It's very long and often full of tedious military machinations, but it's also punctuated by exciting, gruesome, tragic, and otherworldy moments--so IIt's very long and often full of tedious military machinations, but it's also punctuated by exciting, gruesome, tragic, and otherworldy moments--so I think it's worth it. On to volume two!...more
It is official--I've now read all the Austen novels!
Apparently I prefer the more mature, bittersweet Austen to the young romantically-minded Austen. WIt is official--I've now read all the Austen novels!
Apparently I prefer the more mature, bittersweet Austen to the young romantically-minded Austen. While I enjoy a spirited heroine as much as the next girl, I appreciate that Austen's heroines all have markedly different personalities, and Fanny Price strikes me as one of the more difficult types from which to craft a heroine. Perhaps unfortunately, I see a lot of my teenaged self (and my current self--who am I kidding?) in Fanny--highly introverted, non-confrontational, perhaps a tad too moralistic, and what many people will dismiss as passive. After all, we like our modern heroines extroverted (but bookish, always bookish), confrontational, feisty, opinionated, and willing to rock the boat. Fanny is none of these things, but I can still identify her strengths--strengths that are not celebrated nearly enough, and which I wish I'd see more of. She is actually quite smart and opinionated, but she keeps these things to herself. Because she is an introvert and fairly easy-going, other people assume that she's a doormat and try to treat her like one. But she has a firm idea of where her values lie, and surprises people when she digs in her heels when they insult her intelligence.
Remember in Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth initially fell for Wickham? Fanny Price sees through the Mansfield Park equivalent of the Wickham character in an instant. Everyone else thinks she's an idiot for not marrying the guy on the spot, coming from poverty (or "poverty" since they still have multiple servants) as she does. But guess what--shy little Fanny doesn't actually give a scallion's width for what other people think. She sticks to her guns...and guess what, she's right. That right there is inner strength.
Fanny also gets a bad rap for not actively pursuing what/who she wants, but I get where she's coming from. Fanny knows from the first chapter of the book who she wants to marry, but that person needs to come to realize it for himself. Filtered through her eyes, if she actively tries to get between the man she loves and the woman that man thinks he loves, she's doing him a disservice. Because if he finds happiness with someone else, then Fanny wasn't right for him. What can she do anyway, flirt? Flirting and pursuing a man is so inauthentic to who Fanny is, she would be betraying the very sense of herself if she did so, and drive the guy away. That probably doesn't make sense to anyone else but me.
Honestly, Mansfield Park probably has the most "downer" ending of all the Austens. Not being a hopeless romantic myself, I liked it for the honesty. Because coupling isn't a happily ever after. There's another 50+ years of ups and downs to get through as best we can, and I could tell from the vibe here that this is a mature Jane writing with a longer view of life and what marriage really is worth in the long scheme of things. Sigh. I'll miss you, Jane Austen. Thanks for the journey. ...more
A pretty good guide for those setting out to tell "cinematic" 3-act stories that are commercially viable. It's more concerned with storytelling than aA pretty good guide for those setting out to tell "cinematic" 3-act stories that are commercially viable. It's more concerned with storytelling than actual writing--the author uses examples of film more than novels--and could be just as useful to an aspiring screenwriter. While I don't agree that books should be utterly filmic--the medium of the novel allows the writer to plumb the internal lives of characters in ways a screen can never capture--visualizing scenes to avoid too much telling can be a helpful exercise. I liked the way character motivation was broken down and learned a few new techniques, but on the whole I'd seen most of this before (to be fair, I've read a lot of these guides). I'd recommend this to writers of commercial fiction who are starting to think about agents/publishers, but for more advanced techniques and tips for bridging literary and commercial fiction, I'd recommend The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great....more
Three Kingdoms, vol. II down! I couldn't keep up the same momentum as I did in vol. I--I think I'll take a break and return to finish off the third voThree Kingdoms, vol. II down! I couldn't keep up the same momentum as I did in vol. I--I think I'll take a break and return to finish off the third volume when I'm feeling fresh and recovered from my reading slump....more
An uneven reading experience. Told from the viewpoint of a communist sympathizer operating as a spy in L.A. during the Vietnam war, it's one of thoseAn uneven reading experience. Told from the viewpoint of a communist sympathizer operating as a spy in L.A. during the Vietnam war, it's one of those Important & Unpleasant reads that will leave the reader in a dour mood. That said, the darkly satirical parts work best. I most enjoyed the take-down of Hollywood 'Nam films, when the protagonist finagles himself onto the movie set of some Apocalypse Now clone as a "cultural adviser". The depiction of the fall of Saigon, people packing into C-130's or being left to die on the runway, was harrowing and well-written. Things started to go wrong for me in the final third, beginning with an interminable description of a young, curvaceous, buxom, be-cleavaged, leggy-legs-reaching-to-Nebraska dancer, followed by the many things the protagonist would like to do to her. (All the female characters here are either weirdly objectified, or the protagonist's mom.) Things get progressively more uncomfortable and simultaneously more bizarre (and overwritten) from there, and I admit I may have skimmed. There was something ultimately inconsistent about the protagonist, and he never completely worked for me as a fully fleshed character. I'm waffling between 2 and 3 stars because I see how this book reveals an important, neglected perspective of the Vietnam War, but I'm not sure who, exactly, I can recommend it to. Not for the squeamish....more
16 year old high school dropout Ree lives in poverty among her meth-cooking clan in the Ozarks. She's a hardscrabble teenager hunting for her daddy, w16 year old high school dropout Ree lives in poverty among her meth-cooking clan in the Ozarks. She's a hardscrabble teenager hunting for her daddy, who disappeared on bail, while caring for her mentally ill mother and two younger brothers. I was just getting into the story, however, when it abruptly ended, leaving me with more questions than when I started.
A brief word on the writing: your mileage may vary. It's very much Literary with a capital L, and you'll either gasp at each gorgeous turn of phrase, or laugh when the similes get out of hand ("The words dropped from her mouth like a picnic to be passed around and savored slowly" comes to mind). Sometimes it works, and sometimes it takes away from the folksy back-woods atmosphere.
The book worked best for me in conjuring up the bleak, claustrophobic atmosphere of an Ozark winter. I also liked the bits with Ree's friend Gail, a married teen who always has her baby Ned in tow, and who brings a bit of warmth and optimism to the proceedings....more
An engaging audiobook--23 hours, but I flew through it. I liked the balance here of characterization and twisty heist plot. I only guessed one of theAn engaging audiobook--23 hours, but I flew through it. I liked the balance here of characterization and twisty heist plot. I only guessed one of the twists, and there were quite a few!
Susan is a thief ("Fingersmith") from the slums of London, who takes a position as a lady's maid to a naive young heiress in a complex plot to steal her inheritance. Things are not all what they seem, and the characters' various relationships are constantly in flux as old secrets come to light (and then more secrets...and then more!) At some point I hit "secret overload" and couldn't quite unravel myself from the web of lies that is this book (maybe this is more an issue of listening vs. reading, where I couldn't flip back to review/process information). However, I loved the Dickensian flavor and thought the author captured the dual voices of her two heroines perfectly....more