Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review: Indiscretion by Jude Morgan

I have been shockingly remiss in my reading and reviewing habits this month but to finish on a good note, here is a fresh review.
Indiscretion tells the story of young Caroline Fortune, a streetwise twenty year old daughter of a retired solider. Brought up without a mother's guidance or a steady home thanks to her father's habit of following schemes that leave them penniless and in debt. When he tells her he has truly lost everything, Caroline becomes the companion to a cruel and selfish old widow for employment.
Though it has themes of female dependency and gender relations that were so marked in the 19th century, Indiscretion is slightly fluffy reading (well compared with my usual literary diet), but not in a bad way. Though there is certainly some satirical wit at play, it's not to the level of Jane Austen. Perhaps that is because of the difference in time, Morgan was writing a historical novel, and Austen was writing about the way life was in her present day, not the way it was in the past. Still, all the characters are interesting and well drawn- Caroline is a delight with a sharp tongue and strong sense of self. Of course there is going to be romance. Morgan throws a red herring romantic possibility early on, but when the real romantic plot begins it is hard to miss. There are some surprising twists in the story, but it ends happily and in a way that anyone who grows to care for Caroline can approve.
Overall: a good summer read that cannot help but be compared to the prose of Jane Austen. In spite of the fact that the title makes it sound a bit like a trashy romance novel, it is actually quite sedate. I look forward to reading more of Morgan's work.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Concert Review: Radio 104.5 Summer Show

See, I do get out sometimes and have a slightly cool hipster side- though it is tainted by unstoppable geekery. Last night I traveled to Philadelphia for the Radio 104.5 summer show. The headliner was Silversun Pickups but Metric and Against Me also played earlier in the evening and the whole event was opened by a group called The Henry Clay People.
This year the event was held at the River Stage on Penn’s landing instead of Festival Pier. It was a wise move, River Stage has a stadium feel to it with room for sitting and standing on the stairs that fill the space. Behind the stage, the river created an attractive backdrop and occasionally boats would pass by. According to one of the women that works at the radio station, the levels make people feel less like they need to crowd the front of the stage to see anything and lessens the size of the mosh pit. Yes, overall it was fairly tame crowd with very illegal activities even by the end of the night when the Miller Light girls (like tattoo clad modern cigarette girls) had been by. A crowd highlight was a drunk shirtless guy complaining about a shirtless drunk guy.
The Henry Clay People were the opener, an enthusiastic if somewhat unpolished group. Metric followed. They started with some of their better known radio played songs like “Gold Guns Girls,” but they were having audio problems. A sound tech remarked that something was wrong with their mixer. It made the music sound unbalanced and tinny and painfully unenjoyable at places.
Against Me followed with less sound problems and truly rocked out in punk fashion playing songs such as “Don’t Lose Touch,” their well-known single “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” from their new album. Though some of their songs have clear political slants, everyone could enjoy the strength of their sound. Their speakers were covered with sayings such as “Into the Jungle the Noble Savages Run,” and their keyboardist was very entertaining, he swigged from a wine bottle and for one song played the accordion, proving that they are in fact cool. No one could tell they had a substitute bassist playing with them until it was mentioned, their regular bassist having left the tour the day before to go home for the birth of his child. Lead singer Tom Gabel called a friend who seamlessly joined them for this show and will continue with them for the rest of the tour. They are a group that will likely be invited back and eagerly anticipated.
Finally, after a delay to fix some things in the sound booth, the headlining act, Silversun Pickups started. Though they have a glossiness to their recorded tracks, they in no way fell flat live. Every member of the band played with energy and feeling, especially the drummer, Christopher Guanlao, who Jim Henson fans will perhaps equate to the muppet Animal. Their bassist, Nikki Monninger was one of the only females onstage that night and she kept up with the boys. After being begged for an encore, they returned to the stage a full five minutes after finishing to play a few more songs including “Part of Me.”
It was a great show and I would love to see some of the bands live again. Alternative Rock fans that will be in Philadelphia this weekend should know that Matt and Kim are having a free show on Saturday. I don’t know all the details but you can check out Radio 104.5’s website for info.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Series Five of Doctor Who: A Review (With Spoilers)

