Ice Like Fire

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Review: I loved the first book, Snow Like Ashes, and I was psyched to read this sequel, albeit a little wary of middle book syndrome. Turns out, my suspicions were correct; this book exhibits all the symptoms of middle book syndrome: slow plot, poor character development, a focus on romance rather than politics and battle, and a slew of plot conveniences.

This sequel tracks Meira and Theron as they visit other Rythms and Seasons on a sort of political tour, but Meira and Theron are motivated by different causes and this divide threatens to split the couple. As she struggles to draw Theron to her cause, Meira also struggles to keep her powers under control and find a solution that could save not just Winter but her whole world.

In spite of the slow plot, though, I found myself speeding through the novel. Sara Raasch is a great world-builder, and that, at least, was not lost in this sequel.

Part of what slowed the plot down is the alternating perspectives. This technique is used far too often and is often an encumbrance and annoyance, splitting the plot in two and drawing it out longer. In this book, Raasch alternates chapter perspectives between Meira and Mather. While I enjoyed the Meira chapters (lots of world-building there), Mather’s chapters were often slow and more angsty, and they saw little action until the end of the novel. Moreover, the fact that Mather is voiced but Theron is not irks me (#Theira4ever).

The main characters didn’t seem to grow much aside from dealing with their growth in the first book. Raasch did, however, introduce a few side characters who seem to have the spunk and fierceness to quell our thirst for strong characters for the duration of the novel (Feige and Ceridwen come to mind).

This book also took some liberties with the magic part of the world, inventing new rules for the magic as we went and leaving several questions unanswered (why could Meira make it snow in Summer?). While the majority of the plot’s reliance on magic made sense and fit with the previous series, I was confused about some of the additions. Why exactly could the Decay infect other people? If Angra died, wouldn’t the Decay then infect the entire population rather than a select few? Perhaps I missed these details by reading quickly, but I wish Raasch would stick with clear boundaries for the magic and let the plot play out within that world rather than continuing to change the rules.

Recommendation: If you enjoyed the first book in the series, I recommend continuing with it; I have hopes that the last book (Frost Like Night) will make it all worth it. Those who enjoy angsty YA plots where love triangles triumph burden the plot (guilty pleasure, perhaps) might want to start this series just for the second book. I still stand by my opinion that Raasch is an excellent world-builder, so perhaps the book will appeal to you solely for that reason. There is a brothel scene (which the main characters find distasteful) and some violence (beheading, cutting, etc.), so this book is probably best for ages 14+.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

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Rating: 4/5

Review: This was the optimal time for me to read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs (which is an awesome name). Not only is it Friday the 13th (a notably creepy day for a notably creepy book), but I’m in the midst of researching freak shows for my thesis project (which I’m sure you’ll hear more about on Goodreads). I’ve seen a great deal of odd, even haunting black and white photographs of late, and Miss Peregrine’s seemed like something straight out of my research.

I heard about this book mostly because the movie is coming out in September. It looks like it’s taken quite a few liberties from the book, but Asa Butterfield is starring in it, and I can’t miss that. Naturally, I had to read the book first.

 

I was a little nervous about it because I read other reviews that claimed the book had little plot and was slow in the middle. I did not find this to be true. It was perhaps slow in the middle, but I didn’t see this as a negative note; I mean, what book isn’t slow in the middle? You might say the same thing about Pride and Prejudice or The Count of Monte Cristo or any other of my favorite classics. I think the book needed to be slow in the middle to give the reader a chance to take in the world Riggs built and breathe before the fast-paced ending sucked them back in.

I also believe Riggs builds a unique world. I have read other allegations that his world is too similar to that of the x-men, though you could also say the same of the Percy Jackson series or Avatar: The Last Airbender or even Harry Potter. The people-with-special-abilities-who-attend-training-school/group is a common fictional trope. It’s a popular one, too, because it’s a fantasy people want to buy into. Everyone secretly (0r not-so-secretly) wishes they had some sort of superpower and could go to a school to learn under Dumbledore or Prof. X or just make friends who could teach you. Heck, when I’m sick part of me hopes it’s something the doctors can’t identify and suddenly I’ll be able to do things I couldn’t before. But it’s always just allergies or something normal like that.

