The Neapolitan Novels

For the first time, in a very long time, I inhaled a set of novels. The last time I did this was right after graduation in 2012 when I read Game of Thrones. Within three weeks I was done with the entire series and anxiously awaiting Spring 2013, one of the first dates I remember as a supposed release of The Winds of Winter. This never transpired and I’ve given up hope of that book every becoming a reality. That aside, I was late to the game in getting around to reading Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, and OMG. They were amazing. I would finish one book and then head over to Bookman’s for the next one. I ended up having to order The Story of a New Name because I couldn’t find it where it should have been. It ended up being part of their summer beach reads display at the front of the store and went home that day with a copy of Jim Harrison’s Legends of the Fall.

I was just so happy I didn’t have to wait for the next book in the series! They are basically the ultimate bildungsroman and it was amazing to follow the lives of Lenu and Line from grade school to old age. The books meant so much to me and really resonated with me. Elena struggling to keep up with her studies and her relationships with her friends in the neighborhood, contrasted with the people she meets at school reminded me of the difficulties of being a first generation college student. Essentially, you have no idea what you’re doing and there isn’t really anyone to go to for advice.  I just really loved Lenu so much. She tried so hard to be good and do her best and not be undone by the feelings of inadequacy that Lina would impose on her. Her climb out of the neighborhood to published author was reminiscent of the “American Dream” that centered on education being a means of social mobility, which doesn’t seem to really exist anymore (yay! student loans!). So much of that also depended on luck and Lenu having someone in her life to guide her.

I also really loved Lina even though she scared me. Her need to constantly be moving from one thing to another to as a means of maintaining control preventing the boundaries of her fragile reality from dissolving felt too familiar. Lina’s intensity was so captivating that it’s easy to see why Lenu was drawn to her despite how harrowing the friendship could be. All of these books were so good and I wish I had taken notes while reading them. I’ll probably have to go back and reread theme eventually. They covered so much beyond the tenuous relationship between Lenu, Line, and their environments. They served as a primer for Italian politics, feminism, and cultural legacy and environment. I’m just in awe of what Ferrante was able to accomplish.

My brain and recollections of the books are a little scrambly. I let too much time lapse between reading them and writing them out of fear. Anything I write feels so feeble in comparison but I suppose the key is to not compare myself because that is just ridiculous. I’m also at the tail end of a weight cut and as my coach would say, I have weight cutting brain. I zoned out during class yesterday was I was supposed to be leading our break clap. I’m competing in the Las Vegas Open on Friday and it’s my first IBJJF tournament. I’m excited to try a bigger tournament despite not having the best time competing locally this year but it feels like less pressure because of the anonymity. Usually I’m a nervous wreck at this point before competing but I feel right now. This might be a result of not really having had the time to think about it. I’ve been working so hard to be prepared for this tournament. I started dieting earlier than I did for the Cope Bella and have been smarter about it. I’ve also been running more and we have a new coach who is phenomenal. He’s breathed new life into the program and his game is the opposite of Chris’s but also complimentary. I’ll have updates about the tournament approximately two months from now. JK! I’m hoping to update sooner and also go over Legends of the Fall.

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The Neapolitan Novels

Blue Belt Baby Steps!

Back in October I competed for only the second this year. This is way less than in previous years, especially compared to how much I competed as a white belt. But there were also different factors at play. There were three tournaments that I wanted to do but ended up missing because of injury or scheduling conflicts. The fight team was really active this year and a lot of those tournaments coincided with days the guys were fighting so I didn’t have a coach and still get nervous about going to a tournament alone (this is actually a nightmare of mine and I hope it never happens). And the most whiny excuse as to why my competition presence was so low is because I just didn’t feel ready and all the frustrations I was dealing with BJJ in general resulted in my heart not being in it. Also, I sprained my calf at muay thai and that took months to heal.

But! Eventually my disillusionment subsided and I fell back in love with jiu jitsu. It took some time and me stepping far outside my comfort zone. Jiu jitsu is a long journey and filled with lots of bumps, peaks and valleys, and so on. Most of mine had been limited to my home gym and training partners. I hadn’t gone to an open mat or a seminar that wasn’t at my own gym so once I finally did that, a new world opened up to me. Open mat at another gym exposed me to different styles of rolling that broke up some of that staleness/frustration and I was able to make some new friends! I also attended to seminars. One with The Canutos, Renato and Raquel, and the other with Lucas Lepri. Each of these deserves their own post and I will try to get to that in time. All of these things were super invigorating and made me feel more serious about my training. It became less about going to the gym and being with my friends, even though that it a major reason I go. Training and the gym is my refuge and to an extent it is like a religious experience and I get to spend time with people I enjoy. But this wasn’t enough at the time and to avoid becoming one of those storied people that gets their blue belts and dips out I needed that shift in focus.

