This one: http://www.metopera.org/opera/la-donna-del-lago-rossini-tickets [If the link dies at the end of the season: LA DONNA DEL LAGO by Rossini]
In the first place it was fabulous. I’m enormously glad I went. The singing from the four principals was AMAZING.**
In the second place, however, it’s way up there on the silly scale—not quite ERNANI but close. REALLY SILLY PLOT. REALLY REALLY SILLY. REALLY. SILLY. I also felt the translation was more cack-handed than was strictly required.*** We want to know what’s going on, we don’t necessarily want the exquisitely precise rendering of the Italian, which word choice may have more to do with how it sings rather than whether it makes any sense at all as something anyone might ever say, even two hundred years ago in a Walter Scott novel. †
In the third place, it’s all about Joyce Di Donato’s breasts.
I admit I wasn’t expecting this last. I’m fine with the fact that she has breasts, but I wasn’t expecting them to be Triumphant Before Everything, aka Beware the Bustier.†† I suppose the designer/costumer might be trying to make sure we know that Di Donato is the girl, since her boyfriend is played by another mezzo soprano†††, and the boyfriend is, furthermore, in a kilt, which is perhaps not the best choice for a girl playing a trouser role. I mean a kilt role. It turns out that the entire Highland army—you got it that this is Sir Walter Scott, yes?—is in kilts, but you haven’t taken this in yet when Malcolm first strides on stage/screen and starts mooning over Elena. Even knowing that Malcolm is going to be a mezzo the urge to giggle is powerful when she appears in a kilt. It took me about four bars into her, um, his, um, her first aria however to become her drooling slave and beyond that I couldn’t care less. ‡
But I get ahead of myself. The first bloke we see on stage is Juan Diego Florez ‡ in really icky plastic leather.‡‡ He’s the king, who has allowed himself to be distracted from stamping the crap out of the Highland rebels by tales of a mysterious beauty, whom he has disguised himself to get a glimpse of. I mean, you don’t expect to see your king in plastic leathers, do you? Elena is picking plastic‡‡‡ heather in another one of production/design’s curious choices for stage business. She, for some reason, thinks he needs help§ and offers to take him home with her. That loud bang you just heard was plot credibility exploding. HONEY. YOU’RE OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE WITH A MAN YOU’VE NEVER MET BEFORE§§ WHO IS, FURTHERMORE, SHOWING SIGNS OF FINDING YOU HOT §§§. I THINK YOU MIGHT AT LEAST MENTION THAT YOU LIVE WITH YOUR DAD, AND THAT A CHORUS’ WORTH OF HENCHPERSONS IS JUST OVER THAT PAPIER MACHE HILL. I think. The operatic geography remains a trifle underexplained. Because the show is called The Lady of the Lake~ there has to be a lake, which our heroine rows across every day, apparently, to gather plastic heather and have random encounters with gleaming-eyed strangers. After that, beyond a throwaway reference to taking the current random stranger back to the shore~~ the characters just hop around from set piece to set piece. Special non-points are awarded for Elena’s cottage, which is a small roof on two walls, like a capital letter ‘E’ stood on its front with the central bar removed, plonked down in the middle of the stage, and through which the henchpersons/chorus eventually swirl, and to give themselves something to do, set up some banqueting tables out back. Hope it doesn’t rain.~~~
I was regularly distracted from all the nonsense by the sheer glory of the music. I like Rossini, I like bel canto, and I’m now passionately in love with not one but two mezzos.= But this is one of those evenings when I came away thinking, It does not have to be this daft. It does not have to be this daft. It’s hard to do a lot of acting when you’re a girl in a trouser role dressed in a kilt, the king is mainly required to flounce variously, which is fortunately one of Florez’ skills, the superfluous tenor has nothing to do, poor man, but stomp about looking heroic== and be spurned by his affianced bride, who wants to marry the other mezzo. But Di Donato is a really effective actress, and watching her creating small shining bits of sense within all the doolally is almost worse than if she’d been a student of the Leontyne Price school.&
Let’s also just take a moment to contemplate the character of the king. Okay, he falls for Elena big time in that insta-whammy way popular in both opera and Hollywood romcom. He’s the king. What is he planning to offer this small-time laird’s daughter, before or after he finds out she’s one of the revolting scum raising arms against him? I kinda doubt it’s anything her dad would recognise as honourable, even if her dad weren’t a member of the revolting scum. And this is an era when the male relatives get to dispose of the bodies of the females, you know? And when the short hero she doesn’t want to marry objects to her clear loathing of him, her dad tries to play it off as virginal modesty. Uh huh.
But the king is supposed to be a good guy. Well, I think. I think he’s supposed to be being a good guy when he leaves the battle to go hunt up Elena and give her a ring that he says, rolling his eyes theatrically, if she shows to the king he will be merciful and give her safe passage to somewhere or other. Tahiti. Guam. But there’s this hilarious exchange between them when he’s trying to go for her again&& and she says No no no! I’m in love with the other mezzo! And he replies, in what I feel is not wholly inexplicable bewilderment, Well, why didn’t you discourage my ardour when you took me HOME WITH YOU the other day? Well, yes. Although possibly because she’d only set eyes on him half an hour ago and she was wrapped in a sweet naïve mist of Scottish hospitality and concentrating on her rowing. Oh, and she’s already in love with the mezzo named Malcolm. But I repeat . . . what exactly is the king of Scotland OFFERING her? A big fat dowry to cover up the fact that she may be pregnant when he pats her on the . . . head and sends her on her way again?
