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Friday, January 18, 2013

The Mythic Core

I have to admit, I like M. Night Shyamalan's body of work.  This writer, producer, and director has brought many popular films and some  viewed as less than popular:  The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000), Signs (2002), The Village (2004), Lady in the Water (2006), The Happening (2008) and The Last Airbender (2010).  This summer, After Earth, is set to appear (2013).

He is often misunderstood by a culture seeking the gross-out, the obscene, and the heavy-handed in their suspense and horror-thrillers.  These are the cinematic and story versions of a stomp dance.  Shyamalan's works, by comparison, have the grace, mythic bones, and naunced touch a classic ballet.

What drew me into Unbreakable and the Lady in the Water were the underlying mythic structures.  He tapped into archetypes, legends, and the hero's journey to craft those movies.  Instead of lowering his vision to the common - the bloody, visceral, crude and heavy-handed approach to thrilling tales - he tapped into the river running through human experience.  The problem is that society has been fed the inferior so long it cannot appreciate the fresh air and multi-layered complexity of Shyamalan's work.  Shyamalan's work is the higher education course in a high school drop-out world.   His work is not without shortcomings, but his works have developed and evolved, and hopefully will continue to do so without caving into the commerical forces that would kill that vital difference in the name of boxoffice success.

Great art is seldom fiscally successful - at first.  It takes an audience understanding of the complexities, nuances, and deeper elements to finally and fully appreciate their importance.  Hopefully, we are on our way to that place where we can not only recognize the vital mythic core in his films but come to appreciate them.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

THE WHEEL TURNS...

I first met The Wheel of Time series when someone recommended it to me in the mid 1990's.  Not a regular, or enthusiastic, fantasy fan, I had commented how I had never found such a book I really liked. I had read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, some Andre Norton and similar titles.  I had tried, and failed, to read The Hobbit six times!  My friend said, "You have to try these...."

I opened The Eye of the World (book one) and was immediately hooked... Here was not just fantasy, but excellent storytelling, action packed adventure, a mythic journey, and a world made believable by an author who understood the basic underpinning of myth, culture, military science, and history. The skillful Robert Jordan utilized all of these in crafting the world occupied by Rand, Mat, Perrin, and all the rest.  I read them each Christmas as a special gift to myself. Geek that I am, I even read them backwards and noted the masterful links of plot and foreshadowing unnoticed in forward chronological reading.

Two decades and thirteen books later...I eagerly opened the fourteenth (and final book), A Memory of Light,  with the same anticipation as the second one I had read.

In moments, I was drawn once more into that world...where people had strange powers, where a great battle of good vs evil was ongoing and a final confrontation imminent. 

A series of the depth and scope reflected in The Wheel of Time is an incredible achievement, especially in light of the fact the author died in 2007 and someone had to step in to complete the work.  Brandon Sanderson did that well, following detailed notes left by author Robert Jordan.   Some may complain, some may be dissatisfied and quibble about slight deviations in character or action due to the transition.  All I can say is as I closed the book, 900 plus pages of it, I took a deep breath and wanted to start the series all over - again. 

I have to go now...I have to see what books I need to complete the series....

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

PARANORMAL ACTION WITH A TWIST OF ROMANCE

 I discovered this author just recently writing for the Harlequin/Mira brand. Heather Graham is a bestselling author who has been around long enough to have established a good following of devoted fans.

"The Unspoken" is part of a series with slightly (or heavily accented) paranormal aspects.  Part of the "Krew of Hunters" series the books  ( several titles ) feature members of a special team of FBI who have special psychic skills and are utilized in cases requiring their extraordinary skills.  They use psi skills but also work using normal police procedures - so the audience of both should enjoy these with a little flexibility. See titles at  http://www.eheathergraham.com/heatherbibliography1.html

The books are similar to the special ops FBI team created by Kay Hooper and her 
"Bishop series:" but they are still a good (translate an enjoyable) read.  I will no doubt read others in this series as opportunity affords.  They are not grippers or great literature but they are enjoyable, especially if you like some romance with your paranormal fiction. 


ZOMBIES, YOU BETCHA

Parody horror...a surprising genre but one filled with more social commentary than frightful terrors. Unless, that is, you think too long on the social commentary's underlying truths.  I ran across this book by accident...word of by mouth by a fellow customer in the book store encouraged me to give it a try.


Horror parody is a new genre and not everyone's cup of tea. If you are culturally literate, horror motif aware, and slightly warped this is the book for you!

The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten is based on the idea that every town has secrets, the book proceeds to then rip down the walls to reveal in comic and bizarre the nature of those secrets.   It is filled with sex, deviance, hate, drunkenness  murder and that is BEFORE the zombies show up!

It is a one book motivation to double check your secrets and what might happen when .... not if... that awful zombie apocalypse strikes.  You can never be too careful.



From Night Shade books...if this sounds interesting you may want to also read The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten.