Two To Make It Right

Thursday morning and I am slurping coffee and trying to get awake and ready for an exciting day of data entry and condom packing. I’ve not been terribly successful with my goal of cleaning out my inbox; I am going to try to work on that today after I finish working, after I go to the gym, and after I get today’s writing done.

I’ve identified a problem–a pattern, if you will–with my writing. I will get to a point in a short story where I am kind of stuck, and whereas what I do with a novel (write my way out of it) I won’t do that with the story, instead agonizing over it for a bit before consigning it to the oh well I’ll finish this later at some point folder. This is defeating, and why, ultimately, I have so many unfinished stories languishing around in my files. So, I am determined to solider on with the one I am currently working on, “The Sound of Snow Falling”, and try to get it finished. I am also determined to revise chapter one of Chlorine this weekend, and hopefully get into my next novella–either “Never Kiss a Stranger” or “A Holler Full of Kudzu”–and also get the Lost Apartment back under control at some point.

It’s amazing how little time it takes yet how easy it is for this place to look like a disaster area in need of FEMA assistance.

I also want to get back to reading–oh, how the books pile up!–and maybe it’s something I should do before I go to bed every night. I had tried for a brief while–after that less screen time before going to bed will help you sleep better thing circulated a few years ago–to read before bed every night; I have a non-fiction book on my nightstand that is now coated in dust that I would love to get back to reading–but it also wouldn’t hurt to do some fiction reading downstairs before I go up to bed, risking the getting caught up in the book and not wanting to put it down thing, which all too often happens to me with reading fiction. I am still greatly enjoying Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, by the way; Caro is an exceptional biographer. I also love how he weaves historical context into his biographies–I’ve only read the first volume of the Johnson biographies, and his description for how hard life was for poor rural women has never stopping haunting my mind–and always am blown away. I’ve never read the two biggest biographies of this century–Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton or McCullough’s John Adams, which I need to remedy–but then again my non-fiction reading (outside of necessary research for writing) has been woefully overshadowed this century by my fiction reading.

I also received copies of the MWA anthologies Deadly Anniversaries (edited by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini) and When a Stranger Comes to Town (edited by Michael Koryta), which reminded me of how much I’ve been languishing on the Short Story Project–while continuing to buy anthologies or single-author collections, which are also piling up around me. I also have a lot of short stories to read for my Bouchercon panel in August; I am on, of all things, a short story panel; which kind of caught me off-guard because I don’t consider myself a master of the form–or even half-way decent at it. But I have published quite a few of them, and my goal is to publish more (which means writing more of them) and I figure with the terrific panelists, maybe I can pick up a thing or two from some of them.

We started watching another Spanish language show last night, High Seas (Alta Mar in Spanish), which is a murder mystery set on a luxury liner sometime in the 1940’s, traveling from Spain to Rio de Janeiro. It’s gorgeously shot, the period costumes and decor are first rate, as is the acting. We’re on episode 4 now; there have already been two murders and some mysterious shenanigans, including a fire, and yes, we are completely sucked into it. (We’re taking The Underground Railroad slowly, because it’s not really something to be binged, since it raises so many philosophical and societal questions; you kind of need to absorb each episode. It’s really one of the most literate series I’ve ever watched, in part because the visuals are so incredible and poetic; I think it’s one that needs to be rewatched as well because it’s almost too cerebral–yet compelling–to absorb all at once for someone of such diminished intellectual capabilities as me–it’s also making me want to revisit the novel)

And on that note, I am heading into today’s spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you later.

The World Turned Upside Down

So, Hamilton.

Amazing.

I mean, wow.

I can’t think of many musicals that when I finished watching, I was simply awestruck. Oh, sure, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin both always make me cry (the animated film versions, natch) and I’ve enjoyed some others, but as a general rule I kind of missed out on the gay musical gene. My general lack of interest in musicals, particularly stage ones, generally catches people off-guard; the stereotype, indeed, runs that deep. Some of my friends were stunned that I wasn’t an enormous Sondheim fan, for example. (They did turn me on to Company and Sunday in the Park with George, but while I recognize the ability and talent involved…I haven’t sought out others.) In some queer genetic DNA mix-up, I got the football gene instead of the musical theater one.

Hamilton, though. I mean.

Alexander Hamilton was always one of my favorite founding fathers. He literally came from nothing and nowhere to become one of the most important US historical figures of the Revolution and the creation of the country–the American monetary and financial system was his work. (It is definitely flawed, and has become much more so with the passage of time; unchecked corruption inevitably seeped in and exploited, and continues to exploit, those flaws, but it was still an enormous achievement.) He was killed in a duel, was the first Secretary of the Treasury, aide-de-camp to Washington during the war…truly remarkable. He was flawed, of course, as all the Fathers were. The development of the need for a mythology in which our founding fathers’ flaws were erased and they were raised to God-like stature over the centuries to come has inevitably clouded the necessary truths of history and papered those cracks over with lies and myth. The history I was taught, and read, as a child, was fictional.

