Thursday, February 14, 2013

You Never Get Over Your First Love – Too Bad Mine is Fictional

Currently Reading: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Full disclosure: I got this idea from an article someone posted on Facebook from a site called Hello Giggles. If you’d like to read that article, I’ve included the link below:

In the Hello Giggles article, the author describes all the literary men she has crushes on, including such dashing figures as Mr. Darcy and Mr. Rochester as well as some slightly more unorthodox love interests like Wolverine from the X-men comic strips.

So this article got me thinking. I’ve long known that fictional men – both in literature and in film – have essentially ruined my chances at being satisfied with a real-life relationship. They are dreamy, intelligent and strong. Furthermore, they always know just what to say or do to make the heroine – and the reader – swoon in a way that no real person ever possibly could. 

But who, specifically, got the ball rolling and set the bar too high?

I started going over all my favorite romance stories in my head, trying to decide which ones I thought were the greatest; which men were the ones I wanted to leap off the page and carry me off into the sunset. Naturally, some of the men on the Hello Giggles list popped into my head. I mean, what woman isn’t in love with Mr. Darcy? And I’ve already explained how I want a man to love me the way Mr. Rochester loves Jane Eyre in my post about that book.

I thought of some more obscure love stories, like the one between Daine and Numair in the Tortall books Wildmage series (books by Tamora Pierce that are not widely known but are intensely loved by its followers). Their first kiss was a long awaited scene for me, as the two maintained a platonic relationship for the majority of the four-book series, and I remember repeatedly reading it as an adolescent.

As I went through all these men trying to piece together my own list of literary crushes, I realized that I loved them, but only with their heroine. Although I love Mr. Rochester for the way he loves Jane Eyre, he’s too rough around the edges for me. I’m elated every time Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy end up together, but I wouldn’t want to marry Mr. Darcy myself (I know. I may have to give up my second X-chromosome for that confession).

Over and over, I really looked at each of my literary dream men and came to the same conclusion. Out of all these handsome, brave, and romantic men, the only one with whom I couldn’t find a fault is the first one who popped into my head; practically the first romantic hero I ever encountered:

I am and always will be in love with Prince Charmont from Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted.

Yes, that is a children's/young adult book.

But I can't help it! I will always want a man like Prince Charmont, aka Char. He’s gentle and kind yet strong enough to fight trolls. He’s brave and diplomatic, considerate and even-tempered - all the perfect traits for the leader of a kingdom. However, what makes Char my one true literary love is that underneath all his properness, he’s still just a kid at heart. 

I desperately want a man who knows how to be an adult in the right situation, but will still use his buttons as a trail when we explore an abandoned castle; a man who will slide down a stair banister with me, catch me at the bottom and then cry, “Again!” I love Char for his eagerness to laugh and to make others laugh. 

I also love Char for writing letters. I’m sure it’s just another indication of my obsession with words, but I love that he takes the time to write, sharing his days, thoughts, and faults in detail, things I can barely get some guys to tell me, let alone commit to paper.

So no matter what else happens, I will never get over my first fictional love. I will always dream of receiving a letter that ends:

“Love (it is such a relief to pen the word!), love, love – Char” (pg. 182).

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Epic Lord of the Rings Blog Post

Currently Reading: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

I may or may not have devoured The Two Towers and The Return of the King so quickly that I’m not sure I could distinguish which plot points came from which book. For this reason, I’m combining both books into one blog post for an epic post worthy of this epic story.

First of all, if you are one of those bizarre people who must live like a hermit in a TV-less, movie-less existence and thus have never seen The Lord of the Rings movies, I should state that this blog post will most certainly contain spoilers. Furthermore, if you are a fan of the movies, but are bad like I was and haven’t read the books, I reiterate:


So… Holy cow was it totally worth it to suck it up through The Fellowship of the Ring! Because, honestly, I may have sugarcoated a little bit how painful it was to get through the first book in this series. As I said, the book certainly picks up once the characters make it to Bree, but even after that point, the book still seems to drag a bit.

