2 Books, 2 Movies, 7 Songs

It occurred to me today that I’ve had the same seven songs on heavy rotation lately.

And also that I’ve been unusually engrossed in two particular books.

And also that I keep coming back in my head to the same two movies.

This is rather odd behavior for me. My entertainment choices, as a rule, follow my moods. And as my moods are pretty changeable, so too do I tend to jump back and forth (with rapidity!) between types of music, types of books, etc. It’s out of character for me to feel strongly drawn to the same items for weeks at a time. And it’s highly unusual for that to be happening simultaneously for me in all three categories – books, music, movies. I’m not sure that’s ever happened before, actually!

So I decided to list them out (these current fixations of mine.) Maybe, especially when looked at all together, they’ll tell me something enlightening about myself…who knows?

I’m going to see if I can make some sort of coherent statement about each one too, regarding what the particular appeal is to me in each one right now.

I often have a hard time doing that. (I’ve hit that wall in blogging before – many times.) Sometimes I can only explain my attraction to, say, a song by noting that I feel a connection to the “feel” of it. Which is completely true…but unfortunately doesn’t really tell anybody anything! Sometimes I actually don’t write about music (or books or films or other types of art) because I can’t find the words to explain myself, and it frustrates me.

But I’m going to consciously soldier past that this time. If a vague reference to “feel” is the best I can say, then I’ll just leave it at that. But I’m going to try to say something about each one regardless, even if it’s just that…just to see what I see.

So okay. Here’s my list:

BOOKS

Persuasion, Jane Austen

This is my favorite Jane Austen book. To get into all the “whys” of that would be an entire post in and of itself. So I won’t.

But the thing that’s different on this perusal is that my favorite characters, hands-down, were the Crofts. I always like these characters (they’re very easy to like and admire.) But this time around, they just jumped out at me and grabbed me and held on. Mrs. Croft is the kind of mentor I’d like to have. I’d like to sit with her and ask her advice on things. And the Admiral is so appealing. Obviously successful and professional (wealthy, a military leader, etc.) But so very, very nice.

There’s something about “nice” – just intrinsically, honestly nice. It’s a quality I always value – highly. But it’s an absolutely magnetic quality right now.

I imagine that means something.

The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova

I read this years ago, when it first came out (2005?), and I liked it a lot then – thought it was interesting and well-written. But this time around I’m finding myself just completely absorbed.

It’s not just the mystery of the story. That’s what grabbed me the first time around. What’s got me this time is her (Elizabeth Kostova’s) way with description. The way she takes her readers on this journey through Romania and Bulgaria and Itanbul and more. You can see the scenes, smell the scents, feel what they feel like. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been thinking so much about travel-writing recently…but I’m just blown away by the way she handles place.

MOVIES

Serendipity

I saw this years ago and liked it okay. I don’t know what made me think of it again recently – but then I kept thinking about it. And finally last weekend I rented it on iTunes and watched it…twice.

It’s not the most incredible movie in the world or something – though, as far as romantic comedies go, it’s pretty good. John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale are both really good in it…and the plot is unique.

I guess the idea that magical things might actually be possible is just rather appealing to me at this moment in time. This movie certainly speaks to that.

Mr. Nobody

I don’t even know, frankly, if I like this movie. I’ve seen it twice already – and now that I’m thinking about it again, I’m probably going to have to see it again. (It’s the kind of movie that does that to you.)

I loved Sliding Doors when it came out way-back-when – and I still like that one a lot. I’m kind of fascinated by the way choices we make – even the seemingly inconsequential ones – can impact the way the world unfolds.

Mr. Nobody takes the sort of idea Sliding Doors was based on (missing the train led to one future in Sliding Doors, and making the train led to another) and twists it all around and upside down and inside out. It’s an extremely convoluted movie. Interesting, yes – but also really perplexing.

And (though I’m far from a movie critic here) I think not really executed as well as it could have been…so that some of what is perplexing feels like it shouldn’t be. Rather as if part of an idea, the part that maybe would have completed an important thought, was left on the cutting room floor – and without that, it’s all just fragments. Fragmented pieces of complex ideas. Which makes for a frustrating experience.

