Reads

Not in Our Stars, but in Ourselves

I’ve always been one who thinks the book is better than the movie. The only exception to this rule is William Golding’s The Princess Bride, in which the movie adaptation is just as good. And because I’ve always been slightly masochistic, when I saw this BuzzFeed article, and realized the movie was already out, I figured I might as well read the book.

Image courtesy of amazon.com

The Fault in Our Stars, has been on my to-read list for a while, but I just never got around to it. I probably categorized it with the “write about Spain,” “respond to blog posts,” “write Yelp reviews,” and “do actual work at work.” But because recently I’ve been heading into the city a bit, I’ve had several two-hour train rides in the last month, and instead of killing my phone battery, I decided to be productive, and I loaded a bunch of new books on my Kindle. One particular past weekend, I arrived at the train station 1:15 before my train was scheduled to leave. I pulled out the trusty Kindle and, coffee in hand, began reading.

It’s a slow start, but by the third chapter, I was hooked. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I certainly wasn’t expecting a book from the perspective of a 16-year-old female cancer patient. The character development in the book is fantastic – I actually believed Hazel existed for a minute – and when Augustus is introduced, I couldn’t help but smile, and literally LOL. Augustus Waters is the exact embodiment of someone I know – you know, without the whole 17-year-old, missing-leg thing.

The novel takes you through the young love between Hazel and Augustus, and even though they’re 13 (ouch) years younger than I am, I remembered exactly what it felt like to be 16 and in love. As I kept reading, and Augustus became more and more of this person I know, I felt connected to these characters. The friends, the experiences, the wishes, the joys, and the sorrows. While I can’t personally relate to the things they go through, I can feel for them. I understand the heart-wrenching feelings of someone you love being ripped away from you, and I understand wanting to enjoy the infinite number of moments between your start and finish, even though the actual start and finish limit them.

By the time the train hit Stamford, which is about halfway between my origin and my destination, I had already had to stop reading, wipe my eyes, reapply my mascara, and hope that no one had seen me blubbering (more than once). I had images for these people in my head of who they were, what they look like, how it was in Amsterdam….by the time I was at Harlem 125th street, I had finished the book and staring out the window trying to compose myself. I am romantic and sentimental, but there has not been a book that has made me cry as much in a very long time.

When I closed the Kindle, dried my tears, and got off the train, I had resolved to heed Hazel’s last words to Augustus, and be thankful for the little infinities that we are given.

“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

 

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It Is What It Is

A few days ago, I finished David Coulthard’s autobiography, It Is What It Is. I actually hate this phrase, and David Coulthard was never really one of my favorite drivers (sorry David, Michael Schumacher had my heart).

Now, I probably wouldn’t have ever picked up this book. In fact, I probably would have opted for a Senna/Prost book, except, last year on Saturday night’s FanFest at Austin, I got the opportunity to meet him (yes he’s RBR, I know), and he even flirted a bit. He *was* the premier Ladies’ Man of Formula 1 in his heyday, after all. He also squatted down a bit, so as not to tower over me in this picture, which I thought was both hysterical and considerate, since he’s actually quite tall. 

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That’s right. Me and DC.

After which, I decided to go out and buy his book. He was always the guy you wanted to be in the video games anyway. Granted, it took me 6 months to order it, and I only spent $5.99 on a used copy, but who is counting. I still purchased and own it. Of course, it took me another few weeks to open the cover and get through Ron Dennis’s foreward, but once I was a chapter or so in, I was hooked.

I will admit that while at first I was turned off by the narration style, by the second chapter I really started to enjoy it. Of course, there were a few eyerolling moments, like when he talks about what a privileged life he led, and how his family was able to support his racing because of their giant trucking company, but there are also really excellent moments when he speaks about how he kept everything clean (scrubbing toilets came up more than once), and how he really is just a simple Scottish boy. 

The other thing I found interesting is that while it’s not a tell-all, it’s got some chapters and parts where there’s a deep dive into the politics and team orders of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Things about Ron Dennis, and driving with Mika Häkkinen, and going up against Michael Schumacher, are really quite poignant and revealing. In fact, one of my favorite quotes:

There are other things that were quite interesting to read about – when he speaks about his wife Karen, and his eating disorder, and how much he likes Jenson Button (who doesn’t?), and how joining Red Bull was a gamble, but one that’s paid off quite well. Also, talking about technology, cars, politics…it was a view into F1 that I knew about, and could imagine based on my own foray into motorsports, but really had no idea of the intensity.

It’s a solid read, especially if you love Formula 1. For me, it humanized that driving great in the picture above, and when they become more real, it makes me think that my dreams of racing aren’t so far off. 

El Amor en los Tiempos del Cólera

I finally finished Gabriel García Márquez’s novel Love in the Time of Cholera. Granted, it took me several months, but that’s due to my negligence.  Instead, I found it to be a moving, beautiful story that answered poignant questions that I ask myself every day.

Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

I suppose I’ve always been a romantic. And then life happened, and I became somewhat of a cynic. Cynicism usually brings about the death of romanticism, but for those of us that truly wish to believe in love just question it, instead of letting the cynics kill off any hope. I was happy to find that this book addressed most of the issues and questions I’ve been harboring for years, and now I feel more confident that love really does exist, and conquers all:

  • Can love exist in an epistolary form? Yes! Absolutely! It’s hard to just go off words on paper, but I think the romance is that back then, you had to handwrite them, send trinkets, and longingly wait for a response and reassurance of love. If Florentino and Fermina could begin and rekindle their love by handwritten letters, then of course love can exist in today’s society, most of what we do is via chat and email.
  • Is it possible to be happy with someone, and have a wildly successful marriage and career, and not love them? Fermina says, “It is incredible how one can be happy for so many years in the midst of so many squabbles, so many problems, damn it, and not really know if it was love or not.” This sort of made me sad, but you don’t always get to marry the love of your life.
  • Can you be in love with more than one person at a time? I used to think this was absolutely impossible, but Florentino says, “One can be in love with several people at the same time, feel the same sorrow with each, and not betray any of them. ” The more I thought about it, the more I realized he is right. You can be IN love with more than one person at a time.
  • How many great loves do you get in your life? I already knew this answer, and it’s just like Louis from St. Louis says in the YouTube clip: You can have many loves, and lovers, but you get one great love, if you’re lucky. And that love withstands people coming and going from your heart, it survives despite the years that pass, and you see that love everywhere, every day, even if you’ve been apart for years.

If we only get one great love in our lives, if we’re lucky, I hope I can be that lucky someday.

The Great Gatsfailure

“I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”

–Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby.

 

I feel like we’ve all been made fools, despite Baz Luhrmann’s best intentions. So maybe it’s the best thing some of us can be in this world – beautiful little fools. And anyone who thinks this interpretation is any good is a fool too. Let’s have at!

SIDE NOTE: Someone keep me honest and remind me to write about my AS Debacle, A Million Little Pieces, and My Sassy Girl. Oh, and someone remind me that I’ve had two very large glasses of wine while writing this.

I know I have a lot to address, but for now, I need to write about the fact that The Great Gatsby is sucking.

Now….I love this book. You could say I’m even mildly attached. And I actually like most of Fitzgerald’s work. But this book in particular  – it might even be considered his capstone. I mean, at the core, it’s about true love: Jay is still in love with Daisy, and throws lavish parties with A-list celebs to get her to visit his home. He even befriends one of her confidantes. In the end, he takes the fall and pays the ultimate price to save Daisy (ok maybe not intentionally), and…the end. Love conquers all. 

While I was thoroughly entertained by Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, I think it was mostly because

a) I had a tweenage crush on Leo (come on, it was 1996- who didn’t?);
b) I liked Shakespeare, but I was a dork in school. And he really needed a modern revamp to get the popular kids to notice him; and
c) Jesse Bradford. 

