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Posts Tagged ‘Books’

The Magnetic Fields

I just heard a song from their new album Distortion on an NPR show called “Fair Game“.   I had a few of their songs before my “infamous” hard drive crash, but had since forgotten them and this peek into their new music was intruiguing.  I really liked the few songs I heard on their myspace page (the only thing myspace is good for anyway…music). 

In other news – we’re still trying to get everything packed up.  I can’t believe how much stuff we’ve accumulated and how hard it can be to throw things away.  Things from my childhood, things from high school, college…it’s not that I am wrapped up in feeling that my life has been defined by material things.  Rather, the boxes of papers, photos, buttons and other odds and ends, somehow bring back all of my memories in a rush that is bittersweet and oh-so-pleasant.  Nostalgia is a melencholy emotion but one that I could never do without and in a strange way love to experience.  (So long as it’s not tinged with TOO much regret.) 

On the other hand, things that once seemed so important are now dismissed and tossed away with barely a glance and a flick of the hand which my husband knows to mean ‘bye-bye’. 

I constantly struggle with the desires to keep and to toss.  To retain and to purge.  It’s almost as if I’m afraif that letting go of those things means to accept losing those memories.  To fully close those chapters of my life, never to open the box again, squeal with joy and tenderly pull out the small momentos that remind me of long lost times and long lost people…is not something I can do easily. 

I think we all long for things past – Fitzgerald may have said it best in This Side of Paradise that we do not wish to regain our innocence.  We wish to lose it again.  I love that book and I love the idea, because going back to my old things gives me a chance to retravel the paths of my life from where I was to where I am. 

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One A Day?

Over the weekend we saw “The Orphanage” and I will review it at a later date.  Because I am so short of time lately, what I will try to do is post one or 2 things I recommend every day or so.  This could be anything from shampoo or food, to movies and books.

So without further ado….(drum roll please…)

P.D James – the author of the the book turned movie “Children of Men” and mystery novellc including my current read, “A Mind to Murder”,  and the first book I read by her, “Cover Her Face”.  I find her mysteries to be more psychological and less sensational than your average dime novel.

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The Namesake

I know I was going to review “I Am Legend”, but I must have been lying because I am going to talk about “The Namesake”.

 Based on a novel by Jahumpa Lahiri, it explores the life of a an Indian couple and their subsequent children, particularly their son.  From the previews, I expected it to be a movie about their son Gogol learning to love his name.  I thought the story would run something like this: Boy has funny name, boy grows angsty and hates name, boy has miraculous experience, boy decides he loves his name, everyone smiles and love abounds.  And this is somewhat true.

There is a son, named Gogul (as in Nikolai Gogul the writer) and he does come to really hate his name.  However, this is not a movie that tries to wrap everything up neatly into a Hollywood package.  It is not a story about a boy changing his name.  It is a story of a boy coming to terms with his name, his heritage, his culture, his family, and himself.  It is a story where many people learn these things; where parents learn to understand children, children come to know parents, and people learn to understand eachother.

The film’s parellels create  a good continuity and the flashbacks are not superfluous or diffucult to follow through a 2 hour movie.  Like many independant films, it chooses to explore issues rather than try and pose an overt “point” – it paints a larger picture.  Shown through the journeys of one family, you see that life doesn’t come wrapped in a box and you can never tell where it will take you, but if you search you can find beauty, love, and peace.  Aside from being beautifully filmed, it captures the emotions that we all experience amidst the touching, funny, somber, unexpected, sometimes unwanted, beautiful events in life. 

There are some things we move on from and there are many things we come back to in the end.

Overall, a great movie that has spurred me on to read the novel. 

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Good Omens By Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett

There’s just something about English humor.  

For those of you who’ve read and liked The Hitchhiker’s Guide, but sometimes felt weighed down by all the little asides and numerous details, read this book.  For those of you who are Gaiman fans, this book is well worth the extra few minutes it might take to read.  Pratchett’s always witty, but sometimes confusing style, is tempered by Gaiman’s ability to weave a story so entertaining you barely notice you are reading. 

