Weekly Roundup: June 28th, 2015

Several things to begin with; firstly, this is my 300th post. So, yay me. Secondly, I’ve decided to post my weekly roundups on Sunday because I think it’s more realistic. Hopefully I’ll have fewer late posts.

Random:

I’ve been starting with the Random category lately because it is summer and there is, frankly, so much going on. I also haven’t posted a Spring or Summer Bucket List this year. It exists and it is coming but it’s not done so that’s why it hasn’t appeared. Spring is not happening, clearly, because the seasons in Cleveland sometimes seem to switch straight from Winter, in April (or even May), directly to Summer. It was one of those years.

Anyway, last Saturday was extremely eventful. At some point in early Winter I promised my best friend that I would participate in the Color Run. I do not run, I, actually, think that running is the worst thing that exists in the world. Unless I am being chased by a rogue velociraptor you can pretty much bet that I’m sticking to the walking side of things. But, promise I did, and I did fully intend upon starting to run. But… it was just so cold, and my gym doesn’t have a track and treadmills are sort of, well, boring. I thought I would start when the snow melted, but it never ended up happening. Still, I refused to back out of the Color Run, since I knew already it wasn’t exactly what could be described as “hardcore” and I decided to power walk. My best friend and her hubbie, who really needs a better term to describe him in relation to be… like best hubiend or something equally ridiculous because “best friend’s husband” is really not adequate, and I already had a team name and everything, Team Darkest Timeline (in honor of the show Community), and there were supposed to be mustaches (which never happened, ridiculously since that’s why I agreed to do it in the first place!). Regardless of mustaches or no the run was amazing fun.

For those who are unaware of the Color Run, it’s a 5k that sprays you with powdered paint as you run, or walk as the case may be, through certain color check points. Orange was a bit stingey, but pink really piled it on. I started out looking like this:

colorrun

and ended up looking like this:

aftercolorrun

Looking my best all around, really.

Then later on in the evening it was time for the annual Solstice Party at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Which is probably my favorite event of the year. It always sells out, but this year the tickets sold out during the member pre-sale, which I thought was a little sheisty considering there are plenty of non-members that should have gotten a chance to attend. I’m just lucky I got to use my mom’s membership and bought my ticket the first day of sale. But regardless, it’s full of art, music, booze, and lots of people watching. Actually, it’s my favorite people watching event of the year too. Even if this year was somewhat subpar on that front.

Something they do every year is projections on the South entrance of the building.

solstice

And it actually never fails to impress. This year, inside, they had projections on the floors that looks like they moved on their own, until you walked across it and realized that they moved when you did. I actually don’t know how they did this, but it was awesome.

solsticefloorAnd THEN, as if they weekend wasn’t awesome enough, Sunday served as the first beach day of the year. It started out gray, but we went anyway, and it ended up like this:

Headlands beach.

Headlands beach.

Oh, how I love Lake Erie.

 

Watching: Orange is the New Black

oitnb

 

I don’t even know what there is to say about Orange is the New Black that hasn’t been said already, but I will give it my stamp of approval anyway. It’s one of the most entertaining shows that’s around these days. I like shows that manage to be funny and serious at the same time, and that have unlikable characters that you like anyway.

In case you are somehow not in the know, Orange is the New Black centers around Piper Chapman, who at the beginning of season one voluntarily surrenders herself to Litchfield prison after being convicted of carrying drug money, ten years ago, across boarders for her ex-girlfriend, Alex Vause, who ratted her out and is also doing a stint in Litchfield. Along for the ride are a bevy of prisoners, all trying to survive, and have a life, while incarcerated. There are so many characters that it’s relatively impossible to get into all of them in one review. Some are more intriguing than others, but they all manage to be interesting. Each episode revolves around a different character, and shows a flashback of their life before prison, often of the crime that landed them there in the first place.

The show comes from the memoir of the same name, by Piper Kerman, who consults on the show. I haven’t read the book, but gather that it revolves around Kerman’s exposure to women far different from herself and how they changed her life. It sounds a little trite, and often times Piper’s journey on the show can be to. But, as someone much like Piper out in the real world, I can see where she’s coming from. But mostly what I like about this show is not seeing the different ways they lived outside of prison, but the way they live the same in prison and the bonds their form from the rules they live under and their proximity to each other. A little like camp, only… you know, not.

 

Reading: Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy

everything beautiful began after

I really liked this book. The writing was insane; like every sentence was waiting somewhere in the ether for the author to pluck it out and insert it where it belonged. Sometimes it was distractingly beautiful. I started reading this at the beach after having it sit on the shelf for a couple years since I picked it up randomly when Borders was going out of business. It was one of those books that just looked like it was up my alley. And I was so right. I started Sunday and finished Monday, racing through the lyrical prose.

In sun bleached Athens three expatriates find their way to each other. Rebecca, a former flight attendant, tormented by her mother’s abandonment of her and her twin sister, comes to Athens from a small French town to paint. George, obsessed by language, stumbles drunkenly towards Athens from a New England boarding school and small liberal arts college where he managed, always, to remain achingly alone. Charismatic Henry takes a job in Athens at an archeological dig run by his long time mentor. All three are somewhat lost and all three are somewhat lonely, and when they find each other it seems like they have finally found their families. But tragedy is waiting in the wings, ready to tear down even the most intrinsically designed of worlds.

I have to say that the first second of this book was by far and away my favorite section. I really enjoyed all the characters together and how they seemed to fit into each other’s worlds in the sort of way that only happens maybe once or twice in a lifetime. Perhaps this sort of closeness could never last, but it’s always a shame to watch it fall. I liked Rebecca, I loved George (somewhat because of and despite his many faults, cause… dude’s got issues), and even though Henry was the most typical of the bunch I did genuinely like him too. But then everything changed. Plot, characters, and even narrative style. And I have to say, while second person is generally annoying it managed to be less so here due to good writing, but it still managed to irk. Let’s just say, this book, written in third or even first person would have hit it out of the park. The later three books were also, almost entirely, about Henry, who was by far my least favorite of the initial group. After awhile I really just wanted to shake him, while still being sympathetic.

But I don’t even know if any of those things are complaints, because this book was wonderful. Almost entirely wonderful. And I really do need to check out other things that Van Booy has written because he’s clearly brilliant.

 

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Weekly Roundup: June 19th, 2015

Random: 

– Last Saturday was Parade the Circle, which is an astonishingly elaborate parade put on in Wade Oval in conjunction with the Cleveland Museum of Art. My best friend has been walking with the group from the Beck Center of the Arts from several years now and this year, as the theme was fairytales and I love them, I joined in. We started creating our costumes in February and finished just the the nick of time.

I was Little Red Riding Hood with a wolf looming over my shoulders.

red

 

She was the witch from Hansel and Gretel and created a full house to pull behind her with the eponymous siblings balancing on the ridge pole. Unfortunately, as we were stepping off one of the wheels from her house fell off and she was forced to leave it behind, which was a huge bummer since she’d worked so incredibly hard on it.

witch

I feel as though I can share this picture because her face is relatively obscured.

Overall all though it was a really interesting experience to be a part of Parade the Circle, at least one time. There are so many spectators and everyone in the parade really gives it their all and create some very wonderful things. Everyone from Cleveland should check it out, and everyone that’s not from Cleveland should be jealous that they’re not from Cleveland.

– Also! The trailer for The Peanuts Movie was released this year and it is the cutest, happiest, thing I have seen in a very long time. I love Peanuts, as my Van Pelt Wisdom pieces might have tipped off any longtime readers (if I even have any of those).  I was a little skeptical about this movie but the trailer has renewed my confidence. Hello gang, I’ve missed you.

