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

 

My Fight / Your Fight Book Review

I bought my copy of My Fight / Your Fight by Ronda Rousey back in 2015 at the time it was published.  I had just begun focusing more on my own health and athletic pursuits and wanted to find something to motivate me to keep up my work outs.  My Fight / Your Fight was the perfect book for such motivation.  Whether you appreciate Rousey as an athlete and want to read her book from an athletic viewpoint, or just want to hear that you are capable of reaching your goals, My Fight / Your Fight is a great book for all types of readers. 

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In My Fight / Your Fight, Rousey offers raw, emotional stories that detail the painful events of her past and what led her into fighting at such a young age.  Rousey begins with the very first fight she has ever fought: overcoming the tragic death of her father.  She details the hard time she spent as a child trying to make sense of and understand her father’s decision.  Overcoming this fight must have taken more strength and courage than any other fight Rousey details at the start of her book.  She truly does an incredible job at detailing  the pain that she felt at that time in her life and how it led her to explore new outlets in life. With her mother being an incredible Judo fighter, Rousey followed in her mothers footsteps at the age of 11.  She continues on to discuss her tough training, even as a child, and how it led her to become the youngest Olympic judoka.   As Rousey moves through her life and struggles, she does not shy away from issues in her love life, offering an even deeper, personal view of various type of struggles Rousey has endured.  My Fight / Your Fight offers a few examples of meeting people who may be better off remaining strangers, something every reader may be able to relate to. Rousey also discusses obstacles she has faced within the UFC Octagon.  Rousey tells the reader how she made her way from being an Olympic athlete to being at the forefront of the UFC’s Women’s division.  No other woman prior to Rousey was able to convince UFC President, Dana White to allow women to start a division within the UFC. With a women’s division created, Rousey was left with her next fight, the first she would have inside of a UFC Octagon.  Through reading, some of her fights may appear to be discouraging at times; however, the most important aspect of Rousey’s book is her discussions of how she made it through these difficult times.  Rousey offers plenty of advice throughout My Fight / Your Fight and motivational slogans that can help the readers work through their own fights.  Perhaps my favorite quote, which leaves no room for inactivity, is when Rousey says to her readers, “Don’t be a Do Nothing Bitch.”

My Fight / Your Fight utilizes feminist notions that women are as capable as men are. Rousey tackles the difficult notion that the UFC is inherently a men’s sport.  Rousey does not allow the lack of a woman’s UFC division to  hold her back from creating one.  Nor does she allow physical stereotypes to hold her back from pushing her body to the limit.

My Fight / Your Fight may interest young girls who need an example of a woman who made it.  It is inspirational and motivational.  For this reason, it is also a good book for any athlete, or anyone who has faced a fight in their lifetime, to  read.

My Fight / Your Fight

Ronda Rousey

320 pages.  Regan Arts. $14.99

Rousey, Ronda, and Maria Burns. Ortiz. My Fight / Your Fight. New York: Regan Arts, 2015. Print.

The Last Days; A Book Report on The Last Days of Magic by Mark Tompkins

This book is about the slow diminution of magic in 12th -13th century Ireland due to the invasion of the Christian church and their lust for power. The Celts and the magical beings, known as the Sidhe, struggle to keep their hold on their homeland and rely on the power of the Morrígna twins to save them. When one of these twins is murdered and their power diminished, the English finds the perfect time to strike. The story focuses on many different characters and their stories, allowing the reader to choose their side and experience everything.

The book began with the framing device of starting in the present to go back to the past to tell the major story in which the book was focused on. This method served as ineffective in its construction due to the complete immersion in the main story with no reference back to the present character until the ending. The framing devices intent seemed to be to connect the reader to the main character using a present-day setting, but the connection fell flat. Starting with the death of a character that the reader does not sufficiently get to know serves as more of a placement device in the frameworks of the story rather than a moment of empathy.

The ending came back to the initial framing device to find that the death was faked and the character was still alive, but due to the lack of personal connection to the character, it is ineffective. It also serves to, theoretically, tie up lose ends throughout the story, but does not serve as such. The ending feels unsatisfying but also indefinite and unclear. We end the section on the 13th century with Aisling’s eventual death. Aisling served as the hope to save Ireland from the English and restore magic. After this we get a six hundred year gap, which serves as an extremely important gap in time that could have been explored and expanded upon rather than the use of a framing device to connect the past to the present day. In fact, the framing device brings the reader back to the realization of the fiction in the fantasy and brings us out of the book. It also served as a shoddy way to show the influence of the magic throughout the story in the present day, because we lost so many years in between the initial story and present day.

