Monday, August 20, 2007

Back To School

The long, hot, lazy days of summer are coming to an end. Soon, children everywhere will be back at school and the whirl of homework and extracurricular activities will catch us into its frenetic spin again. Soon, the lush leaves will change color and all foliage in the neighborhood will be brown and crunchy and, more often than not, unquestionably dead. Soon, the Midwestern air will cool our indecisive climate to its pre-wintertime chill and we'll grow certain in the knowledge that snow, hail and icestorms are as inevitable as high heating bills. And, today, the only thing I can say about all of that is...


If I never see another mosquito, I'll still have had enough bites--after just this summer--to last my lifetime. I want my writing time back, and my discussions with my friends, too--uninterrupted by our darling children's questions. I want to finally be able to wear a sweater again, and to not have to set foot in our community's public swimming pool for at least nine months. I want to throw out my flip-flops, my insect repellent and my nearly empty sunscreen bottles. I want to have a bonfire of summer-reading lists and Tastee-Freez coupons

I will, of course, desperately want all of these things back come January. But, for now, I'm heartily glad that tomorrow is "School Supply Drop-Off Day" and that the new school year begins this week.

So, so glad.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Plea for Elbow Room

This seemed to be my weekend for dealing with "personal space" issues. Or, you know, simply observing them...which, for a writer, is essentially the same thing.

My fabulous brother took me to a rockin' country concert on Saturday night--an awesome Kenny Chesney show with Sugarland and Pat Green opening--but much as I enjoyed the performances, I kept getting distracted by the crowd and the problems certain individuals had with other individuals. (I should point out that several of these aforementioned individuals, having consumed too many beers and hurricanes in tailgating mayhem prior to the concert, were approaching a fall-over-drunk stage before the lead guitarist even strummed the first note.)

With 30,000 adoring yet occasionally self-centered fans on the lawn, there was much scuttling over blanket space and jockeying for elbow room. There were arguments ranging in volume from nasty hisses to bellowing threats. There were men pulling their girlfriends away from face-offs with other women, and women dragging their husbands by the shirttails away from guys with raised fists. Wholly entertaining--if somewhat irritating--stuff.

And then came Sunday at the community swimming pool. Wow. Let me just point out that women don't have the monopoly on cat fights. There's nothing like sitting under the big blue poolside umbrella, trying to keep an eye on my splashing son and simultaneously read my book in the shade, while the two grown men in the row ahead shout at each other for ten long minutes over the occupancy of cheap plastic deck chairs.


Just makes me want to tell everyone: Take a deep breath and step away from the other mammals, please. We're all trying to coexist on the same planet...any chance we could do that respectfully?

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Becoming Jane...Or, First Impressions of a New Film

Well, I caved. I couldn't take the suspense anymore. I had to go see the new fine arts film "Becoming Jane"--a purported biopic of Jane Austen's life. Or, more specifically, of her love life.

Now, I should clarify my position upon entering the movie theater. Everyone who knows me--and I mean this literally: EVERYONE--knows what an Austen fan I am. Some would insist I'm freakish in my devotion to the witty author of Pride and Prejudice. I neither confirm nor deny this claim, though I will point (silently, but with raised brows) to the quote underneath my photo on this page (look left) and will mention that the full title of my Golden Heart winning manuscript is...wait for it...According To Jane: A Novel About Pride, Prejudice & the Pursuit of the Perfect Guy.

Yeah. The prosecution rests its case.

So, let's just say I wasn't indifferent to the content of this new picture. I watched it with an intensity befitting an active member of the Jane Austen Society of North America (which I am). And I enjoyed it, as one enjoys a film on a slightly soggy summer afternoon in an overly air conditioned theater surrounded by older ladies chomping loudly on their buttered popcorn and with the fervor of toddlers afraid their treat tubs might be snatched from them by an evil usher at any moment.

Ambiance issues aside, it wasn't a bad movie. Anne Hathaway is just so fun, so lovely, and her English accent was, well...nearly believable. Maggie Smith made a notable, if somewhat predictable appearance. And the men cast in the film's important roles were also interesting to watch onscreen, a couple of whom were especially compelling. (Who, might I ask, was that actor playing Jane's brother "Henry"? What a hottie.) The plot itself was, by turns, entertaining and filled with well-directed cinematic moments, which were dramatized to an utterly appropriate soundtrack. And, despite the odd tendency to have Jane's most obnoxious P&P book characters scripted as direct derivatives of her "real" family members, many of the family's professional details fit with what's known about her background. So, you'd think I'd be essentially pleased, and yet...

Yet, the problem for me was obvious. It didn't rest with the film itself, which was a lovely work of fiction (my point, actually), but with its subversive message: That this picture in any way depicted the true life of Jane Austen. Because, while I know the writers took heavy creative license with her "biography" (due largely to the fact that so much of Jane's real life is unknown but her book characters are so familiar and beloved), people unfamiliar with Jane's letters and her more-accurately recorded history could easily be persuaded to believe these events are true representations of what really occurred in her love life. And while there is some truth to it, the overall impression given by the film was, I strongly believe, a false one.

So, I'm a bit unsettled tonight. And, though not at all craving popcorn or glacial air, I kind of wish I could return to that theater and watch this movie again--but played out this time to my specifications, ones in sync with my vision of Jane's life--based on what is surely an equally inaccurate picture of her daily existence and her most cherished romantic relationships.


I guess it's true. We all just really want to direct.