greensword: (gimme some of that honey baby)
A few weeks ago [livejournal.com profile] aliterati and our friend Dan and I had a conversation about the love stories we obsessed over growing up and how they effect our taste in partners, our dreams of what relationships should be, and the way we go about our romantic business. Since today is Valentine's Day, I thought I'd talk about the romantic daydreams of my childhood - those bits of feeling gleaned from books and t.v. shows, before we started figuring things out on our own.

Like many little girls, my favorite book when I was young was Little Women*. I read it cover to cover, over and over, and identified with Jo and hated Amy and loved Laurie. I didn't understand why Jo turned Laurie down in favor of the older, less pretty, less fun-loving Professor Behr. I had a crush on my own dark-haired, mischievous best friend and desperately wished he'd stop in the middle of one of our adventures in the woods and declare his undying love for me.

However, as much as I liked Laurie, he was not my romantic idol. After all, he didn't end up being good enough for Jo, and had to settle for annoying Amy. (My best friend didn't end up being good enough for me either - something I didn't understand even when I realized he would only be friends with me when no one else was around. I thought that meant I wasn't good enough for him.)

No, I met my great storybook love when my mother, seeing my fondness for Little Women, got me Anne of Green Gables. Now Anne Shirley, like Jo March, is a great character for girls to identify with: clever, independent, endlessly creative, passionate. But it wasn't Anne that I read the Green Gables books over and over for - it was Gilbert Blythe.

Gilbert Blythe was, at age ten, the embodiment of everything I wanted. Keenly intelligent, he is Anne's only intellectual rival (how I wished I had a handsome, flirtatious intellectual rival at that age!) and though he loves to tease her he stops when he hits on something she is sensitive about (the exact opposite of what all the boys I knew would do). It takes Anne years to realize she loves Gilbert back, but when she does, he is there waiting for her.

The third and final romantic book I loved was The Witch of Blackbird Pond. This is a little less famous than the other two, so I'll sketch out the plot - Kit, the orphaned child of Caribbean slaveholders, flees to Puritan New England to be with her mother's family, rather than marry the middle-aged friend of her father. On the journey, she meets Nat, the captain's son, who earns her displeasure by pointing out the flaws in her privileged, frivolous worldview. When she gets to her aunt's town, she tries to adapt herself to her new surroundings, but quickly becomes frustrated, and often escapes to be with Hannah, the witch of Blackbird Pond. It turns out that Nat is a friend of Hannah's as well. When the town turns against Hannah, Nat and Kit help her escape and, by the end of the story, fall in love and live happily ever after.

Why I love these books:
~ In all three books, the hero falls in love with the heroine first, usually for her independence, intelligence and bravery. The heroine takes her time to come to terms with her feelings.
~ However, they do not become doormats - they can clearly see the heroine's flaws and will point them out to her. When the heroine sees a real flaw in them (arrogance, rudeness, lack of compassion, lack of direction) they do their best to change themselves.
~ Except for Laurie (who is my least favorite of the three), they have a strong sense of self and a person they want to become regardless of what happens with the heroine. Gilbert wants to become a doctor, Nat wants to captain his own ship and try to win American independence and abolish the slave trade.
~ They all really like to tease each other.

These are actually rather common themes but they still ring true to me. I like intelligent, good-natured guys with enough self confidence to call me on whatever bullshit I put out there. I find stupidity, lack of direction, meanness, and an uncritical view of me to be huge turnoffs. And someone who likes to be teased and can make me laugh is just icing on the cake.

What about you? What were your favorite childhood romances, and can you see their influence in your life now?



* Actually it was Lord of the Rings, but there was no real romance in that. I didn't understand Eowyn until I was older and Arwen and Aragorn's star-crossed whatever still doesn't feel like romance to me. Little Women was my second favorite book.
greensword: (Default)
Do you have any good biographies and/or books about interesting periods or events in history that you'd like to share with me?
greensword: (Default)
I just finished reading Perfume by Patrick Suskind. I read it in the time it took to drive through southern NJ, which sounds impressive, but really only indicates how bad the traffic was on the turnpike. Luckily it seems to have let up, so hopefully I will get to Boston in time to hang out with Hannah before she switches cities with me.

