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Somewhat Off-Topic: What have you been reading lately?


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I came across a copy of THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING by JULIA CHILD and two others (apologies for not knowing their names.)

To be perfectly honest with you, about 9/10 of the recipes are NASTY AS ALL GET OUT.

Cooked cucumbers, boiled celery hearts in mayo, a WHOLE SECTION DEDICATED TO COOKING BRAINS.

Highly recommended for anyone looking to go on a crash diet or in serious need of an ipecac.

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I have never read anything by JOHN IRVING, although numerous people have raved about him to me, a few have cited THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP as one of their favorite novels. It being the dead of winter and not a lot going on, I checked it out from the library and made it forty pages into it before I put it down in disgust.

I admit that my tastes are skewed between a DARK SIDE of my nature and this annoying LEFTIST TENDENCY i have to empathize with others, but the fact that a Nurse sexually assaults a vulnerable, brain-damaged veteran in her care and this is treated as something HILARIOUS just made me sick to my stomach.

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6 minutes ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

I came across a copy of THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING by JULIA CHILD and two others (apologies for not knowing their names.)

To be perfectly honest with you, about 9/10 of the recipes are NASTY AS ALL GET OUT.

Cooked cucumbers, boiled celery hearts in mayo, a WHOLE SECTION DEDICATED TO COOKING BRAINS.

Highly recommended for anyone looking to go on a crash diet or in serious need of an ipecac.

Sounds like something that Joan Crawford would serve her guests.  Very high tone.

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2 minutes ago, Roy Cronin said:

Sounds like something that Joan Crawford would serve her guests.  Very high tone.

funny you mention this, a while back I came across a recipe for JOAN CRAWFORD'S BANANA SALAD, which was A BANANA SMEARED IN MAYONNAISE ON A BED OR LETTUCE, so- spot on observation, Good Sir!

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as an aside, while I do not know a lot about cooking, I did spot one serious error in the book. in her recipe for VINEGAR POTATO SALAD, Ms. Child instructs you to drop the potatoes into already boiling water- which will result in an unevenly cooked potato. all root vegetables should be submerged in water that is then brought to a boil to insure thorough and even cooking.

 

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Right now I am reading Louisa May Alcott's original Little Women novel.  I never read this book during childhood (when I think it is more often read).  With all the iterations of Little Women that I've seen lately, I wanted to see how the source material was adapted throughout the years.  It is interesting, but  the writing style reaffirms why I am not a fan of 19th century literature.  In the novel, the way that the teenaged characters speak seems so unnatural to me. Who knows though, I wasn't alive during the Civil War era, so maybe this is how 12-year olds speak. 

After I'm done with this book, I may read the novel version of Where the Boys Are which I just discovered existed.  I love the movie.

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Have you read the Wiki page about "Where the Boys Are?"

The original title was "Unholy Spring" which the author was convinced to change by the movie producers since the rights were purchased prior to publication.

Also, there was a plotline about the kids funding Castro's Cuban revolution was which expunged.  No politics in this entertainment movie!

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18 minutes ago, Roy Cronin said:

Have you read the Wiki page about "Where the Boys Are?"

The original title was "Unholy Spring" which the author was convinced to change by the movie producers since the rights were purchased prior to publication.

Also, there was a plotline about the kids funding Castro's Cuban revolution was which expunged.  No politics in this entertainment movie!

I did read the Wiki page.  I am curious about how Castro's revolution fits into the plot lines in the story.  I have a feeling that the book will be racier than the movie.

I'm glad they changed the title--otherwise, we wouldn't have the fabulous Connie Francis song, "Where the Boys Are." 

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7 minutes ago, Roy Cronin said:

Lorna Luft did a cover version for the 1984 remake.  I have a copy on vinyl of the dance remix.  It's not bad, if you like 1984 Dance Music.

It all depends on how it sounds.  Since the original was not a dance version, I am skeptical, but I would listen to it.  Right now, I'm really tired of 80s music since the local radio seems to think that that was the end-all-be-all of music.  80s is all they play.  Ugh.  I just got Sirius XM in my new car though, so I've been listening to a lot of 40s jazz and 50s doo w o p . Lol.  The 50s station played James Darren's song from "Gidget" the other day!

Speaking of "Gidget"... Like my segue?

After I finish Where the Boys Are, I think I'm going to read the novel version of Gidget

I got a Kindle for Christmas.  As much as I love physical media, it's nice having the Kindle.  It's easier to pack around than a bunch of books. It's especially nice to have on an airplane. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I recently finished Cleopatra, a scholarly biography by pulitzer prize winner Stacy Schiff, and followed it up with a light, breezy "sequel" on the topic, Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran. The former was excellent. The latter...entertaining enough, but lacked much depth or complexity and left me a little hungry after Schiff's incredible job of research and immersing one in the world of her subject. As a huge fan of both the 1934 C. B. DeMille film starring Claudette Colbert, and the collossal 1963 super-epic starring Elizabeth Taylor, it was interesting for me to compare the actual history with the Hollywood-ized versions. What is surprising is that, with a few admittedly glaring exceptions (Cleopatra had four children, for example), both films follow the bare bones of the story somewhat closely...as well as one has a right to expect, anyway. As George R. R. Martin once quipped of the nature of adapting a source for the screen, "How many children did Scarlett O'Hara have, anyway?" (three in the book, one in the movie, the point being it ultimately doesn't really matter for the purposes of relaying a gripping narrative).

