I’ve Been…

  • Getting book recommendations with Whichbook. It’s great. Set the sliders according to your mood and get book recs.

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  • Loving 36 Questions, a new musical written as a podcast. It’s about a married couple in crisis that uses the 36 Questions, an exercise introduced in a NY Times Modern Love essay  that’s supposed to allow strangers to fall in love by asking and answering intimate questions.  The 36 questions were also featured on an episode of The Big Bang Theory.  In the musical podcast we meet a man and a woman who have been married two years, when the man learns that his wife has been lying about her identity the entire time. To save their marriage she insists on doing the 36 questions so that he can get to know the real her. It was written, directed and composed by Chris Littler and Ellen Winter. It stars Jonathan Groff and Jessie Shelton. If you listen to the podcast and like the songs, you can buy the music from each episode.
  • Also loving Modern Love. It’s a weekly column in the NY Times. Each column features a true love story. Some are happy some aren’t. Some are romantic, and some explore other kinds of love. There’s also a podcast where actors (Debra Winger, Minnie Driver, Emmy Rossum, Laura Dern, Kristin Chenoweth,  Colin Farrell, Michael Shannon, and many others) read the columns.
  • Binge watching Grantchester. Why is murder so much more palatable when it takes place in a small English town 50-60 years ago, and is solved by member of the clergy?
  • Putting some finishing touches on my Beautiful manuscript, and trying to put together a released day and launch plan (stay tuned!)
  • Shocked at how the summer is flying by….

25 Random Things About Me

  1. I’m a night owl. I get so much more done in the few hours before I go to bed than I do in the few hours after I wake up.
  2. I’m incapable of using matches properly. I always think the flame will travel down the match and burn my hands. Or I can’t strike the match the right way.  It just doesn’t work for me.
  3. I’m a city girl. That’s not to say I don’t like the country. I do. But I’d rather live in the city. I love the energy. The vibrancy. I love the sense of shared space, which is great for people watching. I love being able to use public transportation and not needing a car (I hate driving!).
  4. I hate my birthday. I don’t hate the date itself. I hate the fact that it seems to come every year, and each time I get a year older. I started feeling this way when I was around ten. I noticed that I was thrust into the double digits without being ready for it. Then a few years later, I was a teenager, even though I never agreed to it. I’ve made my peace with the whole getting older thing, because I dislike the alternative. But the birthday is a reminder that I don’t need. I’ll take the cake and presents though!
  5. I like background noise when I work. When I work on anything really. Music works alright, but I find TV works better. I’ve found that writing with old sitcom reruns in the background is fairly productive. I’ve read a million articles saying that I should set up a quiet, comfortable work space for writing. But I can’t get anything done like that.
  6. I used to be able to recite the movie Clueless by heart. For some reason this seemed pretty cool when I was a kid.
  7. I hate to cook. But I love to eat. Yeah, that’s a problem. I always wished I was one of those people who loved cooking and made everything from scratch. But it’s not me. I’m the person who orders take out.
  8. I love tea. Hot tea. Iced tea. Tea makes everything just a little bit better.
  9. When I’m reading a large book, I always have a smaller book that can carry around in my purse and so I have something to read on public transportation or in waiting rooms.
  10. I don’t wear make up on a daily basis. I’m not naturally beautiful, just naturally lazy. I’d rather get an extra ten minutes sleep in the morning that spend that time putting on make up.
  11. I’m not superstitious, but I like to knock on wood anyway after I say something. Just in case.
  12. I love opera. If I had to pick a favorite I’d probably say it was “La Traviata“.
  13. When I was in sixth grade I wrote an essay comparing Pygmalion, My Fair Lady, and Pretty Woman.
  14. The first author I ever met was Amy Hest. She did a signing at the library when I was a kid. I remember her holding the book that she’d written, and trying to imagine what it would be like to hold a real book that I’d written.
  15. I never went to my high school prom. My classmates told me I’d regret it for the rest of my life. Pretty in Pink told me I’d regret it for the rest of my life. Never Been Kissed warned the same thing. I don’t regret it yet.
  16. Winter is my favorite season. I love being cuddled up indoors with a good book and hot beverage while it’s cold outside.
  17. I love to take naps.
  18. My hair has never been colored, dyed, or highlighted in any way.
  19. I also don’t own a hair drier. I let it dry on it’s own.
  20. I used to act in plays when I was younger. My stage credits include local, school and summer camp productions of Annie, Oliver, The Wizard of Oz, Free to Be… You and Me, and You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown (I am not featured in any of the films  linked). I was never very good! I stopped around college when started to  get more into writing. I don’t like reality much. All of my creative pursuits seem to confirm that!
  21. I am absolutely incapable of painting my nails properly. I can do my left hand OK, but my right hand always turns out to be such a mess that I give up and remove the polish.
  22. I’m really bad at telling my right from my left. Luckily I has a small mole on my right hand or I’d never be able to tell them apart!
  23. I don’t like condiments on my food. Ketchup, mustard, mayo… no thanks to any of it!
  24. I legitimately worry about fictional characters
  25. As a writer I’ve very much a “pantser”. As in I write by the seat of my pants. It’s the only thing I do in life that isn’t carefully planned in advance!

