Atonement: A Combined Book & Movie Review

*Please be aware that this post contains spoilers, so if you want to experience Atonement for yourself, you should stop reading now.  Just know that I highly recommend the book to everyone, except people who dislike unhappy endings, and people who don't enjoy having to skip over sex stuff.*

After finishing Atlas Shrugged in January, I immediately declared it to be one of the best books I would ever read in my lifetime.  I read Anthem, We the Living, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged right in a row {with time out for Wicked -- and wasn't that a mistake}, immersing myself in the fiction of Ayn Rand and loving every minute of it. 

However, since then, I have read nothing.  And by nothing, I mean no new books.  I've read magazines, and traffic signs, and e-mails.  I re-read Emma {instigating our Emma and Clueless movie marathon}.  But I haven't read any new books.  And that's strange for me.  Perhaps Ayn Rand spoiled me for any other reading, perhaps I was overwhelmed by my New Year's goal to read more books.  Maybe I was intimidated by Christian's reading prowess.  I don't know the reason, but I do know that Christian read 26 books this year, while I read a grand total of... one.

The one I read was Atonement.  And then I watched the movie.*  And here's what I thought: they were both super-good.

The book was exciting in its attention to detail and rich descriptions, in the relatability of its characters, in the way it took time to build before climactic moments.  The movie {as with many movies} doesn't have time to adequately explore every aspect of the book.  The beginning, although in one sense feels like watching the book, also feels rushed.  For example, Briony is such a sympathetic character in the book -- I remember my own moment when I realized that other people had consciousness as much as I did, and that they existed beyond what I knew of them -- but that's lost in the movie. The movie simplifies and antagonizes Briony, leaving out most of her epiphanic thought processes that take place in Part 1.  She also looks ugly in the movie, which I had a hard time dealing with.

The movie wasn't in all ways inferior to the book.  {Remember, I did say that I thought it was super-good.}  I loved the cinematography of the movie.  I thought Keira Knightley made a top-notch Cecilia, and James McAvoy wasn't as irritating as I had anticipated.  {However, I thought it was tres cheesy when he read his letter out loud.  How many times have you sat in a room by yourself, and read something you've written audibly and clearly, so that someone watching you would be able to understand?  Perhaps only when writing a talk?  Me, too.}

I enjoyed most that the movie made me realize that Cecilia and Robbie really never got to be together.  In reading the book, I read the end and was unaffected.  I felt like I could pick the ending that I wanted, and I wanted an ending where Cecilia and Robbie lived happily ever after.  I watched the movie and realized that the scene when Briony goes to talk to Cecilia could never have happened that way.  I don't know how it would have happened, but it's clear that it's a scene Briony constructed in her mind over years of regret and imagining.

Most importantly of all, I feel like reading Atonement has broken the literary block of ice in which I was encased, and I'm looking forward to doing a lot more reading in 2010.  See you then.

*{Christian and I have a strict no-R-rated-movies policy in our house, but we recently got a ClearPlay DVD player, which edits movies as we watch them.  I now have a Netflix queue stacked with R-rated movies, and I am mos def looking forward to all of them.}


Family Picture 2009

Our family pictures:

Isn't everyone glad I learned how to smile photogenically for pictures? If only I had figured it out before I got married, my wedding pictures would have looked a lot better...

{Thanks to Alice for doing such a great job!}


NC State Fair 2009

Christian and I went to the fair on Saturday. We were there for under two hours, but we still had a blast. Here's a quick synopsis of our fair experience:

We parked for free at Carter Finley. There was a quick tram ride to the fair entrance, during which we met a UNC football player and had a nice conversation about how not fun it is when you lose football games.

Immediately we went on all the rides we wanted in a row. Lines were not long at all. We went on the Fireball, the Super Slide, the Ferris Wheel, the Mega Drop, and the Haunted House. The Fireball and Mega Drop were absolutely awesome. The Haunted House was even lamer than we expected.

After all of our rides, we ate food. Christian had a polish sausage and lemonade, I had a footlong hot dog and lemonade, and we shared a bucket of miserably undercooked fries. Total: $30. Then Christian had some deep fried oreos and a frozen banana, and I had fried dough. Total: $way too much.

In the midst of our eating, it started to rain, so we got out our rain jackets and started the hike home. We got on a bus to go back to our car, but we got off at the wrong stop and ended up walking for about twenty minutes.

Here are all the pictures we took while at the fair (and, yes, the shirts are back):

Christian and I were on the Ferris Wheel by ourselves this year, which was not as cool. We had to sit opposite each other, for weight distribution purposes, and we had to take each other's picture.

This is just before we went on the Haunted House. Don't we look scared? Also, as a side note, my hair looked way better in real life than it appears in these pictures. Just so everyone knows.


Important Thoughts 15.0

15.1: I did a little redecorating around the old blog-piece. The black was feeling too dark and claustrophobic for spring. I needed something lighter, something refreshing, something uncluttered. So I went for white. I also moved my sidebars farther away from the main column of text -- everything was all cramped together. I moved some page elements around -- I put all of the mostly text elements on the left side of the page, and all of the mostly picture elements on the right side of the page. I also got rid of some page elements that I felt were unnecessary, like the "subscribe to" element -- I don't think anyone ever even came close to using that -- and I made the text size smaller. I think my blog is much more organized now. It feels good, for spring.

15.2: Speaking of spring, there always comes a time in spring when I find myself feeling claustrophobic about almost everything. I can't stand having curtains over the windows until it's completely dark outside, I won't wear long sleeves, dark colors, or real shoes even if the weather warrants it, I don't like to eat hot food, I can't sleep with the blankets over my feet, I take lukewarm showers, and (this may be a little too information for some people, so if you're easily freaked out, feel free to skip ahead to the next Important Thought) I wish I never had to wear clothes. Don't worry, I keep my clothes on, I just relish the naked moments.

15.3: Why did no one point out to me the fact that I misspelled "something" in my last post? I left off the g. Has my mother convinced everyone that I'm a terrible speller, or does no one read my posts very closely? Also, don't try to go back and check it -- it's already fixed.

15.4: I completed my first goal for 2009 yesterday. If you remember, Goal #5 was: "Watch the entire Seinfeld series." Well, I have watched every episode of every season of Seinfeld. And they were good. They were very good.

15.5: I've been working on my other goals for 2009 also, some with more diligence than others. I finished The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay last week. It was incredible. If I hadn't just read Atlas Shrugged, I would have said that Kavalier & Clay was the best book that I had read in a while. It was awesome not only because of the tender, heart-wrenching storyline (I found myself in tears at one point, which I feel is more significant now than it was when I sobbed over Sirius' death in Order of the Phoenix), but also because of the writing. Michael Chabon has an expert grasp on the English language, and his writing is beautiful. I loved it. As a sidenote, after Christian read Kavalier & Clay last year, he basically said, "That book was great, but I'm not recommending it to anyone." I feel the same way, especially in addressing what I'm pretty confident is a mostly LDS audience: take this book on at your own risk.

15.6: Only twelve days until my 23rd birthday. I am getting so old. (Only two more years and I'll be too old to start my modeling career.) Also, for my birthday, I'm getting the lovely present of a big fat buttload of 17th Century British Literature and History of the Scientific Revolution exams. Awesome.

15.7: Christian and I had our first anniversary on Sunday. It was so cool. Without planning anything together, we both went traditional and gave each other paper-themed gifts. Christian sent me on a treasure hunt all over the house to find my gift, which was books that I had been wanting. I gave Christian a watch, which isn't paper-ish at all, but I also made him this dot-to-dot on paper:

It's pretty complex, but he did a good job with it. One year down, only all the time in the universe to go.

15.8: Everyone should take the time to mull over these Important Thoughts. Because of upcoming exams and all the other work that I have due before the end of the semester, I'm following the example of several of my friends and taking a break from blogging for a while. I'll start up again once exams are over, but I just don't have the time right now, and I can't take people constantly telling me I need to blog all the time (which actually happens).


Important Thoughts 14.0

14.1: The dress transaction has been finalized. I went with the seller who suggested the Vogue pattern (she said she could easily attach sleeves to it, which is awesome) and the bamboo/cotton jersey fabric. I paid her $35.00, and I'll have it at least by April 26th. I am so excited.

14.2: I don't know if I went again too quickly after the last time, or if the booth lights were more intense than the bed lights, or if the acrylic sheet in the bed protects you more than the metal grille in the booth, or if I just stood with my back too close, but I went tanning yesterday, and I got burnt. Christian and I picked up some aloe (weird aloe, though, because it's clear, and also it says that you can use it for all kinds of things, like for hair gel and shaving gel and clear skin gel), and that has been helping a lot. Also, I feel really stupid.

14.3: My birthday is one month from today! Awesome!

14.4: So I was thinking last night about America's Next Top Model, and about how old would probably be too old to be on the show, and I decided 25. Twenty-five is definitely way too old to start a modeling career. I don't even know why they let people so old on the show. It's just not going to happen for them. Which is too bad, because Celia, who's on this cycle, is 25, and she might have done really well if it wasn't for the fact that she's way too old and she's got an old-woman-skeleton-bird face. Fact: the oldest contestant to ever win ANTM was Yoanna from Cycle 2, who was 23 when she won. Fact: Renee from Cycle 8 made it to third place in the competition and was then eliminated, even though she had the best Covergirl photo and commercial, because she looked too old, and she was only 20 at the time. Fact: there's no way Celia is going to do well on this season, and everyone should definitely pick someone younger for their favorite this cycle.

