Friday, December 21, 2007

Your Best-of-2008 Awards

It's that time of year - the time in which every magazine, website and Hollywood organization bestow their "best of" awards and compile a variety of top 10 lists. So I figured it might be fun to do the same here at Ask Allison. Here are some of my tops for the year:

Best Book: Then We Came to The End by Joshua Ferris. This book wasn't for everyone, but it was for me. I was flat-out amazed at his creativity and genius, and frankly, loved every single thing about the book. As an author, I read a lot of books and think, "maybe on my best day and with the right idea, I could pen something similar to this," but with Then We Came to The End, I set it down and just thought, "HOLY SHIT, this guy is all sorts of spectacular, and I revere him." (Btw, I don't meant to imply that I could write all the books that others do. I hope it doesn't come off that way! Just that, you know, I could understand their creative process and how they got to where they did, etc. With Ferris, there was none of that.) Again, I know that not everyone loved this book as I did, but for its creativity and genius, it was my favorite of the year.

Book that Made Me Nearly Pee in My Pants: I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle. OMG, I defy you not to have tears streaming down your face as you read. Side-splittingly hilarious but still entirely relatable, and I loved it.

Book that I Wished I'd Written: How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper. Now, here's one of those books I was talking about: I understood how he wrote it, how he created his characters, where his story arc was going, and just adored every single page and word of it. I think I read this book in 24 hours because I was so consumed with it, the words, the message, the writing. Love.

Best TV Show: 30 Rock. I can't for the life of me figure out why more people don't watch this show. Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin (who, incidentally, I saw at the gym yesterday!) are comic gold.

Best New Show: Chuck. Zachary Levi is the new Jon Krasinski, with a touch of Adam Brody thrown in. As if I need further reason to tune in.

Best Movie (Out of the Few Movies that I Get to See): I have two young kids and a husband who would always rather go out to dinner than see a movie when we have a sitter, so...I'm a movie buff who doesn't see as many movies as she'd like. So, for example, I haven't seen any of the recent Oscar-bait releases except for Juno, and thus my two favorite movies of the year (to date) are probably Waitress (my Keri Russell love knows no bounds) and Gone, Baby, Gone, in which Ben Affleck redeemed himself for any and all Bennifer 1.0 embarrassments.

So tell me, what were your favorite books, TV shows and movies this past year? I'm always up for suggestions on all fronts!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fudging the Facts

Question of the day:

I see this all the time:

"A novel based on her experience," "Inspired by a true story," "Names and identifying features have been changed..."

My question is, how much has to be changed? A few details? Major plotlines? Names and places and hair color?

I'm in the midst of writing a memoir. I've changed the names because it enables me to write about my characters, not the people I know. How much would have to be fiction for the book to be fiction -- if I'd like to pitch it that way? I'd never fall into James Frey territory.

And I know writers, agents and publishers have different opinions.

Just curious for yours.

I'm not an expert and I don't write memoirs, so I can only offer my opinion, which, obviously, counts for squat. But I loved this question and think it opens up a good debate/discussion, so I wanted to post it right away. (Trish Ryan, who has a memoir coming out next year, might want to weigh in.)

My inclination is that, in the day and age of James Frey, that you should adhere as closely as possible to the details. Changing names is understandable, and in some cases, advisable, as litigation is always a possibility if you paint a less than flattering picture of someone. A few details? Hair color? I don't think anyone will complain, especially because so many memoirs, like Her Last Death by Susanna Sonnenberg, now offer caveats that, "ahem, this is written from the best of my memory and some dates/situations/people might have changed."

But I'd steer clear of creating fictitious major plot lines because, well, then, like Frey's book (which, not for nothing, I enjoyed a lot), it becomes fiction. I do think that there's a category for this type of book called "creative non-fiction," but from what I understand (and this could have changed as of late), these are tough sells for agents. Editors/publishers either want memoirs (which are already tough sells - make sure that yours highlights something unique) or they want fiction. Period. Either or.

Besides, the whole point of writing a memoir is that you have an incredibly interesting story to tell, one that's specific and unique to you. If you have to change it so drastically, maybe it's not a story you should be telling...

But that's just my initial inclination. What say you, readers?

Monday, December 17, 2007

On the Silver Screen

So this weekend, I caught Little Children on one of the movie channels and was really drawn into it. I LOVED this book, so was unsure about a film adaptation, but I thought it was really well-done, if not more bleak than the actual book. I guess it shouldn't be that surprising since Tom Perrotta co-wrote the screenplay, which had to help ensure authenticity.

It's amazing how many books-to-film are popping up these days, especially knowing how difficult it is to actually get a movie made, much less book rights sold, adapted, actors/directors/writers-signed on, etc. And with the writers' strike, these days, nothing is getting bought or sold.

But this season, there are loads of film adaptations popping up on screen. Some are highly praised - Atonement, which I haven't yet seen but people are saying is very good, and ditto Charlie Wilson's War; some are middling - The Golden Compass, which, again, I also haven't seen; and some are just abysmal - P.S. I Love You, which, given the reviews, you couldn't pay me to see. Incidentally, I just bought that book in hopes of reading it before the movie came out (this was before the horrible reviews), and I just couldn't get into it. Which goes to show that reading is so subjective because it was a huge best-seller but just wasn't for me. Go figure.

So, have you seen any of the above adaptations? What are your favorite book adaptations and what were the worst ones you've seen in recent memory?