Point is, we can’t blame this book for following a fairly successful plot type. Riggs works hard to make his book unique from similar stories, ensuring that the word “peculiar” fits the sort of powers given to the children of the tale. Moreover, he builds a whole world around them, with terrifying beasts and all. Unlike the similar titles I named, Miss Peregrine’s has an unsettling tone. There are happy moments, sure, but even those are darkened with the peculiarity of the children’s powers and somber language and accompanying black-and-white images. This is not a horror tale or a thriller, per se, but it’s a story meant to bother you a while after reading it.

Several reviews have claimed the photos in the book fail to fully fit in the story. While I see where those views are coming from–some of the images of supposedly the same people, for example, seem quite different from one another–I don’t mind it. The pictures set the tone for the novel and differentiate it further from tales of similar worlds by offering a sort of proof in old photographs. It reminds me a little of magical realism, where if you don’t buy into the world of the book, you’re not going to have a good relationship with it.

Though I disagree with many of the negative remarks concerning this book, I find I cannot rate it five stars. I enjoyed the plot, the setting, the language, and the photographs, but I was disappointed in the characterization. I did not feel sympathetic towards Jacob or Emma, and I (ironically) found them to be unbelievable at times. I appreciated some of the side characters, but I wished Jacob and Emma were a little more complex, relatable, and distinctive. Perhaps I will witness their growth through the next books in the series.

Recommendation: This book had some rough language, a bit of violence, and morbid commentary (thinking of you, Enoch). It should be fine for high school students and up, but those sensitive to language and dark scenes might want to hold off a bit. It reminds me a little of the Middle School book Serafina and the Black Cloak, but for a more teenaged audience. If you enjoy reading about freak shows and oddities, you will likely enjoy this read. Fans of Bone Gap interested in a darker novel should check it out, as well. It’s pretty quick to get through, and would make a satisfyingly creepy (yet nightmare-less) Halloween read.

These Shallow Graves

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Rating: 5/5 stars

Review: I’ve loved Jennifer Donnelly ever since I read Revolution, a book about the French Revolution which has impacted me much more than I expected. When I saw the cover for These Shallow Graves, I admit I felt a little disappointed. It’s a beautiful cover, but I pegged it as less artistic and deep than the covers of her previous novels. To me, the cover makes the book out to be another paranormal thriller type of story, likely featuring vampires. But that’s not Jennifer Donnelly. And that’s not what this book is like.

Set in the 1890s, These Shallow Graves follows Jo Montfort, a young lady who dreams about escaping her duties as an upper-class woman and becoming a reporter like her hero Nellie Bly. When her father dies under mysterious circumstances, she winds up working with Eddie Gallagher, an ambitious young reporter, to try to uncover the truth.

At first, I didn’t buy it. The plot felt predictable and Jo Montfort felt like a familiar character–the typical headstrong young woman stuck in the cage of the upper class.

But then Donnelly threw Eddie Gallagher in the picture, and with him came a slew of unusual characters that brought out a different side of Jo. While I knew the main plot twist from nearly the start of the book, a number of other twists managed to surprise me. Donnelly also managed to capture late nineteenth-century New York in all its depth without overloading me with information. I was a little nervous when I reached the final chapters, as I did not know how the book would end, but that just proves the novel kept me on my toes.

As always, Donnelly understands just how to end things. She doesn’t indulge her readers, but she provides enough information to drive home the meaning of the text and lets the readers guess what happens next.

Recommendation: This novel hits all the right notes. Fans of Donnelly’s previous work should definitely read this one. Anyone interested in catching a glimpse of America in the late 1800s will not be disappointed, either. I think Donnelly is the perfect solution for YA readers who want more than love triangles and shallow messages. I promise this book will both keep such readers enraptured while taking them below surface-level fiction.

