Paul and I started watching Gotham over the weekend, and I have to say I am really enjoying it. Jada Pinkett Smith is great as Fish Mooney; Donal Logue is pretty good as Jim Gordon’s corrupt partner; and Ben Mackenzie is truly wonderful as Jim Gordon. I had my doubts when I saw that he’d been cast—I only knew him from The OC, which I maybe watched one episode of, shook my head in disdain, and never watched again—but he’s actually really good. He’s also really handsome; he is aging well.
I am also still greatly enjoying Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling, even though it’s slower going than usual. I do find it interesting that his sexuality hasn’t been addressed; although the author has mentioned several times that homosexuality wasn’t uncommon in Florence of the time and that was partly why Savonarola was able to rise to power (he was a fundamentalist monk who drove the Medici out briefly and turned Florence into a theocracy; he also encouraged Florentines to destroy all their paintings, books, make-up, and fancy clothes in what was known as ‘the bonfire of the vanities’); he preached against the sodomites. Of course, Michelangelo’s sexuality doesn’t have much to do with the painting of the Sistine Chapel, I suppose—but this is, of course, just the first step of my research. I do hope we are able to return to Florence next year!
Though of course the true nature of the master’s sexuality could be inferred from the all of the male nudes he carved or painted. (Of course, he also did female nudes, but not nearly as many nor as famously.)
I do really love reading historical nonfiction; it’s always a pleasure for me to learn new information—and I get such inspiration from it, honestly. Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror is one of my favorites, of course, and I also greatly enjoyed her The March of Folly, which gave me a great idea for a y/a, one which I’d been toying with intermittently for the last seven or eight years, quite frankly.
I’m really looking forward to finishing The Orion Mask; I’m enjoying writing it, don’t get me wrong, but I am also really looking forward to no longer having a deadline hanging over my head. For years, I thought I wouldn’t write without one, but now I am beginning to think it’s going to be much easier on me—and maybe the work will be better—if I don’t have that stress.
I am trying to make my life less stressful.
And it looks as though the Lost Apartment might actually be finished this week, and we can have our life back.
And now back to the spice mines.
Paul and I drove up to Baton Rouge yesterday to watch the LSU-Kentucky game.
It was a simply gorgeous evening, as you can see, Constant Reader, for a football game.
It's been a weird college football season, especially in the SEC. Who would have ever predicted that Mississippi State and Ole Miss would be undefeated and ranked 1 and 3 in the country at this point in the season? Who would have thought LSU would go to Auburn and be embarrassed on national television? Who would have ever imagined Alabama would lose to Ole Miss?
After the terrible losses to Mississippi State and Auburn, LSU was 0-2 in the conference and unranked. The big win last week at Florida and last night's trouncing of Kentucky pulled LSU up to 2-2 in conference play, and I still have no idea of what the reason holds for the Tigers. We play Ole Miss and Alabama back to back--currently ranked 3 and 6 in the polls, respectively--and then close out at Arkansas and Texas A&M. We could win or lose any or all of those games.
But the game was a lot of fun, and Paul's and my winning streak in Tiger Stadium was extended another game; we've never been to a game LSU has lost. (A friend recently suggested that LSU really needs to gift Paul and I with season tickets as well as send us to all away games; as fun as that would be to contemplate, obviously our luck in only witnessing Tiger wins in person would eventually run out at some point--we are dreading that day.)
We had excellent seats just under the home scoreboard, with a great view of the field. What was really fun, though, was that the national champion cheerleading squad from 1989 was invited back to the game, went out on to the field where they were introduced and led the crowd in a cheer. What made it even more fun was that almost the entire squad was seated near or around us, and they were a lot of fun.
It was also fun to see LSU play really well. I don't know if LSU just played really well or Kentucky played really badly; it's hard to say, but the final score was 41-3. I felt bad for the Kentucky fans who travelled all the way down here; I hope they at least got to visit New Orleans and have some fun.
I'm really enjoying Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling, which is teaching me a lot about painting and Renaissance art. Now that I've actually learned how they used to paint frescoes, I am even more amazed at the achievement that is the Sistine Chapel ceiling. I mean, it's an amazing achievement in and of itself, but knowing that the art is to paint on wet plaster so that the paint is absorbed into it when it dries and thus sets? I can't imagine painting on a wet plaster surface! What a delicate touch you'd need so as not to disturb the plaster surface itself...and the patience required. Man.
I am really looking forward to my Michelangelo book.
And irony of ironies, last night sitting in Tiger Stadium I got an idea for another Chanse book. I typed the idea into my phone, just in case, but don't get too excited--if I should decide to do this one, it won't be for at least three years, Constant Reader, if ever.
And now back to the spice mines.
I finished reading Charlotte Armstrong’s A Dram of Poison Thursday night, and I have to say, I absolutely loved it.
Charlotte Armstrong is one of those authors who never gets the credit to which she is so rightfully due. I am sure this is partly because she died in the 1970’s, having her greatest success in the 50’s and 60’s, and also partly because of sexism. Armstrong was a woman, and she often wrote about women, and issues involving women (as did contemporaries like Dorothy Salisbury Davis, Margaret Millar, Mary Stewart, Dorothy L. Hughes, and so many, many more) and as such, she wasn’t taken ‘seriously’ as a writer after her death. I don’t know what happened in the 1970’s and the early 1980’s (which is when Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton joined Marcia Muller in reinvigorating and reviving the private eye novel, which in turn reinvigorated the mystery genre as a whole), but ut was during this time that the great women crime writers of the past few decades were swept away into the dustbin, and began to be forgotten.
This. Is. A. Crime.
