Monday, June 29, 2009

Girl, Interrupted (Novel)

Susanna Kaysen

Girl, Interrupted

ISBN 0-679-74604-8

Vintage Books


Tangents can be fun, and tangents can be, well, tangential. The tangents in Girl, Interrupted, a memoir by Susanna Kaysen, tell of the borderline personality patient at McLean’s in Massachusetts. Written in 1993, the book became a national bestseller after the release of the movie adaptation in 2000, but the film leads to the common misconception that the book is about a lunatic’s stay in an asylum.

Kaysen reflects upon psychology but never really in depth about her own illness. In a chapter titled ‘My Diagnosis’, in which she mentions that she only researched her diagnosis twenty-five years after being released from McLean’s, we learn about her through her perception of others, her memories, and her medical files. Her awkward ticks such as her dislike for patterned objects, “[t]he floor of the ice cream parlor bothered me. It was black-and-white checkerboard tile… The contrast got under my skin.”

Her sporadic ticks give us an inside look at the true Kaysen, her random yet intelligent rants about how the brain thinks almost give off the impression that she is ‘too’ smart, which is a common trait for borderline patients. “What does borderline personality mean, anyhow? It [is] a way station between neurosis and psychosis: a fractured but not disassembled psyche. [T]o quote my post-Melvin psychiatrist: ‘It's what they call people whose lifestyles bother them.’"

Moments when Kaysen reflects upon society and what the parameters are to be deemed ‘mad’, “How could I say for certain that I wasn’t [mad], if I couldn’t say for certain that a curtain wasn’t a mountain range?”, are one of the few insights the reader gets of Kaysen’s ‘disease’. The memoirs are crafted in a certain way that throughout the book there are copies of Kaysen’s medical records. This aspect adds to the reality of her situation and brings the reader into her world at McLean’s; it amplifies the vivacity of her experience making it the reader’s experience.

Kaysen skillfully wraps up her memoirs by contrasting how she was before and after McLean’s. At the beginning of the book, she mentions her trip to New York with her English professor, and how a painting had ‘screamed’ “Don’t!” as if trying to warn her. On her second visit, she saw the identical painting, but truly saw it for what it was. This closing contrast slowly eases you out of Kaysen’s memoirs and clearly demonstrates her evolution and how she perceives the world.

Melanie Chisholm: This Time (2007)

Melanie Chisholm, one fifth of the former pop band The Spice Girls, has released her fourth album entitled This Time (2007). The European launch of her album coincided with the Spice Girls’ Reunion tour, which offered Chisholm the opportunity to promote her solo work in small venues across North America. Perhaps the strongest vocalist of the former pop group, and one of the only girls to solely devote herself to performing, Chisholm “took [her] own destiny, in [her] own hands” in 2004 and created Red Girl Records, and launched her sophomore album, Beautiful Intentions (2005). Her last two albums showcased her true self due to the freedom of having her own label. This Time will hit shelves in North America on April 8th, 2008.

Those who have always enjoyed Chisholm’s unique sound will no doubt enjoy this fourth album and for those who are die-hard Sporty fans, Mel C said, “Sporty is such a big part of me. There’s a little bit of her in everything I do,” during an interview at MTV Canada. The album’s first single ‘Carolyna’ deals with the serious topic of a girl running away and with lyrics such as “Carolyna you travel so far…Trying to escape the pain, start again where you are…” how could one not sympathize with Carolyna? The song’s dark nature is lightened by its soft-upbeat delivery which gives it a catchy edginess. ‘This Time’, ‘Understand’, and ‘What if I Stay’ happen to be some of the best songs for their storyline on the album, and Chisholm’s personal favourites.

The album introduces songs of a vast variety. “The Moment You Believe” is a song that deals about new beginnings in a relationship, and the difficulties one might face and how a couple’s strength can overcome what others may believe. “May Your Heart” brightens the album with its light hearted instrumentations: a mixture of guitars and soft drums. There is even a cover of The Strangeloves’ 1965 hit “I Want Candy” as a bonus track.

