Saturday, October 30, 2010

10/10/10 Review #9: The Gravedigger’s Daughter

Book Review 9: The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates

I’m in complete awe of Joyce Carol Oates. She’s incredibly prolific with  35 novels to her name (as of 2007), and they aren’t quick, short novels. They are, from what I know so far, deep, thorough, and vast. And the actual writing is to be admired and aspired to.

The Gravedigger’s Daughter follows Rebecca, a Jewish German immigrant during Hitler’s reign, where she is barely born in America and through having a family of her own. Her father, a very intelligent man who had to leave his valued career, takes the job he can find when he arrives – a grave digger. Because of it, Rebecca grows up with an angry disillusioned father, a mother who doesn’t speak English and becomes a hermit, and the stigma of living in a cemetery. Rebecca is a fighter, though, and makes her own path. She deals with betrayal, single motherhood, and an exhausting factory job. And then she must move to save her own life and that of her child, repeating history to an extent.

Although long and winding, this story keeps moving and holds everything together so the reader stays right with it all the way to the end. Each character is distinct and has his or her own pattern of speech and flaws and aspirations. We are given a true glimpse into another world and while there is much to ponder and recognize, and many realities, there are no “right” answers or preachy passages. There are thoughts to consider and paths that might have been changed. Overall, a very insightful, intelligent, worthy read.
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Music Review: Heartland Highway, Sister Hazel (2010)

A friend introduced me to Sister Hazel a few years ago. Since then, I’ve been collecting their work, past and present. I remembered hearing one of their songs on the radio some years ago that I really enjoyed but I didn’t remember who sang it until being “formally” introduced to them.

Yes, I love this band. They have a very acoustic, easy sound and the lyrics are clever, smart, thoughtful, emotional at times, and always uplifting. Heartland Highway is their newest, just out this month. It’s a bit of a departure, although still along the same main road, as if feels a little heavier, a little deeper, possibly showing the many years they’ve put into the business and the independent path they forged for themselves. Lead vocalist Ken Block has been the major songwriter for the group. With this one, lead guitarist Ryan Newell has taken on more of the songwriting duties, rhythm guitarist/pianist Drew Copeland had a hand in three of the songs, and a trilogy of songs called Lessons in Love, Hope, and Faith was penned by bass guitarist/pianist Jett Beres, giving Heartland Highway a more balanced album by the band members.

Start with this one or any of the older albums (my faves are Absolutely and Chasing Daylight), but check them out!
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Movie Review: Alexander (director’s cut) 2004 

A lot of reviewers slammed this historical by Oliver Stone and many of its actors received razzie awards for the worst performances. I guess I’m odd because I truly enjoyed it. I like artsy cinematography if it’s not carried away. I love historicals. And I like going beyond the fight scenes to get to the actual story of the historical characters. Alexander the Great’s actual story is presented here nicely. I’m a bit of a history buff but not enough to know what liberties were taken. Still, it put me in view of Alexander’s inside world and provided interesting entertainment for an evening.

Legal Note: no review was compensated or requested

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