I have been reflecting a lot lately on the hugeness of my own limitations. This story represents one of my most obvious limitations when it comes to a...moreI have been reflecting a lot lately on the hugeness of my own limitations. This story represents one of my most obvious limitations when it comes to appreciating books. I don’t understand world building. I think this is my limitation when it comes to historical fiction as well. I don’t understand why an author would want to make a story more complicated than just what it takes to tell what happens to characters. That’s how I experience world building in both sci fi/fantasy and historical fiction – an over-complication of what could otherwise be an interesting story. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for you), I think A Wizard of Earthsea is mostly world building (though Ceridwen and Elizabeth inform me that I'm wrong, and I would think that they probably know better than I do what the world-building thing is about. But I am still going to proceed using my arguably faulty definition of world building).
I accidentally started reading this book at the same time that Elizabeth started reading it, and in order to not add to the breaking of Ceridwen’s heart, I didn’t put it on my currently reading. I basically agree with what Elizabeth said, and I don’t have that much to add. I’m only giving three stars because my policy is to rate based on my enjoyment, and with the exception of a couple of parts, I can’t say I enjoyed reading this book. For the most part, it had that Lord of the Rings, traveling-with-no-action quality that really puts me to sleep. I liked the battle parts, though.
Anyway, I know that a lot of people look down on Siddhartha and The Prophet, but I think what people enjoy about Earthsea must be similar to what I like about those books. They all have a wise, parabolic quality. And I like the self-discovery message of Earthsea. I just think there’s a lot of elaborate hand-waiving and rigmarole to get there. I haven’t read Siddhartha since high school, so maybe it is like that, too, and maybe all of this is about the timing of reading a book.
I think I’ve told this story before, I forget where, but when I was in college I ran into this guy I had a crush on in high school and it’s possible that I ended up dating him for a little while. He used to come into the café I was working at and follow me as I walked back and forth behind the counter making sandwiches and whatnot. He wouldn’t talk, he would just walk up and down the counter when I did. I ended up thinking he’s probably brain damaged from all of the acid he always did. One day, I got tired of him just silently following me around, so I asked him to tell me a story. He quickly said, “Oh, no. I don’t have any stories,” and continued to follow me.
A minute later, he said, “Oh, I thought of a story!”
I was relieved and asked him to continue.
“Do you know where the hot springs are?” He asked.
“Oh,” he responded with clear consternation. “Well, do you know how to get to Dexter?”
“No,” I sighed, hoping he would get on to the story soon.
“So, if you’re on I-5, you take the Oakridge exit,” he explained. “Do you know where that is? I think it’s around exit [estimate of exit number] or [estimate of other exit number].”
“Oh, okay,” I said, pretending I knew what he was talking about. “I know where that is.”
“Oh good!” He said.” So, instead of following the road left, like you would to get to Dexter, you follow it right.” He proceeded to give me a long and detailed explanation of how to get to the hot springs, all of which I have forgotten now. There were a lot of “turn left”s and “then turn right”s. After quite a while of this, he stopped.
“Okay,” I said, “What’s the story?”
“Well, we went there the other day.” And that was the end of his story.
Maybe it’s not fair to compare world building to elaborate directions, but that’s how they make me feel. Or, at least, how they make my eyelids feel (heavy). Sometimes directions are a necessary evil, and I’ll admit that some world building is necessary, but I like to get there in the quickest, simplest way possible. In Earthsea once I get past the directions and to what I consider the actual story, I like it, but the directions still made me fall asleep.(less)
A lot of astrology books are not my favorites because of their, I don’t know, odd sexism, prejudice against certain signs, or useless generalities (am...moreA lot of astrology books are not my favorites because of their, I don’t know, odd sexism, prejudice against certain signs, or useless generalities (among other faults). I really like the Parker’s, though. I have a lot of nostalgia wrapped up in this book because of time spent going over it with friends. It’s been pretty trusty. I’m persuaded it was written by Geminis because, I mean, let’s be real, no one is this rah-rah about Geminis. Sorry, Geminis. You are my friends, but I’ve seen the kind of stunts you pull. But the favoritism to Geminis is only a funny thing, and not a fault. Sometimes, I am totally out of the mood for astrology, but tonight I finished a long day of studying for the bar exam, and I’m feeling like some hokum. I’m going to give you your own personal (not-so-)brief guide to astrology according to me.
I don’t really go in for the future-telling part of astrology, though I do like this horoscope a ton: http://www.freewillastrology.com/horo.... So, what I’m going to talk about is the personality analysis side of astrology. I like the personality part of astrology because I don’t understand people at all. So, if I can imagine someone’s motivation, it is not so disorienting and such a betrayal when they act the opposite of how I would. And people don’t usually explain their own motivation as clearly as an astrology book does.
So, let’s talk about personalities! For a lot of my friends on here, I’ve already done your natal charts, but if you want to calculate your own natal chart, you can go to http://alabe.com/freechart/, and it will let you do your chart for free. You have to know the date, time, and place you were born, or it won’t be entirely accurate. The natal chart tells you where all of the planets were when you were born and what constellation was behind them. I do not care for the analysis that website does, though. I find it more useful to look up the chart and then go to the Parker’s for the analysis. So, for example, I’ll tell you my chart:
I’m not going to go over the planets that are farther out because they are more generational – they don’t rotate as quickly, so large groups of people have them in common. They are important because of the interaction between the planets, the “aspects,” but I’m not going to go into those either because you can just check in this book if you get that cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. I’m also not going to go into the houses because this is freaking long enough.
So, when I was born, most of my planets were lined up with Aries behind them. The moon was in front of the constellation Virgo, and Taurus was on the horizon. Now, if you look at what I say about those signs, you know me! Yay! I am an open book. Except for my seeeecrets. Now I’ll tell you what the different placements represent, and later I’ll tell you about the signs. You can correct me if your understanding is different.
Sun: This represents your overall personality. It is the filter through which all of your other characteristics are sifted. If the daily horoscope says you “are” an Aries or Virgo or Pisces, or whatever, that means the sun was in front of that constellation when you were born.
Moon: This represents your first instinct. It is the instinctual, emotional reaction you have in any given situation.
Rising (also called the “Ascendant”): This is the base of your personality. It is what is underneath everything that you do. They say that it is the part of your personality that a good friend or family member would know, but an acquaintance would never guess.
Mars: The way you deal with conflict.
Venus: The way you deal with relationships (romantic and otherwise).
So, those are the main parts of the personality (the “personal planets”). Now I’m going to go through the signs and talk about their characteristics. They are all categorized into one of four elements: fire, earth, air, water. Captain Planet knows all about this business. Fire and water signs are both based in emotion. Fire signs are passionate emotion; water signs are subtle, interpersonal emotion. Earth signs are practicality and steadiness. Air signs are intellect. The signs all get older through the zodiac, so Aries is the youngest and Pisces is the oldest.
So, what you do is you go back up to the link at the beginning of the review, then you find your chart. Then, you look at what the planet represents above. Then, you read about the personality characteristics that are in your chart below based on the results of your chart.
You can post your chart below if you want, and we can talk about it. These are the signs:
Aries. (view spoiler)[Aries is a fire sign and the baby of the zodiac. So, Aries is based in passionate emotion (fire). The symbol of Aries is the ram. Aries are stubborn in the traditional sense. We think it is hilarious to dig our heels in until we see a good reason to move. We also, like a ram, frequently bang our heads against walls both literally and figuratively. We fear abandonment. Aries seek out independence, but we want to trust that when we look up from learning to crawl, someone will be there to clap for us.
