Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Glad Game

If you've read the book or seen the movie, you know that Pollyanna is a big proponent of the Glad Game. Which is, basically finding a reason to be glad about everything—even if at first glance, you think it kind of sucks. I am big fan of this way of thinking. I honestly feel that positive thinking creates a healthier, better life. I believe you become what you think about. And oh boy, would I like to be glad.

Sometimes (like today), it's harder than others to play the Glad Game: it's raining; I feel stuck, unchallenged, and unmotivated at work (and I greatly desire a new job that actually fulfills me); I most likely have some female hormonal thing like PMS going on, etc. I've already cried like three times today. Over not much.

So it's times like these that it's even more important to play the Glad Game. One cannot get out of one's funk if one continues to think funky thoughts. So here are some glad thoughts to counter the bad thoughts:

  • I'm glad all the rain will help the trees, grass, and flowers grow and we'll have a lovely spring because of it
  • I'm glad I work with such amazing people that I enjoy being around
  • I'm glad I have a job that gives me a salary and health benefits
  • I'm glad I no longer have the devil IUD that caused even more female hormonal PMS-like things (and very frequently too)
  • I'm glad I don't keep my emotions all bottled up inside

And here's some more random glad thoughts to further help get me going toward a sunnier outlook:

  • I'm glad I have this beautiful little yellow rose in a cute little blue pot on my desk—it's sunny & cheerful
  • I'm glad I finally watched the videos for The Black Keys', Tighten Up and Howlin' for You - those are funny guys who write some pretty great songs (yes, I'm a bit behind the times as far as music videos go)
  • I'm glad my sister and her husband get to go to Orlando next week—and get to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Disneyworld and other amazing Florida stuff
  • I'm glad I have the two cutest little basement cats ever (okay, cutest cats ever, regardless of fur color)
  • I'm glad I have a stack of 12 library books at my house (and one at work)
  • I'm glad I found cute black ballet flats with little birdies on the inside at H & M this past weekend
  • I'm glad I'm a brunette now (I look best with brown hair, I think)
  • I'm glad I'll come home to find Mad Men Season 4, discs one and two waiting for me in their little red Netflix envelopes in my mailbox
  • I'm glad I got to see my grandparents this weekend and hear interesting stories about their lives and see interesting keepsakes (including my great-great-grandfather's potato that he kept in his pants pocket to help his arthritis and my great-grandmother's pair of glasses from the 50s or 60s)
  • I'm glad I have a beautiful black PT Cruiser—I love my car!
  • I'm glad I get to each lunch now!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Shadow of the Wind

This is a gorgeous book. I mean that literally—look at that cover! I was browsing in Barnes & Noble one day and happened upon the Z section of Fiction and this book jumped out at me. I just thought the cover was stunning and intriguing. So, I read the back of the book and deemed it even more intriguing.

It's the story of Daniel Sempere, who lost his mother to cholera and has lived alone with his father since. Daniel's father, a bookseller, takes him to a wonderful place called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books (I seriously could spend months in a place like that). There, he finds a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. Mesmerized by its story, Daniel sets out to find more of Carax's books. Unfortunately, no one has any—they're all being bought up, stolen, and burned. Of course, this just makes Daniel all the more curious and he goes to great lengths to find out the truth about Julián Carax and why his books are being systematically destroyed.

It's a mystery set in Spain in the 1940s and 1950s and the way Carlos Ruiz Zafón describes places and people and the feeling of the time, you feel as if you really were there. Zafón's way with words is a magical gift. His writing is purely beautiful without being too flowery or over the top. For example, here is the opening of the novel:
I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time. It was the early summer of 1945, and we walked through the streets of a Barcelona trapped beneath ashen skies as dawn poured over Rambla de Santa Mónica in a wreath of liquid copper.
Can't you just picture it and feel it? I can! You can tell that Zafón is a great lover of books as well. Take this quote from Daniel's father about the Cemetery of Forgotten Books:
This is a place of mystery, Daniel, a sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. This place was already ancient when my father brought me here for the first time, many years ago. Perhaps as old as the city itself. Nobody knows for certain how long it has existed, or who created it. I will tell you what my father told me, though. When a library disappears, or a book shop closes down, when a book is consigned into oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure that it gets here. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader's hands. In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody's best friend. Now they have only us, Daniel. Do you think you'll be able to keep such a secret?"
I apologize for the lengthy quote, but it's just so beautiful. The man clearly loves his books. And it puts into words how I feel about physical books—there is something magical about reading a book: its smell, its feel, turning its pages...  e-readers may be very convenient, but I still get a kick out of books.