Anna has been telling me to read this book for years, and so when I saw it on a table of twenty-five cent books, of course I picked it up. I think I might have liked it better if I had just picked it up randomly - it is surprising, original, well-written, all very good things. But with this much hype from Anna - and I believe a few others have recommended it to me as well - I was expecting to have a new favorite book by the end, and I definitely did not.

Spoilers. )

So, in conclusion - and it better be, we're almost at the bus stop - while I enjoyed reading the book and liked the style of writing and the premise, for me there was not much more to it. I would definitely recommend it to anyone, but I also don't think passing it up would mean missing out.
greensword: (Default)
Cross-posted to my blog. Comments welcome either here or there.

On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill In War and Society is written by a soldier, and it shows. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman is a military psychologist, not a scientist, and as a scientist I found it incredibly frustrating to read this book - almost none of his assertions are sourced or cited in full. Additionally, Grossman's admiration for his fellow soldiers is made manifest throughout the book. Although he makes a good case that these soldiers deserve, if not admiration, at least compassion, his frequent, brook-no-argument assertions that most soldiers are "brave", "noble" people committing a "necessary evil" can be grating to those of a more pacifist bent.

In other words, it was not easy going slogging through this book. However, none of this means that Grossman doesn't have some incredibly thought-provoking things to say.

This book was written to explain a startling fact: throughout most of military history, up until the end of World War II, the vast majority of soldiers (between 75 and 95%) have refused to kill. Brigadier S.L.A. Marshall, who studied this phenomenon during World War II, found that no more than 20% of soldiers would "take any part with their weapons". These results can be found throughout time and across cultures, from Alexander the Great who lost only 700 men in years of fighting, to tribesmen in New Guinea who remove the arrows from their feathers before going off to war, to the soldiers at Rosebud Creek in 1876 who fired 252 rounds for each Native American they hit.

The Battle of Gettysburg is considered one of America's bloodiest battles, but as Grossman shows, it could have been a great deal bloodier... )
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My only goals for the evening are to make apple cinnamon cupcakes and to take a shower. While this doesn't sound exciting, it totally is - I've gone out four or five nights in a row now, and the past few days at work have been incredibly draining. So tonight I'm going to stay curled up in my room, and it will be lovely.

My favorite thing about my room is my bookshelf. I got it for cheaps and I am filling it with used books. The question is, which used books to fill it with? Recommendations are appreciated... I'm especially looking for history-philosophy-sociology non-fiction, anything about comparative cultures/morals/governments, conflicts, group affiliation, the philosophy of government and law and justice and ethics. But really, feel free to recommend anything good (the science dorks on my friendslist get bonus points for recommending me good science books!).
greensword: (Default)
I have not read the book. I do not even have the book. I don't know when I'm going to, since tomorrow I'm moving from NoHo to Amherst and ever day after that will be filled with teaching, preparing lessons, working on the Infinite Monkeys Project and, if I'm lucky, eating and sleeping.

However, I like to feel involved in these things, so, feel free to post your reactions to the book here, provided you use only "!"s, "?"s, "#$%"s and emoticons. Or pictures of babies making faces.

For instance, this was my reaction to chapter three:

greensword: (Default)
If I get offered the one-year Newark job by the end of next week, I'm going to accept it. If not, I will be in Sacramento for the next two years.

***

I wrote this on the train a while back and didn't post it because I couldn't connect to the internet:

Review of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova )
greensword: (Default)
I am bored. I can't go to sleep yet because the people next door are drinking and talking loudly, but really, I just want to go to bed so that I can wake up and have it be the day I go home.

Today my roommate was telling me about how she loves The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. I have officially given her up for lost. She is clearly worthless, because - and I am not exaggerating here - The Notebook is clearly worthless. It is, in fact, the worst thing I have ever read, and that includes all those rejected high school lit mag submissions. Even the poetry. Especially the poetry.

