Sunday, May 30, 2010

Jane Eyre

By Charlotte Bronte
(Gothic novel/ Christian fiction)

I have no picture for this book because the edition I read is from the library and is old (©1976 --ok, that's not old, I realize) and has no book jacket.

I can now cross another of the classics off my list. "Jane Eyre" is one of those novels I always felt I should read, and now I have. Bully for me.

It took me a while to get through this book; I found it a little tedious and some of the chapters rambled on too long for my liking, although I did enjoy the book more than I anticipated. What struck me most though, is that, originally I found Jane Eyre to be a sad character; she never got a chance to know herself. She spent her life being submissive to others and bending over backwards to please other people. I find that very sad. First it was Mrs. Reed, then to the teachers at Lowood, to God (especially), to Mr. Rochester, then to Mr. St. John. Jane Eyre is simply an acquiescent young woman who constantly feels the need to stifle her true being, to the point of denying herself, feeling herself unworthy of love, even; constantly considering herself plain to the point of ugliness and believing no man, other than Mr. Rochester, could love her. Jane is told and agrees that she is "made for labour, not for love." She's only nineteen years old and that is how she feels about herself. I realize this was set in a different time, but still, Jane made me feel sad for her.

I will say it is good to see her stand up for herself every once in a while, but she waits until she reaches the boiling point to say anything. I was happy when she exploded to Mrs. Reed, that was excellent. But Jane doesn't express herself enough, which really doesn't help her.

I'm glad Jane found some family, but I despise Mr. St. John Eyre Rivers. He is unfeeling and downright mean to Jane, which she doesn't fully realize. First of all, cousins marrying = not ok. But beyond that, he tries to force Jane to marry him by telling her:
"[...]and do not forget that if you reject it, it is not me you deny, but God. Through my means, He opens to you a noble career; as my wife only can you enter upon it. Refuse to be my wife, and you limit yourself for ever to a track of selfish ease and barren obscurity. Tremble lest in that case you should be numbered with those who have denied the faith, and are worse than infidels!"
What a bastard! He exploits her devotion to and faith in God and her sense of duty. How could she in good conscience deny him, and thus deny God? It's deplorable. She suppresses parts of her being so St. John will think she's obedient and almost says yes to his oppressive offer! Glad she didn't though. Amidst John's ridiculous marriage proposals I kept thinking Jane should have just stayed with Mr. Rochester in the first place and been happy. Sure there's a crazy woman in the attic (By the way, mental health was clearly a severely neglected and unfortunately misunderstood issue.), but that's easily overlooked...

I was happy to see Jane go back to Mr. Rochester. When she made the decision to go back and seek him out, that is when she gained my respect. That is the moment when she owns herself, and I applaud her for that. And it's made obvious in contrast to her relationship with St. John that she is more herself, and does truly know herself when she is with Mr. Rochester. Kudos, Jane.

(On a juvenile note: Every time Mr. Rochester said, "What the deuce?" I thought of Stewie Griffin. ^_^)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Where the Wild Things Are

directed by Spike Jonze

So, I watched "Where the Wild Things Are" last night. I must not have read the book when I was little, because the movie was not familiar to me at all, aside from it looking similar to some pictures from the book I think I remember. I found the movie to be very discomforting in a lot of ways. For one thing, my heart broke when the older kids broke Max's igloo and he started to cry. It brought back memories of being bullied by my older brother and occasionally his friends, and my emotional reactions being totally ignored or misunderstood. That was unexpected. But also, I didn't really like Max because he's a crazy misbehaved kid (sorry to be glib; but I don't consider myself to be very 'child friendly'). I don't want to be his friend. Also, the monsters are like a bunch of disgruntled, uncontrollable teenagers I don't want to be around either. You know what the problem was? I found myself wanting to step in and be the mom for these unrulies and explain to them that not everyone gets along all the time and sometimes life is hard, etc. etc. Plus, games like "war" and hitting each other in the head with dirt clods doesn't appeal to me. I was not a very rough and tumble kid, so the whole movie makes me a little uncomfortable. Is that weird? The movie left me feeling sad and unresolved, which was not at all what I was expecting or how I wanted to feel after watching a movie adaptation of a children's book. Entirely unsatisfying and I wish I hadn't seen the movie, to be honest.

I needed to watch another episode of QI afterwards to feel better.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

American on Purpose

The improbable adventures of an unlikely patriot
by Craig Ferguson

What is the difference between a memoir and an autobiography? It's the same thing right? Or is it that one acknowledges that memory is subjective and imperfect and cannot truly portray the past, where the latter claims the opposite? Well, so far, I prefer memoirs...though I can't say I've read many autobiographies...or any possibly...

This is a genuinely interesting book. Craig Ferguson's life could have easily had a disgustingly tragic ending. He is a man who has been equally fortunate and unfortunate to live multiple lives, and lives to tell about it. Ferguson is remarkably candid and willing brings the reader into the less-than-flattering moments of his life. The book is a great read, and if you have any remote interest in Craig or his show, I recommend reading his book; he's had quite a life.