Ireland’s history feels incomplete and the questions too enormous. There is not an important or climactic ending, Ireland simply fades away into the present leaving the reader to fill in the gaps with their own historical knowledge.This is a risky and unsuccessful manevour since the history of the story is already being manipulated due to the inclusion of the fantasy where the boundaries of history and fiction are blured. The references to St, Patrick and Chaucer showed its attempt to produce an alternate history but the leap to the present shattered the connection. We leave 13th century Ireland in the midst of a war, with which we get no sense of completion or conclusion.

The only inclination the readers get about the past time is the epilogue dictating what happened to certain characters. Even this seems to be a laugh in the face of the reader, for it focuses on the most minor and insignificant characters. The epilogue even gave the impression that the English were victorious, because none of the characters mentioned were the Celts or magical beings.

We are not given enough information to calculate what possibly could have happened over the extensive span of time. Theoretically the answer would be that the English took over and all the magical beings were driven out, yet in the present the magic remains. The magical beings mere presence in the present brings many new questions about the past that was so abruptly left behind. The twins were an essential part of the entire story but were still left to dust. Bringing in such a major and central idea and then letting it blow away with the rest of the Irish history makes the whole story feel unimportant and makes the reader wonder why we focused on this character and what they gave to us as readers.

The conflicts themselves arise in the world throughout the viewpoint of different characters, essentially allowing the reader to choose their own alliances. This would have been more effective without the use of the framing device, because it sets up with the descendants of the Irish, pushing the readers alliance towards the Irish rather than the English.

Since it was told through multiple perspectives, it was hard to identify a main character for the reader to connect with. Interestingly enough, Aisling serves as the centralized character even throughout the multiple perspectives. When perspectives shifted to another person, the reader was anxious to hear Aisling’s story resume. Her story was a complex trial of the tribulations of a human with the soul and power of a Goddess. The story takes the meaning of losing ones better half literally as she loses her twin sister, with whom she is emotionally and physically bound to. It can serve too symbolize the immense bonds of twins, sisters, or of family in general because the twin sisters literally complete one another. Aisling’s separation from her sister can serve to show how unhealthy a bounded and essential love can be.

One Woman, Eight Pairs of Hiking Boots, and Six Countries

sarah-marquis-wild-by-nature-700x400            Named the 2014 National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year, Sarah Marquis, author of Wild by Nature, is a Swiss adventurer and explorer. Born in 1972 in Northern Switzerland, Marquis always had a desire to explore the farthest corners of our world, and began fueling this desire to explore when she got a job working on a train at the age of 16. She then went on to canoe through Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada, hike the United States Pacific Crest Trail and hike across the US from border-to-border in four months. In 2002-03 she covered 8,700 miles across Australia, then in 2006 she hiked the Andes of South America followed by hiking part of the Andes from Chile to Machu Picchu. Needless to say, Marquis has a vast amount of experience with exploring and a deep familiarity with nature. But in 2010 she pushed herself to extreme in a 10,000 mile solo hike that stretched across 6 countries, beginning in Siberia and ending at “her” tree located on the Nullarbor Plain of Australia. This remarkable adventure is shared through an enticingly personal account in her book, Wild by Nature.

Marquis recounts her 3-year solo journey across the Gobi Desert from Siberia to Thailand in a stunningly simplistic way. Her humor, wit and close affiliation with nature fill every page and enable readers to experience the journey with her through a unique perspective. Rather than detailing the events of every day of her expedition, Marquis instead decides to focus on the colorful array of people and cultures that she encountered during her trek. By doing so she exposes readers first hand to the alienation, harassment and camaraderie that she herself endured. She is exposed to cultures were they express the least amount of emotion possible, cultures where she is viewed as a prostitute due to not being seen with a man. Marquis also experiences the frustration and fear of not being able to effectively communicate with those she encounters. But from these encounters she learns and grows, carrying these newly learned skills with her as she continues her adventure. Marquis shares her experiences from the perspective of a true outdoorswoman and of a vegetarian. This perspective plays a large role in her book as she spends a vast majority of her pages explaining her decision to be a vegetarian, describing the beauty of the flora and fauna that she encounters, and sharing her opinions on mankind’s connection to the natural world.

