Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Reading Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier


Because I've had very little time lately I chose to humour you with pieces of my life, which (I have to admit) were much more funny and interesting when I was thinking about posting them here than they were when I actually did it. Then main reason for writing more about my (currently very boring - books'n'sleep) personal life was that writing book "reviews" takes up more time. Or at least I imagined so. Today, as promised I will put an end to this going-nowhere personal crap and finally give you some real content. (For a content obsessed blogger, that's a step in the right direction.)

I bought the book just because I saw the film first and loved it. I watched the film with boyfriend who said it was an unusually quiet film. And so it was. But the photography, the superb acting, the ability to say a "thousand" words with a look or a gesture is apparent and very functional in this film. Also, it is not a secret that I find Colin Firth a decently talented actor and that all my hopes (for a splendid acting career) lie with Scarlett Johansson.


I first wanted to borrow the book from a library as I often do. For weeks I waited in vain. The book seems to be very popular with Slovenian readers. Then a few weeks ago, when I was in Konzorcij, I saw it on a shelf, and as it was reasonably priced, I bought it. I expected quite a lot of this book. Mainly because I liked the film so much, but also because it received good reviews and because it seemed to be popular. I was (if only a little) disappointed.

The book's written in first person singular, so the story is told from Griet's, the housemaid's standpoint. For some moments, this functions well. To be honest, this technique functions remarkably well in this book - it renders Griet unable to know what others are thinking and thus makes her more distant, more alone in the house where she serves. This loneliness is the best described aspect of the book - how Griet is alone: the only maid to help him, the only to clean for him, the only to understand him. It is logical that she perceives herself of special importance to him and thus she finds herself being in love, despite the fact (the book's more clear on this than the film) that he doesn't reciprocate her feelings. He certainly likes to be understood, but he doesn't fall in love with Griet (it is very obvious how he loves his wife when he says he converted from Protestantism to Christianity).

The book is naive, the language almost overly simple, but has an air of determination, an almost Griet-like personality (again, benefiting from the first person singular narrative). But that is the only other good thing there is. The story is not very unusual, though the climate at Vermeer's house is well described. There are certain little scenes, private battles of wills, envy, loneliness, a little despair - these are little triumphs in this book. Unfortunately, the author didn't manage to extend the tone and manner of these paragraphs to the whole book.

It's a decent book, but never a very good one, because once you've read it, there is hardly anything to add. The story's finished, at some points even lamely motivated (like at the end) and there are no further questions. I often find that with great books, with the exceptional books, one identifies (if only a very small piece of their personality) with the book. At one point you might say - that's exactly how I feel, but I wouldn't have ever been able to describe it like that. There are paragraphs you'd ponder why it happened that way only to discover that there was no other way. There will be phrases stuck in your memory, there will be powerful feelings that the book evoked, there will be the experience of first reading the book, that you'll never forget. And somehow, Chevalier's book doesn't quite manage any of this. It is a simple story, perhaps a little tragic, but with a positive ending. What it lacks is a better motivation of certain Griet's (and others') actions.

In conclusion: this is a book you may enjoy reading on holidays, but by no means is it something that will stay with you or guide you through the tough times. You might find the narrative a little overbearing sometimes, but the first person singular seems to be quite the Chevalier's way of writing. Her last book, The Lady and the Unicorn is written the same way as well (at least the first chapter - the taster - is) and the plot is remarkably similar. This is where the tables started to turn. I read the Girl in one day, enjoyed it, but not completely as I already knew what happens. Then I read about the Lady and saw a pattern emerge. I had professed my deeply buried dislike for authors who repeat a "bestseller" formula (once they've discovered it) all over again. And I think I might be beginning to feel that way about Chevalier as well. Do you think I'll ever read the Lady? I think not.

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posted by Nadezhda | 11:20 | 2 comments | links to this post

Monday, May 22, 2006

Published.


All this talk about how much I like and adore the Harry Potter series and so little proof to back it up. Now you have at least two of those. The first one is a (cropped) screen shot of my W.O.M.B.A.T. test results, the other is that a Harry P. editorial I wrote some time ago for Mugglenet got published. (Hooray!)

It's been quite a while, so I thought they might not have considered my editorial good enough for posting. Especially as after I had written and submitted the editorial, I found several discussions that were basically saying the same thing. My thesis (and I'm fairly certain of it) is that Lily (=Harry's mother) performed the Fidelius Charm. It's not a big thing which could help us decipher the ending of Book 7 (supposedly Ms. Rowling's already got the title for it, but she won't - naturally- reveal it), but it is essential, because it helps us understand how a young, though very talented witch like Lily could have performed as immensely complicated spell as the Fidelius Charm. It also sheds light on the fact that the switch in the Secret-Keeper was made at the last possible moment and no one apart from the Potters, Sirius and Pettigrew knew about it. Anyway, this is explained in more detail in the editorial, so you might want to read it.

