Leaving a Literary Legacy

A Japanese Maple in the garden of Chartwell House. With Robyn Turton

As I walked to the post office on a sunny autumn day in London to send off some magazine competition entries, I was reminded of the film The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. This 2005 release starred Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson and was a lovely based-on-truth story about a mother of 10 who entered competitions and with her winnings saved her family from ruin. The difference between the luck-of-the-draw competitions I had entered and the ones Evelyn Ryan (Moore) went for in the 1950s was the skill required. Ryan needed to write clever, succinct jingles that were better than all the other entrants’ attempts. Judging by the number of times she won she was indeed very skillful.

My daughter and I watched the film on a mobile phone in an AirBnB in Canterbury, Kent. We had taken

The Wife of Bath & Robyn Turton. Which is which?

off a few days to visit this county and were pleased with the number of other skilled writers we had come across on our journey. The first, on our way to Canterbury, was Winston Churchill. We had visited Chartwell House, the WWII home of this gifted man. Apart from being prime minister of Britain and a decorated military man, Churchill also wrote almost 50 books and was an amateur painter. A tour guide at the house pointed out an interesting comparison. Adolf Hitler, too, was an artist and had applied to study at art school but had been refused. What if, posited the guide, Hitler had been accepted at art school?

In Canterbury itself we of course saw some reminders of the author of the famous The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucer is credited with being one of the first people to write in English (albeit in Ye Olde English) and his stories are full of ribald humour and so are appealing today. Somebody who wrote in more ‘modern’ English several centuries later was Charles Dickens whose home was Rochester, another city in Kent. My daughter and I did a walking tour of this delightful old city where we saw landmarks that Dickens himself refers to in many of his works. These included ‘Satis House’ from Great Expectations (properly named Restoration House) and Rochester Cathedral which takes centre stage in Dickens’s unfished work The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

‘Satis House’ in Rochester, Kent

It was lovely to have walked in the footsteps of these real historic literary greats – from Chaucer to Dickens to Churchill. And as I strolled back from posting my luck-of-the-draw competition entries I pondered on The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, who herself – however different – left a literary legacy  of her own.




Watching and Writing Words

By Brenda Daniels

Three films, already out on DVD, all reflect an interest in words.

In the first of the three that I watched recently, Academy Award winner, Julianne Moore plays Alice, a character who experiences the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease. Diagnosed at the early age of 50, Alice’s deterioration is scarily swift. From momentarily forgetting words to not recognising landmarks, Alice quickly begins to suffer the ignominy of not being able to find the bathroom and of greeting her own daughter like a stranger. Still Alice delivers its message all the more poignantly by casting its lead character in the role of a linguistics professor who has written a book about communication. When elaborating on his diagnosis Alice’s doctor tells her that symptoms of this strange illness can be even more rapid in the highly educated. Very sobering indeed.

Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart are mother and daughter in Still Alice, a film about how Alice deals with early onset Alzheimer's Disease. Photo source: http://www.vwmin.org/still-alice-by-lisa-genova-9781501107733-paperback.html

Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart are mother and daughter in Still Alice, a film about how Alice deals with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Photo source: http://www.vwmin.org/still-alice-by-lisa-genova-9781501107733-paperback.html

Not nearly as believable or worth watching is Stuck in Love, starring Greg Kinnear, Lily Collins and Nat Wolff. In this film a father and his two children are all writers. Each of them writes (or experiences writer’s block) in response to their love or antipathy for the wife and mother (Jennifer Connelly) who “deserted” them some years before. Positing love as the artist’s muse is not a new idea by any means. But in Stuck in Love the portrayal is a bit ridiculous and makes a mockery of the hard work, as opposed to sentiment, that “inspires” writers.

In a way it is hard work that does inspire writing in The Rewrite. In this movie Hugh Grant plays scriptwriter, Keith Michaels, who simply can’t come up with a sequel to his first successful script. He is shipped off to the other side of the country to take up a job as a writer-in-residence at a small university. Here his lackadaisical attitude quickly gets him into trouble. It takes the writing output of his own students to help Keith turn his life around. Their scripts help him realise that, contrary to his initial thoughts, writing can be taught (not just caught) and their positive response to his teaching proves to be the catalyst for his next script.

In Still Alice and The Rewrite there is clear character development. In The Rewrite Keith realises his own and others’ value through his recapturing of the written word. In Still Alice, Alice remains, to herself and her family, still Alice despite her sad loss of words.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is not meaty enough

A Review by Brenda Daniels

In the first movie in this series (The Hunger Games) viewers were introduced to a terrifying future in which humans, struggling for basic resources, are sent to participate in a macabre game of life and death: the Hunger Games.

In the games Katniss Everdeen, well portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence, comes to the fore as a tough, genuine heroine. At the same time a love triangle is established between Katniss and fellow Hunger Games fighter, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), and childhood friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth).

In the second film, The Hunger Games Catching Fire, the plot thickens when Katniss Everdeen returns to the Hunger Games, and this time uses her fighting skills, not to kill her fellow participants, but to attack the overarching enemy, the Capitol. She does this by shooting and destroying the Hunger Games’ dome. Meanwhile, tension in the love triangle grows.

Unlike the first two films, the third, and highly anticipated The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is not a complete story. This is because, as the title explains, the full story, based on the third book in the series, has been broken into two parts. And it suffers for it.

Yes, there is a new twist; Peeta has been captured by the Capitol and is forced to speak out against the growing rebellion in the districts. As a result, in the midst of heavy fighting against the Capitol, District 12 launches a mission for his rescue. But this section of a story is not meaty enough to keep audience attention.

The love story too, wears a bit thin, with too many close-ups of Katniss in several chin-wobbling tearful scenes.

In an effort to milk too much from an interesting and unique series, the filmmakers have spoilt what should have been a fitting finale. Ending this film on a “cliffhanger” will not be enough to entice me to see the next (last?) one.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 opens at cinemas in South Africa on Friday 21 November.

An impression of the new Mockingjay - Katniss Everdeen by MartAiConan. Photo: Creative Commons.

An impression of the new Mockingjay – Katniss Everdeen by MartAiConan. Photo: Creative Commons.

This image can also be seen along with the artist’s other paintings at this website.

Josh Hutcherson plays Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games. Photo (Creative Commons) by Gage Skidmore.

Josh Hutcherson plays Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games. Photo (Creative Commons) by Gage Skidmore.