Saturday, 25 October 2014

(Accidentally) Saturday Sundries

HI! I'm not even going to explain where I've been cause I think we all know this already. I'm not even going to give you a lowdown of my week, because mostly I've been crippled with tiredness and a cold on top (I'm basically fine now. Because it's Saturday and OH WEEKENDS THANK YOU GOD) INSTEAD of that junk, I'm giving you a bookish survey that everyone did ten thousand years ago and that I've only just seen because I've been reading blogs this evening instead of Shakespeare. OH WELL. Anyway, here's that thing:

1. Favourite Childhood Book?
I want to say something really smart here, but realistically, it was The Babysitters Club books. I freaking loved those guys, and, FUN FACT the very first book blogs I came across were Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High ones. Gateway drugs in both cases, I guess.

2. What Are You Reading Right Now?
Well... Henry IV Part Two (so weird), Americanah which I GENUINELY read some of this morning, and Kindred which was my bag book but I had to take it out because my bag got too heavy... So I'm kind of not so much reading that right now.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
Don't be silly! I can't go to the library any more! (Except at uni and that doesn't counnt. But I have no books on request there either)

4. Bad book habit:
Not... Reading them? I guess watching tv instead of reading at the moment, but... Momma's brain needs a rest.

5. What do you currently have checked out at from the library?
Do you really want to know? Ok, King Lear: Contemporary Critical Essays, Plays Five by Howard Barker, and Shakespearean Negotiations. It is literally like a thrill a minute.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
I do! I have a Kindle Paperwhite and an iPad mini, and I really only use the iPad... Hey, does anyone want to buy a Kindle off me?

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time or several at once?
I can't remember the last time I was reading one book and that's it... I like to have at least a fiction, a non-fiction, a Stephen King and a kindle book on the go. Which is a LOT, I realise!

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
They've definitely changed since starting a Masters... But yeah, no, they definitely did- I read a lot more widely now, and that reading a lot of books at once is probably a blog thing too.

9. Least Favourite book you've read this year?
Ummmm... Probably either The Keep by Jennifer Egan or We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson- but even they weren't that bad, really.

10. Favourite book you've read this year?
Oh right, saw that coming. Annnnnd I can't do it. But I really loved Landline by Rainbow Rowell, obviously. But also, Running Like A Girl. And alllll the Japanese stuff I read this summer. So, yeah.

11. How often do you read outside your comfort zone?
Is Shakespeare a comfort zone?

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Is Shakespeare a comfort zone?

13. Can you read on the bus?
I can! I don't always because I'm usually really tired if I'm on a bus (or, you know, doing anything) but I can do it without trouble.

14. Favourite Place to read:
Outside. Or in bed. Either is fab.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
I am my friend Becci's personal library. I am always enthusiastically lending my housemate books that he takes but possibly has no intention to read. I am still waiting for someone I don't see anymore to give Metamaus back to me. I have no policy.

16. Do you dog ear your books?
So much. Soon much.

17. Do you write notes on the margins of your books?
Nooooooo! Although I have just started to on the plays just because it's quicker than writing out whole quotes and then commenting on them. But I still don't liiiike it!

18. Do you break/crack the spines?
I usually buy used books, so the spines are broken for me. But with my own, I try not to... Usually unsuccessfully, but I'm not precious about it.

19. What is your favourite language to read?
Ummmm... Swedi- no, it's English. English is the answer to this one.

20. What makes you love a book?
Oh my God, I don't know! Just that special something of awesomeness that makes me want to be doing nothing but reading that book for all eternity.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
Me loving it? It being Ready Player One is a big one... Thinking that the person I'm recommending it to will actually like it.

22. Favourite genre:
Is Shakespeare a genre? (LOLJK it's definitely not that) I don't know, is literary fiction the answer of a douchebag? (yes)

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?
Graphic novels (love but hardly ever read), Classics (love but so loong and harrrrd [that's what she said]), Non-fiction just generally.

24. Favourite biography?
Biography or AUTO-biography? I don't know, I like memoirs more than formal biography things, and Lena Dunham's book of essays is the most recent one I've read so let's say that. OH WAIT and Murakami's running memoir was awesome.

25. Have you read a self-help book (and was it helpful)?
I don't... think so. Unless you count Running Like A Girl (you shouldn't), which was super helpful.