So, for the first time since the show's 2005 regeneration, the major story arch of the season has not been resolved. Yes, the cracks in time have been sealed and Amy's parents restored, but it is still unknown who put them there and why (well probably to eliminate the Doctor but to what end?).
The finale was manic and ridiculous but full of time manipulation and anxiety inducing moments. We learn about why Amy is so special: the crack has been eating away at her life, but she has also been hearing the universe in her dreams. Her memories are more powerful than the average, that's why in spite of his being erased, Rory could be brought back not just physically, but his heart and whole being as well. In the end it is Amy that saves the Doctor from being sealed off on the wrong side of the cracks. Perhaps this explains other little anomalies, ducks in the duck pond (probably sucked away through the crack), how Amy knew what to do in "The Beast Below," etc.
River Song becomes more intriguing as well. She clearly loves the Doctor, but he still doesn't know her and she's worried about how he'll feel when he finally catches up with her past. When he retrieves her from the time-loop in the exploding TARDIS, I loved the way he says "Honey, I'm home." It was very cute.
Overall I think that Moffat is writing Who to fully flesh out the fantasy aspect more than the scifi aspect. In an interview he said that the show always felt like it had more magic than science in it. This whole season has had a fairy tale feel to it, but more of a dark, adult fairy tale than say, Disney. Every episode has been solid, though some better than others of course. In the end, all the places they've been and creatures they've encountered have been significant.
The upcoming Christmas special will be the first time since David Tennant's first full episode, "The Christmas Invasion" that the regular companion appears. I'm also interested to see the dynamic of a newlywed couple in the TARDIS, another Who first. I really like Rory, he's grown on me through the series and I like that he challenges the Doctor sometimes, such as his decision to stay with the Pandorica. That was another lovely fairy-tale themed touch of the finale.
Though, I wonder, was it just because his time with Amy was reversing that the Dalek's shot didn't make the Doctor regenerate? Time being rewritten I suppose. Though it didn't resolve everything, it was a good finale that has left me eager for more. Those watching on BBC America have two weeks to wait to see the conclusion.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Everything Austen 2

I know I barely scraped in under the wire for my "All About the Brontes" Challenge, but this is Jane, I quote her daily, I've read all of her novel... except Mansfield Park, which I've never finished, and a few sequels, some of which were atrocious, and seen film adaptations of all her novels.
So, I'm going to do it. I missed the Challenge 1, but I'll come in strong in this second one. Here are the six reading/watching/crafting tasks I will tackle between July 1 and January 1:
1.Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (I will finish it this time, in spite of Fanny)
2. The Lost Memoir of Jane Austen by Syrie James
3. Cassandra and Jane by Jill Pitkeathley
4. Sense and Sensibility 1995
5. Lady Susan by Jane Austen
6. I will be designing and sewing a regency style reticule based off of period sketches (I think it's really cool that crafts are an option for the challenge)

Who knows, maybe I'll pick up a few more along the way, but these are what I'm committing to.

A Cautionary Tale

"I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library." Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

I started with a few quotes from Jane to make me feel that I am in good company and not quite as foolish as the following story may lead you to think.
I have been trying very hard to finish A Farewell to Arms for a few weeks now, but it is so very different than the styles I am used to that I decided to take a breather and read something a little more in my comfort zone before diving back in. I found a novel called Indiscretion by Jude Morgan, and no it's not a tacky romance novel in spite of the title. It's the story of a young girl in the early 19th century whose father squanders away any small fortune they had, forcing her to become a companion to a cruel old widow to make a living. It's very much in the style and spirit of Jane Austen. After a busy morning, I sat down to relax and read a few minutes before work. Three chapters later I look up at the clock and realize I have exactly five minutes to get to work and I'm not even properly dressed. Hence, summer reading made me late to work.
Of course I couldn't call and say I was going to be late because I was too engrossed in my literary pursuits, I just said something came up, but I was on my way. My shame was deep, but fortunately I was only ten minutes late and not missed much for those ten minutes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summertime Haikus

Here is a set of haikus:
June 22nd
Everything worn smooth
By grit of crumbled mountains,
Shrieking small children

The constant crashing
Like a lost limb, you still feel
When out, flesh reddened

Empty houses of the dead,
The ground under your feet pulled,
Hats, pasta salad

I'll be by later with a cautionary tale about the dangers of summer reading.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Alter Egos and Doctor Who

I have one. I also apparently have a doppleganger that lives in New Jersey, but I digress.
If you are curious about my other hobbies and what I do when I'm not being a Book Eater, check out this blog.