I didn't know he had also written a novel, Between the Bridge and the River and I think I'll look into it. If nothing else, I like the title and where it came from:
"Philip told me about once asking a Jesuit priest if he believed that if someone kills himself he will go to hell. The priest thought for a moment and then answered no, not all suicides went to hell. For example, if a fellow were to jump from a high bridge and genuinely repent his actions before he hit the river and died, he would yet enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 
As soon as Philip told me this I knew I had the title for my book."
It's beautifully fitting.

The book is spotted with beautiful and (to me) unexpected poignant moments which add another dimension to Craig's book, which makes it all the better.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gluten-Free Girl

How I found the food that loves me back... & How you can too
by Shauna James Ahern

I've been following Shauna's blog for a few months now; I don't know why I hadn't thought to read her book sooner, seeing as how it's been out for a few years now, but a patron brought it back to the library last week and so I snatched it up.

I love to read people's stories about food and food discovery. There is passion and devotion in Shauna's words. Her book leaves me with a warm-and-fuzzy feeling, and a new motivation to cook more often. Anyone who buys into the adages "food is fuel [only]" or "food should not make you happy," I cannot endorse. Food is happiness! I'm not saying it should be used to fill voids in your life or whatever; I'm not advocating bingeing or gluttony. However, food can bring great joy; and that is what I got out of Shauna's book.

There are a few small details about the book which I don't like. For one thing, it seems like, at least once each page appears the sentence "after my diagnosis" or "once I went gluten-free" or "since I've been living with celiac disease," etc. I get it. The book is about how Shauna lives her life gluten-free after being diagnosed with celiac disease. You don't need to mention it on every page, we're with you, we know what the book is about.

Also, and this is getting picky (that's how you can tell a book is good: it's only the little pet peeve kinds of mistakes that stick out), sometimes she writes ambiguously about "her island" off the coast of Washington state, and other times she names it: Vashon Island. It's as if she and her editor were debating whether to use its name or not and settled for half and half. If the first time she mentioned her home on Vashon Island she named it, then I wouldn't care. But instead she first called it "my island" or "the island" or something, which then bothered me. But, again, this is a little thing.

Shauna's gourmet expertise is intimidating and maybe a little off-putting at times. I can't buy organic and local and fresh all the time. I'm not willing to give up all of my childhood treats (which are gluten-free). And baking? Gluten-free baking is incredibly intimidating and discouraging (all those different flours...), to be honest. I'm fortunate enough to have a gluten-free store/bakery in town, and I'll leave the baking to them. At this point in life, I am comfortable with my fried-rice, gluten-free pasta dishes, and coconut rice pudding (I'm probably eating too much rice). I'm taking baby-steps, and that's ok with me. However, her chapter, "Feeling Comfortable in the Kitchen" sets her on a more relatable, human level and makes me feel better. Clearly I am not yet comfortable in the kitchen. But the lasting impression from this book is a sense encouragement and a little gentle nudging to get off my butt and get into the kitchen and play.

Being gluten-free is not easy, and this book taught me a lot. (I had no idea blue cheese was made from bread mold!) Her recipes sound fabulous (I like the sound of her roasted cauliflower and roasted asparagus: baby steps.). The best part is that you know how much thought, experimentation, and dedication went into her recipes her book, and her life. It's inspiring, and makes me want to make changes in my own life to create the life I want to live.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The World According to Garp

directed by George Roy Hill

Well, I finished the movie, and it wasn't bad; definitely not one of my favorite films. I still don't care for Glenn Close's portrayal of Jenny. However I loved John Lithgow as Roberta Muldoon.

The book is heads and shoulders above the movie. If you've seen the movie and haven't read the book, read the book. Absolutely.

Monday, May 10, 2010

More John Irving

137 pages into "A Prayer for Owen Meany" and I've decided to give up. I wanted to love this book as much as "The World According to Garp," but I don't. There is no cohesive plot to the book, as far as I can see. The book isn't really "about" anything; it's more like a series of anecdotes which jump around in time. I didn't need the lecture on the Vietnam War or the endless comments of how Owen Meany was always right and could essentially predict the future.

I could probably get more out of this novel if I kept reading it, but I'm really not invested in it and don't care to keep going.

And 40 or so minutes into the film "The World According to Garp" I gave up. It's very different than the book; a lot is missing or changed from the book, which I don't appreciate (New York City instead of Vienna? No thank you. Also, I don't really care for Glenn Close's interpretation of Jenny; she's kind of a cold, superior bitch.). In general, though, the movie wasn't all that interesting; it looked like random snapshots of Garp's life with no real purpose. I don't know. Maybe I'll give it another shot.

But I don't want to completely give up on John Irving because I really did love "The World According to Garp." I'll try a different novel of his. But not "Cider House Rules." I saw that movie and I don't feel the need to read the book.