You Don’t Love Me Anymore

Sunday morning, and with no Saints game today I have no excuse not to get a lot done today. It’s chilly this morning and gray outside; we still have rain in the forecast but it’s calm and quiet out there right now; perhaps the calm before the storm? Ugh, such a tired cliche–but it’s fine with me.

Yesterday I got a lot of chores done–very little writing, but the chores were necessary and of course, being the Master Procrastinator that I am; I have to have a clean apartment–or at least one that’s been straightened up some–in order to have a clear conscience enough to get work done. I now have no excuses to not get everything done that I need to get done today–but we’ll see how that goes; there’s always something.

I read another Holmes story yesterday–“The Musgrave Ritual”–which I couldn’t remember the plot of, other than remembering that it was one of my favorite Holmes stories. Like “The Gloria Scott“, it’s a “let me tell you a story” story; I really don’t remember the Holmes stories being like this, of course, but it’s something to think about as I prepare to write my own pastiche. It’s a style of writing/story-telling I’m not so certain I want to try, but then again–the entire point of me writing a Holmes story is to push myself as a writer and get better overall, so perhaps…perhaps I should try it that way and see how it goes. Anyway, as I reread it, I remembered why I liked it so much; it’s a treasure hunt story, and I absolutely love treasure hunts. At least two Scotty books–Jackson Square Jazz and Vieux Carre Voodoo, are treasure hunts.

I also rewatched the original film version of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, 1963’s The Haunting, directed by multiple Oscar winner Robert Wise, and starring Julie Harris as Nell. I saw this movie long before I even knew there was a book, let alone read it; my grandmother loved old black and white movies, and she especially loved crime and horror–probably where I get it from, and she also introduced me to the novels of Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Ellery Queen, and Erle Stanley Gardner. I was very young and the film absolutely terrified me–to this day, even remembering the scene with the door expanding and contracting unsettles me. I was, of course, quite delighted as a teenager to discover it was actually a novel (I had read Richard Matheson’s Hell House, with it’s similarities to The Haunting, year earlier and wondered if he’d gotten the idea for the book from the movie), and it quickly became one of my favorite novels of all time; in fact, I believe it was Stephen King who introduced me to the novel, because the opening paragraph was an epigram to ‘salem’s Lot. But I hadn’t watched the film in years; I’d watched the horrible 1999 remake, and of course the Netflix series loosely based on the book (I do recommend the series, it’s fantastic, once you get back the fact that it’s not a faithful adaptation but kind of fan-fiction; it didn’t even have to be Hill House for the story to work, but that’s a subject for a different blog. I do recommend it, though). Julie Harris is perfectly cast as Nell, and Claire Bloom does an excellent job as Theo. There are differences between the book and the film; why they changed Dr. Montague’s name to Dr. Markway is a mystery, and the later third of the film, after his wife arrives, is vastly different from the later third of the novel, and her character is completely changed; the young man who escorts her to Hill House is also excised from the movie. But the way the film is shot–the use of light and shadow, the up angles of the camera, and the ever-so creepy claustrophobia of the enclosed house–is absolutely terrifying, and you never see what is actually haunting the house. That was the singular brilliance of the book, and Wise kept that for his film (the execrable 1999 remake went completely over the top with CGI effects and so forth; ruining the necessary intimacy of the story). I still think of it as one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen, and on a rewatch–the way you hear Nell’s thoughts, whispered, while Julie Harris’ eyes dart around–adds to the intimacy. I think that interior intimacy is a large factor in why the book is so fantastic, and why both book and original film work so well. The Netflix series does show the ghosts of Hill House, but it’s also done in a very subtle, unsettling way, which is why I think I liked it so much.

I also was thinking about rewatching Anthony Minghella’s film adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley, but decided to hold off until I finish the reread of the book–which I am still in the midst of–I want to finish it before my trip this week, because I want to take two different books with me to read.

I did finish my reread of Kirkland Revels by Victoria Holt, which was much better than I remembered, with it’s haunted monastery and ghostly monk haunting the big manor house. It’s also a terrific novel about paranoia and gaslighting; the ultimate evil scheme behind everything hinges on the heroine of the story being eventually committed to an insane asylum, and hopefully miscarrying her child, or it being born dead as a result of the confinement. Holt novels often hinged on the possibility of insanity being genetic–if the mother is insane, her child most likely will be as well–and this horror, which was probably very real in the nineteenth century, makes this book terribly unsettling. The main character, Catherine, is very strong-willed and intelligent, but she marries a man without meeting any of his family, moves into the family estate (Kirkland Revels), and then he dies in a fall from a balcony, and she returns to her father’s house; only to have to return to Kirkland Revels when she discovers she is pregnant. The combination of vulnerable and pregnant heroine being gaslit into believing she is insane was pretty unsettling to me when I originally read the novel; which is probably why it’s one of the few Holts I never took down from the shelf on a rainy afternoon and reread. Rereading it, thought, makes me appreciate the mastery apparent in Holt’s writing. She never again wrote another novel with a pregnant heroine–while some of her later novels did involve pregnancies and/or motherhood (On the Night of the Seventh Moon, The House of a Thousand Lanterns) the mystery, and the plot against the heroine, never occurred during the pregnancy. Romantic suspense, and its twin sister, domestic suspense, were a kind of “women’s noir,” in that the stories always focused on what were seen as the biggest fears for women–marrying the wrong man, danger to her child, not being able to trust your husband–were the recurring thread through all of them.