I’d forgive either the story or the staging a lot if the last scene weren’t quite so determinedly demented. So, the rebels have been crushed absolutely, the (short) heroic rebel tenor has been conveniently killed, and Elena, with the safe-passage ring&&& has gone up to the palace to try begging for the life of her dad and her beloved. And she meets the bloke she last saw in plastic leathers now all decked out in white and gilt and she says, oh, hi, I’m here to see the king, um, I have this ring that this random guy gave me . . . um, you gave me. You’ll see the king, the random guy says. Grandly.% So now we have languours of daftitude while the court all processes in and does galliard-y type things around Florez, who stands there looking like a stuffed prat, while poor Di Donato has to go on and on and on and on and on NOT GETTING IT. She doesn’t get to get it till one of the courtiers plonks a frelling crown on Florez’ head.
Okay, whatever. Cue general rejoicing. The king pardons both dad and Malcolm and is apparently not requiring them to emigrate to Tahiti or Guam, which is very nice of him, and proves that he is supposed to be a good guy. And if he draws Malcom aside later and mutters something about droit de seigneur, it doesn’t happen till after the curtain comes down.
I’m glad I went! The music was spectacular and my head is still full of it!%% I just wish—um—I just wish—um!
. . . And if not writing regular blogs causes me to write three thousand words when I finally get around to it again, even under the extreme provocation of an opera to rant about, I’d better rethink. Um. Again.
* * *
* How Christianity Ruins Your Life. My Saturday evenings are now dedicated to sitting in the dark with monks. The thing is that I want to sit in the dark with monks, but I miss my Live at the Mets.^ I have not figured this out yet. ^^ There are slowly more live opera broadcasts at your friendly neighbourhood cinemas but the New York City Met is my opera company and they broadcast to the distant punters on Saturday afternoons in New York, which is Saturday evening sitting in the dark with monks time in Hampshire, England. Also, most cinema web sites are possessed by demons. For example, apparently the ROH^^^ is streaming a Guillaume Tell which I would love to attend and THEORETICALLY it’s coming to my cinema but my cinema’s web site won’t discuss it. ARRRRRRGH. And since it’s a chain, you can’t get a local on the phone—and because something is coming to the chain, that does not mean it is coming to all the individual theatres belonging to that chain. ARRRRRRRRRGH.
^ Including the prosecco and knitting in the interval. There’s no reason I couldn’t do prosecco and knitting at home, I just don’t. Way too self-indulgent somehow. Because of course I am never self indulgent. Ever. About anything.+
+ Choooooooocolate. Also how many books in the TBR pile(s)? And we’re not even going to mention yarn. # Or All Stars. ##
# Or for that matter furry four-legged creatures of the night.~ Some people would consider three of these somewhat self-indulgent. Personally I just call it dangerously insane.
~ Although the ‘of the night’ part is kind of my fault. I go to bed late.
## I had to THROW OUT A PAIR OF PINK ONES recently. I’m still in mourning. But the amount of water they were letting through the holes in the soles was getting kind of extreme.
^^ I have told Alfrick that they should lay on more silent sitting-in-the-dark contemplative services. Only one a week seems, you know, careless. Unprofessional. For a bunch of monks.
^^^ Royal Opera House. Which is one of my problems. The ROH tend to be up-themselves scum-sucking banderglizzards. When I first moved over here a quarter century ago and was bouncing all over the landscape with JOY at the prospect of two, count ‘em, TWO, world-class opera houses only a little over an hour away+, my heart was quickly won by the English National Opera, which was the other one, both because it was CHEAPER++ and because they hired real human beings who answered phones and personned the front of house if you wandered in off the street and who were nice. The ROH hired scum-sucking banderglizzards. And, guys, in today’s economy, including twenty-five years’ ago economy, you can’t afford not to take the money of vulgar Americans who want to buy full-price+++ seats and you should behave accordingly. Vulgar Americans don’t necessarily think brass-balled rudeness in a British accent is charming. Some of those memories linger. Although the memory of going to The Huguenots at the ROH on what I think was my first birthday in England, with Peter in a dinner jacket and me in green velvet, also rather lingers. I’m not sure what Peter has done with his dinner jacket but I still have the green velvet.
Anyway. The ROH does beam some of its screenings down here to the one cinema within my driving range, but the ENO does not. Yet. I hope they’re planning to cast their webby net wider soon.
+ Especially the way Peter used to thunder up the motorway when he and Wolfgang were a lot younger.
++ And before any ROH supporters tell me, with lashings of dudgeon, that the ROH offers cheap seats too, it didn’t use to. And I’m only taking it on faith that you can actually hear and/or see anything from the cheap seats.
** I admit I didn’t think the supporting-role baritone was quite up to the standard set by the two tenors and two mezzo-sopranos, but that may be the sheer physical facts of a low voice emerging from a human voice box. Are there coloratura baritones? I don’t know.
*** But I think I’m losing my grip on the whole translation question as a result of struggling with the Bible. There are a lot of WHAT? moments about the Bible anyway and groping hastily for some other translation usually only makes it worse.
† What is it with opera composers and Sir Walter Scott? Surely they could have got their silly from a wider range of sources?
†† That’s bust-ee-ay as in corset, not bust-ee-er as in possessing more bust.
