Review: Persuasion

It is no secret that I am a Janeite. I live and breathe Jane Austen. My bound collection of her novels is one of my most prized possessions. And though my admiration for her is strong, it has taken a while for me to get through her entire body of work, mostly because of my rigorous reading schedule (so much to read, so little time). I first read Jane in high school. It was Pride and Prejudice and my love was instantaneous and thorough (I am a Darcy girl myself). I’ve never looked back.

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These soft cover paperbacks are the best. I highly recommend. Also thanks to the Boston Public Library.

Persuasion is Austen’s last complete novel and was published after her death. I found it to be one of her more serious novels, having an older and more mature protagonist (at the age of seven and twenty) with a boatload of heartache. (There are a lot of sailors in this book, so that was really funny if I do say so myself.) The novel follows Anne Elliot, our good and warm-hearted heroine, daughter of the vain and neglectful Sir Walter and sister of the equally vain, cold, and selfish Elizabeth (she is not doing great in the way of supportive family members, her own dear mother having passed away many years earlier). Despite these circumstances, Anne is the ideal lady, always looking to see how she can be of service, lending an ear or a hand, knowledgeable of her duty, agreeable, well-learned, and eloquent. However, she is plagued by heartbreak, having previously broken off an engagement with the man she loved when she was nineteen, the young and confident sailor Frederick Wentworth, who at the time was penniless but sure of his coming wealth and success. Her good friend and maternal guardian in the stead of her deceased mother Lady Russell, hoping for more of a match for her beloved Anne, persuades her to break off the engagement, leaving Anne forever heartbroken. All the while, she refuses any other man and embraces spinisterhood. Eight years later, Anne meets this man again, now Captain Wentworth with 20,000 pounds to his name and an esteemed naval rank to boot. From there, the drawing room antics and anxieties we know so well take off in rare form!

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The Mountain Goats Live! and Beat the Champ Review

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I first got into the Mountain Goats because of some guy in my nonfiction workshop in college. I thought he was cute and I knew he liked the band. You put two and two together. The crush didn’t stick, but my admiration and affection for the Mountain Goats long has. So thanks cute guy in my nonfiction workshop! I appreciate the heads up!

On Tuesday (14 April), I went to see the Mountain Goats perform live at the House of Blues for the second time. They are very good live; John Darnielle has so much energy, playing hard and dancing about, getting quiet and sensitive on the piano or acoustic guitar. They do not disappoint. On this particular occasion, they were accompanied by a talented saxophonist/clarinetist(?), which really filled our their sound. The venue was packed with people, bodies thick in a throng. There were these guys in front of us, large, burly men who crashed their way up front. I was prepared to be annoyed with them all night, but they were in such genuine raptures over the band playing, I couldn’t help but grin at them all night. Imagine, these very large men, just flipping out over the Mountain Goats. It was precious.

Of all the musicians I’ve ever seen (which is no small number), Darnielle seems the most delighted that people have actually showed up to listen to his set and furthermore that said people actually know the lyrics and are singing along (sometimes violently so). His beaming gratitude is very endearing. Despite my best efforts, I still didn’t recognize all the songs on the set list. They have such a long discography! I find I am able to always find new things to enjoy in them, which is nice. Clearly, I need to give Transcendental Youth a closer listen.

The band just released a new record called Beat the Champ, a concept album about professional wrestling. I know. That sounds super weird. I also thought like you when I first heard about it, BUT you have to trust me when I tell you this is an excellent album and worth listening to. The album is honest in a way you wouldn’t expect. The album is less about the gimmicks of wrestling and more about the personal lives of the wrestlers. One song is about John’s admiration as a child for real-life wrestler Chavo Guerrero. With John detailing the rise of the wrestler and what he personally meant to a kid in need of justice:

“He was my hero back when I was a kid/You let me down but Chavo never once did/You called him names to try to get beneath my skin/Now your ashes are scattered on the wind” (The Legend of Chavo Guerrero, Beat the Champ).

