60 Books In 2019 #40: Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck

If I could pick anywhere at any time to go on vacation, it would be Paris, 1925-ish, get to hang out with the Lost Generation, and drink champagne and eat in cafes and where fabulous linen dresses.

I have no illusions about who those men actually were, assholes at best and monsters at worst, which is why I wouldn’t want to live among them, just go on vacation.

Hemingway’s Girl takes place after that glittering era, about ten years later, when a nineteen year old girl named Mariella Bennett gets a job working as a maid in Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West. Mariella becomes smitten with the author, despite his marriage and a growing relationship with a far more appropriate veteran working for the EPA just north of the island.

I have a soft spot for historical fiction about the women near the “great men.” There’s a silliness to it, but a great deal of fun too, and that’s what I had with Hemingway’s Girl, Mariella is a delightful heroine, strong and willful and a little bit out of her depth. Robuck’s picture of Hemingway is bright and fun and intoxicating. It also got me looking at Air BnB’s in Key West for the winter, so we’ll see how that goes.

This wasn’t a great book, by any means, but did get me thinking I should give Ernest another shot. (I hated him in highschool, and even though I got it a lot more in college, still would rather read Fitzgerald for my bare bones prose of that era.)

Up next is City Of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert which I have been waiting all stinking summer to read and I am so so excited. (It just came in from the library last week!) 20 Books left in my challenge which I feel pretty good about at the moment.

Advertisements

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Rebels: Season 3

It turns out I’d watched more of Season 3 than I thought. Mostly because I remembered everyone buzzing about Saw Guerrera being in Rogue One and the return of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

It’s not as strong a season, though Ezra has a fly new haircut, and Bendu the middle way Force-beast is badass. Plus Admiral Thrawn. (Though Thrawn’s inclusion is really just another thing for Fanboy Types to get yelly about, and insist that Mara Jade be a thing. Look, we have a new side female character we want in everything now, and it’s Ahsoka.)

Speaking of. She dead.

I don’t like it. But functionally I get it. It’s a deeply important story decision, and she needed closure to her arc.

Oh and Kenobi. Ezra chases a vision of Maul to Tatooine and getting lost in the desert, he is saved by Kenobi, who basically tells him he’s in the wrong story. (This is ridiculous, what am I doing here?) It’s a nice way to put up boundaries between Ezra and Luke, who by all reasonable metrics are peers. Ezra leaves to return to his family, the crew of the ghost. Maul finds Obi-Wan, they duel and Maul dies. (Probably. I’ll never count Maul out for Filoni. If he pops up in Resistance I’ll note that it tracks.)

That was the last episode of Rebels that I watched. And there was plenty this season that I didn’t have much memory of. Kallus taking over as Fulcrum is cool, and Sabine taking her place in Mandalorian politics, while wielding the dark saber is also neat. Hera coming to terms with her father.

But for the most part, I prefer season 2. Ezra’s growing up is a relief and his excised angst makes him more watchable but also a lot less distinct. His competence is cool but without that edge he just becomes Luke, with different hair. We already have Luke, a different take on the Jedi trainee would have been welcome.

Maybe that’s why the fandom latched on to Ahsoka. She’s different, she’s new.

Or maybe I’m projecting. I don’t know. I’m enjoying watching the show, and it’s doing what I want for this project, which is get me excited to watch and think about Star Wars again. I mentioned at the beginning of the year that I’d lost my enthusiasm for this world and that made me sad. With The Skywalker saga ending I wanted to at least be excited.

And I am excited about Star Wars again. And Clone Wars and Rebels helped get me there. (Though it was mostly Solo if I’m honest.) Anyway, next week, we’ll talk Season 4, which I have not watched any of. (I don’t think.) Hopefully the show pulls off a cool ending.

My girls have a way of getting into mischief

To say that Little Women has had an impact on my life is a deep deep understatement.

Louisa May Alcott’s novel of sisterhood didn’t just influence me, it got into my insides when I was seven years old and I grew up around it, twisting my voice and personality to it. I’m a writer because of Jo March, I know I can always come home despite my differences from my family because of Amy March, I desire deep profound love because of Meg March and I cherish innocence because of Beth March.

I’m not alone in this. Most women I know have their own profound connection to Little Women. Maybe because it was a story about girls that didn’t privilege romance (though it’s there), maybe because it’s always been there, I don’t know, but it’s a special story.

Watching nearly every woman I follow on social media lose their minds in the last few days over the Little Women trailer has been an incredible blessing. Also, after Ladybird, I’d trust Greta Gerwig to tell any story that resonates with me, since she told a story so close to mine so well.

I’m infatuated with the cast as well. Saorise Ronan has made the world better for Irish named lasses everywhere, and for a change we’re getting a competent Amy. (Well, Kirsten Dunst was great but whover played grown up Amy SUCKED HARD) and I think Meg will be a great change of pace of Emma Watson, and Thimotee Chalamet is FINALLY what I’ve always wanted from Laurie. (Most adaptations lean into his dreamy side, totally forgetting that he’s kinda a weird dork.) (Not to say Chalamet isn’t dreamy, but he’s also a weird dork, not something you could say about say, Christian Bale.)

