Thursday, 28 November 2013

Devouring TV: Parks and Recreation OR My growing acceptance of Adam Scott, and my undying love for Leslie Knope

I finished watching all the Parks and Recreation there is to see about a week ago, and now my life is so empty and sad. My history with the show went something like this: Watched the first season (of six episodes)- wasn't really impressed. BBC4 started showing the first two seasons earlier this year, so I watched Season Two and it was basically THE BEST THING I'VE EVER SEEN EVER EVER, so that was pretty awesome. Then, twas a long long wait from the end of Parks and Rec on BBC4 to moving into my new house and gaining access to US Netflix and watching ALL THE PARKS AND REC in mere weeks. Ah, it's been pretty great.

I don't even know where to begin, though, because there literally isn't a character I dislike, a situation I didn't find real and moving and amazing, or a relationship that I haven't wanted to happen. I honestly can't think of a TV show where I've been more in love with the characters- I mean, you all know I love Breaking Bad like nobody's business, and I love a good TV drama, but for pure happiness in watching, I can't think of any programme that's done better than Parks and Recreation.

Here's a quick synopsis if you've never seen or even heard of it before (how is it living under that rock? Warm enough for you?): Leslie Knope is both the greatest woman in the world and deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee, Indiana. Her colleagues range from the libertarian Ron Swanson (who is amazing), to the deadpan and potentially evil April Ludgate, swagger-filled yet kind of wimpy Tom Haverford, AMAZING Donna, and Jerry, everyone's favourite punching bag. Combined with Leslie's best friend Ann Perkins, Ann's ex-boyfriend Andy, and later on in the series, ROB LOWE and Adam Scott, the Parks and Recreation department do things ranging from mundane to slightly interesting, but fuelled by Leslie's infectious enthusiasm, and basically the best script ever, everything about every episode is basically the best.

Just, in case you hadn't got that point yet. I like this show a lot.

Rather than going through everything I like about everyone and also everything, I'm baaasically going to focus on my title right up there, because, you know, we all have lives to get along with and I can't sit here writing about Parks and Rec all day (that's a lie because OF COURSE I CAN). So things are about to get spoilery, so you can leave if you don't want to know things, but before you go, let me just say that April Ludgate is my actual spirit animal and I love her and also sort of want to be her and also I LOVE HER. Ok, you can go now.

Just give me a minute, cause I need to think about how cute Ben and Leslie are together.
Ok, are we... Yeah, that's amazing.

Anyway! So! Yes. Before Parks and Rec, all I'd seen Adam Scott in was Friends With Kids. I didn't really like that film, I watched it while I was feeling ill anyway (bad idea) but I really found Adam Scott's character very very annoying. I never ever expected to fancy him in any way (I don't know, his face ON IT'S OWN isn't that great) and even though I guess I vaguely knew he was in Parks and Rec, I cared a lot more about the fact that ROB LOWE was in it. (I like Rob Lowe's face quite a lot. It's a pretty magnificent face.)

But then! The bastard grew on me! I think the thing was this- in the first season, the show was set up so that Leslie was meant to be kind of unlucky in love, because, I think her enthusiasm was supposed to be offputting (RIDICULOUS), at least to men. And so, even though she had a couple of boyfriends even in season 2, in my brain there was still a sense of 'these men are RIDICULOUS, they should ALL want to marry Leslie.' And then Ben came along, and, well, obviously he did want to marry her, but also saw exactly how amazing she was and that was just perfect, plus that little smile whenever she did something incredible that showed how he was falling in love with her and eeeeeeeee!

There are, of course, other reasons to love Ben Wyatt that aren't 'because he loves Leslie Knope' (although that is obviously the best one, and shows his exquisite taste) and, you know, there's the nerd thing and the faces at the camera when we're all thinking 'huh?' about the madness in Pawnee, and the fact that he sacrificed his job so his girlfriend could keep hers and GOD has that ever even happened on TV before? Adam Scott now, to me, has the kind of face that I LOVE because I think of all the things he's done and he's just perfect. Basically I want to marry Ben Wyatt, if that's cool.
That is, if I can't marry Leslie Knope. Actually, that's crazy, basically I want to be Leslie Knope. I mean, I am essentially April, which is cool because I think Andy is way hot, but really and truly, I'd rather be Leslie. To wake up every morning inside her positive, can-do, thinking of everyone else all the time brain must be so amazing, and people just flock to her because she's the best person. In the world. Ever. I love her and I like her and I don't know what more I can say.