The album also showcases Mel C’s incredible vocals. The range she possesses is absolutely amazing and breathtaking, unlike most of the “very popular” artists nowadays who need the help of synthesizers to make a #1 hit. She has been gifted with a voice that one can recognize immediately once they know who the voice belongs to – like Madonna, who happens to be her idol. Not only does she possess a beautiful in-studio recording voice, but her live performances simply bring back hope in “live” performances, which in this day and age have become “lipsyncing” performances.

In an industry where literally every track is tainted by synthetic effects and computerized vocals the album as a whole may lack musical ‘oomph’ but it suits the style Chisholm has attributed to herself. If there are synthetic instruments or effects on the album, it is barely noticeable. The soft-rock appeal promotes her vocals and offers a great opportunity for acoustic versions; a conscious decision on Chisholm’s behalf due to her preference for small venues. In doing so, not only are her powerful vocals prominent but the lyrics are too. This Time, like her previous albums, is full of beautiful storylines and incredible woven lyrics.

As stated on several occasions she refuses to adapt to the every growing trendy pop market in order to sell records. This album showcases Chisholm’s love for the MOR, middle-of-the-road, rock genre which isn’t too edgy or too soft – a perfect balance of both. While MOR is a genre just like mainstream, the recordings classified under the MOR genre don’t all sound the same. There isn’t one specific mold for a multitude of artists; the independent recordings offer exactly that, independence, no mold is duplicated, and every artist is unique. It is painfully obvious by her willingness to produce songs that aren’t up to the ‘norm’, that Chisholm is not preoccupied with record sales and is clearly recording music for the pure love of doing so. This Time will be one of the hidden gems of 2008, and a hit amongst music listeners who are tired of mainstream music.

Favourite Track(s): Immune

I Was a Teenage Popsicle (Novel)

Bev Katz Rosenbaum

I Was A Teenage Popsicle

ISBN 0-425-21180-0

Berkley Jam Books

12.50$ CAN

Speculations on the future have always been overly exaggerated. Take for example, Star Trek, we live in 2007, and yet we still don’t walk into people with pointy ears or grizzly looking bear-like people. Bev Katz Rosenbaum puts her own twist on what the future would be like in I Was A Teenage Popsicle.

Floe Ryan, Venice Beach’s very first “teenage popsicle”, is faced with an utterly different world than the one she remembers. In 2006, Floe was diagnosed with “lympaticosis, a highly contagious respiratory disease” but wakes up in 2016 cured. Faced with the new technology and culture of the future, Floe must adapt to living with her younger (now older sister), attending a new school, and keeping her “vitrification” (frozenness) a secret from the world.

Rosenbaum crafts the novel in such a way that the reader finds themselves easily transitioned into the fictional future. Her speculations on the customs, devices and trends of the future aren’t too drastic. The reader is capable of making the link from their reality to Floe’s without questioning the evolution. The one aspect that makes this book believable is Floe, the reader’s one link to the present; they are introduced to the future at the same time as her. Any doubts that might linger in the reader’s mind are the same as Floe’s, therefore an answer is given shortly after, easing the reading process.

The language throughout the book is very colloquial and Rosenbaum achieves this by delivering the story through Floe’s point of view. The novel is filled with humour and teenage clich├ęs that make it perfect for any teenager. The problems Floe is faced with, dealing with an old crush, adapting and feeling alienated, are problems that any reader can relate with.

I Was A Teenage Popsicle is a must read for any young adult or chick literature fanatic. All readers who enjoy Meg Cabot, or Rachel Cohn, would gobble up Rosenbaum’s debut novel. All those who can’t get enough of Floe are anticipating the sequel Beyond Cool, which promises more of her witty remarks and Rosenbaum’s future.

Victor Victoria (1982)

Julie Andrews’ Victoria decides to swing the other way… but not really. Dame Andrews (Darling Lili) distances herself from earlier roles, in Victor/Victoria, by playing a soprano singer in financial trouble willing to do just about anything for a meal; she “[was] going to trade [her] virtue for a meatball”, but settles at pretending to be Count Victor Grezhinski, a female impersonator.