††† And as the off-duty operatic soprano doing the backstage introduction to us nonpresent audience drones finished her plot synopsis by saying: and so the mezzo gets the mezzo, and tough luck to the two tenors.^
^ Note that this opera has a HAPPY ENDING. YAAAAAAAAY. Mind you this happy ending requires the killing-off of the awkward superfluous tenor, but hey. He starts breathing again in time for the curtain calls.
‡ Her name is Daniela Barcellona. And it’s just as well she doesn’t have an enormous back catalogue or I’d be taking out a bank loan.
Just for the record, they kiss. Which I like to think is another blow for irrelevant-detail-blind staging.^ Like the Oscar Wilde play—I can’t even remember which one—I saw in London about twenty years ago where the actor playing the female lead was black: which I’m afraid is the first time I’d seen historical-drama colour-blind anywhere but Shakespeare. Yessssss. But while Wilde plays don’t call for black actors and Malcolm in DONNA DEL LAGO is written for a mezzo, Di Donato and Barcellona’s duet that the kiss is at the end of is so frelling ravishing you’ve probably forgotten everything but ohmygodohmygodohmygod, and also, Barcellona is TALL, so she can do the male-swagger thing, including the looming protectively over the girl, pretty well. Better, in fact, than most tenors, who tend to be bandy-legged midgets. Barcellona towered over both of last night’s tenors. Just by the way.
^ Maybe Rossini was thinking about gay sex really. But the story on stage is het.
‡ Who is a SHORT TENOR. Di Donato, who doesn’t look very tall herself, was in flats. Florez’ boots had substantial heels on them. But he is a bloke.
‡‡ Or if it was real leather, the Met needs a new buyer.
‡‡‡ I perceive a pattern. Not in a good way.
§ HE’S IN PLASTIC LEATHERS. IF HE WERE A GOOD GUY HE’D BE WEARING A KILT.
§§ WHO IS WEARING PLASTIC LEATHER.
§§§ I know you’re a legendary beauty and all, but the bustier is not really supportive^ of the modest Scottish virgin thing. And while Florez does the overheated Latin^^ lover persona very well the character he’s playing in this case would be forgiven for the thought bubble appearing over his head saying NOBODY TOLD ME THE LEGENDARY BEAUTY IS FAST.
^^ He looks about as Scottish as Barcellona looks like a bloke. I can deal with this. The plastic leathers must go.
~ Um, why? The Lady of the Lake as an Arthurian trope has been around a long time, and Scott must have known Malory’s Arthur? Surely? Or is there some Arthurian resonance in the Scott novel that I’ve forgotten?^ And if Rossini’s librettist cut it out why didn’t they CHANGE THE TITLE?
^ I read shedloads of frelling Scott at various times in my misspent youth, but in my memory, never my best feature, the stories have all mooshed together in one gargantuan wodge of forsoothly, studded with hopelessly wet, floppy heroines. Don’t Rebecca me. She only looks good in comparison.
~~ And leaving him there? What?
~~~ It’s the Scottish Highlands. IT NEVER RAINS THERE. NOOOOOOO.
= The tenors are fine. And I’ve been a fan of Florez for a long time. But . . . give me one of those mezzos. Please.^
^ I am of course Giving Up Singing Forever again. Had a voice lesson today. . . . No, no, this blog post is already reader-numbingly too long.
== which is harder still when you’re the shortest person on the stage. Pav is taller than this bloke.
& Stand Like Fence Post, Wave Arms and Sing. I adored Price and have a lot of her recordings but she was not an actress.
&& Nothing like a little rumpy-pumpy to soothe those battlefield nerves.
&&& I mean, how much can you trust someone wearing plastic leathers?
% Trying not to take a cheap shot here. But grandly is not Florez’ metier.
%% To the extreme detriment of my own singing. Sigh. Why didn’t I take up the xylophone?
Wasn’t I saying something not all that long ago about having been sort of half-planning without thinking about it, because thinking about it would make me sad, to slip unofficially out of bell ringing? It’s not like I’m good at it or, even if I practised eight hours a day every day as if I were in training for the Olympics or Norma for the Metropolitan Opera, would I get good at it.* Nobody is going to miss me beyond method bell ringing’s chronic shortage of hands on ropes.**
Okay. That was then. Now has gone rogue and bolted in another direction. I seem to have rung some kind of frelling bells five days out of the last eight. If you wanted to be cruel you could say I’ve rung bells nine days out of the last twelve. I wonder if heroin addicts feel like this after they’ve been clean for a while? The old buzz? That fluttering feeling*** behind the eyes† or in the base of the throat?†† The sense of being helplessly ensnared by a grinning, many-clawed obsession. Going har har har har har GOTCHA. Look on the bright side. I don’t have to worry about finding a reliable source of clean needles.
I can’t even (entirely) blame Niall†††. I went to South Desuetude entirely on my own recognisance. Sonar Fweep was my idea.‡ And I’m sure Old Eden was good for my character as well as my muscular redevelopment, tonight‡‡, after tinkling carelessly on the little light well-mannered bells at Crabbiton for . . . ahem . . . several weeks in a row now. Ringing at Old Eden is ploughing rough tussocky ground. Ah yes, plain bearings. Joy. Creak.‡‡‡
I’M NOT RINGING ANY BELLS TOMORROW. OR WEDNESDAY. Er. I think I will maintain a tactful silence about Thursday. And Friday. And I forget if I’m ringing on Saturday. . . .
