Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Into the Wild

For book club, it was my month to choose our reading material. I decided to read something I’ve been meaning to read for a while and just hadn’t gotten around to. On top of that, I wanted to give my co-readers a choice. I needed at least two books with similar plots or themes. That’s when I decided on Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Into the Wild. Both by the same author, on my ‘need to read’ shelf, and adventure writing, I thought they’d be different than other books we read.

Into the Wild is a book that stirs up opinions. God knows it did in book club. Chris McCandless just graduated from Emery and decided to go on his very own Odyssey out to the west of the United States. The year is 1992 and Chris didn’t tell anyone where he was going, opting to be like his favorite writers and spend time in the wild away from civilization. His ultimate goal: make it to Alaska, the last wilderness and live off the land. Along the way, he made friends, had near death experiences, and lived his idealized life. Unfortunately, there’s a reason it’s an idealized life. Chris was found outside of Fairbanks, Alaska dead. In Krakauer’s book, we follow Chris around the country and get to know him the best we can.

I hesitantly picked up this book. All I could think of was, this kid is a dumb ass. Who burns their money, deserts their family, and goes into Alaska with very little knowledge of how to live off the land? He deserved what he got for his arrogance. But then I started reading about McCandless. I started understanding his longing for nature, the unknown, testing his limits, and a life altering trip. I envied his ability to have a philosophy that he lived by, truly live by. His ideas were romantic, and as Krakauer points out, not always based on truth in the case of The Call of the Wild, but there was something innocent and beautiful in his ideals. I connected with McCandless. Although I’m not going to hike around the country, I understood the longing to get out of modern society with all its distractions and reconnect with the beauty and overwhelming power of nature.

The book brought up great discussion points from communing with nature, ideals, the power of fiction, youth and stupidity, and somehow sex (it always seems to creep in there, that’s what she said).

I highly recommend this book to the adventure seeker or nature lover. Maybe you will hate McCandless for being a selfish kid. Maybe you’ll love the idea of traveling without expectation or limits. It was surprising how much I enjoyed this book while still having reservations about the main character. If you’ve seen the movie, give the book a try. I’ve heard they paint two different pictures.
If you liked this book and want others like it here are my suggestions:

  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
  • Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
  • A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Catastrophe on Everest

Jon Krakauer is a writer and adventure seeker. In his book, Into Thin Air he chronicles his expedition to climb Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, for a magazine story and the tragic events that follow.

Krakauer pumped this book out months after the catastrophic events that killed eight climbers as a seeming way to work out his survivor’s remorse and get the story out before it became muffled due to time. He works through what went wrong, who died, and gives a detailed account of what happened. He interviewed those who were there and who knew or heard what happened to get as much perspective as possible. But at 26,000+ feet, judgment and brain function go out the window and huge mistakes are made, as we see in this book.

The book can be disturbing because of details and decisions made throughout the ascent and descent. The hardest part of reading this book, from my perspective, are the mistakes made. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and decision making at sea level where oxygen is plentiful makes all the difference, but when Krakauer talks about leaving people to die, I had objections.

Krakauer’s writing was detailed and the reader gets the idea of what climbing Everest is like: not fun! For most of the book, all I could think was “why?”. I understand wanting to chase your dreams, but when they lead up a mountain full of fatalities where there is a “death zone” (any altitude above 26,000 feet where oxygen is at a third of what it is at sea level), it just seems silly. Man will always push himself to the limit, explore, discover the undiscovered, but to me, climbing Everest seems like either a bucket list assignment or something to brag about. Not worth it in my ever so humble opinion.

When it comes down to it, this was a good book. You get the sense for the distress, inability to make clear decisions, and strain the climbers went through. I felt for Krakauer to a fault. In the book, you read his insecurities and distress over decisions that were made, but at the same time, I had a hard time understanding these decisions. Morals seem to fly out the window at the top of the mountain and people in need are literally stepped over for the sake of a triumphant moment.

If you’re into adventure/travel books, this is a good one. Here are some others you might enjoy:

  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  • Dark Summit: The true story of Everest’s most controversial season by Nick Heil
  • The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Modern Girl in a Regency World

As my May Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary challenge, I read Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler. Courtney suffered a bad breakup with her ex-fiancĂ© and wakes up in Regency England in the body of Jane Mansfield. Suddenly, Courtney must adapt to a different lifestyle, family, society, and, weirdly enough, body! As Jane, a 30 year old unmarried woman, her mother is desperately trying to marry her to the new neighbor, Mr. Edgeworth, who just so happens to be a very desirable man. But without Jane’s memories, Courtney is unsure how to proceed with this man she finds herself attracted to. Being a modern girl in a Regency body is a whole different experience.

For a woman who calls herself a lover of Jane Austen, it was disappointing that Courtney wasn’t more aware of how to act like a respectable lady while borrowing another’s body. How does she not know that relations between men and women were very formal until marriage?? Don’t go off alone with a man! These were the points that truly annoyed me in the novel. If you read enough Jane, you should understand some of the social structures.

I listened to this book and thought about stopping once, but decided, since I had a long drive, just to get through it. The reader is Orlagh Cassidy and I thought she did a good job of having both English accents and Courtney’s American accent. I enjoyed listening to her, but the novel itself irritated me at points.

