Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Educate Emma: Books: Animal Farm by George Orwell

Dust Jacket Description:

"'It is the history of a revolution that went wrong - and of the excellent excuses that were forthcoming at every step for the perversion of the original doctrine,' wrote Orwell for the first edition of Animal Farm in 1945. Orwell wrote the novel at the end of 1943, but it almost remained unpublished. Its savage attack on Stalin, at that time Britain's ally, led to the book being refused by publisher after publisher. Orwell's simple, tragic fable, telling what happens when the animals drive out Mr Jones and attempt to run the farm themselves, has since become a world-famous classic. 

Characters: Orwell creates a beautiful allegory with Animal Farm, and his characters are an extension of that. Napoleon shows the harsh, cool brutality of Stalin, Snowball demonstrates the empty charisma of Trotsky, and every character acts as a representation of either a specific historical figure or a personality that many Soviet Union followers owned. In typical fable form, it is the writing and world building of Animal Farm that truly makes it remarkable, rather than its characters. Despite this truth, certain characters still caught my eye. In particular, the devoted horse of Boxer was a great demonstration of how blind loyalty can be, and how useless it is without any critical thinking behind it. The characters weren't my favourite component of Animal Farm, but they're certainly valuable and well formed. 4 flowers.

Writing: We all know that person who attacks debates with the logical, enraged rationale of someone with a definite opinion. That person can be fun to interact with, but their points are often ignored based on their stance. Orwell knows that biases get in the way of real listening, and so his writing style is naive and seemingly neutral. He does not bombard his readers with a formed thesis. Instead, he lets the events of Animal Farm play out, and he knows that his audience is intelligent enough to know when they are being deceived. This is a very effective way of writing the story, as it means that readers pay attention to Orwell's unspoken point, rather than blindly agreeing or disagreeing with his statement. It's frightfully clever and cynical - two of my favourite traits in writing voices. 5 flowers. 

Plot: Orwell chronicles the exciting beginning of Animal Farm to its disturbing, established ending. Readers follow the farm animals' naive progression into Animalism, and it truly records the history of Soviet Russia without ever saying its name. I love fables, and Animal Farm may be the best one yet. 5 flowers. 

End: Creepy, dark, and relevant. True revolutions cannot occur without constant and vigilant criticism from its followers. If we forget that, no real change may ever occur. 5 flowers. 

Dust Jacket Description: I liked that it gave me a historical context for Orwell's publishing process, but it would have been nice to have an actual description of events. Then again, it is world-famous. Perhaps the copy editor decided that wasn't necessary. 4 flowers. 

Cover: An excellent update to a classic novel. I love the font for the quote, and the subtly menacing use of birds in the background. 5 flowers. 

Overall: Orwell gets his message across, and he does so in a way that honors the true meaning of art: it helps us perceive the world and its history in a way that's foreign to our own perspective. 5 flowers.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Excuses, A Great Big Thank You, and an Offer

Why hello there! I know, it has been a while. I completely devoted myself to regular posting on my blog, and then I left the face of the Earth. I suck. You can hit me with lima beans or something - man I hate those things. I was ambushed by a horrible flu during midterms, and then trying to catch up on schoolwork took up a lot of my time. However, these are not sufficient excuses, so here is a picture of nutella for your trouble. Guys, I missed you. I missed being able to start sentences with conjunctions without fear of a bad grade. I also missed being able to be snarky and have an audience for all my self-important opinions.

Not only do I have an audience full of wonderful people who actually care about what I have to say - now you guys are two hundred strong! How did this happen? Well, I think it largely has to do with my piece on The New York Times site. That experience was completely surreal and paralyzingly terrifying for the 24 hours before I sent it out. It was worth it though, and now there are all sorts of people calling me a smart teen and insisting I'm cooler than Joel Stein! I will take it. Anyways, I just wanted to say that I'm so grateful for this group that has dealt with my inactive blogging and has allowed me to figure out what my non-fiction writing voice actually is. (Man, I missed ending sentences with prepositions, too. I swear, those are my only enjoyable grammatically incorrect practices.) Y'all are perfection, and your comments and interest has often made my day.

SO, to reward you for being awesome, I wanted to give you something. Since I do not have the money to pay for book shipping, and I don't think anyone would benefit from some kind of youtube video, I have an idea. As a blog reader, I like content. It makes my heart go all warm and fuzzy inside. Soooo, I would like you to tell me about a post you'd like me to write. Whether you want an All About Me post (hah, I doubt it), a review of a particular book, album or movie, my opinion on a certain topic, a recommendation, advice, or several pictures of my cat, I will GIVE IT YOU. Just make sure to comment and let me know. You've gotten me to two hundred and one followers. It's only fair I reward you with some requested content.

Sound good? Do the commenty and I will love you forever. Not that I didn't already. *gives cookies*

Educate Emma: Theatre: Tempting Providence

The mid-spring season at my local theatre tends to show plays with mildly boring premises. The concept of an English nurse who moves to Newfoundland to help patients didn't thrill me. It was definitely not as interesting an idea as Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella or Hair. Luckily, you can tell that Tempting Providence has been performed by the same lead actress 500+ times. It was a much more refreshing experience than I expected. Deirdre Gillard-Rowlings finds the perfect balance of detached and lovable in Nurse Myra Bennett, and I grew to enjoy her character. Chemistry between Nurse Bennett and Angus was clear and noticeable, unlike relationship between Daisy and Gatsby in my local theatre's run of The Great Gatsby. Both Willow Kean and Robert Wyatt-Thorne add great flavor to the many side characters they play. Tempting Providence is clearly well acted, and it is also cleverly staged. Only a table and a few chairs are used as set pieces, and they quickly become creative props in a myriad of situations that Nurse Bennett experiences. The play is a great story, but it also focuses on the compelling issue of fate, and watching Myra struggle with its components was both fascinating and realistic. It also helped that the play dealt with women's health issues, a topic that is close to my heart. It's difficult not to appreciate this woman who valiantly helps a rural community improve its health and world. Seeing Myra thaw around Newfie inhabitants was also delightful, and on a whole it was an enjoyable experience as an audience member. It exceeded my low expectations and then some.

The actual point: Tempting Providence wasn't my favourite play of the season, but it might have been the best crafted. The seasoned, well-trained actors haven't lost their passion in their long participation in the story, and it makes more for a great piece. I loved seeing the use of props and the relationships between characters. It's definitely worth watching, if it ever comes your way.