* * *
* Any more than singing eight hours a day would make me a Norma. Sigh. At the moment I would probably settle for NOT being late for my voice lesson every frinkblasted week. I was supposed to predict that everyone on my end of Main Street was going to be getting their bathrooms replaced today and there would be epic numbers of OPULENT PERSONAL CARE SPACE REFIT lorries casually half-parked on the margins on BOTH sides of the road so unless you were a very thin bicycle you COULDN’T GET THROUGH?
I am also finally beginning to realise that I have a new(ish) tactical problem. I think I told you^ that as this horrible winter started dragging itself toward spring I let Aloysius^^ put me back on the singing rota at St Margaret’s. This means that on my service-singing weeks I’ll have spent the last two or three days of that week frantically cramming for service singing, since that week’s music director won’t have sent out the playlist till Thursday if we’re lucky. As it happens I was down to sing this week—that is last night—which was a special service and there were going to be LOTS OF PEOPLE THERE^^^ so I was a tiny bit more anxious than usual that I should have SOME clue about the stuff^^^^ we were performing.
This means however that by late Sunday night, when, even on a non-special-service singing Sunday, I’m exhausted and my mind is full of the detritus that results from classical training coming in explosive contact with Jesus Is My Boyfriend, and I’m trying to reengage with the former the results can be a bit bizarre. Even aberrant. And my voice lesson is on MONDAY. I was singing Panis Angelicus^^^^^ better on Wednesday than I was today. Sigh.
^ ?? One of the things about blogging every day was that I probably had told you things and therefore didn’t have to try to remember if I had. Remembering comes under the ‘Norma’ and ‘bell ringing’ category of personal excellence, ie Not Going to Happen.
^^ Aloysius is LEAVING. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. . . . Okay, pulling myself together now. I know this happens with curates and I even knew it was due to happen to Aloysius soon but . . . WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. I may be a grown up as a human being+ but I’m a baby as a Christian and Aloysius has been First Contact++ about a lot of stuff.+++
+ And a grown-up twice Aloysius’ age, as I may have mentioned before because it haunts me.~ At least I’m only seven years older than Alfrick.
~ I told him not long ago that it was hard sometimes learning stuff from children.# He took this in good part. I’m trying not to believe that he took this in good part because he’s a priest, and priests are obliged to take cranky remarks from elderly parishioners kindly and tolerantly. It’s in the small print in the Priest Contract: Be nice to the grouches God has blessed you with. You can afford to be nice because you’re a priest and you know God will sort them out later.##
# I suspect it’s even worse for those of us who were precocious in our own youth. Don’t be precocious. It will just make you crankier later on.
++ You can’t have a father figure half your age, right?
+++ My monks, for example, speaking of Alfrick. I could still be going ‘oooooh . . . monks . . . . scary’ and driving hastily past the monks’ gate, which has a large sign by the turn-in that says WELCOME, if it weren’t for Aloysius.
^^^ MAJOR EEEK. Till it occurred to me, hey, the more of them there are the less likely any of them can hear me. +
+ Also we had a drummer last night. Our usual drummer is actually a good drummer which might be considered regrettable in our usual raggedy-andy line up. But any drummer will be wildly over-miked so the rest of us can pretty much do anything we like and no one will know. Maybe I should try singing Bellini.
^^^^ Sic. I am still not a fan of Modern Christian Worship Music.
^^^^^ Corny? Sure. The good kind of corny.
** Or on short leather straps if you happen to ring handbells. I don’t know anyone who rings methods on handbells, do you? Especially no one who rings frelling quarter peals on frelling handbells. Which I may have done for a second time recently. On one of those nine days out of twelve. But then I don’t know me. I don’t want to know me. Crazy obsessed people make me nervous.
*** Which is not about getting your out-of-practise hands tangled in a bell rope.
† No, that’s your brain going NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
†† Which is a matching AAAAAAAAAAAUGH trying to get out.
††† I may try.
‡ It was one of Wild Robert’s erratic seminars. And I needed Niall to drive that far. There was a motorway involved.
‡‡ Fortunately in terms of mental integrity it was mostly plain hunt for beginners. Nadia just about killed me today.^ In the nicest possible way of course. But Monday is not usually my best evening for an optimum bell ringing experience. And story-in-progress tonight? After, furthermore, last night’s heroic service sing? Not a hope. Might as well write another blog post.
^ Niall is not the ONLY Master of Mwa hahahahaha in my life.
‡‡‡ My shoulders. Not the bell frames.
It’s bad enough that I have a brain that . . . well, if you put my brain at one end of the Spectrum of Deadly Danger and a berserker regiment in a nasty temper all bearing freshly-sharpened weapons of individual destruction at the other end, and then tried to decide where a peanut butter sandwich on Wonder bread should be placed . . . it would go nearer the berserker regiment end than the my-brain end, all right? Which this paragraph goes some considerable way toward proving.
So if I forget something important it’s ALWAYS likely that it’s my own stupid disintegrating fault because I am a frelling nincompoop and I drop things constantly* and my brain is made of guacamole.** Which is to say I DO NOT NEED ANY HELP FROM MY TECHNOLOGY ABOUT SCREWING STUFF UP.