Well, be that as it may, it really is a movie that climbs inside of you and holds on tight. For me, anyway. The themes of chance and choice are, for me, pretty irresistible ones, I guess.

MUSIC

“Beggar in the Morning,” The Barr Brothers

I feel really drawn to this one – but the “why” perplexes me.

It’s not the lyrics – not as a whole anyway. There are certain lines here and there that jump out and attach to me…particularly when set against the feeling of the music.

That’s how I absorb a lot of R.E.M.’s music, actually. Oftentimes with them it’s the “lyric moments” that really move me, rather than a song as a complete unit, absorbed in a linear fashion, start to finish. (And, as previously noted, I’ve long loved those guys.)

Interesting that I’m responding to this Barr Brothers song similarly. I don’t see any other resemblance between The Barr Brothers and R.E.M. at all.

Funny.

I’ll have to give that some more thought.

“Wrecking Ball,” Gillian Welch

This makes me think of driving on the interstate with the windows down and your arm hanging out, the wind blowing and the sun shining. Big wide open space on either side. Mountains ahead.

Nothing really matters but forward movement. And the air and the sun.

“I of the Storm,” Of Monsters and Men

I really, really like this entire album.

I don’t know why I’m liking this particular track the best right now. Previously it was Black Water.

I can’t even pinpoint what it is about this album that I like so much right now, or why I like it so much better than their last one (which I also liked…but not anywhere near to the degree that I like this one.)

It’s just the feel of it, I guess? (I knew I’d end up saying that somewhere. Sigh.)

This album very much deserves a more thoughtful, detailed response. It’s such a good album!

(I’ll work on that.)

“Photograph,” R.E.M. & Natalie Merchant

I like this song; I’ve long liked this song. I love R.E.M. and I like Natalie Merchant very much too. And R.E.M. + Natalie Merchant invariably pleases me!

But as to why I like this particular song as much as I do at this particular moment in time? I don’t know.

It has something to do with the tone/flow/feel.

It also has something to do with the lyrics: the idea of what the reality of a person’s life is, behind the facade of the outward appearance.

The last line is the most powerful. Talking about the attractive subject of an old black & white photograph, found “stashed between the old joist walls”:

“Was she tempted to pretend love and laughter until the end?”

“Bad Romance,” Thirty Seconds to Mars

I hate every other version of this song I’ve ever come across (particularly the Lady Gaga original.) I’m not sure, given that, why I like this one as much as I do. These guys basically took that original and changed the lyrics (to be darker and more overtly sexual), and then also very much changed the pace and tone and feel of it.

I suppose I just like the tone they created – and it’s especially appealing to me recently. (For reasons I’m unclear on.) If Lady Gaga’s version is about bright, flashing lights, and flashy clothes, and dancing on a crowded, pulsing dance floor (all of which I picture when I hear that version), this one is a smoky piano bar, with shafts of moonlight coming in through narrow windows, and small groups of people in shadow, gathered around little tables, absorbing the music before they go back out into the cold.

Again, I don’t know why that particularly appeals to me right now (I’m consciously not digging into the analysis tonight, just recording impressions!) But it really, really does.

If I ever saw this song live, I’d be so disappointed in it unless I could see it in just that type of venue!! (Intimate, dimly lit, etc.) But if I had that, it would be AMAZING.

“Worth Wondering,” Bronze Radio Return

This one is all about the tone and feel. I don’t have much else I can say about it right now. For whatever reason, it’s striking a chord…strongly.

“Everyone’s Summer of ’95,” Iron & Wine

Iron & Wine is such a peaceful, thoughtful listen.

At least, the early albums are. (And I like those a lot more than the later albums.)

This new collection of unreleased older stuff is really nice, what I’ve heard of it. This song’s a perfect example.

Again, so laidback and peaceful. Wistful. It brings me right back to summer days when I was younger and didn’t have so much on my shoulders.

*

Okay, so that’s my list! That’s the stuff that’s been swimming around inside my head in unguarded moments for the last few weeks.

(For whatever that says about me!)

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