Mostly, I’m just really really psyched. And once I finish my 60 books, I plan to pick it up again. (Soon ish! My current TBR takes me to 51 and I’m travelling over Labor day weekend.) I haven’t read Alcott in a while, so I’m looking forward to it here.

 

 

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Rebels: Season 2

Ahsoka’s great right? Like she’s really great. I feel like I could write this whole essay about her. (Except I already wrote that essay back the first time I watched this season.)  

So instead we’re going to focus on something else this season.

We’re going to focus on Kanan Jarrus: Mediocre Jedi Knight.

Kanan’s a pretty shitty Jedi. But he’s a great character. Freddie Prinze Jr. does excellent work too. But Kanan is a different kind of character for Star Wars which is after all, the joy of both Clone Wars and Rebels, and, at least on paper the Story series, exploring different corners of that galaxy, far far away. Kanan isn’t a hero. He’s not a great warrior like Anakin. Or the best teacher ever like Obi-Wan. Or a wise sage like Yoda. He’s not the savior like Luke. Or power awaking anew like Rey. He’s just, a guy, who got lucky one time, and has been surviving on his wits since then.

He’s got his issues, (guilt mostly) but he’s in love, he’s doing his best to make the galaxy a better place, and he doesn’t really think he has what it takes to whip this kid into shape but he’s giving it his all anyway.

You wanna know who else comes back this season? (Besides Ahsoka? And again, she’s great.) Rex. Rex is great too. Kanan doesn’t care for him. (The thing about seeing everyone you care about getting murdered, it does a number on you and when a guy with the same face as the murderers shows up, you might not love having him around.) Ezra likes him though. Ezra is still super annoying. I forgot about the internet calling him Space Aladdin, but he is that. Also, back? Darth Maul. Dave Filoni loves bringing back Darth Maul so much he wants to take the concept out behind the middle school and get it pregnant, but he’s good here too, since his appearance at a Sith Temple eventually leads to that most devestating of showdowns. (That had me sitting on my couch rocking back and forth with tear streaming down my cheeks.)

That brings us to our villains! Hooray! Kallus is still around and still kind of a shit. But mostly this season is centered around The Seventh Sister, a new inquisitors who answers directly to Vader, who is also around. The Seventh Sister is eery and bad ass and, BEST OF ALL, voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar. Listening to Sarah and Freddie fight/flirt is super cute and also, there’s the whole Buffy factor adding to her badassery. And Vader being more directly involved so that he can kill Ahsoka is a necessity.

The moment where Ahsoka shouts, “I am no Jedi,” and declares her refusal to leave Anakin behind again is stunning. Ashley Eckstein is really wonderful. And knowing Ashley a little bit, I’m even more impressed by latter day Ahsoka, as she’s so straightforward and badass and Ashley is so giggly and bubbly and huggy. (Seriously I’ve met the woman four times and she always greets me with a “Reenie! IT’S SO NICE TO SEE YOU AGAIN! OMG YOU LOOK GREAT! HOW ARE YOU?” and a giant hug. She’s amazing. I would follow her into battle.)

Next week we’ll deal with season 3, which will be fun, because I remember watching a few episodes, but little about them.

60 Books in 2019: The Party Of The Century: The Fabulous Story Of Truman Capote And His Black And White Ball By Deborah Davis

After immersing himself in the darkness of the human soul while writing In Cold Blood, Truman Capote decided to do the opposite and immerse himself in luxury in glitter by throwing the most lavish party ever.

Deborah Davis chronicles from inception to aftermath the night of glamour that was Truman Capote’s black and white masquerade ball, held in the grand ballroom of The Plaza Hotel.

Davis’s book is detailed, interesting and does it’s best in it’s short pages to give context to Capote’s mania about the party, dealing as everything about Capote does, with his relationship to his mother, his outsider/insider status and his keen observation of the human condition.

But mostly, the book is gossip, about the “swans,” Truman’s rich lady friends and their marriages. About Capote himself and his motives for throwing the party. It’s also something of a time capsule, and wholly appropriate reading as Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood swims around in my brain, as it deals with a similar idea, the end of one era and the birth of the other and the way those two moment have to coincide in a melancholic burst of light.

The book is fun and dishy and interesting. It also reminded me that I really need to read more Capote, as I’ve only really read Breakfast At Tiffany’s. (Other Voices, Other Rooms seems particularly up my alley!) And the way the voices carry.

Up next is Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck. I enjoyed The Paris Wife, so I’ll probably like this too. I’m not crazy about Hemingway’s writing but I am fascinated by the man and those around him.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Rebels: Season 1

Remember all those weeks ago when I started Clone Wars and I mentioned that I really didn’t care for the animation style, but the writing and characters made up for it? I don’t know if it’s the jump in tech, or that sweet sweet Disney money, or what, but even though it’s the same character types it’s smoother, the colors are brighter, and it’s more fun to watch.

