As long as I can remember, my life has pretty much revolved around dance. I was three when I first watched an Irish dancing performance, was hooked on Riverdance from the time I was four and my neighbor gave me a VCR. I’ve been taking class the past 12 years of my life, and competing for the last 8. But now I’m seventeen, and it’s time to look into the future: college, a career. How can dance fit into the picture? It’s not easy with all the uncertainty.
The answer came (at least sort of) when I turned up to class too early one day in mid-November, and I watched a beginner doing a move wrong. Normally, I would have let it slide—my teacher would fix it later, when the class wasn’t so large—but, honestly, seeing this step done wrong killed me. So I walked over, and I taught the dancer how to do it properly. My teacher saw, and invited me to come assistant teach the following class. And so I did. Turns out, I love it.
One of the most emotional days of teaching was when I taught a beginner jig to a young dancer. This particular dancer, while talented, would have most likely been better off in our first beginner class, but she had moved into the second level because her friends had been moved up and the class was getting quite large. That Saturday morning, the dancer and I spent a good 45 minutes working on the newly-taught steps. I wrote this “note to myself” after this class:
The life I changed today was not really my own. It was my student’s. [My teacher] said that she’d never seen [the student] so involved, so focused. Today, I reminded a little girl that she can dance. Today, I was the teacher I would have wanted. I did work that I can be proud of, and work that I’m good at. Today was pretty great!!!!!
Title: Love Among the Walnuts
Author: Jean Ferris
Gut Reaction: An amusing read that creates humor and charm through its absurdity.
Two words encapsulate the essence of this novel: unrealistic characters. Love Among the Walnuts begins with Horatio Alger Huntington-Ackerman, a young businessman who seems to effortlessly make billions, falling instantly in love with aspiring actress Mousey Malone after seeing her brief performance in a play. Horatio proceeds to propose to his newfound sweetheart on the very same night that he meets her and they are blissfully married a month later. The newlywed couple builds a manor in the countryside from which they then isolate themselves from the rest of society with the exception of their servant Bentley and his wife Flossie. The plot of the novel centers on Sandy, the son of Horatio and Mousey, and the problems he must face when his parents are sent into a drug-induced coma due to the schemes of his evil uncles.
Love Among the Walnuts is, above all else, an absurdity. Though it initially gives the semblance of realism, the reader soon discovers that a multitude of its elements are nothing short of ridiculousness. The features and behavior of the characters as well as its overarching plot are all preposterous. The examples of this are endless and include Horatio managing to run his multi-billion dollar corporate empire from the comfort of his rural estate, Horatio and Mousey deciding it would be sensible to raise their son in complete seclusion from the rest of the world, and Sandy appearing more preoccupied with his infatuation over a nurse, Sandy, than the condition of his coma-stricken parents. Yet I think it is through this that the book finds its niche. It is a lighthearted comedy and doesn’t masquerade as anything nothing more than this. It is not meant to awe the reader with its complexity, but rather to entertain the reader through its unassuming components. It is certainly a fun and worthwhile read but don’t expect anything more than the superficial. Its characters, though undoubtedly possessing of some interest to the reader, are rather one-dimensional. They consist of a gang of endearing misfits, two irreconcilably malicious and stupid villains, and a series of unmemorable minor characters. The weaknesses of the novel are the predictability and the lack of any meaningful character development, as well as the fact that the issues the novel addresses are all made to feel shallow and a little too facile by the way they are resolved. But its numerous strengths lie in the appeal of its simplicity and its accessibility to all readers.
I would recommend this book at least for its novelty if nothing else to a general audience. It has a certain attraction just by the way it stands out from the rest of the Young Adult books through its subject, tempo, and characters. The book truly jumps out at you by blending fiction and realism in an original and unique manner and is thus, in this blogger’s opinion, worth taking a second look at.
Read this if you like…
I stumbled upon Jonathan Safran Foer by accident. See, my family was on vacation and I really, really needed a book. I was desperate enough to go for a—gasp—supernatural teen romance, but instead, was lucky enough to grab Twenty Under Forty, a New Yorker collection of short stories. This book changed my life, in a large part due to Foer’s addition, called “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly.” His piece is short, only a few pages long, but it opened up what fiction could be for me. Stuck in the world of YA fiction, usually written in the first or third person with limited character development and plenty of action/romance, here was something revolutionary. Each sentence in the work starts with “You,” “I,” or “We,” and explains life married life through deceptively simple sentences. Strange? Completely. Transfixing? Absolutely. Here’s an excerpt:
You were terrible in emergencies. You were wonderful in “The Cherry Orchard.” I was always never complaining, because confrontation was death to me, and because everything was pretty much always pretty much O.K. with me. You were not able to approach the ocean at night. I didn’t know where my voice was between my phone and yours.
