I Sing for the Things

Again in the thirties this morning. Yeesh. We did turn the heat on last night, and after burying myself in blankets last night in bed, I woke up after a really restful sleep and also realized, despite the pile of blankets, that I was merely comfortable and not hot…I got out of bed and it was pleasant…then I came downstairs to the Arctic temperatures. Madness. Yesterday I discovered that my hands will fit into boys’ gloves–so I bought five pairs so I could cut the fingertips off and wear them to type in my office. I have a space heater going, a wool cap on my head, and with the fingertip-less gloves, I actually feel like I can get some work done in the freezer, er, office, this morning.

Yesterday I was on a panel about Villains at Wizard World’s Comic Con here in New Orleans at the Convention Center, with Genese Davis, the incomparable Heather Graham, and the sublimely talented Bill Loefhelm. I walked down there from the house, despite the cold, and got a lift home from Heather and the awesome Connie Perry (whom I also love seeing). So I got a lot of my Fitbit steps in as well. The panel discussion was pretty lively–really, you can never go wrong with villains, and hey, any time I get a chance to mention/talk about Catherine de Medici on a panel and see people in the audience nodding? I chalk that up as a BIG win.

Today I have to buckle down and work; I’ve got more than one space heater going here in the kitchen and the fingerless gloves really do make a difference, by the way–you never realize how much heat you lose through your head, hands and feet until you actually cover them up. At least it’s not gray outside; despite the cold the sky is blue and the sun is shining, and the bright sunlight coming through the windows feels lovely. I can handle–although I dislike it intensely–cold weather, as long as the sun is out. Dark and grim and gray and cold? Miserable.

Today’s short story is from the anthology Tart Noir, edited by Lauren Henderson and Stella Duffy. The purpose of the anthology was to flip the script on noir; which at the time of publication (2002) was still seen primarily as the province of men and stories told from the male point of view; which usually reduced women to being sex objects in the form of femme fatales. Tart Noir was about the female gaze, noir told from the woman’s point of view (and think about it, wouldn’t The Maltese Falcon or Double Indemnity, told from the woman’s point of view, be fascinating?), and editors Duffy and Henderson got some major crime writing women to contribute–in addition to themselves, there are stories from Val McDermid, Laura Lippman, Karin Slaughter, Denise Mina, Vicki Hendricks, and Sujata Massey, among others–and the book is quite remarkably good.

The short story I want to talk about today is “Tragic Heroines Tell All,” Lauren Henderson’s contribution to the anthology. Lauren is quite an accomplished author; she wrote the Sam Jones series (which you should check out) and several other things, including y/a, and then started writing the fabulous Rebecca Chance “ripped from the tabloids” bonkbusters (Bad Brides is, bar none, one of the funniest novels I’ve ever read; I giggle just thinking about it), which are enormously fun. “Tragic Heroines Tell All” is also quite clever.

It was always going to be a disaster. I couldn’t understand why I was the only one, out of everyone who worked on the show, who had seen it coming. But they were all too caught up in the celebrities who were participating…the originality of the concept…the miracles our booker had performed, coaxing even the most reluctant guests into the spotlight by dangling the carrot of a large, juicy fee in front of their noses.

Didn’t it occur to anyone, I wanted to say, that if it were such a good idea, someone would have done it before? People who were much better qualified than us? But that would have sounded negative, and we were big on positivity at The Jillian Jackson Show. Besides, I didn’t need to cover my back. I was too lowly for anyone to try to dump the blame for this fiasco onto me. I could watch the slow-motion train wreck unfolding on the screen before my eyes and, in a twisted, perverse, altogether skin-crawling kind of way, actually enjoy it.

The premise of the story is quite clever. When the story was written and the book published, trashy talk shows of The Jerry Springer Show were all the rage on television; everyone, it seemed, had a show along the lines of Oprah or Donahue; the difference being Oprah and Phil Donahue addressed social issues in order to create discussion and understanding; the others went for the lowest denominator and shock value. The show in this story is one of those, and the theme of this particular episode being taped, “Tragic Heroines Tell All,” features two from Greek mythology, Phaedra and Medea, and later Lady Macbeth joins them on stage. The humor is biting–the notion of Medea killing her brother and cutting his body into pieces before later killing her children when Jason abandons her for a younger woman was a bit too much for this audience; as is Phaedra’s insistence she was under a spell from Aphrodite and that was why she claimed her stepson raped her, and on and on.

Smart, funny, and witty–I love this story.

And now back to the spice mines.

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