Adulthood Take 2: Second Times the Charm?

A year and a half ago, I graduated college and moved to Memphis equipped with a job, an apartment, and a new wardrobe of wear to work dresses from Target I was ready to become an ADULT. It started out great. With Memphis prices I had what is probably the nicest apartment I will ever live in. I made friends quickly. I learned where the bank and grocery store were, and even got over my fear of talking to the deli lady.

But then, pretty quickly, it was not so great. As I’m sure most of the readers have heard me complain unendingly about my job I won’t elaborate, except to say no lunch breaks, unadvertised 10-hour days with only Sundays off, and missed paychecks. So after many long discussions, even more tears, and in the end a huge sense of relief I gave my notice, bought out my lease and called my mommy to come pick me up (not unlike when she picked me up from my first and only sleep away camp experience, except this time I was hung over from the birthday/goodbye celebrations the night before).

This week, over a year later, having internships and assistant jobs under my belt its time to try this whole adulthood thing again. I started the new job on Tuesday. So far it is better, but also more overwhelming, than I expected.  There are unending processes, computer programs, and peoples names to learn. I’ve almost filled a whole legal pad with notes. Because this is a new position, everyone wants me to take over some of their work, but my director is leaving next week and I will be covering lots of her work until they hire someone new…which they aren’t hurrying to do. Which all seems kind of crazy, but also exciting, because it is interesting work. It is a very casual office. Everyone just walks into each other’s offices. My computer is a lesson in patience, but one of the people receiving services made fettuccini alfredo for the entire staff as a thank you. So I would definitely say it is a win.

When I accepted the job three weeks ago I started formulating what this post, as my first personal entry would look like. I thought it might be more brisk and breezy – imagining much more of the details hammered down. So far no apartment, but the commute is better than expected (about 1 hour  and 20 minutes). So it’s much more of a work in progress than I hoped. But at least I have the ability to escape it all at the end of the day with a bath and book. I’ll be sure to keep everyone updated on my progress (or digression depending where my insanity decides to take me).

The Night Circus: More Hunger Games than Harry Potter

When I started reading The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, in November I didn’t know the name of this blog or what it would look like. But I did know this would be a great choice my first review.  Why? Besides being written by a Smithie and combining several of our favorite literary themes and genres. I also was intrigued by the comparison to Harry Potter.

I see where the Wall Street Journal was going when they categorized these books together. Morgenstern received the holy grail of publishing advances with six figures from Double Day: an almost unheard of amount for a first novel. The novel also, especially in the beginning, centers around the secret magical training of two children, Celia and Marco, though it is more often referred to as illusion or manipulation.

Still, for me the comparison stopped at these basic similarities. The book seemed more closely related to fellow young adult blockbuster series The Hunger Games. Marco and Celia are raised for the sole purpose of a magical competition they have no choice but to participate in. The novel’s setting, the glamorous magic circus, was created for and exits only to serve the competition, similar to the Arena in Hunger Games. The questioned that ran through my mind throughout this book is what was the actual purpose of the competition?

The central issue of the novel, one present in all three, is control. Marco and Celia are in ways completely controlled by their guardians and the competition. They physically can’t abandon the game, yet they can’t choose to win or lose because they don’t know the rules. However, the crux of the competition is for each to use their magical skills to exert control over the setting, both audiences and performers, and  at times over each other.

While these similarities to both hugely successful fiction franchises no doubt are part of the reason behind this debut novel’s wide readership, Night Circus is more complex than either. It didn’t read as YA to me. Structurally,  it jumps forward and backwards through time and weaving together multiple points of view – including the best use I’ve second person I’ve ever read. Thematically, there is no good or evil. This is no Harry Potter where the reader is firmly on the side of Dumbledore and against Voldermort. There isn’t even the popularity contest of choosing Peta or Gayle of belonging to Team Edward versus Team Jacob.  You have to root for both Celia and Marco.

In my mind, Morgenstern accomplished a lot by presenting the theme of asserting independence in a world controlled by adults in a new and complicated way. The plot lagged at times, but I remained captivated by the characters and delighted by the circus descriptions. I wouldn’t expect any less from a Smith College graduate.

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