Wednesday, September 5, 2012

vacation, magic, tabloids, hardy men

So, I went to Canada for five days with my mother, my older brother, and his girlfriend. We had a wonderful time seeing plays and eating a ton. I brought several nice outfits and then wore the same pair of jeans for three days, which makes a successful vacation in my book. I am distinctly chubbier than when I left, which should be a good thing - I needed to put on weight - but I am having a hard time seeing it as such. Ah, body image issues, you are so much fun! Please go away now!

We saw a mediocre "Henry V" (the title actor didn't have much range and too much energy was put into making the production movie-like), a sweet "Much Ado About Nothing", a fascinating "Elektra" (very stylized, very modern, beautiful translation), a wonderful "Cymbeline", and an excellent "Pirates of Penzance" (was getting bad reviews, we don't like the actor playing the Pirate King, we were very worried; and then it was steampunky and slapstick and hilarious and great). Just lovely.

On the trip I finished The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, which I eventually decided I didn't like. It is about two young magicians whose mentors set them against each other (but of course they fall in loooove), and the competition takes the form of a magical circus with increasingly complicated exhibitions and performances. Too much of this book was description of the exhibitions, which Morgenstern didn't do well enough, and the magic didn't follow its own rules all the time (the hero's magic did, but the heroine was of course perfect and so could do anything she wanted). Some of the supporting characters were fun, but the hero and heroine were very dull, and this book ended up being just far too twee for me.

Then I read The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars, by Paul Collins. It's about the newspaper coverage of a dismembered body found in New York City in 1897, and is quite fascinating. My one problem with it is that Collins introduces too many policemen and journalists too early and then expects us to remember them all. I lost track of which journalist worked for which paper, and occasionally couldn't remember whether the man in a given scene was a journalist or a detective. But other than that it was an excellent read.    

And then I decided to give A Breath of Snow and Ashes, by Diana Gabaldon, a whirl. I picked it up from the library, thinking trash would be good for vacation reading. And I have read other books in this series, so I know they are serious trash. A couple years ago I ran across the first one in a used bookstore; reading the back, I realized that I had actually encountered this book at my cousin's house many years before, when I was still young enough to have a fairly giddy reaction to explicit sex in books.* And by the time I found it again, that cousin had died. So that day I headed to the counter with Outlander, and its two sequels which had also been gifted to the used bookstore, out of nostalgia more than anything else.

Well, I did not have to read long before realizing why someone, possibly my cousin, had donated all three at a wallop, but apparently in the intervening years I forgot just how bad they are. The premise is that our perfect-in-every-way author proxy heroine travels back in time from 1945 to 1743 and meets a six-foot-five Scotsman with perfect teeth. As one does. And then there is lots of sex. And lots of homophobia. And lots of racism. But mostly the madness lies in the gender roles, which are so bad and so offensive that just the first hundred pages of A Breath of Snow and Ashes (which was all I managed) was enough to make me lose my mind. During the two days I was reading it, I tried about four times to pick a fight with Berowne, simply because whenever he sent me a chat message all I could picture was a drunken unwashed Gabaldon hero, stabbing brutishly at his iPhone with a body part not necessarily his finger, grunting, "My woman!" and looking forward to the time when he can force himself on me, in public, while I say, "No," because that is what a real romantic hero does.

You may think I'm making that up. I'm not, and the character performing this charming act on his wife is from the twentieth century, not the eighteenth. Ladies and gentlemen, Diana Gabaldon's idea of true love. I hope you were not eating while reading this.   

Berowne, not being a Gabaldon hero, reacted to my incendiary attempts with mild bafflement rather than condescension and physical assault, and eventually I put this terrible book aside and almost immediately realized it had been making me insane. (Yes, I apologized to him.)

I'm home now, with my dogs, and have retrieved the muscle car from Claudio, so I have transportation even if it is very silly transportation. I get to see Berowne soon. I'm reading books I like. Things are pretty darn good.

*So I was probably about twenty-one.

No comments:

Post a Comment