What to Read…and Watch

wpid-wp-1412120806165.jpegRecommended Reading: Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

Recommended Watching: Outlander TV series on Starz

Several times in the past month I have been asked about the books I’m reading. Typically, I’m a fickle reader—having several books going at the same time to meet my mood. However, this year…yes, this entire year…I have been engrossed in the Outlander world.

Outlander, a series of novels written by Diana Gabaldon, defies classification. I wouldn’t classify the novels as “romance,” per se, but there are some erotic scenes. I also wouldn’t label them historical fiction because there’s also time travel. Readers, writers, and publishers have attempted to classify these novels for years and have failed, so I won’t rehash that here, but whether you like fantasy, romance, historical fiction, or sci-fi, you will like these books.

The series first attracted my attention simply because of the Gabaldon name. Diana Gabaldon hails from my home town: Flagstaff, Arizona. My family knew of her family: first, because of her father, Tony Gabaldon, as a state senator; second, because my eldest brother attended the same grade school; third, my sister Patricia attended a class or two with her at Northern Arizona University. Gabaldon doesn’t know this…I doubt she had much interaction with my family…but what matters is that this slight family connection introduced me to her books. I started with a beat-up copy of Outlander when I was home from college in 1995 and quickly fell in love with the characters. They jumped to life on the page, and I enjoyed the action, the strong female protagonist, the landscape, the historical accuracy, as well as Gabaldon’s style.

In fact, I love the books so much that each time a new one is announced (about every three years or so), I reread the entire series. (I also read the John Grey series.) I’m usually finished just in time for the new book to arrive. It works out perfectly. The 8th book, Written in my Own Heart’s Blood, came out in June of this year, and I began rereading the series in January. I finished the 7th book just in time for the pre-purchased 8th one to show up on my Kindle. I expected that I would finish the 8th book and then move on with my life away from Outlander, but that hasn’t happened. Instead, I’m more engrossed than ever because of the TV series.

When I saw that Outlander was being turned into a TV Series, I was a bit worried. I had a clear image of the characters, the landscape, and the events in the books. I didn’t want that demolished. One of the pleasures of reading is to imagine new worlds and people. I don’t always want these places or people to come to life on a screen. In most cases, movies created from books I’ve loved cannot compare with what I have created in my own imagination, and I am horribly disappointed. I didn’t want this to happen with Outlander, but I couldn’t stay away from the series. I had to see it for myself…see if these characters could come to life for me in a different way.

With trepidation, I watched the pilot. Just like with the books, I fell instantly in love. The characters weren’t exactly how I imagined physically, but their personalities were just right: Claire is sassy, strong, feminine, and self-conscious; Jaime is humorous, strong, masculine, and gentle. The TV series doesn’t exactly follow the books, and it works. The spirit of the books is respected, such as Claire’s strong character, but some changes had to be made for the television audience (such as the timing of some events). The show is also different enough to add excitement to keep the hardcore fans guessing. It is also different from other current popular shows.

I love seeing the characters come to life, and I love that Starz is sticking to the spirit of the books while making some sensible changes. The network is rewarded with a large following, and fans are rewarded with an early renewal for a second season.

For me, the result is complete immersion in the Outlander world. I have watched every episode at least twice, and I am rereading the first book. I enjoy following along and analyzing the differences between the books and the TV series. It’s also a way to stay connected with the characters while waiting for the next episode. The mid-season finale was this past Saturday, and I have a long time to wait for the next installment (April 2015!). Until then, I’m reading the Outlander novella The Space Between and watching some of the TV episodes over again. If I’m ever tired of the repeats, maybe I’ll be able to move on to different books by different authors. Until then, to answer your question “what are you reading,” I’m reading Diana Gabaldon.

For a complete list of her books, visit her website: http://www.dianagabaldon.com/.

What are you reading?

~ K

Perspectives

I love raspberries, so I have several raspberry bushes against my house. We started with one lone bush purchased from a nursery, but over the years, friends have added to our collection with different varieties. Now they cover nearly one whole side of the house. Some are wild raspberries and produce small leaves and fruit; some were from nurseries across the country and have larger fruit and leaves. Either way, they are all just as sweet and delicious. Every year, we can’t wait for raspberry season–forgetting the time and effort it takes to gather the fruit.

At first, the raspberries were easy to pick because there were not that many. Of course, now, it can take an hour. Frustratingly, I’ll pick what I think are all of the ripe raspberries on one bush; then I’ll move away to the next section and start picking those, only to look at the section I just finished and see more ripe raspberries on the other side. I often fail to see every ripe raspberry from a single perspective. It takes moving around and examining every inch of the bush to see them all.

This seems to be true about life and its many facets. We see an issue, an experience, and even a person from one perspective and think we understand it, but as we approach it from another angle, our perspective changes and so does our view. I’m sure most of you have seen the image of the duck/rabbit as a lesson in perspective. It depends on how you look at the picture (or an issue) as to what you see.

Because of this, it always amazes me at how many people think they know the “right” answer about something despite not understanding the whole picture. Most recently, I see this in the Wisconsin shootings over this past Sunday.

Wade Michael Page allegedly killed 6 people and injured 4 people in the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. Just like in the shootings in Aurora, CO and in Tucson, AZ last year, gun control debates have ensued.

Nothing demonstrates the intricacy of an issue such as gun ownership. Consider the complexity of the Second Amendment:

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Try diagramming that sentence. Which of these phrases connects to the verb phrase? Which right “shall not be infringed”? Should it be a “well regulated militia [that]…shall not be infringed”? Or is it truly the “right of the people to keep and bear arms…shall not be infringed”? There are those who argue that the Second Amendment allows for gun control (“well regulated”), and some who argue that nothing should “infringe” on a citizens’ right to “keep and bear arms.” However, can one really argue that the public needs to own semi-automatic rifles? Or machine guns? What is the purpose? And if, in fact, the Second Amendment does not allow for gun control, how do we stop these killings? How do we stop the violence?

Most of all, it’s sad that this week has turned into a time of mourning rather than a time of national celebration as the Olympics near the end and as another rover lands on Mars. At a time when we should have some national pride, people are grieving and lamenting over the anger and intolerance that still exists in our country. Maybe it’s because I’m paying more attention these days, but it sure seems to me that there’s less tolerance for differences and disagreement. Instead, everyone is clamoring to be heard and arguing that they are right.

But where are these arguments getting us? Do they teach us to be more tolerant? Do they teach us to listen? Do they teach us to understand all perspectives on an issue? I don’t think they do. Instead of arguing, we should be listening and simply talking. Ask questions. Discover where fundamental beliefs come from. Find common ground. Solutions must come from the common ground, and if there is no common ground, then we’re not listening to all perspectives.

~ K

(This sign displayed at a chiropractor’s office provides the best advice: “change the way you look at things, and the things you look at will change.”)