May 2008


Stay Tuned For These Recently Read Rabbitboy Books:

Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages by Phyllis Rose

Quite A Year For Plums by Bailey White

Send Yourself Roses by Kathleen Turner & Gloria Feldt

Beautiful Children by Charles Bock

My First Five Husbands…And The Ones Who Got Away by Rue McClanahan

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greengablesI’ll always remember watching Anne of Green Gables on PBS (I think it was PBS) with my family and some of the vivid images: the dead mouse in the plum pudding, the Avonlea fashion, Rachel Lynde’s face when Anne insults her, the broken slate.

When I found out the miniseries was based on books, I quickly checked them out of the library and lost myself in the romantic, dreamlike prose of L.M. Montgomery. (How I loved the “of” construction—it sounds so dramatic: Anne OF Avonlea; Anne OF the Island, and my favorite, Anne OF Windy Poplars. Windy Poplars!!)

It’s funny—I just read a piece by Margaret Atwood talking about how the original novel, Anne of Green Gables, has just turned 100. Reading it again, the book seems so fresh and full of life that it’s unbelievable that Anne, Marilla, Matthew, Gilbert Blythe have all been around for that long.

The characters, the writing, everything just hums with energy somehow—I can understand why there’s such a huge Asian fanbase for Anne—her charm transcends time and race and place.

You fall in love with Anne Shirley and all her misadventures, and stay there—to Ms. Montgomery’s enormous credit—as she changes and grows. I’ve always admired the beautiful nature writing in these books that make a forest or garden on Prince Edward Island seem magical, but I appreciate now the equally masterful little touches that make Matthew so sweet and good-hearted, Rachel Lynde so tart-tongued but fiercely loyal, Josie Pye such an almost-lovable bitch and Gilbert Blythe so dreamy slash fucking hot.

It’s the character of Marilla Cuthbert, the thin, angular, crisp, no-nonsense spinster who takes Anne in and experiences maternal love (in a non-gushy way since she constantly keeps a prim and tight lid on her emotions) that stands out to me now.

The beauty of the love between adopted mother and child is the real romance in a book full of romance (The Lake Of Shining Waters, The Snow Queen, The Haunted Wood), and I find it even more touching as I’ve gotten older than I did as a kid.

Marilla, convinced she is plain and unlovable but stern enough not to care—at least not outwardly—finds new life through the brilliant, fairy-like Anne, and her wry comments that deflate Anne’s more flowery protestations are gems of dry wit.

This is a beautiful, beautiful book, throbbing with life, and I look forward to returning to it again and again. I wonder how the upcoming prequel Before Green Gables will be. Once I get it from the library, I’ll turn a Rachel Lynde-ian eye to its pages…

john adamsI was walking across a parking lot of a strip mall at night (when I am all old-makeup-Winona Ryder-in-Edward Scissorhands, these scenes be my main memory of overly paved and overly franchised Southern California) talking to a guy I was about to have dinner with. We saw one of the ubiquitous John Adams posters featuring one of my biggest celebrity crushes, Paul Giamatti, when my pal laughed.

“Gee, they must be running out of people to make miniseries about,” he said.

Of course, I turned all schoolmarm-ish, rattling off a list of Mr. Adams’s formidable accomplishments vaguely recalled from elementary school, but the more I thought about it, I got what he was saying.

When we think of the Founding Fathers (which we do so much more than the fascinating Founding Mothers.  I am planning on reading more about Martha Washington), we think of the bigger celebrities—the George Washingtons, the Thomas Jeffersons, the Benjamin Franklins. If it weren’t for the fact that his similarly-named son, John Quincy Adams became President (a fact easily remembered and noted in elementary school), I do think we’d have let Mr. Adams fade into that James K. Polk-y twilight of “well, they were Presidents, but eh.”

After reading the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of John Adams though by David McCullough, I happily acknowledge my ignorance and tip my hat (a backwards baseball cap, natch) to John and Abigail Adams, two of the most fascinating individuals I’ve ever read about.

Upright to a fault, a very New England-y mix of pride and humility, John isn’t thoroughly likable throughout all his many amazing accomplishments and feats. Even a great number of his peers found him impeccably moral and upstanding but too single-minded, too proud and not enough of a politician.

In the end, after a long and impressive service to the creation of the United States (arguably the greatest of any of the Founding Parents), he served as President for one term before being narrowly defeated for reelection.

Like life, the book loses much of its sparkle and energy towards the end of Adams’s life, but such is the way with almost all biographies, and there are enough fascinating details of life at the time in America and Europe alike (plus charming touches, like Abigail’s acquisition of a songbird in a cage in France and sad ones, like melancholy-tinged cameos by Marie Antoinette) to delight even the least interested reader of history.

Of course, Abigail comes across as the more fascinating figure—and you want to beat John about the head and shoulders for his jokey, dismissive response to her famous “remember the ladies” letter—and the book picks up momentum whenever the two of them are together physically.
Great book, but now I need to see Paul Giamatti in all his sexy, wild-animal glory in a powdered wig.

Woof.