Monthly Archives: March 2011

Sweet Valley Confidential

Sweet Valley ConfidentialI got really excited last week over something that I read on The Daily Beast. I was at work and I almost jumped out of my chair. Take a look for yourself. Francine Pascal has actually written an entire Sweet Valley High book herself (most of them were written by ghost writers, but the plot lines were written by her) and this one, Sweet Valley Confidential, is set in NYC and Sweet Valley and Jessica and Elizabeth are grown women, aged 27. Pretty much my age, yikes.

I cannot stress how much of a nerd I am, I know, but those books were a huge guilty pleasure of mine during juniorWakefield twins high and high school. I was too young to witness Sweet Valley High‘s real hayday in the 80s, unfortunately. I caught on to the books (and then was hooked on all that silly, glossy perfection) in the late 90s. I haven’t thought about Sweet Valley in years!

So then of course I went onto Amazon and pre-ordered the book for my Kindle. It just arrived today. While I’m very into it, I think Middlesex, which I’m currently reading, may get pushed to the side until I gobble up this new development in the lives of the infamous Wakefield twins.


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The Year of Magical Thinking

Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking is quite the opposite of what I expected from the title. It details a year in her personal life, and what a year. After her only child, Quintana is hospitalized with the flu (which becomes pneumonia, which becomes septic shock), her husband of 40 years, writer John Gregory Dunne, dies of cardiac arrest at their dining table, shortly after they had gone to visit Quintana in the hospital.

Throughout the book, Didion gives readers a glimpse into her head during this time; she elucidates her stages of grief and mourning. During the time she is writing, she is still trying to understand them herself, still trying to bring her husband back to life. Hence, her “magical thinking”. She is reluctant to give away his shoes and clothes, in case he should somehow return.

The intellectual Didion discovers that grief causes the mind to play tricks; she discovers how shallow sanity is.

After reading the jacket cover, I began the book expecting it to be pretty depressing. But Didion really did aJoan Didion, John Gregory Dunne and Quintana beautiful job of trying to make sense of death and sudden misfortune while slipping back through the decades to certain poignant moments of the life she and her husband, and their daughter, shared together. Forty years is a long time to be married. I don’t know what that’s like, but Didion’s reminiscences underscore just how close you become to a person after 40 years, how much a part of her Dunne had become.

I was especially struck by how honest and open Didion is in her accounts. She really doesn’t hide behind anything; her mourning experience, simultaneously unique and standard, is raw and self-medicating.

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I’ve been away from the computer for a bit because I lost my WiFi network at home. So I have a few updates all at once.

1. I finished Moon Palace and I still have great things to say about that book, but I also must add that I did not like it as much as I liked The Book of Illusions. I have been reading that Sunset Park, Man in the Dark, and Invisible are among Paul Auster’s better efforts, so I’ll be adding those to my list.

2. I went to the library and checked out Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (somehow I had previously let that one slip by me) and The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. There were others closer to the top of my list, but my neighborhood library is small and I didn’t feel like driving around to other local libraries. So I started reading The Year of Magical Thinking, which is about how Didion deals with the death of her husband. Not the most cheerful subject matter, but I will finish reading it nonetheless.

3. I watched Winter’s Bone, one of the recent Best Picture nominees, and I was impressed by the film, I was impressed by the whole backwoods underworld created, but most of all I was impressed by Jennifer Lawrence. I had never seen her or heard of her before this film was released, but basically, I think she’s the next Charlize Theron. And she’s so young, I’m looking forward to seeing what she does next. Also, she looked ridiculously gorgeous at the Oscars. John Hawkes gave a great performance as well, I like that guy. I stalked him on IMDb a bit after I watched the movie. Since I couldn’t get online after I watched it, I should have jotted down some notes or typed up a Word document so that my impressions and opinions were fresh, but this is what I’m left with. It’ll have to do.

4. Last night, I watched 127 Hours. I was dreading it; when an IMDb synopsis states that “a mountain climber becomes trapped under a boulder…and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive”, it’s not hard to realize what exactly he has to resort to. But because it was also a Best Picture nominee, a Best Actor nominee, Danny Boyle directed it, and it’s based on a true story, I knew I needed to watch it.  Um, wow. Let me just say that it is a very powerful, moving film and the acting and editing is mesmerizing. But that scene that I’d been dreading turned out to be the 2nd-most-difficult thing in cinema to watch after the whipping of Jesus in Passion of the Christ. It wasn’t really about the blood and gore, there have definitely been more graphic scenes on celluloid before. It was just so painful and draining to try to understand how strong the will to live must be and how much courage it would take to break and then cut off your own forearm. Biting down, screaming, and just finding a way to do it without passing out. I couldn’t shut my eyes, the scene is too important, unlike in other films where most violence is just gratuitous. The gory scene of this film is the whole point of the film. It serves to demonstrate how strong the will to survive can be and the amounts of untapped strength that can be summoned when the only other option would be to surrender to death. I had my forearms on my forehead though, tears were streaming down my face, and I started to feel a bit sweaty. And then that film kept me awake after the credits had rolled, and I couldn’t go to sleep. It might be helpful to have someone’s hand to squeeze during this; I watched it by myself. Phew. I definitely recommend it though.

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Moon Palace

Moon Palace by Paul AusterSo currently, I’m reading Paul Auster’s Moon Palace. I actually had never read any of his books until the English editor of a newspaper I was writing for in Buenos Aires recommended him. I saw a copy of The Book of Illusions in the small English section of the airport in Montevideo, Uruguay and bought it without hesitation. I loved that book.

So now I am 3/4 through Moon Palace, and I have got to say, Auster does not disappoint. Now I want to read his other novels. I love the span of his imagination, the scope and unlikeliness of events in his characters’ lives, yet how it all resonates with things that I actually feel and think as well. He is one of those writers who drag you deep into the mind of their protagonist and the protagonist’s world, so that even during the hours when you’re not reading the book, you’re walking around with the character’s mindset and thinking about the characters like you know them better than most of your friends.Paul Auster

In Moon Palace, the protagonist’s name is Marco Stanley Fogg, but you almost forget that; he is seldom addressed by his name throughout the book, and then his life recedes into the background when the events of Thomas Effing’s life take center stage for a good portion of the book.

Anyway, just coming out of that portion now, but just wanted to get down how much I love Auster’s style of writing. And his characters are so unique. I’ll have more to say when I finish the book, which will probably be soon!

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Filed under Contemporary Fiction


Welcome to Heathcliff to Hayworth! I decided to start this blog because:

  1. I’m at work, so as usual, I’d rather be doing anything than what I’m supposed to be doing.
  2. I actually really love books and reading them – always have – and once I got a Kindle for Christmas 2009, I read so many more books in 2010 than I usually do. So blogging will be a way for me to document and keep track of all of the books I read from here on out, as well as my impressions and opinions of them.
  3. Ditto for some select movies.
  4. I’d like to share my opinions with other readers/film lovers and hopefully spark some discussions.
  5. I just like the idea of blogging and would like to see how far I can go with this.

Please please always feel free to give me recommendations for books and movies that you love!

Anyway, here goes nothin’…or somethin’.

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