26. Favourite Cookbook?
Allllll the Hummingbird Bakery books, and Joy the Baker's first book (I want her newest one so badly, but NO LAURA. Christmas.) and Isa Does it, which is vegan cooking and it's awesome and the book in itself is just fab too.

27. The most inspirational book you've read this year?
Holy shit, I'm not going to have to do the end of year book survey this year, am I? I'm going to have to say Running Like A Girl again, I'm sorry.

28. Favourite Reading Snack?
I don't really eat and read, but I'm not anti a nice hot chocolate and a book at this time of year.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience:
I think I'm really lucky in that the books that have a lot of hype that I ALSO get excited about (JK Rowling and... Probably some other stuff) usually turn out to be excellent. However, Gone Girl was sort of ruined for me by knowing too much about it, I guess.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
I dunno... I basically only read the book reviews in Bust, and that's just so I can add loooooads of books to my wishlist every couple of months. Which is obviously what I need.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
They're literally my favourite reviews to write, but I usually don't read books that piss me off to the end, I just give up on them these days. But I love a good rant.

32. If you could read in a foreign language which would it be?
Either Russian (original Anna Karenina OMG) or Japanese (original Murakami *salivates*) Yeah, probably Japanese, actually...

33. Most intimidating book I've ever read:
Ok, so... Les Miserables. Crime and Punishment. And I was super intimidated by Richard II as my first proper History play. All were pretty great (as long as you skip parts of Les Miserables. Like, lots of parts.)

34. Most intimidating book I'm too nervous to begin:
Infinite Jest. War and Peace. And I own Ulysses for some ungodly reason.

35. Favourite Poet:
Emily Dickinson. Walt Whitman. That one Bukowski poem I really like. And I guess Shakespeare's ok.

36. How many books do you generally have checked out of the library at any given time?
Really not that many. Like, probably a maximum of about 5?

37. How often do you return books to the library unread?
Um, of those five, I'd probably read about 1. I'm terrible for it.

38. Favourite Fictional Character?
Your mum. I mean... I don't know, Atticus Finch is obviously amazing, Melly from Gone With The Wind is like a goddess, you know the people I like.

39. Favourite Fictional Villian?
Your... Ok, no. I don't know, I'm getting really tired now.

40. Books I'm most likely to take on vacation holiday:
So, I don't go on beach holidays basically ever, so I don't ever really read on holiday. However, I obviously still take books with me, and they are usually fiction-y and not too heavy. Says the girl who took Atonement to Berlin with her and cried over it for a while one evening... Fun!

41. The longest I've gone without reading?
I think I've probably gone some fairly long periods without reading an actual book, but life is reading, right? Probably no longer than a month, on the book side of things.

42. What distracts you easily when you're reading?
Being at my train stop. Having the TV RIGHT THERE. Life.

43. Name a book you could not finish:
The Finkler Question. Cloud Atlas. All Jeanette Winterson books I've read that aren't memoirs (OOH! Her autobiography/ies are good!)

44. Favourite film adaptation of a novel?
Ok, so Matilda is pretty great and A Little Princess? Also, Les Miserables. OBVIOUSLY.

45. The most disappointing film adaptation?
Harry Potter. In a general way. The films have their moments, but... No.

46. Most money I've ever spent in a bookstore at one time?
I literally don't really shop in proper bookshops that often! But I think I spent about £40 in Waterstones in Leeds, so let's say that.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Basically never. I don't even like reading the blurb, really!

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through it?
Unrelenting shittiness?

49. Do you like to keep your books organised?
I want to organise them by colour but really they're just in locations based on whether I've read them already or not. Only Stephen King is organised. That wasn't really an answer, was it?

50. Do you prefer to keep your books when you're done, or give them away?
Depends entirely on the book. I definitely keep more than I should/will ever re-read, but... I like them! What if I NEED that book one day and I don't have it?! Exactly.

51. Are there any books you've been avoiding?
(Oh, we're still going? We didn't stop at 50? Ok then..)
Not really. Only now that there are books that I HAVE to read, of course I don't want to. I have total brain issues.

52. Name a book that made you angry:
Um. I got pretty angry at King Lear because I was extremely extremely tired when I finished reading it. But we've made up now.

53. A book I didn't expect to like but I did
I don't know. It's late. I can't even remember any book titles. OH WAIT- yes, Bleak House. It was the balls.

