Mon, Jan. 30th, 2012

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Nationals were held in San Jose this year, and so for the first time, I splurged and bought tickets to an actual figure skating competition. The last time I was tempted was when Worlds was in LA in 2009, but I couldn't afford it. Now I am newly determined to watch an international figure skating competition live!

I haven't been impressed with US women's or pairs skating since I started watching back in 2004—still love Michelle Kwan and admire Sasha Cohen, but they were definitely on their way out. I've had fun cheering US men's in the past few years via watching Evan Lysacek go from senior debut to Olympic champ, but right now, most of the excitement in US figure skating has been in dance.

OMG. I would have KILLED to be able to see Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir competing with Meryl Davis and Charlie White, but I will take Davis/White, the Shibutanis, and Madison Chock over anything else in Nationals.

Anyway. It's odd watching figure skating live when you've been watching it on television for so long, and even weirder watching it in a crowd when you're so used to being one of the very few people obsessed with it. I don't think that many people in my dwircle watch regularly (*waves at [personal profile] littlebutfierce*), particularly post-ISU-score-change figure skating. But oh man. It was an entire rink full of mainly older women and pre-teen girls, many of whom had US Figure Skating jackets or lanyard, many many of whom were making detailed annotations on paper. I think they were recording people's scores and such.

Also, as I remarked to CB, this was the first time I've ever attended a live sports event in which I've actually even vaguely cared for the sport or the outcome. (Usually: "Who are we cheering for? Did we just score a point? What is going on?") And I am super glad CB now joins me in my enthusiasm for the Shibutanis, who are really cute and talented and adorable and did I mention cute? We call them Team Baby.

It's also nice seeing skaters that I usually don't see televised on the Grand Prix circuit, and will be keeping an eye out on Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Guiletti-Schmitt.

And of course, Davis and White were pretty awesome. I like their free skate program this year much more than I did last year, and I am also biased because I think Meryl Davis' outfit is very pretty.

Random things:
  • If I ever do this again, I am getting seats on the judge's side. I did not realize just how much skaters face the judges during their programs.

  • Watching all three groups was particularly interesting, because the difference in skill level is so obvious.

  • OMG the top-level skaters are so fast.

  • And I know this is such a cliche, but seriously, Davis and White and the Shibutanis make it look so easy. For the first two groups, you get much more of a sense that it's a competition, but by the time the final group takes the ice, I was just sitting back and enjoying the performances.

  • Please do not ever make me choose between seeing Virtue and Moir competing with Davis and White live versus Takahashi Daisuke live versus Kim Yuna live.
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In late Victorian and early Edwardian England, stage magicians Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier form a rivalry with each other that eventually affects not only them, but also their descendents.

Plot summaries for this book aren't particularly satisfying, as the bulk of the book is in its structure. We begin with the descendents finding out more about their magician ancestors via diaries, and Alfred Borden's begins by telling you he is performaing a magic trick with his very narrative. Angier's diaries, not written for potential publication, don't have quite the same sense of illusion and mystery about them until the final bits.

I read this after I had seen the movie, so I already knew the major revelations. While I liked the additional details in the book, particularly about stagecraft and magic, the movie version of the characters and motivations resonated more with me. As such, I'm not sure how much of my dissatisfaction from the book stems from the book itself, and how much stems from comparison to the movie.

I was particularly irritated by the framing device of the descendents, given how Priest developed it. Due to mentions of the Borden-Angier feud lasting for generations, I wanted to see more of how both men affected their families. Instead, the bulk of the novel is still about Borden and Angier's personal lives, so much so that the single feud-like event from later on read as completely random to me. There is no sense of why the feud extends beyond Borden and Angier, save the fact that Priest needs to wrap up his story thematically.

The other bit that bothered me was how pointless the feud felt. Obviously, I know it should feel pointless to anyone but the two men involved, but the sense of urgency and obsession and rising stakes from the movie is completely missing. Instead, my impression was that either man could have walked away at any time, not out of better judgment, but out of simple ennui, which doesn't seem to be the best end to a multi-generation feud. I'm fine with the feud itself feeling petty and stupid, but it seemed that both Borden and Angier thought so as well at quite a few points in the narrative, which made me just want to shake them and ask them why they kept it going outside of "needed to further the plot." I was also intrigued by the bits of internal conflict hinted at in Borden's narrative, and I actually think I would have rather read a book about that than about the Borden-Angier conflict.

Finally, I have no idea what happened in the last two pages or so.

Spoilers for book AND movie )

Overall, Priest's puzzle box is intriguing and satisfying as a puzzle, but it didn't work that well for me as a story, at least in comparison with the movie. I probably would have been much more impressed had I read it first.

I am going to assume that there are spoilers for both book AND movie in the comments, since it's pretty difficult to discuss either without spoilers.

Links (assume spoilers!):
- [personal profile] coffeeandink on book and film
- Gary Westfahl's review of the film, with comparisons to the book, most of which I disagree with
- [livejournal.com profile] instant_fanzine discussion of the book
- [livejournal.com profile] kate_nepveu's thoughts

Any other links? I think I read them when the movie came out in 2006 (it was that long ago?!), but it'd be interesting to reread now that I've read the novel.

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