As a young woman who dreams of exploring the world, Sarah’s story has inspired me while also having temporarily sated my own desire for adventure. She faced the Mafia, drug dealers, dengue fever, a life-threatening abscess, and men on horseback who harassed her through out the days and nights of her journey. Her expedition does a phenomenal job showcasing the dangerous circumstances that a loan female explorer must sometimes endure as they traverse the world. She also show cases her own determination to complete this expedition solo as any time that she must be evacuated, due to military or medical emergencies, she resumes her expedition either at the place where she had been removed from or charts a new path to reach her next destination. Sarah’s respect for those she encounters and blatant appreciation of the small things makes her a phenomenal narrator of her adventure. Her book is divided, not so much but chapters, but by small headings where, with only a few words, she gives you an intriguing and occasionally vague idea of what she’ll be encountering next. At the end of each chapter she includes a simplistic map that gives readers, regardless of their familiarity with maps, a general and to the point idea of where she is as well as where she is going and how she got there. Her unique way of describing the animals she encountered often left me needing to reread the description as I thought I might have missed her identification of the animal. But she always shares the creature’s name, both the common name and the scientific one, after having introduced the creature to her reader in a nearly unfamiliar way.

If you are looking for a story of adventure with explicit details that will leave you with an accelerated heartbeat and a desire to buy a plane ticket, then this is not the book for you. As I stated earlier, Marquis does not detail every event of her entire adventure. In fact, I almost wish that she had talked a little bit more about her adventure. What she does instead is reflect on her life and her relation with nature while also introducing readers to the variety of cultures and individuals that she encountered throughout the ups and downs of her exploration. In terms of adventure novels, even those based on real expeditions, Marquis’ is unfamiliar due to her style and execution. This book provides you with a realistic woman who faces 6 different countries, all with many different variations of culture and language, with an endless supply of tea and an tireless love of what she’s doing. This book left me contemplating my life and my own desires to travel. It has also left me with the need to read more books like this one; that recount the amazing journey of one person across different parts of the world. For Marquis this adventure is not only about reaching her tree in Australia; it’s about the persistence, passion, human-ingenuity, and determination necessary to accomplish such an adventure.

Wild by Nature

Sarah Marquis

259 pages. Published by Thomas Dunne Books. Hardcover $26.99

The City of Mirrors – An Exciting End to the Passage Trilogy (Book Review)

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The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin is the amazing conclusion to The Passage trilogy, an apocalyptic (and post-apocalyptic) sci-fi horror series. The story begins with The Passage, continues with The Twelve, and comes to its completion in this novel.

In The Passage, readers witness the downfall of humanity when an experiment conducted on twelve death row inmates turns disastrous. The inmates were turned into “virals,” monstrous vampire-like creatures, who eventually escape the facility they are being kept in. The virals quickly slaughter the majority of the population, infecting one person for every ten killed, and force the survivors into small, protected communities. Many different characters are introduced, both from the time before the virals and many years after. The book also delves into the story of the first of the original Twelve virals. The Twelve focuses on the remaining Twelve, and the efforts made to destroy them. The storylines of the main characters from The Passage are continued, and more characters are brought in.

The City of Mirrors, after briefly catching up with the main characters, finally explores the backstory of Zero. Zero (as in “patient zero”) was the first person to contract the virus that turns people into virals. He is the main villain of this book, and the last one who needs to be defeated in order for humanity to no longer live as prey. Interestingly, Cronin indicates Zero’s POV by switching to first person, while the rest of the characters are written in third person. Zero has a plan, which is not completely clear to the readers until it is in full swing. After a couple hundred pages of limited action, where the characters are lulled into the false belief that the virals are finally gone, the novel abruptly becomes filled with action and bloodshed. After witnessing this carnage and the actions taken to save the remaining survivors, several of the most major characters take on the task of defeating Zero. There is an epic fight in New York City (the “City of Mirrors”), and at last the journey of the main characters is at an end. A rather lengthy epilogue that takes place a thousand years after the virals first took over wraps up both the book and the series.

