The Great Comet, Digressions, and The Nature of The Epic Novel

natasha

It’s been over two weeks since I saw Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet Of 1812 and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the implications of something like, adapting a few chapters of an epic novel into an Avante Garde rock opera. I was listening to the OBC yesterday and started thinking about how epic novels in general play with subplots.

The digression is a staple of the epic novel, and sometimes they can be a delight, and sometimes they can be a slog, and sometimes completely forgettable.

I’ve never read War And Peace the epic from which the digression that inspired The Great Comet is drawn but I’ve read others. (Les Miserables, Great Expectations, Gone With The Wind, The Lord of The Rings, hell at the moment I’m working through The Stand, which, whether it was Stephen King’s intention to write an old school epic or not, certainly reads like one.) And not all digressions are created equal. I know now that when I read War And Peace that this one will stand out to me, but whether it would have done anything without The Great Comet is hard to know.

Some digressions I love? The extended flashback to Waterloo in Les Mis where Thenardier saves Marius’s father’s life, which leads to Marius becoming the protector of Eponine and Gavroche (oh, did you not know that Gavroche is also a Thenardier child? Well, he is.) and deep guilt at their deaths. Scarlett and Rhett’s trip to New York & Saratoga in Gone With The Wind (Where Scarlett gets pregnant with Bonnie.) Anything where Pip was at school in Great Expectations.

Some digressions I can’t stand? Tom Friggin Bombadil, anything about Marius’s family history not connected to the Thenardiers, anything about Ashley Wilkes that isn’t directly illuminating how Melanie Wilkes is The Bomb Dot Com.

Anyway, that’s been in my head lately. As for actually reviewing the show? I don’t think that I understood enough of it to that. I really enjoyed The Great Comet, it’s a remarkable piece of theater and I’ve fallen very in love with the cast album, but it’s also strange and more than a little bit odd and deeply overwhelming in certain ways.

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Well Met, Gunslinger

The Dark Tower

You know that feeling where you know you’re nearing the end of a book and you don’t want the story to end so you avoid the reading for as long as you can?

That was me for the past week with The Dark Tower. After speeding through The Wolves of The Calla (FAVORITE) and The Song of Susannah I started the final volume and realized that I was too far along, and that it would all be ending soon and I had to stop otherwise I’d be leaving Mid-World, Roland, Jake, Eddie, Susannah, Oy and The Man In Black behind.

I wasn’t ready, but I knew it had to happen. And I said goodbye to each of them in turn. To Eddie as he fought to free the Beam from the Breakers of Blue Heaven. To Jake as he shielded Stephen King from the van that nearly killed him in 1999. To The Man In Black, Walter, as he tried to ally with Roland and Susannah’s demon half son Mordred only to be destroyed. (That’s one of those sentences that doesn’t make any sense out of context…) To Susannah as she passed into a new world, to be reunited with Eddie and Jake. To Oy as he defended Roland one last time. And finally to Roland Deschain, The Gunslinger himself as he stepped through the door at the top of The Dark Tower, only to begin the story all over again.

People complain about this ending? This brilliant perfect ending? This is the disappointing bit of sloppiness I’ve seen tossed aside in comment sections and heard scoffed at during comic cons over and over again?

I don’t understand people. And people generally don’t understand endings, and it drives me nuts. (Seriously, I’ve spent so much breath on the ending of Lost, and why it’s perfect. Also The Hunger Games.) 

Anyway, in a few weeks, if as the man in black flees across the desert, and the gunslinger follows, Roland carries the Horn of Eld, well…I think that could bode very well.

It’s all Nineteen after all.

There Are Other Worlds Than These

Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, which way to Never never land?

Emerald City’s gone to hell, since the Wizard blew off his command.

On the street you hear the voices, lost children, crocodiles.

But you’re not into making choices, Wicked Witches, poppy fields or men behind the curtain.

Tiger lilies, ruby slippers, clock is ticking that’s for certain. – “30/90”, Tick, Tick…Boom, by Jonathan Larson

Because of my foray into The Dark Tower (I’m through The Wastelands now, and it’s amazing, and I love it, and I remember the face of my father.) I’ve been thinking about other worlds in fiction.

I’m not talking about other planets, or even alternate realities. So that leaves out things like Mirror Worlds and Bizzarro Worlds, and even realms like Middle Earth, or Westeros or Tortall.

I’m talking about other worlds, that exist in some space near or in our own, and you access them through some sort of magic. I’m talking about your Narnia, your Wonderland, your Neverland, your Oz.

While I’m not sure if there strange desert world of Roland The Gunslinger is actually another world, and not a far flung future of our own, (NO SPOILERS! I’ve been spending the month restraining myself from Googling more about this series because I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW UNTIL I KNOW!) for the moment I’m treating it as someplace else.