Except, oh, everything. Like, Leslie is a politician who actually cares about making people's lives better. Like, remember how she made Ron worried that she was going to throw a huge party for his birthday but actually she knew what he wanted so well that he got a steak in front of the TV by himself? Like, The Pawnee Goddesses. Oh yeah. I literally can't think of a TV character who's a better role model, not just for women but for every human being ever, AND even though this is the case, she's still so funny! She's magnificent! She's Leslie. And I love her. Obviously.
And who knew that the woman I used to know only as the weird mum from Mean Girls would turn out to have been so amazing all along? Amy Poehler, I salute you. And your incredible awesomeness and OH MAN can I just watch the whole thing all over again? I can? Well... Ok then. I shall.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Devouring Stephen King: Hearts in Atlantis

"The world of the story had become so vivid to him that this real one now seemed false and drab."

Hearts in Atlantis is, almost unbelievably, the first new-to-me Stephen King book I've read all year.* It's also only the eighth Stephen King book I've finished this year, which is why that fact makes more sense, but still. It's crazy. What it taught me was this: I can still be scared, or at least a little freaked out, by Stephen King books, as long as the story is completely unknown to me and is, you know, sort of freaky. I'm going to go right ahead and assume that not having my mum in close proximity might have had a tiny bit to do with this too, because, strong, independent woman though I am, when shit gets scary, it's just better to have your mum nearby.

Anyway. Hearts in Atlantis. It has, and I don't think I'm exaggerating here, the weirdest structure of any book I've maybe ever read. It contains 5 stories, all of them linked (however loosely) two of which (Low Men in Yellow Coats and Hearts in Atlantis) are roughly the same length and kind of the 'main' stories, and three of which (Blind Willie, Why We're in Vietnam and Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling) are pretty much short stories that still fit into the longer stories that come before them. I say it's a weird structure, and it truly is, but that didn't make it bad, just strange- they all still fit together well, and you can see the point of all the stories. 

My favourite, and really the main story, is Low Men in Yellow Coats. Not only does it have a connection to The Dark Tower (and I know it does, only I can't fully remember how) but it really just covers what King does best- the confusing and sometimes dark nature of childhood combined with all its wonderful aspects, too. It's also, essentially, the story of an old man's friendship with a young boy in a time where that was still an ok thing, and the relationship between Ted and Bobby is really lovely to read about (Ted gives Bobby the gift of reading! It's the best), and almost as good only in the opposite way is the ultimately destructive relationship between Bobby and his awful, awful mother. 

And then there are the Low Men themselves, extremely creepy and written in a way that actually, genuinely, had my heart beating a little bit faster, and my stomach crawling just a tiny bit. These guys are really sinister and frightening- it's not just the men themselves, but their giant, other worldly cars that give them away, and even writing about this is making me want to break out in a light sweat so I should probably stop. But trust me- they're very creepy, and introduced in a way that makes them seem dangerous, and power gaining, and just, noooooo. Scary. But EXCELLENT.

Hearts in Atlantis comes straight after LMIYC, and it really couldn't be more different. It has a couple of characters from the previous story, which allows them to be linked, but other than that, it's a fairly straightforward (by which I mean, nothing supernatural happens) story about being a college student in the late 1960s, and all of the growing awareness of the Vietnam War that that entailed. If I was comparing this to LMIYC, it wouldn't be a favourable one, but since it's really easy to view it as a wholly separate story (because it is one...) I actually found it really interesting in terms of what it might have been like to have been a college student at that time.

What it might have been like: a few students were maybe very politically active and involved in Vietnam protests from the very beginning, whereas a lot of other people maybe didn't care so much, until it felt impossible to them not to care anymore. There's also the other perspective of male college students having to care, because being in college was basically the only thing keeping them out of the military, and so good grades? Kind of a big deal. It was an interesting take on the whole Vietnam thing, and that's something which I can really say for the whole book.

I don't really have much to say about the three short stories- Blind Willie was probably the best of them, but only in how actually shocking and breathtakingly exploitative the titular character was, and Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling sort of wrapped up a couple of points from the other stories but wasn't much in itself. Blind Willie and Why We're in Vietnam both deal with more of the fallout from the Vietnam War, and to me, it felt like these were things King had wanted to write about for years, but maybe never really knew how, or when. With these stories, I think he does something really interesting, and something definitely worth reading. 

