Dienstag, 14. August 2012

What a Week!

About a week ago I came back from holidays brimming over with enthusiasm. I wanted to blog all day long, write about books, talk about books and read all the books on my shelves at the same time because each book seemed like a glorious adventure. And now? There's hardly anything left of it and it's my own fault, so this is probably going to be the first completely non-bookish post I've ever written.
This week a lot of crazy stuff has been going on here. How come I'm always busier during summer break than when I have to go to school? This is a serious scientific problem.

I'll start with the sad news: my guinea pig Hermine (named after the German variation of Harry Potter's Hermione) died as an old lady of eight and a half years. I sat by her when it happened and if you have ever watched a little animal die, you'll know that it is heartbreaking. She lay on her side, something which she had never done before and now and then her whole body jerked violently. At the very end her eyes were wet and it looked as if she was crying. I had never seen anyone or anything die before, but when she suddenly lay very still I knew that she was dead. Not the best start into a week...

To "cheer me up" my whole family decided to organise a belated birthday party for me since I actually turned sixteen on the 29th of July, but was in Greece at the time. I suspect that they all just wanted to eat birthday cake, because they know exactly that I hate my birthday. There is something about being the birthday girl, being the supposed centre of attention that I never liked and since my family had a horrible quarrel during my birthday party some years ago I refuse to recognise birthdays as special days in any way. Well, my family celebrated nonetheless, ate their cake and were satisfied. Back to normal life now, please!

Lord of the Dance - 10 Cry Of The Celts, The Lord of the Dance and The Clan

Finally something positive to tell! While my mood was definitely below average for a large part of last week, I have some amazing news. I am sure you all know shows like Riverdance or Lord of the Dance. What those incredible dancers do is Irish Dance, a form of traditional Irish stepdance which makes the dancers look as if they were weightless. Last week I listened to some Irish folk songs and suddenly wondered how one could not dance to these rhythms, so I did a lot of research and found several academies for Irish dance in Austria. Unfortunately they are all situated in Vienna which is about three hours' drive away from where I live. But since annoying people has often led me to success I wrote emails to all those schools inquiring after a possibility to learn dancing in Graz. To make a long story short, after several desperate calls to complete strangers I actually found a coach who is starting a beginners' class here in my tiny town in October.
Trinity Academy of Irish Dance
I am so excited! The only problem is that I have no experience in dancing at all and that I am not a very athlectic person. I have started working out in order to be fit enough when dance class starts (and lose a little weight, have you seen those dancers? Tiny elves, all of them!) and that is the reason I am currently reading so little. My muscles are sore, I'm tired and cannot really concentrate.
So, enough whining! I seriously have to get back to writing focused posts without self-pity. Maybe I'll manage that tomorrow...I have lots to say about Persuasion and Jane Austen.
I hope you're all having a nice week!

Montag, 6. August 2012

Not all those who wander are lost - My favourite classic

Like the vast majority of devoted readers I protest at having to choose one favourite book. That is simply not possible; what with North and South, Great Expectations, Jane Eyre and The Divine Comedy, to name just a few. On the other hand nothing is easier for me than choosing the book I have the most personal connection with, the one which changed my life the most and which I spent so many hours dreaming over that its pages became my substitute for the real world. The title of this post already gives away which book I am talking about, at least for those of you who have read and maybe loved it.

To be honest, my history with The Lord of the Rings is not a cheerful story; in fact it is a story of loneliness and not belonging anywhere and after reading it even the last of you will be convinced that I am a complete nerd: how else could I feel this way about a fantasy book? But I don't care because for me The Lord of the Rings is so much more than just a book: it is my childhood, it is accepting myself, it is the world I explored before I had the courage to even want to go anywhere apart from Middle-Earth. For me, it is home.

I was nine years old when I first came across the strange name "The Lord of the Rings". Like so many others I have to thank Peter Jackson's wonderful movies (which are definitely my favourite movies ever, here it's easier to choose than with books) for getting to know Mr Tolkien at all. My mama saw all the movies when they were released and loved them so much that she bought the books, although she never read them. A few years later the movies were shown on TV here in Austria and after having put me and my little brothers to bed she sat down to watch The Fellowship of the Ring with my oldest sister. Had I slept well that night my life would have taken a different direction, but fate in the shape of a nightmare drove me to the living room not long after the movie had started. Normally no mother would allow her nine-year old to watch such a movie, after all there are quite a few rather tough fighting scenes in it, but somehow people seemed to be constantly forgetting my age when I was a child.
Of course I was always very tall, but more than that I was always "mature"; I led serious discussions about things no normal nine-year old girl would think of, I used big words and had even bigger ideas.In fact my mama sometimes says half-jokingly that she thinks I never was a child at all. And that is the reason why I hated a grand part of my childhood so much.

