Thursday, January 30, 2014

Reconciling My Genre and My Politics

The world consists of contradictions. On one side of the planet, we diet. On the other side, we starve. I think about these incongruities. They rattle me on a regular basis. I absorb news about disasters, shootings and leaders who lack courage. And then, I think of myself. My small world is a study in contradictions, too.

Ever since I started writing my first novel, I've often felt that writing romance doesn't befit the needs of the planet. I wrote a romance novel while the world's financial systems were in global meltdown. What was I thinking? Then, I started another one, even more racy than the first. The financial house was an inferno (including my own). Again, what was I thinking? For some reason, I couldn't stop.

This says something about me, because I started this fiction-writing journey as an outlet. I discovered I could control everything I put on the page. At least, the first draft. This is comforting. More than comforting, it's regenerative. And I believe that if my writer friends were polled, they'd say they share this feeling.

But the world is still burning.

Chris Hedges (long-time reporter now activist) posted this week on Truthout.org a very long diatribe about the doom awaiting our species. His piece has clung to me for days now. I can't paraphrase well enough to provide the gist. For me, the ear worm that stuck was: the oceans are dying. And this idea is one of many, many realities strangling our planet. Most of the bad news is made worse by politics and rampant, unchecked capitalism.

He hung his hopes on, step back here, imagination. Human imagination. We, as an intelligent species, have the ability to overcome problems by using our brains. He didn't quite sell this idea 100 percent, because at the end of the piece, he admits he doesn't know if we'll survive. But this idea brings me back around to creativity. Why I write.
Someone wrote on this a long time ago.

I didn't write a novel to sex-up an old character from a wonderful French novel (although that happened in the process). I wrote about him because I wanted to redeem him, give him hope, give a reader hope, and along the way, it soothed my brain's creative-pleasure center. Many, many writers have changed the world with their words. I don't hope for such grand outcomes, but if I can touch one or two people, wow. Bring it on. I put some beauty back into this strange place where we live with each other, sometimes uneasily.

Thanks for reading my philosophical rant today. Now, I'm going to put together a survival kit. Probably filled with books.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Reality: I'm a Musketeer Groupie

Guess there are worse things to be? And, darn it, if I didn't miss the first episode of the new BBC TV series called The Musketeer, which aired for the first time on Sunday night. Now, I have to admit, I'm a little prejudiced about who the producers cast as Athos, my fav Dumas character of the bunch. I must reserve my judgment about whether Tom Burke is the right choice until I've seen him act. But I wanted him to be a hair more good-looking (not that his hair had anything to do with my opinion).

I'm a groupie. I'm coming to terms with this. On Google, if Musketeers is the search word, guess what? People find me. Yikes! And hurrah!

Recently, a woman in Canada contacted me because she's writing a stage play based on the book, and she couldn't find answers to questions about the novel (and history) that had been bugging her. Could I help her, she asked? Why, of course I could!

Her note:

I am currently adapting The Three Musketeers into a play for young actors. I've read the novel, another play adaptation, and the graphic novel (how great is that?!), but there are a few motivations that I don't understand. I'm hoping if you have the time you could share any insights that you might have with me.

1) Why does Richelieu want to expose the affair between the Queen and the Duke? Does he hope it will start a war?

2) Why does Richelieu want to start a war with England?

3) Why is Buckingham not safe in France when he sneaks over to visit the Queen? 

Thank you so much!

My response:

Glad you stumbled upon me. While I don't profess to be an expert, I can give you my take on your questions. Would love to know when and where your play will be performed. I also have a FB page, in which I post many tidbits about Musketeer-related news. There's a play that's making the rounds regularly in the U.S., but I haven't seen it yet. I picked up the Marvel comics graphic novel, but I couldn't persuade my kids to read it.

1. Why expose the affair? Political reasons, at least in terms of Dumas' rendition of history. Dumas doesn't get much more specific than that. Richelieu was a power-player and had eyes on influencing France's fortunes for personal gain. If he could gain the upper hand, he won. Plus, Queen Anne wasn't French. Probably in real history, this friction between them didn't exist. (Later, I read in the notes to the most-recent Richard Pevear translation of The Three Musketeers that Richelieu became bitter enemies with Marie de Medicis after a suspected tryst, and in 1630, on the so-called "day of the Dupes," Marie and Queen Anne, among others, tried unsuccessfully to get rid of him.)

2. War with England? The English were Protestants, and at the time, the French Catholics were struggling with their relationship to the Huguenots, the French Protestants, whom France tried to suppress (Siege at La Rochelle). In truth, Richelieu created peace with the Huguenots.

3. Buckingham unsafe? Because Buckingham is English and Dumas portrays the French as being disdainful of the English. And as everyone rightly suspects, because Buckingham's having, or trying to have, an affair with Anne. Ah, the struggle for love.

Hope this helps. Come back any time. This was fun.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The News, Then and Now

My father used to read the daily newspaper each night after work, home from the manufacturing plant, before Ted Koppel came on. Dad read and watched the nightly news at the same time, right before Nightline. He was stalwart in his news consumption, not a literary or frivolous man with time to spare on novels or board games or shows that promised prizes behind Curtain #2. (I never knew which curtain to pick.) I can't remember ever leaning over his shoulder as he read, molded to the crushed velvet rocker, to see what he was learning. I do remember never seeing a newspaper laying around unless it was in his hand. He read them and threw them dutifully away, of course, because recycling was not in vogue. The next day, another Daily Democrat arrived at our door.

I take one weekly as an adult, the Sunday New York Times. They are stacked in various corners of my bedroom. Unread. They deserve my attention. It's the effing NYT. I rationalize that they are neglected because I'm busy making my life into something. Rather, minutia in my life hangs me up. Counters need wiping. Corners need dusting. A dog's eyes beg: "Take me for a walk. I don't fetch." I cringe at what my dad might think at my wasteful, non-news habit. I'm not a hoarder of newsprint, just a hopeful public citizen, whose duty to keep up keeps falling down.

Sometimes my dad would give me, the adolescent, clippings, the ones in ink which mentioned me. I started reading the newspaper in search of my own name. I skipped the parts about Iran and gas lines. What Nixon was up to. Where Israel was. I looked for pictures of myself wearing medals, round and heavy ones around my neck for good public speaking. Good for her, the city fathers must have thought, not that she'll ever make the same wages as a man.

I stack and restack the papers in my room. Pull out sections (the magazine, of course, and Book Review). Reshuffle. Scan. Set aside. Always aside.

If I read from front to back of my Sunday NYT, without fail, on the day it arrives, would I change the world? Experience enlightenment? If I could just sit for the hours it would take to digest world events, could I end global hunger, cause banks to behave, crush the overkill of personality cults?

My newspapers are the child and I am the dead-beat parent. Usually, I give it nothing. I ignore my offspring's world and, nonetheless, occupy it. I am the 99 percent of too-busy-to-give-a-damn. A good person votes and works hard and practices engagement. The world in the newspaper is discontent. Your discontent. His discontent. Their discontent. My discontent. I shall not overcome.



Friday, January 3, 2014

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