Author, Books, Fiction, Movies, Novel, Opinion, Reading, Writing

Inspired, but ignorant

I had planned to write today’s post on a completely different topic, but yesterday I took a break from reading to watch a movie, and it’s still on my mind. Recently, I looked at my Netflix queue and saw it had grown to almost 300 movies. If you knew how infrequently I sit down to watch a movie you’d know how totally ridiculous that number is.

So, I went through the list deleting many I no longer had an interest in seeing. I came to one I didn’t recognize the name of at all. When the little info bubble popped up—an immigrant son has a conflict with his father—I realized I must have added it back when I was still doing research on the novel I’ve now finished. Although I no longer needed it for research, I decided to move it up in the queue.

I didn’t note the movie’s category. Because I saw it starred Kal Penn (of Harold and Kumar fame) and thought I had a vague memory of the trailer, I assumed this movie was more a comedy. I don’t know what trailer I thought I remembered, but it wasn’t for The Namesake. Yes, that one, the film adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel. Her Pulitzer Prize winning novel. The one I’d never heard of before this. Pathetic, aren’t I?

Although there are some humorous moments, The Namesake is far from a comedy. It’s a beautiful drama. Beautifully acted, beautifully filmed, beautifully scripted. I cried. More than once. I loved it. Absolutely. I want a copy.

When the movie was over, I went to Amazon to look up the book. I read some sample pages, and though it’s written in present tense, (not my fave) I will read the book. But more importantly, I want to write a book that could be adapted into such a movie. I want to touch someone’s heart that way. Not necessarily to make them cry, but to make them feel they’ve experienced something special by reading it.

Have you seen the movie or read the book?

By the way: I’d like to note that my last post, which was really only a photo of a painting and not a post at all, received as many page hits and comments as most of my real posts. Hmmm, I’m wondering if I should read something into that.

Fiction, Horror, Movies, Writing

Paranormal activity?

Yesterday, I went to see the movie Paranormal Activity. I had the best time possible while being terrorized—and eating Junior Mints! I have never experienced such tension. It took me ten minutes, after the movie ended, to get my breathing back to normal and longer than that before my muscles completely relaxed. (For you movie critics out there, yes, I could have done without the last thirty or so seconds of Hollywood cheese.)

Obviously, I love a good horror movie. And by good, I don’t mean the movies that are just an excuse to show a thousand gruesome ways to kill someone, I like the ones that play with your mind. The ones that maybe … just might … could possibly … really happen. Last year’s The Strangers was another movie I loved though, again, I think it ended two scenes too late.

A psychological element to the horror is far more interesting to me. I love walking a “what if” thought into the darkness. I have that kink in my mind. Every time I stand at the ocean’s edge feeling the wind and sun or mist, gazing out over the endless sea, I always have this thought: what if something HUGE rose up before me?

tule fog
Sometimes on winter nights, we have fog so thick you can’t see the front of your car as you’re driving. On those nights, I’m never quite sure my car won’t drive right into another dimension. When, in rare moments, I realize I hear no sounds at all, I fear time has frozen and I quickly look out the window to make sure I can see something moving. Once, while hiding in the dark bathroom, moaning like a cartoon ghost to fun-scare the kids, I frightened myself so, with the sense that something stood behind me, that I had to turn on the light and stop the game.

I’m telling you this because I’ve been thinking about writing horror again. Cold and dreary winter is almost as good as dark and stormy nights for writing dark tales. There’s an art to probing into that visceral layer where blackness rages, then pulling back into the light at just the right second. The dark half in me knows she will never master that art, but she needs to purge her thoughts about what really goes bump in the night.

Memory, Movies, Music, Musings, Writing

Here be heaven

Last night I watched a movie that made me cry. The movie was Songcatcher, about a musicologist who visits her schoolteacher sister “up the mountain” in Appalachia and falls in love with the people and their music.

I am a descendant of Scots-Irish immigrants who, long before the American Revolution, settled in the Appalachian Mountains in what would become West Virginia. As the frontier moved west, so did my ancestors, but no farther than Eastern Kentucky.  Some of my best childhood memories are of visiting my grandparents’ tobacco farm.

My grandparents.
My grandparents.

The film starts with a woman sitting at a piano singing an old English folksong, “Barbara Allen.” She’s the music professor who soon finds out she’s been passed over for a full chair in the school again, presumably because of her sex. And in anger, she leaves the school to get “as far away as possible.” Next, we see her climbing up into the back country.

I tear up at the first shot of a cabin in the woods at dawn. Olfactory memory snatchs me away to my childhood. The morning scents of dew and earth and greenery waft over me as I sit on the stepstone outside the door to the summer kitchen. My feet are bare and I slide them over the cool, smoothness of the stone worn down by the feet of all who have entered this door for over a century. From behind me comes the sounds and smells of breakfast being cooked. Smoked jowl bacon, cream gravy, and biscuits, made from a heart kept “recipe” passed from mother to daughter for generations, will be served with butter I helped churn and blackberry jam like none you’ve ever tasted.

I am in heaven.

The house that grew from the cabin.
The house that grew from the cabin.

And now, I’m walking through the woods. I look down and see mayapple pushing through the thick carpet of leaves slowly decaying into rich, black loam. I hear the bob-white calls and the rat-tat-tat of the woodpecker. My feet slip on the shale as I step into the crick and then the mud squishes up between my toes. There’s a movement on the other side and I freeze. A doe steps out of the tree line and gazes at me, then inches forward to drink before she turns and disappears back into the cool green.

I am in heaven.

The best is yet to come. I sit on the porch in a cane rocker, sweetly creaking. The heat of the day seeps away, the cricket chorus rises, and then someone starts to sing and Oh! It’s “Barbry Allen” in the way it was surely always meant to be sung. But this is just the beginning. We’re going to a barn dance. Listen to the music … banjo, guitar, fiddle and dulcimer. Look at us, we’re dancing … clogging. And there’s more singing. We’re a pure distillation of our Ulster roots.

From somewhere deep inside, genetic memory, past life recall … something … feels the pain and grief and joy. I weep, with great gulping sobs.

I am in heaven.