Mainly I’ve been thinking about how you view those worlds as an adult, as opposed to as a child. The lyrics I posted above are from Tick Tick…BOOM, and are technically about anxiety about turning 30, which also, coming, and also, GAH trying so hard not to think about…although if in the next 6 years I can create something as indelliably awesome as Jonathan Larson did with Rent I think I’d be OK…I mean, not the dying at 35, without ever SEEING my creation completed part, but the writing something as resonant as Rent part. So much art about aging anxiety is about the destruction of childhood, and the wish expressed in “30/90” is to trade Oz for Neverland, as if one imploded and the other is just there waiting.

“Go on then,” Jake, the young boy who becomes the closest companion of Roland, says as he falls to his death in The Gunslinger, “there are other worlds than these.” Maybe there’s something about 30 that makes me want to seek out new worlds, or giving up on seeing them altogether, but this year has me being really introspective and kind of wishing I was someplace else. This is a general feeling, not one that I plan to act on and since the places I’m dwelling on don’t really exist, they aren’t really an option.

Emerald City’s gone to hell, since the wizard blew off his command.

 

 

Summer Reading

Hi everyone!

As the summer kicks off, I’m reminded of library summer reading programs. You know, you would get a sticker or whatever for every book you read?

Anyway, I’ve decided to give myself some reading goals so that I don’t wind up floundering and not reading much, as sometimes happens when I get busy.

  • The Vonnegut Project continues in earnest. This weekend I read (reread actually) Slapstick. Not my favorite (Mother Night has inched up on Cat’s Cradle though.) but nice to revisit. I’ve really enjoyed this project so far, and still heartily enjoying Kurt Vonneguys. Right now, I’m reading Jailbird, and then Palm Sunday. Jailbird, I’m enjoying, it actually remind me a lot of Mother Night, just in style and structure.

Cinder

  • The Lunar Chronicles: A series that I never managed to pick up, but I read Cinder about a month ago and really, really enjoyed it, so I’m onto Scarlet now. I’m invested in the story, at the very least, and I do love re contextualized fairy tales. And badass female heroes, and villains for that matter. Plus teenagers doing magic. Seriously, I don’t know how I haven’t read these books before, they have everything I like. I finished up Scarlet on Saturday night, and I’m looking forward to Cress. I should note, that I picked up Cinder on Kristi’s recommendation. So, thanks!
  • The Dark Tower: I finished The Gunslinger before picking up Slapstick. Mostly I wanted some basis of understanding of the world and story before the movie comes out, and I really, really enjoyed it. I’ve also never really read much Steven King before (see, horror, not my thing…) so I figure this is as good a gateway as anything into his stuff. Also, the movie looks, really, really good, just on it’s own, so, I’m in on this. I read The Drawing Of The Three yesterday and while it felt a little bit less epic than The Gunslinger I’m interested in watching this world expand out as I keep going. (My friend Greg has said that Wizard And Glass might be his favorite book ever…Greg and I tend to align on things. So looking forward to that.)

That’s the plan for now. Right now, I’m looking to alternate between Lunar Chronicles and Dark Tower books (with a Vonnegut here and there to keep up with podcast) to avoid falling to deeply into either worlds. With Game of Thrones coming back, my day job morphing again, and finally starting to look for my own place (that’s it’s own post when things are a little more solid) I can’t really afford, time wise, a full on new fandom.

We don’t need a repeat of the summer of A Song Of Ice And Fire, The Hunger Games and Mad Men and not just because of the complete loss of faith in humanity brought on by that binge. (If you’re wondering how to cure it, I recommend visits to Middle Earth and Narnia) But, yeah, I’m tired and busy and can’t fully invest theses day

I’m using Goodreads to keep myself honest and on task. Connect with me if you’re on the service! And recommend other series for me to take on. Or just books. In particular, something a little more feminine? Lunar Chronicles is doing it for now, but that’ll run out soon and while I’m really enjoying both The Vonnegut Project and The Dark Tower, they’re really, really, male. Not in a bad way, just like, I need to balance the dudely energy a little bit.

Happy Summer Reading!

I Didn’t Ask To Be A Half-Blood

LightningThiefPlay-300x300In case you’re new, you may not know that I have a few what I call “baseline” obsessions. They’re not the fundamentals of nerdiness, as deep in my bones as Star Wars, Harry Potter or Les Mis. But they’re things I come back to over and over, with love and joy and excitement, but I can detach myself enough to view them critically. Batman, The Collective Television Work of Aaron Sorkin, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel, Game of Thrones. 