The Rose Society

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Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Review: To be honest, part of me expected Marie Lu to redeem Adelina’s character from villain to hero or to keep Adelina as dark as she was in The Young Elites. I didn’t think Adelina could get much darker–but Lu managed it. By the end of the book, I felt numb from reading Adelina’s violent perspective of the world around her.

In this sequel, Adelina attempts to rise in power and take the throne with the help of her sister and a number of new elites. Her ambition leads her to conflict with old friends and new friends alike, as well as the whispers and illusions her own mind sets against her.

I love that Lu was able to remain focused on the plot rather than the romance without losing the reader’s interest. This quality alone might raise the Young Elites above Lu’s other series, Legend. The only other modern YA series I know that was able to keep its second book afloat without hugging the romance for dear life is Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s trilogy.

Adelina also “trembled” much less in this book than she did in the first (which was a complaint of mine on my Goodreads review of The Young Elites).

Adelina grew in this book to become one of the most powerful female characters I’ve read in YA fiction. I’m convinced that if Adelina knew Machiavelli, the two would’ve gotten along splendidly. What concerns me is that I am led to sympathize with Adelina in a way I would have never thought possible for a Machiavellian character. That’s what makes this series so complex; it attempts to show that even the most fearsome of villains can be relatable or pitiable to an extent.

Of course, it helps that Adelina’s victims are fictional; our reaction would be different if this were nonfiction.

Without giving too much away, I also think the end of this book sets the third book (The Midnight Star) up for greatness. The plot twist reveals something Lu had the foresight to set up in the first book. While my hopes are raised for the third book, I’ll have to pin my feelings about this series as a whole on how Lu concludes it all.

Recommendation: If you read The Young Elites and are debating whether the series is worth finishing–it is. The Young Elites series is original, so anyone interested in reading it should give it a shot, but fans of dark fantasy will likely appreciate it most.

Magonia, I { } you more than [[[{{{(( ))}}}]]].

5/5 stars

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley is poetry.

Not literally, of course. It’s prose. But if poetry could be prose, it would be Magonia. Headley pays attention not only to the words she uses, but how they look on the page. I’ve never seen a novel do that before–especially not a YA novel.

Within just a couple chapters I could tell the author is smart. She weaves historical irregularities (or, dare I say, conspiracy theories) around the fantastical world of Magonia, a civilization living in the clouds.

In the novel, 16-year-old Aza Ray, who suffers from a never-before-seen lung disease, hears a ship in the storm clouds call to her. While others chalk it up to medication-induced hallucinations, Aza and her genius best friend Jason research what the ship may be. Just as they’re on the brink of something big–in both their research and their relationship–Aza loses herself to her sickness and finds herself in a different world. A world above the clouds. A world that seems convinced she can help save it from the disaster pollution has doomed it to.

Not only does this book have a beautiful plot; it has quirky, loveable characters. The protagonist is a pessimist and I didn’t like her attitude from the start, but… she’s dying. I think a negative outlook on life fits her character well, particularly since she was in such a difficult situation. And I was able to appreciate her voice by the end of the book. My favorite character was the pi-reciting, alligator-suit-wearing inventor Jason. He’s different from any other character I’ve read in the best way possible. While I normally find that I prefer one voice over another when a story is told through multiple characters, I enjoyed reading from both Aza’s and Jason’s perspectives.

Though the novel centers on Aza and Jason, the secondary characters are also well-developed. I know very little about Aza’s sister Eli, for example, but the image of her hair cut ragged at the ends brought me to tears. And Jason’s moms (especially Eve) were defined in such a way that they clarified Jason’s character. Through a single comment about Big Bird and a story about war-mice I understood all I needed to know about Aza’s parents. Headley’s characterization brought the story to life; moreover, it did so concisely. There isn’t one scene I would cut.

