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Marathon Weekend in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

This past weekend, Landon and I journeyed up to Myrtle Beach for his first ever marathon. We met up with Landon's sister, Ashlan, and Ashlan's husband, Jason, who were nice enough to let us stay at their beach house. Ashlan ran the half-marathon and Jason ran the marathon with Landon.

The weather all weekend was GORGEOUS, so the four of us took full advantage of it. We went shopping on Friday at one of Myrtle Beach's outlets, and I got some black shorts from the J. Crew outlet (I love, love, love them and wish I had gotten pairs in many other colors!!). Then, Jason drove Landon and I to the beach so I could take a few pics at sunset. The light was amazing, and I was so happy to get some great shots:


We all sat down to a spaghetti dinner that Ashlan made--yum! Everyone else was preparing for the race, but I carb loaded for emotional support! Very, very early on Saturday, Landon, Ashlan and Jason got ready up and left for the race; I had no intentions of getting up at 4:30 AM. I did, however, meet up with them later on after Ashlan had finished her race. Together we waited for Jason and Landon, which was quite the nerve-wracking experience because they took longer than they estimated to finish, so Ashlan and I were really worried when we didn't see them after their proposed 4 hours and 15 minutes. Landon finished in just under 5 hours, which he was very happy with--I'm so proud of him for finishing! He and Jason were really salty (from sweating so much) and sore, but otherwise unscathed.
resting after the (very) long race
the hard-earned marathon medal!
After the race, we hit up Five Guys for lunch; when we returned to the beach house, everyone showered and then prompted fell asleep.

Even Maggie and Miller, Ashlan and Jason's dogs, decided it was time for a nap!
My afternoon consisted of 1) taking the golf cart to the beach so I could take more pictures and 2) reading magazines on the porch in the 75 degree weather.

Then, on Sunday morning, we all took the dogs for a walk on the beach. It was much chillier Sunday than it was earlier in the weekend.

What I Think: Review of Erik Larson's Devil in the White City


Recently, I read Erik Larson's Devil in the White City, which intertwines two separate plot lines: one about the architects who made the 1893 Chicago's World Fair possible, and the other about "America's First Serial Killer," Dr. H. H. Holmes.

I'd first heard about H.H. Holmes when I read Caleb Carr's The Alienist, in which the narrator's grandmother is deathly afraid that Dr. Holmes will escape before he is hung and kill her. A fictional novel is an odd place to first discover a bit of American true crime, but sometimes, information comes to you in odd ways! I've never read much non-fiction (outside of the required textbooks and theory articles in school), but this book convinced me that I've left an entire genre neglected for far too long.

When I checked out Devil in the White City from the library, the librarian told me it read just like fiction, even though the book is 100% true and meticulously researched.

He wasn't kidding. I read the entire thing over just two days--I couldn't find out what happened fast enough. Larson writes in an easy, often humorous style, and thus, the book is accessible to pretty much any reader.

While I originally picked up the book because of the H.H. Holmes link, I found myself quickly becoming interested in the seemingly impossible task set before the architects of the Colombian World Fair (so named as in honor of Christopher Columbus' 500th anniversary of the discovery of the New World).

These two seemingly unrelated portions of American history are linked by their collective location--Chicago--and the time period--the 1893 Fair. Holmes actually capitalized on the overwhelming success of the fair by offering boarding house rooms for rent just a few miles from the fairgrounds, and many of his visitors didn't check out.

My complaints about this book are few. The thing that bothered me the most was the desire of the author to occasionally wax poetic on minutiae--menus of the architects' meetings, lists of materials required to complete the World Fair exhibitions, etc. While Larson was trying to show the scope of the building efforts, the inclusion of such slowed down the otherwise entertaining and compelling narrative.

Another complaint: while the book (for the most part) rotated from H.H. Holmes chapter to World Fair chapter, there were instances where there were two or three World Fair chapters back-to-back. I couldn't figure out if this was because Larson was more interested in the World Fair portion of the book, or if he didn't think he had enough material on Holmes to include an equal number of chapters on him.

My final critique? There just weren't enough pictures!

While I may sound like a child who has had to make the jump from picture books to chapter books, I am a visual learner, and found myself searching the internet as I read for a visual portrayal of a building or person being described in the text. Many non-fiction books have a section in the middle of photographs, and I believe this book would have greatly benefited by such an insert.

That being said, the documentary "H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer" provided me with those visual bits of information that helped to fill the holes left from reading the book. Much of the same ground is covered as in the Holmes portions of the Devil in the White City, but hearing the information at the same time as an old photograph was being shown heightened the learning experience for me. If you have Netflix, there is an instant watch version of this film; you might be able to find a copy at your local library as well.

Definitely a must read!

What I Think: Review of Patrick McGrath's The Grotesque

*one of my ongoing series of blog posts that looks at the books I read*

One of my absolutely favorite twentieth-century British books is Patrick McGrath's Spider, which is suspenseful, well-written and shocking. Based on my experience with this book, I decided to branch out into other McGrath novels, and I was delighted to find The Grotesque (his very first novel) in Ed's Editions (an amazing used bookstore that you MUST visit if you live in or visit Columbia, SC).

I had a new McGrath, which was good, but I'd also bought about 8 other books, which was bad because The Grotesque got shuffled to the bottom of my books pile. I put it by my bedstand, where many of my books come and go at times, but this one stayed. And stayed. And stayed. It seemed that I would read about ten pages, get distracted and put the book down for another week. Usually, I'm a voracious reader that can finish an "easy" book (a Michael Crichton, James Patterson, etc.) in a matter of hours if I put my mind to it (I read fast more out of necessity than anything else...going to English grad school kind of drills it into you). The Grotesque topped out at around 200 pages, which would normally fall into the "easy" category for me, yet it was taking weeks and weeks and weeks for me to get through it. Why?

