A battle of the lightweights: Holly Golightly vs. Sally Bowles

It's a twee off!

Did I miss anything?

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A Question of Taste

Ahh, it’s that time of year again. The leaves change, the coffee is ordered hot again, the tv lineup changes. No,  I don’t mean the premiere of the new shows. I mean when half those shows get cancelled two episodes in and are taken behind the woodshed.

Look, I was as gleeful about the axing of The Playboy Club as everyone else and I’ve never seen a frame. That whole “it’s empowering to women” hullabaloo was enough to turn me off even if I did have a tv (which I don’t). [For reasons of poverty, not snobbery.]

While the tv shows get shuffled around again to accommodate, what happens to all the people working on the shows? Now there are hundreds of crew men and women who are suddenly out of a job. Which is part of the business but… how much say do they have in the creation and development of a show. The boom-mic guy? Not much. He’s not going to pipe up and offer a suggestion for a line reading without getting kicked off the set. But aside from getting fired like that, how much say do they have in where they work?

I really want to know, what’s it like out there? Do crew members look at the listings for new shows and carefully pick which ones they’d like to work on? Do they have that many options, are there that many available openings? Would they even see a script before it’s being read right in their faces? I don’t think so. And now they’re out of a job for something they had no control over.

The Pain of Being Misunderstood (and Also Knives)

If you ask Colleen McCullough what Caesar was like she would probably tell you he was brilliant, misunderstood, beaten down at every turn and still arose on top (until that time he, yanno, didn’t). Ask Mike Duncan, creator of the History of Rome podcast (recommended), and he’ll tell you about a conniving trickster who only pretended to have Rome’s interests at heart but really only wanted power for himself.

Listening to the podcast while reading the last two McCullough books proved interesting…. And confusing.

It also got me thinking about other divisive characters in history, more and more of them the further back you go. The mixture of extremely different cultural attitudes and diminishing records tends to do that. Depending on who you ask, Alexander the Great was a monster or a benevolent ruler. Judas was a traitor or doing god’s work.

I will defend both of these movies until the day I die

Oliver Stone and Martin Scorsese went the kinder gentler route for each, respectively. Hmm, interesting.

This isn’t necessarily a historical problem though. How well do we know anyone’s intentions, motivations, and desires? How well do we even know our own? I wanted a chalupa for dinner last night and now I don’t know why. (Urf.)

From a writer’s standpoint, I think the more ambiguous, the more interesting the character. There’s a fine line, their actions can’t be totally random (see, The Infinities by John Banville, about a family who had long-standing relationships that he never bothered to explain). I’m going to repeat myself and idolize a Harry Potter character but I think Severus Snape is written beautifully. By the end he is given motivations that tend to drive him but he also acts impulsively or has to make decisions quickly. And his nature is still unclear. Yeah he’s cast as a hero by the end but a strong argument could be made that he was a dick about it, selfish and immature throughout. He took pleasure in tormenting an 11 year old because he wanted to bone his mom.

Snape was my first thought but who else, in literature, history, or both? Which characters/people are fascinating enigmas? And which characters do you get into fights with your friends over who’s a bastard and who’s just cuddly and misunderstood?

Pseudo-Feminist Speaks Too Soon

Mere minutes after I shot my mouth off in yesterday’s quick post @trishalynn took to Twitter to prove me wrong.

Her list of non-sexualized heroines…. GO!

  • Barbara Gordon as Oracle
  • Vera Noble, from @trollprincess‘s Heroine Addict novel
  • Violet & Elastic Girl from The Incredibles
  • Jenny Sparks, created by @warrenellis. She was a sexual being, but not sexualized, iirc
  • There’s an female archer out there who is a hero to her people & I think she’s conservative Muslim. Also, Martina Navratilova.
  • Found another, from @shaenongarrity: Kira from The Dark Crystal
Ok, so I don’t know what I’m talking about. But it was a sincere question since I really only could think of one. Characters like Eowyn from Lord of the Rings gave me pause since she is strong on her own but I disqualified her on the grounds of spending most of her time pining over Aragorn before she leaps into the arms of Faramir. But perhaps that isn’t fair. De-sexualizing a character isn’t any good either, she doesn’t have to be a nun to have strength. What are the rules for a Strong Female Character?
The simple answer is probably strength that is all her own, that doesn’t depend on others. So powers of manipulating others doesn’t really count. But then, why not? Angelina Jolie is highly sexualized in Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Tomb Raider and she still kicks ass with nothing more than a few krav maga lessons.
So my mistake was trying to make rules about ALL WOMEN when they can only be judged on a case-by-case basis. I’m part of the problem. Apologies.

