Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fallen but not far enough

Angels are the new vampires, you know, or maybe it’s zombies that are the new vampires. I’m waiting for the first angel/zombie amalgam to appear on bookstore shelves any day. If it hasn’t already. I can’t keep up.

I love reading YA novels. There’s something so fresh and hopeful about them.

Course sometimes they completely screw it up.

I recently got hold of the novel Fallen, by Lauren Kate. Thought I would check out this new angel obsession. Ye Gods. I know matters are falling apart when I start skidding down the slope, hopping over huge chunks of text, annoyed as all get out but unable to stop because, dammit, surely there’s a payoff here somewhere.

I liked the set up. Luce is a suspected arsonist (or something - her first kiss apparently incinerated her boyfriend) who lands in a reform boarding school in Savannah. I like that touch - Savannah. Luce mentions the humidity now and then to remind you where you are. In case you forget, there being no other indication of locale. So Luce, who also sees menacing dark shadows everywhere, is lonely and lost for all of two minutes at the new school when she spies the incredibly gorgeous and strangely familiar Daniel. Immediately she is captivated, drawn to him. He flips her off. It’s so adorable. Then there’s Cam, the sweetly attentive, equally gorgeous boy she’s drawn to but not quite so much. You know something’s wrong with him because he takes Luce on a picnic and a snake shows up. Later he gives her a pendant with a snake on it and takes her to a bar called Styx. Luce is completely dense when it comes to symbolism.

Besides being dumb as a sack of rocks, Luce is beyond annoying. She’s just so mysteriously drawn to Daniel. So so so so drawn. She can’t stop thinking about it, staring at him, having strange dreams about him. Her brain is always churning with Daniel. And what’s Daniel got to show for himself? Well, we know he’s an angel. Luce is too dumb to figure that out for ¾ of the book. Still, let’s see, when he’s not pushing her away with strange, cryptic warnings and comments, he’s kinda polite and friendly. This goes on for freakin ever. And not much else. Shadows come and go. You never really find out why the hell Luce can see them, or why she incinerated her boyfriend, but oh well, it’s probably in the sequel. Various stuff happens la la la, her parents visit, la la, a friend helps her research Daniel, la la la, the library catches on fire (I was hopeful there for a moment, but nah) and there are lots more scary swirly inky shadows everywhere! Daniel kisses her and is really taken aback that she doesn't explode, because he was totally expecting her to, quite literally, blow up. That's what an awesome kisser he is. And, oh, Daniel’s a fallen angel and Cam is too, and well, so are a number of students (what the hell is this school’s admission policy, anyway?), and there’s a big battle with locusts and fireflies or something but we don’t know why exactly, except they seem to be fighting over Luce but they can’t tell her why because it might explode her wittle brain. But as long as Luce can rest in Daniel’s arms, lost in his violet eyes, with his beautiful wings wrapped around her, what’s a little chaos, death and destruction?

And no, there’s no payoff.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Quietly hiding out until spring

February is really a draggy month, trailing the ragged bits of winter behind it while the stores begin to put up their spring and summer displays. Valentine's Day must have been invented to infuse some warmth and color into the dun February skies.

Well, that's my mood, anyway. Bored. Restless. Bored.

So, I read a book. In this instance, The City and the City by China Mieville. I admit that I first picked it up based solely on the author's exotic name. I mean, who names their son China? It turns out he looks very cutting edge - bald, intense stare, lots of earrings, reminding me, in fact, of the anesthesiologist I had when delivering DramaQueen. He had earrings up and down both ears. Some people might have felt alarm, but I immediately relaxed, knowing I was in good hands. He was, indeed, an expert at placing an epidural, as I discovered years later delivering Firecracker, when no one could quite get it right and it had to be placed several times. But back to China. The City and The City is one of those books that gets praised as being wildly imaginative. I'm beginning to think that Wildly Imaginative is its on genre. The two cities in the title are kind of like West Berlin and East Berlin if they were layered on top of each other - this street is East Berlin, that one is West, and this one is sort of interlaced, and all the inhabitants of East Berlin had trained themselves to "unsee" the inhabitants of West Berlin, and vice-versa. To not "unsee" is a criminal offense called "breaching." I continue to be amazed at how cleverly the author has constructed this very strange world. In one of the cities a young woman is murdered, and the investigation begins to wander into the dens and lairs of various political cells that want to unify the two countries, or that violently oppose all cooperation, or that believe there is a third country hiding in the cracks. Dark forces at play. Conspiracies. I very much enjoyed it.

And I watched a movie - Dorian Gray, with the amazing Colin Firth as Dorian's manipulative mentor and the fetching Ben Barnes (incredibly beautiful, jaw-dropping, eye-popping drop-dead, transcendentally gorgeous) as Dorian. There's nothing like a good old selling-my-soul-to-the-devil story. I read The Picture of Dorian Gray when I was in high school. I remember feeling slightly disappointed. I had rather hoped, from Wilde's notoriety, that the book would be rather more saucy than it was. The debauchery was vague, to my mind, as I had not yet been instructed in reading a subtext. I wasn't sure exactly what he was up to, besides being a bit of a slut. The movie is much more forthcoming. He knocks up a girl then heartlessly dumps her, visits brothels, makes conquests of all the women in society, drinks a lot, smokes opium, travels the world engaging in some truly alarming and violent sexual escapades, seduces a friend then murders him and dumps him in the river. Dorian remains beautiful while his portrait bears the scars of his corruption and depravity. At first he thinks this is a pretty sweet deal. The painting's transformation is quite amazing,  with maggots crawling out of it, and some sort of effluvia, and I swear mushrooms or something growing on the back. And it groans. Dorian keeps it locked up in his attic, visiting it now and then to view the progress of his degradation. I'm not sure where he thought all this was heading, but that's human nature, always thinking your bad behavior is safely tucked away in a creaky, drafty old room, securely locked. And for most of the film he's okay with watching his soul rot away. The end seems to hint at the possibility of redemption, but if I remember correctly there is none in the book.

That's what I've been up to. It's all very dull.