105 Ways to Give a Book

Carpe Diem

Carpe DiemCarpe Diem. Do people still think of the movie Dead Poets Society when they hear that phrase? Maybe it’s just me because my cousin was in the movie. (“Who?” you ask. The kid who killed himself.) When I saw the book Carpe Diem, by Autumn Cornell, the movie was the first thing I thought of, and it intruded on my book-reading experience.

Vassar has been working since birth on her life plan, which includes Vassar (naturally), a Ph.D., a Pulitizer, and then more. Her parents believe in planning, planning, planning, and so does Vassar. But when her artistic, hippie grandmother sends her a present of tickets to travel around Malaysia, Cambodia, and Laos — and then blackmails her parents into making Vassar go — Vassar finds an entire world that she’s not prepared for. She has a family secret to discover, a guy, adventures, and danger. She deals with oversized poisonous centipedes and opium den thugs. Priceless treasures and squatting toilets.

I liked the book for the most part, though I thought that the characters were exaggerated. The mom’s looking over Vassar’s life goals and saying, “After the Pulitzer, then what? Think big, Vassar.” The dad’s taking over his own parenting — including hiring the household help — at age six. Vassar’s ten huge trunks sent overseas with her. The Grandmother’s hippie, flaky style. It was a little distracting for me.

Also, for some reason, I thought this book was going to have a different tone than it turned out to have. Maybe it was the cover, maybe something I read... I don’t know, but I expected more of a serious book than I got. Along with the DPS thing, it made it hard for me to let go and enjoy the ride of the story. However, if you are ready to look at the book as a fish-out-of-water story, with lots of outlandish moments, then it can be a fun read. You’ll get a little bit of culture exposure, but that’s certainly not the point of the book. It’s all about, yes, seizing the day. Making your life extraordinary.


Kelly Fineman said...

Oh captain my captain! I still think of Dead Poets Society when I hear carpe diem as well.

And I didn't know that Tony-award winning actor Robert Sean Leonard is your cousin. His performance in the movie was remarkable, as was his performance in In the Gloaming, which blew me away. And then I loved him in Much Ado about Nothing. And now he's on House. Ack!

Danielle said...

Kelly beat me to it, but exactly what she said! I loved his performance of Puck, in particular. That's a movie I have watched over and over again.

MotherReader said...

Yes, Robert is my cousin. When we were young our families always visited a few times over the summer and he and I would hang out. I was going to see him a month ago since House wasn't filming, but that was the weekend my NYC trip was canceled because of my daughter's fever. Stupid fever.

I haven't seen him often since we've grown up, since he always somewhere or another filming or traveling or just living on the west coast. But I can testify that he is truly a nice, funny, smart and totally down-to-earth guy.

brnh said...

Oddly enough, I think of the "Newies" song "Open the gates and seize the day". But it must be because the radio station that I listened to as a child always said "Carpe Diem" and played that song at a specific time in the morning as we drove to school.

Laura said...

Holy crap. *swoon swoon swoon swoon swoon* That's awesome.

OK, I had to go back and read the rest of the post, because I stopped when I got to the word "himself."

Thanks for the post, I'll look for this one. It sounds like it could be interesting.

Michele said...

When I hear the phrase "Carpe Diem" I instantly think of "Dead Poets Society", Terry Pratchett's brilliant novel "Carpe Jugulum" and Latin classes at school.

So don't ever play word association with me as I'll probably hurt your head ! o_O

jules said...

No way? I'm sorry to not comment on the book review, which I didn't even read, honestly, as I was all, he's her COUSIN? And here's why: I was absolutely obsessed with that movie in high school. I think I saw it ten times in a row or something. I even got in trouble during a lunch break once when I worked in a movie theatre for watching the movie yet. one. more. time. and staying over too long. My supervisor came in and had to wake me from my reverie and pull me out of the theater -- Miss Punctual. That's me -- with the hyperactive work ethic, but not if that movie was on.

I wonder if I'd still respond to it the same way now?? But, back then, I thought it was so well-made. Every time Ethan Hawke's character, whom I was so in love with (his character, mind you -- not Ethan himself), stood on that desk at the end of the film, I'd start weeping.

I'm a Big Nerd. Was then and still am.

laurasalas said...

Too weird. My 10th-grade daughter's English class watched DPS in class this week (end of tri, finals were over) and we were talking about the suicide scene over dinner last night before I read your post this morning.

I loved DPS and haven't seen it in many years. Need to go back and rewatch it, I was saying at dinner. And now here it is again.

Don't you love how we all pick up on this part, not the book you're reviewing...sorry!

MotherReader said...

It's fine that everyone's talking about Bobby instead of the book. Oh, did I mention that I called him Bobby when we were kids. And most of the time I kinda still do.