So basically- I don't know if I liked this so much simply because I was just so happy to get my hands on some new-to-me King, or if it's a genuinely good book, but either way I really enjoyed it and I can't think of any reason why you wouldn't too. If nothing else, Low Men In Yellow Coats is well worth your attention, and after it, you're going to want to know what happens to its characters, so you will read on. And hopefully you'll get a tiny bit scared too. It's the Stephen King way.

*Technically, I finished Rose Madder this year, but that was literally on the 1st of January and I read most of it last year. Just to be, you know, accurate.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Sunday Sundries: This isn't going to be about feminism only it sort of is

Greetings, from chilly, chilly England!
Things seem to have taken a turn for the winter here of late, which makes sense since it's basically the end of November, but still. I will not have it. In a weirdly insulting turn of events, Tumblr just told me my browser was outdated when I went to find the above gif, and wow. That's not cool, Tumblr.

Anyway, stuff. It's Sunday! I... haven't really done anything this week. SHOCKER, I know, but there you go. I have to have some standards of consistency. Mostly I've been spending the week either complaining that I'm too hot or too cold, mostly because I've usually been too hot or too cold (I know). This is mainly down to the fact that I live and work in places that have insufficient central heating, so I have to rely on heaters that make me too hot, but you can't turn them off because FREEZING and goddamn, I hate winter already.
So, instead of ranting on about how I'm always either too hot or too cold lately and it's making me GROUCHY, I'm going to talk about a thing like I used to do sometimes, and then you can tell me things you think about it, if you want. I know, it's a good plan, I like it too.

So here is the thing: How important do we think it is for a TV character to be like you to be able to relate to them? What I mean is this: there's a lot of talk (and I am usually the one doing it) about the lack of anyone who isn't a straight white male on tv. I mean, obviously basically every TV show has women in it (the same can't be said for non-white, or non-heterosexual people, sadly) but they're usually in less important, background roles, like in say Breaking Bad, or The Sopranos. New Girl is called New Girl, but there are now 4 main dude characters and two women. I mean, it's a fairly dire situation, when you look at it statistically.

If we put that aside just for a second (not because it's unimportant, but because I want to work with the characters we do have for a minute), I'm wondering: is it that important for a character to be like you in terms of your gender/race/sexuality for you to be able to relate to them? What I'm really saying is, I am basically Nick Miller, and I don't feel weird saying that because I'm not a white dude.
It would be kind of embarrassing for me to list all the ways in which I am Nick Miller, but will it be enough to say that I am Nick and he is me? No? Well, ok then- we're both underemployed, super poor, really grumpy, maybe a tiny bit lazy and, you know, we both fancy Zooey Deschanel. Whilst I am Nick Miller, I also love Nick Miller, which makes things slightly complicated in my head because apparently I love myself? But the point is, I relate to him more than any other character on New Girl, which makes his successes my successes, and his failures my failures. At least, you know, a bit, and it doesn't feel weird that I relate less to Jess who, presumably should be my role model and whatnot (to be fair, she is a much better role model than Nick Miller. Just sayin.)

And then, another character I relate to but also would marry is Luke from Gilmore Girls. And Gilmore Girls is a programme with plenty of female characters to consider myself most like, and yet it is the grumpy but kindly dude from the diner that I consider myself to be most like, even though I feel like I would get a lot more annoyed with Lorelei than he does because OMG you talk too much, woman. Maybe that's a thing- that I like grumpy characters who don't always have to talk, but always have a presence when they're onscreen (obviously, cause that's the way narratives work...) and that is the kind of thing that women characters are not encouraged to be.

So, in other words, maybe I have to relate to the dude characters cause the women aren't ever written in that way, which is a big lie on behalf of all TV cause hello! Here I am being all quiet and moody over here! Not, you know, perky and nice and generally go getting and excellent.

So, to bring this back to the start... does it matter that I relate to dude characters more than the girl ones sometimes? No. Not when the female characters are hardly ever written in a way I relate to, but maybe that's because I'm an unconventional girl. But does it matter that there isn't a vivid array of different female characters in every TV show (well, maybe not every TV show), as well as people of colour and gay people? It does. It really really does. There are only a handful of shows I can think of that even come close to balancing the male:female ratio, and even ones that do don't always show a wide array of different characteristics within their women characters- because guys, 'femaleness' is not a trait, and seriously, we come in just as many different character types and styles as dudes do. REFLECT THIS, PLEASE.
Actual lady character I do relate to.

Parks and Recreation (which I will endeavour to write a post about this week) is as close to being perfect in a male-female way as I could hope, AND it's basically one of the best comedy series I've ever watched. IT CAN BE DONE, and it can be done well. For reals.