Now I'm in the middle of a classic-film-related novel, Whisper of the Moon Moth, a heavily fictionalized account of actress Merle Oberon's efforts to conceal her mixed racial identity in order to succeed in British and Hollywood films. I'm perennially fascinated by the subject. The book itself is fast-paced, but overly simplistic in character development and peppered with inaccuracies regarding the timeline (which the author readily admits she manipulated for the sake of the plot), as well as a lot of serendipitous meetings with a who's who of classic cinema notables that feel contrived and strain credulity at times. Not a great work of literature, but a fun read to pass the time.

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8 hours ago, ClassicMovieholic said:

I recently finished Cleopatra, a scholarly biography by pulitzer prize winner Stacy Schiff, and followed it up with a light, breezy "sequel" on the topic, Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran. The former was excellent. The latter...entertaining enough, but lacked much depth or complexity and left me a little hungry after Schiff's incredible job of research and immersing one in the world of her subject. As a huge fan of both the 1934 C. B. DeMille film starring Claudette Colbert, and the collossal 1963 super-epic starring Elizabeth Taylor, it was interesting for me to compare the actual history with the Hollywood-ized versions. What is surprising is that, with a few admittedly glaring exceptions (Cleopatra had four children, for example), both films follow the bare bones of the story somewhat closely...as well as one has a right to expect, anyway. As George R. R. Martin once quipped of the nature of adapting a source for the screen, "How many children did Scarlett O'Hara have, anyway?" (three in the book, one in the movie, the point being it ultimately doesn't really matter for the purposes of relaying a gripping narrative).

Now I'm in the middle of a classic-film-related novel, Whisper of the Moon Moth, a heavily fictionalized account of actress Merle Oberon's efforts to conceal her mixed racial identity in order to succeed in British and Hollywood films. I'm perennially fascinated by the subject. The book itself is fast-paced, but overly simplistic in character development and peppered with inaccuracies regarding the timeline (which the author readily admits she manipulated for the sake of the plot), as well as a lot of serendipitous meetings with a who's who of classic cinema notables that feel contrived and strain credulity at times. Not a great work of literature, but a fun read to pass the time.

If you're interested in Merle Oberon's attempts to hide her Asian ethnicity,  last week's episode of the You Must Remember This podcast covered this exact same subject! This current season of the podcast covers the lengths that actresses went through to conform to society's idea of beauty.  I thought it was crazy that Oberon was using products to literally bleach her skin to make it more white.  It is probably lucky that she had her career during the era of black and white film.  I imagine that the skin damage caused by her bleaching products and such would be much more apparent in color. 

Is there a significance to the title of the novel? I would have never guessed that Whisper of the Moon Moth was about Merle Oberon's attempts to conceal her racial identity. 

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On 2/20/2020 at 4:50 AM, speedracer5 said:

If you're interested in Merle Oberon's attempts to hide her Asian ethnicity,  last week's episode of the You Must Remember This podcast covered this exact same subject! This current season of the podcast covers the lengths that actresses went through to conform to society's idea of beauty.  I thought it was crazy that Oberon was using products to literally bleach her skin to make it more white.  It is probably lucky that she had her career during the era of black and white film.  I imagine that the skin damage caused by her bleaching products and such would be much more apparent in color. 

Is there a significance to the title of the novel? I would have never guessed that Whisper of the Moon Moth was about Merle Oberon's attempts to conceal her racial identity. 

Thank you for the recommendation. My wife mentioned that podcast to me some time ago, but I haven't listened yet. I'll have to give the episode you mentioned a listen! Yes, I'm very interested in the topic, and it can be hard to find authentic source material, not least because Merle herself drastically altered her own life story and obscured her origins to make them harder to trace. There was a steamy (to my understanding more fiction than fact) bestseller called Queenie back in the '80s by her nephew-by-marriage, Michael Korda, and an accompanying TV movie starring white actors in the South Asian roles. Perhaps good for entertainment value, but not for historical information. Same goes for The Last Tycoon, which includes a minor character whom Fitzgerald loosely based on Merle, with African American standing in for South Asian ancestry a la Imitation of Life. The novel I'm reading now, though explicitly based on Merle's story, also falls into this category...an entertaining page-turner, but not bringing anything particularly new or enlightening.

A lot of information seems to come from The Problem With Merle, a television documentary which investigates her origins, but I haven't yet found a way to watch it.

