Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bring In the Angst, Bring In the Bad Boys!

Fortunately for my health and sanity (and relationships) I don't go for bad boys. I've always been attracted more to the clean cut School President type, or (as in the case of Toasty Joe) the skinny musician type. Boys who live on the edge, heartbreakers, men who live by no law but their own...I pretty much run from them. So unstable!

But in fiction, it's a different story (witness my love for the profoundly unstable heroes of our dear angsty Laura Kinsale). And on tv, this bad boy jones get pretty extreme.

So I turn, for the first time on this blog, to my favorite show in all the world, Veronica Mars. (Okay quick sales pitch for the unitiated: neo-noir set in a Cali high school; tough teen PI heroine with witty wisecracks and a supportive PI dad; class warfare; kooky cases; truly evil adversaries. Once described as Heathers meets Chinatown. Watch it. You'll thank me).

So Veronica's a smart girl. A tough girl. An admirable girl. A girl who's had her fair share of trauma, what with her best friend's murder, her alcoholic mom's splitting town, her dad's loss of his job as sheriff, ad infinitum. If she were one of my friends, I would drag her away from her screwed-up but blisteringly charismatic ex Logan so fast her head would rattle. But on tv...

On tv I LOVE episodes like this week's, where Logan finally confessed to Veronica (after nearly a season of watching her canoodle with his best friend) that he's not over her, that she broke his heart, that he thought their relationship was "epic," that he can't stand the thought that she'll be out of his life after graduation. The fact that he was drunk and wearing a charmingly disheveled tux only added to the poignancy.

Of course he had to screw it all up by forgetting the entire thing when she showed up the next morning to take him up on his offer of reinitiating their relationship. Of course she had to catch him with the predatory step-mom of his best friend (like I said, it's noir).

That's what bad boys do.

If you'd like a screencap of this swoon-worthy episode, click here.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Power of Myth?

Having read some writers' blogs, I checked out Tami Cowden's website about hero/heroine/villain archetypes. She breaks each one down into 7 or 8 archetypes like the Boss, the Waif, the Warrior, the Lost Soul, the Professor, etc. Some writers really talk up her categorizations. While I'm a fan of Joseph Campbell, I'm not entirely sure I buy it.

I tried to scrutinize my own characters through this lens and didn't find it completely applicable. Maybe because I'm too close to them? Calla seemed part Nurturer/part Waif, Peter is part Warrior/part Best Friend and Julia Chesterwood, the closest thing to a villain I've got, is a Schemer (though all these villains just sound too mean! I know Kate D. disagrees with me, but I kind of like Julia. She's fun to write).

Maybe it's too late to apply the archetype after the book's already written. I know my characters so well, it's hard for me to think of them as less-than real people. Where I see the effectiveness of these categories is in the planning stage. I know almost nothing about Marion's book (Widow in Red, perhaps?) except the preliminary set-up, but I already know her hero's a Professor.

On the revisions front, getting so close I can taste it. Three chapters left to revise. My birthday is May 2nd, one week away, and I've given myself the goal of finishing the book before I turn 26. Can I do it?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Who Are You At Hogwarts?

Kate D. is Hermione. No surprise there. As the quiz says:

You're one intelligent witch, but you have a hard time believing it and require constant reassurance. You are a very supportive friend who would do anything and everything to help her friends out.

Hermione Granger: 85%
Albus Dumbledore: 75%
Draco Malfoy: 65%
Ron Weasley: 65%
Remus Lupin: 65%
Ginny Weasley: 60%
Sirius Black: 60%
Harry Potter: 55%
Severus Snape: 30%
Lord Voldemort: 10%

C’mon, you know you want to see your own results:
Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is…?

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Silliness of Publishers

I liked Stephanie Meyer's Twilight as much as the next girl (probably more, unless "the next girl" is Kate D. or some other possibly-too-old-for yet captivated-by teen-centered, extremely chaste romance reading type). I'm looking forward to the sequel, New Moon, out in September.

But I would not follow the lead of the publicists at Little, Brown and call the series "well on its way to literary immortality."

Immortality. I'll say it again. IMMORTALITY. That's... Shakespeare. That's...Mozart. That's The Illiad, for fuck's sake.

Words have meanings, people. Try to use them as if they did.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Darcy Me This

Yesterday, while avoiding my job applications, I decided to finally watch the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice. As far as distractions go, it was definitely a letdown... but to be fair, I'm saying that as a history major, a Social Studies teacher, and an Austen devotee.

In my mind, no two-hour movie could ever come close to the A&E miniseries. But before I launch into my complaints, please remember that the flitgirl gave this movie a much more generous review back in November. And I would like to concur with her assertion that the cinematography was gorgeous. Also, this movie had the best handling of crowded indoor scenes that I've ever enjoyed in an Austen adaptation. The Assembly Rooms and Bingley Ball were quite crowded romps!

I also liked the obvious economic stratification between Darcy and Lizzy. That's another way in which this version trumps the A&E miniseries.

However, as the flitgirl noted, the writers cut beautiful lines of Austen to make way for clunky dialogue. I found the transition between the two modes of speaking quite jarring--"now I'll speak like a Regency miss." "Now I'll translate the plot for stupid audience members." This was especially offensive when they cut true gems, such as the famous first line of the book!

I also thought the production team made ridiculous efforts to "sex up the story." Lizzy wandering over to Netherfield with uncovered bedhead, attending a ball with no gloves, or receiving visitors in her nightgown? I think not! And her visit to Pemberley... I couldn't tell whether her new feelings for Darcy were a result of honest reflection, or a lustful byproduct of looking at naked statues. Didn't mind the rainy proposal so much... I'm a sucker for wet movie stars, ever since Breakfast at Tiffany's.

This is one story I don't think should be cut and condensed. With so many pieces missing, we never really hated Caroline Bingley. The scandal of an elopement seemed minimal, and Wickham only appeared in two scenes. Moreover, without Bingley showing up at Pemberley I almost forgot he existed and wondered why he bothered proposing at all... I also wondered why Jane accepted, but that's another story.

You're right, Flitgirl. This was definitely the best portrayal of Jane I've ever seen. But Bingley was a simpering dork and I honestly questioned his intelligence. Why would she fall for such a fellow? And Mr. Bennet as the doting but absent-minded naturalist, who seems to have a healthy relationship with his wife? Ugh. It's like they took all the satire out of Austen and left an unremarkable romance story.

With all that said, I'm still glad that I saw the movie. As an Austen devotee who adores Pride and Prejudice, I consider it my joyous duty to see all permutations of the story! Next up on my viewing agenda: Pride and Prejudice, A Latter-Day Comedy, which takes place on the modern-day BYU campus. Should be interesting, and definitely worth a post!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Elsewhere in the Blogosphere...

The wonderful women over at Sanctuary's Finest are having a marvelous discussion about romance novels being turned in to movies. Check it out!

And the fine ladies of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books are advocating for the authentic use of names in romance novels! Please, join their crusade because Candy has promised, "if I see another rakehell named Lucien, Damien or Devlin, I’m going to, I don’t know, punch a crotch, or something."

Monday, April 10, 2006

Friday (err... Monday) Review — The Taming of the Duke

At long last, the awaited review of Eloisa James' latest, The Taming of the Duke. I know I promised it back in March, when it would actually have been early. But life, Lent and literature (in the form of graduate programs, which I'm currently debating between) all intruded. Enough excuses. Without further preamble, the Essex sisters!

I know Kate D. is bracing herself for Imogen's story. I shared her low (and irritated) opinion of Imogen in the second book in the series, Kiss Me Annabel. But I am perhaps more forgiving of annoying secondary characters, as I was never (or only a very little) worried about how Imogen would fare as heroine of her own novel.

In fact, the novel far exceeded my expectations. I liked it much better than Annabel's story--I'm always disposed against heroines with perfect beauty and heads for math to boot--and better than many of the books in the series that began with Duchess In Love (wouldn't Esme's story alone have made the best novel of them all?). But first, a little background.

Imogen is the third of the poor-in-money but rich-in-horse-flesh Essex sisters. She is the impetuous romantic one who trapped her girlhood crush into marrying her in the first Essex novel, only to see him killed in a horse race a few weeks after their marriage. In the second book, she threw herself into bold flirtations in an attempt to gain a reputation as a disgraceful widow.

Now, a year after being widowed, she's mellowed quite a lot and is much less grief stricken. She's still looking for a lover, though in a less obvious way. When she is forced to spend some time at her former guardian Rafe's country estate, she sets her sights on his illegitimate brother as her best candidate.

I won't go too much more into detail as I don't want to deprive you of the pleasure of this read. Suffice it to say, long-drunken Rafe, the Duke of the title, cleans up his act and a very fun case of mistaken identity, courtesy of A Midsummer Night's Dream, influences the rest of the novel.

Imogen turned out to be a delightful heroine away from London and most of her sisters. She's not showing off, playing for the audience, and trying to prove herself as she was in the previous books. She's much more reflective and her oblivion to her attraction to Rafe is pleasant and natural, rather than contrived.

Rafe is a brilliant hero, witty, self-deprecating, strong but confused. The dialogue is snappy and the situations entertaining. There's even a subtle throw-away reference to Mansfield Park in the subplot about an amateur play taking place at Rafe's estate (that's my version of "You had me at hello"). I can't promise this Duke is for everyone, but those willing to look past Imogen's prior misdeeds will be pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

It's the End of the World As We Know It...

... and I feel ecstatic.

My student teaching is done, and in light of the fact I'll spend part of my spring break finishing up with grading, I've decided to order myself a copy of
Don't Look Down as a "reward read." My endless March is finally over, which means I can also avoid working on my novel my checking my horoscope. Yay for a distraction you can count on every month! And so much more fun than losing your cell phone and going into hysterics as you calculate just how expensive it will be to pay off a thieving someone else's three-hour phone call to Borneo...

(The phone was actually down in my car, in the back seat. It was located by The Boyfriend who, unlike me, has an ability to remain calm in unexpected situations.)

Also of interest this week: I did a guest writing stint for my friend Theresa's knitting blog. Though I don't knit, I do watch Grey's Anatomy... and there was knitting involved in last week's episode. So I employed the only expertise I had and talked about that!

What I didn't do, because Theresa's blog isn't about obsessing over romance novels, was talk about the Big Moment O'Malley had with Meredith's deadbeat dad. Luckily, however, I have a forum here!

The writers on Grey's have done such a great job of building a parallel between George/Meredith/McDreamy and Thatcher/Ellis/Richard. If all plays out as it did in the past, then McDreamy will stay with his wife, George will be "broken," and Meredith will end up bitter and alone. But what makes the parallel truly interesting is that they're starting to mess with it.

George stood up for Meredith (to Thatcher, no less!) and really protected her from having to deal with her dad. He then went on to kiss Ortho Doc who, while hot, doesn't actually have any chemistry with him. And Meredith went to pick up the dog and met hot vet Chris O'Donnell. I dub the vet "McSwoony" and pay homage to his beautiful Henley shirt.

Said the boyfriend, after watching the show: "Do you realize that practically all the men have ruggedly wholesome five o'clock shadow? Do they know that some people in the Pacific Northwest actually shave?"

So now I'm torn. On the one hand, I think it would be very interesting on a writerly level to implode the parallel and actually have Meredith someday get with George, thus breaking the icky pattern her parents set (this, of course, would have to happen somewhere in Season Five or so...) But on the other hand, I'm seriously drooling over McSwoony O'Donnell. What are the chances of keeping him on the show? Yummy yum yum.

But let us be clear: I lust for O'Donnell, but I love O'Malley. What a sweetheart. What a competent doctor! What a wonderful thing that he's finally getting a haircut!

People, let me know: where do you stand on the Grey's issue?