So I set my sights on a tournament in the fall. The AZBJJF’s Southwest Classic. It would be my second appearance there and hopefully redemption from my awful performance the year before. I was stronger physically and mentally. I really should not have been competing at the end of 2017. I was broken hearted and so unhealthy. I showed up to that tournament weak and unfocused. I had been trying to do too many things at once so I wouldn’t have to deal with the pain I was feeling. I was studying for the LSAT and took that 3 weeks before the tournament, the weekend after that I took a trip to Montana, and then competed following week. In sum I wasn’t training like I wanted to win and didn’t have a plan.

Fast forward to this year and my new mindset. I trained harder and in a more concentrated way. I tried to focus on what my weak points were in the last tournament and that turned out to be getting caught in side control. My teammates and I just worked that and my coach even had a few classes where that was my sole focus. Also, I was attending a women’s only competition class over the summer that was really tough and had lots specific training. All of this really paid off when I finally did step on to the mats.

The tournament itself was a bit a change from previous ones. My coach couldn’t make it because again, the guys were fighting (!), but I was lucky enough that one of our brown belts, Danny, who is also a good friend was competing and able to coach me. We drove up together, also good because it was raining horribly that day. Danny competed first and ended up being moved into a different division and lost on points. My division was a little bit after and there were three of us. For once I had the buy and tried not to focus too much on the match between the other two girls. I ended up with two matches that day and placing second! I won my first match with a cross collar choke from guard. It was tough but I felt good throughout. I don’t remember much though because this was back in October but I pulled guard and I think there was a scramble that ended up with her back in my guard.

The second match was tougher. I had competed against this girl last year and she took first in our division. Overall, my performance was much stronger. I’m not okay with having lost but to see an improvement is important. Last year I got caught in side control and hit in the mouth and started to flounder once I tasted blood. This year it was a better match. I didn’t concede like I did then and was able to escape side control but unfortunately I got caught in mount and ended up giving up my back to tapping to a bow and arrow! It was so frustrating because it felt like I forgot mount escapes. Nonetheless, I’m still proud of myself for the gains, small as they were, and not having given up on jiu jitsu or competing. I’m hoping to compete more next year and hopefully make it to Pans or the Las Vegas Open. Fingers crossed that it all works out!

Books: After finishing Emergency Contact I ended up doing a lot of rereading. I’m planning for future posts on those books because rereads always give a different perspective because hopefully between each reading of a book you’ve grown as a person and are able to take something different away from the book. I’m sure if I read Kate Chopin’s The Awakening I’d understand in a totally different way at 28 versus 21. My rereads were: Harry Potter 1-3 and The Shadow of the Wind (one of my all time favorites!). I’m also still working my way through the Labyrinth of Solitude and have added True Tales from Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino and the Bronx. The latter is a quicker read but still slow and maybe I need a break from nonfiction.

Blue Belt Baby Steps!

Over Sea, Under Stone

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I just finished reading Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper. One of my friends lent it to me after I was talking about the weird supernatural elements in A Time of Torment. This eventually led to talking about books we read as kids and she suggested this one, which follows the three Drew siblings on their summer vacation to Cornwall and they discover a map that leads to Holy Grail.

It took me a long time to read because it never pulled me in. Maybe if I had read it as kid or teen it might have had more appeal but the plot and characters didn’t come across as very developed, which is weird because the story of three kids following a map to find the Holy Grail while being pursued by the forces of evil seems like an exciting plot but I guess this story just wasn’t for me. I am glad I finished it because not finishing a book always bothers me.  I think there are maybe four books that I can remember not finishing: Blackout, Gypsy Rizka, and A Farewell to Arms. I don’t remember why I didn’t finish Gypsy Rizka. Blackout is about a plane that is taken hostage and I was probably too young to be reading and got too stressed out. I still might have it somewhere. I didn’t finish A Farewell to Arms because I had a book report coming up and was running out time.

I had been working on Walden since last October and haven’t finished. I’m not counting this one since it was a reread. I probably do need to go back and try to finish or at least revisit because the first chapter is my favorite and it makes more sense at 27 than at 16.

 

Over Sea, Under Stone