Monday, December 22, 2008
Rilo Kiley - Portions for Foxes
Not much to say, I just really like the song. I made another person listen to it once who was in the middle of a Grey's Anatomy marathon, and he said it sounded like something that would be playing while Meredith was running through the hall way/obsessing over McDreamy (he'd only seen the 1st and possibly 2nd season, back when the show was still good). I don't know if it actually was, but I definitely get the comparison.
Toni Morrison is one of my favorite authors, but I really don't keep track of upcoming novels, so I was actually surprised to discover she had a new one - while she may be brillant, she hasn't exactly been prolific over the past thirty years.
When I read the first page, I was actually kind of intimated, and wasn't sure if I could handle anything quite that deep at the moment (stream of consciousness), but fortunately, she switches between narrators, and the others are much easier to understand than Florens. And even Florens becomes much easier to understand as the novel progresses, since the other chapters explain many of the things she had been referencing.
Since the narrative shifts in time, it is interesting to see where certain characters started and ended up. At first, Jacob is a modest trader, but in his chapter, which also takes place earliest chronologically, it is easy to see where the seed is planted that turns him into the man he became. After a confrontation with a rich planter, Jacob realizes that he, too, can own those types of things, and he becomes slightly obsessed with possessions. It is strongly suggested that he compromises his principles for his success, since during the last parts of his chapter, he is considering making money off slave trade in Barbados, and eight years later, he has the money to build a huge house.
For the most part, however, the narrative focuses on the women, their relationships and their pasts. Florens is shaped by the fact that her mother seemingly chose her brother over her, and gave her up (although anyone who knows Morrison or Beloved, and the extremes that a mother would do for her children in slavery will doubt that it is as simple as Florens believes). Lina takes on the role of a foster mother for her, and Sorrow is the odd one out at the farm. Through the events of the novel and Jacob's death, all these characters are transformed and find their positions and bonds much less stable than they thought.
After seeing Sorrow portrayed as the odd, crazy one who brings bad luck for most of the novel, I actually really enjoyed her perspective. I also enjoyed Rachel's chapter a lot, even though I hated what happened to her character.
However, I am not going to say too much more about this since I already read a review that pretty much says everything I could possibly say about this novel, and much better. I definitely recommend checking it out (the review and the novel).
With that, I'll wrap it up with a quote from the novel:
To be given dominion over another is a hard thing; to wrest dominion over another is a wrong thing; to give dominion of yourself to another is a wicked thing.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I can't remember if I heard about this on another blog, or if it was from an e-mail from Barnes and Noble, but the premise sounded interesting enough for me to add to my wishlist for later. I didn't realize that it was considered Christian fiction until I just looked at the bottom of the Amazon page, although that would explain why my list of recommendations lately has been including more religious reading.
That said, I don't feel like I was getting Christianity preached to me in this novel. There was one point when Abigail asked Lauren if she "talked to God" but since they didn't dwell on it, it wasn't a huge defining moment of the book. To me, at least.
The overall premise is that Lauren is a college sophomore from a priviledged background trying to do her own thing. In an effort to show some independence, she takes a job with Abigail to transcribe the diary of Mercy, a young woman that died during the Salem Witch Trials. The best parts of the novel were the inserts from the diary, describing the paranoia and fear that took over the town of Salem. While I also enjoyed the modern day parts, Abigail was a more interesting character to me than Lauren. Lauren actually kind of annoyed me at times with her whole rich guilt issues. It was just a little overdone. Still, she was a sympathetic character if just overly earnest and judgmental. Also, I thought it was very ironic how she kept feeling bad about her priviledge but doesn't even think twice about picking up the hundred + year old version of Robinson Crusoe, probably worth thousands of dollars, and reading it rather than getting a paperback copy at the store.
I read the book in just about one sitting since I had a long bus trip this week, and this novel worked very well for that. They also discussed books in the novel, and I always tend to enjoy books about books or stories (such as The Thirteenth Tale - I think that's the reason I got this, I thought it might be kind of similar).
Saturday, December 13, 2008
So anyway, I've come across a few posts that share my hate of Twilight and love of Buffy and Harry Potter and therefore must share (I am not actually obsessed with HP but enjoyed them; Buffy, however, is an obsession).
Amanda at Pandagon
Alisa at Racialicious
Back when I was much younger and still lived in Germany with my parents, we used to rent a lot of movies. Some of them were rather obscure on occasion, including an HBO film called Citizen X. I don't think I quite understood everything that was going on at the time (I was less than thirteen) or the context, but for some reason, I remember the movie. It was very dark. It's based on the true story of the investigation of a serial killer in the Soviet Union. At that point in time, I was too young and uninformed to realize that living in the Soviet Union might give a serial killer certain advantages.
