December 21, 2009
This is not a post solely about Twilight, but I will report that I finished it. After the midpoint momentum dropped away, finishing it meant slogging through various primings for the sequel and a prom that was only surpassed in dullness by my own–except I recall that mine culminated in a late-night screening of Brazil, so sorry, Twilight, your prom was marginally harder to endure. But Twilight? I get it now; I really do. You’re selling the fantasy that someone whose surface appears not so special (targeting female demographic ages 12-55) can yet hold such beguiling inner beauty as to entrance an otherworldly creature. I may not have bought it, but I borrowed it.
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I’ve been making my way in fits and starts through the recent biography of Charles Shultz. Early on I was completely smitten by the exquisitely painful shyness and secret steely determination of the Peanuts creator; later on in his life, I’m a feeling a little bit get over yourself, ultrasuccessful multimillionaire, but his terminal cancer is soon to strike, so I’m also poised for great sadness.
The book is filled with Peanuts cartoons strategically placed to illustrate various episodes in his life, and often they’d been created in sync with said events, which really hammers home just how literally drawn from life was his work. As kids growing up in the 70s, my sister and I’d been fairly Snoopy obsessed, but I didn’t realize until reading this book that by then Charlie Brown and his gang had already been a cultural powerhouse for a couple of decades. There’s also lots of interesting stuff about the merchandising of Peanuts into plush toys and coffee mugs at a time when such tchotchkes were not commonplace, and the account of making the now-iconic TV Christmas special should not be missed by anyone who teared up at Linus’s reading from the Gospel of Luke. (I’m talking to you, Jewish husband!)
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Finally, I watched my friend rock the house yesterday as Beatrice in a local production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and it has made me eager to revisit the play, especially the amazing scene where the often-raucous comedy suddenly goes still as Beatrice laments her own inability to strike and coldly prods Benedick to avenge the shaming of her cousin Hero: “If I were a man, I would eat his heart in the marketplace.” It’s hard to grasp today just how ruinous it once was to cast doubt on a young woman’s virtue, but the rage Beatrice expresses at the dishonor unjustly meted out to her kinswoman burns right through to the present.
After her electric portrayal, my friend spoke of exhaustion from barely having slept the night before, which was in no way evident, and mentioned noticing her father-in-law in the audience, reminders that performance is illusion and the actor is aware of the construct as she is creating it. In that way the craft is quite similar to writing fiction, I think, though later that evening I was listening to an interview of yet another author speaking of her characters as if they had emerged fully formed from the cosmos and were speaking through her (this time it was Alice Sebald, who wrote The Lovely Bones, an uplifting tale of rape and dismemberment’s aftermath that I somewhat queasily liked).
On the one hand, I sort of know what she meant, in that as characters form they sometimes seem to nudge you toward destinies other than those you had originally conceived for them. On the other hand, you made it all up and you know you did, else you court mental illness and stream-of-consciousness hypergraphia.