First, something completely joyous! On Friday evening I made the spur of the moment decision to go see Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle In Time by myself at 10 pm and let me tell you — I strongly recommend ALL OF THOSE THINGS. First of all, seeing a children’s movie at 10pm almost certainly means that you’ll have the ENTIRE theater to yourself. Second of all…WOW. A Wrinkle In Time has been one of my favorite books–and Madeleine L’Engle one of my favorite authors–since 3rd grade and DuVernay et al. absolutely knocked it out of the damn park. I don’t even want to give the caveat of “well it was different from the book in a few ways…” because OF COURSE IT WAS. But the important thing is that DuVernay and her team fundamentally GOT what made the story special and did a beautiful job with the adaptation I truly believe they were CALLED to make. I laughed. I cried. I blushed in the general direction of Chris Pine.
Watch this trailer and rejoice, and then go see the movie and also rejoice.
Now on to contemporary short stories, a play, a classic, and children’s lit! Whoa!
Her Body and Other Parties — Carmen Maria Machado
Peeps. Short stories astound and intimidate me. The ability to create and compose entire, rich worlds and characters in approximately 30 pages is just…I don’t understand it. It’s amazing. Case in point: these stories. Machado’s collection is also lyrically stunning and unabashedly focused on female experiences of desire, violence, fear, and love. Just gorgeous. “Eight Bites” WRECKED me. (It’s also published here and if you love it as I did…I have good news for you about the rest of the book!)
Salomé — Oscar Wilde
what the hell was that
Yeah so that was my first, second, and third thoughts after reading Oscar Wilde’s one-act play that’s vaaaaaaaguely a re-telling of the biblical story of John the Baptist getting his head chopped off for being too mouthy about Herod marrying his dead brother’s widow. The play came up when I was studying for the GRE [read as: copying down Wikipedia summaries of a bunch of plays that I’d have time to read if I’d spend a little less time watching “The Americans”] and not even SparkNotes could give me a straightforward summary of the plot and characters. Okay, I thought, no biggie, I’m intrigued and it’s only one act. My primary familiarity with Wilde was through one of his best known works, the humorous play The Importance of Being Earnest, and I was all primed and ready for more of the same, which…I did not get.
It’s bizarre to the extent that I would really only read this if you’re intentionally doing a deep-dive into the Western drama canon. And even then…just read The Importance of Being Earnest (or watch the movie) and delight in moments like this:
So. Okay. Wow. I had…A LOTTTT of feelings about this. Like, a lot a lot. So many, in fact, that I’m [currently] sparing you the gory details of my feelings and saving the majority of them for a later date, at which I will be bringing on a GUEST SHOUTER, my lovely friend Taylor, to exclaim about every little thing in it.
A little preliminary shouting: look, I dislike pitting female authors against each other as much as the next person, but it does seem like there are people who prefer Jane Austen and there are people who prefer Charlotte Brontë, and that’s FINE. I’ve always been more of a Jane Austen gal, but my friend Taylor’s favorite book in the ENTIRE WORLD is Jane Eyre, which I’ve never quite…gotten. I’ve read it twice now, capital-H Hated Rochester, and couldn’t quite get along with Jane either. Villette has its similarities to Jane Eyre, but [to borrow a Brontë-ism]:
Reader–by the time I was half-way through, I ceased to feel as though I was reading the book, and started to feel as though the BOOK was reading ME. (Maybe it’s a small part to do with the fact that I’ve become obsessed with the Enneagram lately and am convinced that Lucy Snowe is a 5, which CONVENIENTLY I ALSO AM.) Anyway, Taylor and I will come at you soon with a whole passel of thoughts and feelings about this, but I do want to mention for the record that, no matter how much I love Lucy Snowe, Charlotte Brontë’s taste in men is just……beyond my comprehension.
When Did You See Her Last? — Lemony Snicket
First I want to talk about the book itself. It’s the second in a short series called “All the Wrong Questions” that’s kiiiiiind of a prequel to “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” If you read those books (or watched the current Netflix series, whose first season I really liked), you may remember Lemony Snicket serving as a narrator/character, and “All the Wrong Questions” takes that character back to his teen years, solving mysteries in a style that can best be described as “child noir.” It’s a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, right before I started reading this, I found out that Lemony Snicket (or, more accurately, Daniel Handler) has a history of gross behavior, including racist jokes and inappropriate sexual innuendos to female colleagues. Yes, I’m sorry for ruining your childhood. (ps I’m actually not, because Handler is the one who ruined your perception of him through his own actions, I am only the messenger.) I wrestled with whether I even wanted to read the book, whether I should link to it, and what I consider to be my responsibility when it comes to consuming art produced by harassers and people who make racist comments. On the one hand, there is a spectrum: my approach to Daniel Handler’s work is much different from my approach to, say, Woody Allen’s. However…as the article I linked to above pointed out (and as many others have as well), all of this behavior feeds into a culture of sexism and racism.
I decided to read it, having already checked it out from the library, and itching to see what the characters from the first book got up to in this one. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t tainted by the refrain running through my head of this guy’s a creep this guy’s a creep this guy’s a creep. I’m not sure what I’ll do about the second season of ASoUE (which comes out in a couple of weeks), nor will I presume to tell you what you should do. So far it’s been really well-executed and enjoyable, but, for me at least, watching it with the lens of Handler’s issues…less enjoyable. Sigh.
To avoid closing this out with a bummer, please enjoy this satirical pump up jam from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend which I turn to whenever another public figure (or private figure) turns out to be le skeeze.