Thursday, March 17, 2011

March Reading

If there is one discouraging thing about being an English teacher, it's the limited amount of time I have to read.  What a painful irony.  Even more painful, when I do have time to read, I find myself stumped - unsure of what to read, or I can't remember what I've been wanting to read, or I just fall asleep.  Fortunately, I have developed a couple of strategies that have helped me get more reading and remembering done:

'Blow Dry and a Book':  I coined this term, but if someone has something more alliterative/awesome, I am up for suggestions.  I have fairly long hair that my stylist Jeremy says 'retains moisture'.  That means it takes freaking forever to blow dry.  And because I am lazy, I don't like to stand in front of a mirror and stare at myself while I complete the process.  About a year ago, I came up with a genius solution.  I sit down with my back propped against the wall or the backboard of my bed, and then balance my book on my knees while I blow dry.  This works best with hardcovers, so I can hold the dryer with one hand, tousle with the other, and hold the book open with my elbow.  It sounds silly, but I like it.  It takes time that would otherwise be spent staring into space or lapsing into vanity/depression and occupies my brain with something constructive.  I like this website.  I don't like ranking books with stars, because I waffle back and forth so much, and I hate the idea that  someone might pick a book that I loved and hate it, or love a book I hated.  However, they do have a handy mark as to read function, which I am enjoying.  Be my friend!

Unlike my students, I am using my spring break to catch up on some books, which I will now review for your reading pleasure. 

The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall:  First, what a delightful oxymoron of a can a man with 4 wives and 28 kids ever find time to be lonely?  But it's a truth that you're never so lonely as when you're in a crowd.  At its heart, this book wasn't really a commentary on polygamy, though.  It's more about the characters and their (non)connections to each other.  I also liked that you get the perspective of the clueless husband, the youngest wife, and one of the sons, and they are all crying out for attention that they don't get.  There are really funny parts of the book, but more sadness.  All of their problems are really self-created...but at the same time, you feel sorry for them.  Someone let me know if you read this book, because I would like a second opinion on it.  

March by Geraldine Brooks:  I first read Little Women when I was a pre-teen, and I've read it a handful of times since then.  As an adult, I recognize the moral lessons Louisa May 'hides' in her writing, but I still love the story.  And for people who love Little Women, I always recommend Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom.  Rose is the only girl cousin, and when her parents die, she comes to live on the Aunt Hill, with all of the aunts and cousins.  Morally clean hi-jinks ensue.  Then in the sequel, Rose grows up.   Prepare yourself, because she does end up marrying her cousin, but don't let that gross you out.  It's still a totally sweet love story.  Either way, now I've read March, which tells about the father of the March family of Little Women.  For the first half of that book, the father is serving as a chaplain in the Union Army, and this tells his story.  There are a few little sneaks into the original novel, but this one stands alone.  You also get a little bit from Marmee's perspective too.  It was an interesting concept, but I can't decide if I can accept the flawed, faulty and more human characters in March over the idealized parents in Little WomenMarch also won a Pulitizer Prize, and I don't think it was that good.  If you liked Little Women though, it's worth a read.  Also, does anyone know of any good Louisa May Alcott biographies?   I have heard that there are a few good ones out there, and she lived a pretty interesting life. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

And the Winner is...

Oscar post!  I wouldn't be a true blogger without one.  I do enjoy watching the show, but this year's left quite a lot to be desired - like humor and entertainment value.  I came out of the viewing experience liking James Franco a lot less than I did going in, which is too bad - I admire his English degree.  Either way, I was invested in the awards because I had a few horses in the race.  For the first time in recent memory, I have seen more than 1 of the Best Picture nominees, which fully qualifies me to pass judgment on who deserves the big prize.  It also allows me to get angry when the one movie I've seen in any given category doesn't win.  Looking at you, Alice in Wonderland - how dare you take the golden man away from Inception and Harry Potter?

Here's my breakdown:

Toy Story 3:  Who didn't see this movie?  And who didn't shed a tear contemplating the childhoods we've lost and the lessons we've learned?  And who didn't recognize the Randy Newman score from the first two notes?  Of course 3 won the Best Animated Picture, because it was.  Fun fact:  Matt and I desperately wanted to go see this kid-centered movie without any children around us - same thing for Harry Potter.  So we always pick the latest show possible, and try to go on school nights.  We were eagerly looking forward to our 10:30 showing, I think on a Tuesday.  And for a few glorious minutes, we were the only people in the theater.  Until a family of toddlers came and sat RIGHT BEHIND US.  The boy kicked my seat for the whole second half, but it's tough to turn around and glare at a child with Woody and Buzz looking down on me from the big screen.

Inception:  I loved, loved, loved this.  I thought it was a brilliant story, and I love anything that I'm still thinking about days/weeks/months later.  We got it on Blu-Ray, and watching it the second time was even better, because I wasn't so focused on following the story I could enjoy the visual spectacle even more.  And can you beat that Hans Zimmer?  (ROBBED!  Stupid Social Network.  I heard the 15 second clip of that score during the ceremony and Inception's was way better!)

True Grit:  Not my usual kind of movie, but I did enjoy it.  Loved the little girl and Matt Damon's silly mustache.  I wonder if my opinion would differ if I'd seen the original, but I haven't, and maybe that's why I didn't have an especially strong reaction to this movie.  It was good, I'm glad I saw it, but I'm not rushing out to buy the DVD.

The King's Speech:  Now this is my kind of movie.  There are few things I love more in this life than a British history period piece, and only about two things I love more than a British history period piece staring Colin Firth.  And boy did he put on a show.  I had an actual, emotional, physical reaction watching him choke out his words.  It's been a while since I've seen a movie that has such a poignant message of resilience and hope.  And if that wasn't enough, you can play a great round of Harry Potter actors bingo.  Dumbledore!  Bellatrix!  Wormtail!  I sure love the British.

I was very glad The King's Speech won, and I will definitely be watching it again.  Other movies that were nominated that I might want to see include The Black Swan, but I'm scared it might freak me out, and The Fighter, because the acting is supposed to be so good.  Not so interested in 127 Hours anymore...I've seen about enough out of James Franco.