Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Long Winter

I just got done reading the Little House book of the same name as this blog post. Technically I was on the fourth book, not the sixth. But I read it anyway because wintertime has got me in the mood, and I have to tell you, it has helped me keep things in perspective. After reading the book, I feel like I’m getting off easy in this weather.

I oftentimes read a series out of order. There’s Harry Potter, of course. When I picked up the series, I started at the second book (although admittedly I skipped the first one only because I had just seen the movie), and went chronologically from there, before going back and reading the first one. I read them one after the other, until the fifth book, then I had to wait eagerly for the release of the next Potter book like everyone else.

I haven’t finished the Narnia series yet. For the longest time, I could never get past The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I’ve read that book and The Magician’s Nephew more than once, but I’ve never felt the need to go further, until recently when I made it about a quarter way through The Horse and His Boy before skipping to Prince Caspian when the movie was about to come out. Maybe it’s because of sequel syndrome. Most times, the sequel isn’t as good as the original, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a high point in the series. I still can’t get into The Horse and His Boy, but maybe skipping to Prince Caspian was the solution because now I’m eager to keep going.

Another fantasy series I haven’t finished is the Dark is Rising. And I started with the fourth book, The Grey King, picking it up at random one day and, honestly, not realizing it was part of a series until I brought it home. Then I read the second and third. Still haven’t read the first or last of the series, but I like it a lot and hope to get to it someday.

The very first series of books that I ever got into was the Nancy Drew books. I read them voraciously when I was younger. But I tried to read one again after not reading one for years and years, and though it brought back fond memories, I think I’ve moved past them. That’s a good thing. If anything, I will always love them for the fun memories they give and the role they had in developing my love for reading.

A Series of Unfortunate Events. I haven’t finished yet, but (gasp!) I actually am reading this one in order. I think I’m on the . . . seventh? . . . one. I love the humor and tone of this series. It’s definitely one of a kind. And after the deluge of fantasy book series, this one is so refreshing since it’s not so heavy-handed on the epic drama. They’re each fast, engrossing reads and each can stand alone as a great story in itself. I feel like I could pick up any one of them on a whim and be entertained regardless. This a strength because sometimes a series can be exhausting because of the involvement it often requires to read them. Sometimes you want to read one book and be done with it.

Oh, and can anybody say Twilight? Love it. Enough said.

So for this long stretch of winter when we’re all stuck indoors, why not pick up a new series to read, or finish ones you’ve started?

Disclaimer: I left out Lord of the Rings because Tolkien never considered it as three books, and really, it is impossible to read those books out of order.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What Did You Get for Christmas?

Clothes and movies pretty much sums up what I got for Christmas. One of the movies I got was Mamma Mia!, which I watched for the first time with my family over the holiday. I also received the new biography of Stephen Schwartz (the composer and/or lyricist of Disney’s Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Prince of Egypt, Wicked, and Enchanted).

In addition, I just finished watching The Phantom of the Opera, and the other night I watched The Sound of Music. See a pattern? I love movie musicals. Along with those already mentioned, I have Annie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Singin’ in the Rain, Hairspray, Mary Poppins, Enchanted, White Christmas, Holiday Inn, Funny Face, My Fair Lady, several Disney films, five Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies, and five other Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals besides The Sound of Music. There’s probably one or two I’m forgetting. . . . Suffice it to say, it is one of my favorite genres.

The Sound of Music has been my all-time favorite movie since I was a little girl, and I’ve always adored Disney films. However, I have to admit that I didn’t truly appreciate the movie musical until adulthood. My family might disagree with this conclusion. Apparently when I was little, I was obsessed with Annie. Perhaps the interest has always existed, but it just went unexplored.

Consider that I had never seen Singin’ in the Rain, Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers, White Christmas, Oklahoma!, or several other musicals until my adult years. Although I do recall watching Carousel when I was younger, but only the one time, and in bits and pieces at that. It did make an impression, enough so that it got my attention when I encountered it again much later. But, the first production of West Side Story I ever saw was not until my later years in high school, when a friend of mine was playing the lead as Maria. My introduction to Fiddler on the Roof? College. And besides a vague familiarity with the song “Music of the Night,” I knew nothing about the story of Phantom of the Opera until the release of the Gerard Butler/Emmy Rossum adaptation.

It’s funny how little impressions and inclinations can influence you, how the things that you remember and loved as a child end up being the things you study in depth as an adult. In the space of a few years, my interest in and knowledge of musicals has expanded tremendously. It doesn’t hurt that Hollywood has taken notice, although none of the recent movie musicals, besides perhaps Enchanted, has ever matched up to the classics, in my opinion.

And the best part is, it’s just for fun. I can’t sing. I can’t dance. I never studied theater or filmmaking. Movie musicals can be criticized for being too kid-friendly, too corny, too artificial, and even too happy, but if you really look into the genre, you realize that it can be diverse and deep. Occasionally you have those cringe-worthy moments when you also realize why musicals get a bad rap, but I am a firm believer that the more time you take to get to know a subject, the more you are able to understand its weaknesses and more fully appreciate its strengths. And don’t take it too seriously. That always ruins things. Just have fun.