Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sunday Snapshot for Memorial Day Weekend


Currently reading:

Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner: You've got to be really into journey books to get through this one.

The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles by GS Denning: Not as funny as the first Warlock Holmes book.

Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi: I don't intend to make any recipes from this book, but I am enjoying the pictures and learning about mid-East cooking.

Posted:

Learn about the super cool Colorado library that raised $140,000 on Kickstarter.

Movies:

moorise kingdom
Moonrise Kingdom, starring Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman

On a small mid-Atlantic island in the 1960s, two 12-year-olds decide to run away together, throwing their town into chaos.

Super charming and quirky, like most of Wes Anderson's movies. I loved the retro vibe and that all Suzy packs to run away is her kitten, kitten food, her favorite books, her brother's record player, her favorite record, a toothbrush, and extra batteries, because that is *exactly* what I would pack if I was leaving home at age 12. Edward Norton was also especially adorkable as Scout Master Ward. The only thing that was a bit of a letdown was the storm at the end, which I expected to be a bigger deal than it was due to the OTT foreshadowing. Otherwise, no complaints!

alien covenant
Alien: Covenant, starring Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender, and Michael Fassbender

After an accident forces the crew of the colonizing spaceship Covenant out of animated suspension, they make a pit stop on an Earth-like planet. Bad mistake or worst mistake?

When I first walked out of the theater, I was pretty enthusiastic about this movie. It surprised me because it wasn't what I was expecting, and I enjoyed the ride. But after about twelve hours to think on it, I had to reassess. It does feel like it was directed by three different people who wanted to make three different types of movies, and it does seem like it was invented purely as a vehicle for Fassbender ("The Fassbender show," as Penny put it). But. I loved the Island of Dr Moreau vibe in the middle of the film, and I was actually really impressed with Fassbender, whom I still have not forgiven for that disaster of a Jane Eyre adaptation he was in. Of course, his character's a robot, so the role really plays to his "acting" strengths.

Overall, I'd say this movie's worth watching just for the Fassbender-on-Fassbender scenes, which are weird but well-done.

nocturnal animals
Nocturnal Animals, starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal

Rich ice queen Susan receives a manuscript out of the blue from her ex-husband, whom she hasn't talked to in 20 years. It's dedicated to her and the title references their relationship, so she can't not read it. But why did he send it and what does it have to do with their failed marriage?

Not a perfect film by any means. But: 1. It looks fucking fantastic (of course it does, it was directed by Tom Ford); 2. the scenes from Nocturnal Animals (the book inside the movie) were crazy suspenseful and just awesome filmmaking; and 3. it's a very literary movie and I loved how it portrayed the experience of becoming completely engrossed in a novel.

I will say that there were a lot of loose threads left hanging, and several scenes that seemed to serve no purpose other than as fashion plates, but by far the weakest part of the movie is the ending. Ford described it as a "sad" ending, but I wouldn't call it that. It was just anti-climatic. I wish he'd found a way to up the drama and emotional impact rather than taking what felt like a lazy way out.

Still, if you enjoy classic film noir, you definitely want to watch this movie. It's a surprisingly effective blend of cynicism and romanticism, a story about revenge and living in a world where everything, even people, are disposable.

hitchcock truffaut
Hitchcock/Truffaut, directed by Kent Jones

A documentary about Truffaut's book of the same name. As some of you might know, I am pretty familiar with Hitchcock's work, so for me there wasn't much new information to be had here. I did learn Truffaut died just four years after Hitchcock (!), and I liked listening to the recordings of their interview, even if they were frustratingly tantalizing. Example: Hitchcock would be like, "When [Jimmy Stewart] stands up and sees [Judy from Vertigo] emerge from the bathroom, he has an erection. And now I'm going to tell you a very disturbing story, turn off the recorder." And then all you hear is a click and I'm like, Nooooooo, he was just getting to the good part! Now we'll never know the story!

