Wonderland

I see it’s time for all of the “end of the year” lists, from the best of’s to the worst of’s, and literally, I had to scroll back through my blog to find my “favorite” short story of the year to reply to a tweet in order to enter a giveaway–and it was such a confounding year that I just posted the first one I came to, whether it was the best or not–“The Day I Died” by Cornell Woolrich, and immediately after I hit send, I thought, “that wasn’t even my favorite Woolrich story I read last year; that was ‘It Had to Be Murder’ (filmed as Rear Window)”. But that’s indicative of the kind of year this 2020 has been, not just for me but for others: I can’t remember shit. I can’t remember what I read and when I read it; was the Diversity Project this year or last? When did I started the Reread Project? And the Short Story Project certainly didn’t het much traction here on the blog this past year. This year now blends with other years in my memory, and I am not sure when I read things or what I liked or what movies I watched or television shows I enjoyed–and there were a lot; but was this year the year we started watching foreign language shows like Elite and Dark? I know I watched a lot of films for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival–still have a lot to go on that, for that matter–but as for reading….I know I read some books this past year, and I know I started the Reread Project–not just to revisit books I’d enjoyed, but to get back into reading because the pandemic shutdown–and the basic state of the world in chaos–made it hard for me to focus.

Even more maddening, the lack of focus also hurt my writing schedule (which really needed no assistance–I can not write all by myself without assistance from outside influences, thank you very much), and I cannot keep track or remember what I wrote and what I sold and so forth. I know I wrote my first ever Sherlock Holmes pastiche this past year, and it will be out in the new year–“The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy” (and I am so glad to finally get that title used; although, in fairness, the title I had lying around forever was The Purloined Stripper; I was originally thinking to parody Poe titles with the Chanse series, hence Murder in the Rue Dauphine. But the publisher (Alyson Books) wanted to brand them with the Murder in the titles, and once I made Scotty a stripper and wrote about him, I revised the plot and made Chanse’s boyfriend a former gay-interest video wrestler and that book became Murder in the Rue St. Ann instead)–and I also sold some other stories, like “The Snow Globe” and “Night Follows Night”–but it also seems like I sold more stories than that? I think this was the year “The Silky Veils of Ardor” came out in Josh Pachter’s The Beat of Black Wings, and of course “The Carriage House” came out in Mystery Tribune this year. Was this also the year of “The Dreadful Scott Decision” and The Faking of the President? I think that may be the case.

I do know I spent most of the year trying to get Bury Me in Shadows finished and ready to go–it’s still not completely finished–and I also started researching Chlorine. I kind of am feeling a bit discombobulated lately–no idea what day it is; I really had to stop and think this morning before recognizing that it’s actually Sunday. Crazy, right? I went shopping yesterday to make groceries and get the mail and air up the car tires again–the ‘tires are out of balance’ light came on the other day, which means they are low in air–and then I came home. I spent some time trying to locate my copy of Otto Friedrich’s City of Nets, which I may have read already and donated; the library also didn’t have it, so rather than going through the storage space I ordered the ebook, which was only $7.99. I spent some time with it yesterday reading it–it’s a period that always fascinates me; my interest in Hollywood begins to die out in the 1980’s, and beyond 1990 my interest wanes considerably.

Last night we watched two movies: 1917 and Bombshell, neither of which proved to be very involving. Both movies were very well done, but…I really didn’t feel any emotional involvement with either. Bombshell was probably the more interesting of the two–primarily anchored by Charlize Theron’s terrifyingly spot-on performance as Megyn Kelly, which really dominated the film, and I’m glad there’s a film sort of documenting the crazy goings-on at Fox before the 2016 election; in all honesty I’d pretty much forgotten many of the pertinent details about Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly’s departures from Fox News, but once the movie had finished all I really thought–I’m a really terrible person, I admit it–was that while the working environment at Fox was indeed terrible for women….it also wasn’t a big surprise to me? Why would anyone think that a network that was so definitively anti-women would be a nurturing environment for women? But as we saw with the “#metoo” movement…men have been abusing their power and victimizing women over whom they have power–whether real or perceived–since the beginning of time, and that cuts across the political divide. And while there was some reckoning, there wasn’t nearly enough–and I am sure it is still going on in companies and businesses and corporations today.

But again, Charlize Theron was eerily perfect as Megyn Kelly; I’m sure Kelly didn’t care for it, and she has since proven that she’s still a garbage human being despite everything that happened and everything she experienced; she’s still anti-feminist, still homophobic, still racist—now she just spews her bile on Twitter instead of in front of a camera. Same with Gretchen Carlson–and I am willing to bet that both of them learned nothing from their own experience and still question women bringing charges against men.

I know that S. A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland was one of the best books I read last year, along with The Coyotes of Carthage. Elizabeth Little’s Pretty As a Picture was also a favorite. I think this year included my first-ever read of Mary Stewart’s Thunder on the Right (is there a more hard-boiled, noir setting than a convent in the Pyrenees?), and I also enjoyed Daphne du Maurier’s The Scapegoat (although I recently read a review which suggested the book would have been much more interesting as told by the other doppelganger’s point of view, which is a very interesting suggestion). I know I reread several of Stewart’s books, including Airs Above the Ground, The Moon-spinners, and This Rough Magic, and in the case of the latter two, I remembered so little of them from my original read it was like reading something new. I also read a lot of histories of New Orleans and Louisiana, which was a lot of fun as well–and of course, my Chlorine research led me to reading some gay Hollywood histories–as well as some basic Hollywood histories. I know I also greatly enjoyed Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths.