I think the goal of Aries is self-actualization, self-discovery (I just looked it up and, as I thought, Maslow was an Aries). This can play out in a couple of different ways, though. You have your arrogant, selfish Aries and your fun, genuine Aries. As a rule we do not take ourselves seriously. When an Aries takes himself seriously, and it typically happens on a matter of pride, no good can come of it. It is not that we’re so much selfish, though some of us truly are, it is more that we are egocentric – like a baby – and it is our job to discover ourselves, like it is a baby’s job to do. Mostly, though, we are just fun. (hide spoiler)]
Taurus. (view spoiler)[Taurus is an earth sign, and kind of like a toddler (you get the idea with the aging through the zodiac). The symbol of Taurus is the bull (again big on the stubbornness). Taureans are practical and trustworthy (earth). Taurus is not jealous, but they are possessive. They are very proud of their toys, and most things are like toys to them. Taureans usually have the best stuff – whether it’s the most expensive, or not, they will often tell you why it is the best, and usually they’re right. Often this plays out with friends and family that a Taurus will be mad that her toys aren’t playing like she wants them to do – not exactly jealousy, but similar. Some Taureans are hoarders of either things or people.
I think the goal of Taurus is comfort. There tend to be two types of Taureans in my experience (a sign’s qualities usually play out in one of two ways, I think). A Taurus is usually either shallow and kind of manipulative (those toys should play right!), or she is the jolliest, cuddliest teddy bear. A good Taurus friend can be like a warm fire on a winter day. Good food, good wine, good company. (hide spoiler)]
Gemini. (view spoiler)[Gemini is an air sign, & c with the aging. The symbol of Gemini is the twins. Geminis are notorious for being two faced. They are like the little kid who realized he could lie, cheat, and steal, but is kind of crappy at getting away with it. Hand in the cookie jar. Geminis are always chasing after an illusive ideal, and once they’ve caught it, rushing after an opposing ideal. Geminis are far from jealous or possessive, and they tend, instead, to be so focused on free thinking and illusive goals that they are more likely to be attracted to open relationships.
I think the goal of Geminis is maybe social acceptance. I’m not totally positive about this. But society is competing ideals and conflicting moralities and illusive trophies that are the type of thing that Geminis chase. Since Gemini is an air sign, it is based in intellect, and Geminis tend to be witty and fun and ready for an intellectual challenge. In some ways, I think all of life is like a big Sudoku game to them, though as with all of the signs, there are the kindest, best, most fun people who are Geminis, and then those that would as soon stab you in the back as look at you. Social acceptance requires loyalty, and sometimes it requires betrayal. (hide spoiler)]
Cancer. (view spoiler)[Cancer is a water sign, and I think they are the cool late teens of the zodiac. The symbol of Cancer is a crab because Cancers are tough on the outside and soft on the inside. Cancers are shy, and often that and the tough-outer-shell thing come off as mysteriousness. And in some ways, I think, Cancers probably just are mysterious, even if they do not think so themselves. Once you are a friend with a Cancer, she never lets go of the friendship.
I think the goal of Cancer is security. This is similar to the Taurus goal of comfort, but the Taurus comfort is a security blanket compared to the Cancer’s innate career calling or her white picket fence somewhere that’s green. I’ve read that Cancers are either driven by a deep call to a profession or a deep loyalty to family and desire for family. The Cancers I’ve known have all had either a complete sureness of their professional abilities or loyalty to their family (or both). I like that about them a lot. Some of the absolute funniest people I’ve ever met have been Cancers. Maybe most of them. When they think nobody’s watching, they can crack a serious joke. (hide spoiler)]
Leo. (view spoiler)[Leo is a fire sign, and the smug and satisfied 20-something. The symbol of Leo is the lion. Personal appearance is very important to Leos, like the lion lounging in the sun. You would think that Leos would be fashionable because of their concern with personal appearance, and that is not always, or even usually, the case. Usually, they do somehow identify their physical appearance with their personality (like my Leo friend who will try on five different crappy baseball caps before he goes out of the house because he’s not sure which beer company or college football team he wants to endorse that day). More than that, though, they enjoy compliments. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy some sort of recognition? But, it seems to me like with Leos, they take compliments to be a serious reflection on their identity.
I think the goal of Leo is fame. I am tempted to use the words “reputation” or “notoriety,” but I think “fame” is better at expressing the idea. Except, “fame” makes you think of Paris Hilton, which is not really what I mean. I mean more like, after you talk to a Leo, you will go home that night and tell your family how you reversed your opinions on politics or religion or the proper cleaning of dishes, or a Leo taught you how to build a house or fix a car or bake perfect cookies. And on that day, a Leo will have fulfilled his mission. They are usually super organized, even if they don’t look it, and when they say they can show you how to do something, they usually can – even if they have never done it before. (hide spoiler)]
Virgo. (view spoiler)[Virgo is an earth sign and, you know, middle-aged. The symbol of Virgo is the virgin. Virgos are philosophical and logical, and almost everyone whose charts I’ve done in law school have had a bunch of Virgo. Virgos are critical, but they are critical in this particular way. Mostly, usually, they would never mean to be judgmental or even critical, but they see the world as all of the various parts that make a whole, the ingredients to the cake. Virgos are shy, so it is not that they would ever be jealous friends, but they will assume you don’t want to hang out with them if the ingredients of how you act seem like a recipe for not wanting to be around them.
I think the goal of Virgo is integrity. Virgos break everything down into their simplest elements and look at it all on equal terms – what is weak, strong, delicate, beautiful, ugly, sharp, soft. They look at what lasts and what blows away. A Virgo is never going to make a choice based only on some kind of fancy, but she will weigh the solidness of all of her options and go with what she can trust. And she’s honest about all of it. (hide spoiler)]
Libra. (view spoiler)[Libra is an air sign and ready to give up the party life to woo and be wooed. The symbol of Libra is the justice scales. Almost everybody in my group in Peace Corps was a Libra. Libras are romantic, but like with the Leo personal-appearance deal, the word “romantic” usually feels kind of wrong for Libras. Libras are about authentic, real, human-type romance, not trashy boxes of chocolate and creepy songs on the radio. They care a lot about aesthetically beautiful surroundings and fairy-tale endings (whatever that happens to mean to them). A Libra cares about falling in love, but in that sense that someday when he falls in love, things will fall into place.
I think the goal of Libra is peace. They say that Libras are the mellowest people you’ll meet, but they will easily stand up for themselves. I have always seen the mellow, but maybe I just haven’t seen a Libra in a position where he needed to really take someone down. Libras in general just bring peace and balance. They don’t appease, they just help you see the other point of view. (hide spoiler)]
Scorpio. (view spoiler)[Scorpio is a water sign, and again with the aging. The symbol of Scorpio is the scorpion. People are always afraid of Scorpios because if you cross them (even accidentally) and they sting you, you die. An old boss of mine, a Scorpio, says, “This office has a looooong memory,” and he says it in this menacing way, where you know he’s not kidding. I actually have had a lot of really good friends who are Scorpios, and they have this magnetism and intensity that pulls you to them, but if they ever think you’ve betrayed them, they kill you. This is an interesting thing to me with the jealousy idea, too. Scorpios, I think, are traditionally jealous, like you would think of jealousy in a movie. They are all about sex, and so jealousy with Scorpios is an interpersonal sort of sexual thing.
