Book Review Project – Landline

I picked Rainbow Rowell’s Landline to review for this assignment because I adore the way she writes. Her characters are always extremely relatable and well-written. I’ve read a number of her works and happened to have one book of her that hadn’t read just lying around, thus becoming my book to review. I fell in love with this novel, just like every other Rowell novel that I have read. Landline is about love, marriage and learning how to make it work. It lets us into the marriage of Georgie and Neal, allowing us to explore the concepts of give and take and when to realize that your are taking more than you are giving. Its a fun quirky commentary of married life and fate that really hits home.  It’s set in the week leading up to Christmas and follows her journey of personal growth.

“There’s a magic phone in my childhood bedroom. I can use it to call husband in the past. (My husband who isn’t my husband yet. My husband who maybe shouldn’t be my husband at all.)

There’s a magic phone in my childhood bedroom. I unplugged it this morning and hid it in the closet. Maybe all the phones in the house are magic.

Or maybe I’m magic. Temporarily magic (HA! Time travel pun!) Does it count as time travel? If it’s just my voice traveling?

There’s a magic phone hidden in my closet. And I think it’s connected to the past. And I think I’m supposed to fix something. I think I’m supposed to make something right.” (Rowell, 139)

Georgie McCool is a wife, a mother and a comedy writer. She’s been working towards her own sitcom with her best friend,Jeff, for years. But when opportunity comes knocking at an inopportune time, she has to make a decision that throws her family into turmoil. Just days before Christmas, Georgie is now separated from her family as they travel to Omaha for the holidays. Georgie, left behind in California with no explanation from her husband and a family that thinks he’s left her, she strives to finish her work before the deadline and ultimately win her dream show. But when her husband becomes more and more unwilling to answer Georgie’s calls, she starts to wonder if he really did leave her. Not wanting to return to her empty house, she visits her mother and decides again to try to call her husband. Because her cellphone is chronically dead, she opts to use her old yellow landline. She quickly discovers that the Neal on the end of the line is not her husband…yet. Somehow the phone connects to the Neal she knew before they were married, the Neal from 1998 that was going to propose on Christmas of that year.  Like any normal person would be she’s shocked at first but then realizes that maybe she’s suppose to fix something. This moment of realization triggers Georgie to take an intense look at their relationship. She decides that it’s time for her to give a little more and makes a grand gesture that she hopes will help save her marriage.

As I mentioned above, my favorite thing about Rowell’s novels are the characters. She writes characters that feel like old friends, comforting and familiar, but still quirky enough to keep you guessing.Her female protagonists are relatable without being so to a fault. Georgie is well-rounded, flawed and she has to face these things and grow. She also does a good job of writing relationships at different levels. In landline, the reader gets a very frank view of married life. The ups and downs of it and the consequence of taking more than your are giving.

I think others will like this book because they feature a number of quirky, well-rounded characters that they can relate to. These characters like people you know and she writes them into existence effortlessly. I haven’t read a book by Rowell that hasn’t warmed my heart or brought me to tears at some point. Every character that she’s written allow you to relate to them in a different way.  I think that readers will enjoy her unique characters, the funny dialogue and the wickedly relatable retrospective journey that the main character takes in this novel.

Landline

Rainbow Rowell

310 pages

St. Martin’s Press

$24.99 USD

 

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Defamiliarization in “The Bald Soprano”

I attended Saturday night’s performance of “The Bald Soprano.”Seeing the play performed really emphasized the absurd nature of the poem making it more entertaining and understandable in some aspects. I can definitely see how one could apply defamiliarization as a technique in absurdist theater because of the fact that it destroys the common notions and images of conventional theater.  

