Sunday, April 3, 2016

Jane Eyre as serial killer

Finished Jane Steele last night, the book about Jane Éyre as a serial killer governess, although that's an exaggerated description from the book jacket that's meant to cause you to pick it up. She's more like Jane Éyre as Batman--she only does away with those who are nefarious and deserving of death--rapists, child abductors, mass murderers.  The first-person narrator in the contemporary version does address the reader directly, but instead of stating, "dear Reader, I married him," she writes "dear reader, I murdered him." She's not a sociopath though; she feels guilt and hates herself for these mostly random or opportunistic slayings.

It's hard not to compare it to another Victorian  Gothic retelling I read recently; Pride, Prejudice and Zombies, which weaved together real text from the Austen novel and sprinkled in zombies. Not enough zombies for me and the book didn't play that up enough somehow. It also had illustrations and I couldn't think who it would appeal to. For people who liked P&P the original, the plot had slight adjustments but didn't much stray from the original tale or tone and so you more or less were familiar with what was going to happen. For zombie fans, the formality of the language was probably off-putting. For feminists, it was pretty cool to read about young society ladies who were trained to be zombie slayers and whose main goal was not to marry, but to kill the undead. The other thing both books do is to stay close to the time period and tone of that time; they're not re-shaping the core story in modern times.

Jane Steele deals with the parallels by mentioning the original book throughout (quoting it at the beginning of every chapter), but also acknowledging that the character of Jane has read the novel and is fully aware of the irony of her life unfolding in similar ways (she's an outcast orphan, she is sent to a terrible boarding school, she works as a governess), so that acknowledgement felt skillfully handled. There's also things that are completely different, like the child is a horse-loving girl of Indian Descente, that the Rochester figure (named Charles Thornfield in this version. If you'll recall, the mansion in JE was Thornfield Hall) does not have a secrete wife, and then there's also a whole other story about a treasure chest of dolls covered in stolen jewels and the war in India that I didn't understand and care much about.  The story may have other parallels that I didn't pick up on, since I haven't read Jane Éyre in 15 yeas and tend to confuse it with Wuthering Heights (I vaguely recall a character named Catherine,  a lot of talk about the heath and the moors, an unhappy ending?).

Think how much time the write must have spent with the original, and how she had to decide how closely to adhere to certain plot lines o move away from them without completely wandering off the track. I should take advantage of this trend and find a novel that I loved as a kid and rewrite it to include vampires or where the genders are flipped. What book would that be? Not Little Women because I don't think I could stomach re-reading that book 100 times. I never liked Beth because she was so meek and Amy in the book was a little snot. Ideas welcome.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The advantages of little dogs

I won't write a blog post that explains how little dogs are better than big dogs, because I've never owned a big dog and so have no basis for comparison. I also never, ever thought I would be happy with a little dog, as they made me think of snobby older white woman on Madison Avenue who carry their Pomeranian's like accessories. Little dogs didn't seem like real dogs--real dogs are water-loving golden retrievers or bear-like huskies or thick-necked Rottweiler's. But then, because we were trying to ease Luke into the idea of owning a dog, we went with the smaller model. Also, the hypoallergenic model, which is a whole other issue altogether, because we paid for him at a puppy store that may be an abuse factory for mommy dogs, and so we cannot say, "He's a rescue." People like to say this when you ask them their breed of dog. "Oh, we don't know. We rescued him from certain death." They like to put bumper stickers on their cars that read "Who rescued who?" I am all for dog rescue, and would like to be able to smugly say the same, but our dog cost $800 and we picked him out and bought him without anyone asking our landlord if it was okay. And he doesn't shed and we got to train him from the start. And I still wish I could say he was a rescue.

But, so, here is what I like about having a dog who weighs 15 pounds:

1. You can pick him up and cradle him like an infant. I am not unaware that this dog is a baby substitute for us, and so I am cautious about dressing him in little bonnets and booties, even though I would love to provide a wardrobe.  But I do like that I can scoop him up and hold him, can put him in my lap to watch TV and also that the little girls who live next door can carry him around like a dolly.

