rating: 4 of 5 stars Here's my belated review of George Eliot's (Mary Anne Evans') epicly un-epic portrait of small town Victorian England. Epic, because its 800 pages (in teeny tiny letters too), but un-epic because unlike most 800 page books written in the 19th century, this one isn't about war or revolution or even passionate romances for that matter. No, "Middlemarch" profiles some 5 or 6 different families of varying economic and class statuses as they make their ways through a year or two of ups and downs.
Whereas Eliot's Adam Bede lifted my soul in celebration of simple humanity, "Middlemarch" bogged me down in the reality of simple humanity's self-delusion and dogged stupidity at times. Though Eliot's insights are still psychologically and behaviorally astounding, one doesn't really feel led to identify with any of the characters. I actually attribute this to Eliot herself- whereas "Adam Bede" (her first novel and the one I read earlier this summer) abounds in loving sympathy and celebration of the characters, faults included, Eliot seems determined to keep a frosty and critical distance from the characters inhabiting Middlemarch. One is hard pressed to feel anything but cynicism towards these people as they make poor choices and suffer for it or make good choices and suffer for it (or sort of fix their mistakes and sort of feel content). The plot may have decent twists and turns, but the only characters that seem to be stirred out of complacency (or wake the reader from ennui transference) are the cloying, selfish idiots who ruin the lives of those around them. At least you can get angry at them.
Some actual scholarship would be needed here, but it seems like Eliot is working with the idea of social reform (the whole book spins around the English Reform Bills of the 1830's). By the end of the book, nearly every central character has altered their class status in some way or another. Either the "middle class" girl who fancies herself an heiress despairs at having to be a working mans wife, or the wealthy widow looks for ways to get rid of the money and power she feels incapable of putting to beneficial use. The struggle for each character seems to hinge on striving for what one wants socially or relationally, and in most cases, the two do not match. This is not a Jane Austen novel where the poor girl finds love and wealth beyond imagination. Instead, you see people settling for less than their dreams to compromise with their insensitive wife, or people chucking their fortunes in order to live simply with the poor person they love. This seems to be what Eliot is most interested in exploring: an England in the midst of re-definition. Thus, its no wonder that this book has been lauded as the great Victorian novel. Middlemarch really does seem to capture realistic portraits of imperfect people as they try to either hold on to what they feel they're entitled to, or to make decisions based on factors other than status and wealth. Published in 1871, this book clearly leads the way for authors like Henry James and Thomas Hardy to portray characters who reject the system as well as those unfairly crushed by it.
If you've got some time on your hands, give Middlemarch a try. It's outstanding literature. Just don't expect to be swept off your feet. These characters keep both feet on the ground: stubbornly and sacrificially at times.
For those of you who don't the legend of my Grandma Hazelton, the local newspaper of Cottonwood, AZ has been helpful enough to introduce her to a wider audience.
Short version: my amazing, sage and childlike Grandma is a bit of a local celebrity in the small AZ town where she lives in an apartment a mile from my parents. She walks everywhere, to the point that she gets about 7 offers a day to give her a ride because she's looks like a little lost lady or maybe a homeless person, and people want to help her. People have stopped and wanted to take her home to their house for Thanksgiving, not knowing that she has family. Everyone from Walgreen's to Denny's to Dairy Queen knows about the little, hunched over old lady who walks around Cottonwood. There's even a man who was so touched by his interaction with her (she's a little bit of a prophet/nun) that he pre-pays for her coffee at Starbucks every week. She just walks in and they give it to her.
I think that's the story that caught the reporter's attention, but nevertheless, here's a cute little local profile of my Grandma Hazelton, part of the "local color" of smaller town Arizona, that happens to be related to me. On a side note, though this article doesn't really reveal any of the AMAZING things about Grandma Hazelton, my brother and I seriously, seriously want to make a documentary about her, and I have about 12 hours of recordings I did with her in 2006 about everything from her childhood to her opinions about possible life on other planets. Golden!
Here's a link which hopefully works I have jpeg's of the article which I might try to put up here if it's not too wonky.
