Sunday, January 25, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
Water for Elephants is the story of Jacob's life with this circus. Sara Gruen spares no detail in chronicling the squalid, filthy, brutish circumstances in which he finds himself. The animals are mangy, underfed or fed rotten food, and abused. Jacob, once it becomes known that he has veterinary skills, is put in charge of the "menagerie" and all its ills. Uncle Al, the circus impresario, is a self-serving, venal creep who slaps people around because he can. August, the animal trainer, is a certified paranoid schizophrenic whose occasional flights into madness and brutality often have Jacob as their object. Jacob is the only person in the book who has a handle on a moral compass and as his reward he spends most of the novel beaten, broken, concussed, bleeding, swollen and hungover. He is the self-appointed Protector of the Downtrodden, and... he falls in love with Marlena, crazy August's wife. Not his best idea.
The most interesting aspect of the book is all the circus lore that Gruen has so carefully researched. She has all the right vocabulary: grifters, roustabouts, workers, cooch tent, rubes, First of May, what the band plays when there's trouble, Jamaican ginger paralysis, life on a circus train, set-up and take-down, being run out of town by the "revenooers" or the cops, and losing all your hooch. There is one glorious passage about Marlena and Rosie, the bull elephant, that truly evokes the magic a circus can create. It is easy to see Marlena's and Rosie's pink sequins under the Big Top and to imagine their perfect choreography as they perform unbelievable stunts. The crowd loves it--and so will the reader. The ending is absolutely ludicrous and really beautiful.
6 Quirky Things About Me:
1. I carry around a tin of Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream with me wherever I go. I absolutely cannot stand when my cuticles get dry and scraggly. If I am without a tin of cuticle cream I will hunt down a store that carries it just so I have it available.
2. I reapply lipgloss and chapstick probably 50 times a day. My lips must be moist or I go crazy. My purse has exactly 17 tubes, sticks, and pots rolling around in the bottom. No wonder it's so heavy! My favorites are from Bath and Body Works, the mentha in the squeezy tube, any flavor.
3. I, like Haley and Carrie, must change out of my clothes and shoes and into my pajamas as soon as I get home. My hair also has to go up in a knot on my head. I can't stand having my hair in my face! All of my jewelry (except my ring) must also come off immediately.
4. I have a favorite pillow that I sleep with. It has the perfect amount of fluffiness and is perfect for snuggling with at night. I hate when my bony elbows rub together, so the pillow is used as a cushioning device to prevent this from happening. No one, I repeat no one, must touch the pillow except for me. Landen and Ryan get extreme pleasure out of "kidnapping" my pillow and pretending to fart on it or putting their stinky feet on it. Gross.
5. Everything on our bed must be washed at least once a week. Sheets, duvet, everything. We have two dogs and two cats who insist on sleeping with us each night. By the end of the week our bed is a disgusting "hairfest" and it must be cleaned. I have washed the duvet so much that it is starting to get holes in it.
6. My toenails must always be perfectly painted. I think feet are gross and if they're not in perfect condition they're doubly gross. I scrub my heels religiously with my "Pedi Egg," get weekly pedicures, and slather them with lotion each night. Bag Balm is the best product for keeping your feet in tip-top shape. It was originally made to keep cow's udders from cracking, but it also does the same for your feet. They sell it at Walgreen's and every night I slather on a thick layer and then sleep with socks on.
I tag: Kim