“Lucy”: Feminine Degradation

Something about self’s mood today — she feels extremely argumentative.  Ornery.  So, take the following with a grain of salt, dear blog readers.

Self likes Luc Besson.

She really does.

She can never forget that Besson gave us the glorious Annie Parillaud in “La Femme Nikita.”

And Scarjo is one phenomenal actress.

And beautiful, too.

But “Lucy” is just one more in that long line of sub-genres that are little more than titillating flirtations with feminine degradation.

Like what happened to Noomi Rapace in “Prometheus”?  You will like “Lucy.”

Like how the “Kill Bill” movies are one long revenge fantasy enacted by statuesque Uma Thurman?

You might like “Lucy” (though Besson and Tarantino are light years apart — that is, in terms of cinematic wit)

And what was that movie Kathryn Bigelow did with Ralph Fiennes, “Strange Days,” the one where you put on these special glasses, and while you’re raping a woman you can experience HER fear, which heightens your pleasure?  The one that had Juliette Lewis’s skateboarding Goth waif bonding with pervert played by (typecast) Tom Sizemore?

Ugh.

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!

One of the most painful scenes in “Lucy” was the one where Scarjo, having been kicked so many times in the stomach, starts crawling up the walls (literally).  That was creepy and grotesque, as if science fiction was melding with Kafka.  Might Scarjo actually turn into a bug?  At one point, she grabs her long chain (she is chained to the wall) and runs full tilt — into, presumably, a wall.  But mercifully, we are not actually treated to the glorious sight of a beautiful woman’s face slamming against stone.  Mercifully, there is a cut right here.  Next time we see Scarjo, she appears quite composed, with no external disfigurement other than a cut lip.

???##!!!

There is something self likes about “Lucy,” though.

Scarjo acquires a craggy-faced sidekick, a French investigator/cop(?) called del Rio.  Now, that guy, though not conventionally handsome, is actually quite a find.

Not to mention, he is an excellent straight man.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“The Hydrangea”

Self loves gardens.  Ergo, she loves reading about gardens.

And when she isn’t reading a gardening magazine, she’s reading literary journals.

Today self is reading a back issue of the New Orleans Review.  They published a piece of hers, “Thing.”  Which was science fiction.  It was the start of her new experiments in genre.  Thank you, New Orleans Review.

And here is a flower poem by L. S. Klatt.  It’s called “The Hydrangea.”

In a hospital bed, the hydrangea
lies sedated. A gown covers it,
stem to neck, but neglect sunburned ankles
that seem to have walked a mile through dune grass.
And what a day that must have been, the head
of the flower, in a bathing cap, out
searching for wavy blue. June, the blooming
season, hothouse of panicles & Starstreaks.
Then August, rainwater dripping through a
French horn of tubes; the hydrangea
dishevels on a pillow, wilted giant.

Oh dear! The poor hydrangea! Well, hopefully the hydrangea in the poem will recover soon.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

First Saturday in June (2014): Reading The Guardian On the Train From Cork

The Guardian really likes Tom Cruise.  Self remembers reading rave reviews for some movie he did two years ago (“Oblivion”?), and now they’ve given “Edge of Tomorrow” (a kind of “Groundhog Day”/ science fiction mash-up) a positive review. OK, mebbe self is confusing The Guardian with CinemaBlend.com?  Here, anyway, is the link to The Guardian review.

Self is back in Dublin.  The train trip from Cork was very long.

Yes, she’s just been taking lightning trips all over Ireland.

Today was a beautiful day.  Not even the smallest cloud in the sky.

She met a Read the rest of this entry »

Best New American Science Fiction & Fantasy: Series Launch 2015

Found this while googling John Joseph Adams today:

The Best American series is the premiere annual showcase for the country’s finest short fiction and nonfiction.  Each volume’s series editor selects notable works from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites.  A special guest editor — a leading writer in the field — then chooses the best twenty or so pieces to publish.  This unique system has made the Best American series the most respected — and most popular —  of its kind.

Now, with Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy, series editor John Joseph Adams will curate a new anthology series that will demonstrate what science fiction and fantasy literature is capable of — that will demonstrate that science fiction and fantasy is more than just retreads of Star Trek and Star Wars, that it is the genre of Flowers for Algernon and Fahrenheit 451, of The Man in the High Castle, The Book of the New Sun, and a Canticle for Leibowitz, that it is the genre of Wild Seed and The Left Hand of Darkness, and of Little, Big and The Sparrow and Dhalgren.

Fabulous.

Self would like to add that one of son’s favorite books used to be Frank Herbert’s Dune, which is tellingly not mentioned in the announcement above.  In fact, son had the complete boxed set (hardcover).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

The Chang-rae Lee Version of Dystopia

This is from the review of On Such a Full Sea, Chang-rae Lee’s new novel.  The review appeared in the January 27, 2014 issue of The New Yorker.  The reviewer was Joanna Biggs.