Personally, I absolutely loved both this book and the trilogy as a whole. Even though The Passage remains my favorite of the three, The City of Mirrors is a close second. While the series is rather long, I felt that it was definitely worth my time. It was both gripping and beautifully written. Unfortunately, the beginning of this book was a little slow. There isn’t a whole lot of action until around page 300, although we do hear the backstory of Zero during that time. There are also several occurrences that set up the next part and keep the reader’s anticipation up. From Part IV “Zero Hour” on the plot really picks up, to the point where I read the rest of the book in a few days.

There are a rather overwhelming number of characters in this series, and every book keeps adding (and killing off) more. Many of them get developed backgrounds, which serves to deepen their character as well as weave all the stories together. It can sometimes be a challenge to remember who everyone is and what their relationships are with the other characters. As such, it is difficult to read these books with large gaps of time in between (I had to reread the first two books before I could jump into this one, or I would have been rather lost). However, I did not mind having to read all the books in succession because it made it easier to see how masterfully all the plotlines are connected. Seemingly minor characters from the first book, such as Zero, become much more important in the other novels. Others are present from the start to the finish, like Amy, who’s entire story spans over a thousand years and is interwoven with many of the other characters’. Even though the point of view switches between different characters and the plot hops back and forth through time (which can be somewhat confusing at times), everything in this book is connected in some way. This is not a light read, but it is a captivating one.

In general, I quite enjoyed The City of Mirrors. It is a satisfying conclusion to a wonderful series, and it was nice to see how each character’s story ends. Cronin does a good job developing his numerous characters and building an extensive timeline of exciting events. It’s not terribly frightening, but some parts can be a bit creepy and/or gory, so I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who doesn’t enjoy that kind of thing. This book (and series) has exciting, complex storylines with interesting characters. I would highly recommend it for anyone interested in apocalyptic storylines, or people who like sci-fi and fantasy elements. However, this book would probably be very confusing to someone who has not read the first two books of the series, so it would be best to start with The Passage.

The City of Mirrors

Justin Cronin

598 pages. Published by Ballantine Books. $18.63 (Hardcover), $10.78 (Paperback), $14.88 (Kindle) on Amazon.

Book Review Project – Misery Islands

The Rollercoaster of Your Senses

January O’Neil came to the University of Maine at Farmington earlier this semester, and I went primarily because attendance as mandatory for two of my classes. January had a charisma about her that immediately grabbed my attention, and I admired how she talked about her imperfections. Before she started reading, January blatantly states that she is not perfect, and she has days where the last thing she wants to do is write, be a Mom, or even get out of bed. She admitted to her depression following her divorce, which is something I found relatable. Her poetry book, Misery Islands, was the book she primarily read from, and I instantaneously knew I had to buy the book, and I’m glad I did. The theme of this book, I’d have to say, is a mix between pain and growth – and joy and wanting to stay in one place forever. I like the combination because while one piece makes you want to stay in the place O’Neil is in, and enjoy the moments that are happening, the next piece can make you want to forget everything you’ve just read. The book is split into chapters that reveal an idea of what the pieces will be about, and I found myself always coming back to the names of the chapters when I read the pieces. The names of the chapters were: 1) The Gospel of Low Art, 2) In the Company of Women, 3) Misery, and 4) Tether. Usually the use of chapters is to indicate what the poems will be about, and while that may be the case, I still find the pieces very scattered between ups and downs, like a roller-coaster. It’s not all happy pieces and then all sad pieces: it’s realistic with sad and happy pieces mixed together as if they’ve been thrown in a blender. One minute you’re reading You Get Up and the next you’re reading Cunt. It’s like life, constantly changing your outlook.

You Are Not Your Salary (pg. 8) is a piece that caught my eye, and I’ve found that I’ve read the piece almost every day, or I’m saying it in my head. It’s a piece that stays in your head and changes meaning every time you read it. It lists important things, but states “Nevertheless, you are not your salary- how could you be?”, which is powerful, especially after making the subject seem like they are everything. I interpreted it, saying that someone can be everything, they can be everywhere, but they’re not the only thing out there for someone. I connected this piece to my Mom in a really strange way. She’s the person who gave birth to me, she’s the one who raised me (kinda), she’s my Mom… but she’s not the type of person I need in my life.