While watching it I noted that that this production was different due to the fact that instead of making the couples stereo-typically British, they rather make them overtly American. There were several aspects that came together to make this performance really work. The first thing that I noticed was the way both conversation between occur. When reading the play it the conversation between the Smiths seemed to read as dry and calm, while the Martins conversation seemed to be rather excited and explosive. When it was performed, they took the absurdist nature to heart performing the Smiths rather habitual scene with an excitable nature while the Martin’s seemingly odd situation with a dry and almost tedious nature. Swapping the assumed emotions of the scene was something that definitely worked towards the absurdist nature of the play and to defamiliarize the audience with they typical emotions that might associate with said scene.

Another interesting aspect to discuss is the use of the clock, something that became apparently clear to me while watching the play was the almost hypnotic effect the chimes of the clock has on the actions and behaviors of the characters. For example, after each set of the chimes the behavior of the character’s seemed to become more and more absurd. Another moment of defamiliarization in the play comes from use of the clock. It defamiliarizes us with traditional uses of a clock. In the very beginning, the number of chimes do not seem to match the time that is given by Mrs. Smith. It also seems poke fun at the mundane uptight nature of the that was familiar to the time period in which the play was set. Defamiliarizing us, as the audience, to the traditional behavior of gender roles and class. For example, several instances were Mrs. Smith talks to Mr. Smith, seem out of nature for the time period.

The class defamiliarization comes into play when we see the behavior of the maid in the her final scene. She is seen and heard unlike the traditional nature being more of a “you are to been seen and not heard” mentality when it came to the interactions of servants and upper class. The final moment of defamiliarization comes, ultimately, when the clock fell apart, all hell breaks loose on stage. This chaos being the climax of the play defamiliarizes the traditional moments of resolution that typical come in plays, thus leaving the audience in shock and confusion as to what is going on. When this is followed by the lights going dark for an extended period of time, leading us to believe that it was the end and then suddenly the lights coming back on setting the audience back to the beginning of the play, the only difference being the switching of the actors is also a fairly absurd moment. Ionesco’s absurdity allows defamiliarization in different forms from set, to character behavior and the flow of a play as well.

Feminism and “The Uncanny” in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The two theories that we have discussed in this class  that stood out to me the most when we were watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer was Feminism and the Uncanny. We see both of these things in different aspects in the show. For example, while Buffy the vampire Slayer certainly features a number of kick-ass female characters, the protagonist being the most important one. In the episode that we watched most definitely failed the Bechdel test. Seemingly every conversation that we see, whether between Willow and Buffy or Buffy and her mother even Darla and Buffy, it’s about a boy. Angel is the topic of almost every conversation in this episode, even before we see him in this episode. I think that while this episode fails the Bechdel test, it definitely emphases a strong female character. I definitely can appreciate a female protagonist that can kick butt and take names while sporting a cute outfit and the perfect shade of lip gloss.

Image result for buffy cute outfits

But mostly, what struck me was the use of the uncanny in the episode.  There are a several scenes that offer us a glimpse of the Uncanny in this episode. More specifically, I’d like to discuss the “unheimlich” or “unhomely” moments that we are given in this episode. The instance that I’d like to talk about is the scene where Buffy kisses Angel. Not only is this moment uncanny but unhomely as well. The uncanniness comes from the shock of this “angelic” man turning into this cursed monster. This familiar person turned unfamiliar in an instance. Secondly the unhomely aspect comes into play due to the location of the kiss. Because they are in her bedroom, this incident of Angel’s features transforming into the terrifying ones of the vampire lend the uncanny and unhomely nature to Buffy’s bedroom. The whole concept of a bedroom is one of comfort and peace, thus this uncanny transformation that Angel has makes her bedroom “unhomely” in that split second.