2. Even when he's pulling at his hardest on the leash, he has very little power.  He's tenacious and so always going after a squirrel or a bird or a plastic bag blowing in the wind ala American Beauty, but even when he's urging forward so hard that he's going sideways, it's not difficult to keep him under control.

3. People are not afraid of him.  Because of his size and features, he will always look a little like a puppy and he is not threatening. When dog lovers see him, they automatically coo. Children like him, he likes children.  He gives dog-dom a good name by being friendly and adorable.

4. Smaller dogs live longer. It's an unfortunate reality that you give your hearts to these creatures who don't live that long, comparatively. This is especially true for bigger dogs, whose live expediencies are sometimes between 8 and 10 years. Little dogs, for some reason I have not researched, have a longer life expectancy and don't start walking with that sad old dog gait dogs with longer legs suffer from (though the vet warned us that Chap might get hip dysplasia. Sometimes, we rotate his hips just to joints in squeaky good shape).

5. Obviously, cleaning up after a smaller dog is easier.

6. They can't knock you over Orr make you legs buckle if they leap at you. We've been bad about not training him to stay off people's legs, and part of the reason for the laziness is that no one seems to care. Except one time when he did it to this lady waiting at the bus stop who was wearing white jeans. I went inside and brought her a bottle of seltzer to take out the mud.

I still love all dogs. I will still cross the street to pet any dog and I still risk facing disfigurement on a routine basis for dogs tied up outside, but I've changed my mind about the value of a smaller dog. Chipper-Chap in particular.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The brain on gym

I like a routine at the gym, and I like limitations on time. I go between three or four times a week and do either 40 or 45 minute of cardio and sometimes a few sit ups and weights. But most of the time that I'm there, I'm dying for it to be over and having the same thoughts. It's not like other solitary activities--like if I'm walking or in the shower, my brain works on solving problems or maybe I think about a story or a to-do list. At the gym, maybe because my body is fully occupied, my brain can't organize itself around a set of coherent or useful thoughts. Here's basically what circulates through my brain:

1. Don't look at how much time is left. Don't look at how much time is left. Keep going, don't worry how much time is left. Oh, god, that's all I've done so far?

2. Who the hell keeps dropping the weights? He should be banned from the gym. I am going to go over there after I get off this machine and tell that guy that he's lifting too much. If he has to release them from his grip at the very last second, it's too much. Then, he'll probably thank me for letting him know or else he might punch me in the face. 

3. I hate Pandora. How many songs have I skipped already? Haven't I said thumbs down to Ben Lee, like, 50 times? Okay, I like Jagged Little Pill, but I don't want to hear it every day. three times a year would be plenty. Why do I keep getting the advertisement for Vanity Fair napkins? What could I have possibly searched for on the web that makes this ad seem geared for me?

4. I really shouldn't watch Dateline. It makes me doubt humanity. No way are they going to find this girl alive, though the family still has hope. Also, it's weird that TLC airs both Dateline investigation shows and Say Yes to the Dress. Both shows are about marriages, essentially, because the murdered woman on Dateline is usually killed by her husband and they often show footage from the dead woman's wedding reception to illustrate happier times. Maybe they should combine the shows. Say Yes to the Dress and Get a DNA Test. How could I encapsulate this idea into a clever tweet?

5. How much longer? Should I go up a level? Please, no, God, don't make me go up a level. If I go up a level, that means I only have to do 30 minutes. And, if I drink all of this water, I'll have to pee every ten minutes for the rest of the day, but water is good for me, so I should drink the water, but I have to make sure to ration it out so I don't drink all of the water before I finish the work out. How many more minutes?

That's it. Over and over and over and over and over until it ends. It does help if you go with friends.