Charlotte Armstrong won the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1957 for Best Novel, and was the last American woman to win until Julie Smith won in 1991 for New Orleans Mourning. In 1968, Armstrong became the first person to get two nominations in the Best Novel category, for Lemon in the Basket and The Gift Shop (a feat only matched once; and interesting enough, by another woman, Ruth Rendell), losing to Donald Westlake. Yet most fans of the genre today have never heard of Armstrong, let alone read her; the books have sadly been out of print for a very long time.
The tall man turned on the light. "I won't be a minute," he said.
The shorter man looked around the room, which was a laboratory. He ambled over to gaze, without understanding, at some apparatus.
"It's here somewhere," said Paul Townsend, lifting and shifting papers on the desk, opening the left top drawer. "Letter I meant to mail. SImply forgot. Now where...?" He was an extremely good looking man, six feet high, in prime state at age thirty-seven. His handsome face wore a little fussy frown.
"Take your time," said Mr. Gibson, who was older, in no hurry whatever, and who liked to browse. "What's all this?"
"Ah..." Paul Townsend found the letter. "Got it. That? That's poison."
I had read somewhere--perhaps in Jeffrey Marks' seminal Atomic Renaissance, that this book's plot centered around a small vial of deadly poison, lost on a city bus. That sounded intriguing; that, coupled with my enjoyment of other works of Armstrong's as well as the knowledge of that Edgar win for this novel, made me very curious to read it. I was quite pleased when one of my eBay alerts let me know a copy had come up for sale; I immediately ordered it, and this week it arrived. Yet this jacket copy:
32 from 55 leaves 23...
There was no getting around it. Kenneth Gibson was twenty-three years older than his wife. Surely she secretly desired another--younger--man. They hadn't married for love. but something had changed...and something had to be done about it...
His mind kept returning to the bottle labeled only 333, its contents mysteriously quick, effective and painless. It would be simple, and very, very final...
That makes it sound like an entirely different book, doesn't it?
But it is accurate jacket copy; the Gibsons (Kenneth and Rosemary) who are at the heart of this wonderful novel, didn't marry for love, there is a significant age difference, and there is a handsome single man living right next door. But the dram of poison does go missing on the bus...and how Armstrong weaves all of this together into a compulsively readable thriller is an amazing feat of authorial brilliance; it's easy to see why she was so enormously successful in her time, why this clever book won the Edgar, and why she was made a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America.
It's an incredible shame Armstrong isn't remembered and revered the way she should be; Marks has done an excellent job of studying the post-war mistresses of mayhem and mystery in Atomic Renaissance; and Sarah Weinman collected some of these amazing women's short stories into the excellent anthology Troubled Wives, Twisted Daughters: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense, which is a must-read for fans of crime fiction (it could also have been titled Domestic Noir).
And now, back to the spice mines. Going to the LSU game tonight! GEAUX TIGERS!
In case you missed it, Constant Reader, this week Murder in the Arts District was officially released!
It's always a lovely feeling when a new book comes out; even after thirty or so of them, it still gives me an enormous sense of satisfaction when a new one comes out. I hope I never reach the point where I become blase about it, but I would imagine if I haven't already, it's never going to happen.
Also, yesterday I got a new pair of slippers in the mail from my friend Twist, who got them for me on Santorini!
I love them; warm and snug and comfortable! And they're from Santorini! And a gift from Twist!
Love, love LOVE!!!
I also got a copy of Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King in the mail yesterday; the first step of research into a book idea I got while I was in Italy (and which would make every trip to Italy RESEARCH!); I am very excited.
I am also very pleased with all the kind reviews and comments I've been getting for both Dark Tide and Murder in the Arts District; which is very lovely. I recorded an interview for Susan Larson's show "The Reading Life" for WWNO on Tuesday; I will be certain to let you know as soon as it can be listened to on-line.
And now back to the spice mines.
Yesterday was a dreary day of almost ridiculous humidity, off and on rain, severe weather warnings, and tornado watches. Overnight, the weather mysteriously transitioned from summer to fall; it was in the low sixties when I woke up this morning—which means it’s time to dig out sweatshirts and sweaters. (Yes, yes, I know; the low sixties feels tropical at this point in the rest of the country, but it’s chilly for New Orleans. Sue me.)
Despite waking up ridiculously early this morning (every Tuesday I have to get up at six to be at the office for eight), I feel much more rested and relaxed than I did yesterday, what with the horror of oversleeping and all. I never really felt en pointe, which is not one of my favorite feelings, you know? I always felt slightly off balance and somewhere to the left of center, and was relatively grateful when I was able to say fuck it all and tumble into bed last night.
Rumor has it that the Lost Apartment will finally be finished this week; obviously, I am not doing anything as foolish as holding my breath. The blue Paul picked for the walls, though, is quite beautiful, particularly when contrasted with the coral of the other walls. The front door, the door frame to the kitchen, and the window frames have all also been repainted a fresh coat of white, which also looks really nice. I’ll just be glad when it’s all finished, we can move the furniture back where it belongs, and I can finally, at long last, clean the floors. And of course, once the living room is finished we’re getting a new dishwasher; step one of the restoration/renovation of the kitchen—although such thought makes me feel very, very tired.
I really need to get The Orion Mask and all my editing done before the work on the kitchen starts…since it’s my workspace.
Project Unhoard is also on hold until the Lost Apartment living room is finished, although I did start putting together another box of books to donate; maybe tomorrow on my way to the office I can stop at the Bridge House and drop off a box or two.
I am also hoping to get my fall cardio schedule off and running tomorrow morning. The orthotic inserts continue to work—it is so amazing not to experience ankle/knee/hip pain, you have no idea, Constant Reader.
And this Saturday I am going to the LSU-Kentucky game; an SEC night game! GEAUX TIGERS!
And now back to the spice mines….