I have read, and I really think this is true, that the goal of Scorpios is destruction and rebuilding. Scorpios get this fire in their eyes when everything falls apart and they get to reconstruct it as it should be done. They are at their best when a lot of people are at their lowest. This can be a tense thing in relationships because if you’ve ever been in a fight with a Scorpio who actually knows any of your secrets or vulnerabilities, you know it feels like a Scorpio is purposely tearing you limb from limb. Then, later, if the Scorpio wants to put you back together again, it might not always feel so helpful. But, Scorpios are passionate and can do anything they want to do. Ever. (hide spoiler)]
Sagittarius. (view spoiler)[Sagittarius is a fire sign and the fulfillment of middle age. I will probably change this when I am old enough to understand the subtleties of people who are older than me. I don’t mean that snotty; I just mean it humbly. The symbol of Sagittarius is the archer because Sagittarius shoots his arrow right to the truth. They care about honesty and philosophy and winning. Seriously, play a game with a Sagittarius, and you will regret it if you win. Sagittarians tend to appreciate brutal honesty in relationships, I think.
I think the goal of Sagittarius is truth. I’m not totally sure how that fits into my own interactions with Sagittarians, so I’m just going to leave it at that. It’s my impression that is their goal. In my own experience, they are really responsible roommates and very conscientious about not breaking dates and very concerned with being reliable. At the same time, I have seen Sagittarians cheat on people and get life-alteringly angry at friends over work habits and generally kind of act like an HBO drama. I think it’s all part of the idea that honesty is brutal, but sometimes it comes off a little more MTV Spring Break than The Wire. (hide spoiler)]
Capricorn. (view spoiler)[Capricorn is an earth sign and a climb up the hill to a midlife crisis. The symbol of Capricorn is the goat. I don’t know what the goat has to do with anything, but there you have it. Capricorns are concerned about social status and attuned to popularity. They are usually really funny in a cynical, sometimes assholey way, and a lot of times I have mistaken them for Aries. But, then, later, they’ll make fun of you for a social faux pas and you’ll realize that they’re definitely not an Aries (Tennessee Williams makes this point, too, in Streetcar). Capricorns are immensely practical, and sometimes that can be fun, and other times it is mean – but anybody can be mean, right?
I think the goal of Capricorn is success. But, at the same time Capricorns are always deeply convinced they will fail at everything. It is funny because usually a Capricorn will spend a long time telling you why his job is perfect or his family is perfect, but then if you actually ask, he will quickly admit he is a failure. I guess it is kind of sad, but more sad clown than sweet sad. I never really feel that bad for Capricorns because what most people would consider success still haunts them as failure. (hide spoiler)]
Aquarius. (view spoiler)[Aquarius is an air sign and a sort of fallout of a mid-life-crisis. Haha. That’s for my brother. Aquarius burn, awww yeah. The symbol of Aquarius is the water bearer. Aquarians invent things that the rest of us live on. The rough thing with Aquarians is that you can’t really count on them. I don’t mean that as literally as it sounds, but at the same time, I do. An Aquarius is generally going to care about having space for creativity over people, and then the Aquarius will be hurt because he loses people to creativity. An Aquarian can’t give up creativity and invention, but also, sometimes, wants to invent a family and friends, and a spectacular life, and the rest of us are a little too mundane to fulfill the dream.
I think the goal of Aquarius is innovation. They crave the outdoors and fresh air and originality. Again, though, if you just say “originality,” it sounds like something constructed and fake. With Aquarius, it isn’t fake, it is just truly original. They are the genuinely weird signs of the natal chart. For example, sometimes I’ll hear a Virgo say something like, “Oh, I put yogurt in my cereal this morning. I’m so weird!” And I always think, “????” But, Aquarius is genuinely weird. Like, Einstein and the laws of momentum weird or Virginia Woolf telling you about English literature through a hermaphroditic love letter weird. Beautiful, human weird. (hide spoiler)]
Pisces. (view spoiler)[Pisces is a water sign and the oldest of the signs. The symbol of Pisces is the fish because you can’t hold onto a Pisces. They are intractable. I always think of Pisces as the Spock of the zodiac. They are the closest in the zodiac to the divine, so they often express scorn or shame about regular human emotions or reactions. They have deep human emotions, but they are convinced for whatever reason that these human emotions are weak, so they crush them with intelligence and logic, or they just get silent and brooding. This all creates a compassionate impression – in the sort of Biblical compassion sense.
I think the goal of Pisces is wisdom. This means very different things with different Pisces – as all the goals of all the signs mean something different to someone different. Pisces remind me of this line from the movie Philadelphia Story, when Cary Grant tells Katherine Hepburn that she will never be anything but a goddess until she learns to have some regard for human frailty. Pisces do appear to value grand tragedy sometimes, though. They appear to be ashamed of humanity and expectantly awaiting something supernatural. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I know, I know. This book had police caution tape all around it warning me not to read. I wasn’t surprised that it was as bad as it is. Actually, I th...moreI know, I know. This book had police caution tape all around it warning me not to read. I wasn’t surprised that it was as bad as it is. Actually, I think that this book provides a good example of one of the central weaknesses of Stephenie Meyer’s books. I heard someone say the other day that the purpose of art is to make people feel. I know, doi, but I had never looked that one in the face before. Meyer spends most of her time, in all of her books, trying to cushion the reader from really feeling anything.
It makes sense that she does this, since her writing started from what sounds to me like a sort of limited self-counseling exercise. And, I think this is why her other books worked so spectacularly for me when they did – I already had so many feelings going on about so many different things that I was looking for comfort, not art. I think that’s also why they work for teenagers, whose emotions are an alternative energy source that I’m convinced could power the world. (The fact that they’re left in disuse is obviously some big oil conspiracy.) Her books are a fake, plastic world with fake, simple people. Her plots are driven by basic motivations and superpowers. I love it.
Here, though, it worked out pretty unfortunately. You could feel that Meyer was writing it because her teacher assigned it to her and the due date had passed. In her introduction, she goes to great lengths to warn the reader that she might be forced to feel something at the end of the book; there was just no way for Meyer to get around it. It’s uncomfortable. This is another example of Meyer being unable to handle any of her characters winding up unhappy. I’m not complaining about that, necessarily, because I generally find it pretty funny in a sit-com kind of way. But in this case, I needed her to suck it up.
The rest of this review will contain spoilers, but if you’ve read Eclipse, as Ms. Meyer points out in the introduction, you already know about the timely (or untimely, if you consider how long and drawn out it is) end of Bree. Basically, the story breaks down into three parts:
Act 1: The Cheeseburger of Pain. This is where Meyer is at her best. Two vaguely shallow high school kids with vaguely tragic pasts find each other and fall in love because they’re vaguely speshul. She describes their attraction in a style poignantly reminiscent of LOLcats (see thread* below). Also, they’re vampires. This is what I love in Meyer. It’s something that is both the easiest thing and the most impossible thing to make fun of because it’s already there making fun of itself. It is everything shallow in culture, and so it is absolutely beautiful. It is its own caricature.
Act 2: The Metaphor of the Cave. This is where Meyer is on shaky ground - in consciously or unconsciously referencing other canonical works of writing. The title of the book, for example, is a major problem. Why would you rip off the title of one of the greatest short stories of the English language for a high school vampire romance? That is a problem. I feel genuine emotion when I think of The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, so you can’t just reference it flippantly. The title hurts my feelings a little bit. If she was genuinely and respectfully using the Macomber story, then great, but I can’t figure a way that’s happening here.