A big one, a big big one is the connected mythological work of Rick Riordan. Percy Jackson And The Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus, The Kane Chronicles, Magnus Chase And The Gods of Asgard, and The Trials of Apollo, are semi-annual joys to visit. (One book generally comes out in the spring, another in the fall…) They’re also, one of the earliest bits of nerd bonding that Aless and I came to. (The summer we became besties Sea Of Monsters, the movie, came out. We moaned over it’s disappointments together.) So, when we learned the there was going to be a musical of The Lighting Thief, we got tickets as soon as possible for the first Saturday night performance.  I also reread all of the Greek/Roman books.

The show itself is really great, capturing the sort of cheeky, totally epic fun of the books, and giving fans a lot to grab on to, especially given the various characters on display. At Camp Halfblood, necessary for the plot characters Percy, Annabeth, Grover and Luke are joined by Clarisse LaRue, Silena Beuaregard and Katie Gardner, with a brief mention of Charles Beckindorf. (Though it’s that he’s cheating on Silena, something he would NEVER DO. HE DIED LOVING HER SO MUCH THAT HE WAITED TO ENTER ELYSIUM FOR HER!) Grover sings a whole song about Thalia’s sacrifice, and there’s even a cameo in the Lotus Hotel and Casino of a girl who’s been there since May of 1939. (Yes, demigods, we see, though only for a moment, Bianca DiAngelo! She also mentions her brother. Aless and I spazzed accordingly)

As a musical it’s entertaining, with a few truly good songs, though the theater lover in me, did have to roll my eyes at a few elements. “We get it, you love Rent!” I mumbled at one point, while Chris McCarrell as Percy raged against his bad luck to a pounding drum beat while jumping around a set constructed mostly of scaffolding. But McCarrell really did well with a character I have a great deal of affection towards and said song, “Good Kid,” has been stuck in my head since leaving the theater. I was equally impressed with Kristen Stokes as Annabeth, particularly her big solo song, but my favorite cast member was James Hayden Rodriguez, who played Luke Castellan as well as Ares and a couple of other parts. (Most of the cast doubled or tripled roles.) Luke is definitely in my top 3 favorite Riordan characters (Number 1 is Leo Valdez and the 2 spot rotates between Luke and Rachel Elizabeth Dare, depending on my mood.) And this performance really got what I liked about Luke, the charm, the anger, the sheer heartbreaking grief when this guy you can’t help but like stabs you in the back.

I was really happy with the show and even happier to see it with my best friend. (I came cosplayed as Annabeth, and Aless provided us some blue food.) We then proceeded to drink approximately all of the Tequila in The Village, but overall we had a great night, and now I’m just waiting on the cast album.

And the possibility of a sequel? Maybe? While the escalating weirdness and ballooning cast of Percy Jackson might make for a tough fit on stage, I’d still love to see this group give it a shot.

Busy Busy Busy: Smartening and The Kurt Vonneguys

Six months ago I decided to smarten up a little and the project failed miserably, because Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton is insanely long and dense and I wasn’t smarted up enough for it.

So, I dropped that book and the whole American History project, but lucky for me, a new presented itself to me!

Michael Swaim and Alex Schmidt, who I knew from Cracked, (by knew I mean, read their writing and watched their videos, I have not met these men.) started a podcast called The Kurt Vonneguys where they’re reading and discussing the works of Kurt Vonnegut in release order.

I’ve always liked Vonnegut’s work, and felt like I hadn’t read enough of it, so I decided to jump in. (Plus, my English major brain was missing the analysis of reading in a big way, and the podcast gives me that.) So far the podcast (and myself!) have made it through Player Piano, The Sirens of Titan and Mother Night. The one for Cat’s Cradle came out this week and I’m reading it right now. (I’m about halfway through.) Cat’s Cradle is one of my favorite books ever, so I was excited to circle back to it.

Also, given my current mood and sense of feeling overwhelmed by the world there’s something comforting in Vonnegut’s strange form of Nihilism. Unlike a lot of the “nothing matters” philosophy, Vonnegut’s point is inevitably, “nothing matter, so we might as well take care of one another, makes the nothingness more pleasant.”

There’s something comforting in that feeling right now, when it seems like common courtesy (or as some people want to call it “Political Correctness”) is considered weakness. When caring for others, particularly those who are different from you might be a radical act, I see nothing wrong with indulging in some thoughtful literature about how the world may burn, but at least we have each other.

Even if it’s all an accident, it’s a damn amazing accident.

Cosplay Corner: And The Smallest One…

I’d hoped to fill this post with pictures from the NY Renaissance Faire last weekend, but it was too hot to take many pictures. Sorry about that! But I did get one closet cosplay in this week!

Per the suggestion of my cousin Meaghan, I decided to celebrate back to school with a tribute to everyone’s favorite Parisian school girl, Madeline!

A simple navy blue dress with a wide Peter Pan collar.


I’m all set to head out from that old house in Paris, covered in vines, in two straight lines in rain or shine.