Most likely this is due to the insane – albeit impressive – detailed descriptions of every bit of landscape, history, and thought process in the characters’ journey. Seriously, I was stunned with how well Tolkien seemed to know every single nook and cranny of this fictional world, able to describe every nuisance in the woods in which the hobbits get lost; every lane in the village of Hobbiton; every hallway in the great halls of Gondor. It makes my mind boggle to think of how he must have known every aspect of this expansive, fictional world as well as he knew his own house. Either Tolkien simply had an impressive mind or he really needed to get out in the actual world more.

And while I’m flabbergasted and awed with Tolkien’s ability to do this, it didn’t make for the most interesting reading. In fact, this actually led to an epiphany-level insight about why I always get hopelessly lost: I’m utterly bored with directions. Seriously, I don’t have the desire to listen to directions I actually need so having Tolkien spell out every single turn the fellowship takes – complete with a lengthy debate about the decision to make that particular turn – was horrible for me. Who cares? Just get to the next plot point already!

There’s one other impressive, yet excessive aspect of The Fellowship that decreases the speed of the plot that doesn’t appear nearly as often in the other books. This would be the songs/poems. I know many people who skip over these while reading The Lord of the Rings and, honestly, I don’t blame them. However, having taken several creative writing courses and made sad attempts of my own to create poetry, I think the skill required to create all these songs is underappreciated. They are clever and informative, certainly as impressive as the detail of the landscape. But once again, they contributed greatly to slowing down the plot.

Fortunately, this changed with The Two Towers. Finally, Tolkien struck the balance I was looking for between the almost purely active Hobbit and the overly descriptive Fellowship. At long last, the landscape was no longer as important as what was done on it; the singing was replaced with action. However, unlike in The Hobbit, I wasn’t lacking for looks into the characters’ minds.

Part of why I so thoroughly enjoyed the second two books of the trilogy is that it separated the characters’ stories. And more importantly, it minimized the amount of time spent with Frodo and Sam, whose story’s pace was too similar to that of The Fellowship. Again, every decision, every stop, every turn was depicted. What was worse was that the setting for these turns was dismal and monotonous.

Furthermore, Frodo is pretty much one of the worst heroes. It confuses me that Tolkien didn’t opt to make his Ring-bearer, the character who is supposedly the most pivotal to conquering the evil Sauron, at least more sympathetic if not likeable. All Frodo does is whine, cause trouble unnecessarily, and become a burden himself. As if that’s not enough, he’s so imperious.

I mean, I understand that he has the responsibility of carrying the Ring and destroying it, but really? Does Frodo actually do anything useful? Think about it, he doesn’t even accomplish his mission! He’s not the one who destroys the Ring. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Gollum, Frodo would have ruined everything instead of saving it. I’m kind of glad that, in the end, Merry, Pippin, and Sam are more revered than Frodo in Hobbiton.

To put it simply, as my friend Emily said, “All of [Frodo’s parts] could be summed up with, ‘Frodo was miserable but kept going.’”

The only redeeming aspect of the Frodo and Sam parts is that they include Faramir, who is by far my favorite character! He combines the gentleness and sweetness of the hobbits, the wits and intellect of Gandalf, and the leadership and strength of Aragon. I love him.

What makes the Frodo and Sam sections even more painful – with the exception of Faramir – is the stark contrast between them and the other sections of the novels, which are amazing! I loved, loved, loved the parts with Aragon, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf, Merry, and/or Pippin!! They were gripping, page-turning sections with characters that were the opposite of Frodo. Plus, they had new characters who were cut out of the movies that I discovered and fell in love with, like Beregond, the guard who befriends Pippin, and Quickbeam, the younger, hasty Ent.

Just as it’s worth it to read The Fellowship to get to the other books, it’s worth it to read the Frodo and Sam parts to get to all the other ones.

Despite my complaints, I overall really enjoyed these novels! Even if I found parts boring, they couldn’t have been that bad considering I plowed through all three books in about five weeks – completing two of them in about two and a half weeks. And if I didn’t have a job or anything, those numbers could have been in terms of days, not weeks.

Basically, there’s a reason there’s a cult following for these books. You should definitely check them out.