 

Reading: The Emperor’s Children  by Claire Messud

the emperor's children

I bought this book from a library book sale based solely on the description and praise on the dust jacket. It wasn’t until I got it home that I started wondering whether or not I should read it at all. There were so many negative reviews complaining of over writing, slow pacing, and deplorable characters. So, it sat on my shelf for a several years until I looked over, saw it, and decide it was time. I am glad I did. I liked the book a lot. Many complaints were about its pretensions and that apparently you have to be a rich New Yorker or a Brown graduate to find any appreciation here. I am neither, and I found plenty to love.

Murray Thwaite is a journalist of great repute, living the perfect life in his luxe apartment on Central Park West with his beautiful, benevolent wife, Annabel, and his foundering thirty year old daughter Marina. Having spent the majority of her adult life working on a book she will probably never finish, Marina moved back in to her parents apartment after a breakup and just never moved on. Though she finds nothing wrong with that. Frederick “Bootie” Tubb, Murray’s nephew, has just feld college and his mother’s house in Watertown, New York for the big city, determined to find his place in life as an autodidact. Danielle, Marina’s college friend, an Ohioan with a good job but unlucky in love seeks to help her. Julian, the third in their triumvirate, is a hard partying reviewer for the Village Voice, drawn to glamour, even if it doesn’t necessarily make him happy. Happiness, in fact, is hard won for everyone in this comedy of manners that follows a smattering of characters as they navigate their lives leading up to September 11th.

Let’s just start in with the characters, since this is a character driven novel. They were all fully realized for me. They seemed like real people (though I read another review that accused several of being flat, I didn’t find that to be the case at all). None of them, however, are really what you could call good people. We have cheating, lying, rudeness, entitlement, judgement, and gross selfishness all present here. Marina, in particular, was pretty distasteful to me. There was hardly a moment where she was stopping to think about her friends feelings, and when she did express concern about this person or another it was always in connection to herself. But then again, she’s her father’s daughter. Julian engaged in one self destructive action after another. Danielle exercised poor judgement, though she’s probably the character I could relate to the most. Bootie, honestly, I found to be the most compelling character, but by the end I was almost entirely convinced he had some severe mental issues. So, no, the characters were not good people. But they were not boring. I do not require my characters to be good people, I just require them to be interesting. But also, it’s clear that this book is a comedy of manners. We are given characters who we don’t necessarily like or relate to at all so that we can judge them, just as they judge other people.

 

Watching: UnREAL (Mondays on Lifetime at 10pm)

UnREAL

So, I’m about to give another favorable review to something that airs on Lifetime. I know, what is happening lately, huh? But I have to say, whatever is happening over there I approve. After last summer’s The Lottery, based on the 2006 film Children of Men, it was clear to me that the network was really trying their damnedest to change their image. Of course, The Lottery really wasn’t good but it was a step in the right direction. This summer comes along UnREAL, about, primarily, producers on a show, called Everlasting, based clearly on The Bachelor. It’s soapy enough to fit the network pretty well, but features a cast characters that are pretty horrible people.

The series centers on Rachel (Shiri Appleby, who I have basically been following since Roswell in my high school days), a producer working on Everlasting who had a meltdown during the previous season ever her ex-boyfriend, still working on the show with her but with a new fiancee, where she basically destroyed the final proposal and drove away in a car belonging to the show. She’s back, albeit with probation, a hefty fine, and mandatory psych evaluation, due to her ball busting boss, Quinn (Constance Zimmer), who is willing to take a chance on Rachel because of Rachel’s incredible manipulation abilities. And that, essentially, is Rachel’s job; to disrupt the goings on by manipulating the contestants into behaving erratically and thus extremely entertaining to audiences. All of this, of course, is at odds with Rachel’s ability to be a decent human being. Complicating things is Adam, the “suitor”, a British playboy who is trying to fix his bad boy image by appearing on the show, with who Rachel shares a flirtation, and her unresolved feelings for her ex, Jeremy. Meanwhile, the ambitious Quinn, who’s idea the show was in the first place, has been playing second fiddle to Chet, the official creator of the show, with whom she is also having an affair.

This show could only possibly happen in the summer. It’s the perfect blend of sarcasm, scandal, narcissism, and froth, with a little bit of grit thrown in for good measure. The first four episodes were released online at roughly the same time so it was easy to blow through them and crave more. I can’t really say that I actually like any of the characters, but I can’t say that I don’t like them either. They exist in that gray world between the two. And I like that place. I don’t have to be able to root for my characters, as you can probably tell from my above book review. Sometimes, in fact, I prefer them bad.

 

Listening to: 

Sara Radle is cute. I sort of forgot she existed until recently when I was reminded of her existence by the aforementioned preview for The Peanuts Movie and remembered her ex-band, which was called, adorably, Lucy Loves Schroeder. I realized I hadn’t heard anything about her since about 2003 and decided to look her up. She’s since released five solo albums of very charming songs. Here’s one of them.

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Weekly Roundup: June 12th, 2015

Reading: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

the family fang

I can see how someone wouldn’t like this book. It’s hopelessly twee. But in that it was also hilarious, charming, and very well written. All the characters, good or bad, were well drawn and felt real to me, despite their larger than life presences. I found this book on Buzzfeed when they were saying “If you like this movie then read this book!” which was actually super helpful. This was what you should read if you’re a fan of The Royal Tenenbaums, which I am in a very big way. The comparison was definitely apt, but this book was also all its own.

Annie and Buster Fang are having a hard time. Grown now, they spent their childhoods ensconced in their parent’s inflammatory brand of performance art, which basically consisted of causing as much chaos as possible in order to illicit a response. Unsure if they wanted children at all, as Caleb Fang, the patriarch, always insisted that children kill art, the Fangs felt the only way to harmoniously marry their work and their lives was to incorporate their children into their art. Essentially molding them at their greatest work. Now grown, they never intended upon finding themselves back home. But when a broke, freelance writer and failed novelist Buster gets shot in the face with the a potato gun and Annie, now a movie star, gets involved in a scandal and becomes known as “hard to work with” home is exactly where they find themselves. Stagnating in their childhood rooms soon their parents disappear, leaving only their car and a vast amount of blood at a rest stop in North Carolina. It becomes up to the siblings to find their parents, fix their own lives, and finally figure out what is real and what is a show.

I have a bit of a penchant for ruinous families. And there’s no arguing that the Fangs are, essentially, ruined. Having been reared to cause chaos, agreeing to whatever their parents request of them, and being referred to as Child A and Child B (it took me more that three fourths of the way through the book to realize that their actual names coincided with their letters and I don’t think that was an accident on their parents part) clearly took it’s toll. In their adult lives both Fang siblings seem to create chaos wherever they go, without effort, and their parents couldn’t be happier about it.

Caleb and Camille were often maddening. They were very hard to relate to, because normal people don’t act like them. Of course, this is fiction and extreme characters are often welcome there. It is clear, throughout, but really driven home, that these two don’t care about anything as much as their care about their art. Which is problematic, because they have children. We, as a population, are conditioned to see family, particularly children, as the most important thing in the world. That wasn’t the case with the elder Fangs and I can see how readers would have a problem with that. I don’t think that the parents were particularly meant to be likable. I know I hated them, while still finding them interesting as artists.

Which is another thing. I have seen a lot of reviews of this book dismissing the Fangs art. Or “art” as most of the reviews say. I think that’s a bit of bullshit. Art is not always something you understand or like. A lot of good art gives people a gut reaction of repellance. Is their art kind, definitely not. Does it use people and their reactions as tools? Absolutely. Do you like it? Irrelevant. Really. Irrelevant. I argue that the Fangs art is art indeed. The fact that they are successful at it is almost besides the point.

