Saturday, December 4, 2010

Phoebus veut dire Soleil

Today, I was stabbed with an emotional sword to the heart.

When I started this blog, it was when I was living in Saudi. My life was as bipolar back then as it is now: I wavered between pain and resentment to happiness and appreciation. I'm still doing the same thing, all the time. I have to admit, despite my keeping track of the Saudi blogosphere and news, I have not felt a tug from Saudi for a while.

Today, a simple phone call from my Mom made me need to go back to Saudi right now, today.

It's not that I dislike it here. In fact, being in the Boston/Cambridge area has been an exhilarating and educational experience so far. My graduate school program is opening my mind to new experiences, I have made new friends, and I have discovered new places. Here, I can hop on a train or a bus and get to wherever I want to be. It's incredibly different than my life in Riyadh, where I was stuck in my villa just about every day. It is refreshing and liberating.

Today, I felt the need to be back in my room in Riyadh, writing blogs and eating peach figs.

Life was simple during the summer, where I did not feel like I had much to do but wait and contemplate the coming years. I could sit and write, or think about what I would do once I sat down to write. I read so much, especially from other writers who were either from Saudi or who were living there. Even though my time was limited to some weeks, I felt every day that I had all the time in the world. There was no pressure or rush to do anything, and no real deadlines. It's nothing like now, where I am using iCal to its full potential. Every single day I have some sort of commitment, be it an academic meeting, a social event, or an errand. I am running on a schedule here. It is nothing like my life before, and I am growing resentful of it.

Today, the cold became so unbearable as I walked to the bus stop that I yearned for the hot, summer sun and sandstorms.

I heard it might snow tomorrow, and I have been panicking since. Is my coat warm enough? Do I have enough socks? What will I do in this horrible snow? I dislike the cold, being an island girl. However, I don't want the humidity and cockroaches of Mauritius right now, although it would be a nice alternative. For whatever reason, I want the dryness and blazing sun. I think at this time of year it would be different than the summer, and somewhat cooler in Riyadh. I do not know, because I haven't been to Saudi Arabia during this time of year for such a long time. I don't remember those years I spent as a child. What I do know, however, are the previous summers I spent and if I could have that now, I would be extremely happy.

Today, I found myself wishing, while smoking sheesha at my preferred lounge, that Mr. F could be there with me, sharing the sheesha and talking to me about his life.

My friends here are wonderful, but Mr. F always brought me down to Earth. He always had words of wisdom and warmth to give to me. If you want to know more about how I feel about him, you should probably read what I wrote previously, when I was still in Saudi. Rereading my own words made me feel very sad. Let me just say that until now, I have still never met a more selfless and endearing man. I am reminded of him all the time, especially when I encounter brownies (which is often) or sheesha (which is even more often).

Today, I thought about sitting in the villa's living room with my parents as each of us sat at our separate laptops and I couldn't imagine anything better.

Today, I wanted to buy a pair of shoes at Granada Mall because I know exactly where to look and I know they'd have something in my style.

Today, I saw a sushi place and remembered my Dad's ritual of buying a tray of sushi from Carrefour to eat while my Mom and I went shopping.

Today, I started to miss Saudi so much more than I have since I have gotten here.

The sandstorm still rages in my psyche. I'm never too far away from the desert.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Awake. Seek Truth. Stumble. Begin Again.

From "Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment"

I love twitter. Because of twitter, I follow many random people I would have never thought of listening to otherwise, and I listen to what they have to say about 90% of the time. Also due to twitter, I have many links to click on so that I can procrastinate further on the many assignments and projects that are eating my life.

Today I clicked on a link that brought me to Deepak Chopra's Buddha. I looked at the gorgeous illustrations and was fascinated. There are comics about everything. And why not? I spent a whole thesis dedicated to why the sequential art genre is amazingly effective at displaying narrative. It is of absolutely no surprise to me that many books are being adapted into the graphic novel format. It is a completely different, yet valid way of portraying a story.

One person I follow on twitter, who is in fact one of my favourite people to follow, is Paulo Coelho, one of my most beloved authors. I found out through twitter that The Alchemist, a book I consider to be one of the best out there, is also out as a graphic novel. I'm ordering a copy as soon as I finish this post. When I heard of the news, I was so damn excited and thrilled that this existed. I cannot wait to see how this will work! Will I feel the magic I felt when I read the book? How will my gaze and the sequence of images change my emotional reaction to the events of the story? Will the still images and speech bubbles of the storyboard evoke the same questions and thoughts that the sentences did?

I have to admit, like with any other person who is a fan of something that is very close to them, I am worried about beloved books translating to comics. It's like the book-to-movie transition - can it really work? What do they have to cut out? What will have to be added? How will the appearance of characters and settings match with my imagination?

However, I need to say that this isn't a book-to-movie transition at all. There are fundamental differences that make book-to-comics way more appealing to me than book-to-movie.

First of all, there is the lack of Hollywood. Oh my God, Hollywood! How you have destroyed many, many good narratives and characters! Look at that stupid Red Riding Hood movie that is coming out, for example. Pathetic. It is usually due to the Hollywoodisation of books that we are either bored to tears (those movies are usually better) or angry due to the complete distortion of canon (those movies are usually so much worse).

Sometimes, Hollywood can get it right. This is when the changes are subtle but necessary, the acting and screenwriting is superb, and most importantly, what I like to call the soul of the movie is unchanged. We are involved with the same characters we loved in text and the tone is perfect, matching that of the author and narrator. I like to think that The Color Purple and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest are good examples of this. However, most of the time these adaptations are just dreadful. Lots of money is spent on making a lot more money out of people like us.

Graphic novels, comics, whatever you want to call them do not have the pressure of Hollywood. From my own experience, they come in so many varieties that there is not need to glamourise the story at all. People who read comics tend to love books too, so while certain conventions do apply, the content of graphics do not need to differ greatly from that of a novel. Us book lovers are generally expecting the same things.

Obviously, the fact that there are images accompanying text (and some comics have no text at all) makes the type of narration dependent on different things. Therefore, the story will not be told the same way. This is a given. However, I feel that the medium can relate the story's "soul" more effectively because novels and comics are both forms of book arts. They involve the reader in a way that is similar to each other. Film and comics have something in common too, in terms of the movement of images - aren't strips reminiscent of film stills? I think so, at least. However, like with books, the reader controls the speed and movement of comics, whereas films are moved for you. It's a huge divergence.

Having said all of this, I need to note (so that I may remain honest with you all) that I view all three media with equal reverence. Actually, in order to be really honest, I need to use the word love. I love novels, comics, and film with all of my heart. There is something about narrative that means so much to me and all three of these art forms are effective in their own way. I like to view them as separate from one another and yet I cannot help but see them as extremely intertwined. Like life, it is complicated.

I wonder if I will be able to separate the novel from the graphic when I finally receive The Alchemist in the mail. Maybe the only way for me to enjoy the comic is to see it as its own thing, and let my eyes be led across the page. It is a narrative I know, but now it's time for me to see it differently.

At least the "different" way for me to re-experience The Alchemist isn't through some shitty Hollywood adaptation. Thank the LORD.