuff which is easy for others has been difficult for me. (I know this is relative as some have many more struggles but hear me out). For example, losing weight which appears to be easy for others has always been so difficult. Simply eating is a task filled with stress and peril for me. Its no wonder that characters who live in a ‘real’ world without these trials feel like a fantasy or an escape. For me, just being accepted and feeling beautiful or smart was a fantasy, was something I felt I lacked. It took clawing through it all to be the confident, happy woman I am today.
Also, schooling was a challenge for me. Between the bullying, strabismus problem and mild dyslexia, things like reading, focusing, getting good grades were always more difficult for me than for my siblings and friends. I think a fantasy book did not help me to deal with any of these problems where a book about a real person can provide solutions, perspective, and inspiration- even one set centuries ago.
Characters like Jo March, Anne Shirley or Atticus Finch gave me a mold that I could follow. They were my version of a fantasy of what I would want to be like if all my dreams came true. Stories in other worlds, imaginative as they might be, did not give me inspiration and solutions I could apply to my everyday life; therefore, I found them less compelling to read. I couldn’t relate to the characters or their challenges.
My romantic fantasies are also quite ordinary. As someone who has never been kissed, just a regular, ordinary romance excites me. No vampires or life saving peril needed.
Neither one is right or wrong its just different tastes. The older I’ve gotten the more open minded I am and the better reader I am, so I try to gain from all literature I read. However, my favorites will always be about ‘real people’.
What about you? Are you more motivated by ‘real life’ stories or by fantasy (other worlds, magic powers, non-human creatures etc)? Do you find stories about ordinary people to be boring and prefer a new, different world? What are some of your favorite ‘real people’ books?
On that note I am going to see the Hunger Games tonight…See, I’m expanding and growing!