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Friday, September 10, 2010

The Secret Garden

Ok. Aside from being a smartass, I'm also a total sap. Most movies with ANY emotional content, no matter how cheesy, will make me sob. Especially if it has anything to do with a parent and their child. The Secret Garden is no exception. It is well written, easy to read, and has engaging characters. I've probably read the story or watched the movie at some point in my youth, but if I did I don't remember it.

Long story short:
Mary is an plain, sickly, ugly little child with a horrid personality. She lives in India with her rich family who wants nothing to do with her. In fact, she barely even sees her parents because they assigned an ayah to take care of her. Mary's ayah doesn't like her- but she does her every bidding. Mary doesn't even dress herself! She is spoiled while still being unloved, therefore unloving, thus making her incredibly unpleasant.

A nasty case of cholera comes through and kills Mary's parents and her ayah. The rest of the servants all flee, forgetting about Mary because she's an obnoxious little shit and no one likes her. She is found by some people and sent to live with her uncle Archibald Craven in England.

Upon arriving in England, she finds out her uncle also wants nothing to do with her and he's usually gone all of the time. A chambermaid, Martha, befriends Mary and helps her learn to dress herself and take care of herself a bit. One day, Martha tells Mary about a secret garden that is all locked up since Mrs. Craven died, because it was her favorite place. Mary, being bored and curious and lonely decides that she is going to find the garden.

During her searching, she befriends a grumpy old gardener who tells her more about the garden. She also befriends a robin, who flies around and does bird stuff. As Mary explores the grounds and develops an interest in her surroundings, she becomes more tolerable and healthier.  One day, Mary finds the key. Shortly thereafter, the robin shows her the way to the door, and Mary makes her way into the secret garden. The garden is gray and appears lifeless, so Mary decides she's going to bring it back to life. She enlists the help of Martha's brother, Dickon, to restore the garden.

Meanwhile.... some nights, Mary hears crying and doesn't know where its coming from. She wanders the halls trying to find it, but no one will fess up and tell her what the fuck is going on. Since she's kind of a nosy brat she takes it upon herself to figure out what's up.

She follows the sound of the incessant sobbing to a hidden door, and lets herself in. Inside, she finds a child even more sickly and obnoxious than herself. His name is Colin, he's a terrible hypochondriac and is convinced he's gonna die. He doesn't go outside, he doesn't walk, and he doesn't like people to look at him. He's also got some major daddy issues because good ol' Uncle Archie can't stand the sight of him because 1) he looks like his dead mom  2) Archibald Craven is mildly hunchbacked and he's afraid his son will be the same way and 3) Mr. Craven is gone pretty much all the time.

Stubborn Mary and spoiled Colin become friends while Mary's other friendship with Dickon (who is pretty much perfect) also grows while they work on the garden, which is kept secret from the adults. Soon, Colin grows jealous of Dickon and wants in on the garden scene. So Colin meets Dickon, and the kids arrange to have Colin brought outside, where Dickon will push him in his wheelchair.

Colin falls in love with the garden, and wants to go every day. He soon gets over his hypochondria and realizes his back and legs are perfectly fine, and he begins to walk and exercise in the garden. His activities are kept secret from the adults because he wants to surprise his father and win his affections by proving that he is perfectly healthy.

So, blah blah blah, flowers bloom, kids exercise, adults are confused by Colin's health and behavior seeming to get better. He throws fake tantrums and tries to be as bad as before, but his increasing health and happiness become too much to hide.

Mr. Craven, while abroad, begins randomly thinking about what a shoddy father he's been and decides he wants to do better when he gets home. One night he has a dream about his wife being in her garden, and it sticks with him.

When he gets home he asks his housekeeper about Colin, and she tells him he seems a lot better but has been acting strangely. He asks where he is, and she says he out in the gardens. He walks out to the gardens and hears laughter coming from the garden that was supposed to be locked up. As he walks to the door of the garden, Colin runs out after winning a race against Mary and runs right into his father. Archibald sees his son perfectly healthy and happy, Colin sees that his father is happy to see him and loves him, and the sap reading the book cries her eyes out while father and son walk back to the house. The end.

Great book- this blog absolutely does not do it justice!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

King Lear

"King Lear" is considered to be one of Shakespeare's greatest works of all time. OF ALL TIME! That's a pretty big order to fill!  I love gut-wrenching, convoluted, indecipherable tragedies just as much as the next gal- Romeo and Juliet has been a favorite of mine long before Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes totally nailed the modernized version on the big screen.  That being said, it took me a long time to trudge through it (who doesn't love trying to understand Shakespearian prose, amiright?) and there were definitely a few words I didn't understand, but the story still managed to shine through in all of it's depressing glory.

Long story short:
King Lear is a self-important aging ruler who is generally viewed as being eccentric. He asks his three daughters to describe how much they love him, and the one who does it best will get the largest piece of his kingdom. He totally expects his youngest and most favorite daughter, Cordelia, to give the best answer. His other daughters, Regan and Goneril, also expect Cordelia to win- but since they're self-serving wenches of the most conniving and competitive sort, they are masters at the art of ass kissery (if Shakespeare can invent words, so can I!).

Regan and Goneril perform their ass kissery with grace and false affection and impress their father as expected. When it comes to be Cordelia's turn, she bucks the trend by keeping it short and sweet, and says that she can't put her love for her father into words. This infuriates the vain crazy king, so he disinherits her and calls her a disgrace. The king of France, who has been making eyes at Cordelia for a while, says he will marry her even without her land- so she takes him up on the offer and moves to France without her father's blessing (and presumably eats a lot of tasty baked goods, because that is totally what I would do).

Before long, the true colors of Lear's eldest daughters shine through and their general mistreatment slowly drives him even more completely batshit insane, so that he's nuttier than a squirrel turd- which prompts him to run off and be crazy on the heath (big open area dominated by low growing woody vegetation- thanks Wikipedia!) during some nasty stormy weather.

While this is going on some nobleman, Gloucester, (who is loyal  to Lear) has to deal with his illegitimate son causing trouble. The illegitimate son, Edmund, is a total douche. He probably wears a lot of Ed Hardy and watches The Jersey Shore and thinks it's gospel. Aside from two-timing Regan and the married Goneril, he also convinces Gloucester that his legitimate son, Edgar, is out to kill him- thus causing a manhunt for Edgar. It's pretty much an episode of Jerry Springer from the middle ages.

Then some more bad stuff happens and pretty much everyone dies. Edgar kills Edmund, Goneril poisons Regan out of jealousy over Edmund, then poisons herself. Gloucester dies after spending most of the story blind after having his eyeballs forcibly removed. Cordelia dies after being needlessly executed in prison, and Lear dies from grief after losing Cordelia.

The end.

Kinda makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn't it? No? Me either!