Saturday, January 9, 2016

Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian

I finally finished listening to the audio book version of Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian by E.L. James. I must say, I genuinely enjoyed it, in no small part to the voice acting talent of Zachary Webber.

Many of my thoughts about this audio book are captured in my status updates over the two months it took me to "read" this book on my commute. (Click on the image or zoom to make it more readable.)

I enjoyed this as a lengthy and complicated piece of Twilight fan fiction, and I find that I genuinely care about these fictional characters. I want Ana and Christian to succeed as a couple. Of course we know they do - they finish as a nice married couple with two children - but they're actually broken up at the end of the first novel of the trilogy. It's a downer ending, made somewhat more hopeful in this version.

I really do get a kick out of the way Kate irks Christian.

But I still don't want to see the movie. Jamie Dornan is quite attractive, and being a person of Northern Irish descent myself I quite like him, but I like my imaginary Christian Grey better. He doesn't resemble any living person that I know of, although from here on out he may sound like Zachary Webber in my imagination.

I do think Kristen Stewart would have made an amazing Ana, though. That's not a slight against Dakota Johnson. I find her beautiful and charming.

Dakota Johnson. Creative Commons image by GabboT
I feel especially compelled to protect and defend the young Ms. Johnson, and I suppose it's because I've long felt compelled to protect her mother, Melanie Griffith. Do you all remember The Bust Guide to the New Girl Order?

It was first published in 1999, and it's very, very '90s. It represents some of the early work featured in the women's magazine, which started out as a small feminist/girl culture zine, itself a very 1990s concept. I mention the anthology because it contains an essay called "Bring Me the Head of Melanie Banderas" by Sarah Feldman writing as Dixie LaRue. It's much meaner and snarkier than what Bust publishes today, and it's all about what a terrible actress and human being Melanie Griffith (married to Antonio Banderas at the time) is.

Like a Judge-y Judy, Dixie LaRue recounts Griffith's crimes against womankind, including getting multiple tattoos (!) and having breast implants. Body shaming much? She takes Griffith to task for starring in sexist movies but doesn't question why the movie-going public lets filmmakers get away with pernicious gender stereotyping and sexist slander. It's very old school, and it makes me want to wrap Griffith in a nice warm blanket, hand her a latte, and assure her she's worthy of love and respect.

So, with absolutely no offense meant to Jamie Dornan or Dakota Johnson, I'll just watch the "movie" inside my head and fan-cast it with the Twilight cast members.

"Lelliot" hates jellyfish.
If I were summing up this book in one sentence, it would be, "A brave woman explores the limits of her sexuality; a recovering abuse victim explores the limits of his emotional vulnerability." And I liked it.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

#CurrentlyReading (and Dreaming of) 'Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder' by Claudia Kalb

Goodreads Summary: "Was Andy Warhol a hoarder? Did Einstein have autism? Was Frank Lloyd Wright a narcissist? In this surprising, inventive, and meticulously researched look at the evolution of mental health, acclaimed health and science journalist Claudia Kalb gives readers a glimpse into the lives of high-profile historic figures through the lens of modern psychology, weaving groundbreaking research into biographical narratives that are deeply embedded in our culture. From Marilyn Monroe's borderline personality disorder to Charles Darwin's anxiety, Kalb provides compelling insight into a broad range of maladies, using historical records and interviews with leading mental health experts, biographers, sociologists, and other specialists. Packed with intriguing revelations, this smart narrative brings a new perspective to one of the hottest new topics in today's cultural conversation."

I got this book free, in exchange for an honest review, from's Vine program. To be perfectly honest, I chose it based on a misunderstanding. It has a chapter on Charles DARWIN, but I thought there was a chapter on Charles DICKENS. Oliver Sacks wrote in Hallucinations that Dickens had "a haunted mind" and I've been meaning to find out why.

Still, maybe it's just because I was a psychology major, but I could barely put this book down. I went to bed at 10 last night, but I stayed awake reading past 11:30.

Right before I woke up this morning, I was dreaming of a version of Romeo and Juliet, in which instead of members of warring families, the issue between the couple was that she was an "ordinary" American teenager. She was 18-19 years old, like Diana Spencer was when she got engaged to Prince Charles. Princess Diana has a chapter in Andy Warhol; she was famously a victim of bulimia nervosa.

The "Romeo" in my dream was Hugh Jackman. His rather condescending, sort of Fitzwilliam Darcy-esque dialogue made reference to the fact that he was a famous, wealthy Australian used to having servants bring him alcoholic drinks, and she didn't have money, name recognition, or staff.

(A bit of Christian Grey/Ana Steele got in there, too. I'm now on disc 15 of the 16-disc audiobook Grey. The Shakespearean bit is, no doubt, because the First Folio exhibit just opened at the University of Notre Dame, next to my birthplace of South Bend, Indiana. I intend to go visit the Folio this month.)

The plot in this dream-version of the play had to do with Hugh and his love interest finding Ron Weasley, because apparently it was also a version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. J.K. Rowling isn't featured in Kalb's book, but the author has also been candid about her personal mental illness. She's a sufferer of major depressive illness, which informed her depiction of the Dementors in Harry and Ron's world.

I guess even after I put the book up and went to bed, my brain didn't want to stop reading. I wonder if my brain was clever enough to dream in accurate iambic pentameter?

Monday, January 4, 2016

#OutOfPrint #RareBook Alert: 'Hearts of Tomorrow' Speculative Fiction Anthology

Hearts of Tomorrow, the speculative fiction anthology that features my short story "Melusine's Secret," is going out of print. It's already gone from and from the publisher's website.

Here's where you can get your paperback copy while you still can:

Please note that I can't make any additional money if you buy these copies. I just think they'd be fun to have.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

'The Lullaby of Polish Girls' by Dagmara Domińczyk #ReadWomen #BookReview

The Lullaby of Polish GirlsThe Lullaby of Polish Girls by Dagmara Domińczyk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maybe I'm biased in favor of this book because I'm a Polish-American, with nearly every ancestor on my mother's side of the family emigrating from Warsaw in the early 1900s. It might help that I know simply phrases like "Dzien dobry" without having to look them up. Maybe I'm biased in favor of this book because I love The Count of Monte Cristo and the movie version in which the author starred as Mercedes. Either way, I felt attached to the characters from the very first page.

The writing flowed smoothly, never distracting me from the absorbing tale of three very different women who became friends as children. Their paths diverged, then all came back together. I thought it was a well-crafted novel as well as a well-written one.

 I chose to read it in December 2015 as part of the #ReadWomen initiative, but I'd recommend it at any time, to anyone who loves a good story.