The album is an intimate listen, detailing moments of despair, gore, pain, and fear. The song Heel Turn 2 talks about the conflict in knowing you ought to take the high road, but wanting to save yourself:
“Get stomped like a snake/Lie down in the dirt/Cling to my convictions/Even when I get hurt/Be an upstanding well-loved man about town/In your child’s mind that’s how it goes down/But I tried/The losing side/I don’t want to die in here/I don’t want to die in here” (Heel Turn 2, Beat the Champ).

It goes into the sheer violence professionals face, the bloodlust involved in that kind of life:

“March through the red mist, never get my vision clear/Learn to love this kind of atmosphere/Strike funny poses, keep my weapon hand low/Whip my head around a little, get blood on the front row/Gonna jab you in the eye with a foreign object” (Foreign Object, Beat the Champ).

It also documents fleeting moments of sweetness and strength:

“That was when we were young and green/In the dawning hours of our team/Some things you will remember/Some things stay sweet forever” (Animal Mask, Beat the Champ).

“All gone, all gone/Watching it go up out front on the lawn/Stay on my feet somehow/I’m strong now/Stuck there, no air” (Luna, Beat the Champ).

The album is upbeat, some songs strong and driving, others sweet and tender. It’s a personal and compelling album. I would say, even if you have zero interest in professional wrestling you can get something from this album. Darnielle is just a hell of a good songwriter. Some of those lyrics are so good I could weep. The best way to gauge if you’ll like the album is to give it a listen. Go ahead! Do it. I doubt you will regret it. If you like other Mountain Goats albums, you will like this one.

Until next time!
xx

Review: IQ84

Have you ever had a dream so vivid and strange that upon waking you’re unsure of whether you’d been dreaming at all? Perhaps, instead, it was some half-recalled memory or distant, bygone thought and not a dream at all. Reading IQ84 by Haruki Murakami was more dream than reality, yet rooted in a style and world so vivid and vibrant as to hint at lucidity.

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I’ve been a Murakami fan since Professor Shippy had my class read After the Quake in Postmodern Faerie Tales. I’ve never been disappointed by a Murakami novel and IQ84 is no different. In the interest of full disclosure, it is long. It took me a good month to read through. Clocking in at a hefty 1,157 pages, it is easily the size of three novels.

At it’s heart, IQ84 is the story of the connection between two people, Tengo and Aomame, whose relationship tests the boundaries of space and time. It is a story about love, power, and the indomitable forces that govern the universe.  It’s simultaneously a romance, mystery, and fantasy with a smattering of action and intrigue thrown in the mix. The book is set up in a three act structure with three “books” taking place over different months in the year 1984: April to June, July to September, and October to December. Throughout, the point of view switches back and forth between Tengo and Aomame.

A friend of mine described Murakami’s novels as books where nothing really happens and yet you find yourself riveted. He writes fascinating novels with plausible supernatural angles. IQ84 isn’t a terribly action packed novel. It  meanders, moving at its own pace and taking its time getting to the finish line. But that is not to say it isn’t interesting. There are certainly some heart pounding and nerve wracking scenes. A few times I had to put the book aside in my anguish. Yet, the most engaging part of the novel is not the action but the characters, inhabiting Tengo and Aomame’s worlds and minds so fully I felt as if I knew them personally. Murakami also takes his time in acquainting you with the characters, revealing dribs and drabs about their past and personality so that it almost does feel like you’re getting to know them in real time, being slowly fed spools of their lives. IQ84 is a novel to luxuriate in. I enjoyed just being along for the ride, not knowing until the end where on earth (or not earth) we were heading.

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Real Estate Anxiety Hour

Hello my lovelies. I am still in the midst of finishing 1Q84 (I think this is the week guys, really!). So instead of a book review, we’re going to talk about real estate. We are in the middle of attempting to close on an apartment I really, really like and so, naturally, I feel like I am going to throw up.

Looking for apartments and attempting to secure one is 10% fun and about 90% anxiety inducing horror. There is, of course, the search itself, filled with its huge expectations, as I have discussed before. It seems impossible that the magical apartment that fulfills most of your needs will ever manifest itself. You look on various rental websites for several months and some decent things come up, but for the most part it’s a bust. Either it’s the wrong move in date, too expensive, or in the wrong neighborhood. But then you do find it: an apartment that is reasonable, good location, and nice and that is when the heart palpitating anxiety begins.

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