It's all about spiritual questions, lately. That's what's on my mind. Wondering about all in life that is mysterious. NPR and the general world news has been getting to me again. Being informed -- I'm not sure that's the healthiest thing. Ignorance has its advantages. I really love fiction (TV, film, books); the escape keeps me sane. Call the Midwife is my current favorite, and will always hold a special place in my heart because every main character (and most minor ones) is uniquely lovable. That's rare.
I have an incredible soft spot for Chummy. She is one of those characters whose kindheartedness and vulnerability radiates right through the television screen. I want to know why some people are born to look like Jessica Raines and some are born to look like Miranda Hart. God? Nature? I would like a reasonable answer here. Believe me, I'm not feeling sorry for either actress. They both have the kind of success most of us can only dream about, yet -- if we are to believe there is any order to the world there must be a reason why some of us are so pretty and some of us are so... well, you know.
Are we really floating around in some astral plane, looking down, planning our next life saying, "I want to look like Cochran from Survivor."??? When I see Ozzy from Survivor (who in addition to his beauty reaches heights of athleticism that are mind-boggling) side by side with Cochran I just can't help thinking of The Tyger by William Blake: "Did he who made the lamb make thee?" Again, I'm not feeling sorry for Cochran; he has had great success and many gifts, yet while watching Survivor (don't judge now -- we all need our happy, relaxing, TV time) one can't help but notice the great contrast between the two types of men. I can't help but wonder if it is luck of the draw or part of some intelligent plan (that is most certainly beyond my common, earthly understanding).
Somehow, I ran into Ruby's Spoon at the dollar store. How on earth this novel got to a PA dollar store, I will never know, but I consider myself quite fortunate. I don't feel quite up to the task of reviewing this novel; I can only write of my experience of it.
I wasn't sure I'd make it through this book, because the people in this narrative felt so strange and foreign to me. I had trouble imagining this odd world in which a motherless little girl cannot cross a bridge to touch her father. Most reviewers mention the dialect as an obstacle to fluency, but it wasn't quite as difficult for me to navigate as was the odd behavior of the people. Yet, somehow, I found myself slowly moving under its spell. It took me months to get through the first fourth of the book; I kept losing it. Finally, I found my way and then "I couldn't put it down." Trite, but true.
If I were to go back in time and pick up this novel for the first time again, I would treat it more like an academic exercise. I would print out a copy of the map, and write down a character description of each one along with his or her relationship to the others in the town. Having said that, I don't think it is valid criticism when reviewers mention that it is a difficult read or "hard to get into." It simply doesn't belong in the light read category and challenges the reader to pay attention and be aware. I was approaching this as a lazy, summer read, (probably because I bought it for a dollar), yet it is anything but.
Maybe this post will scare people off of reading Ruby's Spoon, but I hope not, because the companion to the challenge of this read was the fact that I was bewitched by it. At first I didn't understand thirteen-year-old Ruby's desperation for attention from the mysterious newcomer, Isa Fly. Perhaps I had lost touch of how much I sought the approval and company of older women when I was a child. (I'm sure that somewhere in my writing I have mentioned a certain dark-skinned woman with a high IQ and a white bikini. From age eight to eighteen I worshiped her, nearly believing that her companionship could turn me into a dark-skinned, bikini clad genius.) So I think the reader can start there, perhaps, by remembering the pure idolatry that a child is capable of. That there might be reasons beyond Ruby's loneliness for her deep desire to connect with Isa makes it all the more fascinating.
Another element here is the aloof behavior of so many people in the town toward Ruby; they fail terribly at the "it takes a village" idea. I kept wondering why everybody seemed so intolerant and often hostile toward her. Some of the women were deeply cruel to her, but it was the removed behavior of those who could have shown her that they cared that had me shaking my head. Then again, this rings with some authenticity from my own experience as a teenager. When I lost my parents at the age of seventeen, there were many words of sympathy, but actions that might disrupt someone's life (or even inconvenience them) were rare.
Perhaps this place and its people are not so foreign to me after all?
For me, one of the only elements of Ruby's life that I cannot understand is why she had no friends her own age. It is mentioned once or twice, I think, that she used to play with her school chums, but there is no other central character under the age of thirty. I imagine in the life of a small town teenager, a girlfriend would be a vital connection to a girl like Ruby,
There is so much to read out there, and so little time. I am ultimately glad that I picked up Ruby's Spoon and I'd be the first one to buy a ticket if it were made into a film. Hopefully Anna Lawrence Pietroni will make a bunch of money off of it, thereby relieving my guilt of getting it from the dollar store. And while I'm imagining wonderful events -- let's hope that Vera Farmiga produces the film and takes the part of Isa Fly.