54. A book I expected to like but didn't.
Ummm... All Jennifer Egan books that aren't Goon Squad. Definitely. Still got my fingers crossed for Look At Me.

55. Favourite guilt-free guilty pleasure reading:
Fuck you and your guilty pleasures. My pleasures are just.. Pleasurable.

HOW WAS THAT SO LONG OH MY GOD I AM EXHAUSTED. I sleep now. Good times.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Shakespeare: Three Comedies

Oh heyyyy, remember when I started this whole Masters thing and said I'd write some stuff about Shakespeare and then promptly didn't do that (or much of anything else on here, really)? Well... Here is some of that stuff.

Basically my course is in two parts- one unit (or, my Wednesdays) looks at two plays (King Lear this semester, and The Tempest the next) in depth, encompassing the critical debate about them (academic essays! Yay! *SARCASM FONT*) and looking at creative responses to them- for instance, for King Lear we're reading two other plays inspired by it, a novel based in the American midwest with its framework, and four movie adaptations of it. In a lot of ways, this is the course I prefer, because who DOESN'T want to look that in-depth into King Lear and The Tempest? No one, that's who.

The other unit though, which is still awesome (aka my Thursdays) simply looks at The Works, taking one play a week (except for December, where we have two weeks of The Sonnets, or pleasekillmenowthanks) looking at that as in depth as you can in a two hour seminar (plus independent study, of course) and reading some academic essays (again, YAY) about those too. This means that, yeah, I have to read one Shakespeare play a week, and yeah, I bloody love it.

However, all this reading along with working three days a week doesn't leave a lot of time for things like fun reading (although I did just finish Lena Dunham's book and LOVE IT), or watching tv without falling asleep, or writing about things on the internet, or anything that doesn't involve Shakespeare and work. Which, at least for now, I'm finding ok, because Shakespeare is kind of fun to me I KNOW WHAT A NERD.

Anyway. As of right now, I've read three plays for The Works unit (I'm already so deeply into King Lear that I might not be able to write anything about it ever that isn't a spewing of big stupid words and stuff. But I'm also not done with it yet, so maybe I'll write about it in December. We'll see.), so let's talk about those right now. I'm not going to be annoying and scholarly because, let's face it, I'm going to have to do that for real soon enough, this is really just for fun AND for the purposes of recording all the things I read here. Please don't take my irreverence for anything less than love because, come on. Shakespeare's like, totally hot. And some other stuff too.

The Comedy of Errors
The Comedy of Errors is, I believe, one of Shakespeare's less performed, and less read plays. There are good reasons for this: it kind of sucks. I want to say that it kind of sucks in a Shakespeare-y way, so you still learn some valuable life lessons and come out of it enriched but not in love (or some shit like that) but actually... It just kind of sucks. 

Let's talk about it. The deal with The Comedy of Errors is that there are these twins and they were separated when very young because of a shipwreck (this happens more in Shakespeare than it's ever happened in life, I think) except I'm lying because each of the twins ALSO has a slave and their slaves are twins too. I mean, what are the odds?! The twins eventually end up in the same place (of course) everyone is mistaking everyone for everyone else (of course) and insanity ensues. It's all very very silly, and a lot of the comedy is, I think, supposed to rely on the masters beating their slaves, which... is not so cool.

I shan't tell you the end just in case you want to read it (WHY?) but if you'll consider that the tragedies end in death and the comedies end in marriage (or, just generally, happiness) then you've pretty much got it. I don't really have much to say about it, other than, thank god it's short, and, you know, they can't all be winners. To be fair, it's probably one of the easier plays I've read to date, so it also has that going for it. Unfortunately, the lack of difficulty kind of translates to the story too, and... Meh. Meh is what I'm going to conclude with.

A Midsummer Night's Dream
And from 'meh' to ZOMG AMAZING, we have A Midsummer Night's Dream. I heart A Midsummer Night's Dream, and until I re-read it again this time round, I kind of just assumed that I loved it because I was in a school production of it when I was about 9 and therefore it was 'my' play. (I was Hermia. I wanted to be Helena. Don't talk to me about it. [HELENA IS FUNNIER]). It totally is my play, but I actually love it, as it turns out, for some fairly solid scholarly reasons, and also reasons that are all about its awesomeness.