Fourth Person

Scenes from my moleskine

That’s the end of my first and probably last real attempt to write in first person. I gave it an honest go but my narrator just didn’t know enough and everyone else knows too much. Also, I didn’t like my narrator very much. So fuck him, he’s gone. And so is all the work I’d done so far. Time to start all over again.

Phew.

Proust: I Barely Remembered Thee

Seriously, check out her photostream, it's amazing

photo credit: juliettetang (click photo for more)

I’ve given up reading Proust.

Smart, funny people like him. His is the favorite book of a great many great authors. I wanted to be that kind of snob that made it through all seven volumes of In Search of Lost Time/Remembrance of Things ZZZZZZZZZZZ but I just… I just can’t.

When I’m dreading reading a book and have to convince myself to actually pick it up, when I can barely remember what happened a paragraph ago, when I’ve been trying for weeks and am still only a hundred pages in (and that was a heroic effort) it’s time to quit.

I never really quit a book. I thought I had given up on Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake and The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek for good but I finished them both this year. But actually, with both of those, I was helped along by spoilers. I knew where we were headed so that helped clarify what I was reading, especially since those are both written with a very unique kind of style that is in turns awing and infuriating. I don’t know where In Search of Lost Time is going to end up. I don’t even know where the first volume is going to end up. Probably in a field somewhere, with eighty pages on a daffodil. As my boss sometimes likes to say, “put a pistol in my mouth.”

(He does not, to my knowledge, say that about me.)

But I bought the book, it’s there on the pile, so maybe someday, when I’ve got oodles of time and a LOT of coffee to keep me from falling asleep every two pages, I’ll get back to it. Commenters will probably tell me I’ll read it when I’m more mature. But my dad read that thing and he could barely stand it, it was so dull. I wanted to prove him wrong, but gah, what a slog.

It doesn’t help that I’ve got a lot of awesome stuff lined up on the shelf: I’ve already started An Arrow’s Flight, plus I’ve got The Farewell Symphony by Edmund White (one of my favorites), At Swim Two Boys, The Lost Books of the Odyssey, The Infinities, and more.

What does it take to get you to quit a book? What could you just not get through? Or, because I’m nosy, what are you excited about reading next?

Twin Freaks

Since the story I’m working on is all about small towns and secrets, what better show to watch for research and inspiration than Twin Peaks? Two days ago I’d never seen a frame of it. As of now I’ve finished the first season. Got big plans for the long weekend. I probably won’t leave the house.

It’s got the expected spread of Characters but the standouts and, it seems like, the most unusual, is the Competent Weirdo. Agent Cooper is one. And actually, ditzy Lucy is another one.

Agent Cooper is introduced leaving this rambling and seeming inconsequential dictation while he drives. It’s mostly about trees and pie. It seems like he’s going to be some arrogant outsider who bursts into this small town and disrupts everything. But he winds up loving the place. He fits right in. And, he’s AWESOME.

The other thing is, he’s not a jerk about it. He’s as intuitive as Sherlock Holmes or House (same thing, same thing) but he just waves people off when they’re impressed. He’s goofy and affable. It seems like cheating a little that he gets a lot of his clues from his dreams instead of straight intuition but he still does pick up on body language and physical hints too.

Lucy is awesome too. She’s supposed to be funny and strange and a little stupid but then she’ll write down the incriminating things the idiot kids are saying or she’ll notice background clues in a phone call. I like that she’s complex, and not just one note or a punchline.

AND a style icon!