“More and more we can see that the question is not whether we are ‘individuals,’ Chang-rae Lee writes in On Such a Full Sea (Riverhead), his new, dystopian novel.  “The question, then, is whether being an ‘individual’ makes a difference anymore.”  It seems doubtful, in Lee’s somber future.  Afflicted by swine- and bird-flue epidemics, and a profound change in the climate, America, now known simply as the Association, has split into three separate social groups.  At the top sit the Charters, a small professional class that has controlled the country’s remaining resources and withdrawn into gated villages.  Catering their dinner parties and keeping their cars perpetually waxed are the ‘service people,’ who live in the land beyond, known as the counties.  ‘You better have it while you have it’ is the motto of the bartering, hardscrabble life there.”

District 12, anyone?  The twist is that the oppressed classes are “workers whose ancestors arrived from New China a hundred years earlier.”

Biggs then cites a list of dystopian narratives (which fortunately or unfortunately do not include anything YA), starting with “the math genius D-503, in Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, who begins by designing the spaceship INTEGRAL . . .  to the fireman Guy Montag in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 who starts out as a kerosene-wielding book burner and ends up harboring what may be the last copy of the Bible,” to Winston Smith, the “mid-ranking employee” of the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984.

Self has read most of Chang-rae Lee’s novels.  She’s read Native Speaker, Aloft, and A Gesture Life.  Of all his novels that self has read to date, her favorite is still A Gesture Life.  Harrowing.  She’ll never forget it.

What she likes most about Lee’s writing is the quietness of the voice.  The restraint masks sheer agony.  All his main characters are tightly wound but restrained, almost to the point of lunacy.  Feelings are to be distrusted.  They are acknowledged only under great peril.  Which makes him sound, on the surface, like Kazuo Ishiguro.  But self finds Chang-rae Lee’s characters, almost all of them, to be deeply emotional and passionate individuals.  If they do harm, it is mostly to themselves.

She does have a copy of On Such a Full Sea, signed by the author himself after a reading he gave in Berkeley.  Self is sorely tempted to tote it along to Ireland, but it’s hardback.  And self has sworn she’s not going to burden herself with more than a handful of books this time.  The fee for mailing the books back home will be exorbitant, if what she paid after Hawthornden is any indication.  Oh what to do, what to do!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Denby on Katniss

The New Yorker, 2 December 2013

The New Yorker, 2 December 2013

Apologies, dear blog readers.  Self knows there’s a new science fiction movie out, one that’s starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James.  She’s excited to see it, just hasn’t had a chance yet.

The Pile of Stuff is truly — enormous.

This morning, she reaches in, pulls out a New Yorker, and settles down to read the movie reviews.  Just to show you how old this issue is, the movie being reviewed is The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire.

It’s very interesting:  Denby writes that teenagers tend to view the gladiatorial fights-to-the-death literally, while their “elders” think about them metaphorically (“as a metaphor for capitalism, with its terrifying job market . . . ” or “as a satiric exaggeration of talent-show ruthlessness”)

“Distraction,” Denby writes, “is supposed to work miracles.”

(Well, it does, David.  It does.  What can self say?  Distraction is, in fact, a most excellent and potent tool.  Just ask parents of recalcitrant toddlers, beleaguered office managers, conniving politicians, crafty taxi drivers and military strategists, thieves and other people up to no good, magicians, low-lifes, jerks both run-of-the-mill and spectacular etc etc etc)

While the first Hunger Games movie was “an embarrassment,” Denby calls “the first forty-five minutes or so” of Catching Fire “impressive.”

An excerpt from the review:

For Katniss, the pleasure of victory never arrives.  At the very beginning of the movie, we see her in silhouette, crouching at the edge of a pond, a huntress poised to uncoil.  She hates being a celebrity, and she certainly has no desire to lead a revolution.  Jennifer Lawrence’s gray-green eyes and her formidable concentration dominate the camera.  She resembles a storybook Indian princess and she projects the kind of strength that Katharine Hepburn had . . .

As for the rest of the characters, Denby assigns one adjective (more or less) for each:  Peeta is “doleful” and Gale is “faithful.”  Caesar Flickerman is “unctuous and hostile.”

Woody Harrelson gets a little something extra:  As Haymitch, he is a “hard-drinking realist” who nevertheless “guides Katniss through every terror” and “is the core of intelligence in the movie . . .  his glare and his acid voice cut through the meaningless fashion show.”

And that is about all self can squeeze out for now.  Oh Pile of Stuff.