So tell me- do you think this is an issue or am I just making a fuss out of nothing? (I'm not). And which TV characters do you relate to that are so like you, but also so not like you? It can't be weirder than Nick Miller, is all I'm saying.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Devouring Books: The Chronicles of Narmo by Caitlin Moran

The Chronicles of Narmo is Caitlin Moran's first and, as far as I know, only work of fiction. She wrote it when she was 15, it was published when she was 16, and essentially that is the least fair thing in the world. Or, I should say, it would be the least fair thing in the world if it sucked, but since this is Caitlin we're talking about, and her entire body of work is like catnip to me (Caitlin... catnip... No?) of course it didn't suck. In fact, it was pretty awesome. 

In one, really tenuous way, this book reminded me of Little Women. It's actually nothing like Little Women, but hear me out. The way it's written is kind of episodic, and each chapter is about a different event in the lives of the Narmo family.* I feel like this is kind of like Little Women in that that book also has a different thing going on in each chapter, and could almost be separated into tiny short stories, and this one could be too. Oh, and ALSO it starts and ends at Christmas, so there's that.

Basically, I only think it's like Little Women because when I read it I thought 'I bet Caitlin had read Little Women just before she wrote this', and so apparently I think it's cool to compare them. Yeah.

Anyway, moving swiftly on! The Chronicles of Narmo pretty much does what it says on the tin- it's the chronicles of the Narmo family and the way they negotiate everyday life. And the way they do that is this: by being not-very-well off, home-schooling their kids, and generally being hilarious and excellent and making-do and mending. SORT OF LIKE THE REAL MORAN FAMILY (see what she did there?) Because, yes, Caitlin Moran did write this when she was 15, and lived in a presumably hilarious and excellent home-schooled family, and, I mean, isn't everyone's attempt at a novel when they're 15 basically their life story?

Even though that's sort of the case here, it's definitely not a bad thing. I think there's a kind of perception of novels by teens (or, at least there is in my brain) that they're going to be overly autobiographical, and whiny and just terrible- like the poetry teenagers write, you know. But that is SO not the case here- Caitlin has clearly had a gift for comedy forever, because she wrote this with the lightest of touches, and the kind of teeny and realistic details that made me giggle on the bus, a lot. Stuff like a failed holiday in a mobile home, or a family wedding just become hilarious in her hands.

Obviously I'm fairly predisposed to love Caitlin, and so I'm pretty sure I would have enjoyed this even if it hadn't been so great, because yay! Caitlin! Your development as a writer is so fun to see! BUT it honestly is hilarious just in and of itself and I'm pretty sure that even people who don't enjoy it when she writes about, you know, her opinions and stuff (damn woman) would, or at least could, still enjoy this book. And I enjoyed it a whole lot as you can probably tell. In related news, it has just been republished, so, you know, get on that.**

*Just by the by, it BLEW MY MIND when, about a week after I finished this, my brain went 'Narmo... Moran. OMG.' Anagrams ftw.
**This whole post seems like a bit of a mess to me cause I wrote it in about 3 sittings and I feel like I haven't written a review for ages. So, bear with me/be kind, please!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Sunday Sundries: Where I've Been, and Where I Am Now

GUYS, I'm not dead!
Completely just assuming you're all celebrating about this.

I have also not been NaNoWriMo-ing, but I feel like it was fortunate that I said I was going to be this month so, you know, you didn't worry and all. Did you worry? You shouldn't have been worried. But I apologise all the same, and hey! I'm back! Or that, at least, is the plan. 

I don't even have tons to report from my time away, if I'm honest. Well, I have one MEGA thing to report, but other than that... Work got kind of crazy at the end of last week (and I was still doing NaNoWriMo at that point), then I went to London with Frances on Saturday, and I've been vaguely ill (bit of a cold) for the last week. So, excuses excuses, I know, but all of that happens to be true!

But the mega thing... BLOGGER MEET UP IN LEEDS! So, the Tuesday just gone, at a strange and mythical hour, I met Bex at Kings Cross Station (yes, we geeked out at Harry Potter a bit. Yes, it was awesome.) and we took a stupidly long day trip to Leeds. The train took about two and a half hours, but get this- Bex and I talked the whole time and it felt like it took about twenty minutes, so that was awesome. Tired and disheveled, we valiantly walked through the ticket barriers, and who did our eyes behold? Why, it was Ellie, Hanna and Charlotte, of course!

