The Writing Majors (Betwixt Productions, 2015)
When I originally wrote in my Literary-Inspired Web Series recommendations post that I was hoping to put some reviews up, I wasn’t planning on starting with The Writing Majors. However, it is one of my favourites and the creators (Betwixt Productions) have just started to release another series, so to support them I’ve moved this review to the front of the line. One reason I wasn’t planning on starting with this series is that most Literary-Inspired Web Series are adaptations of classic literary texts, with a smaller number reimagining the lives of the writers themselves. But The Writing Majors is by far my favourite of these, imagining Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, and Oscar Wilde as flatmates studying creative writing at university. Watching The Writing Majors as it was released, I initially had no idea how invested I would become in the series. In a way, it crept up on me so that, even though I was watching it alongside series which, at the time, I would have considered favourites, this was the one which stuck with me long after it had finished. The Writing Majors has fast become one of my favourite series to rewatch, and I love it more and more every time. Read more
Literary-Inspired Web Series
Over the past two or three years, I have been watching a lot of Literary-Inspired Web Series on Youtube. These are web series, often created by young, independent, aspiring filmmakers, which either adapt a classic literary text or take direct inspiration from classic literature. Like many, I started with the very popular The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and it all escalated from there. This is a post I’ve been wanting to make for a while, but I’ve been a little unsure how to go about it. Literary-Inspired Web Series are a genre in themselves at this point, and, whilst there is growing acknowledgement of their place within the world of adaptation, there is still a sense in which they are a little Other, a little unknown. However, I think there are a lot of positives to watching at least a few of these series and getting a feel for them. For starters, they are a growing, global phenomenon, which gives young amateur script writers, directors, and actors an opportunity to create their own shows for an audience. Many of the adaptations are unique, clever modernisations of classic texts. And most episodes are between 5-10 minutes, so they are relatively easy to catch up on.
It can be hard to know where to start with these, so I wanted to create a recommendations list of some I have enjoyed over the years. I’m going to attempt to keep this up-to-date as new series come out so if you are interested, this might be a good page to bookmark. Ultimately, I am going to write proper reviews for some, but probably not all, of these. But for now, have a look through and see if there are any which take your fancy!
Please note: Currently Airing shows are found at the end of the list.
The Tell-Tale Heart (Penguin Little Black Classics) by Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe is one of those writers you feel you must have read at some point in your life, but they’ve just become so ingrained in our culture that you aren’t quite sure whether you actually did, or if you just know their writing from other media. Certainly this must be true of ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’, the first of the three short stories in this little book from the Penguin Little Black Classics Collection: it is referenced so often, with such a range of spoofs and rewrites, that we could probably all retell the main plot points of the narrative without ever having read the story. I may not have read much (or any) Poe up until this point, but it is impossible to miss how much of an influence he has had on the culture I live in. And so, one sunny day (because I didn’t want to read it just before I went to sleep), I sat down and read these short stories about mystery, madness, and death. Read more
A Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester
A Meal with Jesus is one of these books I have been meaning to read for a very, very long time. It’s been recommended at every seminar/talk/workshop about hospitality that I’ve ever sat in and I have many friends who have found it really helpful. However, given how much I had heard it quoted and referenced, I thought that I probably knew the general gist of Chester’s argument and would simply be able to enjoy the refresher on this topic. I definitely was not expected to be challenged personally as I read. If you think this is a recurring theme in my Christian reading life… well, it certainly seems that way at the moment. I will never cease to be amazed by the ways God challenges us when we are least expecting it! Read more
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
George Eliot has always proved to be a bit of a mixed bag for me: whilst I loved Middlemarch, I can’t say that I enjoyed Silas Marner or Adam Bede all that much at all. But my love for Middlemarch keeps me optimistic about her writing, and that definitely paid off with The Mill on the Floss. This might actually be the shortest amount of time between finishing a novel and writing a post about it; I literally finished reading five minutes ago (at the time of writing, not posting). The reason for this quick turnaround is simple: this was a novel which provoked a lot of emotion in me. I spent five minutes in a state of shock at the ending, and then decided that I must write my thoughts down before I forgot them, because I think this is one of those occasions where an emotional response is a good thing. Read more
Honor & Shame: Unlocking the Door by Roland Muller
Please Note: This is a Cross-Cultural resource specifically aimed at those in Christian ministry. However, it includes some helpful chapters about guilt/innocence, fear/power, and honour/shame cultures: if this is something you are interested in, but you don’t feel the book as a whole is appropriate for you, I would recommend Chapters Five, Six, and Eight which focus more on the sociological background and development of these cultures.
I have been to many training sessions based on the ideas articulated by Roland Muller in Honor & Shame, but it took me a little while to sit down and read the book myself as it is very expensive to get a physical copy shipped to the UK (it is much, much cheaper to get it as an ebook). If you are involved in Cross-Cultural work of some sort, the chances are that you will have heard the concept of guilt/innocence, honour/shame, and power/fear cultures even if just in passing. Yet it is a concept which we often still struggle to understand fully, and I know that I can think of instances even within the week I write this where I have made mistakes in relating to those who come from different worldviews to mine. Read more
Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
Please note: 1) Of course (of course!) I am aware that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K.Rowling. However, throughout this review, I will be referring to her as ‘Galbraith’ for the simple reason that this is the name on the cover; in addition, writing ‘Rowling’ makes it difficult (for me) to separate this series from Harry Potter when, in reality, they are two entirely different entities.
2) There are some slight spoilers below for the characters, but not for the overall crime narrative.
I think this is where I part ways with the Cormoran Strike series. I’ve never been a huge reader of crime fiction, but when I first picked up The Cuckoo’s Calling I was so gripped I could not put it down. I am not one of these people who can tell who the murderer is from the moment they appear, so the twist of the reveal was a real shock for me. I was so impressed by the world Galbraith had created, with these unlikely characters and spaces, and it was overall an enjoyable book. The Silkworm stood out slightly less to me; the plot clearly hasn’t lasted long in my memory. But I do remember enjoying it as I was reading, and I also remember being similarly unable to put the book down. Reading Career of Evil was almost the opposite experience of this for me: everything in me was screaming to just put the book down because it was so dark but I was determined to get through it as quickly as possible so that I could move onto something else. Read more
North and South (BBC, 2004) adapted by Sandy Welch, directed by Brian Percival
Since the first time I studied Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South and started voicing how much I loved it, I have had people recommending the 2004 BBC adaptation to me. Something that always struck me as interesting were the reasons that people gave for recommending it: without fail, every recommendation had some variation of the phrases “you will fall in love with Richard Armitage, he is so good as Mr. Thornton” and “the Margaret and Thornton relationship is so romantic”. I found this strange because, whilst the relationship between Margaret and Thornton is obviously a major theme in the book, North and South is hardly a book about romance; the romance is one layer of a complex study into class, industrialisation, and the economic divide between the North and the South of England. One of the reasons it took me so long to get around to actually watching this adaptation was that I was worried the romance might have taken over every other aspect which makes the book so great.
However, I didn’t need to be so concerned: it turns out people were recommending it because it is actually a great series, not just because they think Mr. Thornton is good-looking. Read more