P.S. Can self share a secret with dear blog readers? She longs, longs for the filmed version of Mockingjay, knows it’s not arriving until Nov. 21 this year, and has already decided to clear her November calendar. Yup, that’s right: no travels, no workshops, no classes, even NO WRITING (if that’s even possible). Most of all:  No angst, no domestic crisis, no recriminations, no regrets over things said or unsaid, no self-doubt, no dithering, no envy of others getting NEAs or Guggenheims or MacDowell acceptances, no wringing of the hands, no mundane distractions, no remodeling projects, no Tweets, no literary contests, no reading of book reviews, no compiling of “Best of 2014″ lists, no planting, no housecleaning, no shopping whether for essentials or non-essentials (even food), no entertaining of mysterious knocks on the front door or of phone calls from solicitors, no bewailing of personal imperfections, no exaggerations, no facials, no massages, no Vinyasa Flow classes, no research in Green or Hoover libraries etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

DIVERGENT Quote of the Day

Self crawling along through Divergent.

Apologies, dear blog readers.  She knows a lot of people checked in on her previous Divergent posts, and the movie’s opening next week already, and Sole Fruit of Her Loins wants to see it.

But the weather’s been soooo beautiful.

And she’s still having all sorts of car problems.

Today, she’s on p. 59, and the beginning of teen fiction territory. Mild spoilers ahead:

I see a few hands stretching out to me at the edge of the net, so I grab the first one I can reach and pull myself across.  I roll off, and I would have fallen face-first onto a wood floor if he had not caught me.

“He” is the young man attached to the hand I grabbed.  He has a spare upper lip and a full lower lip.  His eyes are so deep-set that his eyelashes touch the skin under his eyebrows . . .

Our heroine makes it into the Dauntless headquarters:

People are everywhere, all dressed in black, all shouting and talking, expressive, gesturing.  I don’t see any elderly people in the crowd.  Are there any old Dauntless?  Do they not last that long, or are they just sent away when they can’t jump off moving trains anymore?

Further along, Tris (formerly — in her pre-Dauntless existence — called “Beatrice”) gets to try her first hamburger.  Members of the oh-so-meek Abnegation faction are referred to as “Stiffs” by the Dauntless.

“You’ve never had a hamburger before?” asks Christina, her eyes wide.

“No,” I say.  “Is that what it’s called?”

“Stiffs eat plain food,” Four says, nodding at Christina.

“Why?” she asks.

I shrug.  “Extravagance is considered self-indulgent and unnecessary.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Re-Reading MOCKINGJAY: Commander Paylor

With the Divergent movie about to open, and a new female action star poised to take the crown from J-Law (which self doesn’t think will happen, even though Lionsgate produces both series and has said of Divergent:  “This one will be special.”)

Self swears, she will never ever be caught using the word “dystopian” when she writes about The Hunger Games.  Nope.  Don’t even go there.

She finally caved and bought a large print edition of Mockingjay, while waiting to board a flight to go south and visit son.  And she’s been doling out excruciatingly small dribs and drabs ever since.  Here’s a passage where Katniss meets Commander Paylor for the first time:

Her dark brown eyes are puffy with fatigue and she smells of metal and sweat.  A bandage around her throat needed changing about three days ago.

Katniss finds her intimidating.  The reader can tell after this passage:

She looks young to be a commander.  Early thirties.  But there’s an authoritative tone to her voice that makes you feel her appointment wasn’t arbitrary.  Beside her, in my spanking-new outfit, scrubbed and shiny, I feel like a recently hatched chick, untested and only just learning how to navigate the world.

Only eight more months till the movie.  Self wonders who’s playing Paylor.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Multi-Tasker: Resuming DIVERGENT

Very exciting doings in self’s life:  yesterday, she had just dropped off her car at the mechanic (It failed the smog test, boo) and was finally sitting down to dinner when she heard — or rather, felt — this awful hard thing pop out of her mouth.  She looked in dismay at her hand:  she was holding a tooth.  A tooth!  A tooth!  A tooth!  And she hasn’t even finished paying for two implants she had done a year ago!

She called the dentist and the dentist said, Can you come over right now?  And self said:  I can’t.  My car’s in the shop.

Make no mistake, the part of her mouth that once held the wayward tooth hurts.  Throbs.  Self wonders if she can survive the weekend.  She decides to douse herself with vodka.  No, brandy!  Good thing she just came from Costco and bought a huge bottle of brandy for $13.99!  That was very forward-thinking, self!