Which of course has no impact on present circumstances whatsoever. Pooka keeps insisting that she hasn’t been backed up to The Cloud in years***, so much so that pretty much everything I do on her—text, for example—suffers from extreme pop-up-box-itis, something like this: Hi, are you—BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP!—free for the dinosaur safari—BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP! BACK ME UP NOW!—next week? If we—BACK MEEEEEEE UUUUUUUUUP—book now we get a free slushie and a Tyrannosaurus Rex—AREN’T YOU PAYING ATTENTION? I NEED TO BE BACKED UP BEFORE THE HELLTERROR EATS YOUR LAPTOP†—hatband—YOU’LL BE SORRRRREEEEEE ABOUT ALL THOSE UPDATED FILE EMAILS YOU FORGOT TO SEND YOURSELF†† IF YOU DON’T BACK ME UP.†††
Interspersed in these merry japes also are sporadic demands for my Apple ID password. I’m really tired of Apple’s The World Is At Risk By Our Greatness attitude which means they won’t let you reuse a password because WE ALL MIGHT GET HACKED BY PURPLE TENTACLES FROM BETELGEUSE but I would put up with this better if they didn’t periodically decide they don’t like my password and demand I come up with a new one. I used to think this was just my idiot fingers typing ‘Agamemnon’ when I meant ‘Clytemnestra’ but no. Apple clearly produces ALGORITHMS demanding new passwords at intervals that sure come across as random to people like me.
A new low in my tech relationships was reached this past week. One of the things the Sams don’t go out of their way to warn you about when you sign up is that they will be requiring certain admin duties out of you as well as all those hours on telephones. I had an Admin Duty spell this last week which necessitated the sending of emails to massed ranks of Sams. I had laboured particularly over one such email, bent over the Aga and a cup of very strong tea with the iPad on my knee, hit ‘send’ and . . . NOTHING HAPPENED. AAAAAAAAUGH. The iPad gets lonely if it doesn’t get to keep a few emails all to itself. And it likes to collect unsent emails. You the helpless suffering human get the ‘server failure’ notice, the email disappears, the little box at the bottom of your email screen adds one to the ‘unsent’ total . . . but you can’t rescue the email and, I don’t know, resend or anything, because it doesn’t get stashed anywhere sensible like your outbox. IT’S PROBABLY LURKING IN THE CLOUD.
And did I tell you that the last time I actually managed to hang a blog post, this from the ultralapbooktop, Microsoft in its infinite unwise bad attitude informed me that it wanted to do an update, and it wanted to do it now, but I could postpone if I wanted . . . so I postponed AND IT SHUT ME DOWN ANYWAY WITHOUT WARNING ABOUT TEN MINUTES LATER. I HAD TIME TO EAT A LOT OF WALLPAPER BEFORE IT TURNED ITSELF BACK ON AGAIN, AND WHEN I CLIMBED BACK INTO THE ADMIN SIDE OF THE BLOG, SNAPPING AND SNARLING, I DISCOVERED THAT ABOUT A TENTH OF THE TEXT HAD LEFT FOR PARTS UNKNOWN TAKING WITH IT MOST OF THE PUNCTUATION AND ALL THE FORMATTING.
I may not have told you. I was too busy trying to prevent my head from exploding.
Maybe I should just go bell ringing more often. . . .
* * *
* Ask the hellterror. Fortunately she thinks it’s a game. —Oooh!, she says, leaping up on her little bedspring legs and punching me enthusiastically in the gut with her forepaws.^ Do that AGAIN!
^ I know. I am a Bad Owner. I permit this. But I think having her pogosticking about the place is amusing. She does know ‘off’ but she hears it relatively rarely and it doesn’t slow her down much. When I try to enforce it she looks at me with an expression of ‘I have to long sit before my last PALTRY snack of the evening+ and now THIS?’ Bullies’ faces aren’t built for looking long-suffering but she has a really good try.
+ She does too. Three to five minutes depending on how patient I’m feeling#. She’s got her harness and lead off and the gate is open and NOTHING BUT SELF RESTRAINT is preventing her from bolting into her crate and snarfing like crazy. ::haphazard owner beams with pride::
There really is a lot to be said for food oriented hellcritters. They are so . . . trainable. Said training may be a long, bloody, and hoarse-making process but it’s POSSIBLE. I get bombarded with a variety of Dog Media because I contribute tiny sums to a number of critter charities and they’re always frenziedly updating you as a flimsy disguise for begging for more money, and they frequently offer you clever suggestions for Training Interactions with Your Resident Hellcritter(s). And they’re ALL frelling based on FOOD REWARDS. I was particularly offended by one that fell through the mail slot just a day or two ago, since the illustrations included a whippet clearly getting into the whole food-treat thing. It was a bull terrier with leg extensions and a mask.
# And/or how many knots I’ve got in the laces of my All Stars. There is a rant to be ranted about the varying LENGTHS of the laces that over the years come with your pretty much standard-shaped All Stars. Some seasons they’re so frelling long I could tie the hellmob to them and dispense with leads. Some seasons they’re so dranglefabbing short you have to omit the last two or three pairs of holes to get them tied at all.
** I perceive a theme.^ I didn’t realise I was hungry. MORE CHOCOLATE. More chocolate is the answer. More chocolate usually is the answer. As the kitchen magnet says, Chocolate is the answer. What was the question?
^ Also: guacamole is far less dangerous than peanut butter. You might want to make a note.