I remember being excited when the Chernow biography was published to great fanfare and acclaim; I had a copy, but I don’t recall if I read it or not. That was during the cloudy times, and I am not sure where my copy of it is today else I was have spent most of the rest of yesterday rereading it. When the stage show debuted, to great acclaim and quickly became a national sensation, I was again happy, but couldn’t believe all the buzz and rapture I was hearing. I listened to the cast show recording and, while some of the songs were definitely catchy and memorable, it’s really an opera–and out of the context of the show itself…you literally have to listen to the entire thing to get it and appreciate it.

But watching the film yesterday was a revelatory. In context, with the visuals and seeing it all together–the lighting, the staging, the choreography, the performance, the costumes–it is truly a rousing masterpiece. I was moved to tears several times…and at the very end the number “Who Will Tell Your Story” reveals that the true hero of the show (and his life) was Eliza Hamilton, his wife. And what an extraordinary woman she was! She outlived her husband by fifty years, preserved his legacy, founded the first orphanage in New York City, and launched the drive to raise money for the Washington Memorial (with Dolley Madison and Louisa Adams), not to mention losing her oldest son as well in a duel–and the humiliation of the public exposure of her husband’s affair. The performance by Philippa Soo was exceptional (as was the young woman playing her sister, Angelica–and that number, “Satisfied,” with the rewind? Amazing).

My friend Pat Brady, a historian who wrote a biography of Martha Washington, always says that “women were the secret weapon of the American Revolution,” and she was right. Those American women of that time were just as exceptional as their men.

Was it historically accurate? Not completely, but not as inaccurate as offerings such as The Tudors, Reign, and The White Queen.

Now, I get the mania and the fandom. From the opening notes, I knew I was watching something different than anything I’d ever seen before. An excellent, highly talented cast; terrific staging and choreography…and an appealing story. There is nothing quite as American as the rags-to-riches story; because in our heart of hearts, we always think of ourselves being that underdog who is somehow going to take the world by storm and not miss our shot.

I’ll probably watch again at some point, but I am going to bask for now in the pleasant afterglow of seeing it for the first time.

Now I regret not seeing the original cast performing it live on stage. It must have been amazing to witness.

Honey Hi

The book is coming along nicely, if slowly, but I feel that this weekend (no college football) will be a MOST excellent time for me to get caught up on it. I am also making terrific progress on the revision of the short story, and I have another to revise on top of it, so my work–around errands and cleaning–this weekend is cut out for me indeed.

But as I always say, I’d rather be busy–and holiday weekends are coming, as well. I’ve done the majority of my Christmas shopping already; Paul is, as always, a challenge as he simply buys what he wants when he wants it, and he never really wants much in the first place.

We’ve started watching Ray Donovan on Showtime, and we’re enjoying it so far. I’ve always been fascinated by Hollywood ‘fixers’–albeit the ones in the days of the big studios–so it’s kind of interesting to see a fictional series about one in the present day.

I am almost finished reading Gore Vidal’s Empire; it’s slow going, as so much of Vidal’s work is (although I’d really love to reread Julian the Apostate again; and The City and the Pillar as well). It’s part of his fictional ‘American history’ series, which I’ve not read. Vidal was, as one of my co-workers said, the kind of American intellectual we will probably never see again in this country; I tried to think, and have been trying to think, of whom the current day American intellectuals are, without much success. I don’t know if that’s my failing, or that of our society; I don’t know who the current day equivalent of Vidal or William F. Buckley Jr. would be. Vidal was incredibly intelligent, but there was also a sneering, condescending superiority to him that I never particularly cared for (Buckley was much the same); a sense that “if you don’t agree with me you are clearly mentally inferior.” No one likes to be told they’re stupid or not as smart as someone else; that puts me off even when it’s someone I agree with. Vidal had a deeply cynical view of American history and of the country itself; I’ve not read his essays on American history and politics so I am not sure if that cynical contempt was of the country or how it mythologized its past and the hand-over-heart patriotism it promotes; the concept of American exceptionalism, which does bear much deeper scrutiny than it gets as a general rule. I do know that he was fascinated by Aaron Burr (his fictional biography, Burr, was the first book in his series about American history) and felt he was an unappreciated American hero unjustly vilified by his enemies, whose view of him has come down to us through the centuries.

I’ve actually never read Burr, or any biographies of him; what I know of Burr has primarily come from reading biographies of his political enemies (Hamilton and Jefferson) or histories of the period that are slanted towards his enemies; it only stands to reason if Hamilton and Jefferson are to be heroes, than their enemies must therefore be villains. Yet Hamilton and Jefferson were political enemies; throw John Adams into the mix and you have quite a confusing mishmash of who is the bad guy/who is the good guy. The truth, of course, is they were human and a mix of both the good and the bad, despite the mythology.

Heavy thoughts for a Friday morning; and not where I really wanted my blog entry this morning to go.

Then again, I’m listening to the Hamilton cast show album, and Burr is mentioned periodically in Empire, so perhaps there was an inevitability to this, after all.

(And now, of course, I want to reread both The Federalist Papers and The Anti-Federalist Papers, damn you, Hamilton cast show recording!)

All right, perhaps it’s time to return to the Spice Mines.

Here’s today’s hunk: