The Most Important Thing in the World

important

Not to beat this subject to death, but there are days I wonder if I’m wasting my life, spending all these hours writing. Maybe I should be doing something more constructive, more meaningful, more helpful to society. Something with more tangible results, other than reams of paper filled with words that only a few people actually read.

Maybe I should learn how to cook. My husband would certainly appreciate that. Maybe I should get more involved in spina bifida advocacy. It’s a condition my daughter has to live with for the rest of her life, after all. Maybe I should do more yoga, or learn meditation, or, here we go, train for a marathon. That would be quite an accomplishment. Maybe I should try to find employment that pays more than a cashier job at a supermarket. So I can, you know, actually retire instead of work myself into a pauper’s grave.

Those are all worthy things to pursue. They’re also a lot of “shoulds”, and by now, I’ve learned to be wary of the word “should” in front of anything. But the truth is, my life is cut in into two parts: writing, and everything else. Not that “everything else” isn’t important. My family, my health, and just living life are important, in and of themselves, but they also feed my passion, which is writing. It’s a symbiosis. So yeah, it’s important.

Is it the most important thing in the world? Nope. North Korea won’t stop its belligerent blustering if I threaten to stop writing. ISIS will continue its carnage. Children will still starve in Africa. Donald Trump will continue to exasperate. In the scheme of things, my writing won’t make much of a difference to the world at large.

But in my corner of the world? It sustains me. Satisfies me. Delights me. Sometimes frustrates me. It’s not the end result of the words themselves but the act of writing them in the first place that allows me to continue living in this world in a fairly sane manner. I think that’s why art exists in the first place: to render meaning to the meaningless.

So yes, Mr. Steinbeck, I will hold onto my illusion, even though I know it’s not true. Isn’t that what we all do?

 

 

Monsters, Zombies, and Aliens, oh my

I’ve been running a little dry on the blog ideas lately, so I’m going with my go-to subject at times like this: television.

So Grimm wrapped up its run with an abbreviated final season in February. Words cannot express how saddened I am by this. I will dearly miss all the weirdness going on in Portland, Oregon, the supernatural mayhem and monsters of the week, the mythology, and all the great characters we came to know and love over 7 seasons. Except Juliet/Eve. Never liked her in any incarnation. Anyway, the creators had a mere 13 episodes to wrap everything up and answer all the lingering questions that plagued us throughout the series, and though things did feel a little rushed, I felt it was a satisfactory end to a satisfactory TV show.

grimm

So for years now, I could count on Grimm ending in May, and Game of Thrones starting in April, for a smooth spring TV transition. But this year, Grimm ended in February, and now Thrones won’t be coming back until July. I’m in a show hole right now, but more on that later.

It seems that the weather on location for Thrones was much too sunny and pleasant for their purposes (Winter had finally come, after all), so filming had to be pushed back while they waited for more miserable weather. Fair enough. It’s worth waiting for, especially since the Starks are finally beginning to make a comeback, after years of getting killed, paralyzed, stabbed, blinded, raped, and generally getting shit on for the entire series. And Danaerys is finally on her way to Westeros, after farting around in the East for years. It’s all coming together, people. Maybe. Until the next devastating blow.

stark

My other show in the “Triumvirate” is The Walking Dead, and after finishing Season 6 on Netflix a few months ago, I’ve been too afraid to start Season 7 on Xfinity. I know, of course, that Glenn (and Abraham) are going to meet Lucille in a bad way, and I don’t know if I can sit through it. On the other hand, by this point I also know that the evil Negan will be eaten by a tiger. So I just need to get from Point A to Point B, and see where it leads. These people need to catch a friggin break. So if I find the strength to witness the bludgeoning of Glenn, I think WD may fill the show hole I’m in now.

the look

Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll wait until Season 7 is on Netflix in the fall. Except fall may be filled with the next mini-season of X-Files. I wrote a post on the last mini-season, and for the most part, I thought it was well done. Except the ending–you can’t end it with Mulder dying on a bridge with a big spaceship hovering up above, and not know if there is going to be a continuation. Well, worry no more–I just found out there is going to be another season, and maybe now we can all rest easy knowing we’ll at least find out what happens. Maybe. X-files never guarantees answers or neat solutions. But I’ve learned to accept the mystery, and just enjoy the alien weirdness that if offers.

aliens

So that’s what’s on my TV horizon right now. I can only allow myself one show to watch at a time, otherwise I’d never get any writing done (which is challenging even without TV).

Do you watch any of these shows? What shows can’t you live without? Let me know and we’ll talk about it!