The book isn’t a light read, either. It addresses a wide variety of controversial topics, namely environmental destruction, physical disabilities, mental disorders, and homosexuality. I mean, the novel is based on an early conspiracy theory.

I scrolled through other reviews on Goodreads to see why other readers may dislike this book. One reader said she couldn’t buy into the concept of bird-people. While I think Headley could have used more description of their appearance, what does it really matter? The ambiguity of this fictional race allows readers to come up with their own image of the “bird-people.” I understand that some people prefer authors to have detailed world-building rather than leave it up to the reader’s imagination, which is why I just recommend this book for those who can allow themselves to imagine and believe in another world, even if only for a little while.

The urban fantasy seems to be the only bit readers get caught up on, so I think the problem is not in the book itself, but in making its target audience a little more precise. Though the beginning may sound similar to John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, for example, I would not recommend it to the same readers, since it relies much more on fantasy and strays from the “sick girl perspective” about a quarter of the way through.

Who would I recommend it for, then? Hm. This book is so completely unlike anything else I’ve ever read, it’s difficult to identify the best audience. Age-wise, I would recommend it for high school students and above due to language and the depth of certain concepts.

All I can think to say besides that is Magonia is like if Neil Gaiman were to write Kenneth Oppel‘s Airborn from the perspective of a darker Hazel Grace. If that sounds remotely interesting to you, I recommend reading it.

PS–Apologies for my absence from this blog. I returned from college and had to train for my summer job, so my schedule’s been a bit scattered.

Focus on the Lyrics Friday: I See Fire

I’m terribly sorry for not posting last weekend. I didn’t skip out for anything fun; in fact, my weekend was spent doing homework. The highlight of last weekend was a tough call between the thesis workshop for the Honors Program and the dumpster fire for which my dorm was evacuated at 3 AM. We’re all okay, though a bit tired.

If nothing else, seeing the fire inspired me to take a closer look at Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire” for this week’s column.


Lyrics

Oh, misty eye of the mountain below
Keep careful watch of my brother’s souls
And should the sky be filled with fire and smoke
Keep watching over Durin’s sons

If this is to end in fire
Then we should all burn together
Watch the flames climb high into the night
Calling out “father, oh, stand by and we will
Watch the flames burn auburn on
The mountain side high”

And if we should die tonight
We should all die together
Raise a glass of wine for the last time
Calling out “father, oh,
Prepare as we will
Watch the flames burn auburn on
The mountain side”

Desolation comes upon the sky

Now I see fire
Inside the mountain
I see fire
Burning the trees
And I see fire
Hollowing souls
I see fire
Blood in the breeze
And I hope that you’ll remember me

Oh, should my people fall then
Surely I’ll do the same
Confined in mountain halls
We got too close to the flame
Calling out father oh
Hold fast and we will
Watch the flames burn auburn on
The mountain side

Desolation comes upon the sky

Now I see fire
Inside the mountains
I see fire
Burning the trees
And I see fire
Hollowing souls
I see fire
Blood in the breeze
And I hope that you’ll remember me

And if the night is burning
I will cover my eyes
For if the dark returns then
My brothers will die
And as the sky is falling down
It crashed into this lonely town
And with that shadow upon the ground
I hear my people screaming out

And I see fire
Inside the mountains
I see fire
Burning the trees
I see fire
Hollowing souls
I see fire
Blood in the breeze

I see fire (fire)
Oh, you know I saw a city burning out
And I see fire (fire)
Feel the heat upon my skin
And I see fire (fire)
Uhhhhhhhhh
And I see fire
Burn auburn on the mountain side

Analysis

Sheeran’s song is based on Peter Jackson’s film “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” but there’s more to the song than just the description of fire. I may give away one or two spoilers about the book/film, so be aware if you haven’t yet read/seen it but intend to.