*** Do I want to be backed up to The Cloud? The thing about little pieces of paper is that you’re pretty sure they’re here somewhere. Explanations about what The Cloud is or how it works or where anything in it actually is involves the dreaded word ‘algorithms’. I am allergic to the ‘a’ word. Just frelling typing it makes my fingertips hurt.^
^ Although that may also have something to do with recent close encounters of an unfortunate kind with hellmob-comestible-chopping implements.
† Ultrabook. It’s not ultra and it’s not a book. Grrrrrr.
†† Although anything I’ve actually done on Pooka’s Lilliputian keyboard will be illegible anyway^ so the backing up of gibberish is perhaps more of a matter of principle than practicality.
^ Note that being in a texting relationship with me is not all joy. Not only can’t I type what I mean to be typing, but I have a sometimes unique McKinley take on acceptable abbreviations.
††† Speaking of the hellterror, texting on Pooka lately is a lot like trying to do anything with a hellterror in my lap.^ HI. I’M HERE. I’M IN YOUR LAP. Yes. I had noticed. LET’S PLAY A GAME. No, let’s not. You’re supposed to lie there quietly. That’s the deal about laps. Lying quietly. SURE. I’LL LIE QUIETLY. LET’S PLAY A LYING QUIETLY GAME. YOU DON’T MIND IF I PUT MY FOREPAWS ON YOUR SHOULDERS AND LICK YOUR GLASSES, DO YOU? I’LL DO IT QUIETLY.
^ And anyone who thinks there is perhaps a hellterror bias going on? Well, yes. This month it will be a year since the hellhounds went on this drug that more or less holds back the chronic geysering but also stops them eating pretty much altogether. I don’t know if it destroys their appetite or makes them queasy but the truth is I don’t care. I’ve been forcefeeding them, oh, 85-100% of the time for a year and you could say our relationship has suffered. You could say that. Yes, you could say that with some energy.
Pooka, my (relatively) loyal (as gizmos go) iPhone, is getting ready to check out permanently and go to that big Silicon Valley in the sky where she can play with all the Sinclairs and Altairs in the perfectly atmospherically controlled Elysian Fields equivalent geekily overseen by the demiurge of technology.* I’m still hoping to get twenty years out of Wolfgang, I guess four or five years is pretty good for a mobile phone. SIIIIIIIGH. The first sign of trouble is that she began jumping lines while I was texting which is therefore my own fault for getting sucked into texting in the first place. ARRRRRGH. YOU KNOW THE WORLD WAS FULL OF INTEREST AND DELIGHT BEFORE THERE WAS TEXTING.** But the real moment of shock, horror and brutal recognition of having arrived at the Point of No Return was when I discovered MY BELL RINGING APP WAS FRIED.***
I can no longer remember why I got flummoxed into an iPhone rather than some other mobile phone. I’m sure there was a good† reason.†† However I want no more steep learning curves in my life††† so if I’m replacing Pooka I’m going to replace her with another iPhone, okay? Meanwhile because EVERYTHING! has to be BIGGER!! And BRIGHTER!!! and WHIZZIER!!!! and FLASHIER!!!!!! . . . the frelling iPhone 6 has two models: the just-larger-enough to not squash in the little pink bag that Pooka fits in and hangs around my neck‡ and the frelling ginormous sub-tablet sized. I decided I should actually see these critters before I asked Raphael to order one. If the slightly-too-large one is TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE the earlier Pooka-sized edition is still available, it just doesn’t have all the upgradey bits that are probably mostly worth having, and I have a certain resistance to spending several hundred pounds on something that isn’t as good as something that is only slightly more insanely expensive and which latter is also less likely to go seriously passé and customer-support-free before it’s ready for the polished-aluminium Elysian Fields. And with all this FRELLING TEXTING I’m now doing the tiny iPhone keyboard is driving me NUTS‡‡ and I thought it might just be worth having a look at the keyboard on the Ginormous Sub-Tablet.
Niall, ahem, texted me, asking if I was going ringing at Crabbiton tonight? I guess, I replied, my fingers a blur of anguish and misspelling, but I’m thinking of going slightly the long way to have a look in at Doorknob and Beastly’s electronics department: their web site says they have iPhone 6s and there’s a D and B on the Crabbiton side of Mauncester. Since we’ve started carpooling I offered to pick him up: he could look at cameras or longswords or something while I was muttering over iPhones.
We arrived at our local Doorknob and Beastly and a nice young man said, oh, we don’t have mobile phones here.‡‡‡ You have to go to the store in Drabness. Drabness? I said, and laughed hollowly. Drabness is Super Mall City: it makes Disney World look like your small local county fair, with the lead-line pony class and the grapefruit-arranging contest. Also you have to go on the motorway to go to Drabness. I don’t drive on motorways.§ Never mind, I said. But we’re going to be early at Crabbiton.
No, no, said Niall, Drabness is like ten minutes on the motorway from here. We can do it easily. NO WE CAN’T, I said. He turned to the nice young man. The Super Mall City end is this side, isn’t it? Ten minutes from here? Fifteen maybe? Yes, said the nice young man. It’s just straight down the motorway and you take the Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here exit and it’s right there, it’s dead simple. NOOOOOOOO, I said, considering falling to my knees and begging for my life. They discussed the particulars of where, exactly, weaving among Thunder Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain, we were going to find Doorknob and Beastly and then Niall shooed me out of the store saying loudly over my feverish quacking that it would be easy and he could tell me EXACTLY what to do.