After Making Love, I Leave to Write a Poem (pg. 29) is one of the most heart-wrenching, tragically beautiful poems ever. I can feel the climax, the let down, and the aftermath. I hate how much I feel the words injecting themselves into my veins. The words are more than words in this piece, they’re an action. I can feel the movement in my body, and it truly evokes feelings of love, lust, and heartbreak in the end.

She plays with words in her piece, January is a Month You Would Consider Leaving (pg. 37) where she compares herself to the bitter coldness of the January month. I feel the depression in this piece, and makes me long for Spring. The final stanza of the piece is: “How could anyone blame you/ for wanting to escape/ the coldest month of the year?” and this really shows the depression that January feels, using her play on words to state that she doesn’t blame people for leaving her. This is a really relatable feeling – I just wish I had a month as a name so I could write a clever poem like this one.

I love this book, and I love rereading it when I want to feel a beautiful moment wrap itself around me, or when I want to drown in sadness. I find that when I’m sad, I pick this book up. When I’m happy, I pick up this book. It’s become my go-to, and it’s always in my purse. Every time I read it, I find something new about it – as if new pieces are being added in every day. There’s a raw truth to every piece in this book, that I find beautiful. She plays with words, making you think of things in ways that you never would have thought of alone. She makes things that most people would overlook seem like a big deal, making you question what’s really important. When I heard her read, I heard her voice crack at the hard part, and that’s not something I can forget, and I hear the cracks in my voice when I read them in my head. This book is perfect for people who love poetry that tugs at the heartstrings, and makes your attitude constantly change. There’s a lot of pieces about pain, coping, and depression, so this book definitely isn’t for people who want everything to be happy all the time. To me, this book is about growing and acceptance of events that make you want to curl into a ball and die, so maybe everyone should read it, maybe it will make them grow, too.

 

Misery Islands

January O’Neil

78 pages. Published by Cavankerry (November 4, 2014)

$17.00 USD

 

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The White Rabbit’s Clock: On the Function of the Clock in THE BALD SOPRANO

As one might expect from an absurdist play, Eugene Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano is one of those works you can’t help but be shocked into speechlessness by. With it’s awkward jokes, nonsensical dialogue, and innovative, yet eccentric, set design, it’s a play I suspect will stick with me for years to come. As an audience member, I couldn’t help but be reminded of such works as Alice in Wonderland, especially when watching the play live. In fact, I daresay it would have made more sense if I white rabbit in a waste-coat had been cued to hop along the stage at one point or another. At the very least, I wouldn’t have been any more surprised than I was by other aspects of the play if such a creative decision was made.

Of all the insane things that struck me, I think the most important, thematically, would have to be the use of the clock. Time and again, it helped to set the tone of the play. For one thing, We begin with the clock, chiming seventeen or so times, after which Mrs. Smith states “There, it’s nine o’clock,” (Lonesco, page 9 line 1). Of course, even when you consider military time, this statement by Mrs. Smith would be considered erroneous, especially in more conventional settings. In this play, however, it helps to accentuate the comedic effect of the characters’ dialog, such that what would otherwise be needlessly unintelligible becomes a thing worthy of laughter.

Throughout the play, we hear this clock again and again, chiming at random intervals that never match the hour on its face. Of course, while this absurdity continues to add to the comedy and overall awkwardness of the piece, it can also be said to act as a means of transition. More specifically, one could argue that Ionesco uses the clock’s seemingly arbitrary chiming to divide his play into more digestible sections, much like how traditional plays separate their plots into acts and scenes. Consider, for example, its usage when dealing with the meeting of Mr. and Mrs. Martin. Towards the end of their first dialog together, when they contemplate how “bizarre, curious, [and] strange” their similarities to one another are, we again hear the chiming of this rather unusual clock (page 18, line 11). At first, it’s heard, as the script puts it,  after “a rather long moment of silence,” after which it “strikes 29 times” (lines 27 – 28). Of course, its at this point that the two characters draw the conclusion that they must be each other’s spouses. In this way, one can say that the clock separated this moment into two scenes in the same act, whereby this revelation was the transition point between the two. Not long after this, however, we get another instance of the clock making itself known, after the Martins “sit together in the same armchair, their arms around each other, and fall asleep,” (page 19, lines 6 – 7). After this, the Smith family’s maid, Mary, steps in and gives some exposition. Given the contrast between these two moments, one could argue the moment which Mary and the moment with the two Martins function almost like different scenes, with the clock transitioning the two. Similar transitions occur throughout the play, such that, even if they aren’t as regular as those between traditional scenes and acts, they still serve a similar function, with the clock aiding the audience by providing them a the same feeling of plot progression.