You tell me who looks older (Renee is on the left, Celia is on the right):


Words I Didn't Know

As previously mentioned, I have started reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Right now I'm only 31 pages in, but so far it is amazing. I am enthralled. The only difficulty I've encountered is that my present vocabulary has proved insufficient in providing me with all the word meanings that I need. (In doing a Google search of "omniveillant," I find I'm not the only one.) I might, with another book, have skipped over unknown words, but Kavalier & Clay is so engaging that I feel the need to understand all of it. Therefore, I turned to my two favorite resources: the Oxford English Dictionary and Wikipedia. And, at the risk of embarrassing my mother with my inadequate word-knowledge, I decided to post my findings.

ingot- a mass (usually oblong or brick-shaped) of cast metal, especially of gold or silver, and (in modern use) of steel

Clifton "Kip" Fadiman (May 15, 1904 - June 20, 1999) - an American intellectual, author, radio and television personality

Milton Caniff (February 28, 1907-April 3, 1988) - an American cartoonist famous for the Terry and the Pirates comic strip. In 1934, Caniff was hired by the New York Daily News to produce a new strip for the Chicago Tribune/Daily News syndicate. Daily News publisher Joseph M. Patterson wanted an adventure strip set in the mysterious Orient, what Patterson described as "the last outpost for adventure." Caniff, though knowing almost nothing about China, researched the nation's history and learned about families for whom piracy was a way of life passed down over the generations. The result was Terry and the Pirates, the strip which made Caniff famous.

omniveillant- watching over everything*

a small magnifier used by a watchmaker or jeweller

cineraria- a genus of composite plants, mostly natives of South Africa, with blue or purple flowers, but assuming very various colours under cultivation; they are grown as greenhouse or window plants

- sleight of hand, legerdemain

automaton- something which has the power of spontaneous motion or self-movement

Reichsprotektorat- The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (German: Reichsprotektorat Böhmen und Mähren), the majority ethnic-Czech protectorate which Nazi Germany established in the central parts of Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia in what is today the Czech Republic. It was established on March 15, 1939 by proclamation of Adolf Hitler from Prague Castle following the declaration of establishment of the independent Slovak Republic on 14 March 1939. Bohemia and Moravia as well as the General Government were autonomous Nazi-administered territories which the Nazi government considered part of "Greater Germany." This came to an end with the surrender of Germany to the Allies of World War II in 1945.

pogrom- in Russia, Poland, and some other East European countries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, an organized massacre aimed at the destruction or annihilation of a body or class of people, especially one conducted against Jewish people; generally, an organized, officially tolerated, attack on any community or group

penury- the condition of being destitute; hardship, poverty, need

lachrymose- given or ready to shed tears; of a tearful character, mournful

James Cagney (July 17, 1899 – March 30, 1986) - an American film star. Although he won acclaim and major awards for a wide variety of roles, he is best remembered for playing "tough guys". In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him eighth among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time.

acromegaly- a disease characterized by hypertrophy and enlargement of the extremities (hypertrophy- enlargement of a part or organ of an animal or plant, produced by excessive nutrition; excessive growth or development)

odeon- a concert hall or theatre

*After an unsuccessful search in the OED, I Googled "omniveillant" and found that it's not a real word; Michael Chabon invented it and expected his readers, intelligent and familiar with Latin word-roots, to figure it out for themselves.


15 Things To Do On Spring Break

  1. Eat out at the CKF to celebrate finishing midterms.
  2. Get hair cut. Come home, decide hair looks awful, go back to hair cuttery, get hair cut again.
  3. Finally finish Atlas Shrugged. Wonder if you'll ever read a book that good again in your lifetime.
  4. Read rumors about an Atlas Shrugged movie, start thinking of who you'd cast as each character.
  5. Write Eric a letter, make Eric cookies, go to the post office to send Eric a package.
  6. Visit Alice and play with Kate.
  7. Watch reruns of America's Next Top Model until you're bored out of your mind, then go play Putt-Putt with Christian.
  8. Watch the premiere of the 12th season of America's Next Top Model. Decide Fo is your new favorite to win, Tahlia is your new favorite to be eliminated.
  9. Learn how to make egg rolls.
  10. Start reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.
  11. Go over to Catherine and Bryan's house, eat pizza and brownies, watch The Office and 30 Rock again, e-file taxes, play with Catherine's new MacBook Pro.
  12. Stay up way late every night. Get up way late every morning.
  13. Get ready for a weekend out of town. Take a shower, pack, break your hair dryer, try to fix it, decide it's hopeless, go to Target to buy a new one. Finish packing.
  14. Visit Matt and Melissa in Charlotte for their baby's blessing. Spend 85% of your time there sleeping. Wonder why you are so tired.
  15. Put off getting ready to go back to school.