Image result for buffy the vampire slayer episode 7 season 1

Another moment of “unheimlich” is when we see Darla in Buffy’s home. This is an intrusion on the safe feeling that is offered even just by the word home. For most people, home conjures images and feelings of warmth and comfort. But if you are a vampire slayer and a vampire is in your home things suddenly feel less safe and comfortable. In the handout on the uncanny, we gets a quote that says, “Naturally, everything not everything that is new and unfamiliar is frightening, however; the relation is not capable of inversion. We can only say that what is novel can easily become frightening and uncanny; some new things are frightening but not by any means at all. Something  new has to be added to what novel and unfamiliar to make in uncanny.” This is exactly what we see happening in the episode that we watched in class.  All of these moments themselves are not uncanny or frightening until we have something “uncanny”, “unhomely” or frightening added to the equation. The final example that I want to talk about discusses more the “unhomely” than the uncanny. Towards the end of the episode we see Angel return to his “home” where he finds Darla. This is where we get the homely aspect of this moment. It’s already a rather uncanny moment due to the fact that both characters that we see are vampires. We see Angel’s home become “unhomely” when he finds Darla in his house because unlike with human’s homes she did not need an invitation into his home which lends us a more threatening feeling. This feeling of “unhomeliness” is further driven home when we see common household appliances changed to store what we can assume to be in blood. All in all, I think that this show offers us  a clear example of the concept “unhomely” that Freud was talking about.

Pictures: https://www.wonderlandmagazine.com/2017/03/10/seven-wonders-buffy-vampire-slayer/

http://buffy.wikia.com/wiki/Angel_(episode)

Wine, Beer and their Idealogies

I think there are interesting comparisons to be had between the ideologies presented in Barthes “Mythologies” and how they are used to associate France and wine and America and beer. In both sets of ideologies they are portrayed as the ultimate drink for refreshment. Again similarly, between ideologies is the image of masculinity tied to it. The connection between drunkenness and inability to hold their liquor is the same in both countries. It’s a consequence of the drinker’s lack of strength. As Barthes says, “an award of good integration is given to whoever is a practicing wine-drinker: knowing how to drink is a national technique which serves to qualify the French-man, to demonstrate at once his performance, his control and his sociability.” This is where the ideology differs slightly from American, we drink to show or highlight our sociability but in the most competitive way possible. If you think of any movie that includes a frat party of any sorts, people are drinking to be social but they are typically competitive and drinking with the point of getting drunk. It’s not considered so much a consequence of drinking but the end game.    But the biggest similarity between the two ideologies is how it is so intertwined with the drinker’s national identity. This is can be seen in the Coors Light commercial from 2016, called “Born in the Rockies.”

Starting off with the question “Where were you born?” immediately insinuates the commercial about nationalism. He asks the viewer to consider how their place has shaped them and made them who they are. This connection seems to mark Beer as the drink of choice for any real patriot. In his essay on Wine and Milk, Barthes says “The mythology of wine can in fact help us to understand the usual ambiguity of our daily life. For it is true that wine is a good and fine substance, but it is no less true that its production is deeply involved in French Capitalism,”. This can also be applied to Beer and American Capitalism. The Coors commercial clears up the ambiguity by making it clear that what shapes you can also shape a great, refreshing beer, but at the end of the day, patriotism set aside it’s about selling beer. I think the point that Barthes is trying to make is that all of the national identity placed on beer and wine, respectively, is to boost sales.

Another point that Barthes makes in Mythologies is that wine “exalts all climates” basically saying that no matter what the occasion is, wine is the appropriate drink of choice. This can also be seen in this Budweiser ad, splashed with the phrase. “Where there’s life…there’s bud.” This ad in itself, speaks volumes to what Barthes is saying.

 

Possibly, unlike France, in American seems to always be marketed to the male gaze, using females or masculinity as a platter on which to serve the capitalistic identity that is ingrained in many Americans. In conclusion, I think that American Ideology on beer is important because of the reasoning behind it’s societal ties. That it “is a part of the society because it provides a basis not only for a morality but also for an environment; it is an ornament in the slightest ceremonials of French daily life.”

Sources:

Barthes, Roland. “Mythologies.” Handout. Critical Concepts: ENG 300. (Professor Michael Johnson.) University of Maine at Farmington.  Feb. 2017. Print

Images: www.taverntrove.com/beerpics/Budweiser-Lager-Beer-Paper-Ads-Anheuser-Busch-inc_16892-1.jpg