1) “Oh, misty eye of the mountain below / Keep careful watch of my brother’s souls / And should the sky be filled with fire and smoke / Keep watching over Durin’s sons”

I actually read this song as a sort of prayer. The “misty eye of the mountain below” is the “god” Sheeran addresses. The mountain has a heart (the Arkenstone), so why shouldn’t it have an eye, as well? Throughout The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, eyes are a fairly important symbol. Both Sauron and Smaug, the primary villains of the two tales, have noteable flame-colored eyes. The Lonely Mountain to which this song refers does not have a fiery eye, but a “misty” one. While the other eyes’ ability (Sauron’s in particular) to see all is a reason for fear, the singer of this song calls for the mountain’s eye to see all and draws hope from it. It’s interesting that Sheeran would have the words “misty” and “mountain” in the same line, since there is a range called Misty Mountains in Middle Earth, but if I recall correctly, that’s the range where Bilbo finds the ring, not where Smaug lives. I don’t really know why he says the eye of the mountain is “below,” so any thoughts on that are welcome.

Also, I believe this part of the song is from the perspective of Bard, the eventual leader of Lake-town. He asks the mountain to “keep careful watch of [his] brother’s souls,” his brothers being the people of Laketown. If Smaug poses a threat to them or the dwarves, Bard also hopes the mountain will “keep watching over Durin’s sons,” or protecting the dwarves. While Bard and Thorin have their disagreements, they’re both willing to do anything for the people they lead. Both Lake-town and the dwarves (plus one hobbit) unite against the fire.

2) “If this is to end in fire / Then we should all burn together / Watch the flames climb high into the night / Calling out ‘father,’ oh, stand by and we will / Watch the flames burn auburn on / The mountain side high”

As I said before, a major theme of this song is how trials prompt unity. If the fire comes for them, they will all “burn together.” The song is a sort of disheartening battle cry. They will “watch the flames,” bravely standing together in the face of certain death. The idea of them calling out “father” also implies that their hope centers around a god of some sort, reinforcing my belief that the song is a prayer, much like a psalm. The “auburn” color of the flames is also important, as it paints them as beautiful, albeit destructive. Auburn is a reddish-brown color. I think the color is normally too brown to associate with flames, but the film was so dark in lighting and mood, it works in this case. Sheeran may also be playing with the word a little bit, since it has the word “burn” in it. Before looking up the lyrics, I actually thought the line was “watch the flames burn on, burn on” rather than “burn auburn on.” In any case, it sounds beautiful, particularly when sung by Sheeran.

3) “And if we should die tonight / We should all die together / Raise a glass of wine for the last time / Calling out ‘father,’ oh, / Prepare as we will / Watch the flames burn auburn on / The mountain side”

Yet again there’s a sense of camaraderie in that they plan to “die together.” In drinking “a glass of wine for the last time,” I associate them with Jesus and his disciples at The Last Supper, where they ate before Jesus parted. This time, though, all of them prepare to die. Again they call out “father” and instruct him to “prepare,” perhaps meaning for him to prepare a place in the afterlife as they “watch the flames.”

4) “Desolation comes upon the sky”

Desolation is defined both as a state of complete destruction and a state of anguish, misery, or loneliness. The word refers to the destruction–both physical and emotional–Smaug can cause. It’s particularly powerful in this context because the film off which Sheeran based the lyrics is the second in the series, titled “The Desolation of Smaug.”

5) “Now I see fire / Inside the mountain / I see fire / Burning the trees / And I see fire / Hollowing souls / I see fire / Blood in the breeze / And I hope that you’ll remember me”

The fire of Smaug is visible “inside the mountain” and “burning the trees,” but the other two images are a little more difficult to decipher. At the end of the film, Smaug declares, “I am fire. I am death.” He isn’t just an instrument for fire; he is fire. The fire the singer sees could very well be Smaug himself. In burning everything and everyone, Smaug is “hollowing souls,” stripping the people of Lake-town of everything they hold dear, leaving them empty and without purpose. Both fire and blood are dark red and associated with death, so the “blood in the breeze” could be fire itself. It could also be actual blood; dragons have teeth, too, after all. Not only do the lyrics teach physical unity in hard times by standing together; they also teach emotional unity by encouraging people to hold onto the memory of those lost. As the speaker claims, “I hope that you’ll remember me.” In the end, you can only hope you’ve done something to save someone before passing.