A quick mention about DW, the two-part season finale starts this Saturday (unless you're watching it on the US schedule, then you have 2 more weeks to wait), it looks really good. Leaked photos show that young Amelia Pond and Rory will both appear in the episode and the trailer indicates that we will see a hoard of the Doctor's old enemies return including the Daleks, Silurians, Cybermen, etc. I'm excited.
Speaking of Doctor Who villains, I was driving around the outskirts of town last night and as I turned onto a back road, I saw a weeping angel statue in someone's yard. What a nerd I am, I slowed down and creeped myself out watching it. Possibly creeped out the people that live there too.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Ethical Dilemmas of Noveling

Basing characters off of real people is something I can say with some degree of confidence that every writer's done it. Some may find this unethical, but I have to disagree. A writer's goal should be to deliver some message of truth about the world, about people and a writer has to base that in their knowledge of those things. A book I once read said that writers have two places to learn from: books and life. Books can help you learn about things you can never completely experience yourself (being a different race or gender, living at a different time, etc) but life can help you create your own stories to tell. If you base all of your writings entirely off things you've read then it might be difficult to create a sense of originiality and honesty to your stories.
I base most of my characters off of real people, I've never completely ripped someone off, making their deepest confessions told to me in confidence the subject of my story, thinly veiled by changed names and slight details. That would seem unethical to me. Many characters, though, are composites of several people: habits, appearances, aspirations that I find interesting in people I've known for years or strangers I see at the supermarket. Basing them in something real makes them feel more real to me. Sometimes even bits of myself find their way into characters.
This meditation started when tonight I was about to send an email to someone and I almost addressed it to the character I had based off them. That would have been awkward to explain. My one worry is that if any of this ever gets published that people I know will see bits of themselves in my story. Especially characters that are pulled from several different people- they might be offended by the way a character they identify themselves with diverges from them more than they are by the ways the character is similar.
It's been a long day. Any thoughts?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Real Life Stuff

So I have been busy lately working at my “real job” by real I mean there are regular paychecks and stupid things I don’t want to do but have to. It’s actually not that bad, I’ve worked at far stupider places for less money. The weather’s been giving me migraines (and blew down my poor tent) so I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like to.
I also realized I completely missed this years’ Tony Awards. Some theatre geek I am. I somehow forgot it was on. Oh well.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Jane Eyre 2006

Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books. I read it several years ago, and while I Capture the Castle is my go to comfort read, I have never felt such a strong connection to a literary character as I have felt towards Jane.
The Bronte sisters always made me a little skeptical, my only experience with them was Emily's Wuthering Heights which I found melodramatic. In spite of everyone telling me I would love Jane Eyre, I was hesitant. Then I saw this film a fews years back. It inspired me to read the novel and spurred me toward one of my most profound literary relationships.
That being said, I thought I would go back and watch it again now that I have read and fallen in love with the novel to see if it still lived up to expectations. For me, it did. Though of course a few details are altered slightly, various parts of the plot are lengthened or shortened, etc. it creates a very clear picture of why Jane is so lovable and why her story is so important. It also creates an environment that makes some of Charlotte Bronte's slightly peculiar "other worldly" elements make sense.
Ruth Wilson is wonderful as Jane, not beautiful, but passionate and driven by and inner strength and sense of morality. Toby Stephens plays a beastly, but lovable Rochester, and I'm sure I speak for most of woman-kind when I say I'd be his governess any day. The two have a great chemistry and communicate so much to the camera with their facial expression, they barely need speak. However, when they do, it is a screenplay by Sandy Welch who also leant her pen to the highly watchable North and South from 2004. She pulls very well from within Bronte's novel, but of course some of Jane's narrations and introspective thoughts are sadly missed, but Wilson's acting and Susanna White's direction helps make up for it. The supporting cast was strong, Tara Fitgerald was very abomidable as Mrs. Reed and Georgie Henley was very well cast as the young Jane Eyre.
If you're a Jane skeptic or a Jane lover, you will enjoy this adaptation.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mind Your Manners: Rude People Online