But really, for me, what this book was was the story of siblings helping each other to make their lives better after a life of conditioning to do the opposite. Annie and Buster were both characters I really liked, despite all their problems. They weren’t really bad people, they just made a lot of mistakes, often through passivity and allowing things to crumble around them. I think a lot of people can probably relate to that aspect. I know I can. And I found myself often laughing out loud at the situations they found themselves in.

I loved this book a lot and I would probably recommend it to most everyone I know.

 

Random:

I’m not sure I how I managed to miss this short film/commercial for the perfume Candy by Prada, starring Léa Seydoux and directed by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola. It was made in 2013, but in case you missed it too:

 

Listening to:

I’ve already posted a St. Vincent song but whatever, it’s my blog. And I love her. I was listening to this CD a lot last summer but recently she released a couple new songs for the Deluxe edition or some such noise so I have been listening to it again. And then this song played on iZombie and I got it stuck in my head, which propelled me into listening to it on a loop because I really started listening to the lyrics and started loving it more. So, here it is.

 

Watching: The Boy Next Door

the-boy-next-door-movie-poster

Last week I went to visit my friend in Columbus and because we had a free Red Box rental and we both love really terrible movies we decided to go with this decidedly awful looking Jennifer Lopez vehicle that is essentially The Crush, except without the excuse of the nineties.

The movie starts with a flashback (from what? we don’t know yet) of J-Lo arguing with her husband, John Corbett, who has apparently been cheating on her and has since moved out of their house where J-Lo now lives with her son. Soon their neighbor rolls up in his riding wheelchair. Apparently their neighbor is Steve Buscemi playing Stan Lee:

20150605_011309

He basically appears simply to introduce his nephew, who’s name escapes me and I’m too lazy to look it up but he was played by the dude who played Jake on Pretty Little Liars so I’m just going to call him Jake. Jake and J-Lo immediately hit it off because they’ve both read The Iliad and think Achilles is the man. The tension is palpable. And then Jake goes and gives J-Lo a present. A first edition copy of The Iliad, pristine and leather bound. Never mind the fact that The Iliad‘s first edition likely came more in the form of a scroll written in ancient Greek. If there was ever a book I was sure there was no first edition of they managed to find it in this crapfest. Who knew those ancients were so advanced they managed to invent the printing press without anyone else in the world ever finding out about it. I laughed so hard and so voraciously about this that I’m fairly sure my friend started to get a bit annoyed about it. So, quietly I googled “first edition of The Iliad” just to see if there is any such thing and all I came up with were scores of pages making so much fun of this movie. To be honest I still laugh whenever I think about it.

Anyway, eventually J-Lo goes over to Jake’s place, to help him cook a whole chicken that he tried to microwave, and ends up having a guilty steamy night with the high school age boy. In the morning she bolts, saying it was a mistake, but Jake just doesn’t want to take no as an answer. Thus begins his reign of terror upon her. He breaks into her house and sends an email to her boss recommending Jake join the Classics class she teaches, he slowly turns her son against his father, he cuts the breaks on J-Lo’s husband’s car, and wall papered her classroom with pictures from the video he took of their night together. Sadly, no bunnies are boiled. But we do get this hilarious shot:

20150605_024243

and the ADAM CPR doll they must have used as the dummy for when that eye was stabbed.

I wont spoil any more of this amazing thriller. I recommend it for no one, unless you want three good laughs amidst a sea of eye rolling mediocrity. It was bad, and not as funny as it should have been. Mostly I felt sorry for Kristen Chenowith because she deserves better than being the sidekick in this.

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Weekly Roundup: June 5th, 2015

Having missed yet another Friday posting deadline for myself I humbly post this on the following Wednesday with only the words that I was, once again, out of town for a bit, and spent last Friday babysitting a crockpot and reading a lovely book that will show up for review this Friday.

Random: 

riverakahlo

May 31st I had the pleasure of roadtripping it to Detroit to see Rivera and Kahlo in Detroit, a show about the two artists with a focus on their time in Detroit where Rivera was commissioned to paint a mural in the Detroit Institute of Art. The mural is considered one of the greatest in of his career but also marked his decline in the United States. Kahlo, who was pregnant when their arrived in the Motor City began one of her most prolific phases after a miscarriage.

The show focused on both of their work, their relationship to each other, and the influences their surroundings had on them as artists. The largest focus was on the Rivera Court and the process of creating this masterpiece. Included were to scale mock ups of what he would eventually paint on the walls and original designs that were ultimately changed.

I was a little disappointed how heavy the show as on Rivera, though it’s understandable. Kahlo was present, for sure, but the volume of her paintings was dwarfed by Rivera’s. Between the two of them I, without doubt, am much more compelled by Frida Kahlo. I had wished there was more of her paintings. But were there were riveting. I was particularly drawn to her depiction of a New York socialite’s suicide.

Suicide_of_Dorothy_Hale

The paint bleeding onto the frame and Dorothy Hale’s foot falling over the words printed at the bottom make the painting come alive. It was definitely my favorite piece in the show, even when compared to the monolithic works of the artist’s husband.

 

Reading: I Am Her Revenge by Meredith Moore

iamherrevenge

Well. That was a ridiculously compelling read. Ever wanna know what it was like for Estella being bred to be a heartbreaker in Great Expectations? Here’s your book.

This is the story of Vivien. At age eighteen she’s sent to the Madgan school in Yorkshire, England to seduce her target, Ben Collingsworth, son of the man who broke Mother’s heart. But the real world doesn’t always match up to expectations and Vivien soon finds herself much more involved in her new world than she expected. Unfortunately, the game she’s playing might be more dangerous than she thought.

There was a lot working with this book. The plot was entirely enthralling, though it did require a large amount of suspension of disbelief. Vivien was sufficiently complex for our heroine. Those around her bordered on being stock characters, such as her sweet but hard partying roommate and the resident mean girl, but in this sort of book, which is plot, rather than character, driven that’s mostly okay. The one character I had issues with was Arthur, Vivien’s only childhood friend and thwarted lover. I felt like we were supposed to being rooting for him and Vivien to get together but really I just wanted her to legitimately fall for Ben, who was much more fleshed out and appealing. It’s more realistic, of course, to have an other, but Arthur really didn’t do it for me. He didn’t do much except stand there and do what Vivien asked him to do. In fact, he reminded me a lot of “Helper”, his father who does Mother’s bidding. And I don’t really think he was supposed to.

But in general, I couldn’t put this book down. It’s a little absurd and a little bit silly but it’s completely readable and a whole lot of fun.

 

Listening to: 

I think Garfunkel and Oates are pretty adorable. I didn’t actually watch their show when it was on IFC, which probably contributed (in a very small way) to it’s cancellation. Still, there it is on Netflix being all hilarious and cute so feel free to mosey on over there and give it a go. But besides being cute, this song is really quite lovely because it’s very true.

 

Watching: Mad Max: Fury Road

madmax

I am not super familiar with the Mad Max franchise. Basically, when I was about twelve years old my best friend and I had a pre-crazy Mel Gibson fest and Mad Max was on the agenda. But, being twelve, we got about ten minutes in and I really couldn’t figure out what was happening. All I remember is two people having sex in the desert and someone else watching them through binoculars. I don’t even know if this is an accurate portrayal of the movie. Meaning, I don’t even know if this really happens. But, it is all I remember and is the defining Mad Max memory I’ve ever had. So when Fury Road was coming out I wasn’t sure I was going to watch it. I felt like I should be a little more familiar with the franchise before seeing this new version, even though several people told me it wasn’t necessary. Still, I wasn’t sure until I was driving by a theater with my friend last week and we noticed that it was playing at about the same time we were driving by. We’d been talking about the movie, so it seemed like we needed to go.