A Midsummer Night's Dream, for the uninitiated, intertwines three stories that all meet in an enchanted forest on a midsummer night (duh. Except not really duh because it's also May, and it's also sort of four nights, and also there might be a giant moon, or there might be no moon. It's pretty complex when you get into it, so I advise not doing that)- one involves a complicated love square, one involves a group of tradesmen who are trying, with mixed success, to be actors, and one involves fairies and mischief and shit. All of these intermingle and cause all kinds of mayhem that is, of course, all sorted out by the end so everyone can be happily married and laugh at the players who are making sex jokes because this is Shakespeare.

Of the three stories, my favourite involves the love square, but that might still be a hangover from being involved in exactly that storyline when I was 9- EXCEPT it isn't because I have big ideas about it that might just become my essay for this term SO THERE. Everything I've read about MND, though, seems to focus on class issues and marriage issues of other characters, with nary a mention of those guys, so this is probably an unpopular obsession, but I just want Helena and Hermia to get their men and be happy and probably have a lesbian affair on the side, ok? Actually, that's a thing about Shakespeare that no one really talks about- he actually has female friendships and sometimes they're more convincing than the romantic relationships. Does he pass the Bechdel Test? Usually, yeah. 

Anyway, A Midsummer Night's Dream is amazing, and if you haven't read it yet then I just don't know what you're doing with your lives. Get on that.

The Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice comes under the category of comedy, but it's not so funny if you're Shylock, Jewish, or have a soul. I have issues with The Merchant of Venice and its depiction of Jews in a similar way that I LOATHE The Taming of the Shrew for its rampant misogyny EXCEPT I can't tell if there really is a smidgeon of sympathy from Shakespeare in some of Shylock's speeches, I just know that there isn't any in the way he ends up. (We all know about the pound of flesh thing, right? Cool).

However, I don't hate The Merchant of Venice. I haven't seminared on it yet, so don't hold me to THAT feeling, but there was a lot in it that wasn't flagrant anti-semitism, and that's the stuff I'm holding onto so I don't have to hate Shakespeare. The story is basically that there's this Merchant (amazing, right) Antonio, who's sad for no reason, but still he wants to help his buddy Bassanio marry this rich woman because he's broke but wants to live in the style of a rich dude. Why does Antonio want to help him so AND willingly agrees to give a pound of his flesh in exchange for a loan from Shylock?

He's totally gay for Bassanio. He is. This isn't just me finding gay dudes everywhere, it's a pretty well established thing. I swear.

So there's this whole forbidden love element, there's Shylock's daughter who wants to marry a Christian and I'm not entirely sure if it's because she loves him or because she wants to escape the persecution that she faces as a Jew every day (heartbreaking!) or because she wants to escape her controlling dad. The main thought I have about The Merchant of Venice though: No one is very nice. Antonio has abused Shylock for years, Shylock wants to CUT THE FLESH OFF A LIVING HUMAN, Bassanio wants to marry a rich woman he barely knows, Portia (said rich woman) lies a LOT and is kind of racist... There aren't a lot of good people here, and maybe that is the point. It's not anti-semitism, guys! It's just misandry!

Mind you, Wikipedia (the academic's friend) tells me that the Nazis broadcast a radio play of The Merchant of Venice just after Kristallnacht, and the idea of Shakespeare being used in that way makes me want to throw up, but the fact that it's kind of apt to be used in that way is not cool either. PROBLEMS, guys.

And that's pretty much where I'm up to in Shakespeare right now. Coming soon: Some histories! I'm not at all excited to read them.  

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

RIP IX BOOK 3: Laura by Vera Caspary

"I decided that it was lucky that most of my cases had not involved women. Their logic confused me."

One day, for no particular reason, my dad bought me a book. He claims now that he bought it because 'he knew it was good', but I think we all know that he basically looked at the name and thought it would be a cool thing to get me. AND HE WAS RIGHT. 

So, and please bear with me because I finished this abouuuut a month ago AND I haven't written a review in about ten million weeks, this book is about Laura. Surprise, right? To be more specific, it's about Laura, murder victim and formerly an advertising extraordinaire, woman of independent means and kinnnd of badassery. She's not your average murder victim, OR your average 1940s woman and that's really just the start of what makes Laura (the book) so damn good.

There's a limit to what I can say here without giving away so so much information about the murder, and, more importantly, the murderer, so this is going to be fairly brief. It's brevity, however, shouldn't be used as an indicator of how much I liked the book, because I liked it so much I could probably write whole essays on it. The fact that I'm going to HAVE to do that, along with the fact that I really want you guys to read this book without knowing what's going to happen, prevents me from it, but rest assured- it's awesome.

