Monday night: I am parked on the bed, tip-tapping away, with both cats lounging beside me as Kelly writes in the next room. It was a cool and sometimes blustery day, but now the sky has cleared and the evening light is pleasantly mellow. Our birch trees are putting out teeny tiny leaves. I love the spotted crepe-y look of birch trunks; I missed them when we moved away from Northern Alberta when I was eleven or so. I associate the look of them, somehow, with contentment.
We were at Ad Astra all weekend, seeing people and talking books, so today I mostly worked through a logjam of teaching tasks, as well as figuring out out the plotty heart of one of the three novel concepts I’m incubating. I am calling these concepts the stork babies, since some species of stork hatch multiple offspring, who then duke it out in a rather grisly game of survivor, the stronger voting the weaker out of the nest, kersplat, until only one remains. If I ever wrote a book called Things I learned from David Attenborough, there would definitely be a bird chapter entitled “Nature’s Most Beautiful Assholes.”
The storks’ current working titles, in birth order, are Tom the Liar, Glory Days, and Magic Fairy Sparkle Princess. I expect all of these titles to change no matter who outwits, outlasts and outwrites.
I am also pleased because I’ve realized the Poldark series is finally available via my preferred media vendor. We’ve been waiting for this to happen for months! Now if only iTunes Canada would unlock Grantchester S2…
In the normal course of things it might have taken Kelly and I upward of a couple of months to watch Daredevil S2, but: i) we came back from England and promptly caught colds; ii) the first eight or so episodes, with their unflinching look at the ethics of vigilante action, were especially well-crafted and intriguing; iii) every little thing Foggy and Karen did was pure, unadulterated magic. Except maybe the gist of her think piece at the end. And hey, it’s her first feature, so I’m willing to forgive.
The end, though I enjoyed it, was fuzzy in a lot of ways. It felt crammed, with far too much shoehorned into it and a few missteps.
Where Daredevil excels, in my writerly opinion, is primarily in the non-supernatural drama, in the relationships between its three principals. It does other things very well too, of course: fight choreography, stunning graphic novel visuals, chewy moral quandaries, systemic corruption, and beating the crap out of Matt himself.
Where it falls down? In making Hell’s Kitchen seem less like 2016 New York, post Chitauri disaster or no, and more of a relic from the crimey, hard-nosed Eighties. It’ll reference Matt’s Catholic damage–Claire’s lecture about same was tiresomely on the nose–but it doesn’t drill down to give any kind of real sense of what that’s like. Most of all, the villain plans are thready. At the point in the story where we move from character exploration to OMG, gotta usher everyone to the bigtime battle scenes, the baddies’ machinations unravel. And not in an Oh, I see what you were trying to pull off there, Boyd Crowder, sucks to be you kind of way.
Fisk’s scheme, in S1, made a lot of sense… for a time. Raze the Kitchen, build towers for the well-heeled, divide up the inevitable neighborhood crime rackets and make billions on both the legal and illegal ends of the transaction. Okay! We understood who stood to gain and who would be hurt.
Still, his plan fell apart when he turned on his own syndicate.
The S2 baddie is on a quest, for religious reasons. They need their plot coupon-y spoiler spoiler plot thing, for their Holy War. A war with whom, really, besides Scott Glenn? And afterward they’re going to… do what, exactly, with Hell’s Kitchen? With Matt’s “My City,” out of which they should posthaste get? Are they gonna have that city? Slaughter whoever shows up? Forbid any sneaking around on the rooftops and in the cellars by non-ninja-individuals? I can’t think of a single Nelson & Murdock Avocados at Law client who’d truly be affected by total ninja domination of the Kitchen’s dark corners. None of the Hand stuff meshes particularly well with Frank’s story, which is about a failure of law enforcement and the system. Frank’s mess is at the heart of what Nelson Page Murdoch are struggling with.
I get that Matt needed a distraction so he could let down the team, I do. I get that the whole story couldn’t be Frank. But Frank works so well that Nobu & Co. feel grafted on.
As for Frank’s Boss Monster, that whole thing collapsed into a huge and disappointing coincidence.
Still, 90% of what I saw I loved. I liked where the characters ended up, I think Matt’s final choice was the right one, I’m super-curious about what Karen will do now, and I may well rewatch the whole shebang quite soon. And I’m hoping that S3 takes us into the vigilante piece they missed examining: Matt is an altruist vigilante, while Pun (as Wolverine always called him) is an agent of vengeance acting, at least in the beginning, on his own behalf.
What did you think?
First, a question, about your favorite movie set in present-day London. What is it?
My incredible reward for virtue Sunday morning–virtue being that I hauled my ass out the door at nine to go have what turned out to be an exceptionally, yea unfairly robust and demanding hot yoga session–was that when I opened my locker and tried to put my glasses back on, they snapped in my hand.
(Actually, my true reward for virtue is that the incomparable Andrew at 312 Optical assured me that they were still under warranty, and that he would urge the folks who make them to send out the part post-haste so he could fix them. And he had checked all this before I got there, because he follows me on social media.)
I do have back-up glasses, but the lenses are very different. I’m looking at a week or more of underperforming and feeling eyestrainy. And, possibly, being offline a lot. Which is the whole reason I’m telling you this.)
Other nice things that happened this weekend included this fantastic review of A Daughter of No Nation in The Toronto Star, by Marissa Stapely:
The appeal of this series lies in Dellamonica’s thoughtful, penetrating writing … and the effortless way Dellamonica weaves sexually diverse characters into the narrative without making it feel like they’re fulfilling a quota. The overarching sense of social responsibility is refreshing, too. Sophie questions her new world as all young people should: she does not simply let life happen to her, but instead seeks to understand and improve her surroundings.
And Kelly’s posting the TOC for the Gardner Dozois anthology The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Third Annual Collection, which will include her debut story, “The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill.”
Blessings, so many blessings. There were fish tacos, and hugs from our favorite baker, some funny posts from an artist friend who’s trying to clean out one of her piles of multimedia supplies, the first few chapters of The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher, chocolate olive-oil cake from Forno Cultura, roasted parsnips and a rewatch of Thor: The Dark World.
Most of all, there was talk of London, London, OMG, London, where Kelly and I will be going, for the first time, in a mere 95 days. Part of the reason for rewatching The Dark World (not that one needs a reason) is that it’s one of the few movies we own that’s set in London now. As opposed to London in the 1900s, 1800s, 1700s, Doctorwhohundreds, etc. The only other one may be Love Actually. Hence my initial question. Because I’m not entirely sure I’m up to rewatching Luther.
“The Glass Galago”
On Wednesday in Saratoga Springs I got to see three variations of this spectacular cover for “The Glass Galago,” which is the third* of The Gales and which will be out in a couple months. Irene Gallo showed me this lush and beautiful Richard Anderson image, and I squealed like a little child newly in possession of all the ice cream.
*The first two Gales are Among the Silvering Herd and The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti.
I am sitting in the hotel room in Saratoga Springs as I write this, checking my UCLA classrooms and talking with my students about what makes a person or non-human character monstrous. They’re asking: is the monstrous always just about making someone Other? Some might say any ordinary person with a defective moral compass–your classic heartless killer or other all-too-human predator– can be a monster. And in non-fiction, that scans for me. If a journalist wants to call Charles Manson a monster, I’m not going to quibble.
In fiction, my taste runs to the more than human monsters. I like for them to have a whiff of the transcendent. In the above series of stories, Gale Feliachild occasionally regards Captain Garland Parrish as monstrous, even though he’s not even remotely evil. He’s overly blessed by nature, you see: impossibly handsome, exceedingly graceful, and good at almost everything he turns his mind to. It’s just about too much. He’s good, but he can easily be jealousy-inducing. We all know people like this: coveting their good fortune makes us feel small, and it’s hard not to blame them.
The current TV version of Hannibal Lecter has an intense aestheticism and is so robustly athletic that he’s as hard to kill as The Terminator. Some of his qualities are appealing–his love is so pure!–and that makes his compulsion to kill and eat the rude all the more awful. And the fact that we can empathize with the idea of quelling the rude, neglectful and genuinely awful people we run across from time to time actually increases the effect… it invites us to consider whether we might not condone more than we should.
Now that the Canadian Federal election is, at long last, over, I feel a need to start a few frivolous conversations. I want to talk about persimmons and weird things I overhear on the street and my cats (still supercute, in case you’re curious) and, of course, television.
As Kelly and I embark on what I think is our second rewatch of Cranford, I want to make sure you all know there are some badass women-driven TV shows happening. I’m not merely talking about Agent Carter–you’ve probably all seen what Peggy’s been getting up to lately. I’m talking about mostly British stuff. Take Scott and Bailey, whose fourth season has been nothing short of mind-blowing. There’s The Crimson Field, Happy Valley, and Bletchley Circle and Call the Midwife. They’re crime shows, war shows, nurse shows. They’re about women pursuing complicated professions and leading complicated lives, and getting all up in each other’s business as they do. Sometimes they help each other. Sometimes they hinder like you would not believe. These babes Bechdel all over the place, if you get what I’m saying.
If you’re missing out, well… you’re missing out.