The mystery of Julián Carax is one that will keep you guessing (as any good mystery book will do). You never know which characters to trust and which clues will lead you in the right direction. Zafón lets you guess some secrets and then completely surprises you with others—ones you never saw coming. It's one of those books that when you finish it, you want to start it all over again because now you know what really happened and you want to see all of the foreshadowing and clues with knowing eyes.

I was reading this book on the bus the other day and a lady a couple people over asked me if I liked it. I told her I loved it! And she said it was one of her favorite books of all time. I can see why. I've never read a mystery told so beautifully and with such interesting and rich characters. I would love to re-learn all of the Spanish I've forgotten and read the book in its original language because I bet that's an even more amazing experience. I will be re-reading this one over and over again for years to come!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Random Thoughts on the Milennium Trilogy

I finally finished the last book in Stieg Larsson's Milennium trilogy this weekend. It makes me quite sad that he was unable to write more—although I do think that the ending of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest serves as a nice ending to the whole series.  ou're not quite sure what will happen to Lisbeth and Mikael, but at least they're in a good place.

I know I attempted a comparison between book and movie for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I decided not to do the same for the other books and movies. As I stated in that blog post, I will always prefer the book to the movie. And, as I learned in the case of these books and movies, I should definitely not watch the movie based on the book so soon after reading the book—it just makes it so hard to enjoy the movie for what it is. But in the movies' defense, these books are so full of different characters and subplots, that it would be impossible to make the movies just like the books. There will be some inevitable shaving down of parts and characters. And I think if I re-watch these movies at another time, I will enjoy them much more! I definitely think people who have not read the books would think the movies were incredibly awesome.

So, I have read that Stieg Larsson planned to do more books in this series, but his untimely death put a stop to that. I have also read that his partner may continue writing the books based on what he had written so far and his outlines. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but it might be nice to get answers to some unanswered questions I have. Namely:

  • Whatever happened to Lisbeth's sister—was she going to enter the picture at any point?
  • Does Lisbeth ever regain her interest for math and Fermat's theorem? Does she ever remember how she solved it?
  • Did she indeed have Asperger's syndrome?
  • Why was she so interested in DNA? Was she looking for some connection between her and her father (and possibly half-brother and why it was he was born with that condition where he doesn't feel pain)?

I also would love to hear about the end of the Blomkvist/Figueroa romance. I just didn't buy it. She seemed too needy to me—always trying to coerce him to spending more time with her. Just the sort of behavior that usually drives men away. But then again, he's used to very strong women, like Berger and Salander who don't require him to be around all the time, so maybe Figueroa was a breath of fresh air. And perhaps I didn't like Blomkvist falling for Figueroa because I was sort of expecting him and Salander to end up together. I am a sucker for a happy ending and I thought it was quite sad that the first time Lisbeth let her guard down enough to fall in love, he was too busy f'ing Erika Berger to even notice.

Speaking of Blomkvist, I wonder how Stieg Larsson saw him in his head—I could definitely tell that he was middle aged and not exactly a super model or in the awesomest of shape, but several women in the series did find him attractive, so he must have not been too bad. I liked that an average looking guy was hooking up with average looking women (perhaps Lisbeth is an exception to this, of course)—sometimes I get sick of reading books where everyone in them is gorgeous and desirable.

Once I got used to all of the Swedish names and places and worked through the boring financial portions, I was definitely hooked on these books. Larsson creates very unique and complex characters—even the bad guys have depth to them. I got so caught up in the lives of these characters and read for hours at a time to find out just what happened. In the second book when Palmgren revealed who Lisbeth's father was, I actually audibly gasped. And I cheered (in my head) for both Lisbeth and Annika at the trial as they kept beating the shit out of the prosecution (figuratively)—especially the part where Lisbeth takes Ekström to task for not asking actual questions.

I can definitely see why these books are best sellers and I will definitely be re-reading them in the future. I have a feeling that they're the kind of books where you discover something new every time you read them. And, of course, knowing how the story plays itself out will help you notice all the foreshadowing and clues that you probably didn't notice the first time. I'm kind of excited for enough time to pass so I can read them again!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Stars and Books

I usually keep the image heavy and classic Hollywood posts for my other blog, but I found an adorable picture of Jean Harlow reading a book today and felt compelled to look for other similar pictures of my favorite classic stars. I also wanted to link to some great biographies about them, which really makes this sort of post more appropriate for this blog. So, here you go:

The aforementioned Jean Harlow shot. Just like Marilyn Monroe after her, she was way smarter than many people gave her credit for.

Grace Kelly. This is a shot from Rear Window (immediately after this shot, she whips out a Bazaar magazine and reads that instead).

Clara Bow. Don't read any of that Hollywood Babylon crap about her—read David Stenn's biography of her instead! She was an amazingly talented actress who had to overcome so much.

