*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.
*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the movie Clueless. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. In every relationship, whether familial, platonic, or romantic, there has to be an emotional balance. One person can be the dreamer with out there ideas while the other is level headed and realistic.
In Clueless, Josh Lucas, (Paul Rudd) is the former step-brother of Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone). Due to his being in college compared to Cher still being in high school, he tries to enlighten her about the ways of the world. Though Josh tries to get along with her, they tend to but heads. He thinks that she is a superficial ditz who only thinks about clothes and shopping. Her perception of him is that he is not cool, too serious for his own good, and a politically, a little too soft. His career ambition is to be a lawyer and is spending time with Cher and her father, Mel (Dan Hedaya) to gain some real world experience. But as the narrative rolls on, both Josh and Cher begin to see that perhaps they have more in common than they initially thought.
To sum it up: Though Josh can be the annoying older brother type, he is also not as quick to mansplain as his literary counterpart, Mr. Knightley. Like his step sister and future girlfriend, he has a good heart, but he sees the world in a different way. Which makes them compatible and will hopefully lead to long, healthy romantic partnership.
War has a way to pulling us apartment, forcing us to see someone else as “the other”. It can also bring us together and remind us of our common humanity.
Letters Across the Sea, by Genevieve Graham, was published earlier this year. In Toronto in the summer of 1933, Hannah Dreyfus and Molly Ryan are best friends. Both the grandchildren of immigrants (Eastern European Jews and Irish Catholic respectively), they are friends in a time in which antisemitism is rising in their hometown. Though Molly only sees her BFF and has a crush on Max, Hannah’s big brother, other people are not so tolerant of their differences. Things come to a boil in August during the Christie Pits riot, forcing Hannah and Molly to go their separate ways.
Six years later, World War II is on the horizon. After years of toiling at any job she could get, Molly has finally gotten her dream job as a journalist. Men from across the country have enlisted. Among them are Max and Molly’s brothers. When the letters from the soldiers start to arrive, Molly must contend with the past and the unspoken truth that has been buried since that night in 1933.
This book is amazing. Graham’s eye for the historical facts while creating a fictional world is top notch. I was fully invested in the story, hoping that Molly and Max would get together while praying that the male characters would come home. It was a history lesson in the best way, learning about this time in Canadian history without feeling like the reader is sitting in a university lecture hall.
Today is the 204 anniversary of the passing of Jane Austen. To say that she was extraordinary in her time and ours is and will always be an understatement. Though her physical remains are long gone, her name and her work will last forever.
I apologize for not posting last week. I moved and writing temporarily went to the back burner.
*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.
*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the movie Clueless. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. I remember being the new kid in school. It is one of the most awkward experiences of my life up to that point. You want to look like you belong, but the reality is that you stick out like a sore thumb.
In Clueless, Tai Frasier (the late Brittany Murphy) has just transferred high schools. Befriended by Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) and Dionne Davenport (Stacey Dash), they decide that Tai needs a makeover. Like her literary predecessor, Harriet Smith, Tai is an outsider who looks up her new pals. When she starts to become friendly with socially inappropriate skater boy Travis (Breckin Meyer), she is steered toward big man on campus Elton (Jeremy Sisto).
But Elton is first rate asshole. He is using Tai to get to Cher. After this revelation and nearly being killed, Tai becomes confident and is no longer the student to Cher’s teacher. This leads to a temporary crush on Josh Lucas (Paul Rudd) and eventually back to Travis and teenage happily ever after (at least for the time being).
To sum it up: Switching schools is an opportunity to start over. But if you were to ask the young person, they would likely say that wished that they were back in their old school. Instead of living in the past, Tai accepts her fate and has the social/love life that the high school experience is made of.
Menstruation is a normal and natural part of human existence. But in many parts of the world and many cultures, it is considered to be a taboo subject that is both misunderstood and vilified.
Period. End of Sentence.: A New Chapter in the Fight for Menstrual Justice, by Anita Diamant (author of The Red Tent), was published earlier this year. Inspired by the 2018 Netflix film Period. End of Sentence., Diamant explores how one’s monthly visitor is perceived. Throughout most of human history and even into our present day, it is considered to be dirty. There are traditions that state that when someone is menstruating, they must be separated from their families and every day lives. Due to this false and misleading mythology, many women and girls are denied the same educational and professional opportunities that their brothers, fathers, and husbands don’t think twice about. She also talks about how individual companies and governments are slowly starting to undo the menstrual injustice that have plagued humanity for millennia.