This movie is like nothing I have ever seen before. It didn’t stop, it didn’t explain, it didn’t even tell us most of the character’s names. It was like watching a two hour music video that was one big action sequence. And it was awesome.

Somehow, with very little dialogue, it was completely clear what was going on. The plot was both thin and complex at the same time. Charlize Theron is basically the baddest bitch ever. Essentially, this movie was one hell of a ride and even if it doesn’t look appealing I still have to recommend it because there was no world where I thought I would enjoy a movie like this, but grabs on and never lets go. For days.

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Fragile Glass

Quite like my subject matter here, I am prone to endless musings that nobody wants to hear and I am relatively sure that no one will read. But as this blog often becomes a dumping ground for the inner workings of my head, here is the overly long paper I just wrote about the Glass family when I attempted to write a short review on Goodreads of Franny and Zooey. You can probably expect to hear me expounding on The Secret Garden next, as I started that a couple years ago in the midst of a children’s book re-read frenzy. Something I think I have a strange ability to be is every age at once.

f&z

Check out that affected Glass boredom that can only properly be displayed by a ‘Wise Child’.

I have come to the startling conclusion that my favorite books are books that I have never reviewed. Most of this, of course, stems from the fact that I read them before I started writing reviews, but considering the time I have dedicated to writing about books that are, frankly, just not that good I decided to start writing about the books that mean a lot to me. Franny and Zooey is at the top of the list. Not because it’s necessarily my favorite book (it is in the top five, which have no order so I guess you could say it is one of my favorites but I have often cited the top spot to belong to Les Miserables) but because it is definitely the book that I have returned to the most amount of times. Every four years or so, it seems. But it’s impossible to talk about Franny and Zooey without also talking about everyone else written about the Glass family, the characters J.D. Salinger stuck with for pretty much most of his career (and beyond, we really don’t know, though we’ve all heard the rumors). In all the Glass stories there is this huge background story that weaves in and out of the narrative. We are usually given all the needed information in each individual story, but they’re really quite connected. Despite that, Franny and Zooey, I think, is the best constructed story involving the family Glass.

And over the years my opinion of it has changed a lot. When I first read it, in the hallway of a college that didn’t even belong to me waiting for my best friend to be finished with rehearsals, I had the sort of reaction that people have to Salinger’s major novel, The Catcher in the Rye (which, yes, I love and bought into every cliche about it except assassinating people). I really got Franny, and what’s more, I really felt like Franny got me. From an earlier age than I care to admit I had always struggled with this notion that everything in the world is a bit meaningless. And it was likely thoughts like these that propelled me into a pretty crippling depression.

But with subsequent readings it was Zooey who attracted the most attention from me. And, good or bad, I started relating to. First time around I didn’t much care for him. He was abrasive, he was rude, he was impatient, and he is all of these things but I started digging a little deeper and applying my own experiences to what existed in the book and suddenly Zooey made sense. But, in the end, it was a dream that did it for me. At work at JoAnn Fabrics I was doing a demonstration of the Cricut machine. The adorably misspelled device that cups out little shapes that can be glue together to make some pretty cool scrapbooking pieces. The cartridge I had made little children and I kept making them over the two hours I was sitting there until I had seven and named them all after the Glasses. Sometime very soon after that I had a dream that I was having a conversation with Zooey Glass. When I woke I was disappointed. I had tried very hard to keep myself in the dream because I wanted to continue listening to Zooey expounding and holding forth. And that was probably when I went all in. Because people don’t just read Salinger, they feel Salinger, and that’s why he’s been so influential over such a large group of people.

In “Franny”, the titular character goes to visit her boyfriend, Lane Coutell, at what has to be Princeton. He has big plans for them to get cocktails with his friends and go to the big Yale game, but fails to see that Franny really isn’t up for it. Instead she is pale and distracted, railing against the arrogant professors and teaching assistants at her college. She even hates the well known poets who teach there, calling them men who write poetry as opposed to actual poets. In other words, she’s come to the conclusion that everyone and everything is somehow less than important and has developed a fascination with the book “The Way of the Pilgrim”, about a Russian pilgrim who travels to spread the word of the Jesus Prayer, which when said repeatedly eventually will sink up with the heartbeat and bring enlightenment.

“Zooey” on the other hand deals with Zooey Glass, Franny’s somewhat caustic brother as he has an antagonistic conversation with his mother while he’s in the bath and just wants her to leave him the hell alone, and then attempts to bring his sister out the breakdown she’s come home to have. He, along with Franny and all the rest of the Glass siblings (in order of birth; Seymour, Buddy, Boo Boo, Walt, and Waker) are all precocious and all appeared as children on a radio quiz show called “It’s a Wise Child”. The two eldest children, Seymour and Buddy, took control of their sibling’s education early on and schooled them in religion (mostly Eastern but not exclusively) and philosophy before they were able to parse a sentence. At age twenty-five Zooey firmly believes that this, along with their childhood celebrity, made the whole family freaks, particularly the youngest two Glasses, with impossible standards.

This was not helped along by the death of Walt Glass of a freak accident in occupied Japan and, much worse I’m afraid, by the suicide of their spiritual leader, Seymour. [This particular suicide can be found in the opening, and most famous, story in Salinger’s collection Nine Stories. Though Buddy will later comment that he believes this to be far more a portrait of himself then of his idolized brother. Speaking about Seymour can be likened to staring into the sun.] While both deaths have affected the entire family, it is Seymour’s death that no one seems to be able to get over. Waker has become a Carthusian monk and no longer speaks, Buddy has withdrawn, without a telephone (much to their mother’s chagrin), to upstate New York where he occasionally teaches at a woman’s college and writes, Beatrice “Boo Boo” Glass Tannenbaum is getting along probably the best out of all of them, she’s married, has three children, and prefers to be described as a “Tuckahoe homemaker”, but still keeps her dead brother’s goggles hanging around and pops in to lend Buddy some of her wonderfully constructed sentences every once in awhile. This leaves us the youngest two siblings; Zachary, called Zooey, and Frances.

Their parents, who swan in and out of the narrative at will, Les and Bessie Glass were performers. Vaudevillians on the Pantages circuit under the name Gallagher and Glass. They are lovely, simple, ordinary people who gave birth to seven extraordinary children that they can not understand. All their children are smarter than them and they know it. This makes them sort of outsiders. They are part of the family, to be sure, but they are not burdened with the things that Zooey, in particular, thinks ruined the rest of them. Bessie comments on how lovely they all used to be, how smart, and witty and lovely children. But they are not children anymore and all that potential has had to translate to where the rest of the world lives and it has not translated well.

The Glass family is really only able to relate to other members of the Glass family. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t try. Lane exists, obviously, though it’s pointed out quite plainly that when Franny says she misses him she doesn’t mean it at all. Zooey also says, to their mother, that when Franny says nice things about her boyfriend that it is only sex talking. Zooey finds most people he meets to be basically insufferable and has a hard time having meals with them. And his mother points out he, along with his brother Buddy, doesn’t know how to talk to people he doesn’t like, which is most everyone he meets (this decision can apparently be made in the first two minutes). He even seems to dislike himself enough that he doesn’t understand why people don’t break their chairs over his head. However, he does seem to enjoy a TV producer, LeSage, who passes Zooey terrible scripts, but is a man with so many hobbies that there is no room left for ego.