 

To Walk Invisible: The Brontes

brontes

I came across this Masterpiece Theater film on PBS the other day, and my heart leaped a little with an anticipatory thrill. Ever since ninth grade English class, when I fell in love with Jane Eyre, the Brontes have held an almost mythical position in my budding writer’s mind. And though I’ve read the books countless times, seen many film adaptations of their work, and (many years ago) read several biographies, I’ve never seen a movie about the Brontes themselves and their struggles.

To Walk Invisible focuses on the three years leading up to the publication of their books as well as their brother Branwell’s death, with intermittent scenes of the siblings as children, playing and creating their fantastic, imaginary worlds. The children are shown with strange, fiery crowns over their heads, as if signifying their creative genius, masters of their imaginations. Kind of weird, but I understand the intent.

Their father Patrick Branwell is the curate of Howarth, in North Yorkshire, amid the hilly, twisty cobblestone streets of the town, with the lonely, windswept moors all around. It helps to know a little about the events leading up to the beginning of the film: Charlotte and Emily have recently returned from Brussels after trying to open up a school for girls; while there, Charlotte had developed an obsessive, unrequited love for a professor she studied under. Anne and Branwell had returned home from Thorpe Green, a household where they held positions as governess and tutor, respectively; Branwell had been dismissed, purportedly for having an affair with his employer’s wife. Anne had left earlier, having known what was going on and being unable to cope with the shame of it.

Branwell
Branwell Bronte (Adam Nagaitis)

Branwell, as the only son, is expected by the family to do great things. A writer and artist in his own right, his creative efforts are derailed by the doomed love affair, which sets him on a course of destructive alcoholism and drug abuse. The sisters wonder what their future may hold, since as women, they are not allowed to support themselves outside the home (except as governesses or teachers, positions they abhor), and it seems obvious their brother is not going to provide any kind of support. Already in their late twenties, their marriage prospects  (the only other way to find security) seem dim.

But Charlotte (played by Finn Atkins, who brilliantly brings to life the diminutive, eldest sister’s fierce intelligence and practical ambition) has another idea: the three sisters should try to publish their work. Under the male pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, they could “walk invisible”, and therefore be judged by their work rather than as women writing (which was considered vulgar, coarse and immoral).

They begin with a volume of poetry, propped up by Emily’s brilliant verse. It sells two copies. But it opens the door for their fiction: Emily’s Wuthering Heights, Anne’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and Charlotte’s The Professor, based on her experience of unrequited love for her teacher. Emily’s and Anne’s novels are published, but not Charlotte’s. She tries again with Jane Eyre, and it is this novel that eventually propels her toward fame and financial security.

In the meantime, Branwell (Adam Nagaitis, who manages to elicit pity from us for the dissolute brother, as well as contempt) continues to deteriorate and torment his family with his drunken shenanigans. Charlotte is furious at his behavior, Anne (Charlie Murphy) feels responsible for not stopping his tomfoolery at Thorpe Green, and Emily (Chloe Pirrie), though frustrated with him, has a soft spot for her brother and is often the one cleaning up his vomit or dragging him home.

patrick bronte
Patrick Bronte (Jonathan Pryce)

The sisters finally tell their old, ailing father (Jonathan Pryce) that their books have been published, to save him from worry about what his daughters will do when he’s gone. He’s proud of them, and understands their desire to keep their identity secret, from the world, and especially from Branwell. But an error on the part of a publisher forces Charlotte and Anne to travel to London to fix it, thus revealing their identities.

It isn’t long after that Branwell dies from tuberculosis. There’s a sad little scene of the Bronte children, with the three sisters with their fiery crowns seated at a table, and Branwell, his own brilliant fire now doused, approaches them, offering his box of soldiers that they had played with and created their stories around. Young Charlotte looks at him gravely, and announces “You can go now.” Dejected, the boy turns around and leaves. Cue lump in throat.

The film ends here, with a jarring fast forward to the present, showing a crowded Bronte museum with subtitles that informs us of the fate of Emily and Anne. Tragically, Emily dies merely three months after Branwell, also from tuberculosis, and several months after this, Anne succumbs.

Oddly, there is no mention of Charlotte, who lives on to write several more books. She eventually marries a friend of the family, Arthur Bell Nichols, but dies from complications during pregnancy.

I’ve often had flashes of envy when I think about the Brontes–to possess such brilliance! To have your name live on long after you’re gone! But if the price is to live a short life of repression, unrequited love, and death all around you, I can pass. I’m grateful for the gifts of literature these three extraordinary women have left for the rest of us.