When I started school I had already taught myself how to read and write and I was impatient to learn more. I asked questions all the time and when I didn't understand something or when my opinion differed from my teacher's I actually argued with her. Now, I went to a catholic convent school and my teacher was a very severe and rigorous nun...You can imagine how well she understood my character. She criticised me all the time, often made me stay with her during the breaks and after school to lecture me and brought me to tears several times a week. The only thing that was worse than dealing with her was dealing with the other children in my class. I could as well have been from another planet so little did I understand them and they me! The only things they cared for were Disney movies, sleepovers, boygroups and Barbies. Of course they only acted their age, but I didn't know that then. The only thing I knew was that I was an outcast, I longed for adventures, stories, great ideas and dreams and I wanted to do something meaningful, to be so much more than just a little lonely schoolgirl.

That was the point of my life where I met Frodo and Sam, Gandalf, Legolas, Aragorn and all the others. All the heroes. There they were: brave and strong enough to face all their enemies despite their fear, even the smallest of them standing up and fighting for what is right, for hope, for freedom. They showed me exactly who I wanted to be. They became my friends when I had no others. For years I would imagine Gandalf by my side whenever I was afraid, Gandalf in whose presence I could only be safe. When I needed to be strong I slipped into the role of Aragorn and when I was frustrated because I was treated like a little child I remembered Éowyn. My brothers and I would spend hours in the woods fighting with our bows and "swords", escaping from black riders and defeating Sauron. Honestly I think a lot of the self-confidence I have comes from that time: I knew everything about Middle-Earth and learned a great deal about our world through it. I still know almost all of the songs (I even composed melodies for them) and poems which appear in the book by heart and some of them are about three pages long. Finally I had something special only for me, something which the people who bullied me would never understand. But now that I think of it, being a little girl who was able to handle a sword certainly helped to boost my confidence a little too.

I devoured all the movies and then I became the first to take the books from my mother's shelves and find comfort in their pages. I know that many people who loved the film were disappointed by the book and that makes me sad because these two are simply completely different things. While the movies tell the wonderful stories of a few characters, Tolkien does not really want to do so primarily. What Tolkien does is create a whole world, he doesn't just invent a few heroes, places and magical creatures like the fantasy authors nowadays do; he tells the story of his world, consisting of an incredible number of separate stories, each of them as complex as that of Frodo and the Ring. Middle-Earth goes so much farther than The Lord of the Rings. Every side character, even every place has a history and most of them are only touched upon in Tolkien's actual books. Middle-Earth is boundless and its complexity allows it to become real. It became my reality when I wanted nothing else than to get away from this world I hated so much. It was my world when I needed it and if you listen carefully it can become yours too.

"All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost"
Seven years have passed since I first found a home in Middle-Earth. In this time I managed to find a place for me in the "real" world too, but without the dreams from my first home I would never have had the courage to look for it. And, believe it or not, if I try to be a little better a person today than others in similar circumstances, if I look for beauty in seemingly hopeless places, if I fight for what I believe is right and if I never give up I owe it to J.R.R..
You can call me a nerd now, of course, but you can also call me a patriot: a part of my heart will forever belong to Middle-Earth.

Samstag, 4. August 2012

A Sign of Life

Do you remember almost a month ago when I wrote a post saying that I was going on a holiday to France but that I would be back in two weeks? Yeah, that's what I thought back then. The reason why you haven't heard anything from me since is that despite all probabilities I'm not back at home yet. As I'm writing this I'm sitting at the Cretan airport waiting for my flight home: my mama surprised me and my brothers with a holiday at the beach the very day after I came back from France. Isn't my life stressful?!

This is basically a don't-worry-I'm-still-alive-and-having-a-good-time-post, but unless another unexpected trip pops up I should be back to blogging regularly tomorrow. And good God, I'm swooning at the thought of how I'll ever be able to catch up with all your great posts! 
Don't get me wrong, the last three weeks were amazing, especially my time in France was incredible (perhaps I'll write a little post about it another time?), but I will be quite happy when I'm comfortably at home again. I have missed reading your thoughts on books and life more than I would have thought possible and I have a vast number of posts in my mind which will hopefully all be written soon. Don't be annoyed if I'm a little over-active in August, I have to make up for my involuntary blogging break in July!

Anyway, my reading has not been as scarce as my reviewing, in fact I have a whole bunch of reviews yet to write. In France I read Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, which surprised me completely by how much I loved it (I'm giving up, Diana. Never again will I doubt the awesomeness of a book you recommend!).

Then I finished An Ideal Husband, which I found good, of course, but not outstanding. Perhaps I've read a little too much Wilde recently? I'm getting very used to his humour. 
In contrast to it I picked up Wuthering Heights - you see I stayed faithful to the Victorians for Allie's Victorian Celebration, although unfortunately I did not manage to write my reviews in time for it. In my opinion the event could have lasted some more weeks, the Victorians and I are becoming the best of friends!

In August I hope to catch up with the Les Misérables readalong which I have once again shamefully neglected as well as participate in Alice's The Moonstone readalong; that is if she still lets me.
I have also promised to read a book by Jane Austen (and if you know me, you'll know what that means for me) but more about that in another post.

Lastly (quickly, because my flight was just announced) and completely unrelatedly I want to thank you all for the nice comments on my last post. I was really overwhelmed by all your lovely wishes for my trip. I couldn't answer them then, but now I do: thank you very much, I feel honoured to belong to such an amazing blogging community. 
So, time to go home!