Sunday, May 31, 2015
I never thought that I'd be writing a review of a television show, mainly because the only television I ever watch consists of news or NASCAR. People have told me about their favorite series - Orange is the New Black, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Breaking Bad. I ignored them all....until The Outlander.
Then, because I had loved Diana Gabaldon's books so well and for so long, I ordered Starz simply for this one program. I wasn't at all sure I would like it. I almost never think films are as good as the books on which they are based. Where movies and television usually let you down is in the casting. No real life humans can live up to the larger-than-life heroes and heroines of fiction.
But the cast of Starz have done exactly that. Sam Heughn is perfect as Jamie Fraser. He captures the essence of Jamie - courageous, funny, stubborn, tender. And there could not be a better Claire than Caitriona Balfe. She is spirited and independent and brave. Tobias Menzies is superb as the cruel sociopath, Jack Randall. Every member of the supporting cast is excellent as well.
Scotland, in all its magnificent glory, is one of the main characters in The Outlander. Her towering mountains and sweeping green vistas and breathtaking waterfalls are awe-inspiring, especially when Jamie and Claire are galloping across them on a black horse. The program is also true to its era, the Highlands in the 1700's. The castles, the villages, the food and the clothing are all exactly authentic to their time. Because it is on cable, there is more leeway for realism in language, sex (first time I had ever seen full-frontal male nudity, for instance) and brutality (as when Black Jack nails Jamie's hand to a table).
We had eight weeks of the first season, then a break that was labeled Droughtlander, because fans, me included, missed it so. Finally, the next eight weeks began and now it is over as well and we're into another frustratingly long dry spell. Sigh. I have recorded all the episodes and I guess I will watch them all again while I wait.
The only thing I can say is that I have loved this program. During its two runs, it was the high point of my television week. I have no basis for comparison so I can't tell you how it stacks up against other popular shows. Other reviewers have dissected the way it handles the female point of view with more sensitivity and consideration than most or the way the rape scene between Jamie and Black Jack flowed from the story rather than seeming gratuitous in order to titillate viewers. Believe me, there was nothing titillating about it, unless you have a taste for sadism.
To devoted readers of The Outlander novels, the television series is satisfying because for the most part it has been faithful to Gabaldon's writing, with a few minor exceptions. Naturally, there isn't room for every scene and bit of conversation in a 700-page tome to be duplicated in eight hours of film but readers could generally count on knowing who was who and what was coming next based on the book.
The Outlander, as both novel and film, is part fantasy, part romance and part adventure intertwined into an enthralling story, peopled by unforgettable characters. It doesn't get any better than that.
I can't wait for the start of the new season and the entrance of Lord John Grey, one of my favorite characters. I hope whoever is cast as Lord John is as perfect as the rest.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Writers write. That's the bottom line. It's what they want to do; it's what they need to do. I have written newspaper columns for 30 years. I've written blogs for at least 15 years.
I wrote when my husband died, when my mother died and a couple of weeks ago, when my son died. Non-writers asked me how I could stand to do it. How could I write about subjects that broke my heart. The fact is that I couldn't not write about them even when I was staring at my computer screen through a flood of tears.
It's how I put them in some kind of bearable context. It's how I come to terms with them. It's how I release my feelings. It is how I find closure (a word I generally hate but I can't think of a better one).
Writing is an act that returns normalcy to an abnormal circumstance. Over my decades of writing, I have had many kind and thoughtful letters of appreciation from readers who were grateful because I was able to put their own thoughts and feelings into words, something they couldn't do themselves.
That pleases me but the fact is that I don't write about these things for anyone but myself. If they sometimes touch others, that is a happy by-product. If I didn't have access to a newspaper column or a blog, I would write them into a journal. The words are there and they would harass me until I freed them.
Writers write. They have no choice.