The novel started off very slowly. Instead of getting into the plot, I felt the author was more interested in the things people don’t talk about during this time period such as the amounts of food, bathing, menstrual cycles, using the toilet. These are all intriguing points, but she should have done a better job of developing plot and including these details. I’m reading this novel for a story and I felt it was very flat until about half way through. On top of the fascination with Regency unspeakables, the author was also very much into the metaphysical idea of taking over someone’s body. Yes, this is a strange happening, but do we, the audience, need to go through all of your thinking on becoming someone else? If this were a more literary novel, I’d appreciate this discussion, but coming from this book which is really meant to be fun, it just felt like little rants.

Then there was the story, when it finally took route. Jane/Courtney does not want to marry Mr. Edgeworth because she believes he is a ladies’ man, yet she makes out with a couple of men. Talk about hypocrisy. I liked Mr. Edgeworth and his sister and found the story intriguing once I got into it, but mostly I just found a lot of holes that never were tied up.

All in all, not my favorite JAFF read, but a very different look at the Regency world.

If you liked this book or are intrigued by it, try these:

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original stories inspired by literature’s most astute observer of the human heart by Laurel Ann Nattress

Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Catch Up with Bicentenary Challenge

So I started the Bicentenary Challenge for Pride and Prejudice, but I haven't posted any of the reviews from the last 4 months because I just joined. Luckily, I'm a nerd awesome reader/Jane Austen fan and have read and watched a number of P&P-esque materials since January. So let's launch into them!

January: Lost in Austen (2008 movie)
Amanda Price lives in modern day London and is a lover of Jane Austen, especially Pride and Prejudice. One day she discovers none other than Lizzy Bennet in her apartment. Apparently, the closet in Amanda's bathroom that she has never been able to pry open leads to a closet in the Bennet household. And just like that, Amanda and Elizabeth switch places. What ensues is Amanda's disastrous journey through what should be the story of Pride and Prejudice.

The film was too long, first and foremost. It's almost 2.5 hours long! I kept waiting for it to end and it had ample opportunity to do so, but it kept dragging along. For a woman who declares that she knows the story of P&P backwards, Amanda sure does a good job of messing it up! Although she changes some things for the good, she foils a lot of plot points and is annoying to boot. All in all, I wouldn't recommend it. If it were an hour shorter, I might say try it, but it's too long and frustrating to any true Jane Austen fan.

February The Three Colonels by Jack Caldwell
See review.

March Pride and Prejudice (1995 BBC Miniseries)
My friend and I decided to watch the full miniseries in HD one day. It was epic. I mean come on! Colin Firth in HD?? It was like he was right there smoldering in the living room.

Is there anything I can add to the fact that I adore this miniseries? It's so well done! Colin Firth is an amazing, brooding, proud Darcy and Jennifer Ehle is the perfect Elizabeth Bennet. She embodies exactly what I think Lizzy was, intelligent, witty, funny, with grace and poise. She knows how to marshal her feelings while remaining optimistic and not taking life and society too seriously. The one complaint I have is with the actress who plays Jane. Although I think her acting and character for the eldest Miss Bennet is superb, I think Lizzy is clearly the better looking of the two and Jane is supposed to be the "beauty". Other than that, it is, in my humble opinion, the best adaption of P&P.

April "The Lizzy Bennet Diaries" (online series)
Through these 100 video diaries, we meet Lizzy Bennet, the middle sister of the Bennet family, who lives in modern day California. Lizzy is finishing up her master's degree in communications and living at home with her overbearing mother, nonchalant father, and two sisters, Jane and Lydia.

This is truly an enjoyable modern look at what Lizzy Bennet would be like and be doing in our day and age. The different characters were fun and quirky. I enjoyed how they adapted the story to fit into our society, such as the scandal created by Lydia and Wickham. I came into the series when it was nearing the end, so I watched most of it in big bunches, which I preferred. On top of the biweekly youtube videos, there are also Tweets from various members of the story. I would certainly suggest this to any lovers of P&P!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge

It astounds me that I did not know it was Pride and Prejudice's 200th birthday!

Well Jamie from The Hodge-Podge Gallery (an amazing blog about life, cooking, reading, movies, makeup, and advice) had a blog post about a P&P challenge through Austenprose, a Jane Austen blog. I'm a bit late in joining, but considering I've been reading JAFF like crazy to gear up for my Jane in June events at the library, it seemed like a good idea to join.

I'm joining as an Aficianada (thus reading, listening, watching 9-12 selections).

Since I have already been reading and watching Pride and Prejudice fan fiction, I have finished some in months gone by. Here's my listing of books and movies:

Previous JAFF I've read/watched in these months. Will try to write reviews...
January: Lost in Austen (movie)
February:The Three Colonels by Jack Caldwell
March: Pride and Prejudice (BBC mini series)
April: The Lizzy Bennet Diaries (online mini series)

Really starting the challenge here (Am I cheating?):
May: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Rigler (Audio)
June: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
July: A Jane Austen Education: How six novels taught me about love, friendship, and the things that really matter by William Deresiewicz
August: The Trouble with Mr. Darcy by Sharon Lathan
September: Austensibly Ordinary by Alyssa Goodnight
October:The Unexpected Miss Bennet by Patrice Sarath
November: Without Reserve by Abigail Reynolds
December: You've Got Mail (movie)

So here we go! Strapping in for a year of Miss Austen with an emphasis on P&P!