Posts filed under ‘Rereadings’
I was relatively new to New York when I first read Daphne Uviller’s Super in the City. I had only been there four months or so and was still feeling like a sore thumb in that throbbing metropolis.
I read Super for work and while I liked it well enough, once I finished it, I remember thinking it was really fluffy. Like, how and why was I even reading something so unabashedly silly? It made my teeth hurt with sweetness. I had every intention of never reading it again. I’d probably donate it to the Strand.
Imagine my surprise when, a week later, I was still thinking about it. I ended up reading it again two more times within the month and a few more times over the next year as I tried to find my way in my new urban home. Super in the City stuck with me. It resonated, striking a chord I hadn’t known I wanted to hear, and made me feel just a little less like I didn’t belong. And it hasn’t been off my shelf since.
Super in the City tells the story of Zephyr Zuckerman, a young woman who doesn’t know what to do with her life who moves back home to Greenwich village and takes on the role of super in her parents’ brownstone. In her new “job” as super, she becomes entangled in mysterious and possibly criminal events beyond her control, meets a studly exterminator, and generally finds her way in life. It’s a pretty basic story, but Uviller is a zippy and funny writer, so the book flies by.
But there’s something beyond the book’s basic plot and Uviller’s enjoyable writing style that has kept me coming back over the years. And I’m pretty sure it’s Zephyr herself.
Zephyr Zuckerman is probably the most real person-ish fictional character I’ve ever read. Every time I read this book, I newly appreciate how genuine she feels. She doesn’t come across as a harried chick lit heroine. She feels like a human woman. She’s allowed to be herself, her own imaginative, crazy, hopeful, obsessive, morose, self-conscious, confident, wacky self. She’s a thousand things, many of them not necessarily positive — like a real person — and I think that realness is what resonated with me about Super after all these years. (more…)
Join me as I rant about Jane Austen’s classic morality tale for probably far longer than necessary (seriously: buckle in, Janeites, it’s going to be a bumpy ride) in this week’s edition of “Rereadings.”
For a long time, I irrevocably tied together Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park with its 1999 film adaptation. Indeed, I believe I saw the movie first and then tackled the book. Consequently, perhaps, I enjoyed the book rather more than I would have under other circumstances.
The film’s version of protagonist Fanny Price bears almost no resemblance to the book version, although both generally make the same decisions for generally the same reasons. However, film-Fanny did these things with a fiery spunk and thoroughly modern attitude that would be utterly anathema to book-Fanny. Film-Fanny was given literary pretensions (she’s an aspiring writer, like young Austen herself, and reads voraciously) as an explanation for occasional social awkwardness while book-Fanny is your garden variety introvert, no further explanation required.
Film-Fanny was, in short, an utter anachronism, but one that aligned nicely with late-nineties pop feminism. The film reimagined Fanny Price to fit within 1990s female empowerment and, at the time, I ate it up. I loved her frustration with society’s confinements. I loved her dreams of writerly success. (Something film-Fanny shared with another of my favorite literarily-inclined firebrands, Jo March.) And I loved her slow-burn love affair with cousin Edmund.
So, when I read the book shortly after seeing the film, I overlayed the film’s version of the story on top of the actual book. In consequence, I loved the book, too. I felt closer to Fanny Price than I did to any other Austen heroine. I knew I was no Elizabeth Bennett or either Dashwood sister. I was an introvert, quiet and bookish myself, and reveled in the mixture of film- and book-Fanny provided in Mansfield Park.
For some reason or other, I was lately inspired to revisit both versions of Mansfield Park. I started reading the book and, midway, paused to watch the 1999 film and then finished the book a couple of weeks later. In these revisits, I was shocked at how little either compared to my memory of them. (more…)
I had been traveling for almost two months. I had just finished Perez-Reverte’s not-terribly-uplifting The Siege. And I was coming off a mini-family reunion that was anything but relaxing. My inner self wanted to curl up into the fetal position and be told a good, old-fashioned, beautiful story. And my outer self wasn’t too far behind in those desires.
So it was I ended up at Florence’s Amerigo Vespucci Airport (yes, really) with my Kindle in hand six hours early for my flight; a flight, it should be noted, that would eventually be delayed, then diverted through Bologna for no apparent reason, and finally arrive in Paris about five hours later than it was supposed to in the dead of night. I was exhausted and I just wanted something that felt familiar and good and comforting.
Enter Erin Morgenstern. (more…)
Five years ago, I sat on a train heading northward feeling both exhilarated and somewhat terrified. I had just quit my job, my very first job out of college, and was speeding homeward through upstate New York for a visit with family before departing for England and graduate school. I had a full day’s train journey ahead of me and a pile of books beside me.
When I booked the ticket, the slow pace of train travel seemed like the perfect way to disconnect from the rush of Manhattan and the last-minute tying up of loose ends attendant upon leaving a job. Now, as the tracks disappeared ahead and behind me, I was mired in swirling thoughts, worries, and hopes. I was excited, mostly, for the next step in my carefully-plotted-since-college Life Plan to begin. But that excitement was mixed with the trepidation that comes with any next step: what would it be like? Would I like it as much as I imagined I would? Would it all be worth leaving my life in New York behind?
In this state of mind, I pulled Lev Grossman’s The Magicians out of my satchel. I wanted — no, I needed — to get away, even for just a few hours, from the looping thoughts in my own head. I needed an escape and I was hoping The Magicians would get me there. So, ignoring the large woman in the seat next to me who noisily chomped away on various foodstuffs for the entirety of our voyage, I opened the book and quietly disappeared into another world. (more…)
I am still working my way through the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, inspiration for HBO’s A Game of Thrones. According to my Kindle, I still have 14 hours and 23 minutes left, despite hacking away at it for roughly a month.
I am enjoying having the time to contemplate different themes in this set of works, however rather than whipping through shorter books and dashing off a quick blog post before moving on to the next. “A Song of Ice and Fire” gives me a chance to experience what I often long for — a hugely complex story full of vibrant characters that seems as though it will never end.
The series has often been compared to “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, but I would argue that it is actually more complex. J. R. R. Tolkien was a linguist, a world-builder. I would argue he was less interested in plot than he was the context of the world he created, though there are some who would disagree with me. George R. R. Martin, however, has built a world and then peopled it, creating fantastically complex characters who cannot be easily defined.
I first read Stardust by Neil Gaiman when I was eighteen. I was a first year at college and, what with adjusting to everything from the new rigors of college academics to living in a tiny room in an old house with a gaggle of other equally stressed, but fiercely competent and intelligent young women, I was perhaps more keen than usual for fantastical escape. (more…)
For many years, I held a deeply-rooted resentment towards books I was, at one point or another, required to read for class during middle and high school. I felt the forced nature of the reads and the ensuing painful discussion of them in class ruined pretty much everything about them. The very aspects that made them “classics” and “required reading” were undone by the nature of the read. Could a classic really be appreciated when it was being shoved down your throat and teachers are going on endlessly about imagery? I decided not, resented the imposition on my reading time, and snubbed a large bulk of the literary canon, largely out of teenage pique. (more…)