The thing that I think is important about this book is something that I didn’t quite pick up on until the second or third reading. Initially Zooey comes off as pretty abrasive. He’s not very kind, Bessie even comments on this while she’s annoying the living daylights out of him in the bathroom. But he, propelled by his sister’s breakdown, is also going through something.

While Franny is using the Jesus Prayer to reach some sort of enlightenment, Zooey knows there is much more to it than this. He expresses a lot of concern over the fact that he’s not even sure his sister understands what the Jesus Prayer is and who it is she’s praying to and not “St. Francis and Seymour and Heidi’s grandfather all wrapped up in one.” It’s clear he’s gone round and round the subject with his sister, as there are several mentions of him speaking with her the night before with no positive results, and is getting (I think) understandably frustrated in not being able to communicate what he wants to communicate. To help fix this he pulls out a four year old letter written to him by his brother Buddy giving him advice when he decided not to go out for his PhD and instead throw himself into professional acting. Buddy says that Zooey is a born actor but that he worries because actors shouldn’t be hampered down with too much knowledge, which Zooey undoubtedly is. He also worries that Zooey demands too much of the world, and Buddy knows those expectations will not be met. It’s easy to believe that Zooey had a very similar crisis that Franny is facing and came out on the other side having made some sort of peace with it.

He wants to communicate this with his sister, but he doesn’t know how. This sort of collapse is intricate and complicated and so far he has only managed to upset her even more. All the while he has his own life to lead, a life he all but ignores on this day in question. He says repeatedly that he needs to leave and that he has a lunch, but he spends nearly an hour ruminating in the bathtub, trying to get his mother off his case about helping is sister, something he is trying and failing to do, and then going in for another round with Franny, who really doesn’t want to hear it. Zooey is harsh, but he needs to be in order to impart the truths that his sister very desperately needs to hear, even if they hurt like hell.

Still, it is only when he separates himself from her, when he calls on the telephone pretending to be Buddy and then ruining that ruse with his “verbal stunt pilot”ing (“The cigars are ballast, sweetheart. Sheer ballast. If he didn’t have a cigar to hold on to, his feet would leave the ground. We’d never see our Zooey again.”) that he is finally able to get through to her. He reminds her that when she started breaking down she didn’t do it where she was, she came home. Home to the apartment where Glasses can be Glasses. Where she’s the youngest and will be worried over. He also points out that, as an actress, she shouldn’t be concerned with the intelligence of the audience. The reception of what she’s doing shouldn’t matter and that “An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s.” But then the final kicker. He tells a story about refusing to shine his shoes when he was little and on “It’s a Wise Child” because there was no point. It was a radio program so no one could see and the announcer and studio audience were idiots. Seymour, of course (who else could it be?), told him to shine them for the Fat Lady. No more explanation was given but Zooey saw her as an old, cancerous, porch sitting woman listening on the radio and he shined his shoes. Franny, rapturously, remembers being told about the Fat Lady too and Zooey tells her that every single person living in this world is the Fat Lady and that the Fat Lady is, in the end, Jesus Christ.

The crux of what I love so much about this novel is this; though we may be jaded, isolated, or have impossible standards there are still really wonderful things in the world. Zooey points out that most of his teachers in college were morons, but there was one who was honest and pure and this is enough. One out of all those many. He also finds joy in watching a small girl walking a dog out their window. ‘“God damn it,” he said, “there are nice things in the world – and I mean nice things. We’re all such morons to get so sidetracked.” And it’s true. He’s self aware enough to know how destructive he is and to be able to struggle against it. Yes, he resents the hell out of his brothers (one problematically deceased) for instilling values in him that cut him off from most of society, but at least he knows that. And, like his private war on narcissism, he makes pains to struggle against it. And this is what he wants Franny to learn how to do.

But then there is something else that his brothers did that he resents fully. They disappeared. One, the eldest, most important Glass, through suicide, choosing to remove himself from the world, or as Buddy puts it “discontinued living”. The other, Buddy, Seymour’s comrade in arms, similarly disappeared from the scene and basically dedicates the rest of his life to trying to bring Seymour back to life on paper (Buddy is, essentially, a stand in for the author himself).

All the Glass stories are ultimately about Seymour. He appears in the flesh in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”, his goggles are present in “Down at the Dinghy”, his absence, on his wedding day, is central to the plot of “Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters”, “Seymour: An Introduction” attempts to enlighten the audience to who he was, “Hapworth 16, 1924” is a firsthand letter from him to his mother, Bessie, from summer camp when he was seven years old. And then finally in “Zooey” (“Franny” is too slight and insular to bring up the heroine’s deceased brother but “Zooey” sheds much light on what we thought we knew about “Franny”) his absence has permeated the Glass apartment. There is a room he once shared with Buddy that no one ever enters. When Zooey does go in it’s mentioned he hasn’t been in this room for seven years, it doesn’t mention in the same breath that it was seven years ago that Seymour took his life, but it might as well. When he does enter it’s with a handkerchief over his head in a sort of homage to holy territory. In the room is a telephone that is still registered under Seymour’s name. Buddy refuses to disconnect the phone, even though he doesn’t have one in his wintery cottage in the middle of nowhere, because he needs to be able to look in the phone book and see his brother’s name. When Zooey fears he’s not getting anywhere with his sister he asks her if she wants him to try to get Buddy on the phone, but Buddy isn’t good enough, she wants to talk to Seymour. And we get it, because everyone, everywhere has always wanted to talk to Seymour. There are a lot of things wrong with the Glass children; early exposure to too much knowledge, a sort of childhood fame, the potential they can never live up to, and very high opinions of themselves. But the major failing, the one that ensured that the two youngest siblings felt the brunt of it, was losing their spiritual leader.

There is a lot of religious stuff in the book as well. Franny’s use of the Jesus Prayer, as well as her passion for the book The Way of the Pilgrim. Her desire to see god. Seymour and Buddy’s obsession with Zen and Mahayana Buddhism. Religion is positively dripping from the pages. So it could be questioned how a good little atheist girl like me could find so much to love about a book so steeped in religion. It’s really quite simple. While I think Franny’s quest for enlightenment is genuine, I don’t think any of them are actually talking about religion in strictly religious terms. These are people who’s quest for knowledge is directed at finding wisdom, not intellect. I look at the religion here as I look at philosophy, and I do believe Zooey (and Franny after a time) would agree with me. Religious ideas are important, to be sure. But I don’t know, from a intellectual standpoint, that they are any more important than the ideas of Schopenhauer or Kant or Franny’s beloved Epictetus.

So is loving this book, and the rest of the stories about Glass family, trite or vaguely cute? Perhaps. You could argue it and I would likely agree with some points, but I also think there is something difficult to dismiss about them. It’s clear that Salinger himself was, at least, nearly in love with them. It’s also clear that when they were published there were a lot of very good authors that had a lot of negative things to say. Joan Didion dismissed Franny and Zooey as basically a self help book (fair, to a degree) while John Updike railed against it, saying “Salinger loves the Glasses more than God loves them.” And maybe that’s true, though I like to think that Jesus enjoyed that cup of ginger ale he had with Zooey when the latter was eight years old. But there is something that Updike didn’t take into account when he wrote that. Something he couldn’t take into account. This book is still beloved sixty years after “Franny” first appeared in The New Yorker. It’s now considered a classic, and “Zooey” is sometimes called Salinger’s masterpiece (no offense to Holden, but I agree). There are still young people picking up this slim volume and being so inspired by it that it’s reached cult status. That is something.