I was left slightly colder by Moulin Rouge. Nicole Kidman’s singing was a bit off, but I love Elton John and 1980’s classic hits like “Roxanne.” Plus, it was 2001 and I was in desperate need of some red satin with black lace. I was an uptight teen. So sue me. 

I haven’t seen Strictly Ballroom or Australia, but I can only imagine they employ some of Luhrmann’s signature techniques, like flashy cut scenes and anachronism. (Which, come on. Jay-Z in the 20’s? Really?)

While I was generally interested in the adaptation of Fitzgerald’s novel, and especially the Tiffany’s collection made especially for the movie (check out the “Jazz Age” inspired collection here), I was sliiiiiiiiiiiightly nervous, in the same way I was nervous about Les Mis. And. Sadly. Unlike Les Mis, I was not reassured. 

Ok. So Tobey Maguire is admittedly not my favorite actor. But when Daisy flashed her giant ring, I might have been a little more intrigued. Isla FIsher is super gorgeous, but definitely not my idea of Myrtle. And Tom, George….they’re ok. But the real “this movie is dead and there’s nothing you can do about it” moment came when Leo made his onscreen appearance. 

The fashion was great. The jewelry was great. Even Tobey was pulling his own (though Sam Watterson was far better as Nick). But then Leo came in, and Gatsby was dead. 

Maybe it’s because when Leo was in his heyday, I was too enamored with his face that I paid no attention to his acting. Maybe it’s because that he is so overhyped, or because he gave on absolutely phenomenal performance in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, that I jumped on his bandwagon. Then Titanic happened, and it was, well…..titanic….And I think it’s then that I thought I thought he could act. Or I really didn’t care if he could act, because he was so pretty. But now, because it’s close to home, I care. And I’m so thoroughly disappointed. 

I shut the movie off when Gatsby brings his fancy yellow car to Nick’s house, so H8ers gonna H8, and tell me I didn’t give the movie a fair shot. Or Leo fans, but whatever. You’re all 14 years old and jailbait. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I really, really just couldn’t. The acting was flat and dull, I wasn’t convinced, and no matter what Tom and Daisy did, I didn’t believe Gatsby by was billionaire playboy with a broken heart. It was like taking a bullet every time he uttered a phrase. That many bullets (I think 8?) hurts. A lot.

I’ve since had a beer, so I’m sufficiently drunk. But even sober, The Great Gatsby would still suck. Why? Because Leo could not sustain my belief in undying love. And that sucks. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*****the picture editor wasn’t working, so respectively, pictures are courtesy of: http://www.clashmusic.com; http://www.wikipedia.com; and http://www.hotflick.net

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold

::deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep breath::

I wanted to not blog about this book, but I think it’s been bothering me for long enough, and I have had a sufficient amount of wine.

I might have underestimated how far I was in the book Revenge Wears Prada. I said 65%,  but it was more like 81%, which was my mistake. I finished the book that night, and I am now struggling to figure out how they’re going to make it into a successful movie.

Image courtesy of tumblr.com

CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD

I will be the first to say that a movie about a horrific boss, with designer clothes, is probably right up my alley. The book, however…..well, let’s just say I was less than impressed. So I’m not entirely sure why I thought the sequel would be better. If I follow the rules of sequels, the second one is always the worst* – just look at Indiana Jones and the original Star Wars! (Yes, I know those are trilogies, but something tells me that if we give it a few years, a third book will be in the works).

Primarily, I think the first-person narrative of the first book worked far better than the third-person POV of the second. For some reason, I believe Andy when she’s talking about herself. I find her a lot less believable when someone else is talking about her. Then, Emily, who hates Andy, suddenly decides to form a camaraderie with her? And then she decides to be her best friend? No. No, no, no. And Andy, who was so strong willed at the end of the first book, marries a guy she doesn’t trust, and allows his domineering mother and his complete disregard for her feelings because she thinks they can work through it, and the good times are better than the bad? Where the hell did strong Andy go? The one that told Miranda Priestly to fuck off?

Then, Emily sells their magazine out from under her, for millions of dollars. Emily might be haughty and full of disdain for those that shop at a normal mall (dammit!), but she wasn’t ever motivated by money. Prestige and free designer clothing? Sure. Money? No. Additionally, I don’t think Emily would ever try to turn her best friend’s husband against said friend…..mostly because she probably wouldn’t have friends.

Let’s be honest…does she really look like she’s the social type?
Image courtesy of crushable.com

Finally – I know there are asshole guys out there. And I know there are men that would completely ignore the woman they marry because of their father’s “legacy,” no matter how run into the ground said legacy is.  And perhaps there are men that would keep secrets about running into exes, or that would honor the “what happens at the bachelor party stays at the bachelor party.” But the idea that Andy, our heroine, would be seen with a guy like this, let alone marry him and then make excuse after excuse about his behavior? Sure, it’s the abused wife syndrome. But she’s supposed to be the strong protagonist that, after 10 years, knows herself, what she wants, and won’t put up with any more crap. And she sure as hell wouldn’t let her no-good husband name their daughter “Clementine.”

I think I was just so very disappointed with the second book in the series, I really don’t see myself trying any of the other books by Lauren Weisberger. Sure, it’s easy-to-read and a decent beach book, but I think she initially pulls you in (with the help of Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt) in regards to character development, and then they fall flat on their face. I’d like to chase Harry Winston, or try to remember last night at the Chateau, but after my two experiences with Prada, I might stick to jewelry and hotels, instead of more chick lit.

 

 

*The only exception to this rule that I can think of is The Godfather trilogy, where the second one is by far the best of the series.

The Devil Wears…..

…..whatever she wants, really.

Image courtesy of gemm.com

A small disclaimer: I was going to write this review after reading the second installment, so they work as a whole unit, but I’m like 65% of the way through Book 2, and am really having trouble finishing it. 

My usual MO is to read the book before seeing the movie. because the book is always better. I didn’t know this was a book until after I saw it, which is unfortunate, because I loved this movie, and I loved it a LOT. There are quotable lines, there are absolutely amazing clothes, and who doesn’t love Meryl and Stanley?

Image courtesy of grabbagmedia.com

Add the New York City setting, Emily Blunt’s chic British redhead snark, and a hot guy in the form of Simon Baker. And really, when there are lines like “Cellulite is the main ingredient in corn chowder” and that Nigel is from Rhode Island….let’s be honest. This screams “ME!”

That being said, I was hoping the book would have a bit more into the world of Miranda Priestly. I suppose I don’t know exactly what I wanted, since the movie was so good, but I know I wanted…more. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself more and more frustrated with youth, and though Andy is 23 in the book (and I am only 28), I found myself increasingly irritated with her attitude and approach to work. Let’s face it – we’ve all worked somewhere we had no interest in, and for a boss that seemed impossible at the time. The book, instead of a coherent story, seemed like a laundry list of a year’s worth of errands and demands from a boss who, while difficult, isn’t terrifically unreasonable – just curt and rude. And it’s not like the CEO of a hugely powerful corporation wouldn’t be the same way to his PA – that’s the entire point of the job!

Being that it is a book, I’m sure things were embellished from real life, and then even further embellished into the movie – but in the movie, they worked. In the book, the narrative was jumpy and the character development had far less depth than I would have expected. I did enjoy the delicious descriptions of the designer clothing and accessories, but I can see them for myself on Google – I don’t need a page and a half describing a Chanel jacket and Hermes bracelet or scarf.

Overall, I’m happy I read it because I have something to compare the movie to. While I wish I had followed my usual pattern of reading, then watching, it wasn’t a horrible beach read – if complaining about doing your job, no matter how stressful or ridiculous and unreasonable it seems – is your thing.

La Mappa dell’Inferno

Image courtesy of ohio.edu

The image above is by Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli. It provides a foundation for Dan Brown’s book, Inferno, which I have just finished reading. I will try to write this without spoilers….

Deeeeeep breath…..And as a disclaimer, I was not aiming for a history lesson, or a factual account. I was aiming to be entertained. That being said, there were a few things with which I had major issues….

The Robert Langdon series as a whole is prettydecent – quite entertaining. They’re fast reads, fast paced, and have enough history and accuracy to be, well, entertaining. If you’re reading them for any sort of historical significance, you might want to try something by Stephen Ambrose instead. (You know, minus the plagiarism stuff….) They all follow the same basic storyline, and have some sort of Renaissance or culty tie. They’re all about secrets and fun stuff.  It’s kind of like the same sort of recipe Final Fantasy uses: The world is on the brink of X, and only you and your team can save it! I’m not knocking this recipe – I played most of the Final Fantasy games and loved every one. So I wasn’t horribly surprised, or put off, when this book ended up being: Handsome, rugged, famous, brilliant professor meets attractive, slender, inevitably brilliant female. They have an adventure, on the run, dealing with symbols and scavenger hunts across countries, and solve the mystery at the end. Yay!

That being said….I figured there were some historical inaccuracies, and linguistic ones as well. I didn’t think I’d be as annoyed by said linguistic ones as I was – that was surprising for me. The historical inaccuracies, ok. Take them or leave them. It’s like exposing holes in a movie plot. The linguistic ones, however….

Now, “symbology” isn’t a word. Most people know this. You’d think that after 4 books, you’d figure it out too. But no. Dan Brown continues to say Robert Langdon is a professor of Symbology. I believe the term he’s searching for is “iconography,” but don’t let semantics get to you – he’s a professor of symbols, and he’s world famous, so I suppose he can make up his area of expertise. I’m also pretty sure people that have read this book now believe it is a real word, and are searching for it in college catalogues. Ok, we’ll let that one slide, but we won’t be happy about it.

This one, however, really got to me. There were a good number of passages in Italian, and despite my outward appearance, I happen to be Italian. What’s more, I’m fluent. It’s like he used Google Translate to say things he wanted to, but in print they’re a little stiff and formal. Additonally, when he typed in said phrases, the English translation wasn’t really….right? And I know it’s nitpicky, but Dr. Sienna Brooks, the child prodigy with an IQ of 208 and a knack for languages and blending in as a native, should probably know that her Italian diction makes her stand out like a sore thumb.

There are lots of oddities that many other professors of art and art history, as well as history buffs have pointed out. These don’t bother me as much, but they’re a little off. Sienna doesn’ t know a plague mask, Robert misquotes lots of things, the entire painting on which the story revolves is much like, but worse than, Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights: You can’t see most things without a magnifying glass. On a more personal level, calling Manila the “gates of hell” seems a bit harsh – sex trafficking, attempted rape, and 6-hour traffic jams make it hell? Apparently they have never been to Africa.

Image courtesy of artinthepicture.com

Then, there are things about the entire franchise that irk me. (1) The girls are all super brilliant, but end up as damsels in distress. They can’t figure anything out themselves. They’re always troubled and Robert Langdon helps them somehow.  They also always seem to become inexplicably attracted to Langdon. (2) How many mysteries can there be, that one man can solve, that end up changing the course of history and shaking the very foundations of our spiritual beliefs? At least this one brought a lot of morality into it – could you ever conceive of doing what the villain wanted? But again, spirituality, morals, values….always the same sort of questions. (3) You already cast Tom Hanks. You keep referring to Robert Langdon as an “Indiana Jones” type, and because you made the mistake of choosing Tom Hanks over Harrison Ford (or a Harrison Ford type), now we’re stuck with a sort-of-lame, sort-of-passive, sort-of-boring “adventure” person, instead of someone handsome, adventurous, rugged…someone these brilliant girls could really be attracted to. Let’s face it: I have more faith that Robert Langdon is more like Sterling Archer than the guy from Castaway.

Image courtesy of 123people.com

I suppose, though, I read this book to be entertained. And I was thusly. I just won’t be referencing it for my next art history argument, or for my newest intellectual sex-symbol genius professor fantasy.