So, we were all together and it was SO EXCITING because I had totally met Bex and Hanna before, but Ellie and Charlotte! NEW bloggers! Plus, Ellie is my blog wife (which is totally a thing- we got married in the comments on one of my posts once, I think) so that was pretty special and miraculous. Plus, Charlotte is notorious in my brain for being a person on the internet WITHOUT A FACE, so seeing that she had one was preeeeetty cool. 

Anyway. So we were in Leeds! The people were just better than the people down south (i.e. they weren't all dicks), the air was slightly chillier, I was back in Yorkshire and everything was great. We went to have lunch in the Trinity Centre, which is VERY COOL and also I would probably totally live there and stuff. While we were eating, Hanna and Charlotte devised a plan to maximise our book shopping and IT TOTALLY WORKED. We made our way round all the bookshops of Leeds, with minimal fuss, but maximal book buying. It. Was. Awesome. 
Book bloggers in their natural habitat.
You can get a more detailed route of our book shopping from Ellie's post, if you so desire, but suffice to say, we bought a LOT of books (at last count, I believe it was 64. Between FIVE of us. Yeah, you do that maths.) and we talked a lot and just generally it was awesome and fun and the best. I've said it before, and I'll say it every time I meet a new one of you people, but meeting people you know on the internet is kind of the best thing ever- you've laid all the foundations for everything, you already know each other so well, it's just the meeting each other's faces that's the thing. It's at once the most exciting thing, and also kind of no-big-deal, because it's almost like we see each other nearly daily. Just not in person.
And here are our faces all together in one photo! We had to have a coffee (hot chocolate) in Waterstones because OMG exhausted. These ladies know how to book shop.

But anyway, the point is BOOKS! (That is so not the point, but it's what I'm going to talk about next, so there). I know you want to see what I bought, and I want to show you, so this is all working out swimmingly.
TA-DA! So I've just realised that these are really incorrectly in order compared to where/when I bought them, but NEVER MIND. So the top three are Pioneer Woman by Ree Drummond (have you read her blog? I sort of love her blog), Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist, and Memento Mori by Muriel Spark. I got these in a 3 for £5 deal in The Works, and really I just wanted Harbour, but then I saw the Pioneer Woman book and was like YEAH, so Memento Mori is a bit of a wildcard. So basically, if anyone wants to tell me that it's fabulous, that would be ok. The next two are Generation of Swine by Hunter S Thompson and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, both of which I got at HMV, and both of which I'm pretty excited about- I feel like Alice said Fried Green Tomatoes is really good, and I know that Kayleigh loves Thompson, and I'm excited to read more by him. See, guys? I took ALL of you with me to Leeds!

And then, in Waterstones, I got a teeny bit carried away and sort of bought 4 books. Which I know, I know, isn't that many, but I basically never buy new books, and if I do it's one at a time, so this was like a big deal for me! But I'm pretty pleased with what I got. *clears throat importantly* So, there's World War Z by Max Brooks because Alley apparently reads it ALL THE TIME, so it must be good. And then I got Sons and Lovers by D H Lawrence because Penguin English Libraryyyy, and The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter because beautiful Virago editiooooon, and, finally, Nos4r2 by Joe Hill because I am fully caving to the Joe Hill peer pressure even if it does put me even further behind at reading Papa King's stuff. Plus, Nos4r2 is apparently a CHRISTMAS horror story, so it'll totally make me feel festive, right? (Probably not.)

So all of that happened, then after our coffee, we headed back to Leeds Station, triumphant but sad to leave each other, excited to read our books, but sad that the day was over (this might have just been me, wouldn't like to speak for everyone!). The Northern lasses got their trains/went to meet their manfriends, and Bex and I decided to get a bit of dinner before our two and a bit hour journey back to London. So we did that, and I got her to pose with all our books
Yeah, those are just the books TWO of us bought. It was mega.
And we leisurely strolled to get our train. Which was delayed. By about an hour. Now, Leeds Station is nice and everything, but there isn't really enough to keep you occupied in it for an hour, but somehow, SOMEHOW we valiantly struggled on, looking in two separate WHSmiths and generally keeping ourselves occupied. One of us might have moaned a bit, but the other one of us might have a one year old child so I think she was ok with it. Probably... But anyway! Finally we left Leeds and its wonders behind, spent another two and a bit hours having a giant chat, and said our goodbyes on the tube (I HATE doing that. So rush-y) and went back to our separate homes. It was magnificent. 

