Notes from a Drama Queen

What's in a Name?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Shakespeare. You gotta love him. At least, I certainly do. When I was young I memorized the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet (that's where the quote from above comes from). I collected Hamlets (Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier, many others), and worked my way through the teeny tiny print of a one-volume collected works of Shakespeare in my early teens.

I grew up in Princeton, and our class trips were to the local theater, which luckily happened to be the world-famous McCarter Theater, run by Arthur Lithgow, John's father. John was head of the drama club in high school, and served as spear-carrier in McCarter's version of Julius Caesar, and I discovered listening to Shakespeare was like going to a country where you knew the language but had never spoken it. It would take about five minutes of incomprehensible poetry being spouted on stage and then suddenly it all began to make sense.

Anyone remember the gorgeous version of Much Ado About Nothing with Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson? Filmed is Tuscany, it's full of life and color and gorgeous white clothes. And it contains one of the great couples in literature, the squabbling, furious, funny and passionate Beatrice and Benedick.

Yup, you got it. Benedick. When Adrian and Charlotte of RECKLESS had children she got to name two of them, he got the other two. He had never been crazy about being called Adrian, so he chose Charles and Brandon for the two he got to name, solid, normal names. Charlotte went for Shakespeare -- Benedick from Much Ado and Miranda from The Tempest. Shakespeare ran through BREATHLESS - The Scorpion kept insisting he was Richard the Third, compleat villain, while Miranda thought he was Caliban, her own particular monster.

So ... that, in a nutshell, is why the hero of SHAMELESS is Benedick, not Benedict. I guess some find it distracting, which is a real drag, because if I'd known I probably would have changed it. I firmly believe nothing should get in the way of being immersed in Story, not even something that's technically correct or brilliant writing (not that anyone's ever accused me of either ).

But I was so used to Benedick that I didn't realize it would seem odd to others. Sorry 'bout that. But hey, the first book had a hero named Francis, fer heaven's sake! Don't ask me why -- they name themselves.

But I'm hoping, apart from that little flaw, that you'll find SHAMELESS as fun to read as I enjoyed writing it. It should start popping up in bookstores any day, though I gather the e-versions don't come out until July 1st. It's fun, it's fast, and it's sexy (of course).


GONE WITH THE WIND (and good riddance)

Monday, June 06, 2011

It’s the 75th anniversary of the publication of Gone With the Wind. Those were the good old days when a historical romance could win a Pulitzer Prize. As I remember I loved the book much more than I loved the movie (Clark Gable didn’t do it for me as Rhett Butler), so I’m basing this on countless revisitations of the movie, and for me it has one huge infuriating problem. I’d gotten over it until the same thing happened this season on House, but more about that later.

Throughout the movie, Rhett Butler is a Bad Boy with a conscience, and he’s immediately drawn to Scarlett. Bad Scarlett in all her self-centered glory. He loved her exactly the way she was, he saw her exactly the way she was. Self-absorbed, jealous, strong, ignoring social niceties. He loved her ruthlessness, which enabled her to survive the war and take care of those with her (Mammy, Melanie, etc.). He chased her and finally backed her into marriage knowing exactly what he was getting into.

And then suddenly he starts wanting her to be Melanie. He gives her nothing but shit when she behaves as she always does, and in the end he has the nerve to walk out on her, simply because she’s the woman he married, the woman he always wanted.
To quote Marty McFly in Back to the Future III, he’s an asshole

Nowadays every time GWTW comes on and someone insists on watching it I throw pillows at the screen. Men!

In House, it’s the women. Cuddy (does the character even have a first name?) knows House better than anyone. In fact, she’s one of the few people who can keep him under control. She has no illusions about how selfish, weak, needy he is. She knows he has a desperate problem with drugs but he’s managed to stay clean and sober for a good long while. Despite all his many flaws she’s always been in love with him, and she finally decides not to fight it any more.

Okay, I’ll buy that. Because House, as embodied by Hugh Laurie, is almost irresistible in his grouchy brilliance. So grand passion ensues, she has a cancer scare, and he fails her because he’s frightened. He tries, shows up later having pulled himself together, and she dumps him. For being exactly who he is.

The problem being that she’s given him hope. Because she brought him into her life he’d dropped some of his defenses, bonded with her daughter, actually made an effort occasionally instead of always manipulating. With her, he tried to be a better man. And suddenly she dumps him, simply for being who she always knew he was.
One of the last scenes of the show this season was when House came by to drop off her hair brush (and why was she whining about her hairbrush, for God’s sake?) and sees her leaving her dining room with a couple and a new man, laughing and flirting. He drives a block or two, then turns around, guns the motor and drives the damned car straight into her dining room.
I cheered. I expected some (most?) people were horrified. Wilson, his best friend, certainly seemed disturbed. But I loved it.

And in my fantasies that idiot Rhett Butler most certainly returned to Scarlett, because he was obsessed with her, and I’m hoping to God she looked at him and said, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”