MY BRILLIANT FRIEND, p. 83

So sedate is Elena Ferrante’s pacing that, when something truly horrible happens, on p. 83 of My Brilliant Friend, it is like (to borrow an over-used term) a punch in the gut.

There.

Also, needless to say, SPOILERS.

Don Achille, the terrible Don Achile, was murdered in his house in the early afternoon of a surprisingly rainy August day.

He was in the kitchen, and had just opened the window to let in the rain-freshened air. He had got up from bed to do so, interrupting his nap. He had on worn blue pajamas, and on his feet only socks of a yellowish color, blackened at the heels. As soon as he opened the window a gust of rain struck his face and someone plunged a knife into the right side of his neck, halfway between the jaw and the clavicle.

A few days ago, self was telling a friend that she didn’t think My Brilliant Friend was as good as some of Elena Ferrante’s earlier work.

But this event is so masterfully delivered. Kudos, Elena Ferrante. Just — kudos all over the place.

Stay tuned.

Everlark: The Body Flip

By now loyal blog readers know that self adores fan fiction. And that she only ships Everlark.

One of her favorite ff writers is _______ (Apologies. Everyone has to hide. If you write fan fiction. Just because)

______’s newest story is one where the Victors are freed from the Capitol in a daring raid led by Gale. So far, this is all strictly Mockingjay canon.

Katniss can hardly wait to see Peeta.  At which point, Haymitch gives her “the talk” :

“They’re back?” Katniss says.

“Well, yeah,” Haymitch says. He rubs a hand over his face. “Well, you’ll see.”

Peeta and Johanna come back from the Capitol. They’re a little . . . different.

SPOILERS  SPOILERS  SPOILERS

Peeta is not hijacked. There’s something a little odd, though, about Johanna.

Eventually, Katniss figures it out: Peeta is now in Johanna’s body, and Johanna is in Peeta’s!

Which is hard for Katniss, until she realizes that Gale is never jealous when she’s with Johanna (who is really Peeta. Inside). And that’s a very good thing!

LOL

ROFL

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s Death (3 May 1616)

It is also the 400th Anniversary of Miguel de Cervantes’s death, what a coincidence!

Seriously mind-blowing.

Self is in Oxford. She went racing to Victoria Bus Station two days ago, lugging the Mother of All Suitcases, only to find that the bus she had tickets for had left at 1:30 a.m. She got in line at the ticket booth (30 minutes wait) and then explained to the lady that she was from America, she made a terrible mistake, she was aiming for 1:30 p.m., not 1:30 a.m. The woman was so kind, and put self on the 1 p.m. bus. She also booked self’s return trip: 15:30. “That’s 3:30 p.m.,” she said. “All right?”

Yes! Yes! Yes! Sorry to be such a stupid American!

The last time self was in Oxford was to attend the Saboteur Awards, which were held in a tavern. That was a fun time. She was a finalist in the novella category.

That was two years ago. How quickly time flies! Of course, she did not win, but it was such an honor just to be a finalist.

Yesterday, self went to a fabulous open-air market on Gloucester Green, and then she caught the last showing of Captain America: Civil War at the Odeon. What a great movie. Sorry, but Marvel cornered all the sass: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Don Cheadle,. The women are great actresses: Scarjo, Ellen Van Kamp, Elizabeth Olsen. (Not that J-Law isn’t. Self loves J-Law. And also Sophie Turner).

After seeing Captain America: Civil War, though, she thinks that Fox should really do their utmost to hang on to Evan Peters(Quicksilver), as he is the only element in their whole Brit-actors-chewing-scenery cinematic universe who is capable of delivering sass on the level of, say, Robert Downey, Jr. And Lord knows, the X-Men could do with a bit more sass.

Now, where was she?

Oh, right, Shakespeare’s 400th Anniversary! So, she has determined that she must see at least one thing today that is connected to Shakespeare. As it would be pretty lame of to leave Oxford having only seen Captain America: Civil War.

She does a little internet search and finds that there are quite a number of Shakespeare exhibits in Oxford, operating concurrently. Mama Mia! What an absolute plethora of riches!

She’s going to spend the entire day rushing from one exhalted library to another.

Starting with the Weston. Because the Weston has, in addition to an exhibit on Shakespeare, a map of Middle Earth, annotated by Tolkien himself.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Lunch: Chéz Mamie

They’re doing massive construction work on Hanway Street: a tall building’s going up. Self asked what that building was going to be and was told: an expanded Primark and luxury condos.