Salinger’s obsession with this family, and the conversational vernacular he writes them in, makes them so very real. They do not feel like characters in books, stories really, they feel like people we know, or sort of know, that we’ve heard anecdotes about and want to hear more. Or perhaps we despise them as snobbish know-it-alls who think they’re better than us even while they’re falling apart. But that strong of a reaction is pretty remarkable. Me? I love them. I love them because they are smart, and ruined, and hurt. Because we all are. Because “you’re lucky if you have time to sneeze in this goddam phenomenal world.” And I have always, desperately, wanted to be a Glass.

 

** the image at the top of the page is by Nan Lawson from her Etsy store. I have put it here without permission but with great respect because it’s completely adorable and everyone should check out her illustrations here

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Weekly Roundup: May 29th [And basically the three weeks prior]

I’ve gotten undeniably lax about writing my weekly roundups, which I don’t really consider okay because I had set a goal for myself that I’m not really meeting. Then again, I’m not sure anyone actually reads these and/or cares but… well, clearly I write this more for myself than anyone else. Anyway, as mentioned before I have been busy working on this novel, and some short stories, and some creative nonfiction that I generally read at Loganberry Books once a month. In strange, but I think understandable, fashion my nonfiction tends to be much less personal than my fiction.

Also, at the beginning of the month I got back from a trip to New York City with my good friend. We have pretty different traveling styles (read, I like to see as much as I can, which I have often detailed with great pains beforehand while he likes to wander) so I was sort of anxious about going. This trip though, I think, was a decent success. I’m not going to get into it, but I bring it up for two reasons; firstly, because traveling always messes up my routine (which I live by), and secondly, because I came back in some kind of ridiculous funk that I refuse to let transfer to the Depression Circle. I simply refuse.

Also, one of my regular families is moving to Colorado and I am obviously devastated. The problem with my job, babysitting, is that I get attached to kids that inevitably at some point I won’t see anymore. These little guys were some of my favorites and I was with them for a long time. Le sigh grande. Au revoir, mes amis. There will be no one to call me My Lindsay anymore. :-(

But there are still books, and super hero movies.

 

Watching: Avengers: Age of Ultron

avengers

It should be mentioned about now that I am a pretty big fan of Marvel. I read comics so I was pretty into it when Disney bought Marvel Studios and started up the Marvel Cinematic Universe (yes, universe because world is too small, damn it), the series of connected movies and tv shows that all rely on each other for continued narrative.

At the beginning of May (I know, I meant the write this SO long ago) we got the newest installment since last August’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the second Avengers film, Age of Ultron. The film sees the heroes who banded together in The Avengers reunited and kicking some Hydra ass. Apparently, actually, we missed most of that fight because they’re towards the end of the clean up and hitting the last known base in an Eastern European country called Sokovia, where they plan to retrieve the scepter that Loki used to mind control everyone and open a space portal in the last film. Little do they know Baron von Strucker has been using it to experiment on people to give them enhanced powers. Still, they’re the Avengers and they manage to dispatch things easily enough. But then Tony Stark decides to build an artificial intelligence, which inevitably goes wrong and he, Ultron, tries to take over the world. End of synopsis, because no one wants to hear me get into the finer plot points.

Overall I was pleased with this movie. It wasn’t the strongest of the installations but it was a solid movie with a lot of humor and heart. Characters we don’t know as well, like Hawkeye, get flushed out a lot more and Natasha Romanoff, Black Widow, shares an adorable flirtation with Bruce Banner, who is basically the last person you’d expect her to pick but is so perfect because really, apart from his rage issues, he’s 100% adorable (there’s my predilection for nerds rearing it’s ugly head again). Sidekicks (I hate to say that about them but in the movies they just are) War Machine and Falcon appear a few times, and true to Whedon there’s plenty of witty banter and humor thrown in. My only wish was if they connected Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a little by showing a member of the team…. even in the background? Really we need May or Bobbie in the next one at the very least. I get that they want to keep them separate but I don’t understand why. Just throw a bone, not a whole steak.

I would feel remiss if I didn’t bring up these allegations of sexism that have been flying around the internet and apparently made Joss Whedon quit Twitter. I don’t agree. Now, I am the last person who would dismiss something I found sexist. And there are plenty of sexist things in comics (there will be a little more about that in a second), but I don’t think most of the complaints made were things that were accurate. There might be spoilers beyond here, but nothing too bad. The main issue seems to stem from Natasha’s comments about being a monster because she was sterilized as a “graduation” from the program she endured to become the assassin she was before she started working for S.H.I.E.L.D. She mentions this directly after Banner tries to scare her away by saying he can never have a normal life, like the one they’ve just witness their friend having, and can’t have children because, well, he turns into a big green rage monster. Natasha rejoins that she can’t either and gets wistful while recounting her sterilization. I didn’t think this was weird. My best friend commented that it seemed a little early in the relationship to be talking about kids, but I had to point out that, while true, they are not talking about a relationship that could ever be normal. And probably that is something you’d want to walk into with eyes open. I didn’t even consider that she was calling herself a monster because she wasn’t able to be a mother, I assumed it was for the same reasons she’s been concerned the whole freaking time we’ve known her, she used to kill people on command. I didn’t see her good relationship with her best friend’s children as very maternal, I saw it as she’s been there, they know her, she knew this secret about him that no one else did. And finally, while I did think it was problematic that only the beautiful woman could calm the Hulk back into Banner (they are going into life threatening situations, shouldn’t they have more than one backup plan?), I read it as more indicative of her recruiting him in the first movie. True, she cares for him, but she probably also feels responsible for him after dragging him out of his peaceful life in India and into the battlefield, when she knew from the beginning that he can’t always control himself and it’s something that tortures him. So, yes, I guess you can read it however you want, but I thought it was a stretch. I’m also familiar enough with Joss Whedon’s work (yes, I’m one of those weirdos who thinks he can do no wrong) to know that there is no way he was attempting to make her a weaker or more feminine character than what she is, because, frankly, Romanoff is tough as hell and Whedon is no sexist.

That, of course, does not excuse some of the insane merchandising and publicity errors that have been made in regards to her.

In whole, Age of Ultron often felt like it was riding the coattails of its much more put together sister, but I did really enjoy it in its own right. I’m not sure Ultron could stand alone, it begins abruptly, mid battle sequence, and the ending leaves us knowing there’s more to come. But that was okay with me because there is more to come. I’ve been hearing it described in terms of The Empire Strikes Back, and I think that is apt. It’s the middle of the story of this particular group, albeit with new villains and new allies, and that shows. It’s an installment, but that doesn’t in itself make it less entertaining.

Now, allow me a bit of a fangirling moment. With quiet a lengthy list of Marvel characters I’ve come to accept that my favorites are probably not going to end up on the screen all that often. I’m pretty attached to Kitty Pryde, for example, and I think Ellen Page played her pretty well (with what she was given in that piece of crap) in X-Men: Last Stand and again in Days of Future Past, but she wasn’t exactly a pivotal member of the group. I like Rogue too, and was okay with the version of her Anna Paquin played in the X-Men movies, though I can’t really describe that character as the same Rogue from the comics. You might notice that both these characters are mutants, and that’s basically because there is a long tradition of subpar female super heroes. Oh sure there are the Ms. Marvels and the Wasps and She-Hulks (I really hate it when they take male characters and just sort of make them female, it’s like… please express a little creativity here [though I will parenthesis again to say I am sort of excited about the prospect of Spider-Gwen, which I haven’t started yet]) and they’re good but they so often take a very back seat to the male members of the crew. So I have never expected too much. We got Black Widow, she’s rad, I’ll count my blessings. But then, then, they announced they’d be adding to the Avengers roster my, my, favorite character; Wanda Maximoff, or Scarlet Witch.