Anyway, what she is using (and it appears that she’s using it unconsciously, but maybe not) is Plato's metaphor of the cave:
So, the premise of the story is that there are all these baby campires that an eeeevil campire is turning into a campire army. In the Twilight world, if you didn’t already know, vamps don’t dust if they go into sunlight, but they do get sparkly. BUT, the evil campire told the babes that they will dust if they go into the light. So, they all believe this until they discover it’s not true in a very metaphor-of-the-cave kind of way. It’s funny, but also not, so it left me with an awkward neutral feeling. The cave was sitting right there, waiting to be referenced, but Meyer never explicitly did, and the revelation about sparkling didn’t turn into a metaphor for life. It fell a little flat.
Act 3: Finding Forrester. There are, as I may have already ranted to you, so many reasons to be embarrassed for Gus Van Sant. Not the least of these reasons is the movie Finding Forrester. Because Finding Forrester is a perfectly fine movie, EXCEPT that it is exactly the same as Good Will Hunting, a movie that Gus Van Sant ALREADY made! That is so not okay. I actually think Van Sant has a lot of decent movie-making skills, but these choices he makes are so embarrassing to me. So, that’s what the last third of Bree Tanner is. It’s a recap of the end of Eclipse, but mostly in slo mo. It’s truly boring. It would have made so much sense to end this book after the cave metaphor. The repeat ending wasn’t revelatory, but more like explaining a joke. If we didn’t make the connections, then explaining it isn’t going to help.
Overall, I’d say go see the new Eclipse movie instead. That movie pretty neatly combines what this book has to say with what Eclipse has to say and is totally watchable, imho. It even has some great John Hughes moments, and I felt like it was laughing with me, not crying while I was laughing at it. If you can manage it, go when there are about 100 13-year-old girls in the theater, too. The swooning is a really important part of the Twilight experience.
* The thread that happened before I actually read this book ends at comment 113, fyi. All future comments will be equally loved and appreciated. (less)
This book is cool 'n' stuff. I don't know what to tell you about it. It's about a teacher. He goes to people's houses and talks to them about homescho...moreThis book is cool 'n' stuff. I don't know what to tell you about it. It's about a teacher. He goes to people's houses and talks to them about homeschooling. The structure of the book follows Kunzman's interviews with various homeschooling families that live in states following all of the different regulating schemes available in the U.S., from zero regulation to required standardized testing and reporting. Some parents are good teachers; some parents are bad teachers. Some teachers are good teachers; some teachers are bad teachers.
I had an eclectic education. I went (in chronological order) to a private school owned by a cult, a Montessori school, a Seventh Day Adventist school, and a public high school. Before and between all of those, I was homeschooled. Probably, the public school was my best experience in terms of education. Above all, though, I learned almost everything I know from TV. I can sing O Come All Ye Faithful in Latin, so homeschool was good for that; I read The Catcher in the Rye in public school, so that made everything worth it; but, mostly my educational masters were Darkwing Duck and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I'm doing some research on homeschooling regulations in Oregon, and I came across this article that talks about the traditional parens patriae obligations of the State. Basically, parents have rights over children, and the State has rights over children (called parens patriae) because children have almost no rights of their own. So, that's the theory under which the State can take kids out of the home in situations of physical abuse. But what about educational abuse? Is there such a thing? Most people agree that it exists, but almost no one agrees about what it looks like. It strikes me that any educational system, no matter how public or private, could be guilty of educational abuse.
The largest subset of homeschoolers is made up of conservative Christians. According to Kunzman, the documentary Jesus Camp puts the figure at 75%, but that is likely an exaggeration promoted by the Home School Legal Defense Association (p. 2). I have seen statistics in other articles that range from 72% to 86%, but it is undoubtedly a large number. All of the families Kunzman interviewed in this book were conservative Christians, but they each had different strategies for schooling and seemed to be in different economic classes.
Homeschooling gained popularity after the 1972 Supreme Court Case Wisconsin v. Yoder, where the Court held that members of the Old Amish community could take their children out of school earlier than a state statute allowed. It became the interpretation of Yoder that parents have the sole right to direct the education of their children, though that right can be regulated by the state if it shows a sufficiently compelling interest.
Apparently, according to the parens patriae article (which I believe was written by a Canadian, so take it with a grain of salt), the attorney who defended the Amish in the Yoder case (and who got the Court to significantly limit the State's parens patriae rights), William B. Ball, was buddies with Michael Farris, who co-founded the HSLDA in 1983. So, the conspiracy theory, as I understand it, is that they're part of that Falwell/Reagan/Schaeffer group that turned American politics into the fundamentalist Christian slumber party it is today. It's an interesting theory at least. That's not really part of this book, though the book vaguely hints at conspiracy theory in more of an, "OMFG, how did this happen?" way.
What Kunzman does talk about, and I think it's absolutely fascinating, is the relationship between support for the homeschooling movement and racial integration of public schools. Although right now, African Americans are said to be the fastest growing subset of homeschoolers, "[t]he 2003 NCES data suggest that 77 percent of U.S. homeschoolers are 'white, non-Hispanic,' compared with 62 percent of the rest of the K-12 population" (p. 160). So, the idea is that not only is homeschooling a conspiracy theory, but it's also a racist way to avoid desegregation of schools.
Probably, almost no one now would say that they were homeschooling in order to be racist. But it is interesting to me that the roots of homeschooling sound as dramatic and plotting as an episode of The Real Housewives of D.C.. Okay, maybe not that dramatic. Actually, Kunzman is not very critical of the choice to homeschool. It's obvious that he comes to the issue with skepticism, but he's very generous to the families, and it seems to me that he manages a great deal of objectivity in reporting their methods of education and contrasting them with his experiences as a public school teacher. The book ultimately has that ambivalent feel that I see whenever I read studies of socially stigmatized political minorities. He doesn't really advocate a solution in the end but more asks whether the social stigma is based in an overreaction of stranger danger, or actually based in bad education choices of homeschooling parents.
It strikes me that a good solution would be for states to develop a definition of educational abuse that could be attributed to any type of educational system. It could have definitions of literacy, numeracy, and other vital educational goals, and ages by which children should achieve those goals or be tested for learning disabilities. A lot of the home v. public schooling debate involves playground finger pointing that basically comes down to, "No YOU'RE worse!" I think that the focus of regulation should be on actually educating TEH CHILDREN, not where the kids are sitting when they get educated.(less)
Possibly this was my favorite of the Tamar series. It is lovely how this series gets better and better. I had to go back and give them all five stars...morePossibly this was my favorite of the Tamar series. It is lovely how this series gets better and better. I had to go back and give them all five stars just because they don't drop off and get terrible by the end. This one has hokum and euphemistic professions and an evilly helpful girl, and finally we meet Julia’s dear Aunt Regina (pronounced . . . well, you know). And, of course, murrrrderrrrr. I listened to half of it on audio, but then I was so impatient to read the rest that I sat down and read it in my room on a beautiful, rainy evening with candles and soup and peonies blooming just outside my window.
Caudwell tells her readers just the right amount of things. She’s not always going off about the wood somebody made a cabinet with, or the clothes everybody is wearing, unless I actually want to know about those things. I mean, there is that hilarious part in one of these – I think it’s in the Sirens – where Ragwort tells Julia that he thinks her dress was made for someone with broader shoulders. That gives you just the information you need to know about Julia’s dress, and it establishes Ragwort’s talent for euphemism at the same time. Anyway, the clothes and furniture and whatnot that Caudwell describes establish the characters, unlike some books, where the author is just taking up my precious time to prove she researched what the kids were wearing and storing their dishes in back in the day. So annoying.