6) “Oh, should my people fall then / Surely I’ll do the same / Confined in mountain halls / We got too close to the flame”

The responsibility of a leader over his people is particularly clear in these first two lines. Because this mentions being “confined in mountain halls,” I’m beginning to think the song is actually from Thorin’s perspective. That doesn’t make total sense to me, but it has to be true of this part, at least. In the mountain, the group had a couple close run-ins with Smaug, “the flame.” If flame represents hardship or potential destruction, there are other flames, too. The madness of greed to which Thorin succumbed also led them “too close” to destruction.

7) “And if the night is burning / I will cover my eyes / For if the dark returns then / My brothers will die / And as the sky is falling down / It crashed into this lonely town / And with that shadow upon the ground / I hear my people screaming out”

Honestly, I think the first four lines here contradict each other. Basically, he says there are flames all around, so he’ll cover his eyes because when the flames go away his brothers will die. Maybe I’m misreading something? Because it seems like the flames would kill his brothers, not the darkness. Perhaps he means a metaphorical darkness, as in something evil? The image of the “sky…falling down” when Smaug sweeps over Lake-town with his flames is beautifully put for something so horrific. I like how Sheeran calls “this” town “lonely,” since it subtly links it to The Lonely Mountain. The “shadow” to which he refers is the shadow of Smaug raking fire across the town, causing Bard’s people to begin “screaming out.” It’s interesting how something so horrifying can be described so beautifully. I think part of that is due to the fact that the song is based off a film in which the special effects and scenery are stunning, even in scenes of desolation.

I think I’ve made it fairly clear by now that I’m a fan of Ed Sheeran and Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The final movie of the Hobbit series was released on DVD recently, and while I believe the movies should have been condensed into one or two films rather than spread out over three, I suggest watching them. And if you’ve already seen them, I suggest watching them again!

Focus on the Lyrics Friday: All the Rowboats

Every day I pass by the Marshall M. Fredericks art museum on my way to class. It’s strangely comforting to know the lion will eternally stare at the mouse and Jesus will always be hanging from the wall.
Regina Spektor (whose most popular youtube video is of her song “Samson“) has a different spin on art museums in her song “All the Rowboats.”

Lyrics
All the rowboats in the paintings
They keep trying to row away
And the captains’ worried faces
Stay contorted and staring at the waves
They’ll keep hanging in their gold frames
For forever, forever and a day
All the rowboats in the oil paintings
They keep trying to row away, row away

Hear them whispering French and German
Dutch, Italian, and Latin
When no one’s looking I touch a sculpture
Marble, cold and soft as satin
But the most special are the most lonely
God, I pity the violins
In glass coffins they keep coughing
They’ve forgotten, forgotten how to sing, how to sing

First there’s lights out, then there’s lock up
Masterpieces serving maximum sentences
It’s their own fault for being timeless
There’s a price to pay and a consequence
All the galleries, the museums
Here’s your ticket, welcome to the tombs
They’re just public mausoleums
The living dead fill every room
But the most special are the most lonely
God, I pity the violins
In glass coffins they keep coughing
They’ve forgotten, forgotten how to sing

They will stay there in their gold frames
For forever, forever and a day
All the rowboats in the oil paintings
They keep trying to row away, row away

First there’s lights out, then there’s lock up
Masterpieces serving maximum sentences
It’s their own fault for being timeless
There’s a price to pay and a consequence
All the galleries, the museums
They will stay there forever and a day
All the rowboats in the oil paintings
They keep trying to row away, row away
All the rowboats in the oil paintings
They keep trying to row away, row away…

