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During the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s first ever Winter Read-a-Thon, I read a total of 50 hours and raised a total of $235 for my library!
I read the following books (links are to my blog posts concerning each book):
- Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut (audio book)
- Don Quixote by Cervantes (I’m still reading this… I’m taking my sweet time with it)
- Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley (You can read a review I did of these books here)
- The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris by Leila Marouane (I just finished this last weekend and didn’t really like it, but didn’t really hate it, so I’m not sure what to say about it beyond that; article forthcoming)
- Close Range by Annie Proulx (an audio book that took over Timequake’s spot in my car since I didn’t have any other metafictional audio books; I’ll have to work on that)
In addition to those 4 1/2 books (since I’m only halfway through Don Quixote), I discovered just how much time I spent reading blogs, newspapers and magazines. Those five minute breaks at work and when I’m waiting for something really add up!
The Read-a-Thon was a lot of fun and I’m glad I was able to participate. Now I’ve got the fun job of collecting all the money and getting it into the library by March 7. Hopefully I’ll be able to collect my thoughts on The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris enough for a real post next week (I was traveling over the weekend, hence the late post this week… sorry!). I had put a hold on House of Leaves at the library at the beginning of the Read-a-Thon but it just came in late last week so I expect to start reading it this week or next week, so there should be lots of fun stuff coming up here at The Narrative in the Blog!
Oh, and if you’d like to participate in the Read-a-Thon, it’s not too late to make a one-time donation. Just shoot me an email at email@example.com and let me know how much you’d like to donate!
To celebrate and show my support, and to wish the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh a happy Valentine’s Day, I am sharing all the reasons I love my library. Please share why you love YOUR library in the comments!
1. On the second floor of CLP Main in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Oakland, a bank of windows let you look into the dinosaur exhibit of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. There are a ton of great nooks up here to browse some books, check out the dinosaurs and watch all the kids stare up in awe at the giant skeletons.
2. CLP has an enormous book collection, and you can request books from any CLP library and have them sent to your neighborhood branch for easy pick-up and drop-off. My local branch is one of the smaller ones, but thanks to this feature I can get any CLP book, and walk a few blocks to pick it up. Pittsburgh has more than 80 neighborhoods, and while there aren’t 80 library branches, wherever you live in the city you’re never too far from one of the 19 neighborhood branches.
3. It takes me about 10 minutes to walk to my local branch, the Allegheny Library. The Allegheny Library was actually the first Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1895. It was housed in its original building until 2006, when lightening struck the clock tower and caused a lot of damage. (No, seriously, it happened! Read about it in the Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review.) In 2009 a new Allegheny library opened up the street. I attended the grand opening, and I got to sign the original 1895 guest book, which has the signatures of everyone who attended the opening in 1895, the signatures of everyone who attended the centennial celebration in 1995, and now everyone who attended the grand opening of the new building. Pretty cool, huh?
4. The Pennsylvania Room on the third floor of the main branch is the first place I go whenever I want to learn about my adopted city. I especially love the books of old photos, or the ones like Pittsburgh Then and Now which shows photos of various Pittsburgh locales in the past and the present. Another of my favorite finds from this section is The Steps of Pittsburgh, which in addition to detailing the history of the city’s more than 700 public staircases, provides walking tours for many neighborhoods.
5. CLP also has a large multimedia collection. DVDs, CDs, ebooks, audio books, eaudio books and more. I just bought a Sony eReader, and the ability to borrow electronic books from my library was a big factor in my decision. I especially love CLP’s collection of foreign movies. A few years ago I worked my way through most of the Spanish movies and found a lot of gems. They even have anime, documentaries, TV shows and work out DVDs.
During the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s 2011 Winter Read-a-Thon, Jan. 8 – Feb. 19, I will be blogging about the books I read. For more information, to see a list of books I’m reading, and to make a pledge, go here.
- Hours read as of 2/14: 42.75
- Funds raised as of 2/14: $202.38
About a month ago, after I finally got around to seeing the latest Harry Potter movie, I decided to re-read the books. I hadn’t read most of them since high school, and the last one since early in my college career, and none of them right after the other.
I also convinced my husband to watch all the movies, through the sixth, with me. Watching the movies again after so recently reading the books (I finished Goblet of Fire yesterday) brought some interesting tidbits to light.
The fourth Harry Potter movie is really the first one where major subplots have to be cut out because of the book’s length, but even in the first three the directors made some interesting choices in presenting the story. Aside from paring down the details to the absolutely essential, though, the thing that stood out to me the most is that in almost every action scene, the movies one-up the books.
Having dropped a screen writing class halfway through the first day during my senior year in college (they really expected me to sit through a four-hour class for a measly three credits?!), I’m no expert on screen writing or movies. But I have to ask one question: Why? What is the benefit of ramping up the tension in a movie, especially when other details or scenes are cut to make room for the additional action?