I almost hesitate to post this because my experience as a blogger has been very positive, my small audience has always been excessively polite and supportive, but this is not the case on many websites. I've been noticing so many websites and message boards that are just overrun with trolls. Disagreement, spirited debate, a communion of ideas; that is what these places should house.
There have been some posters that are just purposely provoking for no good reason. There was a poster on a board I used to visit (I haven't been on in over a year, too negative on there now) who would post topics just to spark political arguments that had nothing to do with the subject of the board. She was obnoxious. There is a time and a place for certain discussions and in the wide world of the Internet, you can find those places, so don't plague other boards with it. Sites with posts about mental illness often have cruel remarks as well, how insensitive can people get? I've had so many negative people in my life that I have struggled to overcome, I don't want to deal with them in the virtual plain as well. My only question is, why? Why do they waste the time and energy to make other people miserable? Can't we make our efforts toward positivity instead? What do they gain from beating down strangers about nonsense? They must truly have issues within themselves.
Sorry for the rant, but it is a depressing thing to encounter again and again. Many sites, I simply stop visiting, it's no longer worth it. I hope that other posters will just not respond to them, but sometimes it's hard not to say something and hence, the beast is fed. Of course there are many safe havens with very little drama and I appreciate them, but the crazy always seems to out weigh the sane lately.
....out with the bad. I'm going to cuddle my calico now.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Young Victoria

I just saw the film The Young Victoria starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend about two days ago. It was a beautiful film. Most people think of Queen Victoria as the stern old dowager draped in black and surrounded by her children. This film takes the audience back to when Victoria was only 17, under the strict control of her mother and her mother's advisor. Victoria was not even allowed to walk up the stairs without someone there to hold her hand. She is spirited and will not be bullied into sharing power with her mother by agreeing to a regency.
Her uncle, the king, dies when she is barely 18 and she must begin her rule. Though she suffers from some misguidance by Lord Melbourne (played by the lovely Paul Bettany), she gains her bearing.
Most importantly to this story, along the way she marries Prince Albert. They meet before she inherits the throne, and though Albert is thrown at her originally to please King Leopold of Belgium, Albert falls in love with Victoria and she with him. The story follows them into the difficulties of their early married life. The struggle to run a country and start a family is one where Albert is faced with a woman who is his wife, but is above all the Queen. After her oppressive childhood, she is afraid to give up any power even to someone who loves her.
The film is very well done, with beautiful costumes and scenery as well as clever dialogue that creates well developed characters. Though I'm not one to gush over romance, the relationship between Victoria and Albert is touching and it's easy to care about the two of them and envy their devotion to one another. I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys British history or just likes an intelligently done love story.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Writer's Retreat

I wrote a novella last summer that I am determined to create a full length novel out of. It was inspired by people I met during my summers at the Renaissance Faire- modern day gypsies (though that is technically a derogatory term I have learned through research) that travel to faires and festivals around the country selling their wares. To gain inspiration for writing about nomads I have made an odd little campsite for myself to write in in the evenings.
It consists of a decent sized screen tent that I have draped with light colored fabrics for privacy, and relief from the sun. I have a chair and a blanket inside so I can sprawl about with my books and notebooks or even my laptop sometimes. Outside I have two wrought iron candle holder poles that came with the house, so I'm told, and long red candles that belonged to my mother since before I was born. When it gets dark (like now) I light them and hope a "Death of the Moth" situation does not arise. I'm sure the neighbors are slightly taken aback by this display, but no one's said anything yet. I expect next week I will have to take it all down so the lawn can be mowed, but hopefully I can get it back up directly, I have actually begun writing again. If I don't write anything for a few days I get anxious, it's such a part of my life and behavior, I went over a week without really writing anything during this move and I am relieved to be back on track. The tent does have its downfalls, a wasp got trapped in it yesterday and could not be persuaded out the opening. I had to light incense inside to make him sleepy with the smoke, then brush him off the roof, on the ground and out of the tent where he regained his faculties and flew away.
There is so much I want to do. Last night I stumbled across a script I wrote when I was 16. It's not half bad, I'd really like to rework it now that I am older and arguably wiser. Though it is possible I peaked very young and my best years are behind me... well, I won't dwell on that thought.