Highlights of my television viewing have to include at the very top two of the best comedies ever done on television, Schitt’s Creek and Ted Lasso. Both shows were both funny and tender and heartwarming, and one of the great pleasures of 2020 has been watching other people discover how magic and wonderful both shows are. Paul and I also got into foreign language television at long last, thoroughly enjoying shows like Dark Desire, The Club, White Lines, and several others, but two of the best were Elite (from Spain) and Dark (from Germany), but Babylon Berlin was probably my favorite watch of the year. We also thoroughly enjoyed The Morning Show, Little Fires Everywhere (the book was also pretty spectacular), and of course, The Mandalorian. I also would be remiss without shout-outs to two of my favorite trashy binge-watches, Outer Banks and Tiny Pretty Things. Ozark continues to be terrific, as was the second season of Castle Rock and HBO’s The Outsider. We also saw Mr. Mercedes‘s first season on Peacock, and liked it a lot as well.

I still miss Game of Thrones, disappointing final season notwithstanding.

As for movies….I spent most of my time with my Cynical 70’s Film Festival, which included some rewatches (Cabaret, which I love more every time I see it) as well as first time watches of films like The Candidate, The Parallax View, Three Days of the Condor, The French Connection, and Chinatown; all of which served as an interesting re-education into the decade that was the 1970s, and probably one of the more formative decades of my life. There are still some 70’s films I need to see for this–I really want to rewatch The Last Picture Show, which I’ve not seen in years, as well as The Sting, What’s Up Doc, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, A Woman Under the Influence, Starting Over, An Unmarried Woman, Saturday Night Fever, and so many others. It was such an interesting decade for film…but of the rewatched films, the ones I have always loved–Don’t Look Now, Cabaret, Chinatown–I appreciated even more than I have on previous watches, if that makes any sense. Of the ones I hadn’t seen before, I think my favorite would have to be The Conversation, which was simply brilliant, and a perfect illustration of what the 1970’s were really about on many different levels.

There are a lot of books coming out in the new year that I am excited for; new novels from Alison Gaylin and Laura Lippman and Megan Abbott at the top of the list, of course, and so many others! There’s never enough time to read everything I want to read or watch everything I want to watch, let alone write everything I want to write….which sounds like an excellent place to wrap this up and head back into the spice mines.

Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy

And just like that, Gregalicious is fifty-eight. I’ve been saying I’m fifty-eight, of course, since the new year began–I’m contrarian that way–just like in 2020 I’ll start saying I’m fifty-nine. Sixty is approaching, looming over the horizon. Who would have ever thought I’d make it this far?

Certainly not me.

Yesterday was a complete bust for the most part. Sunday night my insomnia returned, and it was also my night off from taking anything prescription, so I spent the evening lying in bed with my eyes closed, sometimes drifting off but never too deeply. I was also hungry–my toothache returned over the weekend, making chewing incredibly difficult, and so as a result of being hungry, was so drained and tired yesterday I even took a two-hour nap in the afternoon. It helped, but not that much–so I made meatballs for dinner. Ironically, by the time the meatballs were ready to eat in the slow cooker, the toothache had somewhat gone away, so I was able to eat a bowl of meatballs over wild rice (it was delicious) and having some food in my stomach made all the difference. We watched two more episodes of Mindhunter (the guy playing Manson is amazing), which were terrific–I love how they are dealing with Dr. Carr’s lesbianism, and how she has to stay deep in the closet at work, as well as having to deal with the unwanted attentions of predatory men.

I did spend some time savoring Laura Lippman’s Lady in the Lake, which I am going to spend some more time with this morning. It’s so well-done, really, as all of her books are, and I like that I am taking the time to enjoy it, resisting the urge to rush through to the end. I love that her main character isn’t necessarily the most likable protagonist…it’s very layered and textured.

I also finished reading Otto Friedrich’s City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940’s yesterday afternoon; I love reading books about old Hollywood and the way things used to be. The 1940’s were the last full decade of the studio system, and it was also the decade when, obviously, World War II swept away the last vestiges of the old world and gave rise to a new one, from the ashes. Chlorine is most likely going to be set in the early 1950’s, but as much as I think I know about the history of Hollywood, what I don’t know is voluminous.

I also worked on an essay briefly yesterday; completing the first draft, which is more of an abstract. I’ll need to expand on it more before I turn it in, but I write essays differently than the way I write fiction–which probably makes little to no sense to anyone besides me. But I always want to make sure that the points I want to make have come across in the piece–so I have to do that sketchy outline/abstract thing first, and then I can look at it and see where to move things around and what order they should go in and once I do that, I can start expanding on those thoughts more.

It works for me, what can I say?

Today I am going to take it easy and relax. I have to return to the office tomorrow–but at least I only have three days to work this week, two of which are half-days–and so, for my birthday, I think I’m just going to spend most of the day reading, relaxing, and organizing. I might reread Bury Me in Shadows, which will hopefully get me back into writing it (only three chapters to go! SERIOUSLY), or I might just take today as a day off. There’s a little voice in the back of my head shrieking at me you didn’t do anything yesterday so you need to make up for it today but I suspect I shall have very little trouble ignoring that voice today. Maybe I’ll stream Strangers on a Train today; it’s on Netflix, I think, and it’s been quite a while since I’ve watched the movie. I also have to run get the mail today–some packages were delivered–and Paul is going to bring Chinese food home for dinner tonight (I do love me some shrimp lo-mein), but other than that? Maybe some organizing–I enjoy doing that–and even maybe some writing, I have a short story due in a couple of months, and I think I’m going to do it in epistolary form; so I’ve been reading letters from the time period to get a better grasp on how people wrote letters during that time period. It may be entirely too ambitious of a story for me, but I guess I won’t know that until I start writing it.

And on that note, I am going to go curl up in my easy chair with a purring kitty and Laura Lippman’s book. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

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