Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, January 25, 2016

A musical take on A Winter's Respite of reading

While I did wish for snow during the Seasons of Reading readathon, entitled A Winter's Respite, this past week, I never intended to have such a plethora of a storm land on my doorstep like it did on Saturday.

However, I did manage to finish two of the three books that I had set aside for this literary event,so goals were pretty much met. The third book(which I'll talk more about in a moment) is one that demands taking your time with and it will be on active duty on my current reading pile.

In discussing all of the books I took on for A Winter's Respite, instead of a straight on review, I decided to chose a theme song for each one that reflects how it made me feel. First up is Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, chosen for brevity and as part of my year long reading goals.

The basic story chronicles a period in which journalist Jake Barnes follows along his restless companions(most of whom are trailing behind Lady Brett Ashley, a charismatic divorcee) as they drink and party in Paris and Spain.

 Their trip to Spain is centered around the running of the bulls in Pamplona and a handsome young matador that upsets the already unstable love triangles involving Lady Ashley. It's a rather moody story that perfectly illustrates the whole "Lost Generation" vibe of the post WWI era and sets the standard for disillusioned youth; frankly some of the conversations held here could just as easily fit into the dialogues of the beatnik/slacker/hipster twenty-somethings present and yet to come.

For a suitable theme song, Madonna's "Take a Bow" felt right. True, it does help that the video does focus quite a bit on bull fighting but the vivid details are similar to what Hemingway describes in the novel and Madonna's period outfits enhance the Lady Ashley aspect of the story. Also, the song itself talks about a broken romance and Lady Ashley's longing to be both a free spirit and yet part of someone else is the soul of the novel, in my opinion:

The other book that I completed was Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, one of those stay up until the wee small hours of the morning reads. The reluctant heroine of the book is Libby Day, a lone survivor of a family massacre who takes on the search for the truth of what happened that night motivated by payments from a crime solving group called The Kill Club.

In the beginning, Libby is only interested in the money as the charity trust fund she's been living off of is nearly empty and her emotional scars prevent her from finding a steady job or even a steady life. She is still convinced that her brother Ben,who she testified against when she was seven, is guilty as charged and serving the prison sentence that he deserves.

However, Libby starts looking into things without asking for payment as questions about what really went on back start to arise and upon visiting Ben in prison, she knows that he is hiding something or someone that could explain everything. The ending might be slightly over the top but not enough to distill the power of the overall narrative and character growth of Libby.

For this theme song, I went with Madonna again, as her theme song for the 1986 movie At Close Range "Live To Tell" felt like the perfect match. Since the death of the fictional Day family took place in the early 1980s and At Close Range involves dark family dealings, the song's haunting lyrics seemed to be well echoed in Libby's struggles to discover the truth.

 I know that there is a film version of Dark Places which didn't get great reviews, but I will still see it at some point. In the meanwhile, this second dose of Madonna fits the gruesome bill as neatly as a suspect glove:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was the first book that I chose for the readathon but it is the one left standing as AWR wound down. It's not due to a lack of interest on my part, believe me.

Much like the title setting, the story requires you to take your time strolling through the plot attractions and getting a good look at the characters as the sights and sounds of the lush prose invade your senses. The center ring showcase belongs to Marco and Celia, a pair of  talented young magicians set against each other since childhood by their mentors.

This duel of the fates challenges them both, yet the ultimate goal of this competition has not been revealed to either of them. At the point of the story that I'm at, Celia and Marco now know that they are each other's opponent but are only pushed by their mentors to do more with their powers. Since Celia is being trained by her father(who is presumed dead yet is still present due to his misfire with a spell) and Marco is an orphan plucked from obscurity with a girlfriend in the circus who informs him of any updates with the show, the stakes are quite personal here.

This time, I chose Jessica Lange's cover version of Lana Del Ray's "Gods and Monsters" as the theme music for the book. With this song being performed early on in the fourth season of American Horror Story, subtitled Freak Show, that siren allure of the piece sounds like the right background music for the place that I am at so far in this tale of magical wonders:

I hope that everyone else who took part in A Winter's Respite had as much fun as I did with their reading and that they didn't have as much snow to deal with as we did on the East Coast this weekend. Oh, well, soon enough we'll be complaining about the cruel heat of summer and looking to cool off with a good book or two, I'm sure:

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