I read for escapism. I also play video games, board games, and watch movies for the same thing but seeing as I’m a writer and this is a writing site. . . .
A few close people who are involved in mental health work or studying psychology tell me it’s probably not the best thing, and then I smile, nod, say probably not, and go right back to doing it. Escapism is defined as: the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy. Two points I want to make up front – first, I’d like to remove the word unpleasant from that definition. Life is good. There are bad days and there are good days. Great times and awful times. But overall I am fortunate enough to say that life is good. That doesn’t mean I don’t need a break every once and awhile.
The second thing is how I personally measure the escapism effectiveness of a book. It’s not by how engrossed or obsessed I am while reading it; it’s how difficult it is to let the world go once I’m done and the journey is over (there are television series I have procrastinated finishing because I can’t bear to say goodbye to them, but that’s for another therapist session). If my brain continually returns to the novel and the people and places that exist within its pages days, weeks, or even months in rare occasions, then it aces the Escapism Effectiveness test.
So, the spectrum. Keep in mind that this isn’t a whole look at the quality of a book or short story that I’ve read. It is only one factor adding to how I felt about a piece. A novel could be on the bottom end of escapism spectrum but still be an amazing book that I thoroughly enjoyed.
2. Bare-minimum escapism achieved. No afterthought once the piece was finished.
3. The world was absorbent. The few hours after finishing it, I still thought about a character or two, a particular setting, or something that happened.
5. Following the final page turn comes a momentary reflection. The empty wall stare while everything falls into place and your brain continues to process. Characters exist for a few days after and, if it’s a standalone piece, there exists a desire to return despite not being able to.
7. Questions linger. For days, weeks, or even longer. The world punctured your skull and seeped into the crevices deep inside your brain. The desire to know more, become more embedded in the story burns. Character’s still exist long after the book is finished. The final setting is engraved in your psyche and you wish more than anything you were still there for just a little longer. You miss your friends. Escapism achieved.
It’s been several days, and I still feel the mystery behind famed director Stanislas Cordova—who he is, the truth behind his films, and what was the real cause behind the death of his daughter Ashley.
These are fictional characters that exist inside the world of Night Film, a novel by Marisha Pessl. Escapism achieved. I was recommended the book almost a year ago. Actually, it might be a little over a year at his point. And I finally picked it up and read it. The recommendation was well justified.
Night Film follows Scott McGrath, a disgraced reporter who, after learning of Ashley Cordova’s death, is drawn back into the world of her father. A mysterious director whose films have a cult following that would make Tyler Durden envious. Using mock webpages and news articles strategically inserted into parts of the book, Pessl brings each reader that much further into the investigation, and that much further into the Cordova obsession. God I wish I was still with McGrath. Existing in that world with those characters and the mystery they are attempting to solve.
Night Film, congratulations. You’re a 7 on the Escapism Spectrum. Thank you for one hell of a ride.
Diet. Exercise. Follow a budget. Sleep more. Drink less. Disconnect. Take time to breathe.
Actually, those all sound fantastic, hold on a second. . . . Okay, anyway, welcome to the part of the year where we all set our goals (and the gym becomes packed for a month or two and then goes back to normal come March). And with it the argument on whether or not people should have New Year's resolutions or if it's just a way to constrain yourself. Well, as with everything else in life, if it harms none, and makes you happy. . . You do you.
So, let's talk goals. Since, you know, this is a writer's website, I'll stray away from the diet, exercise, and save money resolutions, and focus more on ones revolving around say books and such. I just finished Ruth Ware's The Lying Game - review can be found here. This leaves my read pile for 2017 at 19. Not bad, but still short of my goal to read 24 in a year (I've had the same goal for four years. . . eventually I'll get there).
Fear not internal goal-setting reader man! I have two lined up for tomorrow in a hell of a kick-off for 2018: The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark and The Wrong Stars by Tim Pratt (this sci-fi space thriller being read for Shoreline so review to come). But aside from novel reading goals there's something else I'd like to take on this year as a personal reading goal and one that will undoubtedly help better my own short story writing. Which, I have some news on, but that's for a different post because I can't talk about it just quite yet.
Anyway, what I was saying. . . One of the things I've amassed over the past few years whether as gifts or by my own volition, is anthologies and best of short story collections. As you can clearly see above. It's a great thing! . . . If I read them all. But I have a funny habit. . . haha. . . of reading a story or two and then putting the collection down, negating the rest of the contents. So, in an effort to rectify that and blow the cobwebs off of my backlog, I'm going to start Short Story Sunday. Where the goal is to have read at least one short story each week and post a critique/reflection about it up here. Hmmm, it's almost like this will help me blog more as certain people *wink wink* have said I should do. Even if only like one or two people are listening. The first selection is going to be Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8) by Caitlín R. Kiernan out of the collection Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror. Which, according to the contents of this anthology, was originally published in 2014 in Sirenia Digest 100. I loved Kiernan's novella Agents of Dreamland. . . it's one of the few works I read through 2017 that I still frequently think of. Having a personalized signed copy doesn't hurt either!