We got on the motorway (under Niall’s strict direction). With me still clucking and cheeping.
And two minutes later we ran into THE BIGGEST TRAFFIC JAM IN THE HISTORY OF BRITISH ROAD HAVOC. Of course there were no available exits. That would be so obvious. Mind you it was almost worth it, sitting there breathing 1,000,000,000,000 internal combustion engines’ combined exhaust and watching all the SUVs play chicken with each other pointlessly swapping lanes, while listening to Niall apologising for getting me into this. ALMOST.
We did get there. Eventually. And I’M the one found Doorknob and Beastly.§§ Just by the way. And the Ginormous Sub-Tablet iPhone 6’s keyboard is not worth carrying—or figuring out how to carry—around something the size of a frelling DVD box.§§§ And the little one does fit into Pooka’s little pink bag . . . but it won’t, as soon as I get a cover for it. I’ll worry about that LATER.
We even made it to Crabbiton half an hour before the end of practise.
* * *
* I’m fine with—no, I’m positively looking forward to—going down under a large many-legged wave of furry things when I finally make it through the pearly gates some moment when St Peter is looking the other way. I’m not sure I’m joyously anticipating greeting all the technology that has gone before. In which case I probably shouldn’t give it names and genders: this behaviour probably leads it to believe we’re supposed to be friends. WELL YES WE ARE. SUPPOSED TO BE. FRIENDS. Arrrrrrrrrgh.
** Too frelling late now: the genie is not only out of the bottle, she’s turned it into a flower-pot and is growing a fine healthy crop of deadly nightshade.
*** Life was going to be so much simpler if I was just going to kind of sidle away from bell ringing without ever quite giving it up officially. Like maybe if Niall moved to Zurich and Wild Robert to Ottawa. These people who have taught you to ring somehow seem to think, okay, you ring. I know you ring. SO RING. WHAT DO YOU MEAN, KNITTING? OR TIRED AND DEMORALISED? I SAID RING.
†† Which is probably immortalised on the blog. I DON’T WANT TO KNOW.
††† I may tell you about . . . um . . . well, maybe not tonight.
‡ I totally do not get the penchant for carrying your iPhone in your pocket. The little fold-up non-iPhone mobiles, sure, if that’s how you want to frictionize holes in your pockets: I tend to the Large Wodge of Keys method myself but to each his/her own. But an iPhone—even a little old one like Pooka—is MUCH TOO LARGE. I keep reading these reviews that report, bristling with multiple dudgeon from the highest possible of horses, that their iPhones have bent. Usually I think that modern paraphernalia is criminally tacky and built to disintegrate on contact so you have to buy another one immediately, but in the case of people who keep their iPhones in their pockets I THINK THEY DESERVE BENT IPHONES. If you have the thing lying next to you on the table or counter or the bookshelf by your bed^ you will not only be aware of it doing its little vibration tango^^ but even turned off it burrs at you.
^ or the back of the loo while you take your bath: I know, for someone who is still at least 85% Luddite I’m a trifle neuromancer about my iPhone, but if I say if Peter ever actually DOES phone me when he’s had a fall rather than soldiering on alone and bleeding all over the carpet, I want to get that phone call.
^^ And on the top of the loo cistern it positively rattles like a small pink rectangular castanet
‡‡ WHY ARE THERE NO ARROW KEYS SO YOU CAN MOVE AROUND MORE PRECISELY THAN THE SCREEN WILL READ YOUR BIG FAT FINGERS? ESPECIALLY WHEN THE PREDICTIVE FACILITY IS CORRECTING YOU IN A MORE THAN USUALLY INFURIATING WAY? WHY ARE THERE NO ARROW KEYS?
‡‡‡ YOUR FRELLING WEB SITE SAYS YOU DO. It’s a national chain, right? So you look narrowly at the listings for both your shop and your desired item, looking for any warning about ‘not all outlets have all listed merchandise’ or similar . . . or a phone number for your local shop rather than the random national 800 number that will leave you on hold for half an hour while playing Vivaldi’s the Four Seasons on six kazoos and an eggbeater very loudly in your ear. I used to like Vivaldi’s the Four Seasons.
§ Highways. The forty-eight lane kind where the slow lane is going 80 mph and the fast lane is in orbit.
§§ It wasn’t even that large. Two acres tops. Okay maybe three.
§§§ Anybody wanting to carry this sucker around in a pocket is going to have to buy a whole new wardrobe. With Kevlar pockets.
HERO won the Newbery thirty years ago. Thirty. How scary is that.