Laura is a noir novel, but it's also a noir novel that's kind of feminist. This isn't to say that the detective is a woman (although that would have been awesome) because actually he's a handsome police officer, but the novel is very clearly focused on Laura and the excellent person she was. The men are all obsessed by her, and not just in a 'oh my gosh she was so beautiful and I loved her so' kind of way (although that does happen) but also in an admiring, impressed-with-her-success kind of way. Laura is outlived, for instance, by a sponging fiancĂ©, and how often do the genders work that way round? Not that often, I'd say.

The perspective in Laura isn't just that of the detective, but that of other people who knew and loved her. The novel opens with the narrative of an older, fatter writer who was in love with Laura but also generally considered her on-his-level, and he annoyed the shit out of me. I actually thought I wasn't going to get on with the book because of this, but then the narration shifted and I realised that, actually, I wasn't supposed to like him, and all was well again. Seriously, it's a really good book, guys.

Laura is basically a really really good noir novel, just in itself, and it has the added benefit of being written by a woman so its focal female point is realistic and interesting and sometimes seems more whole than the characters who are alive. I was excited by its noirness, because it's a genre I'm so interested in yet never seem to read, but I was, of course, even more excited by its feministness. So much excitement that I'm just making up words now, apparently. But you guys will forgive me, I'm sure. Just, freaking read this book already!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Wednesday, Wednesday

Oh you gorgeous people.
I have about 20 minutes before I have to leave the house and go and talk about King Lear (glory, glory) so what better way to use the time than to update you all on my exceedingly busy, yet weirdly uninteresting to others, life.

Here's how it goes: Work, read, sleep, work, read, sleep, read, uni, sleep, read, uni, sleep, work, read, sleep. Weekends, I die, or, rather, I read some more and try to be at least vaguely sociable? Or something. This last weekend was actually really excellent- it had been my first week as a postgrad, so I was obviously KNACKERED but also stressed (new things aren't good for my sense of well-being! They're just not. No matter how much I love them eventually, everything that's new is a little bit of a struggle for me) and on Saturday morning I just wanted to sleep all day.

Instead, though, I did yoga, I read about half of A Midsummer Night's Dream (it is A Midsummer Night's Dream week. I am happy. Except about the 1935 film version I watched last night, which was so incredibly awful) I went to the library, and then had my friend Justine over for talking and eating and drinking and movies and it was so nice and I was like 'oh yeah! Relaxing! I remember now' and it's not like doing that left me with tons of work to do and now I'm panicking because that's really not the case.

Sunday though- after walking Justine to the station and making my way to my Grandad's house, I got the awesome surprise of my dad being there- he's not home from hospital for good, but he was out on day release, which was just excellent in itself and made me really happy, but was also excellent because it meant I didn't have to sit in a hospital all afternoon and got home at a way more reasonable time than 8pm (which is late for a school night, alright?) I think basically what I have to report is, last week was a little bit rough (which is exactly what I was expecting) but things are already looking up, and I feel like I'm getting into the swing of things- at least I do this week!

Obviously, blogwise, things are slightly less organised and in the swing of things, but I think about you all often, and have some reviews in draft form that may get written at some point, or may get forgotten because, you know, life. I am trying to keep up with all of your writings, but I am usually too tired, or too reading-it-on-my-phone to comment, but rest assured that I am totally still keeping up with your lives/reading/whatever, and if you have any commenting system other than Bloggers', I'm probably still trying to comment, too. Because of my complete devotion to you all (and how easy it is to read blogs when I'm really tired...)
Now, tell me all about your lives and leave nothing out. I'm waiting...

Monday, 29 September 2014

Devouring TV: What I've Been Watching Lately

Oh my god! How am I even writing a post about TV, I haven't done that for about 10,000 years! This is very true, and I don't really have an excuse for it, other than that the main thing I was working through was a rewatch of Breaking Bad, and I've already written about that, and everything else I would write about in a serious way (Pushing Daisies, My Mad Fat Diary) I watched too long ago to do them justice*. Instead you get this: a little snippet of things I've been watching, MOSTLY on Netflix because TV at the moment sucks so much. Here it is:

The Great British Bake Off
I feel like this has come up in one of these kind of recaps before, but GBBO is literally the only thing I'm watching on actual TV at the moment. It's so sedate and nice and soothing that I can't help but feel massive affection for it, and the fact that one of the contestants had a beautiful and magnificent beard doesn't hurt things either.
It's exactly my kind of show, and it has allowed for some pretty good housemate bonding times so it's good for that, too. Yay, cakes? Yay cakes.