That said, while Rebels is the prettier show, the whole, “writing and characters” thing is not as strong, but as I realized putting my notes together, unlike Clone Wars which had some built in foundations for it’s leads (except Ahsoka), here we’re starting from scratch, we don’t know any of these people.

The crew of the Ghost, Captain Hera (QUEEN), Jedi Knight Kanan Jaras (FREDDIE PRINZE JR!), monster type Zeb, and Sabine Wren (BEST!) pick up orphan force sensitive whiny teen Ezra (meh.) and zip around the outer rim taking lightly criminal jobs and fighting the empire.

It’s Firefly you guys. They made an officially Star Wars cartoon version of Firefly. And that’s great. It’s very good. We also have a guy who used to be a screw up trying to redeem himself as a teacher and some truly chilling imperials and easily my favorite cliffhanger in any cartoon I’ve watched.

Let’s talk about our bad guys? Agent Callas and The Inquisitor play a B-Team Tarkin and Vader well enough. (Until Tarkin and Vader show up in the last few episodes) but it’s also just eerie, to watch the way a generation has wiped things away. It’s a nice warning, frankly. But let’s not get political.

See, the season of vaguely getting to know the team, and Ezra building his light saber gun. (Seriously. I’m not a huge Ezra fan, but that is awesome) and them teaming up with Lando. (LANDO) Hera reveals to the rest of the team that they’re not on their own, they’re a cell in the rebel alliance under the command of Bail Organa. Oh, and the agent who’s been feeding them missions, the mysterious “Fulcrum?”

IT’S AHSOKA! I remember watching the episode and freaking the frak out at that. Remember, none of us really knew what her fate was, after she’d walked away from the Jedi order. She was just, you know, gone. Did she survive Order 66? Escape into the outer rim? What? (There has since been a novel explaining that whole situation. It’s pretty good. You should read it.)

Anyway, next week we’ll get into season 2, which if I recall is a little bit stronger than one. But I don’t love Rebels like I do Clone Wars, even though, you know, Sabine.

The End Of An Era

I have, complicated, opinions on Quentin Tarantino. The man is a certified piece of crap, racist and sexist in the most insidious, “did that really happen?” ways. Not to mention the way he’s got that successful young white dude thing where his personality and work kind of atrophied after his biggest success.

I haven’t loved a Tarantino movie since Inglorious Basterds (which is still my favorite of his) at least until this one came along.  Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood is a melancholy love letter to the kind of movies that Tarantino loves, the sordid blood soaked B-list flicks of yesteryear.

It’s also his way of saying goodbye. He’s mentioned he was thinking of retiring after this, so we’ll see.

Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood weaves the fictional story of TV Cowboy Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his best friend/stuntman Cliff (Brad Pitt) together with the creepy and tragic tale of real life starlet Sharon Tate and The Manson Family.

Tarantino uses the ticking clock of the Tate’s murder beautifully, and the ending is cathartic and elegiac and stunningly Tarantino.

*Spoilers From Here On Out*

 

 

 

As four of Manson’s followers park in front of Tate and Polanski’s mansion (Rick lives next door and one of the kids played by Maya Hawke in a bit of generational symmetry) Rick comes out drunk and furious to berate them, telling them to go loiter elsewhere. Furious, the three remaining change their mind and go to attack Rick instead of Sharon. They’re met by Cliff, who then beats them to death.

There’s so much blood in this scene, if it were any other director. But this is Tarantino and the finale is downright restrained by his standards and all the more glorious because of it.

We need to talk about Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate though. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood casts Tate as a kind of bright light, a flip side flower child to the glassy eyed and shadowy Manson kids, who are presented from jump as feral and creepy and off. (Margaret Qualley plays Pussycat, the one we get to know best and she’s great.) Robbie is a star. I’ve never not enjoyed her presence in a movie and she imbues Sharon with a sort of gorgeous unbound joy. She’s dancing in every frame. She’s smiling and laughing and exuding sunshine. Some hay has been made of her lack of lines, but her silence speaks here. It’s warmth and light and an incredible performance.

I mentioned Tarantino’s use of dramatic irony here. Anyone who knows their Hollywood history knows about Tate’s fate. It’s tragic and awful and pointless. Tarantino, who rewrote World War II to have a bunch of Jewish-Americans burn Hitler to death, here saves some people from pointless violent death at the hands of monsters. This is being dissected, but it’s also part of what gives the movie it’s melancholy. “Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if things could have gone this way? If this young woman and her child could have lived and fulfilled their potential? If her friends could have had theirs?”

The movie isn’t perfect but it’s wonderful.

Rankings:

  1. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood
  2. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  3. Avengers: Endgame
  4. Rocketman
  5. Detective Pikachu
  6. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters

 

Trailers: 

JoJo Rabbit: I think I need to read this book to get a sense of what I’m getting into. I trust Taika Waititi but this seems like pretty blunt satire, even for me.

Good Boys: I had high hopes for this, because I thinking letting a movie about middle schoolers have an R rating would allow for conversation that actually matched middle schooolers, but this looks like it’s leaning into an adult view of “haha the kids say swears and don’t understand sex talk, isn’t that weird?” which is not what I wanted.