Review: Wuthering Heights 2003

A red flag goes up when I see that MTV produced a modern version of Wuthering Heights. Still, I'm no literary snob so I gave this film a try. After a viewing, I can say that my first instincts were correct.
Though the basics of the story still remain; a family takes in a homeless child who does not get along with their son, the father dies, etc. I think it was cavalier to call this piece Wuthering Heights, it would have been more accurate to choose an original title and say "inspired by."
There are several moments with shameless advertising for MTV itself, the character "Heath" makes his fortune by becoming a rock star thanks to Isabel (played by Katherine Heigl) posting his tracks on MTV's website. The musical performances by Mike Vogel in the role of Heath are not bad, I'd rather hear him sing than speak the awkward, stilted dialogue given to him by screenwriter Max Enscoe. Emily Bronte's lyrical and lush language is completely lost.
Many elements and changes didn't sit well with me. They portrayed "Cate", the Cathy character as a confused victim and Heath as a tortured artist. Both are brutal characters in the novel, selfish, and though you sympathize with them they aren't sainted. One reason you especially dislike Heathcliff in the novel is his treatment of Isabella and the subplot involving his schemes using the children of the family. In this movie Cate does have a baby (that is Heath's, not her peeping tom husband Edward), and in the end, after she dies we see Heath raising their daughter as a noble figure of a good father and Cate watches over them and Edward still watches Wuthering Heights through his telescope.
The movie dripped with teen angst and unnatural moments, though most of the actors did their best it was impossible to become emotionally invested in the senseless melodrama that emerged. I think most of the teens they were pandering to could probably grasp an accurate adaptation of the book. This version takes away the complex and morally challenging aspects of the novel and makes Heathcliff and Cathy "nice." I don't mean to sound unnecessarily brutal, but I literally laughed during the last 15 minutes of the movie. If you want a fresh version of Wuthering Heights that tries something new but respects the story and doesn't skirt around the characters' bad traits, try the 2009 version shown on Masterpiece Classic last year starring Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley. A fantastic cast and script with many gripping scenes. Or for a very compelling modern story based off Bronte's novel, try Sparkhouse from a few years back, it makes changes and plays with gender roles in an unexpected way, and it didn't call itself "Wuthering Heights" because of that, though it has more of the book's spirit in it than this movie.
This is 3/4 for my All About the Brontes Challenge. I know, I've been neglecting my challenges lately, but I still have a month for my last entry in this one and the rest of the year for my "What's in a Name?" Challenge.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Some Thoughts on The Great Gatsby

I just finished my first summer reading novel (I would have been finished with White Noise by now if I hadn’t misplaced it during the move- hopefully it will turn up soon), The Great Gatsby. I’m glad that I decided to finally increase my knowledge of American Literature, I enjoyed it very much. What struck me most about the story was how simple it was, and how tragic it still managed to be in spite of it.
Basically, a young man named Nick Carraway decides to spend the summer on Long Island while he works in the city. His cousin Daisy and her husband (who is quite proud of the fact that he keeps a mistress) live across the bay from him and his next door neighbor, Jay Gatsby a mysterious and incredibly wealthy man who no one knows much of throws incredible parties in his grand house. Nick finds himself invited to such a party and soon drawn into Gatsby’s confidence. He is in love with Daisy and has been waiting for her for five years. The stage is then set for an ending I wasn’t expecting.
In the end it’s clear that money and spectacle can win acquaintance, but can’t cure loneliness and sometimes our dreams are only precious while they stay that way.
It was a quick read, I finished it in two days and am on to my next reading project. I’ve read several of his short stories, but now I am tackling a novel by Hemingway.