Oh gosh. That means Hanway Place will be awash in posh types. How’s that going to change Chez Mamie? Self probably won’t be able to get a seat there any longer! It’s such a wee restaurant! Maybe because of the noise of construction, the place was rather empty. Self loves their salads, though. Absolutely loves them.

And, just like that, self got the idea for a story and started scribbling like mad into her notebook:

Maxine had impressed her parents into gift-ing her a trip to London by getting an A on a paper about the Thirty Years War (“1618 to 1648,” Maxine told her mother Cici, who blushed with maternal pride).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Monday: London Review Bookshop Monthly Film Screening

The London Review Bookshop is showing a Sally Potter film tonight: “Yes.”

That’s the one where all the characters speak in iambic pentameter (And, rhyme!)

“How long is the film?” self asked the salesperson (Who is the same salesperson who was there last year, and the year before, and who turns out to be a poet. His first collection just came out!)

“100 minutes,” he said, smartly.

Okay, self got a ticket. Considering this bookshop was where she got to shake hands with Sally Potter in person, in 2014, it seems like fate or magic. If you believe in either of those things. And she was there again last night, along with her cinematographer, the same one who worked on Orlando, and self was fan-girling like mad.

Stay tuned.

British Museum, Lines

Today at the British Museum: for the first time, serious security check. Everyone had to line up outside and pass through a white tent (Why a white tent? Self has no idea) and have their bags inspected. First time ever (and self has been to the Museum many times). There was a police van parked right outside the main entrance to the Museum (Also a first; last summer, security was very discreet. Now, the British are flaunting it.)

Met an American pathologist from Seattle who, having wrapped up her conference, was sightseeing. This was her third visit to the museum in a week. Self told her about the “Sunken Cities” special exhibit, and the woman asked if self had seen the Rosetta Stone. Do you know, in how many visits to the British Museum, self has never actually laid eyes on the Rosetta Stone? Go figure. As soon as we got inside the museum, the woman led self straight to it. (There’s a 20-minute Rosetta Stone tour, free, every Friday)

Self was in London last July. All those weeks, and she never set foot inside the British Museum. Not once. Instead, she remembers just holing up in her room and writing. And writing. And writing. London was full of pigeons and tourists and ice cream trucks. It was incredibly hot and muggy. She went on a Jack the Ripper tour of Whitechapel.

Part of the reason she bought her ticket so far in advance this year is because she realizes she needs that push. The British Museum is overwhelming. In the last gallery of the “Sunken Cities” exhibit, a woman about self’s age seated herself on a bench and lowered her face in her hands. Self knew just how she felt.

The gallery of Greek antiquities has these colossal statues. They are completely stunning. A rider at full gallop on a gigantic horse. A running leopard. A mastiff. She hasn’t seen such massive things since the Olmec exhibit at the de Young, several years ago. You talk about Greek sculpture and you think: classical. You think: refinement. But these were from only one period (Hellenistic? 350 AD?) After that, Greek sculptural representations no longer have that gigantic, absolutely in-your-face, larger-than-life ethos (Why?)

There is a piece showing Aphrodite being surprised during a bath. Seeing the statue from the front, self walked right by. As she was leaving the gallery, she saw that same Aphrodite statue from the back. And, gosh, from the back, it is beautiful. Look at the dimples of her lower back! And the hips! OMG the hips!

AphroditeBritishMuseumFriMay20

Aphrodite, Surprised at Her Bath: British Museum, Friday, 20 May

Self thinks she’ll walk around a bit more. Stay tuned.

Brutal

The more self reads of Anjelica Huston’s Watch Me, the more her respect for Huston grows. The book is called Watch Me for a reason. It reminds her of the saying: “A person who has something to prove can move mountains.” That quote might have come from Robert Greene, in his 48 Laws of Power.

Quoting directly from the book, “no talent agency wanted to take me on prior to Prizzi’s Honor. Most didn’t even bother to return my phone calls. Eventually, I joined the Yvette Bikoff Agency. It was a small agency, but Yvette seemed to have more confidence in me than the others.”