And now you know probably more than you ever wanted to about me! Tell me some random facts about you!

On Anne With An “E”: My Review

Full disclosure: I’ve loved Anne of Green Gables since I was a third grader who first read the book. I wanted to be Anne. I toyed with naming my house but calling myself “Fran of Split Level Ranch” or “Fran of White Walls” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. And “Fran” just isn’t a name that can work with an “e”…  I saw the 1985 miniseries on video (remember VHS?) and loved it. So for over two decades I’ve pictured Anne as Megan Fellows. I had such a crush on Johnathan Crombie as Gilbert Blythe. When I heard that Netflix was adapting LM Montgomery’s novel, I was a bit apprehensive. But I was still hopeful. I waited until I had some time to really settle in with the show before I watched and formed and opinion. Now I’ve done that.

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The Netflix series, which has inexplicably renamed Anne of Green Gables “Anne with an ‘E'”, didn’t quite reach the level of the Kevin Sullivan miniseries with their adaptation, but I wouldn’t call this  adaptation wholly unsuccessful. That’s largely because the strong performance of Amybeth McNulty in the lead. She’s able to carry the series and bring it all together. We also get strong work from Geraldine James and RH Thomson, as Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. That goes a long way toward rescuing the series from its follies.

But there seemed to be an insistence on making the series dark and gritty. This compromises it as an adaptation. In the original novel, and other adaptations we don’t really learn much about Anne Shirley’s life prior to her arrival at Green Gables. We know the broad strokes: she was orphaned as a baby, she worked taking care of the Hammond family, and she lived in an orphanage. If we look at the things that happened to young orphans at the beginning of the twentieth century, it’s likely that Anne would have encountered cruelty or abuse at some point in her early life. And given what we know about the nature of childhood trauma, it makes sense that she’d be affected by it. But Anne, as a character, is by nature cheerful and optimistic. Even when in “the depths of despair” she’s always hopeful that her fortunes will change. This worldview is what endears her to the inhabitants of Avonlea.

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While the Anne of this series is more hesitant to trust, she’s still generally what one would call hopeful. But the show itself seems to revel in the bleakness of her past. Before we even meet Anne, we see her being berated and abused via flashback by Mrs. Hammond. We’re treated to several more of these,  in just the first episode. We also see the chaotic, harsh orphanage that she came from.

In the book, Anne’s unconventional outlook occasionally causes difficulty in social interactions. However, her lively imagination, and sunny disposition make her generally popular. In this series’ Avonlea, Anne must deal with bullying from her classmates, and sneering from their parents.  When Anne suffers, we often see a scene that’s gorgeously shot, with the camera lingering on Anne’s panic.  In a way that undermines what makes Anne appealing. Her romantic imagination and optimistic open heart are not only character traits, but survival mechanisms. That interplay can have tension and nuance. But here that’s all drowned out by melodrama.

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Anne was always a sort of proto-feminist. She was smart, and (perhaps by necessity) independent. But here she’s a bit too on the nose. She never misses an opportunity to preach gender equality.  We see Anne get her first period and argue that there should be no shame associated with menstruation. We see her attempt to decide whether to be a wife or to be her “own woman.”  While I agree with Anne’s opinions on these issues, her saying these things makes her seem more at home in the twenty first century than in the beginning of the twentieth.

But my biggest complaint is that character development and nuance are abandoned in favor of  manufactured drama. When Anne is bullied at school she refuses to go. A minister talks to her and tells her that she shouldn’t have to go because it’s more important that she stays home and learns to be a good wife. That might not have been intended as reverse psychology, but it works that way. The problem is that it doesn’t serve much dramatic purpose. It puts an obstacle in Anne’s way (the minister’s disapproval) that doesn’t need to be there. Anne’s own stubborn pride already serves as an obstacle.

We are treated to scenes where Anne save a house on fire. Literally. She runs through, closing the doors and windows, thereby depriving it of oxygen. The combination of foolhardy heroics and quick thinking makes Anne come off as more of a superhero than a bright, awkward, thirteen year old, figuring life out as she goes along.

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Another mistake is made when Gilbert Blythe’s father is killed off. So Gilbert and Anne bond over both being orphans. This was a big sin. In the book, and other adaptations, Anne matures beyond holding a grudge against Gilbert on the basis of childhood teasing. Instead of trusting the character development to accomplish that,  the series invented events to push the relationship.

Anne of Green Gables has endured for over a century because different generations can find things to like about a heroine who is proud, complicated, and good hearted. She’s not just one thing. She’s got different, sometimes contradictory impulses at different points. Seeing these various aspects of her personality play out against the simple life at Green Gables is fun, funny, and poignant. Instead of trusting that complexity and development, this series felt the need to impose a grim tone and sensational events.

I was invested in the show as I watched it. It was enjoyable. Some favorite moments were still there (Anne breaking the slate over Gilbert’s head, the raspberry cordial, Anne saving Minnie May, the dress with puff sleeves). But it wasn’t the Anne of Green Gables that I love.

