review: pride and prejudice

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I did not have high expectations for this book. Thus, imagine my surprise to find myself up until 1:30AM to finish the novel! I quickly got in the groove of the old-fashioned sentence structure and word choice, and I never found the wordy monologues out of character with either the characters of the novel or the era in which it was set.

One thing I honestly appreciated was better-understanding some of the events in the movie, such as the impetus for Jane’s journey with her aunt and uncle. I also found scene where Lady Catherine de Bourgh visits Jane to demand her refusal of Darcy’s proposal to be more appropriate to her character.

Overall, I found the book immensely more enjoyable than the movie – reading about Mr. Darcy’s struggle and Jane’s reversal of feelings was incredibly satisfying. However, I found the ending of the novel to be a huge let down: it suffered from the egregious error of telling, rather than showing, the action – just as the action was getting good! As such, I think the movie does a much more satisfactory job with the ending, which leaves me all warm-and-gooey on the inside.

My biggest frustration is the last sentence as it dwells on the aunt and uncle –I do not see their overall importance to the novel at all, and I feel it brings the entire novel down. Anyone able to explain to give me a satisfactory reasoning will get a cookie and my undying gratitude.

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a short update

We have major success. I just rocked out a new year’s goal: to read more books than I did last year. You know what is particularly spectacular about this accomplishment? It’s only June. That means I have half a year yet to go, and I’m comfortably ahead. Well, on-par: technically, I have only matched what I read last year. But that still means I rock! Upcoming reviews: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (post in just a moment) and Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore (sorry — you’ll have to wait for this one).

Other updates: I am in the process of scheduling a mover to help me out for the big move back to Decatur (ah, urban life) this weekend. I am beyond excited about the following amenities: no roommate, wireless internet, and being within the city limits of Atlanta, where I work. My gas bill will no longer be double my gas budget!!!

I am also working on my resume and cover letter for a job at the Library as a staff member. That’s right — a salary, benefits, and regular working hours without the need of a second job. Consider me pumped — but please, cross your fingers! While many people really think me exceedingly qualified for this job, there are a few people in HR who seriously doubt my abilities. I know I can rock out their expectations — but I really need to get the job first to be able to prove that.

So, no updates right now.

dance as art: inspiring others

Context: first read this post by Breanna Perry. Then watch this video of Kevin and Jo.

There is something I absolutely love about people who dance with their whole hearts. Whether they are grooving and having a fantastic time, or they are swinging out with more energy than the average person has in their pinky — it inspires me. It’s one of the many, many reasons I love dancing — and in particular swing — as there is a particular expression of one’s personality which is inherent to dance.

The most frustrating dance to watch is one without personality. For example, as a follow, I believe I should constantly attempt to express myself: in fact, I am most underrated as a follow when I choose not to fully present my own art through dancing. Whether I get intimidated by advanced leads or bored by beginners, I am doing a disservice to the art which I so dearly love when I don’t give my own flair, my own personality, my own attitude.

Take the dance with Frankie and Dawn: right in those first few moments, Frankie sends Dawn into a simple turn, and she stops, comes back, and says with her body “not so fast, hot stuff. I got something for this dance, too.” She proceeds to goof off, take over the lead, and mess with Frankie for the entire rest of the song. This video is so simple, yet so beautiful: there are no aerials, no new and challenging footwork patterns. But their is a simple love of dance, expressed through personality and attitude, which is impossible to miss.

Then take Jo and Kevin — the show was repeatedly stolen by Jo! The way she throws around her entire body (literally! even her head at 0:53!), and uses all of herself to dance. Throughout the dance, you never doubt Jo’s presence or contribution. I love how sharp she is with her kicks at 0:35. And I love how she shrugs and shimmies her shoulders, rolls her hips, and points her fingers to emphasize all her movements.

In fact, I was considerably less interested in the video when the footwork was more complicated, where I believe Jo lost some of her attitude — look at 2:14 – 2:17. I know it’s an incredibly short time period, but I completely lose interest in what she’s doing. I don’t know what about this moment loses me, but it always takes me a second to pick back up and be invested in her movement — but of course, I pick it right back up again by the time Kevin and Jo shimmy together, and when Jo yells out at the end, I almost feel compelled to do the same.

The thing that Dawn and Jo have in common, for me, is that they express themselves in the dance with their entire bodies. They give attitude, to both their leads and the audience. They are invested in their dance, and you can see it in their footwork, their shoulder-shrugs, their pelvic thrusts, and (maybe most importantly) their  facial expressions.

When a follow shows her personality, I get invested in her movement. I get excited about her variations, intrigued in her mistakes, and I laugh at all the goofing off. It doesn’t matter if she’s nailing everything or if she barely knows how to rock step — if she loves what she’s doing and throws her whole being into the dance: it’s art. And I love watching when two people are dancing art.

The hardest part of this post is explaining how I have incorporated this belief system into my own dancing. Many of you who know me closely know how Michael Gamble changed how I approach dancing: right now, I am working on always contributing to the dance, no matter what; on never being a passive follow, because that’s only so much fun to dance with.

Thus, I am focusing on expressing my happiness, my sadness, my horniness (no joke), or whatever else comes to me through the song, through the inspiration of my lead, through the dredges of my day, or for whatever reason. And most importantly: even if it makes me mess up, which is always the concept with which I struggle most. This has significantly changed my dancing (for the better!) in a way that others have repeatedly noticed, and I’m so excited about where it’s taking me next.

Thus, my challenge to both leads and follows is to do the same: always contribute your own style, your own variations, your own attitude. The way you dance is art, and any presentation of such art should be uninhibited and, at the most basic level, for yourself. As long as you dance like you love it, with your entire body, then others will continuously be inspired by your movement.

Inherently, if I am able to express my love of dancing, I know I will create something beautiful.

review: one hundred years of solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

***

What can I say which has not already been said? There are two things which impress me greatly about this novel:

1. The novel is about a family. Four or five generations of family, actually. It is unique in that it does not have a single protagonist, and the point of view is third person omniscient. It is so challenging to pull off this point of view that I was constantly amazed by the fluidity that we would flow from Jose Arcardio to Ursula to Colonel Aureliano, and the multitudes of characters which had the same (or similar) name. It is a masterpiece of construction which should be studied by any aspiring novelist.

2. The novel is beautifully written — with imagery so vivid and beautiful that my love of Swamplandia! pales in comparison. And more amazingly, it was translated from Spanish. Anyone who has taken a foreign language will tell you how challenging translating is — sentences become blocky and cumbersome, and  imagery is never the same. Yet this novel is incredible– and while that is partially a credit to the translators, I think it is more precisely a credit to Marquez, who writes so beautifully that it carries the same poignancy across languages. I only wish I had greater fluency in Spanish, because I am sure that the novel is even more astounding in its native language.

In short, if you have not read this novel for a high school or college assignment, you should amend that oversight as quickly as possible.

***

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

Speaking of great book covers versus bad. Here are some examples:

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***

Some updates, in brief:

  • I move back to Decatur in two weeks. I am immensely happy for my imminent wireless internet, proximity to work, and general free time.
  • I have discovered Sally Hanson nail applications. They’re amazing, and my nails look manicured, but it only cost $5 and I did it in ten minutes.
  • That catches me up in book reviews! I have just started reading Pride and Predjudice, and I like it so far! (Note: I’m surprised by that). I actually bought 25 novels for $.99 on my nook – and of those 25, seven are on my reading list, and I could easily be persuaded to read many of the rest. A good purchase, if I do say so myself.

review: swamplandia!

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

***

This book was not what I expected — partially because of how my dad originally described it, and partially due to the misleading nature of the book-jacket cover. Regardless, it was an incredible, surprising, and overwhelmingly dark read.

I wanted to follow the story of Ava Bigtree — really, I did! But shortly after Kiwi defects to the World of Darkness, I got frustrated with the dual points of view. What purpose did Kiwi’s POV serve to the story overall? Similarly, I wanted Ava to be a heroine — I wanted her to rescue her sister, become the next big star Alligator Wrestler, and save the park. However, the whole novel falls short when a major event happens to Ava right at the end and it is just…not addressed.

You know that feeling from short stories that you get when something major happens, but then the novel just ends with some sort of image that can be either jarring or cathartic (you rarely know)? That’s how I feel about the ending of this novel. It’s like a 300+ page short story which just leaves you hanging.

That being said, it is incredibly well written. Beautiful imagery, complex characters, and an incredible premise. And in the long run, the intention of the story was fulfilled — because while the park has not been saved, and both Ava and Ossie are left broken hanging, in need of repair, the family has been saved. And that is, I think, what the story is all about.

***

I would give this book a 4/5 when it comes to ratings so arbitrary as stars. I see a lot of potential in Karen Russell as a novelist — she writes in a manner which is hauntingly beautiful, with imagery as vivid and startling as the red mouth of the alligator in the jacket cover image.

Speaking of the cover of this novel — it is beautiful. I’ve been frequenting this blog for about a year now, which has made me considerably more aware of how to choose a book by its cover — not meaning the content of the book, but which edition or publisher I will purchase given a choice of fantastic covers and mediocre.

This author is on my radar, and I really look forward to her next novel!!

review: dead reckoning

I think many other people have already hit this on the head: Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris falls short of its predecessors. The main complaints:

[Spoilers ahead!]

1. Sookie is no longer a solid character. While she previously stood for herself, she frequently lets herself be pushed around. The few times she stands up for herself, she often turns around and cries. She reads more like the TV character than herself, and I find the televised-Sookie beyond annoying.

2. The relationship between Eric and Sookie quickly deteriorates for no apparent reason. They both make stupid, out-of-character mistakes. I used to love their romance — especially since Eric’s amnesia — but I now find there is no chemistry.

3. There are too many pointless, disjointed plot lines. The book jacket summary led me to believe the focus of the book would be the death of Eric’s boss — and while that is the focus of the end of the novel, it takes a while to get there. Along the way, there’s Sandra Pelt, the beginnings of a Faerie war,  a conversation about romance with Bill…what? And that’s only a small sampling.

I must say I did enjoy this book overall. I thought the final scene, while hypocritical to Sookie’s character up to this point, could provide a lot of potential room for the growth of Sookie’s character — it all depends on the next installment. Can Sookie participate in all this darkness without becoming dark herself? Is she okay with the integrity she sacrifices for her own happiness?

***

If I didn’t already own all of the Sookie Stackhouse series, this book probably wouldn’t even make the cut to move with me into my next apartment (every time I move, I try to send some of the books I’ve accumulated home so as to minimize the number of boxes I take containing obnoxiously heavy books). However, it did do its job — I was entertained on my bus rides, and I even took precious time out of sleep to stay up and read a few more pages. I will read the next book with enthusiasm. But honestly? This book rates a very mediocre 3/5 stars. It is very middle-of-the-road, and not a fraction of a star better.

warrior dash

Additional Challenge complete 5/15/2011: Run a 5K. And I did it with obstacles!

There are few things I find as grueling as running. I mean, why? I know some people talk about an inner-peace, and others talk about the health benefits, and the crazies talk about how they love to feel the burn that comes with the exercise…but I’ve never really understood them.

But when my friends completed the Warrior Dash last year, I couldn’t help the twinge of jealousy which clouded my judgment, thus causing me to agree to run with them the following year. And, like an idiot, I purchased my ticket early, thus obligating me to run it even when my friends dropped out to physical and financial difficulties.

But never fear! The Atlanta Dancers signed up last minute, and I tagged along with that group! I ran with Bela and her husband Leandro, Nick, Lisa, and a smattering of people who I did not know. And man, we had a blast.

***

Before the Warrior Dash, I’d never run more than two miles in one go — and that was only the last two or three times of my measly attempts at training before the Dash.

The first mile or so was relatively easy, despite my mild butterflies. I kept pace with the group, falling in step behind Nick up to the first obstacle: swimming / walking a few hundred yards through the mud and water. Then the medium hurdles, and some running before the tires and the junk yard. I’d lost Nick and Lisa in the crowd, but I was keeping pace with Bela and Leandro.

The wall was the challenge I was most intimidated by — as my brother put it: “Cari versus a wall? [Intense Laughter].” But I made that wall my bitch. That’s right, I’ll say it again. My bitch.

The most challenging part was the running which followed soon after the wall — it was almost entirely uphill, and while I knew that there were going to be hills…well, damn. I wasn’t sure I was ever going to come back down. Around here, I lost Bela and Leandro, as I started to pace my walking and jogging.

In reality, the challenges allowed me to catch my breath. While they were physically taxing in other ways — arm / core strength, coordination, and balance — it allowed me to slow down a tiny bit and rest my lungs.

In the home stretch, I wont hide that I was worried about the fire. While watching a previous heat, I’d seen someone trip and fall into it. I mean, it was real fire. But I did  little Mario leap, pumping my fist in the air, and cleared the obstacle to run downhill and finish the race, arms in the air with the glory of success.

I think Mom captured the essence of my happiness just after I finished the Dash -- too happy to contain my smile, too dirty for polite society!

***

My final time was 32:35:60, making for a 9:19 mile (though, this has been debated my many people who do not believe the course is a full 5k — because honestly, it probably isn’t). But in more comparative measures, I finished 2246 out of 6585 overall, and I finished 124 out of 548 people in my age group (girls age 20 – 24). Considering my distaste for running, I expected something much more “middle of the line” — not top third overall, and top quarter of my age group. In all, I am very proud of that success: and, in reality, I blame it on dancing, which has kept me relatively in shape.

I would like to mention that the Warrior Dash doesn’t spare danger. While they are realistic about what the average person can manage — low hurdles, for example, were challenging but by no means impossible — they did not cushion you from the possibility of injury. The high wall had no cushions in case of a fall, and the fire was burning high and hot. I really appreciated that the obstacles were real — because honestly, we’re claiming to be warriors here.

While I still don’t love running, I do see its potential, and hope to have a single, vaguely regular schedule by fall so that I might find some good time to try out running regularly.

***

A special thanks to the following for their undying support in my attempts to gain any modicum of success when it comes to running: Jon, Breanna, and Sue Mi, for liking my status whenever I posted my running times. Bela, Nick, and Lisa, for being my dancer friends for running and cheering when I ran down the hill to the finish line. And most importantly, thank you Beth, for being my inspiration to run the Dash in the first place, and then celebrating my little successes with pelvic thrusts and hugs of awesome, even when you’re far away in Nashville.

***

PS — yes, I know this post is late. Get over it. No internet, remember?