Tag Archives: Night Circus

It’s in the Cards…

Seven of Coins from the Rider-Waite Tarot deck

7 of Pentacles from the Rider-Waite tarot deck – Image via Wikipedia

So, reading The Night Circus has gotten me wanting to run away with the circus. Unfortunately, the best I could offer as a contortionist would be the Wheel or Plough poses from yoga—although let it be known that I did fly through the air with the greatest of ease a few years ago, swingin’ (as all good monkeys ought to) upside down from a trapeze and doing a couple catches at a one-day Chicago trapeze school. Anyway, I’ve decided it’s probably safer for me to just sit indoors at a table, so I’ve started studying the tarot. I’m not saying I’m convinced of the fortune-telling aspect of it, but my inner-Jung that believes in a universal consciousness is positively fascinated with the archetypes represented among the cards, as well as how tarot can be used simply as a means of personal meditation. It centers the mind on an aspect of life to reflect on, brainstorming proactive ways in which to drive one’s own future, to the extent one can. This is useful for a scatterbrain like me whose overly analytical mind will otherwise spiral in any number of directions at any given time. I swear, it’s like the hamster cage at the pet store with all my little thought-rodents sprinting (and going nowhere) inside their wheels.

Anyways, the only reason I bring this up is because I can’t help but share that the day after I wrote my previous post, “The Roads Newly Taken,” I drew the Seven of Pentacles card (also known as Seven of Coins), pictured above. In that previous post, I had literally written “Am in pausing-to-take-stock mode” and “I just need to stop now and then to assess the situation“; I also said I was “placing the needle back on my same broken record.”

What a nice supplement, then, provided by this card, which means (according to but one source among several that I’ve taken to cross-referencing):

“The Seven of Coins is the card of assessment. It represents those plateaus along the path of life – the times when we can and need to rest and take stock of where we are and what we should do next. It is not uncommon for us to find ourselves in a rut in life, banging our heads up against the same brick wall and trying out the same solution to the same problem. […]

If we are to grow as human beings and not be content with revisiting the same plateau all our lives we need to make sure we are making good and conscious choices. These choices need to reflect where we are in our life today – our feelings, dreams, ambitions – and not our goals from yesterday or those unconsciously passed on to us from our parents. It is fine to drop once-held ambitions which are no longer relevant to us. This does not equate to a failure if we did not complete these goals but rather a success that we are able to be honest with ourselves and move forward in a more truthful way. Perhaps our dreams are now more ambitious as we realize we are stronger than we previously thought, or maybe they are less as we feel the need to slow down. Either way, the most important element to consider is the truth derived from sincere and honest contemplation of who we are now and what we need or want for ourselves at this time.

Huh.


The Bookish Baboon

Cover of "The Book Thief"

While I feature the books I’m currently reading in the right margin of this blog, I don’t often comment on them. But as I have book club tonight, I’m in the spirit to do so.

First off, I was never one to join a book club before. My to-read list has always been infinite, and to have someone else choose what I read and dictate the time I read it within always seemed too constrictive. Why I joined this one, however, was a no-brainer: it’s a group of my friends who I’d want to hang out with anyway and who share my love of wine and low-key attitude. There’s no sense of penalty if you haven’t read more than 5 pages of the book, there’s no set list of questions we must answer, and the time-frame has been pretty wide open—so far, a couple months, which leaves me enough time to read something else of my own choosing in between.

Tonight is only our second meeting, and the book is The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. I am lazy, so allow me to just copy the notes I already jotted in my book journal:

Liked it. Took a while to get into it (one-third of the way through), largely because of language and structure/style—its very unique descriptive and figurative language is striking, but perhaps would prefer such in a short story vs. novel-length. Unexpected similes for sake of originality sometimes barred actual envisioning (e.g., “Her wrinkles were like slander.”), which opposes the aim of that literary device. A lot of characters introduced right away, too, so took time to feel acquainted with main ones, but ultimately did connect and sympathize. Interesting perspective of non-Jewish German suffering, and I did appreciate the dehumanizing effect achieved by repeatedly describing people as inanimate objects and inanimate objects as living beings (anthropomorphism)—e.g., “There were shocked pyjamas and torn faces.”

Overall, I give it 4 out of 5 stars. In the end, I was moved.

Our first book choice, on the other hand, was sheer disaster. It came highly recommended as a bestseller, and I have zero idea why. Here’s what I had to say in my little journal about Victoria Hislop’s The Island:

Boo! Premise was interesting (history of the leper colony on Greek island of Spinalonga), but story was poorly written and developed. Over-described, redundant, simplistic, 2D characterization, ridiculous head-hopping (three times in one paragraph at one point!), and spent too much time away from present-day story-line to give a crap about its main character. Secondary plot surrounding sister in the past story thread was absurd (her affair was drawn out too long to believe in its continued passion, and the way it comes to an end is very unoriginal melodrama). Climax was too abrupt with little resolution of interest. Nothing of literary merit to discuss.

Overall, I gave it 2 out of 5 stars per Goodread’s rubric (“It was okay”). I’m tempted to change that to a 1 because I hate it more with every recollection, if not for the fact that I did find the history interesting. A shame it couldn’t have been conveyed more powerfully.

And to round this out as a literary trifecta, the book I just completed out of non-book-club-related pleasure was The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. I just dropped 5 out of 5 stars on that baby despite understandable limitations as cited by other readers. One Goodreads reviewer says, “The Night Circus will be a 5-star book for a certain reader. This reader likes a lot of descriptions, doesn’t mind a very slow story and has a soft spot for circuses. I am not that reader.” Fair enough. It all the more reinforces how there’s a reader out there for every book (plenty of folks just loooved The Island, after all), so those of us who write and aspire to have readers of our books one day need to keep the faith.

Because—with the exception of the “soft spot for circuses,” as they generally creep me out—I am that reader described above. I hated the amount of description in The Island because it was redundant; I loved the amount of description in The Night Circus because, for me, it was immersive. Yes, plot was rather thin, I expected there to be more action-oriented warring of the magician’s magic, and even at the end I didn’t grasp the point of the whole magic competition and why its stakes had to be so high. But this book in itself had a magical quality that made it an exception for me; the whimsical, decadent, candlelit, and velvety descriptions are abundant but so lovely. More so than a story, the book was an experience, a stroll through the black and white tents of a circus echoing the surreal artistry of Cirque du Soleil. For that reason alone, it’s a 5 for me, and I’m seriously contemplating reading it again from the start as I already miss the warmth, illumination, and caramel scent to be had inside those tent flaps.


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