I’ve Been…

  • Published in Toasted Cheese Literary Journal. Click the link to read my flash fiction, “Following the Ghost”
  • Writing, writing, writing… and slightly less fun editing, editing, editing….
  • Reading pretty much everything written on Girls at Library. It’s a great site that features books and recommendations from women of all different ages and walks of life. It’s great to get a peak into someone else’s reading habits!
  • Kind of loving the celebrity book club trend. I know a lot of people sort of roll their eyes  at them, but I’ve interested in what people from all walks of life have to say about books. If Emma Roberts, Emma Watson, Florence Welch, and Reese Witherspoon want to share what they’ve been reading, then great! They have a unique perspective that I’m sure informs their ideas and opinions about books. And if it inspires fans to check out some of those books, that’s even better. On a possibly related topic I’ve been wondering why it seems like only female celebs are embracing the book club trend…
  • Embracing all the free workouts you can find online. Cocolime Fitness is an amazing resource for people with chronic pain and fatigue issues. Jessica Smith TV also has great workouts for people of all fitness levels. Why would anyone pay for gym membership?
  • Thinking about joining bookstagram. Stay tuned…
  • Becoming hopelessly addicted to Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Apparently it’s a book series too. It’s going on my TBR right away. Definitely recommended for lovers of period drama, the 1920’s, and mystery with touches of humor.
  • Loving summer vacation as a teacher, just as much as I did as a student!

“although we cannot be together, we will never, ever be apart…” TV’s Beauty and the Beast 1987-1990

Yes, I know that this series was remade, in 2012.

But the remake really only had characters with the same names.

I watched the original show with my babysitter as a kid. I must have only been about 3 or 4 , and I remember being a bit scared of some of the crime focused story lines, but I was also fascinated. It was the first time I realized that fantasy and fairy tales had adult appeal.

Many years later, when the show was released on DVD, I decided to check it out. I was a bit nervous. After all, what’s fascinating, and groundbreaking to a 4 year old, won’t always been thrilling to a twenty-something! But I discovered that the show was a sweet, delicate hybrid of fantasy, romance and crime drama. Yes, there’s some 80’s cheesiness, but that’s part of the charm.

The show follows Catherine, a privileged NYC lawyer, who works for her father’s firm. She has everything she wants but isn’t quite happy. One night, she leaves a party early, and is mugged. Her face is slashed with a knife, and she’s left for dead on the city streets.

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She awakens in a strange place, under the care of a doctor called “Father” and a mysterious man-beast called Vincent.  Father and Vincent live in the Tunnels, with a community of misfits. They live in abandoned subway, railroad, and flood tunnels, below the city streets. Father found Vincent, abandoned as a baby,  and brought him to the Tunnels to raise him, knowing that he’d be a target for persecution if anyone Above were to see him. Vincent discovered the injured Catherine, and brought her to the Tunnels, so that Father could give her the medical treatment she needed. Catherine swears that she’ll keep their underground world a secret. Vincent and Catherine bond during her time recovering in the Tunnels, but then it is time for her to return to her real life.catherine-and-vincent-beauty-and-the-beast-tv-show-31800345-500-333

 

When she goes back Above, Catherine makes some changes to her life. She takes self defense classes so that she won’t ever be in such a helpless position again. She also quits her father’s law firm and gets a job as an Assistant District Attorney, where she feels that she can work on behalf of people who have been exploited, oppressed, and victimized. But she maintains an empathetic bond with Vincent. He visits her at night, when the risk of him being seen is less likely. They work together on her cases, and a romance emerges.

Over the first two seasons we see Catherine struggle with having a lover who she can’t go anywhere with, can’t introduce to family and friends. We also get to know the inhabitants of the Tunnels and their backstories and get some occasional hints as to Vincent’s origins.

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Unlike the reboot, Vincent in this series is a beast all the time. And in a twist from the original tale, Vincent never transforms into a socially acceptable idea of “beauty”. Rather, his inner beauty is clear from the beginning. He is a kind, compassionate person, who loves books, poetry, and classical music. Catherine undergoes more of a transformation when Vincent comes into her life. She begins to live more selflessly, and to fight for the things that she believes in.

The show was written and produced by George RR Martin, before he wrote the Song of Ice and Fire series. I recommend it to fairy tale fans looking for a fairy tale inspired TV show that is lovely, unique, gentle, and exciting.

You can find the show on DVD

The series has also developed a cult following since it initially aired. So there’s a 25th Anniversary Beauty and the Beast Companion, there’s also a graphic novel, novelization of several episodes. On the show, Vincent frequently reads and recites poetry to Catherine, and the soundtrack features Ron Perlman (who won a Golden Globe for playing Vincent) reading several Shakespeare sonnets, as well as poems by Lord Byron, Wordsworth, Rilke, Shelly, and more. There’s also a follow up soundtrack with additional music from the series.

Just a viewing suggestion that I’m putting below a cut because it includes HUGE spoilers:

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