I borrowed it from my mother without telling her because I needed something to read on the plane, and I spent the next several hours looking longingly towards the escape hatch. The only reason I finished reading it is because I refused to believe that a book could be that bad. Surely, there had to be one good scene, one original thought before the end. Maybe someone would get hit by a bus? ... no. It was the same sentimental, predictable drivel the whole way through. How could it be a bestseller, I wondered? How soul-crushingly mindless can the people of this country be? I thought I had accepted the idiocy of my fellow Americans after the 2004 election. But I hadn't. I was in denial. When I finished this book, I finally understood, and I accepted it, and I wept. And then I ate my little packet of peanuts.

For nearly a month, I despised my mother for owning this book. Then one day, when we were packing my room at the end of the semester, she found it and asked if it was her copy. I gritted my teeth and told her it was. "Oh," she said. "I was looking for it. I was going to donate it, but now I'm not sure I want to inflict it on anyone else." I looked up, hope and forgiveness in my eyes. "Can we burn it?" She shook her head. "I don't have any matches." In the end, we put it in the recycling. I like to think that its pages will be pulped and remade, wiped clean, if you will, and that some better story - that is, any story - will take its place.

That is all.

(Anyone on my friendslist who read and liked The Notebook can please defriend me now.)
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So, my computer crashed last night, but I guess it just needed some alone time, 'cause I tried it this morning and it was working fine. Unfortunately, it crashed after the library had closed so I had to go to CVS to get something to read. The selection was pretty awful. In the end I got Dan Brown's Deception Point because it looked better than a cheesy romance novel and you know what? It wasn't that bad. I would actually say it was pretty decent for a mass-marketed thriller. The characters were cardboard but sympathetic, the writing style was uninspired but at least it flowed. And some of the situations were awesome. Hammerhead sharks? A volcano? You know I'll like any book with a volcano.

Things are much, much better at the lab. The bare bones of the situation haven't really changed at all, but my supervisor and I are on much better terms - we talked for two hours Thursday morning, and then after work the whole lab went to see Frans de Waal speak and then out for drinks afterwards. Yesterday I got to go in with the monkeys - really in, to feed them. They were too busy with the oranges and bananas and juice-soaked bread to pay much attention to me, but I picked up a piece of banana and Lance came over to me, putting one hand on my arm for balance and grabbing the banana with the other. Then he sat next to me eating contentedly.

Of course, it isn't all sweetness. Capuchins have a pretty complex social hierarchy and the other group, the Bolts, ganged up and attacked the lowest-ranking female, Georgia. Her hand and her tail were bleeding and we had to put her in isolation with her baby. I think the worst part is the baby, Grace, who right now is so small and cute it almost hurts to look at her. You know that when she gets a little older she will be picked on like all the other Gs, like Gretel who darts around never touching any of the other monkeys and Goya, who is losing her hair. Right now Grace can do whatever she wants, she can jump on the alpha male's back and bite him with abandon, and he'll just tolerate her. But one day, in a few months even, she's going to do it and he's going to bite back, and she may not even survive it. G-babies have been killed by the Bolts before.
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Made quite a few acquaintances today - they're not really friends yet - but spoiled that by going with Irina and her local friends to a nearby pool. They make so many annoying gay jokes. And of course, they're all making fun of gay men - any time there's a lesbian joke her fratty friends are like, "That's so hot!" *facepalm*

Honestly, Irina's a wonderful person, she's constantly asking me to do things with her and offering me food and asking about my family and my interests and stuff. But we're so different.

Anyway, just in case I do end up a hermit - and even if I don't - it's time for some book recs! What should I read this summer? Give me the one fiction and one non fiction books I absolutely have to read.
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I finished Immortality while I was home last weekend, and while it was a great book, it didn't quite live up to my expectations. Each chapter, each character, each phrase or thought or description by itself was wonderful, but packed up all together I found myself confused by Kundera's purpose.