I also did manage to get some work done on the new project yesterday, which was lovely and my goal for the day. Not as much as I would like–I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t fail to achieve everything in a day that I wanted to–but enough to be satisfactory. I also came up with an idea for another Scotty, one that takes place down in the bayou–Cajun Country Cavaille–but whether I’ll write it or not remains to be seen. But I’d like to address the loss of the Louisiana wetlands at some point in print, and writing about a (probably fictional) version of Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes is probably the best way to do that; I just don’t have a murder mystery to hang the story on. My interest in the Scotty (and possible resurrection of the Chanse) series is expanding outward from New Orleans to the rest of Louisiana; I’ve come to realize that not only do I love New Orleans but I also love Louisiana, frustrating and irritating as that love can be sometimes. Louisiana is so beautiful…I also want to write about the Atchafalaya basin sometime, too, and of course let’s not forget the infamous Bayou Corne sinkhole no one talks about anymore…and of course there’s Cancer Alley along the river between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, which is also begging to be written about.

And on that note, perhaps it’s time for me to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

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Do You Know You Are My Sunshine

Monday morning, and the first full work week of the new year, and the first in over two weeks. It looms large, doesn’t it? Particularly in the enormous disappointment the Saints served up yesterday–outside of sexy Taysom Hill, who looks amazing in those all-white color block uniforms. This was probably the most ambivalent I’ve been about the Saints since before we moved here and become full time Who Dats; I’m not going to rehash any of the preseason stuff about Drew Brees, but yeah–it just never felt the same this year. Hopefully next year I’ll move past it.

At least I have my Sundays back from now on.

Plus, it’s Twelfth Night and the official opening of Carnival. I get to eat king cake now; I bought one on Friday so I could have it with my coffee this morning. Huzzah for king cake!

Overall, I had a very productive weekend, and this is pleasing to mine eyes. I didn’t read much on the Reread Project–although technically reading these Holmes stories is a part of it, I suppose; but I don’t remember much of them from my junior high school days so it’s kind of like reading something new, so I am not counting them as part of the Reread Project.

I read another Sherlock Holmes story yesterday; “The Gloria Scott,” in Baring-Gould’s Annotated Sherlock Holmes. Like the Lyndsay Faye pastiche I read on Saturday, this story is almost entirely told in dialogue; only this time, it is Holmes recounting the story to Watson; which is interesting; odd that two stories I’ve read back to back are told in similar fashion. I doubt very seriously that my Holmes story will be told that way; but I also haven’t written it yet so who knows? I did start writing it yesterday, however; which is a lovely start. I also revised two more chapters of Bury Me in Shadows, and I also got vaguely started on my website writing. I came up with another story idea, “Just Another Night on Bourbon Street,” which was inspired by my reading further in Bourbon Street by Richard Campanella; we’re now up to the arrival of the Mafia in New Orleans. I don’t know much about the Mafia in New Orleans or organized crime; I do know the mob used to own the gay bars in the Quarter, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of then are still used to launder money.

I don’t know that, I just said it wouldn’t surprise me. Particularly when you see how empty most of them are most of the week,

The sun is rising through the trees–I love how it seems like the sun rises over the West Bank, which is actually due south from the Lost Apartment–another one of the geographic nonsensities created here by the twists and turns of the river.

We watched the Golden Globes last night, which was really kind of a waste of time. Paul and I have gradually grown tired of, and bored by, awards shows. We haven’t really stopped watching many of them, we just don’t really get excited about them anymore. The Globes are more fun than the Oscars, because anything can happen there and there’s no real way of predicting who’s going to win–I would have thought, for example, Eddie Murphy was a long-overdue lock, yet the winner was Taron Edgerton for playing Elton John in Rocketman; I don’t think it means he’ll win an Oscar or even be nominated–but after Joaquin Phoenix’ bizarre acceptance speech, I’m not so sure he’s such a lock on the Oscar either. But that’s really about it; that and Renee Zellweger’s also weirdly awkward and slightly embarrassing acceptance speech were the uncomfortable moments of the evening. But it was nice to see 1917 get some attention; I love that one of the main characters is played by the kid who played Tommen on Game of Thrones, and that’s a film Paul and I actually want to see.

And now, back to the spice mines. Have a lovely post-holiday Monday, everyone.

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