This one also had some interesting stuff about insider trading and inheritance. Mostly, the characters were once again brilliant. The only tragedy (other than the story) is that I have no more of these to read. I will have to start the series from the beginning again. (less)
Maybe when a lot of people see the cover of this book, their first instinct is something like Emmett’s concerns from that conversation in the awesome...moreMaybe when a lot of people see the cover of this book, their first instinct is something like Emmett’s concerns from that conversation in the awesome movie that encouraged so many of us girls to go to law school, Legally Blonde:
Emmett: She seems completely untrustworthy to me. Elle: Why? Emmett: This is a person who's made her living . . . by telling women that they're too fat. Elle: Brooke would never tell a woman she was too fat. Emmett: And she seems like she's hiding something. Elle: Maybe it's not what you think. Emmett: Maybe it's exactly what I think. Elle: You're really being a butthead. Emmett: A butthead? Why would you call me that? Elle: You need to have a little more faith in people. You might be surprised. Emmett: I can't believe you called me a butthead. No one's called me that since the ninth grade. Elle: Maybe not to your face.
There is a lot of stigma against talking about the possibility of women being fat or ugly. Unless, of course, they are on TV, in which case almost all we talk about is whether they are fat or ugly, too skinny or have bad hair. Except, not fat – we instead use euphemisms, like, “She looks unhealthy,” or, “It seems like she hasn’t been eating as well as she used to,” or even, “Muffin top!” But, it’s kind of weird because I always end up feeling like treating it as terrible to suggest a woman might be fat makes it even more shameful for a woman who just factually knows she is overweight to acknowledge it.
And I do think this comes from how often we hear men say things like that douchey guy on the Bachelorette last week. What was it he said? . . . Something like, “God made you to be beautiful, so if you get fat, I might still love you, but I won’t love on you.” And when men talk about women being overweight at all, it is usually that, with no thought that anyone could ever legitimately love someone who is fat. Even though we all objectively know that people love, and love on, fat people all the time. So, it’s never just a description, just something about a person that is human and beautiful for its humanity, in those circumstances. Instead, it carries with it all this baggage of women being told since we were born that fat means unlovable. So, guys, that is why women react to things you say about our appearances – because sometimes it just sounds douchey, like the Bachelorette dude, and other times it might be fine on its own, but it is loaded with all of the douchiness of the Bachelorette dudes we have known.
Anyway, I think that the fear of naming fat also turns into a judgment about girls who talk about wanting to lose weight. I think it is common for other girls to feel like weight-loss girls have bought into the pressure on women to be vacant bodies, and so there is a tendency to feel nervous around weight-loss girls because they might reprimand you for actually inhabiting your body. But, I think there’s just a small step of vocabulary from talking about dieting to talking about health, so it strikes me as often more of a style judgment to shun dieting girls than a substantive disagreement. In general. On the other hand, I'm sure anyone who has a personality, or does what she wants, or doesn't look like a model has felt reprimanded for it, and probably by other girls as much as guys.
And for all of this there is the exception for the annoying person, gender neutral, who has found some magical health plan and wants to tell you about it all the time. Woof.
Weight and health are complicated.
So, this is a pretty cool book. I think it is marketed towards girls who habitually diet and are really stressed out by the idea of being unlovable because they inhabit their bodies and don’t look like Heidi Klum. And probably most of us have at least had thoughts about that, even those who do look like Heidi Klum – because no one ever looks enough like Heidi Klum, not even Heidi Klum.
The main point of this book is that you should listen to your own body, and it will tell you the way it feels best. It advocates a lot for not thinking your body is bad and not thinking food is bad because, while those things are often part of dieting, they ultimately usually lead to unhealthiness and feeling crappy. And I thought it was cool how the book acknowledged that everyone’s bodies are different, but it still gave some good guidelines for if a person’s body has been so messed up by dieting that they’re in a perpetual binge-and-fast state.
Also, there are some crazy cool recipes in here and ideas about making healthier versions of things. For example, there is a whole section at the end of cocktail ideas she has. They all sound pretty legit. Also, there is a recipe for a brown rice oatmeal type of breakfast, and I am pretty excited about that.
I did not love A Place of Yes, and I will admit that I don’t think Bethenny’s speaking ability translates incredibly smoothly to writing in this book either, but I feel like Bethenny really loves and cares about food and you can see her passion for women’s health and strength in this book. It has a lot of purpose, and it is really great. Like Brooke Taylor Windham, she wouldn’t call a woman fat, but she will tell you to get off your ass and start taking care of yourself. And I think we can all use that kind of encouragement.
She is sweet in this picture:
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, but I didn't promise to like it.(less)
This is such a great book, but weird at the same time. On the one hand, It’s kind of depressing to read, over and over, how much more successful than...moreThis is such a great book, but weird at the same time. On the one hand, It’s kind of depressing to read, over and over, how much more successful than me the undead are at romantic relationships. On the other hand, this guy really does try harder than me, so I shouldn’t complain, and this is a sweet book. But, back on the first hand, it’s a sweet picture book for kids about a zombie, sooooo . . . Do we really want to be teaching our children about how endearing zombies are? I ask you.
No, I do not ask you: I tell you! This is no way to prepare children for the zombie apocalypse! Children need to know that zombies are terrifying, flesh-eating monsters. That is really the most important thing they need to know about zombies. There are a few other things that might be helpful, though, so, kids: #2: If you grow up to be an activist, do not release lab animals if they look crazed. #3: If you grow up to become a scientist, do not develop a zombie virus. (Trust me! It’s not worth it!) #4: Shoot for the head or neck. #5: Even if it’s your friend, don’t hesitate to shoot.
Those are the most important things I can think of. This book takes a different track, which I can . . . respect. It took the zombies-are-huggable track. It seems like a suspect moral message to me. But, it is such a cute book, and the illustrations are so great! I am torn. Just because it is fiction, though, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an obligation to warn kids about the dangers of the zombie apocalypse.
A book fairy gave me a free copy of this lovely book. Thank you! (less)
My mother died the day before my first law school final. Hope Edelman says, in this book, that partway through college she had a weird urge to walk up...moreMy mother died the day before my first law school final. Hope Edelman says, in this book, that partway through college she had a weird urge to walk up to strangers and tell them, “My mother died when I was seventeen,” because she recognized that this fact about herself, this fact that alienated her from the people around her, had become totally definitive about who she was. A girl can’t tell people that her mother died because it brings only fear and pity, it doesn’t solve anything to talk about it. But, at the same time, no one knows you without knowing that you don’t, that you didn’t, have a mother. For the past few months I have had this weird compulsion, too, to walk up to people and just say, “My mother died the day before my first law school final.”
But, what do I mean by that? It sounds like I want to be pathetic or impressive, and I don’t mean either of those things. It sounds like I conquered life that day, or like I lost all hope of being a woman. It is ambivalent and loaded. I know that even talking about reading and reviewing a book that is “self-help,” even if it is about grieving, is loaded, too. It has a pastel cover and a sentimental name, but I kind of appreciate that about the book. It looks like only the fierce of heart, those who can handle reading sentiment without shame, should attempt this book, and I think that’s good. I think I benefited from waiting to read it until I felt like I could really listen to a sentimentally titled book without sneering.
