Monday, 11 November 2013

The fifth of November

Remember, Remember, the fifth of November“, the words that traditional 17th century English rhyme starts with. People of England know of no reason to forget the gunpowder treason and my parents, even if they wanted to, couldn't forget the event from November 5, 27 years ago, the birth of their first born child a.k.a. me. Rumor has it my Dad thought I was redhead first time he went to see me at a hospital, few hours after I was born. You see, I actually had no hair but I got all red from crying (as newborns tend to do) including my vertex so it must have seemed to my newly father who was only 23 at the time that, even both Mum and him are dark-haired, I turned out to be redhead. Fortunately for him, I turned out to be blonde in childhood, brunette during my preadolescence and redhead now, but only thanks to hair dying industry.


I've read somewhere that people born on November 5 tend to hide themselves behind masks created for outer world, fearing to expose too much, fearing to fail, fearing to lose... The statement is correct even though, growing as a person made me realize the irrelevancy of the masks. Fear of failure and fear of loss are now substituted by the fear of lethargy and giving up as those two things are what'd make me feel dead while still alive. But, during those sensitive, adolescent years, a mask has been created. Not only a mask but a whole alter-ego, stronger and braver then me at the time, more ready to stand up for itself and more ready to write, as writing was always my passion. But there were times when I thought it wasn't good enough to be shared with the world. Why am I sharing this with you now, you probably wonder? My alter-ego, my braver version of myself...she was also my favorite book character.

Have you ever felt like the book you are currently reading is just a waste of your precious time, like it is just a pile of letters and you'll be no wiser or fullfilled if you just leave it on the bookshelf or return it to the library? I can see you nodding your heads right now; it happened to you at least once but what does it matter? I agree. It doesn't. Not until a perfect character, you could easily rely to and you feel absolutely comfortable about is trapped inside such a book. It happened to me some 10 years ago. The crime scene is inside the covers of Kai Meyer's „The Alchemist“ (or „The Alchemist's Daughter“, depending on translator's interpretation of the original title „Die Alchemistin“) and her name is, as you can guess if you have read the book, Aura Institoris.

Kai Meyer, as well as his famous namesaker Stephenie, chose a career of YA writer, at a time when YA fiction was still just fiction, not a way of life. Obviously, the world of alchemy is not as popular as the world of vampires so Meyer (Kai) was left on the genre's margins. When asked to desribe „The Alchemist“ in only one sentence, he'd say it is a family saga, thriller and a love story combined with some fantasy elements. Don't get me wrong, I love a touch of fantasy in my reading but there are times when I'd like to say „Oh, come on!“ even to G.R.R.Martin. To cut the long story short, The Alchemist starts at the end of the 19th century, in an old, dark castle at the island in the middle of Baltic sea where 15-year old Aura lives with her father, famous alchemist Nestor Nepomuk, mother Charlotte, younger sister Sylvette and two adopted brothers, Daniel and Crhistopher. They are living a normal, family life (at least as normal as it can be when your father is an alchemist and the six of you are living all alone, miles away from civilization) untill Aura's beloved father gets killed by the hand of his arch enemy Lysander. This is vwhere the sane part ends. Afterwards, Aura has been sent to boarding school for girls which turns out to be a cover for white slave traffic with a headmisstress turning out to be a headmaster. A beautiful  hermaphrodite Gillian (who eventually turns out to be her father's assasin and, later on, the love of her life) helps her avoid the fate of other boarding girls and accompanies her on her way to find Lysander and avenge her father's  death.