The setting; Paris: 1934, although you only briefly see the snowy Paris early on in story, most of the action happens inside of Chez Lui, a famous club and the hotel rooms. Victoria, at the end of her rope, runs into Toddy (Robert Preston) in a restaurant, where she cleverly schemes to plant a cockroach in her salad. The fortunate meeting turns into a bigger scheme to get big money, Toddy suggests that Victoria becomes Count Victor Grezhinski, the world’s greatest female impersonator. Their plan would have gone along smoothly, if King Marchand (James Garner) hadn’t shown up to Victor’s grand opening and fallen in love with her, and continued to cause a commotion throughout the movie to prove that Victor is a fraud because he was in denial of his own sexuality.

The light-heartedness of the story helps soften the controversial issues that director and writer Blake Edwards (The Pink Panther) slipped into the storyline. The musical renditions by the lovely Julie Andrews make you want to sing along to “Le Jazz Hot”, and “The Shady Dame of Seville”. The quick humour, Toddy’s version of “The Shady Dame of Seville” is bound to get some laughs. The liveliness of the actors brings so much life to the screen that will have the audience singing along. All this and more make Victor/Victoria a classic.

The concept of pretending to be the opposite sex isn’t new; Shakespeare wrote about it in Twelfth Night and even a modern version of the idea was integrated in Connie and Carla. This twist will never grow old, and there will always be an audience who will find it amusing to watch such a storyline. Truthfully, who can pass up a Julie Andrews film? The woman is a classic.

Avril Lavigne: The Best Damn Thing (2007)

Avril Lavigne’s third album, The Best Damn Thing, has been highly anticipated by fans and critiques alike due to the hype of it being Avril’s different take on music. Her first album, Let Go (2002) it reflected her ‘in your face’ attitude and adolescence. Her second album, Under Your Skin (2004), showed her darker more sensitive and pensive side. The Best Damn Thing seems to be a regression back to the Let Go era, despite Lavigne’s being a married 22 year-old.

For those who enjoyed previous songs such as ‘He Wasn’t’ and ‘Freak Out’ are sure to enjoy the similar vibe in her third album. The album, which Avril promised to be a more upbeat and fun album to perform, displays an extremely girly but yet again ‘in your face’ Lavigne. Songs such as ‘Everything Back but You’ with lyrics like “Because you wrote ‘I wish you were her’. You left out the ‘e’” show a glimpse of her potential humour while still keeping the song very buoyant. The listener can really feel the fun Lavigne had while writing the album throughout the collectiveness of the album.

Some may find the album too ‘sugar coated’ and ‘fake’, labeling her as a ‘poser’ and that she’s turning into a Britney-wannabe. Those who enjoyed deep and revealing songs such as ‘Slipped Away’ and ‘Nobody’s Home’ might not appreciate the vibe of The Best Damn Thing. There are only two mellow songs in TBDT, the first is ‘Innocence’ which is a lovely chill-giving song about finding that perfect place in your life. The second downbeat song is ‘When You’re Gone’, an attempt on Lavigne to put down in words her feelings for her new hubby. Despite the lack of emotion provoking songs the two that are on the album are sufficient enough. The songs also demonstrate Avril's vocal ability opposed to her cheery chorus chanting. They are well written and give us just enough insight on the shy woman we see in interviews opposed to the woman jumping around while performing on stage.

The works of Lavigne displayed in The Best Damn Thing are more oriented towards her female fans as opposed to the male fans. Her songs such as ‘I Can Do Better’ and ‘The Best Damn Thing’ put forward an anti-guy image, but the facts that she brings up in her lyrics are experiences that many girls can relate to. She sings “I hate it when a guy doesn't get the door… I hate it when a guy doesn't get the tab… I hate it when a guy doesn't understand why a certain time of month I don't wanna hold his hand”.

As a whole the album will surely appeal to Avril’s fan base, some find it too popish, others become addicted after listening to the songs a few times, while a few just plain despise it. Avril hasn’t gone main stream; she’s just adapted her music to her performances and wanting to have fun on stage. It’s completely understandable for whoever’s seen her perform live; the energy she shows on stage is what’s so entertaining. If an artist isn’t having fun on stage, the viewers won’t either. Despite the critiques, Avril’s album is sure to be successful, appealing to the stylistic demand of 2007.

Favourite Track(s): Innocence, When You're Gone, Everything Back But You