Here be spoilers. )

All right, I've got a class to get ready for. I may come back to this later.
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I have a tendency, when bored, to read whatever I can get my hands on. A few weeks ago, it happened to be the first couple of books in Terry Goodkind's fantasy series. They weren't really interesting enough to write a review of, but I was kind of curious as to just how many pages he's written. I turned to google. It gave me this.

Question, Haddenfield, NJ: I've noticed similarities between your Sword of Truth series and Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series...

Terry Goodkind: If you notice a similarity, then you probably aren't old enough to read my books.

OUCH. Reading through the rest of the interview, Goodkind's apparently got an ego the size of an oliphaunt. And he doesn't exactly deserve to have one. I won't say he's as bad a writer as Jordan*, but, well, neither am I and you don't see me proclaiming, "First of all, I don't write fantasy. I write stories that have important human themes... That puts my books in a genre all their own."

Whatever, Terry. In 1400 pages you wrote exactly one character that interested me. Your world is derivative, your plots filled with contrivances, and I'm not sure you could get through a book without having a major character raped even if you tried. You have Jordan's length without his fluency, you have Ayn Rand's ego without her originality, and you have George R.R. Martin's morbid streak without his thought-provoking, nuanced characterizations.

In other words, Mr. Goodkind, go tickle a sleeping dragon.


* To be fair, Robert Jordan is actually a decent writer, much better than most people in two important respects. First, he's got good descriptive abilities. He writes pretty. If he stuck to writing about ball-gowns and landscapes, he'd be first class. Secondly, he's got the determination to write, as anyone who's made it to book 11 can attest (I dropped out at 5). Even the best writer amounts to nothing if they never pick up a pen. However, his convoluted plots, weak characterizations, and tendency to write a romance for every character, no matter how minor, are enough to cancel all that out.
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Is there still a limit of five posts a day on unpaid users? Because if that's been got rid of, I can stop condensing my public posts and indulge in more obsessive private to-do lists.

I've been up since four a.m. yesterday, and I've gone past being tired and have now my second wind. Damned unfortunate, as I want to go to bed. Had a bit of a party in the lounge, watching the playoffs and mocking the Red Sox fans. Have I mentioned how much I adore our firsties? If I haven't, let me say it now: I adore our firsties. There. I bet you weren't expecting that.

My UMass midterm is an essay. I know it's very bad of me, but I was sort've looking forward to a multiple choice test.

And the reviews:

The Last of the Wine, by Mary Renault (Mild Spoilers) )

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, by Gregory Maguire (Even Milder Spoilers) )

Dead Poets Society (Major Spoilers) )

Max (Minor Spoilers) )
greensword: (Default)
There appears to be a whole family of rabbits living in my backyard. A baby one just hopped past my window, pausing to nibble at the shrubbery that grows along the fence. It was adorable, so brown you could barely distinguish it from the dirt of the ground. It's ears were twice the size of it's little baby head.

Yes, I am a girly girl. I squee over baby bunnies. Sue me.

I'm thinking of quitting this internship entirely. I'm just not enjoying it, and if I'm going to spend half my week not enjoying something, it might as well be for money. Target, here I come!

I finished As You Like It this afternoon, and I have to say, while it's better than some of Shakespeare's other plays, it's not as good as Macbeth and it doesn't hold a candle to Julius Caesar. Although all in all, I don't really like Shakespeare much at all.

So, I read As You Like It on [livejournal.com profile] midhanaer's recommendation, and Rosencrantz and Guilderstern Are Dead on Hannah's, and the other day I completed Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstacy because my mother said I should. R&G was decent - it had some witty points and the idea/theme of the play was positively brilliant but on the whole it was rather pretentious and went on too much and I much prefer Stoppard's Arcadia to it. As for The A & The E, it was fantastic. I never got a feel for any of the characters but Michelangelo, but the author did a beautiful, beautiful job portraying him and his art.

Anyway, my point is, if anyone else has reccomendations, feel free to say so!

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