Norma Shearer. Another great book that deals a lot with Norma is Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood by Mick LaSalle—an incredible read!

Clark Gable—awww, he's reading one of my favorite books ever (and obviously preparing to be Rhett Butler). Admittedly, I have yet to read a Gable biography, so I feel funny recommending one. And most of the Gable biographies have such terrible reviews, so I'm just linking to the Clark Gable paper dolls—I loves me some Tom Tierney!

Margaret Mitchell. I had to follow up that picture of Clark Gable with this one! I have yet to read her biography, but I own it, so it's definitely on my "plan to read" list.

Vivien Leigh. Well, while we're on a Gone With the Wind roll... I haven't read her biography either, but this one got good reviews and the cover photograph is stunning!

Olivia de Havilland. Let's just complete the Gone With the Wind portion of this post with the lovely Melanie. I have yet to read a biography for her and I suspect there might be some trashiness to the books about her and Errol Flynn and her and her sister, so I'll just link to a book about her films.

Joan Fontaine. Speaking of Oliva de Havilland's a shot from Suspicion. I haven't read her autobiography, but I bet it's riveting!

Barbara Stanwyck. This shot is from Stella Dallas. I have read this biography by Al DiOrio, but it was written before she died. I'd like to read another, more recent biography some time and get the full story on this most amazing actress!

Joan Crawford. No, I have not read Mommie Dearest (although I have seen the movie) and I don't plan to. There's another Joan Crawford biography that recently came out, Possessed, and I really want to read it!

James Cagney. That man could sing and dance even better than he could play a gangster. I'd really like to read his autobiography!

Greta Garbo. I'd like to read other Garbo biographies to compare them to Barry Paris'—that one kind of left me depressed. But then again, Garbo didn't exactly have the most uplifting and happiest of lives. She's still as fascinating and glamorous as you can get!

Louise Brooks. Okay, so technically she's not the one reading in this picture. And man, does she look bored. In fact, so bored, she'd rather eat a donut.

Audrey Hepburn. Wow, there a LOT of pictures of Audrey Hepburn reading, but this is by far the coolest. I haven't read any of her biographies either, but this one by her son seems like it would be pretty cool.

Bette Davis. Seriously. This is an amazingly cute picture. Sadly, I haven't read any of her biographies either, so I'm linking to her autobiography.

Cary Grant. Sigh—yet another of my favorite actors that I haven't read about. Many of his biographies have good reviews, but I chose to link to a book about his style, because, c'mon, look at his style!!

Dean Martin. Ha! That's all I can say about this picture. Perhaps I should read his daughter's biography of him and see what it was like growing up with this guy!

F. Scott Fitzgerald. I would be remiss if I didn't include my favorite author ever. Not sure if he counts as a "star", but he was famous in his own day, so I think so. If you are a Fitzgerald fan and you haven't checked out The Romantic Egoists, you need to—SO amazing! An incredible peek into his private and professional life.

Gary Cooper. He had love affairs with my two favorite actresses ever, Grace Kelly and Clara Bow, so who knows why I haven't read any of his biographies. Perhaps this one by his daughter isn't the one to spill the beans about his romances, but it sure looks good! Oh, and how cute are pictures of stars reading the books their movies are based on (like that Clark Gable one)?!

Gloria Swanson. Look—they just happened to catch Gloria reading in her library, looking very pensive. I so need to read her autobiography!

Humphrey Bogart. Wow, another shot of an actor reading the book his movie is based on. Why is it always the men? Another star I haven't read about—probably because I've only seen his 30s movies and I'm sure most books would deal more with his later movies, life, and love with Lauren Bacall. This book about his films seems like it would be the most interesting to me.

Jeanne Moreau. I love French movies and I love Jeanne Moreau! Perhaps I should check out this biography of hers and write a review on it.

James Stewart (and Valerie Varda). There were some adorable pictures of Jimmy reading magazines, but I tried to stick to book pictures only, which is why I ended up with this shot from Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation. I haven't read any of Jimmy's biographies, but I have read his book of poems. And they're really cute.

Una Merkel. I was unable to find any books about Una Merkel. Sad face. But she is mentioned in Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood by Mick LaSalle and Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood by Mark A. Vieira, both incredible reads with gorgeous pictures.

Walt Disney. Sweet Lord do I love this man. I started to read Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler, but found it too bogged down with facts and figures that I wasn't interested in—I wanted to know about the man himself—so I stopped reading it. Next up on my list is this one by Michael Barrier.

Unless otherwise noted, I have read the books I linked to and would recommend them to anyone interested in these stars or in classic Hollywood in general!

I leave you with a shot of my cat, Scarlett, who would really rather I pay attention to her than read:

(and yes, she is named after the character in Gone With the Wind—as is her sister, Melanie)