At the same time, I don’t think emotions mature themselves, so I always remind myself that I’m probably not going to get very far sitting back and waiting for mine to suddenly do so. It would be like waiting for myself to spontaneously become a stellar lawyer without ever actually going to law school or reading any books about law. Or, it would be like waiting for myself to spontaneously become a marathon runner. Not all self-help books have anything worthwhile about emotional growth to say, but neither do all legal scholars have anything worthwhile to say about the law or all personal trainers about marathons. I don’t think the gaining-skills-by-doing-nothing strategy works with almost anything, so I’m pretty enthusiastic about smart books about emotions and spirituality. I’m pretty enthusiastic about counseling, too – it’s like getting a massage for the soul.
I’m being really long winded about saying that, while I don’t think every time is the right time to read this book, I do think probably everyone would benefit from reading this book at some point. I wish I had been prepared to read it sooner. The book is directed to women, obviously, but Edelman makes the point that we, women or men, mourn rejection (in whatever form, whether death or emotional or physical abandonment) from our same-sex parent differently than we mourn rejection from our opposite-sex parent, and the book is mostly about that. Even if you have not experienced rejection from a same-sex parent, I think it would still give you perspective on what you gain from that parent that you might not even be aware of. It also might give you perspective on why (at least some of us) women who have lost our mothers act the way we do when we have not known how to mourn.
The book is arguably as sentimental as its title, even just because it is about death and emotions, but it is so smart. Edelman surveys over a hundred women who lost their mothers at various ages, and she tells their stories in an organized, clear layout. She also talks about many famous women, including Virginia Woolf, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Madonna, and how they have reacted to the deaths of their mothers. In addition to hearing and recounting all of these stories, Edelman obviously did some pretty serious research into other studies about women and grief, and about family relationships in general.
For me, much of this book was practically a miracle. If you don’t mind my spoiling what the biggest revelation of the book was for me, I will tell you about it right now. I will not say it as clearly as Edelman, though, so you should still get her take on it, and it’s probably only a small part of the book, even though it was life changing to me. It is that when a mother rejects a daughter, whether she does it intentionally or unintentionally, such as through illness and death, the daughter starts to look for the mother relationship in all of her relationships. One woman in the book described it as a “cocoon,” another described it as “that family feeling,” which is something I have said, at least in my head, a lot. The daughter starts to think that any successful relationship ultimately has that particular form of intimacy – that the intimacy from a mother is successful intimacy.
I literally thought this. I had no idea that, ultimately, all intimacy, all sense of family, isn’t necessarily that feeling of a little daughter with her mother. I had always thought that because my relationships, whether friendships or romances, are not like that, it was like “people, iz doin it rong,” and that once I figured out how to do it right, my relationships would feel like that. I have been jealous of my friends, men or women, who have families (read: friends who have mothers) and their ability to do relationships right, shown just by the fact that they have a mother. And this intensity has created a completely unfair expectation for all of my relationships because then every time I experience rejection, it is the loss of my mom, the loss of my family, all over again. It means that friends living their own lives, not focused on me one hundred percent of the time, translated to rejection, and not just rejection, but also the death of my relationship with my mother all over again. It was basically a miracle to hear that I could treat the loss of that nurturing, cocoon relationship, that mother-child relationship, as a total loss, and not let that loss pile on to every other lost relationship I ever have. It sounds weird, but it is a relief to know it is not failure that no friend ever turns out to be my mom.
*facepalm* I totally love this book.
So, that concludes the review portion of your time, and the rest of this shall be a story with no real reviewing purposes in mind. It is more my experience of being a motherless daughter than a critique of the book. Even though my personal story, like anyone's personal story, is not the same as most other people's, it was really incredible to hear how similar my reaction to losing my mother is to the reactions of other women who lost theirs.
My mom died of Lou Gehrig’s disease, but as far as I am concerned, I lost my mom about twenty years before she actually died. I was six when my family first started listening to meditation tapes from the Foundation of Human Understanding, and when I was eight, we moved to Selma, Oregon, to join what we would later refer to as “The Cult.” Really, most of the diets or clubs or churches my parents joined ended up taking on a cultish quality once my parents got mixed up with them. First, that diet/club/church was the only thing that could save us from certain doom; later, it was evil. The Foundation is basically a Judeo-Christian group that teaches men how to stand up to the domineering women around them. It teaches them how to take the world back from the invidious control of women, and it teaches women how to overcome their natural tendencies toward evil (ya know, Eve, and all that).
This is my recollection of The Cult. If you look on the website, it mostly looks like stuff you’d get out of The Secret, but if you read through the call show questions, there is some stuff about bullying women that is more what I remember. I can’t find it now, but there was this cartoon in their magazine once, which to me symbolized the teachings. The first panel was a tiny woman and a big, strong man. As the panels (maybe six or eight panels) went along, the woman got bigger and stronger, and the man got smaller, until, at the end it was a huge, ugly woman sitting next to a coffin. Anyway, my mom and dad realized that my mom was the source of all evil in our family, and that if my brother and I were to grow up right, we would have to overcome the feminine influences in our lives.
My mom wasn’t allowed to touch us any more around the time that I turned seven. My brother had been nursing, and my mom cut him off from nursing without any weaning process. If I ran to my parents’ room because I had a nightmare, my mom had to put a pillow between herself and me so that she wouldn’t transmit her evil. I was a daddy’s little girl, so I understood that as long as I stayed that way, didn’t touch my mom, married young (it was understood that this would probably be to the cult leader’s grandson), and devoted my life to my children, I would avoid the pit of feminine evil to which I was otherwise susceptible. Years later, when a friend of mine went home early from a sleepover weekend because, she said, my parents never hugged us, my parents realized that still none of us touched each other ever, but it is difficult to change habits.
I am extra-sensitive to anti-feminist propaganda, I know, because of this upbringing. My mom continued to believe for the rest of her life that it was her job to repress any part of her personality that might conflict with my dad, the head of our household. But, I continued to look to my mom for the relationship I had with her when I was very young. I always hoped she would wake up and come back to me, until I realized a few years before she died, during her eight-year-long dying process, that she never would. I set some boundaries about what I could contribute to our relationship, and because my mom couldn’t contribute anything, we lost the façade that our relationship had been. At that time, a friend reprimanded me, saying that she cherished that special mother-child bond with her own kids, and I would regret not maintaining that before my mom died. I thought a lot about that later, and my inability to maintain that connection with my mom haunted me, even though I can’t say I regretted setting the boundaries I did.
From the time I was little and my mom emotionally vacated the family, I got so used to looking for that relationship from her that I also started looking to everyone for it. I thought it was intimacy. Motherless Daughters talks about how people often call motherless women “adoptable,” and this has been true for me. Many families have adopted me, and I love all of them, but I have always thought that I haven’t been able to re-create that specific form of intimacy because of my own emptiness and awkwardness. I knew I loved these people, but I thought it was not the right kind of connection. And, then, when they had to do normal things for their normal lives, which I completely want them to do, it was a betrayal to me that was its own, plus the loss of my mom. When friends would move away, or start a new relationship and get busy, it was a betrayal with emotional intensity far beyond what I actually expected from the relationship. This was true for both friends and romances, both women and men in my life.