Even while putting the text together in my head, this didn't seem like something I'd take home from a library now. Still, the book is standing proudly at one of my bookshelves. Why Aura? I have never been so impressed by the character's persona as I was with Aura's. So young, yet so strong, faced first with a loss of her father, the only support she has ever had, followed by the notion he wasn't really the man Aura took him for and finally, with the fight for her own survival. Despite all that, she stood up and shown she really is her father's daughter.  Looking back on it, my belief is that, at the age of 17, that was the only thing I really wanted; to find my own way trough life and to be the person my parents would be proud of.
Aura, depicted in my head, was always kind of me. So, when I decided to create this post as some sort of DIY birthday present for myself, my first idea was to organize a shooting on a cliff or somewhere near the sea (it is raining for days so the water is rather wild and stormy) but I've cut my hair few weeks ago and the only thing Aura can't have is chin length hair. It had to be long and a bit wild, as in the book and as in my imagination. So I have managed to find one picture from my „Aura period“ and would like to share it with you. It was taken on June 4, 2006., after Apocalyptica's concert in Zagreb. I was wearing a „no name“ jacket, and a Skandal corsage and skirt. The brand was pretty popular at the time but untill I sat down to write this post, it wasn't quite clear to me what happenned to it. Oh, of course, and the shoes, I bought them few weeks before the concert, in Paprika store in Italy. They were black with violet pattern and a charming ribbon on the toes. And with 2,5 cm „high“ heel. It might seem funny but to me, wearing sneakers and Dr.Martens only, it was a big deal.

Surprisingly, I've never depicted Gillian as someone I'd fall for, he was one of the things from the book I didn't like. An assasin paid to kill a girl who falls for her, saves her, seduces her, leaves her with child and surprisingly shows up few years later. Cliché. OK, with a twist as Gillian is a hermaphrodite, the product of alchemy and another mythical creature, as he is referred to in a book. When thinking of Gillian's inpersonation the only person coming to my mind was Justin Hawkins, singer of The Darkness. It may be because of his thin voice or because of his long, blond hair. Perhaps his gentle face lines are to blame but, if I was the director, Julian would most certainly play the role of a hermaphrodite.

Of course, I'd be the one portraying Aura. Her strenght and her devotion to everything she does or even tries to do have inspired me so many times and, through me being her, I managed to be me, to create myself to be the person I'm proud of, a strong, hard-willed person, accepting no obstacles in life, giving herself completely to what I do and to whom I love. Being Aura helped me realize there will be times or events in life I won't like, won't feel happy about or I'll even hate them but no matter what, it is necesary to find a fullfillment even if it is just a single, little thing. As with „The Alchemist“, I didn't like the book but I really enjoyed Aura. As with my life at the moment; it is killing me I can't get a job but, on the other hand, I started this blog and it made me feel so alive and filled me with energy I wasn't even aware still exists. So now, at the age of 27, I can say I'm pretty proud of what this Aura has become. Don't know what happens to Meyer's girl (as I found out recently, there are 2 more books, sequels to „The Alchemist“ but not yet translated to Croatian) but am quite certain, no matter how inpredictable the future is, it will bring me joy and even more passion for the things I love.
Have you read „The Alchemist“? If you did, did you like it? If not, and you love „Twilight“ and other YA successes, you should try it, you may love a main female character with a strong personalit  and some other desires in life except being immortal. And, moreover, have you ever found yourself in a situation similar to this, to love a character so much you were able to identify yourself with them?

Looking forward to your comments! 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The spoiled one?

            The March sisters' journey is near its ending, and the saying is that's when the sugar comes. Is it the case now? I'll leave it to your judgment. Because the last of the sisters is the youngest one, Amy March, „family's pet“ and „baby of the family“, cared and cuddled but very stubborn and capricious young girl.

            If Jo is the one that readers love the most, and like to identify with, then Amy is, by the opinion of literature theoretics as well as the reading audience, the one readers love to hate. The two the sisters are, besides taking completely opposite sides in the readers' hearts, bonded by one of the most controversial  relations in the book. They both are very talented and artistic, Jo in the written word and Amy in all kinds of arts. Contrary to what you might think, that line brings them apart rather then bringing them together. Being the youngest, Amy was craving her sisters' acceptance , which was missing very often, leading to unpleasent situations caused by her anger and concocted reactions. Just remember how she burnt her sister's manuscript as a punishment for one such „disobedience“. Still, bear in mind Amy's fragile age of only 12 at the time the „crime“ was executed, and no one really wants to be remembered as a twelve years old version of themselves, don't they?