Hellboy Enjoyable and visually fun. But though i loved the main character, there seemed to be no relationship or character development outside of him (Were we supposed to care about "John Myers," and why was Selma Blair so awful?). I hope the sequel will be better written because it looks to cool not to go see. 3 1/2 stars (for its Guillermo del Toro-ness) 7.7.08
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army It's the visual equivalent of eating an Oak tree made of chocolate: you don't quite understand how it came to be, but it looks so rich, dark and delicious that you stop asking why and simply enjoy. Though the writing and dramaturgy are overall pretty lacking, the worlds evoked and the look of every character are so mystifying that by the end of the movie, you want to find the monster under your bed so you can follow it to it's homeland bedecked in azure and goldenrod and populated by people who bleed tree sap. The imagination in this movie should make George Lucas ashamed and embarrassed forever. 4 stars (for its even more Guillermo Del Toro-ness) 7.15.08
rating: 5 of 5 stars Being that this is my favorite book, and that my re-reading of it for the first time in 8 years has cemented that fact, I don't really have much to say about the book itself, other than that everyone should read it, ESPECIALLY if you were forced to read it high school. Rediscover as an adult the wit, integrity, wisdom and passion of Charlotte Bronte and her indomitable narrator Jane. I found myself constantly in dialogue with Jane as I read, and wrote most of what I was thinking in the margins. Sometimes my enthusiasm for her guts and aplomb caused cheerful expletives like "&*#% Yeah, JANE!!!" to appear. Needless to say, the author and narrator have a lot to teach the reader about the struggle between desire and survival, integrity and passion.
I will say however, that my affection for Modern Library Classics has been dwindled by this edition of Jane Eyre. The endnotes were scanty and failed to translate the French dialogue that Bronte always insists on including. (Yes, I know, why haven't I learned French yet?!) So, though I hate to say it, I would recomend reading this in a Penguin Classics edition.
Regardless though, you'll be surprised what a quick compelling read it is, and when you're tempted to put the book down because the story is getting too painful- keep reading- pain is good for you sometimes.
One of the things I miss about having left New York in 2006 is that I won't get to witness the transformation of the High Line, the elevated railway that's being turned into a 20 block walking park. I've been able to see the High Line-saving process from a couple differnt angles since a former roommate of mine was a fulltime staff member of Friends of the Highline. I worked odd jobs for them from time to time, (mailings, reception, etc) and even spent about six months sporting a "Save the High Line" fake tattoo (our apartment owned about 100 of these tattoss since they were the "ticket" to the 2004 gala, and I still have like 40).
I love adaptive resuse and space transformation in general, and add to that my love of history, railorads, rust, wheatfields and New York City, and you've pretty much got my fantasy hang out location. It's due to open it's first section by the end of this year. The High Line is pretty much under the radar now, but once completed, will mark the greatest change is New York City's landscape since Central Park in 1873. It's appeared on odd music videos throughout the years, and was most recently featured in "I Am Legend" (there's a great Mobil Gas Station built right under the structure, which happens to be where Will Smith spends a long time trying to catch a "thing". I flipped out watching it thinking "I have bought so many Dr. Pepper's from that gas station and now there's CGI monsters growling at it!"
So here's some sweet design footage that was just released. The design video doesn't have sound, but you can see where the High Line is and how it'll be changing and growing over the next few years. Also below is a nice little feature on the High Line that talks about the history and really shows how a railroad became a forest wonderland in the middle of NY's Meat Packing District.
Also, there's the Ed Norton factor (as you'll see in the video above). Besides the fact that Rick and I are friends, went to undergrad together and lived in the same small apartment, I always felt that what truly linked us was the fact that at the same time we were both working at non-profits where Ed Norton was on the Board of Trustees: Friends of the High Line and Signature Theatre Company. Here's Rick with Monkey the Dog, in part of the High Line's Portrait Project. I heart the High Line.
So my housemate Johny and I were watching TV (or ITunes on computer, more accurately) this evening, when all of a sudden we heard a crazy, rumbling whoosh sound getting louder and closer so we both immediately leapt onto the sofa to look out the window and see what was flying over us. A second later, 2 fighter jets, followed by two more fighter jets flew QUITE close over head and zoomed southward. Now, I spent 10 years living about three blocks from a Naval Air station, so I'm used to getting buzzed by fly-overs, but this was not a normal part of my Seattle experience. My first thought was, "Is it the Blue Angels?" but they were just gray .
Still perched there waiting if more would come, I said to Johny, "This is weird because last night I totally had a dream that you and I were watching fighter jets fly in front of us and I said 'They don't look like F-14's' and you said 'No, they're F-16's" then real life Johny turned to me and said "that's what those were- F-16's." So it was an odd experience on various levels and kind of rattled us literally and figuratively.