Anyway some silly person thought it might be amusing to interview me on the subject. Fortunately they sent me a list of questions which enabled me to choose questions I could, you know, answer. The Tor list a few weeks ago was way too full of pop-culture questions I couldn’t answer; this one was full of state-of-the-YA-book-world questions and I HAVE NO CLUE. I read what I read when I read it, because I saw it on the library shelf, because another unsteady crag of books at the cottage overbalanced and cannoned across the room and I had an ‘oooh, shiny’ reaction, because someone recommended it/sent me a copy, because the Kindle ebook was too cheap to ignore. At the moment I’m reading a Barbara Hambly I seem to have missed (cannoning crag), catching up on the Dana Stabenows that have come out since I wandered away from murder mysteries about a decade ago (you have to pass through the mystery section at the library to get to the F&SF section), OUTPOST which is a post-apocalyptic thriller by new writer Adam Baker (I DON’T READ POST-APOCALYPTIC THRILLERS but I picked it up off the library shelf and liked the first few pages—especially that a male thriller writer should start his first novel writing sympathetically about a fat woman) and QUIET by Susan Cain, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking** (cheap Kindle, but I was going to read it anyway)***. I’ve just finished SCULPTOR by Scott McCloud (amazing graphic novel, an early copy arrived unsolicited in the post, THANK YOU First Second Books) and have started THE HOMEOPATHIC TREATMENT OF DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, BIPOLAR DISORDER AND OTHER MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS by two homeopaths I’ve been reading for years, and am about halfway through HOMEOPATHY FOR TODAY’S WORLD by another homeopath I’ve been reading for years. Not a YA in sight. Not this week. Ask me next week. I’m trying to remember the last YA I read—Jacqueline Wilson’s MY SISTER JODIE, possibly, but she’s not even YA: she’s kids. She’s real stuff, real life for kids, and I love her for it. †
Anyway. Don’t ask me about any state of any book world, because I won’t know. But here’s an interview with me on the subject of winning a Newbery and, you know, writing stories and stuff.
* * *
* Alcestis’ funeral went off very well, I think. The speakers knew what they were doing, and Alcestis had an interesting life and so no struggling for material was necessary. There were even some good laughs. There were photos of her all over the walls which I couldn’t bear to look at—Admetus has promised me a private showing some time—and the day was clear and lovely and not too cold, and the track down to the tree she’d chosen to be buried under was not too muddy. She’d said she’d chosen it for the view, and it has a good view: but I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that everything about the funeral was to her plans and instructions; I could hear her saying that she’d chosen that tree and this view.
There was a Land Rover to take anyone who didn’t want to struggle with the footing—and the hill—and that included Peter. The car followed us down to the gravesite, but preceded us going back up again, which meant I went frelling HARING up the blasted hill so Peter didn’t have to sit around in the empty café wondering if I’d fallen into a ravine or something. I should have just gone in the car too.
** I ranked 18 out of 20 again on the standard introvert test: the only questions I have to answer ‘no’ to are, do my friends find me self-effacing and laid back? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA and, would I rather die than do public speaking? No. It’s not that big a deal. Which I’ve told you before always makes me feel like someone else is living in my body with me. This personality should not be able to do public speaking but it/we can.
*** It’s even better than I’d hoped. The problem with the current fashion in popular science is that certain of the tropes MAKE ME NUTS, like the way everyone the author interviews has to have their clothing and their twinkling eyes described. Cut to the chase. I usually object to the author writing him/herself into the story constantly too but in this case it works a treat because Cain is writing as an introvert in an extrovert-preferring world. I was reading an article in TIME recently^ about the internet-fueled explosion of grass-roots sharing, bartering, selling. One of the fastest growers in this market is car pooling and the author remarks blandly and cluelessly that of course commuting in company is preferable because driving by yourself is SO BORING. There speaks the unthinking extrovert. Driving is bad enough without having to make frelling conversation.
^ Mind you the magazine could be anything up to years old. Speaking of unsteady crags of reading material.
† Um . . . actually I do remember the last YA I read. It’s by a VERY FAMOUS WRITER and I HATED IT. IT WAS BLISTERINGLY FRELLING TERRIBLE AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHY IT WAS EVEN PUBLISHED AND I WILL NEVER READ ANOTHER BOOK BY THIS INCOMPETENT CREEP OF AN AUTHOR EVER AGAIN.
†† And there’s also this, which several more people have sent me links to since Open Road first pointed it out:
And it’s lovely, and I know I’m being a black hole of negativity but . . . she read it when she was eight? I know precocious preteens read it all over the map and that’s great, the sooner and oftener girls growing up get told that girls do things too^ the better, but EIGHT? She was precocious even as precocious goes. And this fills me with dread and trembling for a whole fresh onslaught of angry eight year olds and their teachers, parents and librarians telling me that HERO is too hard for children. Well yes, it is. It’s not for children. I got entire classrooms of kids writing me letters of protest when HERO’s Newbery was new: the Newbery does say children’s literature. I hope maybe that people reading the TIME article will go, oh, wow, well, she grew up to be a writer, so she was probably a precocious reader, and the headline does say YA novels . . . Listen, everyone, it’s really depressing getting bashed for something you wrote for any reason^^, but it’s extra depressing when you think, guys, if you’d only waited a few years. . . .
^ I’ve said this a gazillion times on the blog, but when I was a Young Writer Starting Out I assumed my generation of writers would have totally solved the Active Protagonist Gender Bias. This hasn’t happened. There are still a lot of frelling wet girls out there, including in books written recently. So we still need heroines that do their own dragon-whacking. Aerin has plenty of company . . . but not enough company. Okay, you following generations of writers. Get with the programme.^
^ Although I’m preaching to the converted on this blog. Fans of Elsie Dinsmore or Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa are not subscribers.
^^ Except sheer jerkitude. ‘I didn’t finish your stupid book because I wanted to read endless mushy romance when they stand around staring into each other’s eyes for chapters and chapters and the dragon was REALLY BORING!’ +
+ You’d be surprised. Except for the ‘mushy’ this is nearly word for word.
††† The bio is about forty years out of date. I will ask them to let me bring it up to 2015.^ And I don’t put commas before ‘too’. That’s a copyeditor following house style.
^ YAAAAY. They did. Thank you!