That Mitchell and Webb Look
So, That Mitchell and Webb Look is totally old and I watched it the first time round, but it's just been added to Netflix so of course I'm having to watch all three series again. If you've never seen it, you're missing a treat- sketch comedy that takes the piss out of advertising, films, pretty much everything you can think of in the media, um... numbers? Sport, definitely sport, and basically it's hilarious. It also has my favourite sketch possibly ever (sorry, Monty Python) which is a take off of Rebecca and really has to be seen to retain any comedic value because I definitely can't explain it. Oh wait, here it is:
SO GOOD.

Pokemon

And, continuing the nostalgia drive... It was brought to my attention that Pokemon (original, not shitty. If there are more than 150 151 Pokemon, then it's bullshit) was on Netflix, so obviously I was STRAIGHT THERE with great eagerness and fond childhood memories. I mostly watch it when I'm doing other stuff, but so much of it is internalised that I pretty much know what's going on anyway. I actually haven't watched it for a little while, because busy, but I've already gotten to the point where Charmander turns into an asshole so... Maybe I'm done. (I'm definitely not done).

Futurama
Of COURSE I haven't only just seen Futurama, are you MAD? I remember when it started on English TV because I was watching it, obviously. However- Sky has been showing the newer episodes (i.e. the Comedy Central ones) and it FREAKS ME OUT when I haven't seen an episode of Futurama, so I've resolved to watch them all on American Netflix. There are multiple problems with this, mainly that I've seen the first four seasons SO MANY TIMES that they're practically internalised and I can't seem to take in new information; which leads to the second problem of not knowing exactly what I've seen of the new stuff because I start off an episode going 'hmm, don't think I've seen this one!' and then halfway through going 'oh wait, no, actually I have.'

I mean, it's not the WORST problem in the world, I realise. It's just annoying. But I will persevere because I NEED more Zapp Brannigan in my LIFE, man.

Bob's Burgers
I feel really really late to the Bob's Burgers party, but I'm here now, it can finally begin. I mean, I've only watched Season 1 so far, but seriously, HOW GOOD IS THIS SHOW? So much genuine loling, so much awesomeness. Too much? Not quite, but nearly. What am I even saying anymore? I'm not sure, but basically I think Bob's Burgers is the shiz, and we should all watch it right now, neglecting our entire lives to do so. Agreed? Agreed.

Six Feet Under
I like to always have a drama on the go (breaks up all the cartoon watching...) and Six Feet Under's time has finally come. I've been wanting to watch it for YEARS, and I've had the boxset since Christmas, but kind of decided that I'd wait to watch it because subject matter... Yeah. Regardless, I think I've cried at every episode I've seen so far (so... Three) just because death is horrible and difficult and I FEEL for everyone, all the time. Having said that, I think I've also laughed at every episode, so... This programme is so weird, and I mean that as a compliment. But it is SO WEIRD. The characters are weirdos, their lives are strange, their occupation is one that, unless you actually do it, you don't really get, I think, and just yeah. So odd, but pretty good so far. Alan Ball, I think you might have done it again.

Or, you know, you did it again. At the time. Before some of the other stuff you've done... I don't know, shut up!

And that's what I've been watching, and that's why nothing gets done around here! It's an ok life, you know, I can't complain.

*Oh SHIT, I've just realised that I watched all of House of Cards and have said nary a word about it to you all. The reason is, I think, twofold: Firstly, it's MUCH too spoilery to say anything about, ever; and secondly: I watched (almost) all of it with my now-ex housemate so I totally had someone to discuss it with as it happened, which was awesome. Don't feel too rejected now, internet.

Friday, 26 September 2014

RIP IX BOOK 2: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

"When Jim Donell thought of something to say he said it as often and in as many ways as possible, perhaps because he had very few ideas and had to wring each one dry... I made a rule for myself: Never think anything more than once."

