Blank Space

It always feels good to finish a project. It’s not entirely in the books yet, of course–there’s another round of edits, and then page proofs to get through–but this stage is completed and it feels lovely.  Ironically, it didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would; I’d started working on it Friday night, and had gotten much further along in it than I’d remembered. I then repaired to my easy chair and read some more of About the Author, which is terrific; a really great noir I can’t wait to finish. I did have to put it aside, though, because it reached that point I always call the “uh-oh” moment; the part where the character makes the really bad decision that will eventually bring him down. It’s an extremely well put-together novel, structurally speaking, which gives me some ideas about a noir I want to write–the long-thought about Muscles.

Reading is such a lovely gift to one’s self, really. I am so glad I learned to read very young, and fell in love with it. It’s a terrific pleasure.

Last night, TCM aired the old Lana Turner movie Imitation of Life, directed by Douglas Sirk, and I watched it for the first time, while paging through Sam Staggs’ gossipy book about it, Born to Be Hurt: The Untold Story of “Imitation of Life.” I love Staggs’ books; I’d already read both All About ‘All About Eve’, Close-up on Sunset Boulevard, and When Blanche Met Brando. They’re wonderful books about the stories behind the making of iconic films–including gossip, of course–and also wittily written and compulsively readable. I do want to read the others again; I recently bought a bunch of them in a lot on eBay  just for that purpose. This one also includes information around the notorious Johnny Stompanato murder–he was Lana’s abusive lover; one night he was threatening her and he was stabbed by her daughter, Cheryl Crane–and it was after this scandal that Lana was cast in Imitation of Life. The movie itself works on so many levels; it’s campy but self-aware, and everyone plays it straight, which makes it even better. Turner plays Lora, an aspiring actress with a young daughter, whose life becomes entwined with that of Annie and her daughter, Sarah Jane–Annie is black and the two come to live with Lora and her daughter Susie, who is about the same age. Lora of course becomes a huge star, and the drama surrounding her has to do with her own self-absorption and basically she allows Annie to raise Susie–but it’s the story of Annie and her light-skinned daughter–who hates being black and passes for white, abandoning her mother until of course, at the very end, Annie has died and Sarah Jane comes back too late, that is the real story here. The movie doesn’t face any of the racial issues, they just are–there’s one perfectly horrible scene where Sarah Jane’s boyfriend, who has found out she is black, beats her (played by Troy Donahue) which is about it, really. There’s a sort of sense, at least on my first viewing, that the terrible situation for people of color in the US at the time was taken for granted; but I can only imagine how controversial the movie was at the time of its release. It was an enormous hit, and Juanita Moore and Susan Kohlar, as Annie and Sarah Jane, both got Oscar nominations. The film is flawed, but Turner is actually pretty good in the role (she was always considered a beauty who couldn’t act), but I also couldn’t help thinking how amazing Joan Crawford could have made it–it was the kind of role she or Bette Davis or Olivia de Havilland could have played in the late 1940’s/early 1950’s.

born to be hurt

If you like books about Hollywood, you have to read Sam Staggs’ books. They’re terrific.

So, this week I am getting back to the WIP, and hope to get some good work done on the short stories I’m struggling with. Woo-hoo! But I’m actually looking forward to getting back to the work I had to put aside to work on the edits of this other manuscript. (Keeping up? Sometimes I can’t keep up with what all is going on with me, so I am often curious if people reading this can follow along.) I should make it clear that the manuscript I just revised from editorial notes is one that will be published under a pseudonym; and the one I am now getting back to is neither a Scotty nor a Chanse. I mentioned a few entries ago that I was looking through Mardi Gras Mambo, and I do think I do need to make the time to reread the entire Scotty series as written thus far before trying to get back into writing another one. It’s long overdue, frankly; I’ve not reread the pre-Katrina Scottys in years, and I think, for this next one, it’s kind of necessary. The nice thing is it’s not like I need to read them deeply, I can sort of skim-read, get a sense of the voice and the characters, and the story.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines.

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