Sunday, September 12, 2010

Celebs R Us

I'm not a big celebrity hound, but I do appreciate a few traditional California events, such as the Movie Premier.

This week, the independent film Expecting Mary premiered in Palm Springs. Produced locally by Kim Waltrip and Jim Casey, the movie tells the story of a teen-aged pregnant runaway who finds an unlikely family in a trailer park in New Mexico. It's totally heartwarming, and not in a syrupy kind of way. Linda Gray stars as a faded Vegas show girl who takes the young Mary in on Thanksgiving. There's also a totally fabulous appearance by Della Reese as the owner of the trailer park.

In addition to Gray and Reese, the film includes several veteran actors over the age of sixty, such as Eliot Gould, Lainie Kazan, and Cloris Leachman. After the screening in Palm Springs, several cast members stuck around for a Q&A session with local TV host, Gloria Greer.

Producer Kim Waltrip, Lainie Kazan, Della Reese, Linda Gray, and Gloria Greer after the premier of "Expecting Mary."

The Q&A was very lively. Lainie Kazan was asked about her role as the owner of a small-town casino. She talked about her career playing interesting and weird characters: "I've played everybody's mother except Whoopie's."

Asked if she shared her character's love of cooking, Della Reese replied, "I didn't get this big by going hungry."

The best thing about seeing a premier isn't proximity to stars but, especially in the case of an independent film, hearing the artists talk about a project they really believed in and how they made it happen.

See the trailer here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Appreciating Books

Sometimes reading a book is like spending a long sunny Sunday afternoon with an old friend, catching up and talking about Big Issues. When you come across that kind of book, especially when it's written by an old friend, you don't write a review of it,  you write an appreciation.

Buy from Beacon Press.

I looked forward to reading Amie Klepnauer Miller's She Looks Just Like You: A Memoir of (Nonbiological Lesbian) Motherhood. The sub-title says a lot about what the book covers, and a lot about what I am not. I will never be a lesbian or a mother, biological or "other." But I know the couple and the child in the book. I remember some of the events and conversations in the book. And I genuinely like Amie, her partner Jane and their daughter Hanna. From the beginning, Klempnauer Miller hits the right note, sounding like a woman having a friendly, funny and meaningful discussion with an old friend. The occasional dialogue with Jane catches Jane's voice as surely as it does Amie's.

People read memoirs for different reasons, I suppose. We read some to live experiences that we will never have. I'll never be a chef in a New York restaurant (I rarely have even eaten in one), so Kitchen Confidential was an educational as well as entertaining read. We also read memoirs to relive the familiar through someone else's eyes. I read the first of William Mann's Jeff-and-Lloyd trilogy, The Men from the Boys, in about a day and a half. It was so like my life. It's a novel, officially, not a memoir. But it's autobiographical fiction, so I'm thinking of it in the same terms. The author is my contemporary, almost exactly, and he treats the eighties very nearly the way I lived it. (I had less sex and did fewer drugs probably.)

She Looks Just Like You pays off in more ways than one. Amie is a fan of the Big Issues discussions, best held when on long car trips in the midwest. There are plenty of Big Issues in this book: religion and faith, the legal status of glbt families, and the changes that adult relationship go through. These and more are discussed while Amie and Jane make the decision to have a baby, try to get pregnant, have Hanna, and endure the first year of her life.

A writer of grant proposals and articles for free newspapers Amie's writing is smooth and readable. She has a talent for boiling Big Issues down to their essentials and seeing them from multiple perspectives.
It's an odd thing, in the gay community, that family is both devalued and hypervalued. Because so many people have relationships with their biological families that are remote even on good days, there is a tendency to write off family as a loss, part of the price of coming out of the closet. ... When the family is not accepting, it is relatively easy to conclude that family doesn't really matter. Family becomes something to leave behind in Fargo or Trenton or Louisville.
Klempnauer Miller is also achingly honest in her portrait of how the arrival of baby Hanna changed the relationship between Hanna's two Mommies. 
Here is the truth: when Jane was pregnant, I found her irresistible. I loved her scent, her roundness, her exuberant possibility. I don't find postpartum Jane irresistible. I don't even find her attractive.
Eighteen months seems to be the adjustment time needed for a relationship to absorb a new baby. Amie thinks they can make it to eighteen months but wonders what's next. The book ends just after Hanna's first birthday, with Mama and Mommy not sure they are going to make it. Luckily, she includes an epilogue that assures the reader that Amie and Jane are still a Committed Couple. Not that I was worried.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

New Project Time

I really owe Dr. Freeman a lot. He's my good friend and frequent writing partner. What a great birthday present he gave me. A book. (Surprise.)

A Great Unrecorded History, the new biography of E. M. Forster by Wendy Moffat, has gotten some good reviews. Some have said that she focuses too much on Forster's belated sex life. Quite wrong, I say. She does a great job with issues others have skated around. (P. N. Firbank, writing the official biography soon after Forster's death, left out a lot.) Moffat had the benefit of working with material not before available, namely, Forster's Sex Diary. What a lot we learn.

I won't recount details here, it's a lot of fun and you should read it yourself. Forster kept the diary mostly because he had few people to confide in about his feelings and his relationships. Unlike today, when we talk about everything to everyone.

However, this isn't so much a review as it is an appreciation. Moffat has shown through a great example how to approach material that others have gone over before you. How to plow a new row in an already planted field. She's given me a look into a new project of my own. One I thought I wouldn't be able to tackle for a while. So, hat's off to you Wendy Moffat.

And Dr. Freeman, I'm trying to think of something significant to give you for your birthday very soon...

Friday, August 13, 2010

What? Me write?

Okay, so I haven't been writing. Put it down to romance, or business, or the effect of daily sunshine on the already-indolent. Sloth, plain and simple.

The goal of the blog was to get me writing more regularly, and, in that sense, it's been somewhat successful. Dr. Freeman and I published that little ode to Christopher Isherwood in The Chronicle of Higher Education in January. We then finished off the Dead Poet Project in the spring. (An article on W. H. Auden's relationship with Isherwood for a forthcoming British anthology.) With all that writing, who needs a blog?

Also, in the meantime, to update you on previous posts: I sold that rat-trap in Duluth I used to own. At a loss. After 36 months on the market. I feel lucky given These Tough Economic Times. Also, I was forced to relinquish the Writing Porch, both because I loaned the laptop to a friend and because I had to vacate the apartment when the owner decided he wanted to live in it. The nerve.

Then the plans for writing in these long, summer nights in Palm Springs. Who can write with a love-interest around? But I won't tell tales out of school. Plus he's away for the summer, so what's stopping me from a few weekly stream-of-consciousness ramblings fueled by a spot of vodka? (Or gin and Dubonnet, as the fake Queen_UK spouts on Twitter.)

I mentioned the sloth.

But wait, a new project is cooking. Nothing like a new project to get your writing juices flowing. It looks so good, and so long (it'll take five years, I'm thinking), that the blog will cry out! as a diversion from the real work.

And PS? My friend and model blogger Jocelyn has packed her family up and taken them to TURKEY for a year. She's blogging about it, with drawings by her multi-talented husband, Byron, over at Stop by.

Monday, July 12, 2010