Another improvement - I finally persuaded boyfriend to read the HP series. He began in winter, around the New Year's and then got stuck halfway through Prisoner of Azkaban. His progress was slow and he constantly complained how he hated that she made the Dursley's such baddies. Then (in April) we went for a short trip to the sea-side (which boyfriend adores) and I (my meanest, black-mailing person) said we could go again as soon as he finishes books 3 and 4. Then he sort of got hooked, the story became much more interesting and as he didn't see Order of the Phoenix (the film's only coming out next summer), he was (I suppose) curious as to what happens in the next book. He read book 5 and then he just proceeded to read book 6. He's not yet as hooked, he's not quite become the HP sleuth I hoped him to be, but the ending of 6 is mysterious enough that I managed to develop a theory, and upon that, he shared his thoughts. The sole fact that he keeps asking when book 7's supposed to be out is enough to assure me that he liked the series more than he's willing to admit it.

Why am I so proud of the fact that he's read the book? Well, I can now tell him about the theories I've read in Mugglenet Editorials, I can ask him for his opinion, I can give my opinion and there's an almost endless subject for discussion. I only wonder one thing - when book 7 is published - who's going to read it first? Or are we going to read it in turns? Both at one time?

posted by Nadezhda | 11:37 | 11 comments | links to this post

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Pain


Pain is a friend of mine I never actually told you about. Pain and I get along well. She's sure to drop by at least once a month to confirm that yes, I'm still fertile (and if luck's on my side it'll still be that way once I've completed all the 12 years of my medical education and maybe decide it'd be nice to have offspring). But there are unforeseen visits as well. This past week was busy for Pain, as she had to drop by several times. But she did it because she likes me.

On Monday I went running. In February and March I didn't run at all as I could hardly find the time. I also started ballet classes as well and did not want running to interrupt that process too much. In April and May I ran at best two times a week, so I'm still not in my top form. But on the said Monday I did run and as Luck was on my side, I stepped forcefully on a small, irregularly shaped stone and hurt the part of my foot just before the heel. It was difficult to walk on Monday evening and on Tuesday, but I managed. On Wednesday, I must have exaggerated (though I ran the usual distance in the usual time), because I seem to have pulled a hamstring muscle. Ballet on Friday was - painful. I could hardly life my right leg above 90° and if you're used to your leg going up to 120° or even more, then constantly experiencing pain, it becomes frustrating. I tried to spare the leg, so I didn't lift it high and it helped a bit.

What hurt most about the Friday ballet class was the teacher. There's a center combination where we do a couple of petit allegro jumps and then twItalianan style fouettes. I can do the fouettes to the left well, but to the right the transition between the leg lift and the turn seems to be more difficult. I'm not quite sure why, but we all have our better leg/side, so it's not very unusual. However, the teacher said that I shouldn't do the combination because it was too difficult for me. Instead of at least showing me, what I was doing wrong or giving me some tips, she just said I shouldn't do it. Why doesn't she ever say that to people who come to our class who are complete beginners, who have no clue about turn-out, positions, steps etc. She never, never says they shouldn't do something, but she accepts that they might not do it perfectly the first time. She offers endless suggestions and she corrects them often. Basically, she gives corrections to them after every exercise. She gives a single, if any correction to me. I am perfectly aware that I'm still not anywhere near what I was before I stopped. But my body's responding to classes, my muscles are already more pliable, the extension's higher, I have more control over the body.

The teacher even asked me last time how many classes of ballet school I completed and was surprized when I told her that I never went to the school, but only took private classes. It was a small compliment to me. But then she said, that I needn't bother with battu, if I never went to the school. Oh, pur-lease, now you won't teach me battu, because I never went to a proper ballet school? This Friday, she corrected my ports de bras and said, I'd forgotten you didn't go to the ballet school as if that was an excuse for my poor port de bras.

I wish she corrected me more, I wish she treated me as worthy of her attention, I wish she demanded more of me, I wish she thought it worthwhile to teach me a new step or combination. Physical Pain is something I can befriend and endure. Emotional Pain hurts more than any pulled muscle or a painful blister.

posted by Nadezhda | 11:55 | 4 comments | links to this post

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Muffins!


Boyfriend and I are a dream team for baking muffins. Last week we made 7 pans of muffins in one evening. And if we're ever repaying a favour, a debt or just trying to please, you're most likely to receive a pan of muffins from us. My favourites are chocolate-banana muffins you see on the photo, boyfriend prefers pear muffins.