I really enjoyed this book. It delves into a topic that it is intrinsic to the experience of half of the human population, but it is not given the respect that it is due. One thing I was surprised about was that some men don’t even know what a period is. Others believe it to be related to sex and sexual activity, forcing young women into a life that does not exist beyond the borders of home and family.
Art does not come from nothing. It comes from the world around us and the experiences that have shaped our lives.
Jane Austen: Writing, Society, Politics by Tom Keymer, was published last year. In the book, Keymer walks the reader through the Regency era and how that world had a hand in developing her voice as a writer. He goes into the politics of the period, the complete disenfranchisement of women, and how a strict, but slowly fading class system played a role in her work.
I loved it. It was short, concise, and a reminder as to why Austen’s work continues to be timeless and universal. I will say, however, that it is aimed at two specific and different groups of readers. The book can be read in an academic setting, but it is neither dry nor stuffy. It also squarely falls into the Janeite camp. My one warning is that to truly enjoy it, the reader should be well versed in her life and work. Otherwise, they may not understand the nuances and the details that a long-time Jane Austen fan can easily identify.
There are two kinds of loyalty: loyalty to one self and loyalty to others. The question is, where does one draw the line between listening to your inner voice and putting someone else first?
Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer of you know who, published his memoir last year. It is entitled Disloyal: A Memoir: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump. In the book, he writes in great detail about the years that he worked for the former President. The man he describes is one that cares only for himself. He will say anything and do anything to get his way, not caring about the consequences that other people will face. You know who is crass, crude, racist, cheap, and was known to fly off the handle when he did not get his way. As Cohen spent more time with his ex-employer, he began to lose himself in the job and the person he reported to.
Though Cohen calls it a memoir, I would call it a confessional. He puts everything on the page, leaving nothing behind. The book is well written. As I was walking in his shoes, I understood why he continued his employment in spite of the number of times that the legal and moral boundaries were crossed. Though he comes off as contrite, a part of me will never be able to forget or forgive his actions.
If nothing else, it is a reminder if why this you know who should never be allowed to get anywhere near any political office in this country again.
Food is more than the physical nourishment our body needs to function. It can also be stand in for something else in our life that has not been entirely dealt with.
In the new Melissa Broder novel published earlier this year, Milk Fed: A Novel, Los Angeles transplant Rachel was raised Jewish, but those days are long gone. Outside of her job at a talent agency, the most important thing is her physical appearance. She counts calories like the world is ending and can be found after work at the gym, furiously working off whatever she eat earlier that day. Following up on her therapist’s recommendation, she cuts of all communication with her mother for 90 days. Since she was little, Rachel has been constantly reminded to watch what she eat.
Shortly after, she meets Miriam, the zaftig employee behind the counter of one of Rachel’s favorite frozen yogurt places. Miriam is more orthodox in her practice of their mutual faith and intent on making sure that her soon to be new friend is well fed. Taken by Miriam, Rachel goes on a journey of family, faith, sex, and learning to love yourself.
I loved this book. Instead of being one of those obnoxious skinny women who makes the rest of us feel unattractive, Rachel is human, complicated, and completely relatable. I loved her emotional trek as she opened herself up to eating, Miriam (and everything Miriam represented), and learning to let go of the parental criticism that makes itself too comfortable in our consciousness.
I wanted to like this book. If I am to be completely honest, it was an infodump. In writing terms, an infodump is where the writer(s) provide the reader with a lot of information without emotion or insight into what the characters are thinking or feeling. Now granted, this is a memoir and not a fiction book. What I was missing was the quickening of my pulse and the uncertainty of the dangerous situations she put herself into.
The mark of an adult, in my opinion, is the ability to admit when one has made a mistake and accept the consequences.
On Friday, Olympic hopeful Sha’Carri Richardson spoke to The Today Show, She apologized for drug use that led to her one month suspension from competing in the trials for this month’s Olympics.
I admire Ms. Richardson for accepting her punishment with grace and maturity. While I understand that she was grieving for her mother, what she did was wrong. Instead of taking a tantrum (unlike a certain former President) in public, she put on her big girl pants, and let the chips fall where they may.
It is a lesson we can all learn, regardless of how old or young we are.