Kirsten Dunst as Amy March in 1994. adaptation

            We meet a girl who fits the standars of a spoiled brat by every criteria, the youngest sister, the one that always gets her way, or at least so it seems, with beautiful blond hair and deep blue eyes. Her only concern is that her nose isn't sophisticated enough while social climbing and learning difficult, sophisticated words are her only occupation. Amy carries her temper as her biggest burden and her talent for all kinds of visual arts, from sketching to sculpturing, as her greatest treasure.
            Just as well as Beth fits the role of angel in the house Amy fits hers and, being that way, she has probably driven many of the readers crazy to the level when they were rolling their eyes every time she makes a sentence, snorting their noses to her behavior or simply skipping parts of the book with her in charge. I have to admit I wasn't fond of her either, especially when I first read a book as a child, but thinking about it now it made me realize I wasn't quite fair towards Amy as she turns out to be a very nice young lady, both by her appearance and personality. Still, most of us see her as a little spoiled brat whose temper costs Jo her manuscript or who, for temper's sake as well, leaves school after being disciplined by her teacher for the disobedience. Eventually she does change, mostly on her European tour where she meets Laurie, kind neighbour from back home whose proposal Jo recently refused. The two of them fall for each other and decide to get married.

Samantha Mathis and Christian Bale, 1994. adaptation
Elizabeth Taylor and Peter Lawford, 1949. adaptation

There is a lot, in my opinion rather unfair, judgmental criticism towards Amy for accepting the proposal but not many (if any at all) will judge Laurie for proposing. Yes, yes, I agree. I felt terribly sorry Jo didn't end up in Amy's place but it was, in the end, her choice. It was her desire to choose someone on her own, not to end up with a boy everyone was expecting her to end up with. By that choice, again, only in my humble opinion, she lost every right to be mad or resentment for the action of her younger sister who, by then, was mature enough to accept the proposal, not because of money or social position but indeed for true love. Sure thing, Laurie is not poor or without any reputation but remember, just for a moment, how Amy turned down professor from Harvard, a lot more loaded and with better pedigree, in favor of her feelings for Laurie. „Phew“, I hear Amy's haters among you snorting their noses, „should we congratulate her doing  the right thing and showing she's not just a gold digger?“I agree. In a way. On the other hand, is marying for love, or acting towards your feelings, socially accepted today and, moreover, was it socially accepted over 100 years ago?

Would Amy find approval in modern world? Besides Meg, Amy fits social conventions of „Little women“ period the most. Therefore, I see no reason for her to be seen as „social outlaw“ nowdays. It is another question whether each of us like her, but from a general point of view, young and beautiful, nice mannered, rising artist with a lot of friends, married to a beautiful and successful young man would probably be most welcome guest to various social events such as theatre and exhibition openings.
I read somewhere that Amy March, if she was contemporaries with plastic surgery, would surely have her nose done, said in a really bad, mocking tone and context. Very sensitive when it comes to her appearance as she was, I believe she would at least consider that option, but it doesn't make her shallower or worse person then those who are „wearing“ the same nose, ears or any other part of their bodies throughout the life. Amy likes it nice, it is nothing to be ashamed of. She is ambitious and craves for perfection, qualities worth admiration, if you ask me.
Modern Amy, in my imagination, lives in a big, spacious, beautifully decorated house whose interior is her own design, down to the last little detail. There is also a tastefully decorated garden and a small rosary, all located in one of the European capitals, probably Paris. Her home is neither pretentious nor pushy, as some might think, but rather a warm and charming place with heart and soul. As Laurie is a doctor at the Paris hospital, Amy would love to spend more time together, but well aware of the nature of his job she spends her days in painting, sculpting, new exhibitions preparation and care for their only child, little Elizabeth, named after her beloved late sister and very sickly as well. Caring for a sick child, Amy went through even greater change, now even more willingly visiting charity dinners and concedeing some of her artworks for charity auctions.
Untill now, my vision of characters described on this blog was simply mine, created as a part of my imagination, neither inspired or influenced by celebrities or random people, my friends and family. But as soon as I decided to write a post on Amy March, I knew it would be different because there is a person in this blogosphere who reminds me of Amy so much, so lively, I couldn't resist to mention her here. It is my dear friend Arianna from Nymphashion blog. This decision strengthened as Arianna declared herself as always being more like Amy. Arianna's sense for beauty in general, her love towards all kinds of art, her charming and warm  approach, beautiful blond hair and bright eyes made me feel as I have Amy March infront of myself and the decision was made.


How and where Arianna buys her clothes is still a mystery to me, but I'm almost 100% certain Amy does it with a plan, after something draws her attention in french edition of Vogue. Sometimes even fashion designers, Amy's good friends, leave for her pieces they think depict her the best. And what kind of items are those? Simple, gentle, romantic, sometimes even brave and corageous but always steadily and chosen with a lot of taste, just the way they should be. Price is not a problem for her, which doesn't mean she'll refuse to step into low cost shops. On the contrary, if a new, still unknown designer drives her attention she'll be more then glad to promote his work by wearing his clothes to any social event she attends, mainly her exhibition openings. Only rule when it comes to clothing is that there are no pants for they are unknown term in her fashion dictionary.

As she is working, I picture Amy at the spacious, attic ateliere with a big roof window behind and a blanc paper put on an easel, with beautiful stories waiting to be depicted, infront of her. Hair is removed from her face, formed in a pony tail or knitted in a braid. Amy is not a pants believer but, since it can be rather cold in the attic, especially during autumn and winter period, she chooses leggings instead, combined with a warm sweater or tunic. High-heeled ankle boots are the only stylish moment of her attic outfits; you see, Amy is not very tall so wearing heels fills her with confidence (and it is much easier to give Laurie a quick kiss if he comes to visit). 

Quite on the contrary is Amy going to her exhibition openings. That is the time she can and wants to be in the centere of attention, truly star of the evening. So she always does her best to shine in her best glow, dressing up for hours, curling her beautiful hair and then leaving it to fall freely on her shoulders. Normally she'd never dare to pick red, but on evenings like this that exact color is what brings a bit of drama and sensuality to her apperanace. Can you honestly think of something more appealing then pale skined, blond haired ice queen in flaming red? I know most of her guests can't. Believing such a beauty needs no jewelery, Amy picks only a pair of really expensive earrings given to her by Laurie as a gift for her graduation and a Tiffany watch, a gift from herself for the same occasion. Still, the most beautiful accessory is the bouquet of red roses Laurie never forgets to send her, with his and Besses name on the card.

Loss of a sister in youthood and illness of an only child caused Amy to enroll more in charity work at the community. Enjoying life, security and all the things financial stability brought didn't make her forget her childhood or the fact that there are people who need money more then her family does. And she is willing to help. Attending such dinners, Amy does not feel like a star and adjusts her clothes to the event; her colors are more neutral, gentle, her hair is combed into a strict hairstyle with a pair of golden earring as her only jewelery. Still, even then she won't say no if asked to take a photo for local news magazine. All to promote an event, of course.

In the end, if you want to know the real Amy, you'll have to catch her surrounded by her loved ones, cause then she feels like her real self, a good wife and a caring mother, enjoying in passing on the thing for art on to her little girl, who is showing more affection for Aunt Jo's work and using Mom's drawings only as a template for her little stories. Girls enjoy walking and playing in the nearby park, especially if Dad is free and willing to join them. Then it becomes irrelevant if the colours match or is the hair up or down, the only thing that matters is to see Bess smile. And, of course, to take all of her favorite toys in Mum's favorite backpack.
I believe many of you think of modern Amy in different ways and, since this is only my vision, I'd love to hear some of yours.
This is where the journey with the March sisters ends. But our journey together continues. I hope you had as much fun reading it as I had writing, and I wish to have more such splendid times in the near future. Today is my birthday so I'll try to make my own version of birthday post. For our next regular meeting I've chosen a book that seems trivial, irrelevant and just like another chick-lit but it literally changed my mind and my viewpoint on one very important issue. Because of that, it deserves a special place on my bookshelf and gained a special place in my heart. Do you have a book that changed you as a person in a way?
Until next time a lot of joyful pages from March sisters and