Personally, I think this film is too "inside baseball" and self-indulgent. And hey, if you need even more evidence that Hollywood is a sausage fest, look no further. I seriously doubt the idea that maybe a woman or two should be included in this doc ever even crossed Jones' mind.

These weeks in heidenkindom:

Summer is still being a coy little bitch, I have to say. It's perilously close to June and we still have the heater on! Come on!

This past week was pretty stressful, work-wise. I've been trying to get in more exercise with spotty success. What else? Oh! Someone gave me duck eggs and they're reeeeeally good. Especially in scrambled eggs and omelettes, because the yolk-to-white ratio is higher than with chicken eggs. So they come out tasting super rich and creamy. Highly recommended if you can get your hands on some.

Bonus:

Speaking of food, I'm hosting a readalong next month of Livia Day's A Trifle Dead over at Book Bloggers International. I hope you'll join me, especially since I'm breaking the discussion format and just sharing recipes inspired by/included in the book. Yum!



Hopefully June will be better for all of us. Have an excellent week everyone!




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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sunday Snapshot for the First Sunday in May

Thor is happy

It's been awhile since I've done one of these, so...

Currently reading:

The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett: If you love books and libraries, you need to read this novel.

Posted:

The Vegetarian discussion post. I also wrote a review of Trust Me by Laura Florand, but I didn't post it. I'm not sure if I will.

Movies:

la la land
La La Land, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling

Oooooooooomg. Love this film. Love love love love love love! It's like a love letter to classic Hollywood musicals. The first half, where there's a TON of singing and dancing and insanely awesome choreography, is especially enjoyable. The second half has almost no singing or dancing, which I did not like as much. But, I mean, I laughed, I cried, I didn't hate it too much for not having a happy ending. If seeing a CinemaScope logo at the very start of a movie gives you warm fuzzies, you need to watch this movie. It was made for you.

the fate of the furious
The Fate of the Furious, starring Charlize Theron and Vin Diesel

If you ever feel like your brain needs to be beaten into a porridge-like substance unable to produce anything resembling logical thought–and I have felt like that on occasion–may I recommend this movie. It's actually not that bad. I mean, yeah, some of the stuff defies the laws of physics, but that's what you want in a Fast and Furious movie, right? Plus you got your exotic locales, cars falling out of buildings, that British guy who always plays a sketchy spy, the guys exchanging humorously insulting quips, super shiny, fancy motorized vehicles arranged in ways suspiciously resembling a car commercial. What's not to like?

These weeks in heidenkindom:

Have you ever had periods of time where you try to plan or do something and absolutely nothing ever works out? I think I'm in one of those periods right now.

Bonus:

Want some books about art? The Guggenheim has over 200 free to read online.



Have a great week, everyone!





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Saturday, May 6, 2017

9 Reasons The Vegetarian Will Change the Way You Think About Everything

the vegetarian by han kang

(Note: As Chrisbookarama pointed out, The Vegetarian cries out for a clickbaity title. So I used a link bait title generator to come up with one.)

A few days late, but still here! As you might know, I hosted a readalong of The Vegetarian by Han Kang for Book Bloggers International last month. Here are the discussion questions and my responses. Feel free to participate in the discussion yourself if you've read the book!

Questions:


First of all! What did you think of the book in general?

Well, I wouldn't say I enjoyed it, but then I'm pretty sure that's not its purpose. It's kind of a South Korean version of The Yellow Wallpaper. It wasn't an easy read, but it did make me think.

We never get to hear directly from Yeong-hye except in brief snippets of dream and memory. Why do you think the author tells her story through the lens of other people? Do you think this is effective?

I think Kang wanted to avoid giving the reader any illusions about Yeong-hye's agency (she has none) or choice. The book as a whole really makes one question how much choice any of us have. Like you may think you have control over your own body, your decisions of what you eat every day, who you marry, and so on, but how much of that is free will and how much of it is an attempt to fit into the role and circumstances you were born into?

