The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: Top Ten Pointers to the Trilogy

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It’s been an exciting past week or so here for serious readers, from J.K. Rowling’s new slow-release of The Ickabog to the release of the new Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. We’ve already taken a few looks here at the new prequel, which will doubtless continue to yield further treasures upon repeated readings. If you have not yet checked out The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, I hope you will, and that you will join our conversation on its many layers. One of the most interesting features is the way in which the novel uses foreshadowing for events that we, savvy readers of the original trilogy, already know well. Although set 64 years before Katniss Everdeen’s name comes out of the Reaping bowl in the well-manicured hand of Effie Trinket, this novel should only be read by those who have already completed the trilogy. Like the Star Wars prequels, with moments like Obi-Wan Kenobi chiding his friend Anakin Skywalker, “You’re going to be the death of me,” BSS  is an experience that only works if the readers know what is coming. This is a useful technique in literature and film. After all, we cannot gasp with horror when Oedipus declares that the murderer of Laius will be exiled and live in misery, unless we are familiar with the myth, so we know he himself is the man he seeks and that he will indeed be ruined and miserable.  We cannot mentally headslap people in Titanic when they declare the ship’s invincibility if we do not know that the ship is going down, along with many of its passengers and their hubris.

So here are our first “top ten” moments and themes of The Ballad of Songbirds Snakes that point to and set up the trilogy we already know, some of us quite well. This is just the start to a much longer list, one that I am sure will grow with each reading. [Read more…]

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: Three Notes on Hunger Games Prequel

I have written a great deal here about the work of Suzanne Collins, from her much neglected Gregor the Underlander novels and When Charlie McButton Lost Power, to her Hunger Games trilogy and even the children’s picture book she wrote post fame and fortune, Year of the Jungle. My exegesis of the Katniss Everdeen books in various HogwartsProfessor posts ran to close to 60,000 words and I regret never turning the three principle Mockingjay posts — The Spiritual Allegory, The Literary Alchemy, and Katniss’ Apotheosis — into a proper book. I think so much about her that this week last year I wrote about ‘Whatever Happened to Suzanne Collins?’

No surprise, then, that I read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes on the day of release. You may be surprised that I have not shared my thoughts on the subject until now, in great contrast with the weeks following publication of Mockingjay, the trilogy finale. I plead “full-time job in ‘essential business,’ being overdue on a thesis chapter, and, most important, perhaps, that I have not reviewed the Hunger Games series and re-read Songbirds and Snakes in light of that review.” I have scandalized Potter fans in the past by saying that I think Collins’ achievement with Mockingjay was at least on par and perhaps greater than Deathly Hallows; her work deserves better than a flip newspaper review.

Having said all that, I do want to share three spoiler-free points about the prequel just released to encourage those on the fence about reading it to purchase a copy immediately. Elizabeth Baird (!) Hardy has already posted her first thoughts and I hope point by point discussion of the book and its relationship to Collins’ oeuvre can begin here, if not next week then next month. I’m hoping that Elizabeth and Prof Lana Whited, editor of Critical Insights: The Hunger Games Trilogy, will join Katy McDaniel and myself for a podcast discussion, too, at Reading, Writing, Rowling.

My three points are (1) the most important paragraph to read is the opening of Collins’ acknowledgements at the back of the book, (2) the departure from Collins’ heretofore locked in story structure in this novel, and (3) some thoughts about the title and Collins’ signature presentation of front-and-back.

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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, First Thoughts on a Sad, Familiar Song

When I first started using The Hunger Games in my college English 111 courses, it was an obscure little book, and I was the only one in any of my classes who had read it before the first day. But times have changed over the past Hunger Games': All about the new 'Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes'decade. I still use the book in my classes, mainly because I have not found anything else that works so well. In that time, movies have been made(with some of my students as extras), popularity has swelled, and my students who don’t pay attention to my constant harping on the importance of the number three in the trilogy (they are confused by four films), keep saying they want a “fourth” book. Instead of spoiling the beautiful symmetry of the original trilogy, the master Gamemaker herself brings us a prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, which is both its own special sort of creature and a perfect companion to the original trilogy.

If you haven’t yet read Suzanne Collins’s just-released prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy, fear not, spoilers won’t crop up until after the break, but, if you have read the novel already, or don’t mind the spoilers, join me for a quick round-up of first thoughts, using the three major elements of the title, Snakes, Songbirds, and Ballads, but in reverse order (why? There are many reasons, actually, but I may fall back on the old excuse that I am an ornery mountain woman with excessive book learning). There will be many more posts to come, but we’ll start the dance here.

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Hunger Games: The Pillar Post

The One Stop location for Hunger Games posts at HogwartsProfessor is now up. You can find it by scrolling down the ‘Pillar Posts’ listing in the left margin of the site’s home page and clicking on ‘Authors Not J. K. Rowling (Hunger Games, Etc.)’ and then ‘Suzanne Collins — Hunger Games’ on that page. Or just head straight there via this link! (For more on the purpose of and how to use ‘Pillar Posts’ see “The ‘Why’ and ‘How To’ of HogwartsProfessor Pillar Posts.”)

The timing of this post is no coincidence, of course, but due to the news that Collins is writing a prequel to the best-selling trilogy. (See ‘Let the Hunger Games Begin — Again!’ for that story.) There are close to one hundred Hunger Games articles listed in this Pillar Post so settle in for a fun catch-up of the best discussion available anywhere on the books and film adaptations.

Here is a taste of the very best to encourage you to check out the whole listing:

Enjoy!

Let the Hunger Games Begin, Again!

Image result for new hunger games novelJust last month, we were wondering what Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games Trilogy (among other achievements) might be up to these days. ‘Whatever Happened to Suzanne Collins?’ It turns out, she’s not just been playing sudoku or puttering in the yard (or imitating her creations to tramp through the woods or bake).  We have been hoping that she was writing. Earlier this week, the formal announcement came that confirmed our hopes but which also confirmed some of the fascinating metatextual concerns that have always run under the trilogy: concerns about artistry, yes, but also concerns about control and gamesmanship. Collins is set to roll out a new addition to the story of Panem, a prequel, since, of course, the Games Trilogy is just that, a trilogy, three books, no more, no less, emphasizing the triptych focus so central to the story. Set 64 years before the Games that Katniss and Peeta “win,” this new offering will doubtless cover the Dark Days, renew and continue interest in Collins’s work, and make Hollywood Gamemakers giddy with delight. [Read more…]