Don't mind me, just hexing to death a couple of killer robots cause I'm a bad ass witch!

Don’t mind me, just hexing to death a couple of killer robots cause I’m a bad ass witch!

And, yeah, her brother Pietro (Quicksilver), who I like too but really cause he’s an extension of her and even though he’s sort of an asshole in the comics he’s usually pretty amusing. You can… sort of see him running by in that gif (also Aaron Taylor-Johnson is super hot). But anyway, I was already pretty excited about my girl showing up in the movies when they announced the casting of Elizabeth Olsen, who is pretty rad sauce in her own right. Plus… they gave her a pretty sweet costume. Something that has long bothered me about female super heroes is their inability to wear clothing that doesn’t resemble what a prostitute would wear while role playing some sort of super hero fantasy (oh, who am I kidding, I am aware who these books are drawn for and it ain’t for me). Basically I’ve always been of the mind that Scarlet Witch’s costume would fall of her body if she so much as raised an arm. And then there’s the scenes where she’s just hanging out in it. No one could possibly be comfortable in an outfit that tight.

Scarlet_Witch

She must be hexing her costume to her body, only explanation.

Or that low cut. And can we talk about pink and red together for a minute? I’ve always approved costume changes in movies because frankly what works in comics really can’t always work in life. I was interested to see what Wanda would be wearing in Avengers, and I was a fan of the look. So she’s a little gothed out, it seems appropriate. And the visualization of her “hexes” was pretty on point, with the glowing hands and eyes and all. Basically, I approve, I approve it all. Welcome to the team Ms. Maximoff.

 

Reading:

Bradstreet Gate by Robin Kirman

bradstreet gate

There were a few points in this book where I was uncertain about how I felt about it. In a lot of ways it defies description. It’s undoubtedly well written, with language that often impresses. The book is almost completely character driven, though there are a few uncommon events that set the plot in motion. Georgia, Charlie, and Alice are all well realized characters that feel complete and real, though not completely likable. Often there were segments that I didn’t even really understand why they were part of the story for quite some time, but in the end I always felt like they were necessary.

Georgia, Charlie, and Alice are all friends at Harvard, connected by circumstances and Georgia’s laid back charisma. But when Professor Rufus Storrow, who is inexplicably connected to each of them, is accused of murdering their classmate, Julie Patel, events are set in motion that will radiate through each of their lives. Pretty Georgia, who’s well known at school for the nude pictures her photographer father took of her as a child, starts an affair with the intriguing but pompous professor, blue collar Charlie is in constant quest to join the ranks of the bluebloods he sees around and looks on Storrow as a potential mentor, and damaged Alice, so steeped in personal tragedy that she’s almost completely unaware of the pain she inflects on others.

I did like these characters, even if they have issues, because they were all intensely real. Something that tends to be important in character driven novels. It was somehow the character of Storrow, however, that held the piece together. He wasn’t an altogether pleasant character, something I’m not sure an accused murdered could be, but he was sort of fascinating. Clearly a product of his environment, his pomposity was pretty astounding. He was often ingenuine and clearly held himself above his peers with very little to back it up besides pedigree. In other words, he was a throwback from another era that no one misses but him. Which is what made him repellent and fascinating at the same time.

Alice, also, was notably interesting, but again, nearly deplorable. Clearly, she was not always in the right frame of mind to make the decisions she did, but often she went full ahead steam with no care to the consequences. Still, she was a very intriguing character. From her Serbian roots to the mess she made of her chic life in New York.

Overall, I thought this book was immensely readable, though I can’t promise that the experience will be a pleasant one.

 

The Half Brother by Holly LeCraw

half brother

First off, boarding school books are like my crack. I can’t get enough of those claustrophobic ivy covered walls. But, I wasn’t initially sure how I felt about this book. The writing is great, the setting extremely well drawn, and there are a series of complex characters that don’t always make the right choices but you can kind of see why. However, through a lot of it it seemed like pretty language and a beautiful setting was basically all the book had going for it. However, in the end I felt like everything gelled pretty well and I found myself thinking about it endlessly when I wasn’t physically reading it so I suppose it was very effective.

Charlie Garrett is straight out of Harvard when he gets a job at the Abbott School in rural Massachusetts and begins his fascination with May Bankhead, the youngest child of Preston Bankhead, the school’s chaplain. Many years later, when she returns from college, they begin a tentative romance. But when a shocking secret derails Charlie’s life and plans he leaves May and never explains why. Brokenhearted she leaves town. A further decade passes and Charlie’s charming half brother, Nick, gets a job at Abbott, just as May comes back to town. Hoping to bring happiness to both of them Charlie pushes the two together, but can have no idea what will happen when true selves start to be uncovered.

My main issue with it was golden boy, Nick. I really didn’t see his appeal. Though his appeal seemed to drive a major part of the book. He certainly had experiences, but the charisma we are constantly told he has wasn’t something that translated to the page for me. I get that we’re seeing this through the eyes of his half brother, who apparently thinks old Nick can do nothing wrong, but I needed to understand more. He was completely blah to me and so I basically did not care about him at all. The tragic romance between Charlie and May was really the draw for here. One of the few times where “I refuse to tell in order to protect the other” made a little bit of sense.

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Weekly Roundup: May 1st, 2015

Well, hello. It’s been a few weeks, I know. I really have no excuse other than gross laziness. Though, I have been working a great deal on the book I’ve been writing for the past several years so… that’s good. Awhile ago it got to the point where I was starting to reach the end and my work on it all but completely stalled. Why? Because finishing a book is about the scariest thing I can imagine. Because what do you do with it then? Then it’s time to start editing, which is insanely daunting, and then you have to start wondering about a publisher, which is horrifying because I can post all the most embarrassing things that have ever happened to me and broadcast how lame I am up and down all over town, but somehow my fiction is way more personal.

I have been doing a relatively decent job of reading my non-fiction at Loganberry Books once a month, which is good, obviously. But I really need to start being more proactive in getting myself to submit short fiction to literary journals. Especially since I know I can expect a great deal of rejection [I worked at a literary journal, I know how these things work]. I suppose in a lot of ways I am sort of terrified of the rejection, but being stagnant is hardly the answer. Of course, I have always been way better at longer things than short fiction.

In the meantime I’ll just work on finishing the in between cracks of the book and finally letting the characters go. Oh, and posting a weekly round up.

Also, how amazing is this?:

pun

 

Reading: Is it Just Me? by Miranda Hart

is it just me

Miranda Hart. Ah, Miranda Hart. You are hilarious. Or, I suppose, hilaire as your eighteen year old self frequently says within the pages of this glorious tome. Perhaps you’ve seen Ms. Hart as Chummy on Call the Midwife. Perhaps you don’t know her from Eve. But you should, because she is 100% hysterical.

Her autobiographical television comedy series, Miranda, aired intermittently on PBS and I used to watch it with my mother. Whenever we’d see a new episode had recorded we’d get all excited because we knew we’d be laughing absolutely hysterically within the next half hour. Her book, Is It Just Me?, is more of the same. Like on the show, Ms. Hart probably never met a situation she couldn’t flub somehow. Flirting with a man? Ends up hiding in a cupboard until 4:00 in the morning only to emerge right when the host has woken up to use the bathroom. Job interview? Starts rambling about body hair then loses her skirt when she stands. Miranda Hart manages to be even more awkward than even the most awkward of your friends. And has the great foresight to remember it all so she can share it with the world to amuse us all. As I always say, especially that time the work toilet backed up and bideted me in the ass, what’s the use of having pain if it can’t make people laugh?