Yeong-hye says she stopped eating meat because she had a dream. What do you think the dream was actually about?

I think the dream was about how much she wanted to get rid of her Objectively Awful Person (TM) husband, and she realized she could either kill him or reject violence completely. Hence the veganism.

Vegetarianism and fasting has been used as a form of social protest in the past, particularly among women (see, for example, "The Awakened Instinct: Vegetarianism and the Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain" by Leah Leneman and The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J Adams). Do you think this is what Yeong-hye is doing? Is she refusing to eat meat in order to stick it to the goddamn patriarchy?

In a way, yes, although I don't think she sees it like that because her actions are driven by her subconscious, not logic. She just got so SICK OF IT, she had a mental break. And as my Anthropology 101 professor once said, "Our culture dictates how we break."

As the story goes on, Yeong-hye seems to be transforming into a plant herself (or at least wanting to). Is this an art-imitating-life situation?

Her hubby certainly treated her like a plant. Like, "I got this plant because it looked okay and I thought it wouldn't be high maintenance, and for a while it grew just fine as far as I could tell. Then it started withering up so I decided to get rid of it."

He's a prince, ladies.

Yeong-hye's brother-in-law may seem more sympathetic to her than her husband, but is he?

Uhg, what a perv. He obviously views himself as better than his brother-in-law, but I doubt he sees Yeong-hye or his wife as people any more than Yeong-hye's husband did. There's also a part where he says he just assumes her silence is consent. Um, no.

There's a surprising amount of violence, both psychological and physical, in this book. Why do you think that is?

Yes. One would expect a book about a vegetarian to be violence-free, but nope! I think it's a response to the conformity of the society. People can't act out or express their emotions, so anger and fear and other negative feelings get pushed deeper and deeper inside until a person can't take it anymore and then it explodes out of them in unhealthy ways.

There's a part of the book where Yeong-hye says she felt like the dream that made her turn vegetarian came from her stomach. "The face is inside my stomach. It rose up from inside my stomach." I found that interesting because the gut is called the "second brain," and it responds to a lot of the stimuli in our brains that we don't want to deal with.

I also think part of it has to do with certain social contracts that accept violence as a way life, which exist in all cultures. Extreme examples would be slavery, or war. The killing of animals for meat is also an act of violence, one we accept because we're taught we have the right–maybe even the responsibility–to eat meat. But whether that's true or not doesn't make the members of a society any less complicit in the violence perpetuated by that act.

There are a lot of themes in the novel: obsession, dreams, conformity and acting "normal," choosing to act morally and choosing not to. Which of these themes stood out for you the most?

I would say each part of the book focuses on one theme more than the others. Part 1 was about conformity and Yeong-hye's rebellion against society and her husband's and family's expectations. Part 2 was more about obsession and allowing it to overtake your life to the point where right and wrong don't matter as long as you can make your fantasies a reality. Part 3... well, that one was a little muddy for me. I would say normality and how there's no such thing as "normal," but I don't think Part 3 was as well-realized as the previous two parts of the book.

Finally, what did you think of the ending? Does it negate the previous sections of the book?

To be honest, when I first read it I hated the ending. I thought the point of Yeong-hye's story was that she wasn't crazy, people just thought she was because she was rebelling against a false construct wherein she had to put up with raw deal she never agreed to. But the ending implied Yeong-hye was certifiably insane. So if that was the case, her family was right and choosing not to eat meat was the act of someone with "hints at hysteria, delusion, weak nerves and so on".

However, later I read this review of The Vegetarian, where the writer suggests that maybe Yeong-hye's gradual starvation is a form of sallekhana, a fast to the death practiced by Jains in order to "extricate... the devotee from the endless cycles of violence in which we are embedded." That sounds like it fits into the themes of the book better than just making Yeong-hye crazy. But it's hard to say for sure if that was Kang's intention.


Have you read The Vegetarian? What did you think?




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