A Few Pictures

One day in January, all the girls in my family spent some time together at Alice's. I've been trying to get the pictures from Alice ever since, and she finally sent them to me on Wednesday, so here they are.


Important Thoughts 13.0

13.1: School makes me busy. I have classes from 8:30 am to 5:45 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays (with a break for lunch), and one class on Wednesday from 10:15 to 11:05. You might think I would have a lot of extra time on my hands, with Mondays and Fridays completely open, but you would be wrong. You would be the wrongest person in the whole world. Mondays and Fridays are booked. Tell me this -- how am I going to meet my goal of watching all nine seasons of Seinfeld if I don't get in some serious TV time on my days off?

13.2: Christian bought me a new* car last month! We knew we were going to get me a car sometime soon, but still, everything happened so suddenly. One Friday Christian looked at cars online, he told me about a possibility that night, I looked at it the next morning, he called Carmax that afternoon, and we bought it that evening, and that was that. It's a white automatic '07 Toyota Camry with leather seats, and it is so awesome. It doesn't leak water through the doors, the ceiling isn't falling down, the seatbelt is always in the right place, and the radiator and air conditioning are working perfectly. Basically, it's perfect. Pictures to come.

13.3: Storytime! Once upon a time last fall, I decided that I wanted a new pair of jeans. A pair of dark trouser-ish jeans. So I walked into American Eagle, I picked up a pair in my size, and I bought them. I thought I was done. But I was the wrongest person in the world, because I wasn't done. Those jeans were too big and they stretched out too easily. I was constantly sticking them in the dryer. So after Christmas, I got myself a pair from J. Crew on sale. I measured myself to get the right size, and I ordered them off the online. When I got them, they were ginormous. Too big in the waist, hips, and thigh, too long in the leg. I couldn't return them, so I sold them on eBay. Last Tuesday, I was tired of still not having my jeans, so during my lunch break I walked into the Gap, picked up a pair of jeans of every style in two different sizes, and tried them all on. Twelve different pairs of jeans. And I found the ones that I wanted. And I love them. And we're going to live happily ever after, at least until this spring, because then I think I want some skinny jeans. The End.

13.4: I think I killed the African violet my mom gave me for a birthday present last year. It does not look good.

*New = new for us.


Review: First Week of School

My first day of school was not great. Somehow, even after checking the building abbreviations to make sure I went to the right place, I still sat in a dark and empty classroom for ten minutes in Winston on Wednesday morning, wondering where everyone was, before someone came along and told me that my class was actually in Withers. I don't know how I messed that up. Luckily, I was only five minutes late for class. Unluckily, the class was an upper-level Spanish class, and I haven't taken Spanish in a few years, and I don't remember how to conjugate into all the verb tenses, and I don't even remember how to say what time it is.

Later on Wednesday, I went to go to my piano class at 12:25. I got there a little early, so I started talking to this guy. Russ? Rich? Randy? It's a little fuzzy, but I have a feeling it started with an R. Anyway, R and I were talking about things, typical things like our majors and how much school we have left, and atypical things like how we're both reading Atlas Shrugged, and I asked him how he liked Beginning Piano I. He said, this is Beginning Piano I. And I checked my schedule, and my Beginning Piano II class started at 10:15. I was two hours late. I don't know how I messed that up, either.

Thursday went much better than Wednesday. I managed to be in all the right places at all the right times -- minor victory! Funny story: as I was waiting for my Arthurian Legends class to begin, I started listening to the conversations going on around me, and I overheard the person behind me, holding up his textbook and pointing, say to the person sitting next to me: "Look! They have the edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight that Tolkien edited! Awesome!" And I thought, "Oh, man. What losers." And simultaneously, "That is so cool." Apparently I'm a dork at heart, but I'm a dork that feels superior to other dorks.

My conclusion is, I think this semester is going to be alright. I think that in part because I'm dropping the upper-level Spanish class, meaning I don't have to desperately try to re-learn the Spanish I should already know, and also it means that I don't have any classes at all on Mondays and Fridays. Right now I'm waiting for Enrollment to open so I can drop it for good. Drop it like it's hot. I woke up at 6:00 and came downstairs and immediately started searching for a class that I could take instead of the Spanish class (I didn't want to lower the number the number of hours I'm taking this semester), with the knowledge that if I didn't find one, I would have to go to Spanish, without having taken a shower first, and without my homework done. Thank goodness, I found another English class, so I don't have to go to Spanish at all ever again.