Book Review #4: Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
This was a beast of a book. The beginning was juicy. I, like everyone, knew what the main plot revolved around and the personalities of the characters and the showcasing of the formal nature of society made it pretty captivating. Also, it had this beauty of a line to refer to consummating an affair:
“That which for Vronsky had been almost a whole year the one absorbing desire of his life, replacing all his old desires; that which for Anna had been an impossible, terrible, and even for that reason more entrancing dream of bliss, that desire had been fulfilled.”
But the longer I read, the more it felt like an obligation. The characters started to wear me down and annoy me, the decisions started to seem too dramatic, and the forward plot seemed lost. Ultimately, I was relieved it was over and I could move on to a different book.
Unconsciously over the last year, I have been seeing what I can opt-out of without incident. After the election in 2016, I got really into podcasts. Partly as a way to escape the insane news, but partly as a way to help me digest it via all the great new political podcasts that emerged. A few months ago, I removed the podcast app from my phone. Now, if I’m on a delayed train or taking a lunch time walk, there’s nothing on my phone for me to listen to (and I don’t carry headphones anyway).
If I want to listen to a podcast now, I have to be at home, open my laptop, and consciously choose one. This has been great because there is a level of intention that I have towards podcasts now where I only listen if I am genuinely engaged.
Podcasts I still listen to include:
- Call Your Girlfriend — two long-distance besties chat about their lives and their news. Feminist and powerful, it feels like being at brunch with your own best friends.
- On Being – this was the first podcast I ever listened to. Interviews about life and spirituality. I love listening to the unedited cut so I get a whole sense of the interview. They also have a wonderful blog.
- This American Life – always a classic. I avoid the sad episodes but there is a such a great archive here that I can almost always find something great.
And that’s it. Contrary to feeling deprived, I feel free from podcasts.
Movie Review, #1: Lady Bird
Everyone knows I am a very fussy movie watcher. I don’t want anything too romantic, too sad, too unfair, too long, too white, etc. Lady Bird met all my criteria (well, maybe a bit too white). A coming of age movie about a girl, Lady Bird, becoming a woman (both in terms of aging and losing her virginity), it was a beautiful depiction of family ties, fitting in, society, the angst of growing up, etc. As someone who also went to a bougie private high school on a full scholarship, so much about Lady Bird’s friendships and interactions rung true to my heart (like never letting my friends see the house I lived in). What I loved most about the movie was the mother. Played by Laurie Metcalf, the fierceness and loving authenticity of the mom, and her interactions with Lady Bird reminded me of what it feels like, and what it felt like at that age, to be loved so fiercely but not necessarily parented, or living, in the way you want. And as someone who now no longer identifies too too much with teenagers, there was a growing sense of identity with the mother, and what it takes to shepherd your own children through the world, sometimes against their will. Would I watch it again? Probably not. Do I look forward to watching it with my daughter in 20 years? Yes.
Book Review, #3: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens agenda (Becky Albertalli)
Two stars from me does not mean this is a two-star book for everyone. Clearly geared towards younger audiences, I had been told this was a “warm hug” of a book. It was not. The main plot involved a closeted high school student being blackmailed. Maybe I’m just old now but I couldn’t get over how exhausting and dramatic the relationships were.
Book Review, #2: The Shadow Land (Elizabeth Kostova)
The Historian is one of my favorite novels. I wouldn’t choose it for a desert island, but it makes a thrilling and gripping read your first (or even second) time through. I vividly remember a family vacation when my two sisters and I were all reading the book at the same time, grabbing it whenever another put it down. The Shadow Land caught my eye at the library one afternoon before a cold freeze (or bomb cyclone) set in. It is a much worse novel than the Historian. It tries to emulate the same plot twists and intrigue but the content just isn’t there. The most incredible scenes take place inside a forced labor camp, which wasn’t where I hoped (or wanted) the book to bring me on a cozy weekend.
Book Review, #1: Geisha: a life (Mineko Iwasaki and Rande Brown)
Geisha: a life is a book that will leave you pretty sure that the author of Memoirs of a Geisha plagiarized his book. So many elements of this book (an actual memoir by a famous Geisha in Gion, Kyoto (though I suspect it is ghostwritten)) are almost exactly the same. Maybe that’s because Memoirs is that historically accurate, but I doubt it. Overall, this book was poorly written and either provided too much or not enough context. Not worth the read unless you are insanely into Geisha.