I was originally very excited about this particular title because 1) the author and 2) the title. The grotesque--as in the literary element--is found throughout the Gothic movement, my favorite of all favorites and the topic of my masters thesis. The story line caught my eye, too: eccentric English gentleman becomes completely handicapped as a result of a terrible accident, and then ponders the mysterious disappearance (and, as we discover later, death) of his daughter's suitor. The narrator is convinced that the butler is behind all of the nefarious activities...but could it really be that the pre-accident gentleman is the true culprit?

This book is what I consider "quiet"--there aren't any major surprises or super gory scenes. If this was made into a movie, it would be moody and dramatic with enough ambiguity at the end to keep the audience guessing. Quiet books aren't always bad; in fact, some of them can be very, very good (see The Time Traveler's Wife and Atonement). This book seemed to try to hard to be clever, but, in truth, much of it had already been done. The who-dun-it aspect was never emphasized enough for me, and honestly, the narrator protested his innocence a bit much to truly make the ending ambiguous. McGrath is a skilled writer, but this novel doesn't come close to the chilling atmosphere and richly painted characters of his later works like Spider or Asylum.

If you like this, I would recommend:

  • Peter Ackroyd, Hawksmoor
  • Patrick McGrath, Spider
  • Patrick McGrath, Asylum
  • Iain M. Banks, The Wasp Factory

2010 Recap

So, I'm slowly rejoining the land of the living. It's been quite the battle to do so the last few days, but my family has been awesome--from my dad making sure I have enough ginger ale to last me through the day, to watching hours of "The Haunted" on Animal Planet with my sister, to my mom bringing us milkshakes, to Landon propping me up so I could look at "Gilmore Girls" while I try to go to sleep.

This virus isn't letting me go easily, so I'm still quarantined until I'm all better. In the meantime, how about a recap of 2010?
January

  • I began my last year as a full-time student. Only one more semester of my masters program to go!
  • Landon, my family and I began the heavy-duty planning for our May wedding. 
  • I apparently didn't take any pictures during January!
February
We bought Landon's wedding ring, which he was super excited about. He's showing off the two rings he said he always wanted: his Clemson ring and his wedding ring.

It snowed at my house in Lexington, SC--a very rare occurrence for South Carolina!

Amber, Landon and I made a super yummy King Cake to celebrate Mardi Gras.


March

Amber took my bridal portraits at Waterfront Park in downtown Charleston, while Mama served as a photographer's assistant. I definitely had a DIY wedding, but loved every minute of it!

Amber, Danielle, Landon and I went to Savannah on a super spur-of-the-moment trip. We had the best time!

Landon indulged one of my odd obsessions when he found an abandoned house for us to explore. Gorgeous light + a healthy sense of adventure = my favorite photographs


April

  • Landon's aunts and uncles threw a tailgate-themed party for us (above). Go Tigers!
  • School kicked into HIGH gear, as my last semester came to a close and I was faced with the final edit of my thesis, 60+ student papers to grade, and three seminar papers to write.
  • Landon, my parents and Amber took over wedding planning at this point because I was insane with school stuff. 

May

We got married May 22! 

We went on an amazing honeymoon cruise to the Virgin Islands with Royal Caribbean. 
  • I started my job at the Art Institute of Charleston as an English and Speech professor.
  • Landon began looking for a job that utilized his Economics degree and had several interviews.
June

Landon and I visited the Firefly Distillery at Irvin House Vineyards on Wadmalaw Island.

We spent Father's Day at my grandparents' house.

Landon and I decided to repaint our bathroom, which was easier said than done!


July
We celebrated 4th of July at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant.


Landon turned 26 and my sister turned 23!

We spent a day on the sparsely-populated Daufuskie Island with my family.

August

Nothing says "Happy Anniversary" (to my parents) like a dinner at Poe's on Sullivan's Island! I hope Landon and I will be celebrating 37 years of marriage one day, too.

September 
Mama and I ran our first 5K, while Landon ran his first 10K.

I went to visit Amb at USC as she began her last semester of school ever!


October
  • Landon got a new job working in a bank. He's finally using that college degree! :)
  • I started my second quarter at the Art Institute.
For Amber's last Fall Break, the entire family went to Saluda, NC.

I dressed up as William Shakespeare for my second 5K, this one in Greenville, SC.

Landon finished his first half-marathon!


November

I cut about 9 inches off of my hair, which caused quite the stir amongst my students, many of whom didn't recognize me with my new 'do!

We ate two different Thanksgiving dinners. And I don't even really like turkey and dressing.

Amber, Mama and I battled the crowds on Black Friday.


December

Landon's cousin, Lauren, got married in a gorgeous ceremony.

All of Landon's siblings threw a baby shower for the forthcoming Baby Davis!

Amber graduated with her Masters in Human Resources. No more school for us!

Landon and I put an offer down on a townhouse, which was accepted. We're just waiting on the financing, title stuff and appraisal to come back!


What a year! I went from being single to being married, to being a student to a professor, from being a renter to an almost-homeowner. 2010 was definitely a year of transitions for Landon and I, but it was an exciting year nonetheless. We're so excited to see what 2011 holds for us!

Pearson's Falls

Another stop on our wild and crazy mountain weekend: Pearson's Falls. It was a short and beautiful hike from the parking area to the falls: a great detour!
First site of water!
The intrepid hikers
Sign: "Do not stand on rocks." What does Landon do? Stand on the rocks, of course.
Landon upon seeing the picture: "That's my new Facebook picture." And it is!
Rest of the fam.
Pearson's Falls is located between Saluda and Tryon, NC.