This book is partially, loosely, based on that same case. The novel, however, takes place right around the time of Stalin's death, so there is even more fear and paranoia in the population, and the government isn't even willing to admit that a crime is being committed - after all, capitalism leads to murder and perversion; everyone in the Soviet Union is too happy to commit crimes.
After what should have been an usual arrest, Leo, the main character and a high ranking official in the MGB, starts questioning the system, and is demoted and exiled. While in his new position, he begins to see a pattern of murders, and despite the danger it puts him, decides to investigate it privately.
The novel is much more than just a murder mystery since it also deals with the repercussions of living under a controlling and paranoid state that's based on the idea of mistrust. Throughout the novel, Leo has to deal with the person he has been and the lies he has told himself throughout his life, discovering that his faith, his job and even his marriage weren't what they seemed. It's definitely a quick and entertaining read, but involves more thought than an average mass marketed thriller/mystery.
I've actually seen this book discussed in several other places online, and for the most part, the reviews have been positive, such as this one.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
In addition to that, it was Pivo's last week in country, so I hung out with him a few times, and somehow got convinced to help him clean his apartment before he had to clear housing. He had to give up his apartment on Friday, so he crashed at my place till Monday (and also managed to trash it in the process - I already had a bit of a mess in progress, but he accelerated its development - also, I'd like to think I would have washed at least one or two pots before dirtying the rest). I finally made it to Prague this weekend which was kind of his last hurrah although he'd originally been trying to get a huge group to go, and all but four of us got too busy to go. I enjoyed myself, especially since all the bars we went to had really fun sounding cocktail menus (except for the last one, but I'd already been cut off at that point of the night).
I ended up driving him to the airport, which I'd actually been expecting to for a while. I was honestly surprised when he told me a few weeks ago that he'd asked another person in our unit to do it - who then backed out on Thursday. Well, actually it really wasn't the guy's fault that he got assigned to a different task, however he could have called Pivo rather than mentioning it when Pivo called him to ask if he wanted to go to Prague. Anyway, I'm not sure if he hadn't asked originally because he just figured I hated driving, I'd have to drive back down later the week anyway (turns out that I don't anymore), or because he had an idea of what might happen and was just trying to avoid a scene.
Before Pivo left, I'd had two different people ask me if I was going to cry when he left. One person I told I didn't know, and the other one I just gave a dirty look due to the sarcasm in his line delivery. Turns out, yes. In the middle of the airport while in uniform.
Pivo was the second person I met from our unit after getting to Germany. My first weekend, three of us went out/got drunk twice, and both times Pivo and I were the more sober/less wasted, rational ones that were basically laughing at the third guy, especially when he started up the same story for the third time on two separate nights. Word for word.
Since we got along well, we hung out more, and eventually got involved (except it wasn't that eventual). We broke up while we were in Iraq, and the first few weeks were incredibly difficult for me, because he'd been my best friend down there, my work out partner, the guy I ate all my meals with, and the person I could vent to about work. Basically, he helped keep me sane. I even had him pin my rank on me when I got promoted instead of my commander as is traditional. After we broke up, he decided we needed distance, and we kind of started finding our own groups. In ways, it was harder for me to find a new group to hang out with because I tend to prefer one on one friendships (I don't need a large group of friends, but I always like/want to have that one person around I can depend), and you can't do that with an NCO (which is what most everyone in the Army is) without starting to get into fraternization issues.
Since we've been back in Germany, we've been hanging out a little bit more again. Despite everything, I still get along better with him than any of the other officers in my unit, and I haven't had quite enough time to become good friends with any of the other lieutenants in the battalion.
While I know that it's actually a good thing for me that he's gone (for some reason it takes me forever to get over people, I don't know if I get too attached or what), it still would have been nice if he'd been around a little bit longer. I guess now I'm going to have to really make the effort to get to know other people instead of using him as a security blanket, but I'd like to think I was making progress even with him still around. The thing is that even with our history (or despite it or because of it), I still feel incredibly comfortable talking to him about most things. As long as I don't go off on too much of a tangent about celebrity gossip or something like that, he generally listens. I don't really have anyone like that in Germany right now. All of my friends are now either in the States or deployed - basically, a phone call or an email away, but still a continent and a time zone to contend with.
Basically, it's just incredibly weird that he's gone because he's been such a big part of my life for the past twenty-two months. The guy that picked me up from the airport is going to be gone in less than a month. I'm no longer going to be the last of the officers to join the unit, I'm going to be the senior LT, and it's going to be me explaining the Army and Germany to a new platoon leader soon. If we ever get one. There are actually going to be a lot of goodbyes in the near future, this was just the first, most painful and most important of them.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Michelle Branch - Goodbye to You
I've always liked this song. This is the official video, and I also am posting a clip from Buffy. I'd already heard this song before they used in "Tabula Rasa", but it just fit perfectly with the scene and made it even more powerful. The fact that Tara left Willow was incredibly sad, and the song basically described everything Tara was feeling, too. God, I miss that show.