I wasn't overwhelmed with love for We Have Always Lived in the Castle. This surprised me, because I loved The Haunting of Hill House an unspeakable amount, but I guess this goes to show that you can't necessarily read by the author all the time and expect it to work. It's not a terrible book, I should probably start off by saying, and actually I think the main problem I had with it was one that I was supposed to have, but at the same time... It kind of bugged me!

SO. The deal with We Have Always Lived in the Castle is that Merricat lives with her sister Constance and her sick Uncle Julian in, well, not so much a castle as a really big house. The family used to be bigger but all but the three of them were killed when the sugar for their strawberries was replaced with arsenic, for which Constance was tried (and then acquitted) because she was the one who prepared the food. Because of this, the townspeople who live just down from the big house are both afraid of and ostracise the family, and so Merricat is the only one who leaves, twice a week to get the groceries. As things do, as the book goes on things get progressively worse, the townspeople get downright nasty, and everything feels horribly unsettled and uneasy.

There were things I liked about this book, and I don't want you to think I hated it because I didn't. I was totally intrigued by the way the townspeople didn't seem to like or care about the family to begin with, but as soon as the other family members were murdered, they took it almost personally and took it upon themselves to punish the surviving ones. It felt almost like they were just taking the chance to outwardly do what they had been talking about in their own houses for years and years, and it's this kind of bubbling over nastiness that makes me really like Shirley Jackson. (Is it time to read The Lottery again. It might be time. Go on, read it!)

BUT. I really hated Merricat. This was unfortunate, since Merricat is our narrator and the way we see this world, but I couldn't help it, I just hated her. I don't think that I was supposed to like her, exactly, but I don't think I was supposed to hate her with the passionate fury that I did. She's supposed to be 18 (I think) but acts like a child- ok, understandable because the majority of her family died when she was 12, so maybe she has arrested development issues (God, I love that show). But she's childish in a way that means she won't accept reality, and she's childish in a way that holds Constance back which is incredibly unfair to her (please keep in mind that Constance was acquitted. She's probably not a murderer, so we don't have to hate her. We can want good things for her.) 

So, the fact that Merricat seems to be completely mentally disturbed meant that I just couldn't get on board with wanting good things for her. I wanted good things for Constance, and sweet Uncle Julian, but that seemed like it would have to involve Merricat so I didn't really even want that either. Now that I'm thinking about this, I guess I'm realising that I kind of cast Merricat as the villain of the piece, and I'm also realising that maybe that's what Jackson meant to do all along. Which is making me think that We Have Always Lived in the Castle is even cleverer than I realised, but not that I must automatically be in love with it, because at times I really had to grit my teeth and power through reading it because I HATE MERRICAT. It is not a long book, and it took longer than it should to read. 

Basically, you will probably like this book better than I did, which is some but not ten billions. I don't even feel let down by Jackson, because I think she actually did exactly what she intended to do with it, but it just really wasn't for me, in the end. Not bad as an example of Shirley Jackson's themes and stuff, but definitely not my favourite of her books.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Devouring Films: Movie Mini-Reviews

In lieu of reading, and because I suspect I'm not going to have much time to watch ANYTHING EVER over the next year*, I've been watching quite a few films of late. These are the ones that were both 1) new to me, and 2) I didn't fall asleep watching (a rare feat, these days). Why the mini-reviews? You know, lazy...

Don Jon
Ok, first of all I lied, because I actually did fall asleep watching Don Jon and had to watch the end half the morning after. This is neither here nor there, but that's what happened. SO. I've wanted to see this pretty much since I first heard about it, because there can't be a film written and directed by JGL that I haven't seen. That just isn't a thing that can happen. FORTUNATELY for us all, this turned out to be amazing, and I shall try to describe why.

So, Jon is kind of a dick. All he has in his life is the gym, and work, and church, and having sex with a beautiful woman night after night after... Ok, I know that doesn't sound so bad. Jon is ALSO addicted to porn, to the extent that he enjoys it more than sex with actual women, and this is really just a symbol for the emptiness of his life and his SOUL. He meets and 'falls in love' (spoiler: it's not really love) with Scarlett Johansson, which starts to make him a better man, but there's still something missing, and we're always aware of that as the audience in a way that Jon isn't.

Basically. I love how porn addiction is treated as a symptom of a wider issue of caring about how things look rather than how they feel, I love how this film could have been so gross in the wrong hands but is actually done SO well and sensitively and everything else, and I love the part that Julianne Moore has to play that I will tell you literally no more about because I didn't even know she was in the film but I'm so glad she was. Basically, as I write this, I watched this film a week ago, and I already want to watch it again. Ringing endorsement? Ringing endorsement.