I realise that this post in obnoxiously long already, so I shan't labour any more anythings, but (BUT!) I have promised a tour of my new room, and that, my pretties, is what you shall get, in the form of four pictures. Minimal words, I swear.
Bookcase, recipe books at the end of my bed, mirror. The door to my room is there, and it opens on to the mirror. My hope is that I won't accidentally smash it one day, but the chances are I will.
Bed, glorious bed. Also my IKEA chest of drawers that I BUILT MYSELF and a heater because shit, attics are cold. Not pictured- my laundry basket. Which is pretty full, tbh.
Bookcases of JOYYYY. Except when I was building them, they were bookcases of horror, but NEVER MIND THAT. To the side there are basically all my clothes, on a rail, which I love.
This is my sewing/booze/work table. My library books are on one end, my laptop theoretically lives there, and all my TV DVDs are under it. We can totally pretend that it looks like this all the time, but realistically, I tidied that shit WAY up before I took this. That's how I roll.

See! My room! I'm especially happy I did this because now my room is HELLA tidy and that's just the best. I mean, it'll last for about a day or something, but right now I'm really happy with it! I don't feel like the pictures really do the room justice size-wise, because it's kind of huge. Or at least huge compared to what I'm used to. Typing huge a lot has made me feel really uncomfortable, so I'm going to stop now. Huge.

Now tell me what you've been doing and make your comments so so long, I have MISSED this!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Devouring Films: Lars and the Real Girl

Lars and the Real Girl is the perfect example of a film I'm so glad I watched alone than with other people. With others, I think it could have been the kind of thing where I could have either been swept along into thinking that it was ridiculous without really considering what the movie was trying to say, OR I would have been the only person in the room crying at it. Either way wouldn't have been my perfect way to watch a movie, so I'm lucky I watched it all alone in my bed late one night.

Now let me tell you the plot of Lars and the Real Girl and you'll understand why I fear (yet also, you know, get) people would laugh at it. Lars (Ryan Gosling) is a socially awkward guy who lives in his brother and sister-in-law's garage. One day, a package arrives for Lars, and inside is his new girlfriend, an anatomically correct sex doll who Lars acts like is a real person. For the whole movie. That's it, that's the film. And I know, it sounds bonkers, and yes, I definitely used that word in a text to Frances when I was watching it.

But. Even though the premise is bonkers, and even though when you're watching Ryan Gosling (beautiful, beautiful Gosling) act as though a rubber doll is a real person it's difficult to take seriously, somehow this film managed to be both heartwarming AND thought provoking. Can you believe it was both of those overused words at once? Because it was! But seriously- whilst it's so tempting for you as the viewer to make fun of Lars initially, when you see how the people in his small town react towards him and his 'girlfriend', Bianca, it's almost impossible to view him and his situation with anything other than the highest compassion.
Because the townspeople? They're pretty great. Instead of trying to tell him that his girlfriend isn't real, or laughing at him to his face, or being outright terrible to him, as you might expect, you know, actual people to be, they're actually completely decent, embracing 'Bianca' as Lars's real girlfriend and including her in basically all of the town's events. It actually gets so that you almost (almost) forget that, oh yeah, she is a sex doll, because she's such a focal point of the movie, and the way Lars acts towards her is so genuine that she almost becomes like a real character. It's the strangest thing.

A lot of this movie rests on Ryan Gosling, and, as ever, he's kind of fantastic. The main reason you don't want to laugh at Lars is because of the way he plays him, as someone who goes out of his way not to interact with people, but who needs someone so much that he invents a person to be his everything. It's so tragic because, when you watch him interact with Bianca, you can see just how much he has to offer a real person, but he doesn't know how to be with someone real. It's interesting that, even though this film could be problematic in a kind of 'he doesn't know how to handle a real woman so he gets one who can't ever defy him' way, that's absolutely not the way things are set up in this movie, and the issue isn't that Lars wants a woman he can control, it's that he literally has no idea how to be with a real person.
I don't know how accurate this film is to the experience of people who have delusions, but I found it fascinating from a psychological perspective. The idea is that Lars created Bianca (as a real person, he didn't, like, build her) because he needed her for some reason, which, I think, essentially spawns from the fact that his mother died giving birth to him (there's more basis to it than this, but this is the root of his issues). I am actually really interested in what it must be like to be the child whose mother died in childbirth- to know that, you were something she wanted so much, and yet you also played a part in her death. There's absolutely no way you can blame the baby for this, but how much blame must those children take on themselves, and how does that affect them through their lives?

Like I said, fascinating.