Throughout this riotous memoir Ms. Hart takes us on a very funny ride through such subjects as Health, Dating, Weddings, and the long conversations we have with our pets. With illustrations. I’m… not sure that I could ask for more.

miranda

 

Listening to: Scott motherfucking Joplin

Can we just pause a moment to remember that this dude exists?

Listening to one of his rags is like peeling an onion. Every time you think you’ve hit the bottom of the melody there’s more to listen to. Plus, I’m convinced it really requires about fifteen hands to play the Maple Leaf Rag properly. Sometimes I put it on in the car and rock out like I’m listening to 80’s Guns & Roses. Yes, I’m that lame. But seriously, listen to this.

 

Watching: The Lizzie Borden Chronicles

lizzie bordenWell. So, Lifetime made this. Which is simultaneously absurd and sort of brilliant. After 2014’s successful original film Lizzie Borden Took an Ax apparently the network felt like it didn’t quite have enough crazy pants, even with the Flowers in the Attic movies (more on that later), so they extended their tale of the accused but acquitted ax murderer into a mini-series. When discussing whether or not my friend should watch this I described it as the Bates Motel of 1892. And it’s not as if that description isn’t apt, both are about notorious characters in times when we don’t naturally see them. Borden, of course, was a real person while Norman Bates obviously is fictional, and Bates Motel tells the story of a teenage Bates before he’s become the killer we know and… hope gets plenty of treatment while The Lizzie Borden Chronicles focuses on Borden after she’s been acquitted of the murders of her father and stepmother, but the comparisons are still there. Especially when Borden inevitably thinks up more ways to kill people and get away with it. Because that is this show’s stance; Lizzie Borden took an ax and she never put it down again.

And let’s be clear, while this bares no resemblance to anything that happened in real life, Christina Ricci was born to play this role. She’s like a grown up Wednesday Addams if all that shit she did to Pugsley actually killed him. With slightly more facial expressions. She looks, as others have said before me (though I have no idea where I read it so please come forward if I am stealing your words) like the cat who got the cream. She swans around enjoying her notoriety and telling little girls they should be afraid when one brave soul claims she’s not. And that’s true, given how Lizzie seems to leave quite the body count behind her of whoever crosses the diminutive brunette. But Lizzie is also a master manipulator, which is where the most amusement comes from. Sometimes even the audience believe her.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this series is completely and utterly ridiculous, but it is enjoyable as all hell. To be honest, there’s not much better than watching a Victorian woman in enormous leg-o-mutton sleeves finding new ways to kill people without getting a drop of blood on her pretty outfits.

Random:

flowers in the attic

While we’re on the subject of Lifetime I suppose I would be remiss not to go further into their V.C. Andrews adaptions. Why? Because last week I sat down for the laugh of my life while watching Seeds of Yesterday, the final installment of Andrews’ seminal Dollanganger series. I read these books way back when I was a hormonal teenager and couldn’t get enough of the high drama that is Andrews’ work. Or, rather, the work under her name as the only of her books she actually wrote were the Dollangangers and My Sweet Audrina. But we’ll just leave that oever there where it really doesn’t matter since the rest of her boks are really just rehashings of the Andrews penned novels anyway. Though always amusing, there was always a familiar pattern (my favorite was Landry, what can I say, I’ve always enjoyed twins, especially when one is diabolical).

But even as a teenager reading them obsessively in every second I could steal, I knew they were awful. Really, just trash. But, sometimes you want some trash. It had been long enough since reading the Dollangangers’ saga that there was plenty to make me full on bust out laughing and even though Flowers in the Attic is probably the installment with the best story (if we can say that about any of them) it was undoubtedly Seeds of Yesterday that was the most entertaining.

First let’s run down the basic plot of these pieces of crap: Corinne Dollanganger is the mother of four lovely children who are all beautiful and blonde and happy, but when her husband dies in a car accident she brings her children to her childhood home where they are sequestered away in the attic since her father was pretty peeved about her marriage since her husband was her uncle (or half brother I guess, I can’t remember if that’s ever revealed in the movies or not). He’s dying so, why not just keep the kids hidden until that happens? Meanwhile Christopher, Cathy, Cory, and Carrie are whiling away the hours in the attic with their weirdly religious grandmother who seems convinced they’ll start banging each other up there. It never seems to cross her mind to alleviate this fear by letting them out of the attic. Eventually Cathy and Chris start banging in the attic. And they find out that their grandfather has died and their mother is still keeping them there because he put some caveat in his will that if it was ever discovered that she had children from her marriage then she loses her inheritance. Because that’s a normal thing. Eventually the kids escape, but only after Cory dies after eating a poisoned donut. Yep.

The story continues in Petals on the Wind where Cathy and Chris keep banging, even though they’re out of the attic. Eventually she moves to New York with some ballet dancer who promises her the big time (which she easily achieves, obvi). She, of course, get’s preggers but then Julian, the ballet dancer, dies in a car crash. Carrie commits suicide because she’s obviously scarred for life after being locked in an attic for a couple years, and eats a poisoned donut (yep). Cathy, bent on revenge seduces her mother’s husband and gets pregnant with his child. After a giant showdown where the house with the attic basically explodes Cathy runs of to California with Chris and they pretend to be married.

We pick up the action like ten years later in If There Be Thorns when Corinne moves next door to Cathy and Chris and her two children who they’ve been raising together. The children obviously don’t know that their parents are siblings, but meh. Corinne then meets Cathy’s youngest, Bart, and starts trying to turn him against his parents. At the same time Corinne’s butler (?) attempts to turn Bart into a religious freak. A bunch of stuff happens but basically in the end Corinne dies in yet another fire, Bart gets locked up, and Cathy’s son and the girl they just adopted all live happily ever after doing their best to forget that their parents are siblings.

And then we get to Seeds. Oh Seeds of Yesterday. You. Were. Hysterical. Set I don’t even know how many years later, we get a grown up Bart who is free of the asylum and has taken over Foxworth Hall (the house with the attic) and fixed it up. He immediately shows signs of crazy, he has a creepy prayer room and is almost violently antagonistic about Christopher being there, even though he’s been living with Cathy in incestuous bliss since the end of Petals, in other words, all of Bart’s life. So then, of course, as soon as Bart leaves them Cathy and Chris start getting it on, because it’s so appropriate and apparently their dead mother’s swan bed really gets them in the mood. Bart then paralyzes his half brother, who’s a ballet dancer (because when both your parents were ballet dancers, even if one is retired and the other is dead, what choice do you have?), seduces his, now paralyzed, brother’s pregnant wife, has some serious sexual tension with his adopted sister (who he tried to drown in Thorns but obviously he needs to keep it in the family), and insists upon calling Christopher “Uncle Chris” which, to be fair, is more accurate than “Dad”.

My mom always complains about things being too “soap operaish” when they get complicated and involve romances. I usually think she’s nuts since every show basically implements these things, but then… I watched all four of these films so my standards are clearly not the same. I think we can all be aware of how I feel about this franchise; it stinks, but I would watch a hundred more volumes. And let’s be real, I can’t believe Lifetime didn’t think about adapting V.C. Andrews before now. For god’s sake, it’s a match made in heaven (which, incidentally, was an Andrews series I never read). Deep dark secrets? Check. Revenge and plotting? Check.Love children with every single person a character sleeps with (though surprisingly not always immediate family members)? Check, check, check. They’re like the Lifetime movies of yore but with a built in audience. A lot of people came of age reading Andrews novels, so it’s really a wonder how the world remains populated when our first taste of the sensual came with these levels of dysfunction.

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