Of course, there’s also the matter of the clock’s chiming becoming increasingly random, “nervous” even, as the play comes to the height of it’s madness (page 39, line 22). More towards the end, right after the Fire Chief exits the stage, the other characters begin spouting nonsense, becoming increasingly angry with one another by some line of reasoning only Ionesco might have understood definitively. In the UMF production of this play, the climax of this madness is marked not only by the nervous chimes of the clock, as Ionesco originally called for, but by the clock’s base actually beginning to swing like a pendulum. In this way, amongst the other functions this clock serves across the play, it would seem that it sometimes acts as a sort of barometer for the absurdity being shown on stage, itself becoming increasingly absurd as the characters reach a climax of what can only be described as utter insanity.

Overall, the play itself was truly interesting to watch. And, even if you left not knowing what to make of it, you likely didn’t leave without a certain sense of profundity, or at least something to chuckle about later. Whatever the sensation was, however, one cannot deny that, central to this play as a whole, was the clock, working to simultaneously guide and beguile the audience as they tried to discern the method behind the madness of The Bald Soprano. Without this rather ingenious plot device, it’s possible that the play would have had a harder time gaining the renown it did. Truly, it proved to be just as central to the story as any of the characters. Here’s hoping it has many more long years in the spot-light.

Bald Soprano Reflection

The play without question did its job at being nothing short of absurd. From the offsetting blue background to the oversexualized interaction between the fire chief and the maid, the play did a phenomenal job in illustrating that same absurdity portrayed in the text. I have to admit I had no faith that this play would be of any sort of entertainment or match-up to the text, but within the opening moments of the play, I realized I enjoyed the play more then the text itself. The text confused the hell out of me, and I guess seeing the play made the comedic side more visible, and a bit less random. With that being said the play is still absurd, but I understand now that that is the end goal to the play anyway, which is what makes it what it is.

I want to address some of the more obvious aspects of the play first that I had noticed. Firstly, the emotions within different conversations swopped out for one another compared to that within the text. The martins were no longer the “lively” relief to the text. Instead the Smith’s took that role in the production, and the Martin’s interactions were super boring to listen to in person, but I think that was what was intended, and it definitely made the portrayal stronger having that contrast. The art of defamiliarization was heavy throughout the play. This brings me to my next point, which lies with the changing of the accents. I love accents, and I was beyond stoked to hear a portrayal of a British accent, which can always be very well done or horrible to listen to. I thought the decision to use a traditional American dialogue, and tone was a smarter choice, because not only is faking an accent tough, but also it wouldn’t have added to the defamiliarization process, and given the play the fire that it had.

The clock was one of the most crucial aspects to the play for me. It felt like it never stopped ringing, and that added just made everything else going on seem more comedic, and ridiculous. The off-setting blue wall color, the clock ringing constantly, and all the other defamiliarization aspects of the play all lead to the end which I thought was awesome in person. The lighting added to just how crazy the play really is, and I think the cast, and director couldn’t have done a better job. The lightening fluctuated, and became more intense, and all the characters moved about, screaming, and yelling, and that’s the moment I realized how awesome the play really is. I have to be honest I didn’t care for the text at all, but after seeing the play, it put a new perspective, and appreciation for the absurdity behind the entire idea of the play itself, and I think on a deeper level, the play made me realize some things about our own lives that are also absurd. The whole concept of the absurd conversations made me think during the production about how across the globe, culture has desensitized us, and many many people are focusing their energy on all the wrong things in life. I looked deeper past the face value portion of the play, and tried to decipher it’s intentions, which in turn made it more enjoyable for me.

