Admittedly, I’ve only been doing this Top Five Wednesday thing for three weeks now but this one proved a little bit challenging for me. The good folks who run the Official T5W Group over at Goodreads said we were to write about the top five settings we wanted to see more of. They could be time periods, places, real, fictitious, etc. What made this hard is, upon reflection, I learned that the setting is rarely what draws me to a story, let alone makes me fall in love with it. For example, I love New York City but I won’t read a book or see a film just because it’s set there. And few books or movies make the city as central a part of it as, say, Begin Again did (which, if you haven’t seen, you should check it out NOW – it’s beautiful). So it’s not the setting that I love but rather what the author does with the story and the characters they choose to place in that setting. But! I wasn’t going to throw in the towel! So, after some careful consideration, here are the five settings I’d like to see more of.
What helped me over the writer’s block was when I realized that, this week, we weren’t talking about literary settings specifically. The wording of the prompt – “Settings You Want to See More Of – These can be time periods (historical or futuristic) or places (real or fictitious)!” – is actually open ended. That made me think immediately of what became my #3 choice on this list and then the rest flowed pretty easily from there.
5) We’ll begin with 221B Baker Street, the home of the world’s most famous consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes and his trusted companion Dr. James Watson. About five years ago I read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s collected works in The Complete Sherlock Holmes, a gorgeous leather bound edition from Barnes & Noble that I received as a Christmas present from my parents. I held reading the volume until that summer and I fell in love. I read every novel and short story in the collection…and the rest of my summer reading seemed to pale in comparison. I wanted more! The language was so precise, the characters so developed, and the mysteries so engrossing. I turned to other classics in the genre, like Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, but nothing seemed anywhere near as good. In fact, after the intricate and detailed work of Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade seemed like a boozy hack, trampling crime scenes and dumb lucking his way into evidence. Sherlock Holmes has ruined me for all other detective novels. So I don’t just want more Sherlock…I want more stories that feel as great as what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gave us. I want that same 221B Baker Street rush!
4) Next we come to Asgardia and the world of Thor…and anywhere else Russell Dauterman wants to take me. As a previous post makes clear, I’m obviously in love with the current Thor series. In Russell Dauterman’s talented hands, the alien worlds of goddesses and gods is breathtaking. Every panel is exciting, no matter what the characters are doing. His work is so rich! Even good ol’ earth looks incredible! Everything this man draws takes my breath away. I kid you not, he could draw dirt swirling around in the wind and it would look magnificent and enthralling. Matt Wilson’s color work is every bit as magical as Dauterman’s art as well. I love, love, love the current incarnation of Thor so the more time I can spend in that world the better!
3) The third spot on the list is Scranton, PA and all the good folks at Dunder Mifflin in NBC’s The Office. Any adjectives I want to write seem too little for such a wonderful show. I discovered this series based on the recommendation of one of my best friends, Mike. He told me I’d love it and needed to watch it. So, without ever having seen an episode but trusting in Mike’s take on my taste, I went online to Amazon and bought the first four seasons on DVD. Mike deserves that sort of trust. He’s earned a gold standard of recommendations over years of friendship. He told me, “Listen…the show has a very distinct feel to it. So you have to watch at least five episodes. You’re not going to appreciate it until you get to know the characters and the rhythm of the show. You’ll love it…but you have to give it a chance.” I remember the DVDs coming in the mail and sitting down to watch the first season with my parents. After the first few episodes I looked at Dad…and neither of us were really into it. We worried that Mike’s perfect record had failed. But by the end of the first season Mike was vindicated! I mean it’s THE OFFICE!!!! How can you NOT love it?!?!? We binge-watched the first four seasons in a few weeks, before “binge-watching” was even a term people were throwing around and we’ve all loved it ever since. No matter how many times I watch The Office I laugh just as much and I cry just as often. In fact, I think the richness of the show grows as you know the characters better and better. The Office will also always hold a special place as it was the first show Kalie and I committed to watching together. I know, aww. It’s just such a GOOD show! I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t want to be Pam and Jim?? Or have Dwight prepare your shelter for the apocalypse?!
2) Next we’ll turn to the world of Outlander…and anywhere else Diana Gabaldon wants to take me. A few years ago another of my closest friends, Lauren recommended I read Outlander. I certainly don’t shy away from big books but I was hesitant because the novel was ENORMOUS and it was the first in a series of ENORMOUS books. As a teacher, my school year reading has to be limited since there are lessons to plan and papers and exams to grade. This seemed a little bit intimidating. But Lauren, like Mike, had never given me a recommendation that I didn’t love so I gave it a shot. And I fell in love with the world Diana Gabaldon created! I devoured Claire and Jamie’s first adventure. I loved the dual historical settings – Scotland 1745 just after WWII and then Scotland in 1743. I’d never encountered such rich emotional characters or such enthralling settings. As someone with a great love of literature and a degree in history I couldn’t put the book down. A chapter into the book I told Kelly, another best friend of mine, that she had to read the book too. She agreed and our summer was filled with excitement. My mom picked up the book (trusting Kelly’s recommendation and not mine as I’m “a history guy”) and she read it even faster than we did. We’ve actually all tried our best to keep pace with each other so we can geek out and frantically speculate about what can possibly happen next. Far from stuffy history, Diana Gabaldon makes her characters and the world they inhabit come alive in the best possible way. Outlander is second only to The Alchemist as far as my personal favorite books go…which is saying a lot as nothing moves me like the beauty of Coelho’s writing. I read the first six books in the series and then forced myself to put them on hold. That whole being a teacher and having to do stuff for the job got in the way of my reading :). BUT summer vacation has returned once more and An Echo In The Bone and Written In My Own Heart’s Blood are calling….
1) I HAVE to end with Sacred Heart, the fictional hospital that served as the setting for the show Scrubs. I LOVE THIS SHOW. I first discovered it in 2007, during its sixth season run. The show, starring the most brilliant ensemble cast I’ve ever witnessed led by Zach Braff, would run for seven seasons on NBC and two seasons on ABC. I have watched the entire series at least once a year, every year, since I discovered it. I still vividly remember watching S1E4, “My Old Lady,” with David. As the episode drew to a close we both found ourselves deeply moved. As I looked over at David, whipping the tears from my eyes, we both agreed this wasn’t your normal sitcom. Yes, it is a goofy, screwball comedy at times – filled with wild fantasy sequences. But it also has a great deal of heart…and it frequently goes to some heavy emotional places. I’ve never encountered a show, before or since, that seemingly simultaneously makes me laugh so hard or tear up so frequently. For me, everything about Bill Lawrence’s Scrubs is perfect. And watching it feels like coming home for me. I remember hunting for the DVDs at Borders with Jeff. I remember watching the episodes (again and again and again and again and again…) on the couch with David, often joined by our parents. I will never, ever, ever tire of watching J.D., Turk, Elliot, Carla, Dr. Cox, Dr. Kelso, Jordan, Ted, and the Janitor do their thing. Aaah!! Just writing this makes me want to go throw the DVDs in right now!!!
And there we have it! What started as a struggle ended up being a fun (and surprising!) nostalgic trip down memory lane. I’ve really enjoyed my first three rounds in the Top Five Wednesday fold and I’m looking forward to seeing what the July prompts will bring. Yay! Now maybe it’s time to finally start An Echo In The Bone or perhaps Scared Heart is calling me…hmm.