By George RR Martin
It may be no surprise to learn that fantasy is not a favourite genre of mine. I don’t have any particular problem with it, I could just never get into it, to the extent as so many other people. I read The Lord of the Rings one month before the films came out, back in 2001 when I was living in Vienna. I knew I was going to watch the films so I had to read the books. I’d tried and failed before. One helpful tip: skip the songs!
Living away from Anglo/American/Irish TV you lose track of what the hyped series are. Occasionally you see mentions on Facebook and you read articles about different series or see what is winning awards but you do lose touch. We did try to watch Spanish TV for a while but the connection stopped working and we weren’t really that bothered to look into it. Plus the colour on the TV started going and everything looked green. I was sad to hear about the demise of Television Without Pity, which was great for reading up on series and figuring out if they’re worth the effort. I guess one way or another I’ve been using it for almost 14 years.
You end up depending on word of mouth. One friend in Gibraltar really gushed about Game of Thrones. But she also couldn’t get into ‘Arrested Development’ (the original, not the latest season) so we weren’t sure if we could trust her recommendation.
One day on imdb I noticed that the screenwriter was David Benioff and that intrigued me. One of my favourite books of recent years was ‘City of Thieves’ and I’m really amazed they haven’t made that into a movie yet. It doesn’t sound particularly promising: two boys are tasked with finding a dozen eggs during the siege of Leningrad, but just read it – it leaps off the page. Every now and then I google it ‘city of thieves movie’ but nothing much seems to be happening.
Anyway I thought ‘well, this could be worth checking out. My husband likes his fantasy series well enough but he didn’t seem to have any on the go at that moment so I ordered the first DVD and book on Amazon.
When ‘Friends’ video boxsets were first sold, I remember thinking ‘who would pay for something they could watch on TV for free?’ and considering the never-ending Friends reruns I thinks this is still valid. However the growing pile of boxsets in the corner of our sitting room shows how wrong I was. When I returned to Vienna in the Spring of 2002 I was super-addicted to 24 and a few other shows and I actually left a taping schedule with my little sister. Oh the shame. I think I even sent her a text message reminder the first week or two. When I returned I asked around to see if anybody had tapes, then finally caved and bought the boxset. On video. Neither my parents nor my brother, who I was living with at the time, owned a DVD player. As you can see, we’re not really early adopters. This might be one of the reasons I’m so attached to my real books.
It was the year in Belarus sans TV that tamed my TV addiction. I still enjoy it immensely as those piles of boxsets prove, but at least I’m not slave to the schedules. My husband enjoyed the Song of Ice and Fire books and continued to buy them. There was some disappointment when he thought there was still one more to go, but while book 5 was often split in 2 he had actually read the full thing in one volume. We watched all three series. I read Book 1 over the holidays and found it enjoyable but felt like I was watching the TV series over again. I would have continued with Book 2 but it had disappeared. Over Christmas I found it at his parents’ house, where it seems it had been since May, judging by the Boarding pass being used as a bookmark. It doesn’t matter how many official bookmarks you buy, you always end up using random objects for bookmarks, reminding you of when it was you (or somebody else) last picked up the book. I love discovering these in older books. The best treasure trove was my mother’s Complete Works of Shakespeare from her time at UCD. A ticket for some party. (30!. 8 til late!) A note from a friend who had passed by her desk in the library. A funny postcard. You don’t get those in a kindle.
I used to be very careful with my books, no earmarks or creases. And yet a book needs to live. The fact that it is no longer as it was in the shop is a good sign. I love that too, in second hand books, where you see the name and the date and try to imagine the lives it has touched. I should really start signing mine.
So Game of Thrones is back on TV and all the publicity is in full swing. There is a certain amount of pride because a large part is filmed in Ireland and there are also plenty of Irish actors. I have to admire the author for the universe he has created, but would it be really bad to compare the writing with something like chicklit? It passes time, but doesn’t really touch you. I mean I suppose there is some fun in the idea that literally anybody could die, but after a while you stop feeling affinity for the characters as you think, why should I care for this one, most likely they’ll be dead next chapter. But how and ever, I’m really looking forward to watching this series. And I guess at some stage I’ll keep reading the books too, though I’ll take a break before starting the next one.