Dead Poets Society
Almost as soon as Robin Williams died, people started talking about Dead Poets Society and how excellent it is, and people I know were really surprised that I hadn't seen it already. I know what they mean now- everything about it is something I enjoy in a film (except that there are bagpipes in the beginning. I HATE BAGPIPES) but I have a legitimate reason for not having seen it until now. SO you know how there's that episode of Friends where that woman steals Monica's credit card, and Monica's all like 'why do you live like this?' and the woman says 'Did you ever see Dead Poets Society? I came out of that movie and thought "well, that's 2 hours of my life I'll never get back." And that thought scared me.' THAT one thing made me think that DPS was going to be really boring. Because I'm a stupid person. Look, I didn't say it was a GOOD reason...

Anyway! I finally did watch it- I had to wait ages for the DVD because it's apparently unavailable to watch online ANYWHERE and the DVD is like golddust, but I have now seen it, and oh how I wept! I just... There are so many things I loved about it that I don't even know where to start, but maybe I should start by saying that I actually don't think it's a perfect film, and there are weird pacing issues and sometimes they don't seem to know which characters to focus on the most BUT BUT BUT there are moments that I think ARE completely perfect and it kind of cancels out any other inconsistencies there might be in the film.

REALLY I just want to talk about the end of this movie (not the standing on desks. Which is AMAZING. But before that) because I have total feelings about everyone involved in that, but I can't because you might not have seen it and I don't want to take that away from you. So instead, here's what I'll say- I love how disobedience at this school is going into the woods and reading poetry, I love how even the baddest of the boys really aren't that bad, I love how it reminded me that poetry isn't so bad**, and I love how Robin Williams lights up every scene he's in, and shakes up the lives of boys that have always just done what they're told and haven't ever been taught to love things that aren't money or success.

Also, this: "We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for." Just, yes. Please.

This probably should have been a full review rather than a mini one, because I still have so much more to say. But watch it, watch it, watch it, and we'll talk further in the comments.

Beginners
I only vaguely knew of Beginners because Christopher Plummer won an Oscar for it, so when it was on TV (a LONG time ago, now) I figured it was worth recording. This film kind of blew me away- I don't know if it's because I had somehow gotten the wrong idea about it (I thought it was going to be more comedic than it actually was) or because it's genuinely as excellent as I think it is, but either way I was so incredibly impressed, and yes, I'll say it, moved by this film.

Let's see if I can describe it in a way that makes it sound at all appealing... So Ewan McGregor plays this guy whose father has just died, but before he did, he came out as gay and lived voraciously until he died. This is making this all sound a lot more linear than it actually is, because really the film cuts between Ewan McGregor in the present trying to cope with grief along with being more open to other people because of it. This style is something which works really well, in that these flashbacks cut in when McGregor is trying to do other things, which is absolutely how grief works, but it's not just the style. Everything about this film is sort of beautiful, and perfect, and so so sad, so of course- of COURSE I loved it.

I don't think I've done a very good job of summing it up at all, and I feel like that might be because it's not a film that can be summed up very well, or maybe I'm writing this too soon after I've seen it so it's all still too fresh. Wikipedia tells me it's based on the writer/director's actual experience of his father coming out at 75, which explains why it feels so honest and true, and it's a shame that, in a film that does such a good job of describing entire character traits in such a few lines, I can't do it the same justice in this tiny review. Consider this, when Christopher Plummer explains to Ewan McGregor why he's with the man he's with:
"Well, let's say that since you were little, you always dreamed of getting a lion. And you wait, and you wait, and you wait, and you wait, but the lion doesn't come. And along comes a giraffe. You can be alone, or you can be with the giraffe."
"I'd wait for the lion."
"That's why I worry about you."
I mean, right? RIGHT?! So revelatory about Ewan McGregor's character, in so few words. Basically, you have to watch this because I'm doing a terrible job of describing it, but just don't let the fact that I've apparently forgotten the names of all the characters put you off because that's not important, right? Of course not.


*Dramatic? Perhaps. But would you have me any other way?
**I kind of hate poetry, I think really only because it reminds me that I don't really have a beautiful soul because I don't really get it. Like, hardly ever. But this film made me feel like I could, maybe.