So, I’m not totally sure how this mourning thing works, but Edelman says that for her it is like a companion – not in a morbid sense, but in the sense that she continues to be without her mother. I think it’s reassuring to know that when I feel disproportionately intense about some kind of failure or rejection, it could be part of mourning: I could need to step back and re-adjust myself to the losses I’ve had so they don’t get confused with the relationships I am having. I could need to recognize that not every action a dear friend takes for him or herself is a sign that I am a burden to that person and they secretly wish they could reject me. I’m not sure why, but recognizing this about my relationship with my mom makes it easier to accept that people I really care about could care about me, too, even if they are not devastated when I am gone, and that when life pulls us apart, they could feel the loss of me as I feel the loss of them. Each new love does not have to be the sum of all previous loves and rejections. No new love is what I lost from my mother.(less)
I’m at a loss. I honestly don’t know what to tell you all, but this book was . . . good. It was like, good, you know? Like, when you are reading a boo...moreI’m at a loss. I honestly don’t know what to tell you all, but this book was . . . good. It was like, good, you know? Like, when you are reading a book that is mostly about girls looking for penises, but you want to know what happens next? And you don’t even want to throw it across the room a little bit? And then unexpectedly hilarious slapstick comedy ensues, but doesn’t lead to the most boring Scooby Do mystery resolution ever? No? You’ve never had that experience? Me either. It was disorienting. And I’m at a loss as to how to rate this. I mean, I have to give it five stars because I Laughed Out Loud at almost every page, and even though most of the laughter was in a WHAAAAT??? way, I don’t even really think that was unintentional. It was funny. I am going to have to watch Jersey Shore. You are here for a show-changing moment in my life.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I’m going to spoiler one of the storylines. Let’s be serious though, once the characters come on stage, pretty early on in the story, you basically know how this storyline is going to go. So, one of the main characters, a kickass aerobics instructor, who took karate all her life, is named Bella Rizzoli. This creepy, asshole, voyeur Abercrombie guy latches onto her and his name is Edward Caldwell. . . . right??? RIGHT???
Yeah, so she kicks his ass in a pretty hilarious (and elaborate) way.
Mostly this book is about a coupla girls hittin’ the beach for the summer looking for some juicy guido gorilla juiceheads. It seems like simple quest, but it turns out life is never that simple. These girls have to work and work out issues with their families and kick the asses of people who have self-loathing body issues.
It’s my impression that people’s problem with reality TV, aside from the troubling voyeuristic aspect of it, is the shallowness of the people who make fools of themselves for our entertainment. That’s fair in some ways. And this book plays to a lot of that shallowness. There is a lot of funny stuff about tanning and shoes and fake eyelashes and cleavage. But, ultimately, I feel like it is a more complex issue than shallowness = bad. I am about to mount an obvious feminist soapbox, so be on alert.
I know we’ve talked about this before, but I have a problem with the idea that the accoutrements of femininity are shallow, while the accoutrements of masculinity are respectable. I think that interest in makeup trivia and interest in sports team trivia is not different, whether the person having the interest is male or female. Maybe it is shallow in the sense that it will not solve world hunger, but very few of the things any of us do every day solve world hunger. And sometimes world hunger needs a break, and we need to chill out and be okay with talking about dumb things we are interested in. So, my point is that even though there is a striking focus on pink fuzzy slippers in this book, that is something that I really like about the book, not something that makes the book itself shallow. Pink fuzzy slippers, cleavage, and four layers of fake eyelashes are a style decision, not a soul-changing decision. You could hate it, and I don’t have a problem with that, because WOW, but it seems unexpectedly shallow to make a judgment about another person’s shallowness based on their eyelashes and slippers.
Anyway, this book addresses both female and male body image, family dynamics, date rape, acceptance and rejection of personal weaknesses, and navigating the different expectations for women and men when it comes to career choices. And, seriously, it does it in this really respectable way. Of course, these girls are not wearing monocles and smoking jackets and explaining tautologies, nor are they having tautologies explained to them. They are mostly partying, scoping out guido gorilla juiceheads, and kicking ass. They are passing the Bechtel test. They are talking like girls talk and being friends to each other. I don’t know if this book went through a genius editing process, or what, but if I saw a high school girl reading this, I would be happy. The writing is not complex. It is more like reading a blog of silly quotes from teenagers, but let's be honest: I would read that kind of blog. It is sparkly, but addresses important issues without apology, equivocation, or lectures. It entertains, and ultimately has some really positive, thoughtful messages. I can’t think of what else I look for in a book.
This book was given to me by the publisher, and while I did promise to review it, I think we can all honestly say we thought I would rip it to shreds. Unexpected bonus for all. (less)
It is not possible for me to talk about this book without somehow spoiling it. I’ll hide the main spoilers, but there are some pretty awesome twists a...moreIt is not possible for me to talk about this book without somehow spoiling it. I’ll hide the main spoilers, but there are some pretty awesome twists and turns in this book, so I recommend reading it with eyes that are innocent of review spoilers.
I have had this weird experience lately where books or movies or TV I watch are almost always either uncannily similar to my life – like, exact words I’ve said recently or experiences I’ve had – or totally offensive and appalling to me. I think it is doing damage to my nervous system. I have a weak and brooding constitution, anyway, so recovery calls for those new episodes of Arrested Development to come out ASAP. No, jk, I don’t have a weak and brooding constitution, but seriously, I may take to swooning and weeping soon enough if this crazy pendulum doesn’t stop swinging so wildly.
Villette was the uncannily similar variety of story. It is so eerie to read books from almost two hundred years ago and see my own thoughts and experiences. It is both comforting and totally exhausting – comforting because we have always been like this; exhausting because, well, we have always been like this. Bronte’s description of Lucy waiting by the phone for a dude to call, or, in her case, by the door for a letter to arrive, is chilling. Lucy’s conversation with Dr. John, when she points out the hypocrisy of his ability to see shallowness in men but not women, is absolutely hilarious. Lucy’s delicacy about describing her own loneliness is beautiful. Charlotte Bronte writes a really killer antiheroine, and it is always easier to identify with an antiheroine than a heroine, I think, because it is easy to see our own flaws.
While this book easily stands alone as a lovely study on humanity, it also evoked comparisons to Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice for me. It was the last book Bronte published before she died. As is so common, Villette, the later book, is a less tight story than Jane Eyre – it was more meandering, and where Bronte wants to dwell, she will dwell. In some ways, though, I think Villette is more successful than Jane Eyre in distinguishing antihero from hero because Bronte is kinder to the heroes in Villette and lets me feel a little bitter at them without really despising them here. Dr. John, in contrast to St. John, does not creep me out. Paulina is a traditionally heroic heroine. This works in Villette because it provides a more clear contrast between the traditional hero’s story and Lucy’s antiheroine story. On the other hand, Jane Eyre allows flaws in everyone, whether they are golden or dark, so that has a nice subtlety. At the same time that Jane and Rochester are the more clear antiheroes, St. John is so determined to crush feelings and be unhappy that he is not so much the golden hero as Dr. John. In Villette there is a clear line between hero and antihero; in Jane Eyre the line is more blurred, though the physical descriptions signal a distinction. It might not be useful, though, to compare the two books because they are both wonderful, and I don't know that I prefer the clear distinction or the blurring.
In some ways, I think this story is a Bronte Pride and Prejudice. All of the couples are parallels: (view spoiler)[Paulina and Dr. John are Jane and Bingley; Lucy and M. Paul are Lizzy and Darcy; and, of course, Ginevra and de Hamal are Lydia and Wickham (hide spoiler)]. In many ways that comparison fails because the interaction of the characters in P&P forms a cohesive plot, and Villette is not really about any particular plot, I think, but it was interesting to see similar couples described through more brutal eyes.
