Thursday, 29 September 2016
Emma Cline's debut novel The Girls is the troubling story of Evie Boyd, a bystander to a horrific crime. The year is 1969. Evie is fourteen years old, about to be packed off to boarding school and suffering both the after-effects of her parents divorce, and the desire to feel important despite her overwhelming mediocrity. When she encounters the older Suzanne and a group of girls in the park, Evie is instantly smitten, and is soon drawn into their life in a commune on the outskirts of town, where all the girls do the bidding of Russell, a charismatic, almost Manson-like figure. And though something dangerous may be brewing, Evie finds herself drawn in deeper and deeper ...
Moving through the summer of 1969, the events that lead up to a horrific mass murder are slowly told to the reader. The author has much to say about feminism, and the role of women, and very little to say at all about Russell, the cult leader who never quite seems to be fully fleshed out or formed. Instead, it's Suzanne who fills Evie's thoughts, though she never quite seems able to see who Suzanne really is. Small portions of the novel are set in present day, and it's clear that Evie has not enjoyed a successful life, instead she lives a dull existence that barely seems interesting--which almost matches her role within the cult and the murders. She's a bystander, and as a narrator, seems to offer very little about the cult that she was once a part of. There isn't a great deal of suspense, or surprises here, rather it's a coming of age tale of an angry young woman who wants to feel important, but eventually amounts to very little at all.
In all honesty, I enjoyed some parts of this novel more than others, the writing felt quite strong in places, particularly when the author was focusing on the role of girls/women and how they can often compromise themselves in order to please boys/men. Other parts of the novel reminded me of a better written and more believable version of Go Ask Alice, more likely than not because of the era in which the story is set. Ultimately, I feel this novel could have been a lot stronger if the author had focused more on Russell and his hold over 'the girls.'
Recommended to readers who want a darker coming-of-age tale.
Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Of all of Jim Henson's Muppets that appear on Sesame Street none have a role quite so vital as Big Bird. Certainly, each Muppet whether it be Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch or Ernie and Bert, provide a heck of a lot of entertainment as they educate, but Big Bird provides a role like no other Muppet. Childlike and intellectually curious Big Bird provides young viewers with a character who views the world through their eyes. As Big Bird learns about the world around him, viewers learn with him, whether it be about road safety, or in one landmark episode, death:
A running gag for many years on the show was Bird Bird's friendship with Mr Snuffleupagus, a shy mammoth like creature who was never seen by any of the adult characters on the show, and was considered, therefore to be Big Bird's imaginary friend, as can be observed from this sketch. In the mid-1980s, Big Bird eventually proved to the adults that Mr Snuffleupagus was real. According to wikipedia, the producers of Sesame Street decided to have the adults believe that Big Bird was telling the truth, as they did not want children to think that they would not be believed by adults if they had something to tell them:
While perhaps no longer the star of Sesame Street (thanks, Elmo,) Big Bird remains on of the most important and perhaps groundbreaking characters on the show.
Big Bird has been played by the same actor since the 1960s. His story could have ended very differently however, as actor Carol Spinney was offered a spot on the doomed US Space Shuttle Challenger, but NASA was never able to reach an agreement with the producers of Sesame Street. Lucky for us, and luckier for Spinney, Big Bird is still around today, entertaining and educating children.
Tuesday, 27 September 2016
There is no denying that Colleen Hoover is one of the famous authors of her genre. Her novels have been loved by readers (and this blog,) for their young, working class characters, who triumph against against the odds. There is always a whole lot of heart, and sometimes the hero and heroine bond in an intentionally comical way, one that is pleasing to read. (Very few authors can pull of a line of dialogue such as, "I like you, you stupid fuck-face," the way Hoover can. It's trashy, it's hilarious and it fits in with the characters and their situations perfectly.) There is something human and vulnerable about her characters, who often experience the kind of romances that we all secretly wish we could have against a dramatic backdrop. It Ends With Us remains true to form while, paradoxically, taking a new and darker turn.
Told entirely from the perspective of Lily, it tells the story of a university graduate who has recently moved to Boston. Lily's life has not been an easy one. She grew up with a father who was as important and respected in his community as he was a violent bully behind closed doors. Lily was a sensitive kid with a big heart--she helped out a homeless boy from her school, and kept a 'journal' in which she wrote letters to a popular talk show host, describing her life, and how she eventually falls in love with the homeless Atlas--a love that is ultimately doomed.
The adult Lily is in disgrace after ruining her father's funeral with a cold hard dose of truth, and finds herself bonding with an attractive doctor that she meets by chance on an apartment rooftop. Chance and circumstance (including a missed chance with Atlas who is now running a successful restaurant in Boston,) led to a relationship between Lily and Ryle, but it soon becomes obvious that all is not as it seems, and that Ryle and Lily's father may have something in common.
I found this one dark, truthful and occasionally difficult to read. The author gets to the heart of the complexities of violent relationships--and the reason why a woman doesn't just leave him. Through the character of Atlas, the author also shows just how someone can support a woman who is going through the same thing as Lily, with patience and without judgement. Ryle himself is shown as a complex character, who regrets his actions, yet remains unable to control them.
Monday, 26 September 2016
Saturday, 24 September 2016
NOWHERESVILLE, AUSTRALIA--A local supermarket has decided to get rid of their self-service terminals in a move that has surprised shoppers. "Frankly, I think these terminals are a piece of shit," Grant Gusto, manager of the Nowheresville Food Mart told our reporters. "They're loud, they break down every five minutes and to be perfectly frank I'm sick of hearing a recorded voice telling me to place an item in the bagging area when I've bloody well already placed the item there."
Since the self service terminals have been removed from the store, Nowheresville Food Mart has seen a sharp decline in instance of shoplifting. Other items, such as gourmet truffles are not being mistakenly sold as the much cheaper per kilo brown mushrooms, and shoppers are no longer using the self-service area as an extra entrance to the store. "Best bloody decision that I ever made," Grant Gusto adds. "Best bloody decision ..."