 

What? We’re All the Same

The UMF production of Eugene Ionesco’s “The Bald Soprano” was an excellent portrayal of the absurd, while not losing its audience. The comedic aspect of the play was effective, since some of the exchanges between the characters mirrored life. The opening scene between Mrs. Smith and her newspaper-reading husband was almost a familiar trope, where the husband acknowledges the wife he isn’t listening to go on and on about something to fill the silence. In this particular instance, Mr. Smith comments on the fact that the ages of the newborn are never listed but the ages are always listed in the obituaries. Mrs. Smith agrees with him which is perplexing because though she may be expected to agree as a wife, the age of a newborn baby is obvious. The conversation only gets more absurd when Mr. Smith announces the death of Bobby Watson. It would be assumed that he read it in the newspaper in his hands but then it seems he died a long time ago – but the length of the time always changes. Then there is a clarification between the couple to determine who exactly died. They use relationships to describe who is who which is generally how people would figure out who they’re talking about. In this case, all of the people they’re talking about are named Bobby Watson which gets funnier as you realize that literally everyone in this family has the same name. Again, this is almost how real life would be – just one or two things are off. The rest of the play progresses much the same.

There are increasingly more absurd moments, but a good portion of the interactions are nearly conventional. The end of the play is when it gets really weird. The characters start chanting common phrases but they lose all reality. The set reflects this break with flickering lights and the breaking of the clock. Had the play started out so odd, the audience would have been lost. The buildup of absurdity was steady enough to make it practically expected that the characters could lose their minds. Had the play ended after the lights went dark, the end would be a neat and tidy shipment to the looney bin. That is why I think the end is the best part – the repetition of the beginning of the play with Mr. and Mrs. Martin (if that’s who they really are) doing the same thing as the Smiths makes the audience question what everything they’d seen means. How many times do people sit in their living rooms knitting or reading the paper and have the same conversations? This production compared to the script we read in class was funnier, because watching the absurd is easier than reading it. The characters were Americanized which doesn’t make too much of a difference because if the Martins can replace the Smiths, their nationality doesn’t matter very much. This could be translated into any language and be relatable since the themes are universal.

The Bald Soprano

I went to see The Bald Soprano on Thursday night. It was certainly the most interesting play I have ever gone to see.  Ionesco makes a statement about language and how absurd and meaningless it is if those using it are unable to communicate it properly.  Ionesco also uses memory, or the lack of it, to portray the significance of language while also showing that reality is distorted. It begins normal enough, with the Smiths sitting in chair opposite of each other.  Once the Smiths begin speaking, one quickly realizes that this is not a normal English scene.  Throughout the conversations within the play, there is a pattern of the normal being made absurd through the use of language and memory.  The greatest example of this is when Mrs. Martin tells the story of the man she saw tying his shoe and the Smiths and Mr. Martin find this to be an incredible thing to see.  It again is shown when the story of the man reading the paper is told and the same reaction is given.  Another example is when Mrs. Smith reacts to Mr. Smith mentioning Bobby Watson.  Mr. Smith announces Bobby Watson’s death while reading the paper.  Mrs. Smith reacts in an expected way, appearing shocked at the news.  Mr. Smith then turns this normal and expected reaction into an absurd one when he announces that they attended the funeral for Bobby Watson two years ago.  Mrs. Smith then mentions Bobby Watson’s children, and then later says they have none.  She also reminds her husband that all of the Watson’s are named Bobby.

Time and reality also holds a level of significance within The Bald Soprano, contributing to the overall sense of absurdity.  Time is distorted, the clock never tells what time it actually is.  This begs the question, how do the Smiths do anything other than what is shown if they are unable to tell what time it is? I suppose this is part of why Mrs. Smith describes the great dinner they all had before saying that they had no dinner because they were waiting for the Martins to arrive.   This lack of time keeping pushed an overall sense of existential meaningless.  It implies that what is being seen is all that there is.  This is supported by the ending scene.  The Smiths and the Martins chant random sayings even after the stage goes dark.  When the lights return the Martins sit in the same place that the Smiths sat when the play opened, they are even saying the same exact things.  This lack of language, memory and time contributes to the distorted reality.  It also pushes the idea that this is a meaningless cycle that these characters must continue living in.

The Bald Soprano captures themes of language, memory, time and reality while showing how all four contribute to the absurdity and distortion of the other.  Overall, the absurdity throughout the entire play questioned and defied the idea of an objective reality.