From the 7 pans we baked, we sampled but a few. Two pans went for boyfriend's work colleagues, when he left his former workplace, two pans went for the friend who helped redesign my blog and two pans went for my friend who had her birthday a few weeks ago. I wanted to give her something I made myself, because she's already got everything she needs and as I'm not too good with a sewing kit or the like, I just baked. Actually cooking or baking is about the only household chore I like doing. If I had more time, I'd certainly bake or cook more (I like to experiment with vegetables!), but for the present I just pretend to be teaching boyfriend to cook and I surely do show him a lot more than I let him do. :)

This week we made a simple strawberry and cream cake. I wonder what we should do next week... Any suggestions? Any cooks out there?

posted by Nadezhda | 12:27 | 17 comments | links to this post

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

(Un)recognizable

I'm one of those people who think that other people don't remember them, especially if we weren't even properly acquainted. So I was quite surprized when in the middle of my mid-morning reverie someone stopped me on Trubarjeva Street the other day.

He: "Hi! How did the meeting go?"
Me: (a confused expression on my face, my start-with-stuttering-programme ready to roll) "Uh, um..."
He: "So, what did he say, when's our next meeting?"
And then it hit me that he was talking about my meeting our olfactory seminar mentor earlier that day. I was supposed to ask the mentor when our presentation will be; I went to see him alone as a representative of our group.
Me: "Oh, yeah, that was arranged for next week."

We exchanged a few more words and then he bade goodbye. I didn't remember him being in the same group as I was, but as we're quite a large group, so that wasn't too frustrating for someone who's reportedly good with faces'n'names.

Walking further along the street I thought: "But bloody hell, if I know how he remembered who I was and that I was to go see our mentor." Then it hit me. I was wearing a pistachio-green sweater, a skirt and pink shoes. I was carrying a large box of muffins and a large plastic bag on top of my purse. It just might be that I stood out a little in a crowd who normally wears jeans and sweaters and trainers. Maybe people do notice me only to find me impolite when I don't greet them. They might think I'm some snobby character, when in reality I don't greet them because I don't know whether they'll remember me and I don't want to (seemingly) issue "hellowhowdoyoudos" to "strangers".

posted by Nadezhda | 14:28 | 5 comments | links to this post

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Female Anatomy


Now, in my opinion human anatomy is not a very difficult subject. Especially anatomy for amateurs. Knowing the path of every artery in the human body, which is what med students are required to know, is a tad more difficult, though. But "general" anatomy, something everyone should know in my opinion, is easy. It includes the location (ventrally, dorsally, cranially, caudally of X; and projections of organs) of specific organs and their shape (knowing some functions doesn't hurt, either). But I do realize that this is wishful thinking, because you could hardly prevail any candy-maker, brick-layer or mailman that knowing this "basic" anatomy could be good for them.

But because I do know anatomy no tampon manufacturer can convince me that this cross section truthfully represents how any healthy woman looks on the inside. (Incidentally the unnamed manufacturer had a good, correct picture in their "how-to" before, they only recently changed it to this mess.)

Any reader, who is capable of pointing out what is wrong in this photo of female anatomy and able of telling why this cannot be so, is eligible for the grand prize of eternal glory. (I would have offered something else as the grand prize, but after all I am a poor student.) Please, let me hope that at least someone thinks it is worthwhile to know anatomy.

posted by Nadezhda | 12:54 | 10 comments | links to this post

Monday, May 01, 2006

The weakest link

I'm probably the worst girl to be admired. In my life a few men have fancied me and having more than five senses myself I knew that - even before they openly acknowledged it to me. But their bad fortune lay in the fact that I (despite having told them that I have no feelings for them whatsoever) encouraged our friendship. I really liked them as friends. Not as anything more. I know myself quite well and I knew that our hypothetical relationships would be doomed to failure from moment one. There are people you can be good friends with but can never hope to form a fully functional relationship.

Obviously I failed to get my message across clearly enough, as the said young men remained hopeful that given enough time, I will change my mind. Naturally, they were mistaken. But in the course of their affections I received some short messages on my mobile.

I started reading For Whom the Bells Toll by Hemingway today and I remembered that once when one of the aforementioned young men sent me an SMS, he didn't forget to remind me that he was reading the said book and was just where the two main characters get romantically involved. To think that of all moments, he was precisely there when I sent my SMS! God must be extremely good with him to bestow upon him such an unusual coincidence.

So when I opened the book today my first thought was this event - and I chuckled. My second thought was that I still have to write a seminar on olfactory system. I closed the book and set to work.

posted by Nadezhda | 12:22 | 8 comments | links to this post