I'm going to stop rambling on about this now before I give away, you know, the entire film, but please- don't let the fact that this movie involves a sex doll and Ryan Gosling put you off, because rather than that being as gross as it sounds, it's such a sweet story about a man trying to work his way through his issues without even realising that's what he's doing, and it's so sweet that he doesn't even use the doll in the way it's intended because, and I quote, 'she wants to wait until we're married.' It's interesting, it's definitely different, and it's worth an hour and three quarters of your time.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Sunday Sundries: Wrapping a few things up, Starting something new

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday.
Once again I have to go to work for I am a FOOL so I'm super grumpy about that. ALSO once again, I haven't taken photos of my room because it was tidy for about a day, then I went to my parents' house and my mum made me sort loads of stuff that I left behind and I had to bring it back here and I haven't put it away yet because of reasons.
It was. Probably.
But it's fine because I have other things to report on and also I don't have anything particularly interesting to write about for next week so that is when it shall be. (I will basically just promise you a room tour, weekly, until I actually do it, ok? Cool.)

So! The things to wrap up. FIRSTLY: There was a Halloween Ninja Book Swap! It was AWESOME.
See, see! I am ridiculously late in posting about this because it's been nearly three weeks since I got this (I KNOW. I am terrible) in the post from Hanna who is miraculous and wonderful and THE BEST and knew exactly what I wanted better than myself, clearly! So obviously you can see this from the photo, but there's Orange is the New Black in book form which I am REALLY excited to read because you KNOW I loved the TV show (I've talked about that, right?)
and and and then there's ALSO The Chronicles of Narmo which is the novel Caitlin Moran wrote when she was like 15 (I know. Precocious or what?) and I have read it already and it is AMAZING and it's the kind of book where I knew I wanted it but I may never have bought it and yeah. SO GOOD. And also also all that chocolate, which I have somehow managed not to eat all of yet (I know! I have seriously only eaten the orange chocolate one) and a lovely letter and it was just the best ever best thing and I love it and seriously, this ninja book swap thing is the BEST, and you should allllll do it. 

So that's the one thing, and thank you again, Hanna, for your amazingness (ALSO- there is another book! That's she's going to send me! Which is crazy because whaaaat she already gave me two books! I know.) THE OTHER THING:
RIP VIII! That was a thing that happened. And that only finished a few days ago, so I am right on time with this one. The thing with RIP VIII is that, even though I feel like I didn't really read any books for it, I actually read a fair few books for it (as in, way more than the four that the challenge basically asks for) it's just that, compared to the last couple of years (where I read ALL THE BOOKS for RIP) it was kind of under-achievementy. It fell short of my usual standards, shall we say? We shall, for I just typed that. 

But anyway. I did read things for RIP VIII, and here are all my reviews, conveniently gathered in one place:
(Presented in rainbow form so they're less scary and stuff)
So yeah, I've kind of cheated because I finished The Cuckoo's Calling and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon in August BUT I reviewed them in September so IT COUNTS and also The Girl trilogy thing was three books that had one review so I had to make up the numbers somehow. 

And that is basically everything up to date. Yeah! And then there's the new thing I'm starting, and that, my friends is NaNoWriMo. Which, if you don't know, is National Novel Writing Month, wherein people who are insane attempt to write 50,000 words in November, and... I am one of those insane people. The thing I'm basically saying here is, I don't know how much I'm going to be bloggering this month because of all the other writing (last year I did the LEAST blogging in November of all the months, so yeah) but it'll be fine and you'll all survive. I may not. And possibly nor will my self esteem, but I will have a really bad novel written! Yeah!

So yeah, that's me. What are you doing with your entire November?

Friday, 1 November 2013

"His impressions were fresh in a way he would either remember all his life or instantly forget."

Oh crap, you guys. Franzen got to me.
I thought I remembered a similar thing happening with Freedom, feeling vaguely antagonistic towards most of the characters, and then getting to the end and deciding that, hey, they're not so bad, and I had a feeling something similar was coming with The Corrections. And HEY, it did. I mean, I haven't left The Corrections with some newly renewed faith in humanity or anything, because, you know,
But I guess I did leave with a better understanding of all the characters, even if I didn't like them more (some of them, I liked WAY less) and I kind of just GOT what Franzen had been trying to do throughout the book a lot more. Which is probably a good thing because if I'd finished this book and been left with nothing, I might have had to stab things, and that wouldn't have been good.