Now onto the writing portion of the goal setting. This is where I might be biting off more than I can chew with the full-time job, desire to play video games, and frequent bouts of leaving the state/country. But hey, in the words of the band Volbeat: "Mr. Perfect don't exist my little friend and I tell you that again. . . and I do it again."
For me, I'd like to see the finished, polished drafts of two more novels . . . not including the one finished last year that is currently with beta readers. Seven short stories. And at least the rough, rough, draft of the project I'm to scared to start (oh ask me about that sometime. . . it makes for a fun story). Can I do it? You better believe it. And I plan on posting quarterly goal updates to keep myself accountable. Doesn't mean it will work though!
So, thems be the goals. 24 books through out 2018. A short story and short post about said story each week. Two books. Seven shorts. And oh yeah, stop reading the news so much. . . Like still stay informed and be active about the world around me, but maybe not refresh the feeds every two hours (you think I'm exaggerating) and then groaning about the latest headline.
Oh, and since I mentioned that Volbeat song, it's called Still Counting and I'm including the video link below because I plan on singing the first verse well into 2018. "Counting all the assholes in the room, well I'm definitely not alone. Well I'm not alone-oh-oh."
And to all my heathen friends. . . . I'm ready to cause just as much shit this year as we did last year. We are far from done. The parties just get bigger every year. I love all of you and I can't wait for the continued Sunday mornings when we survey whatever house we threw it in and think Jesus Christ. . . Now we have to clean all this stuff up.
So, after a long week there was a mutual decision to hit Redbox (despite the fact that I have an ever growing list on Netflix but hey). I picked up two movies: Office Christmas Party and The Girl With all the Gifts. Before I head into this post let me just throw out that Office Christmas Party was pretty funny and it is just another addition to the idea of never seeing a Jason Bateman movie that I didn't like. Seriously, is there anything he does that is not just fantastic? Okay, side note filed. I wasn't planning on posting anything today but it's cold and raining (favorite kind of New England day) and I figured why not spark up the debate of movies versus books.
It's an age old argument: what was better the book or the movie? And there is no shortage of examples weighing in on either subjective side. Pro movie? Fight Club, The Martian (yeah I'm going to get shunned for that but whatever opinions are just that) Dark Places. Pro book? The Girl With all the Gifts, Gone Girl, pretty much every Stephen King adaptation ever.
Anyway, the point of this jumbled ramble was to talk about adaptations and whether you can really judge if the book was better than the movie (yes, yes you can) or if they should be judged as two separate creative pieces across two different mediums (yes, yes the should). Wait? How can you do both? How does that work? Well, like everything, it depends on a variety of factors.
I listened to the audiobook of The Girl With all the Gifts last year. First, let me say that Finty Williams is such a fantastic narrator that I can still here her saying "Good morning Miss Justineau" and I plan on listening to her read the follow-up that just came out: The Boy on the Bridge. Part of the reason that I think I enjoyed the book so much is that I went in blind. I knew nothing about the book, plot, or characters except for the fact that it was supposed to be a zombie story unlike any other zombie story. It was. Long story short, the book was great. I loved it from beginning to end. Last night, I watched the movie. The movie was great. Strong acting, stuck to the basic story, but like most adaptations it cut out a lot of material. This is perfectly fine, movies have time constraints. They cut out a lot of The Martian too, and again, it was fine. Nothing cut was pivotal to the story. This is important because this is where we must differentiate the movie and the book as two different pieces across two different types of multimedia. At the bedrock of a recommendation we can lump books and movies together - this was better than that, don't watch this read it. But, when you change the story (even slightly) by removing pieces of the book or adding things to the movie you now have a different animal. One that was visualized by a different creative team and should be thought of and rated as such.
So what makes The Girl With all the Gifts book better than the movie and what makes The Martian movie better than the book? Well mainly my personal opinion. But! This ridiculous ramble wouldn't exist if that was the only thing. So, it boils down to which one packs a bigger impact. I picked both of these books/movies as examples because they are both about survival and they are both about working together for the greater good. The difference between the two - despite what planet they take place on - is which one captures this better.
When I was listening to the The Girl With all the Gifts there were certain parts where I hit pause and just thought Jesus, this is intense. Boom, impact. When I watched The Martian I almost lost it at the end. The way it captured what we can achieve if we work together. Bam, massive impact. So barring a technical analysis of each piece, for me anyway, it boils down to which one had the bigger impact or as my Dark Souls friends can relate when talking about Sif and Artorias - which one kicks you right in the feels.
I probably could have saved you fifteen minutes by just saying: between the book and the movie pick whichever one hit you the hardest but hey, you enjoy listening to me ramble. At least I think. Otherwise I just wasted a bunch of your time. Just remember when recommending a book or a movie or answering the question which was better that it's a two part question: which one was better and were they both good? It's kind of like when a band releases a new album. They catch flak if they sound the same and they lose listeners if they change their sound. Album vs album or books vs movies - weigh in on which was better but remember to look at them both in individual lights. And, regardless of your stance - go read The Girl With all the Gifts and go watch The Martian.