So, now that I have a new TV girlfriend, it is my mission to watch everything she has ever done. (If you're wondering what a TV girlfriend is, see my last post). I watched Higher Ground the other day which is pretty much her baby (production, direction, and acting credits).
I don't know about religion or a big god in the sky, but I do know that there are too many weird, weird coincidences in my life to attribute to chance. Sometimes it feels like someone else is running the show, guiding me this way and that. The frustrating thing is that I hardly ever really understand the message. I see the pattern, but I don't see why it is being shown to me.
A couple days after I started to "love" Vera, a friend of mine asked me if I had ever heard of her. She is acquainted with her. I'm not the type to think -- oh, that means I'm destined to meet her -- because I usually prefer not to meet celebrities that I admire. (The dynamic is usually weird. How can I be myself?) I do think that the coincidence is strange, and it is another example of a pattern being laid out for me. My friend mentioned Higher Ground, which I watched, and it seemed to be speaking directly to me. It's not that I'm immersed in a fundamentalist religious community, but there are elements of my life that are so deeply, deeply stuck in the same way that her character was. My sense of identification with her character, Corrine, (based upon a very real woman) put me into a psychological hole that I can't even begin to explain. I really can't. Not here. Better left for a therapist. Time to get into therapy?
This is not the first time a film has come my way that has been a direct reflection of something that is moving within my psyche. What I want to know about this sort of thing is -- why do these patterns exist, and what are they trying to tell me? Are they telling me to act on them, because my sense is that if I took action based upon these patterns, I would be rocking the boat so much so that I might sink. I can tell you right now that I'm not reading the book that it is based upon by Carolyn S. Briggs -- not yet anyway.
I have a new TV girlfriend. It is such a nice feeling to admire someone again. People who know me well know that I have these fantasy boyfriends and/or girlfriends who are usually television and film actors and sometimes authors who I fall in love with to a certain extent. With the women, it's not that I'm thinking about kissing them or anything like that -- I just admire them and enjoy looking at them. With the men, it is also rarely a sexual fantasy that plays out in my head (with a few notable exceptions). I tend to admire people and put them on a pedestal, because I think some people actually are worthy of admiration.
Here is a list of some of my celebrity boyfriends starting with Randolph Mantooth at age seven (my first): Russell Johnson (the professor from Gilligan's Island) (at the age of eight or so I had this running fantasy about the professor finally realizing that Marianne was perfect for him), Robert Wagner, Paul Simon, Andy Garcia, Phil Hartman, Kevin Spacey, Gary Sinise, John Steinbeck (authors don't usually count, but in Steinbeck's case, I really felt like I knew and loved him), Joe Lando and a few others that I am now embarrassed to mention. Currently, I have no celebrity boyfriend, but I am kind of digging author Frank Bruni who wrote Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-time Eater because it is nice to know that there is at least one other intelligent person out there who had a completely bonkers relationship to food... like... I... did.......do.
My celebrity girlfriends include: Judy Garland, Carrie Fisher, Isabella Rossellini, Sherilyn Wolter, Finola Hughes, Jane Seymour, and my newest addition, Vera Farmiga. I started with Judy Garland -- really with Dorothy Gale -- at the age of five or six. It was during that time that any stranger who asked my name got the sincere answer, "Dorothy." Then the Star Wars geek in me took on Carrie Fisher -- I admired her for adolescent reasons; now I admire her strength and wit. Isabella Rossellini was someone who I identified with. Why, I'm not sure. I just felt that we were similar people on some astral plane somewhere. Then came my soapy period. Then Jane (which has quite a lot to do with her beauty). And finally, Vera Farmiga who I think is absolutely brilliant in her role as Norman's mother in Bates Motel. She is lovable and hate-able and believable all at once. When I was in acting school, I longed for a part like Margaret Hoolihan in MASH. If I were still acting, Norma Bates would be the coveted role.
Though I very much love my flesh and blood family, I do enjoy my TV boyfriends and girlfriends. And I'm on the lookout for a new TV boyfriend so if you have any recommendations, feel free. Maybe I should go with a younger guy this time instead of the "dad" type?
WARNING: Spoilers for Broadchurch and The Killing are contained in this article. Unlike many in the world of writers, I don't spend more time reading than watching TV. I do read and become deeply involved with the lives of literary characters, but when I'm tired in the evening, TV IS FOR ME! I'm not looking for elements to criticize, either. (I can't stand watching TV with a critic; as much as possible, my goal is to overlook inconsistencies and lose myself in a story). I'm always hoping for a narrative to take me safely to another world, and for me to love it, it has to have a dark element. So many critics have said that The Killing is pretentious, but I think they are just striving to be the best. It's slow paced and I like that too. If I care about the characters, I want it to stretch out and provide me with quiet, slow moments. Okay, I do admit to sleeping through some of it, but sometimes it's nice to sleep through something and know I haven't missed too much. (I'm digging myself, deeper and deeper here, aren't I)?