Firstly, and most importantly, I just want to comment that, even though this book ends at Christmas, none of the characters are in any way thinking about Christmas (with the possible exception of Enid). I'm not trying to say that just because it's Christmas, no one should have any troubles and everyone should just be constantly eating turkey, but not one of the characters is excited, or humming jingle bells, or doing any of that good sweet Christmas stuff they should be doing. Try telling me it's because they're all grown ups, and I will punch you because Christmas is aweeeeesome and always will be.
Try some singing, Lamberts.
Actually, I've just remembered the carollers, and that one bit where Chip arrives. THOSE were pretty Christmassy. But that's it. 

Character conclusions:
  • Gary- Gary is kind of a terrible human being. I know, I know, his wife sucks. But you know who married his wife? Gary did. Because he ALSO sucks. I can't even, with the stringing Enid along about Jonah, and oh hey, you owe me $5, mom; and also did I mention that I invested in that company that sort of short changed my dad and am making a mint off of it? Oh yeah, and remember when I said I was depressed? Turns out I was just an asshole! Fucking Gary. Above all things, though, I hate this about him the most: "It frustrated him that people could so happily drop out of the world of conventional expectations; it undercut the pleasure he took in his home and job and family; it felt like a unilateral rewriting, to his disadvantage, of the rules of life." Firstly, Gary, comparison is the thief of joy, so, you might want to work on that. Secondly... You wife is a sociopath, your kids don't like you so much, how's that conventional life working out for ya? Oh yeah, I don't care.
  • Denise- I don't know if it's just because her narrative came straight after Gary's which, trust me, was a welcome break, but I feel a lot more positive towards Denise now. Actually, it's not that uncomplicated- I hate that now she's allowed to have Robin she doesn't even want her anymore, and what was with that domestic violence thing? But, still, Denise seems to see people better than any of the other characters, to realise the things that they want and need AND- more importantly- she tries to help them get them. Like an ultimately good person would do. She tries, anyway.
  • Chip- Oh, Chip. Has he redeemed himself? It's basically impossible to forget what an absolute dick he was at the start, but... Looking after his parents! A wife! Twins! Moving to Chicago! And, maybe most importantly, realising that his script (and, by extension, his life) is/was not a thriller but a farce. I don't know- if it's possible to forgive a character for the bad things they did/were, then I think I did that with the knowledge that he stayed in St Jude for SIX WEEKS, sacrificing the image he had of himself in the process and, just maybe, becoming better. In my brain sequel, Gary's kids are as messed up as these three, but Chip's twins are fine, but that's just me.
  • Alfred- I don't really know what to say about Al. He's been tyrannical, distant, hugely racist, and helped to mess up three human beings, but he's also a sick old man who can't tell his left from his right any more. The main feeling left behind from his character is of never ever wanting to grow old in such an undignified, and yeah, upsetting way. Fuck this shit: "The clarity to think and the power to act were still vivid in his memory. Through a window that gave onto the next world, he could still see the clarity and see the power, just out of reach, beyond the window's thermal panes."
  • Enid- I don't really know what to say about Enid. On the one hand, yay for standing up for gay rights, on the other... I'm really uneasy about her 'correcting' Al. I get it- she's put up with all his bullshit for YEARS, has been his caregiver for the past few, and now it's time for her to get her own back. Ok, fine, BUT the man who did all the bad things to her isn't even there anymore, so really she's just taking it out on a sick person. I am happy about her eventual freedom, only... I'm not so sure she has it in her to use her last years in a good way. But hopefully I'm wrong.
Sorry, that was really long!
Just one more thing and I'll leave you be. I found this really really interesting:
"He'd lost track of what he wanted, and since who a person was was what a person wanted, you could say that he'd lost track of himself."
The reason I find this interesting is, IS a person what they want? Are we just bundles of desires, making decisions that satisfy our most pressing current want, or is there more to us than that? I'm not even sure I know what I think about it, but I think what Franzen thinks is... Yes, we are more than a grouping of wants, because what we also are is what we are to other people. Even if we don't know what we want anymore, there's still the essential facts of where we came from and people who know us and a whole lot more than just wanting stuff like horrible little capitalists. I understand why Chip thinks people are what they want, but I think he's wrong.
 Saw a philosophical question, had to answer it. You're welcome, kids. And here endeth my involvement with The Corrections. Alley, thank you SO MUCH for hosting it (and thus ending our endless discourse of 'when are we going to read The Corrections?' 'Dunno, we should do a readalong' and freeing up more time to talk about Extreme Couponing and other important things) and let's just say... I'm glad I read it, and I'm really glad that I don't have to read it again. Laura Out.