And stellar doughnut organizer too

I also appreciate that she seems to be the only girl in Twin Peaks who isn’t evil, insane, or involved with a REALLY horrible guy. (Seriously girls, DUMP THEM.)

Most of the characters are pretty well-rounded (crummy boyfriends aside) but these two are my favorites and a trend I’d like to see more of. It’s definitely an inspiring show.

My Grandpa’s Farmhouse

The story I’m working on now features a family farmhouse and I’m using the one my grandpa currently lives in as an example. I was doing some writing the other night and ran into a little problem.

(Isn’t this blog supposed to be about my inability to write? Dammit creative juices, you are ruining my blog!)

The layout of the second story has four bedrooms of varying sizes. The family in my story has a mother and father, two daughters, a son, and a visitor. But where to put them all? I don’t want the visitor to stay in the cramped bedroom right next to the master bedroom, he might Hear Things, but I don’t want any of the kids there either, they might Hear Other Things. What to do, what to do?

Pictured by Me

Grandpa's Farmhouse

And my brain paused for a minute and then said, make it up dummy! No one is going to fact-check your novel or care that it contains a square inch by square inch recreation of the farmhouse you’ve been to. The farmhouse is a model, a starting point, that I can bend to my will.

Really, it doesn’t matter at all. I didn’t waste any time rearranging the layout of the top floor to fit everyone I wanted, the house is not a main character. I’m sure there are plenty of stories where the house is very important. The Haunting comes to mind. But what I’m working on isn’t one of them. I put the minutiae behind and Moved. On.

Little Miss I-Was-There-All-Along

Nathan Rabin coined the very apt term Manic Pixie Dream Girl for the determined kind of free spirit that pervades current romantic movies and chronicled her well here and here. And the fine NPR folks at Pop Culture Happy Hour listed some other possible additions to the overused trope canon here. (Schlubby Screenwriter with Two Beautiful Babes to Choose From is an excellent choice.)

On the eve of One Day, that Anne Hathaway/Jim Sturgess movie I won’t link to because the trailer makes me angry, I have another addition to the possible canon: Little Miss I-Was-There-All-Along.

Because Ladies, it’s ok to pine away for the one you love. He may be a shallow jerk and screw half the city but one day he will get tired, or his idol will give him a long speech of wisdom through experience, or his dad will die and he will learn that life is fleeting/what’s on the inside counts/you were the one who was always there for him and he will come running into your open arms.

“She made you decent. And in return you made her so so happy.” That’s a line from the trailer (still not linking to it, it’s googleable). So she was responsible for making him a better person and “in return” was fulfilled by his mere presence.

Nevermind that this friend is usually played by someone like Anne Hathaway, who the guy should be trying to nail from frame one. Unless it’s one of those ugly duckling stories where the girl takes off her glasses and suddenly she’s GORGES OMG!

One Day or Princess Diaries?

UGH! So hiddy! // MUCH better

Looking at the Wikipedia listing of romantic comedies, the most popular ending for Little Miss I-Was-There-All-Along is that the object of her affection realizes what a wonderful and beautiful person she is and professes his love, only to be rejected as she moves on to his friend who has always seen her for the beauty she is, inside and out. (See: Sabrina, Bridge Jones’ Diary, While You Were Sleeping)

What the trailer for One Day seems to imply is that they wind up together in the end. So basically, just be nice (and patient) and that friend you’ve got your eye on will eventually come around. The female equivalent of the Nice Guy, except even more passive. And thus, I have put my finger on why the trailer fills me with rage.

Compare to My Best Friend’s Wedding, which plays with the trope and then dismisses it, DARING to leave Julia Roberts single when the credits roll. (Uh, spoiler alert?)

(Though I don’t look on the medium with disdain, I am hardly a romantic comedy aficionado a la Kelly Kapoor. However, I want to give props to Under the Tuscan Sun, which seems to be the only movie that works in a love interest like a deus ex machina, who drops in out of nowhere. But it’s GREAT. It’s about HER, not just her love life! You don’t have to wait for someone to get their shit together! Life goes on, even after you’re 25!)

ETA: BWAHAHA! Better Book Titles: One Day