My husband asked me why I'm so attracted to dark themes (with the subtext, I think, "What's wrong with you?). I did give it some thought, and I don't think I'm as disturbed as my Netflix cue might indicate. I would refer the reader back to my essay about Breaking Bad and Dexter and why I like Dexter so much more. Within the dark themes of my favorite shows there must always be a hero or heroes who are fighting for good (even if they are deeply flawed). My heart is with Jesse in Breaking Bad. My heart is with Holder and Linden in The Killing. My heart is with with Dexter (especially when he struggles so much with his identity and perception of himself as a "monster"). That can't be all bad, can it? It's not like I'm reading Harry Potter and voting for Voldemort.
Because I am always contradicting myself (in my defense, who doesn't?) this paragraph is going to include a criticism of Season 3 of The Killing. Many perceived flaws in the writing have been pointed out by other writers, but there is only one problem that really irks me: I feel like we barely knew this guy, Skinner. He was there, of course, and established as Linden's former lover. The relationship, I think, makes sense even though she is adorable and he was rather old and bald. Women who are missing a father figure in their lives often seek the "dad" type. The problem boils down to the same element that often makes or breaks a story. We don't care about him. Linden did, but the audience didn't know him well enough to be really shocked and appalled when he was revealed as the killer. The depth of betrayal would have been felt by the audience if we believed that we knew and cared about him.
For those of you who viewed Broadchurch, the same criticism could be made, but it didn't matter as much because the effect of the killer's identity was all about the people who revolved around him. We saw deep agony and unthinkable position of the killer's wife. The Killing ended abruptly, and the depth of the relationship between Skinner and Linden was not well established.
Whatever its weaknesses, I am so pleased that the show was picked up for another season, and I can't wait to see Holder and Linden move on from this point.
I just watched Howl with James Franco as Allen Ginsberg. It made me think about myself as a writer, of course. It particularly made me think about this blog. I don't imagine I would ever have started a blog if it were not on that list of "supposed-tos" for the self published writer. I do admit, though, that the blog has taken on its own energy. I like writing down my thoughts, feelings, ideas, and experiences. And I like pressing the orange "publish" button in spite of the fact that it makes me feel small and insignificant. Who the hell needs to hear my contradictory ramblings? Yet sometimes I like to imagine that there is someone out there who might benefit the way I have so often benefited from the works of others.
I love to live vicariously through other people's art -- film, books, television, and even (rarely) paintings or sculpture. Certain worlds created by other people are so real to me that I think they must actually exist in an astral plane created by the consciousness of all those others who put mental energy into them.
Allen Ginsberg just cracked himself right open and wrote his own truth. He was afraid of what his dad would think, but he still wrote. I have written about this before when discussing Pat Conroy. It also reminds me of actors I have seen whose performances move beyond direction, training, and skill to a place where they are uniquely charismatic and profoundly loved by the audience because they have no walls. I trained as an actor full time for four and a half years. I had some skills, but my walls are firmly up.
I envy writers who are brave enough to write their truth. The fact that I have family and friends who would be affected by all of my truth gets in the way. And I do fight a desire to write my truth. Share my truth. Something in my mind is often pushing at me. Some little monster in there just doesn't care about the consequences to the lives of others. Would it be as shocking as Allen Ginsberg in his time? Quite unlikely! My hidden thoughts are perhaps less stylish and certainly less sexually charged.
There is another way to write my truth, and I know many writers do it. I could write it through the guise of a fictional character. My impulse, though, is to write the straight truth straight from me with my name firmly attached. Could I be so inspired and write it through poetry? Not exactly poetry, but I imagine a certain lyrical quality would come naturally. Maybe I'll write it all and put in in a drafts folder. Then someday when I know I'm ready to crack myself open for all to see, it's all there and ready to release.
Why was I saddled with this constant urge to analyze, consider, go within, and move energy out in the form of words? In the scope of everything going on in this world, what is the point? Why aren't I putting my energy to better use? I could be focusing on serious issues outside of myself like poverty, human rights, or animal cruelty? Maybe in my next life I'll be a powerful force for good in this world -- Mother Theresa or Rupert Prince Hentley -- I'll save the world.
On the other hand, why couldn't I be some shallow girl with a great tan and a white bikini? Maybe in the next life I won't be such a nerd.
I'm Jennifer, the author who loves her novel, but doesn't want to think about it, talk about it, or write about it constantly.