Both are able to completely suspend your disbelief in their humorous, outlandish plots.

But guess what?  About 2 months have elapsed between the last line and now and I never finished reading the book.  Those library deadlines really sneak up on you when you’re juggling more than one book…

Because of this I will instead finish the entry by adding a blatent plug for Neil Gaiman books I have finished.  American Gods and the Sandman Series were the first I read by him.  I’ve since read Anansi Boys and Stardust, along with the cinematic versions of Stardust and Mirrormask.  Someday I’ll get around to Neverwhere…

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After finishing this sequel to Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, I started thinking. In both novels,  characters lose loved ones suddenly and prematurely. I found myself tearing up (on the inside only, of course) and wondering why themes of loss “appeal” to me; loss of love, innocence, childhood. 

Maybe it’s an Asian thing.  I was adopted and raised by Americans from birth, but perhaps my genetics are calling out to me.  After all, I swear that 9 out of 10 Asian movies end with some massive self-sacrifice or irreplaceable loss, and very rarely does the guy ever really “get” the girl without one of them dying.  Maybe it’s a basic human fascination; think Shakespearean tragedy, soap operas, even popular music themes.

I call it “The Wonder Year’s” feeling.  Whenever I watched that show as a kid, I felt something that I couldn’t place, even during happy episodes. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “I don’t to repeat my innocence.  I want the pleasure of losing it again” in This Side of Paradise.

Looking back, I realize it was a melancholy and nostalgia; the growing pains of growing up. However, it only appeals to me when given closure. What really resonates with me is seeing something productive come out of the pain.  I don’t want it all to be for nothing, and maybe that’s why I keep watching movies that make me sad and reading books that make me cry.  I want…perhaps need…to see instances of people who are bruised, dirty, and limping, but gaining strength from the good that was and by letting it make you better and remembering it forever , making it the happiness that is.

All that said, here are a “few” recommendations

Movies:
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape                                         
Leon, the Professional
Edward Scissorhands
Million Dollar Baby
The Cure
Blood Diamond
Life is Beautiful
Fried Green Tomatoes
Forrest Gump
The Green Mile

Books:
Blankets by Craig Thompson
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
This Side of Paradise
When the Legends Die
Bridge to Terabithia
To Kill a Mockingbird
Water for Elephants

Music:
Plans by Death Cab for Cutie
Crane Wife by The Decemberists

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The Alienist

I’m back after a teensy 10 month hiatus!  I started a blog, “literarylitany” for a book club I’m in and hope to post regularly here again.  As I just finished reading The Alienist by Caleb Carr, I thought a quick review would be a nice first post.

The AlienistI bought it at a library book sale over the summer; one of those progressive sales that adds up to $5 a bag by the time I find out about it.  I finally picked it up a few weeks ago and found it so absorbing I couldn’t put it down.

 

 

 

 

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Stardust – A Review

Is it so difficult to get text to wrap around images?

I just finished reading Stardust, by Neil Gaiman.  I’ve said it before, I think…but if you haven’t read one of his books, you should give it a try.  I don’t like to term his work as “fastasy fiction”.  Instead, I think of it more as “mythological” or “supernatural” as he almost always brings in mythology and folk lore.  I swear, it seems like every book he writes becomes a best seller. Fortunately, this success can’t be attributed it to business from lonely singles or housewives looking for a cheap romance/thriller novel.  His novels are well-written and lyrical.  They have strong storylines.  Gaiman reveal just enough to keep you interested and guessing, but never enough to give it away early or to make you feel as if the author is “explaining” the punchline to you.   I often re-read the end chapter, reluctant to leave the new world Gaiman has created for, it seems, just me.  His characters and stories always resonate with me in a way difficult to explain. His characters are real and constantly evolving from start to finish, and while his stories are always laced with melancholy, loss, and the bittersweet, they are never without a sense of hope and humanity. His books are so good, that picking up a new one frightens me.  My expectations are always high; I worry whether this new book will live up to its predecessors. But each time my fears are silenced as each book atonishes (even me) in it’s depth, readability, and originality. 

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