Sanditon: Diary, 3/18/22

Jane Austen on testosterone; odd phone calls; Annabelle movie; abandoning two books; fave bleeding women’s memoirs listed; confabulation and Know Thyself.

Rose Williams in Sanditon

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved


Watched the first two episodes of Masterpiece Theater’s Sanditon (2019).  It’s Jane Austen on testosterone:  rape, incest, men in a club in their cups, slavery, child sexual abuse, and nudity are all touched on or presented in the first 90 minutes.  This is not your grandmother’s Austen—or anybody’s.  Taken on its own merits, it impresses me favorably.  The heroine is Charlotte Heywood, played by deliciously attractive Rose Williams; the future love interest (apparently) is Sidney Parker (think a harsher Darcy) played by Theo James, who is also listed as an executive producer; the other most interesting character is black super-heiress Miss Lambe (actress Crystal Clarke).  The script looks promising, penned by Andrew Davies and Justin Young, based on the partial novel left by Austen at her too-early death; what I remember of it is consistent with these episodes.  Production values are good.  The music by Ruth Barrett is effective, though sometimes very reminiscent of Aaron Copland’s cowboy style; the dancing music in episode two is quite exotic/erotic and rather astonishing.  Rotten Tomatoes lists scores of 65% from critics and 94% from audiences.

Something odd happened.  I noticed yesterday that I had gotten two phone calls while I was either en route to the library book sale, or while I was there.  The numbers were unfamiliar.  Just now I looked through my “call history” and found that one of the numbers had called me multiple times, going back as far as January—perhaps a dozen calls, all of which I failed to pick up.  So I tried calling the number.  It rang and rang, ten rings at least; I hung up.  I texted to the number but it immediately bounced back with the message, that the number was “not a wireless number.”  Eh?  I tried Googling the number, and got five hits.  The first one listed was the Fresno Public Library.  Others were from pay services.  My speculation is that the FPL automated calling system calls people who have put something on hold that is in their library; of course, this is futile, because I want my holds transported to my local library.  Perhaps weirder yet, the calls from the FPL never rang my phone, otherwise I would have picked up.  I’ve never received a call from the Fresno Public Library, they just show up as “missed call.”

Curious, I Googled my own phone number; I got five pages of “hits.”  The first was from a pay service to identify me (I presume).  Other hits were listed in Russian.  They translate to a business in Moscow (Moskva) for “assembly and installation of prefabricated structures.”

Now, all this got my creative juices flowing; what if it hadn’t been the FPL that had called me?  This is just the sort of quirky incident that has started many a cheap horror movie.  (As it happens, I’m in the middle of watching Annabelle Comes Home.)

Annabelle Comes Home (2019) is a big budget (for a horror film) “horror” film that barely earns its genre title.  64% from critics, 70% from audiences at RT, but it’s slow and the humans are not believable.  How many “impossible” things have to happen before you freak out?  I think my limit would be three; the babysitter in this movie, who does a lot of tense breathing, takes a lot more.  She plugs away at following the script rather than acting like a real human being who has seen a horror movie or two.  The actress, Madison Iseman, is pleasant to look at and tries her best, but this is a dull movie, and overlong at 106 minutes.  She gets the most screen time, with Mckenna Grace and Katie Sarife pretty much dividing the rest.  The adult stars, Vera Farmiga (of Bates Motel and The Sarah Connor Chronicles) and Patrick Wilson (who is below my radar, being male and nothing special), are professional ghostbusters, but their role here is to hand the daughter to the babysitter.  I’ve enjoyed Farmiga’s work in the named TV series, and probably in a movie or two, so this was disappointing.  Annabelle, it turns out, is no Chucky, worse luck.  I gather that this movie is in sequence with The Conjuring and a sequel, but I haven’t seen those—I think.  A check at RT shows that this movie is actually the sixth in “The Conjuring Universe”; the graphic for the first movie, a hangman’s noose, looks very familiar: I’ve seen the movie twice.  ACH I’d call “strictly for fans of the series.”

During ACH I was wishing that I had been watching Ouija (2014) for the tenth time, because first, I can’t get enough of Olivia Cooke, and second, it seems like a better all-around movie.  Rotten Tomatoes couldn’t disagree more, where it gets an astonishingly low 6% from critics, 24% from audiences.  The scares are way better, the plot is straightforward, some of the visuals are unusual, the story makes as little sense, probably.  Suit yourself.

Without much reluctance, I’m giving up on two books I’ve been reading for quite a while.  First is J. M. Roberts:  The Penguin History of the World.  There’s nothing wrong with this book, though a few more maps and some photos would help.  I read to p. 185 of 1033. I noted many quotes that I’d like to copy, but not tonight (almost 10:00 pm).

A more serious failure is Emily Fox Gordon:  Mockingbird Years:  A Life In and Out of Therapy, Basic Books, New York, 2000.  What’s wrong with it is that, for a book like this, I’m looking for “blood on the page,” a phrase I used a couple of days ago here in relation to The Encyclopedia of Doris by Cindy Crabb.  A dustjacket blurb says about Gordon’s book, “Gordon…elegantly traces her journey…”  Yeah, that’s the problem.  She’s a bit reticent, unwilling to really get into the guts of things—though perhaps she thought that she was.  I don’t know, maybe Judith Moore’s courageous and uncompromising Fat Girl [photo below; previous link tells of her final battle], or Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, or Lane Moore’s How to Be Alone, or any of a half-dozen others I might be able to name given enough time, have spoiled me for “elegantly-traced” journeys.  (Two more while I’m thinking of them:  Marya Hornbacher’s Wasted and Ingrid Bengis’s Combat in the Erogenous Zone.)  I don’t find Gordon’s book particularly helpful or insightful regarding therapists or therapy—not that I could do a better job, perhaps, but that’s not to the point.  So I’m abandoning Gordon at page 195 of 241.  I suppose that her offhand and unemotional “description” of her rape that led her to “extort” a marriage proposal from her boyfriend was a final straw.  I do have some quotes that I want to save—though in looking at them now, I’m not motivated.  Here’s one, however:  “…[Dr. B] was quick to suggest post-traumatic stress, the sequelae of my rape.  I found this idea comforting but unilluminating, an instance of scientific relabeling, dignifying a bruise by calling it a hematoma.”  p. 191.  This is a point worth making, but not at the expense of something else that I would find difficult to name.  I wouldn’t want her to retraumatize herself by, uh, “bleeding on the page”; but it’s just for such blood that I read memoirs at all (if I can indulge myself in a “confabulation”).  I copied two quotes here previously, on 3/11/22.  I’m including a link because they’re interesting as vivid writing.  I see that I also expressed a similar opinion of the book at that time.  Adios, Emily Fox Gordon.

Judith Moore when she was thin

For those who don’t know, it has been argued, most notably in my experience in Nick Chater:  The Mind is Flat, that when we are asked to explain our behavior, we don’t tell the truth (because we don’t know the truth)—we make stuff up.  My own version of this scientific finding is that, whenever we explain ourselves, it can always be asked, “Yeah, but why?” and if we are persistent in examining ourselves, it always comes down to, “That’s just how I am.”  (The conclusion then comes:  “Know thyself” is worthless advice.  Though I keep trying.  This is to big a point for a parenthetical, of course.)

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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