Dr. Oz is on TV. Which makes self feel twinges of guilt for not trying harder to look for her high-cholesterol medication.  She thought she packed it in the bag for Seattle, but when she arrived at her destination, it wasn’t anywhere. Then she got so distracted, she never bothered ordering a refill, so it’s about two weeks since she’s taken anything. And yesterday, when she saw her doctor, she told him she was going to be in Ireland in May, and he said she should have her cholesterol checked before she leaves, and then self remembered that if she doesn’t resume her medication, her cholesterol will be high.  So she told the doctor she’d get back on the medication, and stay on it, and then — after a month, say — she’d have the blood test.  And he just looked at her and self could practically read his mind:  I am so tired of this woman.

Anyhoo, Dr. Oz is on TV, and self was perusing the Clarkesworld Magazine website because, as dear blog readers well know, science fiction is her new “thing.”

Oh, there have been scattered forays here and there:  her ZYZZYVA story, “Extinction,” and her New Orleans Review story, “Thing.”  Her “Isa” story on Eunoia Review.  But lately, she’s been having sustained bouts of science fiction writing, and she loves it.  Loves it, loves it, loves it.  In her stories, her characters can be green or blue, scaly or moss-covered, six-eyed or blobb-y.  They don’t need to be attractive in the human sense.  In fact, they’re mostly physically repellent.  What does this mean.

SPOILER ALERT!

She’s also reading Divergent (at a snail’s pace).  There was some nail-biting tension in Chapter 5, because Beatrice slashed her hand and let the blood drip over — not glass, not earth, not water — is there anything else?  Self, you dolt!  You’d better go back over the chapter and read from the beginning!

Beatrice’s blood falls on coals.

Coals.

Which means she has chosen —  self draws a blank.

She has to read into Chapter Six to learn that “coals” represent Dauntless.

Just before it is her turn to choose, Beatrice goes over her decision to remain in her parents’ faction, Abnegation (which means she will have to help her parents clean up after everyone else has left the room, how exciting):  “I can see it now . . .  I watch myself grow into a woman in Abnegation robes . . .  volunteering on the weekends, the peace of routine, the quiet nights spent in front of the fireplace, the certainty that I will be safe, and if not good enough, better than I am now.”

Self was just beginning to think how someone in Abnegation would be an extremely boring character to stick with for a 500-page novel when, of course!  She chooses something else.

It’s just like the moment when Katniss decides to shoot an arrow straight up into the force field dome, instead of into Finnick’s gorgeous face!  Totally unexpected and —  AARRGH!

Anyhoo, our plucky Beatrice chooses the Dauntless faction, and pretty soon we learn that she is so much shorter than everyone else in Dauntless because she can’t see past their shoulders.  Good thing the factions don’t have a height requirement.

But perhaps that’s precisely Veronica Roth’s point:  Short people can be dauntless, too!  Height, after all, is not a requirement for bravery!  Yay!  There’s still hope for self, who The Man opined is two inches shorter now than she was when he first met her, in grad school (She did ask her doctor about this, BTW, and it only seemed to exacerbate his exasperation.  Basically, his response was:  “Do your care?” Self’s response:  “Only if it means I’m getting hunchbacked!” At which the doctor just shook his head.)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

DIVERGENT, Chapter 5: The Choosing Ceremony

Self spent last night bawling — literally  bawling — over Hunger Games fanfiction.

In one fanfiction, Katniss is a maid in the well-off Mellark household.  In another, she is hired by Peeta’s father to help out in the bakery.  In others, Peeta is King Peeta and Katniss is a winsome country lass.  Self doesn’t like these fairy tale ones as much as the others, but sometimes self needs to read something relaxing, and it’s always a kick to imagine J-Hutch wearing a kingly crown. In all of the fanfiction, the socio-economic status reflects that of the characters in Suzanne Collins’s trilogy:  Katniss = poor.  Peeta = well-off.  Stage set for melodrama of the highest order.

And now to Divergent, Chapter 5.

The heroine, Beatrice, and her brother, Caleb, belong to the Abnegation faction (a very irritating faction, don’t ask).  But now they get to choose whether to stay in Abnegation or go to some other faction that’s a better fit for their skills and personality.

Usually the teens who are choosing opt to stay with their families’ factions.  In the case of Beatrice and Caleb, that would mean Abnegation.

A boy from Dauntless goes to the center of the room and makes his choice:  Candor.

His blood falls onto glass, and he is the first of us to switch factions.  The first faction transfer.  A mutter rises from the Dauntless section, and I stare at the floor.

They will see him as a traitor from now on.  His Dauntless family will have the option of visiting him in his new faction, a week and a half from now on Visiting Day, but they won’t, because he left them.  His absence will haunt their hallways, and he will be a space they can’t fill.  And then time will pass, and the hole will be gone, like when an organ is removed, and the body’s fluids flow into the space it leaves.  Humans can’t tolerate emptiness for long.

Wow, self loves the writing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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