Huston wants Yvette to try and get her paid more for her part in Prizzi’s Honor. Yvette tells Huston that she tried, but the producers “refuse to even discuss it.” Huston keeps pressing, until finally, with Huston in her office, Yvette places a call to a producer and puts him on speaker phone:

An irritated voice came on the line. “You want more money for Anjelica Huston? You must be kidding . . . go ahead, ask me!” said the voice. “We’d like nothing more than to see her dropped from the film. She has no talent. Her boyfriend is the star and her father is the director, that’s the only reason we are even having this conversation.”

If you’ve never heard of Prizzi’s Honor, go rent it from Netflix. Self only saw it once, but she can still remember the last minutes of the film so clearly. Anjelica Huston was absolutely right for that role. She is so physically imposing, which is why, when she projects vulnerability, it just breaks your heart.

Anyhoo, it’s almost midnight in London. Self had a grueling day. Swore she’d never take a cab from Heathrow, got lost at least three times looking for the Heathrow Express, carting her heavy, overweight luggage. She didn’t ask for help and no one offered any. (Good). She made it to Paddington. She was so famished she ate two meals sitting on a bench. She got into a taxi. She hauled luggage up four flights of stairs.

This is definitely a city. By that she means people are largely indifferent. But it’s a great city. She knew when the cab got near to Bloomsbury. Great Russell Street is her own little patch of London.

Self loves the parks: Regency Park, Hyde Park, Kensington. If all she does while in London is visit one park after another, and look at the Serpentine, and drop by Battersea and gawk at the huge Tate Modern, and then pay a visit to the exquisite Wallace Collection, she’ll be happy. Oh no, wait. No visit to London is complete without Chez Mamie. She even made a reservation because the place is always full now. And to think when she met Emily there last year, we were even wondering whether it would last a year! It’s still only got six tables, but for some reason, the last few times self has been in there, there seem to be a lot of Americans. All in suits. Conducting who knows what kind of negotiations.

Tomorrow she’s going to the British Museum to see an exhibit called “Sunken Egypt.” It’ll help her finish a story she started at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, a story called “Residents of the Deep.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Acting Class

Once Anjelica Huston stops writing so much about Jack Nicholson (which she does in the first 50 or so pages of her memoir), self actually finds Watch Me to be hugely entertaining.

At the age of 28, after a bad car accident (She wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, her nose was “broken in eight places” — self never knew a nose could be broken in that many places! Self is so impressed by that detail that she immediately writes an Everlark something about Katniss having her nose broken during a torture session in the heinous Capitol), Huston decides that life’s too short and decides to go after her dream of being an actress.

Her father, the venerable director John Huston, helpful as always, says “Dear, aren’t you a little old to try something like that?”

But Anjelica is undeterred.

After a few less than fulfilling acting jobs, her friend Carol Kane suggests ACTING CLASS!

Prior to this, Huston had been acting purely on instinct. But she dutifully decides to give acting class a whirl. And this is what it’s like:

  • There was some neck rolling, loud yawns and sighs, and stretching on the floor. A few improvisations followed . . .

LOL!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

A Break from Anjelica Huston Angst

Self is on yet another bus in Ireland. Heading back north.

In Watch Me, Anjelica Huston is bored out of her mind at a Lakers game.

As a break from Huston’s boredom, self turns to another book she’s brought with her all the way from California: Lydia’s Funeral Video, by Sam Chanse.

This book is fascinating and entertaining — sort of like a hip primer on being an American.

Which feels, actually, very deflating right now because OMG is Trump really going up against whoever and OMG what?

Never mind that.

In Lydia’s Funeral Video, which is about an unmarried 28-year-old American named Lydia, Lydia feels compelled to buy a pregnancy test:

And the pharmacist is explaining how this test works by checking for a hormone in the saliva or something, and she instructs me to listen for the three consecutive beeps before checking the color of the light– red for not pregnant, green for pregnant.

“You know, if you’re pregnant, green for go!” the pharmacist says — which I think they’re supposed to say to make pregnancy sound like happy fun time and encourage you to go ahead and have the kid . . .

Okay, sorry dear blog readers but typing this on a careening bus is making self dizzy.

(To be continued)

 

 

Quote of the Day: Jason Bourne

Matt is back! Self is ecstatic! She loves the Bourne movies. Better even than the Daniel Craig/James Bond movies.

And Matt is reuniting with the film’d Director, Paul Greengrass. YAY!

Today she saw the trailer, and in voice-over Bourne says: “Just because I remember everything doesn’t mean I know anything.”

Ha! So typical. Delivered in that blunt style of Matt Damon’s. So nonchalant.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

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