Analysis
On the surface the song is a dark perspective on the art in museums, but beneath it lies a metaphor. I think the rowboats and violins on display at the museum represent artists in general, their lives on display for all to see while they’re trapped and unable to move.
1) “All the rowboats in the paintings / They keep trying to row away / And the captains’ worried faces / Stay contorted and staring at the waves / They’ll keep hanging in their gold frames / For forever, forever and a day”
I looked up rowboat paintings to see if perhaps Spektor referred to a particular painting or artist, and I found this beautiful little article, which claims the song is based on the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met houses a collection of rowboat oil paintings by Winslow Homer, as well as an Italian Baroque violin in a glass display case. While I think the article is right in this, I disagree that it’s a “metaphor for life.” I think Spektor’s a little more pointed than that. Not everyone is stuck on display; there have to be people to come over and watch and people to put them on display. The artists “keep trying to row away,” doing what the do best to try to escape the media attention, but their attempts are just as fruitless as the rowers in paintings who are “forever” stuck in their frames.
Evidently it’s not true of all artists…
2) “Hear them whispering French and German / Dutch, Italian, and Latin / When no one’s looking I touch a sculpture / Marble, cold and soft as satin / But the most special are the most lonely / God, I pity the violins / In glass coffins they keep coughing / They’ve forgotten, forgotten how to sing, how to sing”
Many famous works on display at museums are French (Degas, Monet), German (Durer, Friedrich), Dutch (Van Gogh), Italian (Raphael, Michelangelo), and Roman/Latin. More importantly for the metaphor, Spektor sings that they’re “whispering” in different languages, not speaking their mind or speaking comprehensibly. When she “touch[es] a sculpture,” she finds it “cold and soft as satin.” The coldness indicates a numbness or lack of life while the softness indicates the allure of the sculpture, even though it’s cold and stone. Spektor also seems to say the most talented art/artists are “the most lonely,” since the art is put on display away from other art (as is the case with the display of Mona Lisa at the Louvre). Like I mentioned before, the Met has a violin on display in a “glass coffin,” as Spektor puts it. The violins “keep coughing,” from dust or age or lack of use, and have “forgotten how to sing” after being on display for so long. Perhaps Spektor means after a long time on display, unable to practice their art for all the pressing media contact, artists lose their touch. That doesn’t seem like the best analysis to me, though, so if you have any ideas about the meaning of the violins, please comment below!
3) “First there’s lights out, then there’s lock up / Masterpieces serving maximum sentences / It’s their own fault for being timeless / There’s a price to pay and a consequence / All the galleries, the museums / Here’s your ticket, welcome to the tombs / They’re just public mausoleums / The living dead fill every room”
When the day’s over and the visitors are no longer welcome, the museum turns lights out and locks up, like the pieces are prisoners “serving maximum sentences.” The next lines seem more bitter and resentful, bordering on satyric. Spektor declares, “It’s their own fault for being timeless/ There’s a price to pay and a consequence.” I read that sarcastically, like when people say artists asked for media attention by being talented and doing what they love. My favorite lines of this song are the last ones here: “All the galleries, the museums, / Here’s your ticket, welcome to the tombs / They’re just public mausoleums / The living dead fill every room.” Museums like the Met often showcase works of dead artists, so I’ve made the connection to tombs before, but Spektor makes the connection even stronger. She claims the museums are “public mausoleums,” or collections of tombs open to the public, filled with the oxymoronic “living dead.” The “living dead” displayed in the tombs could refer to the art, as art thrives but the people who worked so hard to create it are dead. It could also refer to the media-trampled artists who are now numb and without the aspirations they once had–in other words, they’re now less lively, though they’re still technically living.
I’m not going to analyze the music video. You’re on your own for deciphering that one.

The Wilting of the Roses

Here’s a short story I just dug up! I wrote it at night a year and a half ago, but I thought you might enjoy reading it. It’s not one of my best works (those are the ones I send to literary magazines), but I like it, nonetheless.


 

 

The Wilting of the Roses

          She turned on the lazy ceiling fan. Its cool breeze gave her a moment’s reprieve from the June heat. She hadn’t felt this hot since the day she found her Danny hanging from this very fan.