Both Charlotte and Emily Bronte, also, always seem more exotic than Austen because the aesthetics of their heroes are described so much more like an emo band. While Austen captures that subtle loneliness of unreliable family, the Brontes go straight for explicit isolation in a cruel world. I doubt I could love either Austen or the Brontes so much without the other. And it was beautiful to read about the couples from Pride and Prejudice with the severity and stifled animal cry of Charlotte Bronte. I see Virginia Woolf’s point that sometimes Bronte’s failures as an editor interfere with the story in a way that you don’t see in Austen, but it is still beautiful.
Probably my favorite thing about this book is Lucy’s shiftiness as a narrator. This girl is going to tell you what she wants you to know and she is going to leave out whatever the fuck she wants. It was totally hilarious that she (view spoiler)[didn’t even tell me that she knew the whole time that Dr. John was Graham Bretton (hide spoiler)]. That little minx! (As they say.) And then the way she ends the story is just (view spoiler)[heartbreaking – you can’t even handle the cruelty of her life, so she won’t force you to listen to it (hide spoiler)].
I was not in love with any of the heroes of this story, and I kind of liked that, too. It was more like a soul-mate friend, of whom I am completely in awe, telling me about the people she loved, and how she understood them and their faults, than a con game of trying to get me to fall in love myself. It is interesting because usually we are meant to fall in love with the romantic lead (and I’mma be honest, I totally swoon for Rochester), but I do not almost ever swoon for my irl friends’ love stories. In this way, I felt that Lucy was completely her own person, and even though I identified with her in this sometimes-creepy way, she was not a stand-in for me in the love story. I thought (view spoiler)[both Dr. John and M. Paul were kind of douchebags (hide spoiler)], but that was fine because Lucy was smart about all of them. Honestly, I didn’t notice (view spoiler)[M. Paul (hide spoiler)] for a long time, and I am usually really good at picking up on romantic leads, so when I re-read I will have to pay better attention to what he does in the early part of the novel.
I really loved this book. As I got to the end, I panicked a little because I remembered that I had always partly been reluctant to read it because I will use up the possibility for a new Bronte story soon, and what a sad, bleak time that will be. I still have a couple left, though, so I will hoard those for later. I wish Bronte would email me new stories from her austere, Protestant heaven.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I’ve had all this interaction recently with this particular gentleman who is involved in a couple of restraining orders and requests for no contact. T...moreI’ve had all this interaction recently with this particular gentleman who is involved in a couple of restraining orders and requests for no contact. The ladies who have asked him not to contact them have explained that their requests for no contact are an attempt to set definite boundaries and be clear that disrespectful treatment of them is unacceptable. Since they do not believe it is possible for him to contact them in a respectful manner, they don’t want him to contact them at all. “But,” the gentleman countered, “My boundaries require more contact!” This is so hilarious to me in the way that it points out the difficulties with just setting boundaries and speaking from a self-defining perspective that I think about it all the time. Sometimes, anxious interactions are not as simple as just taking focus off of blame and returning it to self-definition.
I guess, in honor of the holidays, this is sort of a review about a book about getting along with family, aka managing anxiety. I just finished reading The Dance of Intimacy, and I was going to actually review The Dance of Anger (I know, the titles just make my skin crawl, but whatever) because I think Anger is a better book and it seemed like Intimacy was almost the exact same book but not really as good, but it turns out that unbeknownst to me I actually already reviewed Anger a while back. And TONS of overshare! So, you’re welcome. They might actually be equals, and I just read Anger at a point in my life where I felt particularly guilty about self-definition, so it was more meaningful in validating my attempts to self-define. N E Way, I don’t dislike Intimacy, but, you might as well read Anger instead.
The books are about how any relationship we have – and by relationship, I just mean interaction with people, not necessarily romantic relationship – involves a given level of anxiety. And, often, we manage the anxiety either through over-functioning and pursuing or through under-functioning and distancing. Both of those options are reactive to the anxiety in the relationship, rather than self-defining. So, they actually undermine our attempts to understand who we are and be appreciated for that within the relationship and our attempts to understand and appreciate the other person.
The covers and titles of these books are very off-putting to me, but having read them, there is something that is interesting to me in the gendered nature of the books that is expressed in the titles and covers. Lerner approaches psychology and the study of relationships from a clearly feminist perspective, but she acknowledges and explores the idea that women are expected to shoulder the weight of maintaining and growing relationships. She doesn’t beat this idea into the ground, or approach it with outrage, but she takes it into consideration in a really comforting way.
I think acknowledging that is important because I think the imbalance can cause bitterness on either side. If it is unmanly to cultivate intimate relationships and manly to distance, men have to counteract society or wait for a woman (or man who is more comfortable counteracting society) to pursue them in order to have emotionally meaningful relationships. If the burden of pursuing emotional intimacy is on women, women have to counteract society in order to maintain self-definition in relationships. It isn’t fair to either gender. When I’m talking about the gendered expectations, I’m not assuming that any romantic relationship would be heterosexual, and Lerner doesn’t assume that either. I’m more talking about how each individual typically has to overcome their own social conditioning in all of their relationships, than how they have to overcome the other gender’s, if that makes sense. Two homosexual men in a relationship, therefore, would both presumably have a challenge in overcoming a socialized tendency to emotionally distance, particularly if that was emphasized in their families of origin.
Lerner expresses her choice to direct the books to women as an acknowledgment that it is just a reality that women are expected to manage relationships and are more likely to seek help to do so. While both Intimacy and Anger were written over twenty years ago, I think it is unfortunately still accurate to say that remains true today. I’m not trying to be bitter or bitchy about that, and I don’t feel bitter or bitchy about it, it is just unfortunately my experience that it is generally assumed to be masculine to distance and feminine to pursue intimacy.
Mostly, what I’m thinking about the covers and titles, though, is that they are there to catch women who have lost self-definition into some kind of generic Precious Moments of femininity. I’m positive that this is judgey of me, which I’m sorry about, but the aesthetics of them are just so stepford to me. In Intimacy, Lerner tells the story of reading a letter to the editor in Ms. magazine from a woman who explained that she needed to cancel her subscription because it caused her husband too much anxiety for her to read the magazine. I think these covers and titles are the brown paper bag that Lerner used to cloak her really academic analysis of relationships and advice to women to put themselves first in an acceptable cover that evokes the idea of traditional femininity. I mean, not that I think it is unacceptable to be drawn to the covers or titles, they just signal traditional gender roles to me, where the content of the books actually undermine them. I like that a lot. I think it is evocative of the 1950s melodramas, which I love.
In general, I like the substance of the book, and the stories are engaging, but it is pretty repetitive, especially if you have already read Anger. I skimmed a little by the end, to be quite honest. At the same time, it was a good refresher on the importance of acknowledging the actual sources of anxiety. It is pretty easy to say, look at my terrible, under-functioning roommate, all my problems are because of her, or, our family just needs to help little Joey get through his ADD behavior, and not acknowledge the actual sources of anxiety in our lives. Lerner talks a lot about anniversaries that we subconsciously remember – of divorce or illness or other huge stresses – and also how stressful events in our families of origin can be something that we displace onto other parts of our lives in order to manage. Since those are the type of thing I am already blocking, it is nice to have an outside person to remind me to locate the actual source of my anxiety. In sum, I really <3 Lerner, and I want to be like her when I grow up.(less)