One would assume that as soon as I read that, I would go hunting for anything and everything else by Foer. I didn’t. I don’t know if I was worried that the rest of his work would ruin the perfection of that short story, or maybe I just didn’t want to know. Then, I walked into my English teacher’s classroom, and I spotted Foer’s first book, Everything is Illuminated. With only a little bit of begging, the book was mine for a week. Again, I was transfixed. It was brilliant, weaving generations of stories across its pages. It’s funny. It’s clever. It made me cry on the bus.
I’m currently reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Thus far, I AM REALLY DISAPPOINTED. I LOVE FOER’S OTHER BOOKS AND THEN HE GOES AND WRITES THIS?!? I know, this may seem unfair, but let me explain. Foer is incredible in the other two works I mentioned. Then, you get Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, expecting the same quality. Instead, there is a nine-year-old boy that would have to be a genius in order to know and say what he does in the book, but there is no mention of his special abilities in the book itself. (The kid is reading A Brief History of Time, but attends school at an average grade level). If this were the only flaw, I could deal with that, I really could, but the rhythm feels “off.” Foer’s usual writing has a pulse, a steady beat that forms a backbone in his writing. This, however, feels forced, as if someone made him write the plot, and all the lines that would normally be poetic or would reveal something “deeper” about life just feel pretentious. The take away: read Everything is Illuminated. Hunt down “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly.” Don’t even look at Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It’s not worth your time.
Step back in time to the era of flappers and suffragists, bootleggers and temperance lobbyists, and real-life legends like Al Capone and Carry Nation! Created by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and making its West Coast premiere at MOHAI, American Spirits brings the whole story of Prohibition vividly to life through a re-created speakeasy, films, photos, multimedia, and more that 100 rare artifacts. -MOHAI
In Washington State, Prohibition lasted from 1916 until 1933. Local police and federal agents made regular raids and arrests. Circa 1921.
At the new MOHAI show, “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition,” Maria Lunder, 10, of Seattle, tries to do the “Charleston” dance, using the foot prints on the dance floor.
At the new MOHAI show, “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition”, a wall displays vintage police photos of bootleggers.
Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Rating: 10/10 stars. Yes, it was that good. Rarely do I rate books 10/10, so this one is definitely special.
Gut reaction: I loved the honest, real characters. They were so well developed and the romance was sweet and believable. This book was also great because it ended on a hopeful note. As I got closer to the end, I thought it would have a sad closing, but I was not disappointed, and you won’t be either. Go put it on hold at your library right now!
Summary: Eleanor is the new girl on the bus, at school and in the neighborhood. She lives with a creepy, abusive stepdad, her emotionally bruised mother and 4 younger siblings in a cramped house. On the bus, she is taunted for her eclectic style of dressing, her bright red hair and being overweight. Park on the other hand, comes from a stable home, but being a half Asian kid in a predominately white area, he feels like an outsider. He has a group of friends, but he’s wary of acting too different. Park reluctantly gives Eleanor a place to sit on the bus and isn’t welcoming, but he acts a little better than the other students. Soon though, he notices her reading over his shoulder on the bus, and they begin a friendship over shared interests in comic books and alternative music. Slowly at first, then faster and faster like a snowball rolling down a hill, they fall in love. But their romance is bittersweet and it seems like fate is against them. Will they be able to persevere and stay together against the odds?
I’ll let you read it and find out for yourself!
Author: Randall Munroe
What If? is a book of bizarre hypothetical questions and scientific answers. But you could learn that just by looking at the cover, so here is my story about it. I would not have known about this book if I had not gotten if for my birthday from my mom (my mom says I ask a lot of hypothetical questions). And when I got it found it to be surprisingly intriguing. I have always loved hypothetical questions and have sometimes used them as a way of staying up longer to talk with my dad.
What If? can finally answer some of my more whimsical questions, like what would happen if every person on earth aimed a laser pointer at the moon at the same time – would it change color? On the flip side, if my dad ever got his hands on it — it would put an end to our late-night discussions. But enough with the backstory; let me tell you about the book.
Personally, I adore this book. I love almost every bit of it. I enjoy seeing questions other people would ask. My favorite section is the Weird (and Worrying) Questions from the What If? Inbox. In these sections, hypothetical questions are not answered, questions posed are hilariously weird (and worrying). For example, page 14 has the question, “How many housese are burned down in the United States every year? What would be the easiest way to increase that number by a significant amount (say, at least 15%)?” Another gem (I really like the weird and worrying questions – I cannot emphasize that enough) is: “What sort of logistic anomalies would you encounter in trying to raise an army of apes?”
This book may be good for fans of Mythbusters because it applies science to the absurd. It is also for anyone who enjoys illustrations of stick people acting out responses to questions. Finally, I recommend this book for any fan of science. The scientific explanations are written in an accessible and humorous way if you are a math genius. In other words, it is hilarious.
Books of interest: