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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mia and Meryl

Everyone once in a while a novel comes along that is the epitome of how both books and movies affect and shape our lives.
The Meryl Streep Movie Club by Mia March, ©2012, is exactly that.

Just published in paperback and as an e-book on June 19th by Gallery Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, New York, NY, this is a touching tale set in a small resort town on the coast of Maine about a family of women—two sisters and their cousin—who grew up together after a family tragedy, part to live their separate lives, and after a number of years are summoned back together again to The Three Captain's Inn, owned by Lolly, their aunt and mother, who has a "shocking announcement" to make. The three women are estranged, hardly communicating with each other, yet find themselves sharing an attic bedroom. An uncomfortable situation, at best. But when Lolly invites them to join the weekly Movie night—this month it's movies starring Meryl Streep—they, as the promo states, "find themselves sharing secrets...long into the night...questioning everything they thought they knew about life, love, and one another."

My kind of light summer reading fare. Or is it?

I downloaded the e-book version and have just spent the last few days alternately reading it and watching most of the Meryl Streep movies discussed by the characters in this not-so-light but delightfully insightful and inspiring novel that deals not just with romance, but the deeper aspects of what it really means to love. Not only your significant other, but your sisters, relatives, and children, as well as those around you; be they family, friends, or mere acquaintances. All the aspects of love that run the gamut throughout the more than sixty or so movies, narrations, and filmed plays in Streep's repertoire are touched upon. March selected ten movies, each of which when watched by the members of the Meryl Streep Movie Club—Lolly, Pearl, Isabel, June, and Kat—affects some aspect of each of their lives.

This is a great premise, offering itself to many concurrent sub-plot lines. Each of the character's stories affect the reader with heart-warming, soul searching glimpses into one's own life. How do the movies that the characters in The Meryl Streep Movie Club watch affect and shape my life? In similar or different ways?

While I have, at one time or another, experienced a few of the life altering events these women go through, I have not experienced most of them. However, I can easily relate to the emotions and feelings of all of them. Love and the human heart are the great common bonds and levelers of life, bringing us all together, regardless of our individual circumstances. This is, to me, the prime message of March's novel, and, in a sense, a major theme of the totality of Streep’s work. It is primarily the reason why I like March’s premiere first novel, so much. Reading it pulled me up short; I had to take the time to reflect on my own choices in life, in love. All the ways it has touch me and that I have touched it.

I also like March's crisp and simple writing style. She does not mince words, using straight-forward declarative sentences as she speaks about and through each of her characters. I love the way she puts you right into the mind of each and right smack-dab into the center of each plot line; almost as if you, too, were a member of the movie club. And, just as importantly, how she uses each Streep movie to augment the story, which is best read by watching the movies between chapters.

The most significant ones to watch are The Bridges of Madison County, with Clint Eastwood; Heartburn, with Jack Nicholson; Momma, Mia! with Pierce Bronson; Kramer vs. Kramer, with Dustin Hoffman; and my most favorite Streep movie of all time, Out of Africa, co-starring Robert Redford.

This novel is a triple delight, as I suggested last week that it would be. One, because Meryl Streep is, by far, my most favorite actor. As March says, she is so beautiful—both inside and out—and so incredibly talented. And to have a book written around her is truly a brilliant gift. Two, we both share the same birthday. And, three, I have seen—at least twice—just about all of her sixty-nine or so works, beginning with her very first professional play and film debut in the 1978 PBS special presentation of Wendy Wasserman's Uncommon Woman and Others. March is just as enamored of Streep as I am and this is, according to her dedication, her tribute to one of, if not the greatest actor of our time.

I could not be more pleased.

The only way to top this beautifully written and poignant novel is to have it made into a movie.

Starring, of course—who else?—Meryl Streep.
 
4:09 pm edt          Comments

Monday, July 9, 2012

New Moon Jitters


Ever notice during a full moon that things tend to be a little weirder than "normal"? People are a little wackier, more testy, more irritable than at other times. Strange anomalies occur in our daily lives. Things beyond our control skew about, upsetting the status quo both inside and outside the house. Like the past few days after the full (new) moon on July 4th.

The pets are acting a little more strangely. Sebastian tears around the house, mewling loudly—more so since he can't go out on the deck until our two fledgling robins have flown the nest. FrankieB, normally a stubborn puppy, is especially more determined to pull the lead—me along with it—lunging after rabbits and squirrels. Normally a compliant companion, he totally ignores me, disobeying ingrained commands: Wait. Come! Heel! Stay!

A prescription drug has suddenly been dropped from my medical insurance provider's formulary  Egad! How can they not cover a "standard issue" prescription for most folks over...well, over a "certain" age? Panic sets in when I learn the price without coverage is $549 a month! A new drug requires dreaded tests, which would rack up needless medical expenses. Two days of nervous-Nelly worrying ruined the weekend—despite Roger Federer winning The Championships at Wimbledon—until this morning when a major two-hour hassle on the phone confirmed that the generic form, thank goodness, is inexpensively covered.

A simple $1.05 fireworks game for my e-reader device downloaded, but it does not install, even after many attempts. Customer service spent hours of my time relaying my call to agents and techie-types, who finally admitted that the problem can't be solved. My money was refunded, but what I really wanted was to just play the game.
 

To top it off, my talented and devoted cleaning lady of three-plus years—best I’ve ever had—turns up severely allergic to my hound and has to stop services. That means I have to fend for myself, unless I can find someone as good as she was. Good luck with that!

These all add up to vague, unsettling uncomfortable feelings. A twitching in the mind that something, while everything appears normal, is, in fact, not quite right. The same feelings one gets when reading a novel by Stephen King. Especially one of his earlier ones. Like, for example, The Tommyknockers *.

You're digging in your garden, enjoying a breezy, sunny summer afternoon when suddenly your shovel clangs against a wedge of shiny metal. You try to dig around it, but it is a huge wedge; bigger than a breadbasket. Your dog begins to act weird, barking and howling as he races back into the house where, presumably, it is safe. You keep on digging, beginning to feel a bit strange yourself.

Your head buzzes with a massive headache, but you still continue to dig. Suddenly you realize that the object is not only larger than you expected, but simply humongous. You measure—it is the width and length of a football field. Part of it now sticks up through the trench you've dug among the rose bushes and trees. It occurs to you that this is no ordinary object. It is, in fact, a space ship. A flying saucer. In your own backyard.

This is, for all intents and purposes, King's first "real" foray into the realm of science fiction, except for his Dark Tower series, the first two installments of which were supposedly written and published at the same time. But there is nothing at all real about this bizarre novel. It is positively surreal in content, style, and plotline. Except that the characters seem to be "normal" people. They are just every day townsfolk, just like you and I, going about our normal, every day, seemingly humdrum, mundane lives. Normal, yes. Except one of our neighbors just happens to have an alien ship buried in back of her house. Except that each of us just happens to hear voices. Except that some among us develop insanely over-the-top intelligence. We all act a bit weirdly—slightly out of character, so to speak. Just like we, they would do under a full moon.

I've always found King a bit unsettling, but enjoyably so. Except for his two or three collections of short stories, which really wigged me out, I love playing hermit-like recluse for a day and night or two with each of his novels. He writes, yes, with horrific terror in mind, but always, it seams with a wickedly perverse sense of humor; almost, if you will, tongue-in-cheek. He tends to tease his readers with hints, Godel-esque plot twists, and larger-than-life characters who are so familiar that you'd swear a few of them actually live down the road or right next door. And, in real life, folks, some of them do—a mind-jarring thought in itself.

But in The Tommyknockers King is most unusually unsettling, as if he wrote it willingly with a vengeful violence. His characters and major protagonists, while empathy provoking, are slightly rough-edged and coarsely created. You strive to like each of them, but each one has major, off-putting flaws. 
 

James "Gard" Gardener, a poet and somewhat pragmatic intellectual, for example, is a flaming, pass-out-dead-to-rights drunk who looses great gulps of time and chunks of memory during his overly described alcoholic binges. Bobbi Anderson, the discoverer of the flying saucer, is a novelist of westerns, Gard's best friend, and his ersatz lover. She is also uncomfortably naive, even at the "tender" age of 30-plus-something, about life and familial relationships, living like a recluse herself in the back woods near the small town of Haven, Maine. While she is the main character, she is, from the very beginning, not quite as likable as one would expect or want a major heroine to be. The townsfolk, as well, both past and present, each have their own little quirks. I found all of them interesting, most of them frighteningly familiar, some a bit disturbing, and a few truly frightening. None of them are whom you'd call endearing.

And then there are the eye-popping plot twists and turns. This is, in the most part, a very straight-forward story, with a few fretfully frightening forays into the past and future, charging forward from the very first page in fast-paced, mysteriously scary terror toward the finish.

This novel and its eerily eclectic ending, like most of King’s stories, is not for the faint-hearted, nor for those who are looking for a purely enjoyable, albeit slightly titillating read with typical tie-up-the-lose-ends denouements. No one here lives "happily-ever-after", if they ever live after at all. What King does with, for, to, and about his characters is dreadfully, dastardly delicious, despite glimpses of the author's pure spite and malice.  


However, if you are as totally into King as I am, this (sur)really is a decidely decent read; one of his better vintage works that is well worth the first time effort. If you've read it before, it deserves yet another close re-read.

Your heckles are sure to rise with the jumping jitters, even if there isn't a full moon.

~~~~~~
1 ©1987 by Stephen King, Tabitha King, and Arthur B. Greene, Trustee. 747 pgs. Ppbk. Signet New American Library, NAL PENGUIN, Inc., New York, NY.

 
1:22 pm edt          Comments


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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currenty published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:

the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Forty-Thirty 
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast

Bethlehem

Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood

 

 

Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her fourth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
and 
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA
.

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,