I’m guessing those who wrote the scripts will say it makes the movies more exciting. In any movie adaptation, things must be cut from the book. Regardless of how faithful an adaptation is (and I would say the first three Harry Potter movies are quite faithful as far as adaptations go), it will never be an exact visual replica of the book, because there simply isn’t the space or time to allow it. That being said, why cut more than is necessary to make room for more action, especially in books that are not inherently action-adventure?
If you haven’t seen the movies or read the books, you may wind up a bit confused as I’m leaving out most of the plots, sorry!
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
The first two-thirds of this movie follow the book closely. Things diverge slightly when Harry, Ron and Hermione chase Quirrel into the guarded chamber that hides the sorcerer’s stone. The movie takes a few of the enchantments that guard the stone and makes them more exciting, while it cuts out others completely.
- The first enchantment, the Devil’s Snare, has Ron screaming, panicking and almost dying in the movie (after Hermione tells Harry and Ron they need to relax in order to get past it). In the book Hermione saves them all by exposing the plant to light.
- The second enchantment, the room with the keys, has Harry chasing a winged key while the rest of the keys attack him. In the book, there is no attack. The challenge is to find the right key amid thousands of them, which the kids do by using logic, not speed or strength.
- The fourth enchantment, in which Hermione has to solve a riddle concerning vials of potion that will either kill them, do nothing, send them back to the Chess chamber or send them forward into the chamber containing the sorcerer’s stone. This enchantment was cut entirely from the movie, probably because it’s all intellectual, without any action.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Two scenes stick out to me in this movie, though there were others that has more tension than their printed equivalents.
- When Harry and Ron follow the spiders into the Forbidden Forest, Mr. Weasley’s old Ford Anglia saves them from being eaten by Aragog’s children. In the movie, this scene is longer and involves a spider clinging on to the car, among other chase antics, that were not present in the book.
- Harry’s final fight against the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets was much longer and more drawn out than in the book.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
This is the book/movie in which the omissions made in favor of more action do the most harm, in my opinion. A large chunk of the back story about Sirius, Lupin, Peter and Snape is completely left out in favor of more fighting and action sequences. The back story becomes important later on, especially in the development of Snape’s character. And you can’t really argue that Snape is unimportant. (Full disclosure: Snape is my favorite character!) So rather than allow time for Sirius and Lupin to elaborate on the back story, the following scenes were infused with more action:
- Harry riding Buckbeak the Hippogriff. In the book his flight is quite short and uncomfortable. In the movie it is long and glorious.
- The bogart scene with Professor Lupin. In the book, Lupin does not allow Harry a chance at the bogart because he fears Lord Voldemort would appear. In the movie Harry does face the bogart, and a dementor appears, and Lupin must save Harry.
- The entire sequence in the Shrieking Shack with Snape interrupting and Peter trying to get away. The movie elongated those action sequences, which in the book were quite straightforward.
- The scene where Lupin turns into a werewolf. In the book he simple runs into the forest, allowing Peter to escape. In the movie he and Sirius engage in battle and then, of course, he goes after Hermione and Harry.
Why these small details matter
While re-reading the books, I was struck with how tightly and beautifully plotted they are. J.K. Rowling’s prose may not hold up to the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien, but her plots are among the best. Perhaps they are cliche to a certain degree, but you can’t exactly say Lord of the Rings uses a new concept, either. The movies, of course, rely on the books’ plots to stand up. But in chopping away small (and large) details in the name of greater action, I think some of the beauty of the books is lost.
Harry Potter, in my opinion, is not an action-adventure story. The books are more about solving puzzles and mysteries than fighting evil. Even in later books, the object is to figure out Voldemort’s secrets, then find the Horcruxes. Ultimately the goal is to defeat him, and that of course involves a fight. But what goes into the fight is a long process of figuring out how to defeat him. In the books, each scene advances the plot or helps us better understand a character better.
But in the movies, the added action is gratuitous. It does not advance the plot or tell us more about the characters and therefore, in my opinion, detracts from the story.
For example, the reveal that Sirius is on Harry’s side and Ron’s pet rat was the one who betrayed the Potters is far more rewarding in the book version of Prisoner of Azkaban because as we read, we try to solve the puzzle. First, why is Sirius after Harry? Second, how could Peter Pettigrew be in the castle when he’s dead? The pieces don’t add up until the reveal at the end, and we are rewarded with the full back story and are able to appreciate the characters all the more.
By turning the movies into more action-oriented stories, I feel we lose a large part of what makes these books great, and what makes the characters truly compelling.
During the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s 2011 Winter Read-a-Thon, Jan. 8 – Feb. 19, I will be blogging about the books I read. For more information or to see a list of books I’m reading, go here. Although Harry Potter is not on that reading list, I am not yet far enough into any of those books to write about them.
- Hours read as of 1/9: 2.5
- Funds raised as of 1/9: $20.50