Play It Like It’s 1986

0385368267.01._SX450_SY635_SCLZZZZZZZ_Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell ★★★★⅓
Source: National Library OverDrive Collection
Narrators: Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra
Edition: Listening Library (2013), Unabridged MP3; 8h56
Original publication date: 2013

When new girl Eleanor shows up on the school bus one day, things start out very badly for her when nobody wants to make room for her, even though there are still plenty of empty seats left. She’s overweight, has long wild curly, very red hair and is dressed pretty strangely, and though this is 1986 and new wave music and punk rock rule, her kind of weirdness just doesn’t fly. Park happens to be a misfit of sorts too, being the only half-Korean in an otherwise all-white or black Omaha, Nebraska, though he’s managed to fly under the radar with strategic friendships and alliances, and he’s not sure he’s willing to compromise that for the new girl, but he can’t help himself from wanting to help Eleanor when he bluntly tells her to just sit next to him on that first day, and there she’ll sit henceforth on their daily trips to school and back. He doesn’t find Eleanor attractive exactly, but for some reason, he starts sharing his beloved comic books with her, like the Watchmen series, and then introducing her to some of his favourite music like The Smiths and The Cure and Alphaville and Elvis Costello (and the list goes on and on as the book progresses).

Eleanor has never heard any of this music, so he makes her mixed tapes, but in her typical brusque way she refuses to take the first one, till he finally figures out she’s refusing because she has no way of listening to it; she then just as rudely refuses when he helpfully offers to loan her his Walkman, till his kindness and insistence wear her down. They’ve soon got a friendship going, based on all the things Park likes, including many more mixed tapes, which prove to be a salvation for Eleanor, because her home life is a living hell. Her mother’s taken up with a violent alcoholic called Richie who doesn’t hesitate to hit on his wife on a whim and threaten Eleanor and her four younger siblings with unnamed injuries. They’re so poor they don’t have a phone in the house, in which the bathroom and the kitchen share a space and aren’t even separated by a door. To add to her misery, Eleanor is being bullied at school, persecuted by one of the most popular girls, and then regularly finds disgusting pornographic inscriptions on the covers of her school manuals which she has no idea who could be putting there.

As friendship progresses to declared love, Park invites Eleanor into his home. Eleanor knows the respite she finds there with his parents, who slowly come to accept her despite her strange appearance and awkward ways, can only be temporary, because her parents, and especially Richie, are bound to find out about this relationship, which over the months she’s been passing off as time spent with a fictitious girlfriend, and she also knows without a doubt there’ll be a price to pay when Richie finds out. Only, things keep getting better and better with Park, who fills her life with music and makes her feel things she never knew she had the capacity to feel before.

Many people on LT raved about this book and I remained skeptical about whether I’d like it too since YA fiction doesn’t always do it for me, but it ended up being a big winner. I happen to be the same age as our two main protagonists, so was just as influenced by most of the music which is mentioned in the book (The Smiths were my all-time favourites back then), and though I thankfully never had the kind of nightmarish home life Eleanor has, I could definitely identify with her feeling like the odd girl out and the bullied misfit at school. Rainbow Rowell writes sensitively and realistically about what it feels like to be a teenager and to experience first love and complete bewilderment and fear, all this in a way that also makes for compelling reading. She also has an interesting take on the parents, who each deal with challenging life situations in their own individual ways, some showing willingness to grow and evolve, and some, not so much, just like real-life people in other words.

***

This book ended up causing me to spend a small fortune on iTunes. I haven’t been listening to much music of late because am constantly plugged into audiobooks, but I was compelled to create my own “1986” soundtrack and made lots of new additions to my golden 80s oldies collection. I partially based myself on Rainbow Rowell’s own playlist as posted on her blog; music which inspired her as she wrote the various scenes of the book, then added a few from a list the songs mentioned in the book. I added to that all my favourite Smiths songs missing from my catalogue beyond How Soon Is Now (I’d forgotten how arty the music video was), like Shout by Tear for Fears, which was a huge deal when it first came out one day at school, when everyone just went nuts over it, banging on every available surface. Added too a nice serving of The Psychedelic Furs and other music from Pretty in Pink, and a bunch of other music I remember listening to back when I was 16 (The Cure anyone?) And I can’t believe I’ve survived with only 3 Suzanne Vega songs up to now! (Fixed). Not sure when I’ll make time to listen to it all, because audiobooks really are my thing lately, but I’ll make time for it here and there; Alphaville’s Forever Young and A Flock of Seagulls’s I Ran (So Far Away) while I was walking in the sun with Coco happily running around in the park yesterday really made my day.

Freaky Friday

Freaky Friday

The cover design of this Mary Rodgers book is by Edward Gorey. Copies of the original hardcover published in 1972 can be found via online used book merchants. The blurb says: ‘Freaky Friday’ is an imaginative story about family life, and waking up one morning to find out that you’ve turned into your mother!

I’m tempted to get it myself!

Image found on my vintage book collection (in blog form)) via l’entonnoire du lièvre (tumblr)

A New Toy

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November roses
A few pics I took today via Instagram

When I woke up today, I actually stayed in bed for several hours (something I NEVER do unless I’m sleeping) and whiled away the time on Instagram. I guess that counts towards my “creative activities” time. Does anyone here know about Instagram? It’s a free app you can get for iPhone or Android, which allows you to take pictures and use a bunch of artistic filters, which you post on their site and others like Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and Flickr, to name just those (you can also mail them to friends and such). Then people can “like” the photos and/or comment on them, and “follow” you, just like you can with a blog. I’ve started following some pretty creative photographers, which I found by doing searches for tags like “travel” or “cityscape” and so on. It’s all pretty new to me so I’m still figuring out what you can do with this, and want to find a way to post my photos here on From Smiler, with Love. Though wondering… should they go on createthreesixty5 instead? I’ve taken some 125 photos with the app so far, but you can also post photos taken from you camera—though I haven’t figured out exactly how to do that yet. I also don’t know how to send anyone to my photo stream yet…

WAIT! I just found the web link! http://instagram.com/smiler_69/
Most of my pics can also be viewed on Facebook and on my Tumblr page, The Stolen Child.

Here Comes the Bookmobile!

Here’s another real fun find, again via Letterology. This travelling children’s lending library toy from the 50s was seen on eBay and eventually purchased for over $700. Somehow, I doubt it was given to actual children to play with; this toy would be nearly impossible to replace! For more pics and details, see the original post on Exile Bibliophile.

For Bookish Birds

I discovered these wonderful birdhouses by artist David Vissat on Letterology today, and just had to share them with my readers. Made from old books and other salvaged finds, Vissat got the idea for these when he was making a birdhouse for his mother and ran out of wood, so used an old book as a roof instead. Now, Vissat searches and scavenges flea markets and libraries for discarded and vintage books for this collection which he calls Wild Wings Literary Lodgings. These birdhouses are meant to be kept inside a book lover’s nest as decorative objects as they obviously can’t withstand the elements. They’re available at various online shops, including Uncommon Goods and Pinch Gallery, where most of the models shown here can be found.

Bookshelf Porn

Seen this week on apartment therapy, 3,200 square feet in Brazil; an apartment who’s defining feature is this expansive, wrap-around book shelving. More details and pictures here: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/an-apartment-defined-by-its-bookshelf-172733