She watched the simple wooden boards spin around and around, chasing one another in a never-ending game. With a long sigh she released all the pent-up air from her lungs. That had been many years ago. Danny should have been in his thirties by now. He would have laughed to see how wrinkled and frail she had become.

She didn’t blame him, of course. She had often seen herself dangling somewhere, too. She guessed that the fan was as good a place as any.

The grandfather clock echoed through her empty house. Five, six, seven… the pendulum swung back and forth, back and forth. Then there he was again, swinging back and forth, back and forth. She had come too late. His body dangled limply, still swinging from the struggle he had made just seconds before she came. Back and forth.

Back and forth.

Antony had inherited that clock from his godfather. They would not have been able to pay for something so ornate and delicate—not with his factory job. She had begun to work, too. She had to, so that Danny could go to college. When Antony died, she had to start working twice as much and still keep up with the chores and her relationship with Danny. Well, she had failed at the Danny part. He still hung there in her mind, the rope scratching at his neck as he swung back and forth, back and forth…

It was time. The sun had risen over the horizon, painting the sky with red and orange. It had been twenty years since Antony had died, to the day. You wouldn’t think it, looking out at the way the rising sunlight tinted those few wispy clouds and hearing the black-capped chickadees calling for their mates.

But it was on this day that the roses would bloom. Roses were Antony’s favorite flowers, so she had planted them in honor of him, and they always came up at the same time each year. She had plenty of poppies for Danny, too, of course, but the poppies were never as pretty as the roses.

She unlatched the door and heard a muffled creak when she swung it open. She was surprised to feel the dew and grass clinging to her feet. Had she really forgotten her shoes? Odd. No time now, though. She had to watch the blossoms open before it was too late.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the poppies lying open on the damp dirt. And flashes of purple—were those wild violets? She would have to stop to check, but the grandfather clock still rung in her ears.

Ring, ring…red, red…

No! Not again! Red on the ground…his body crumpled and unnatural. His grey eyes widened in dismay before flickering between a hundred emotions. His life flashed by him and the light went out. No, no, no. Why had he followed her? She had not wanted this. No matter her words, she had not wanted his death. She loved him! She felt it in her heart. She never meant any of the threats. She did not want this red on the ground.

But it couldn’t be! Her roses—the red on the ground. Scarlet satin petals scattered across the rich soil…she had worked so hard! How could they have died before even blossoming? The vines were naked; thorns stuck out at odd angles.

No! He couldn’t be dead. Didn’t he see the car coming? She wondered what he was going to say. His mouth was still opened in a small oval, but blood stained the corners of his lips. It dripped slowly, painfully onto the cracked white sidewalk. She bent forward to brush the hair out of his eyes, but jumped back when her fingers felt sticky and wet.

Blood on her fingers! The traitorous thorns had stabbed her. She watched the drops fall onto the petals at her feet.

The roses had wilted. It was her fault. She had not been careful enough. She should have paid better attention. She could have stopped Danny. She could have stopped Antony. But the red had clouded her vision. She could not see. It hurt! She had been pricked! Oh, how her heart hurt! She had failed them all!

In another world, she could hear the ringing of the grandfather clock. The song was dull and flat, joined by the screeching of car tires and the words that Antony could not say. His mouth in that little ‘o,’ the light fading from his cloudy eyes, the red on the cement…The pendulum of that old grandfather clock was red. Back and forth, back and forth…

Through a gauzy veil, she saw Danny—her Danny—hanging from the fan. Back and forth. Back and forth. She had failed. She should’ve cared for him more. Of course he would feel just as dark as she did—he was their son, after all. Back and forth. The necklace of red beads dripping from the scratches of the rope against his neck. Red. Like the petals on the ground. They were next to her now. She could feel them—the roses, Antony, and Danny. They were there. They were hers. She would run to them now.

She pushed the veil aside and let the light flood in.