As you probably know, Merle did make a few color films at the heyday of her career, as well as lesser appearances in later color films. Notable among the former were The Divorce of Lady X (1938, presumably filmed just before the 1937 car accident that scarred her face, as she's amazingly fresh and pristine looking in it), and A Song to Remember (1945) and Desiree (1954), both filmed after the car accident and cosmetic poisoning in 1940 which left her skin permanently damaged. One of her husbands, the cinematographer Lucien Ballard, devised a lighting technique that helped conceal her facial scarring, so perhaps that was employed in these films, as she looked gorgeous in them...even in Desiree in which she was significantly older. I suppose your podcast probably mentions all this, so forgive me if I'm being repetitive. 

In my opinion, her South Asian ancestry seems most evident in her early films, whereas her look hardens somewhat and gets overly made-up in these later color films, after the accident and skin bleaching incident you mention. As you say, black and white absolutely loved her face, and was conducive to both accentuating her natural beauty and concealing blemishes, as well as "whitewashing" her features when necessary. Even so, in early films like The Scarlet Pimpernel, she looks so much like one of today's Bollywood beauties it's hard to imagine she was able to perpetuate the ruse as long as she did. Later in life, when there was perhaps less pressure to lighten her skin, her lovely natural darkness also becomes apparent in color photographs, as in this well-known shot of her with Rosalind Russell and Greer Garson:

MV5BMTI0MTc5OTgxOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNjk5OTE2._V1_.jpg.5688379ecc1047020168de6589abb6b4.jpg

I have not yet finished Whisper of the Moon Moth, but thus far the title refers to a moth native to India; the whispering to the soft flutter of its wings...presumably symbolic of the whisper of Merle's secret identity, calling her back to her homeland? Perhaps it will become clearer as the book goes on.

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speedracer5, as someone who lives in the Central Pacific, her alleged partial Polynesian ancestry is also a source of fascination to me. I think it is said that on her Sri Lankan-born grandmother's (whom Merle regarded as her mother) side,  she was part Maori, which I imagine is impossible to officially document. Nonetheless, I feel her purported Polynesian ancestry comes to the forefront in films like Wuthering Heights. From certain camera angels in that, she fits in quite well with contemporary Maori actresses, or the Hapa (people of mixed Polynesian and white and/or Asian ancestry) of the region in which I live.

Merle's rumored Maori ancestry loosely inspired the New Zealand novel and film White Lies.

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Merle for whatever reason isn't someone I come across often on TCM. I have Wuthering Heights recorded and tried watching it.  I must have fallen asleep, because I don't remember anything that happened in it.  I watched it before I learned about Merle's attempts to hide her ethnicity.   I have seen Merle on the 1974 reunion of MGM stars to promote That's Entertainment. I also knew that she was married to Robert Wolders, who later became Audrey Hepburn's companion. 

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speedracer5, my personal favorites:

For her sheer beauty: The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)

3051588d0d0f9e4ae6d5bc9ab3e33a4e.jpg.c8147c3e9d20b9c9534f366a66d4ce45.jpg

Favorite drama (a typical choice): Wuthering Heights (1939)

Favorite comedy: The Divorce of Lady X (1938)

 

Perhaps her most acclaimed performances, which I haven't seen, are her Oscar-nominated role in The Dark Angel (1935), and her role in These Three (1936); a sanitized version of Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour scrubbed clean of lesbianism but nonetheless highly regarded for its performances. I often see Lydia (1941) mentioned as a fan favorite on sites like this, but haven't seen that one either. Guess I have a little catching up to do on the "Merle Conon" myself, lol!

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  • 2 weeks later...

BOOK CLUB NEWS

I haven't posted on this for awhile so I thought hell I should get with it as i know you are all very interested. After surviving "Portrait of a Lady" several months ago, though not without copious lamentations, some of which were posted here to no avail as I wasn't really able to find that many Henry James haters, but it felt good anyway just getting it off my chest. And surviving that mess, I say, the books read in the club since that most lamentable experience have been "Nostromo" "Germinal" "Man Who Laughs" "Northanger Abbey" "Sister Carrie" "Wuthering Heights" "The Metamorphosis" "The Trial," by Conrad, Zola, Hugo, Austin, Dreiser, E.Bronte, and Kafka (the last two), respectively ... and all of them ran circles around the execrable portrait of that lady.. On March 18 we will be discussing "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin. I eschewed "100 Years of Solitude" because I didn't think I was smart enough to get it. We also have these little interim meetings that take place at a restaurant where during a happy hour we meet for general literary discussion, or anything goes discussion, or just general socializing. The originator of a particular gathering has a say-so and some opt to choose a short story for discussion, at least an attempted discussion, since everything is so informal, the story might get short shrift or maybe not get discussed at all, though usually a few cursory remarks are made, and sometimes maybe a lot more than that. I have just scheduled such a meeting for March 30 and have chosen "Miss Harriet" a magnificent short story by Maupassant for the "required" reading. I am linking it below and would urge anyone who has the time (about 20 minutes) to read it, and then come back and share what you thought. C'mon, you can do it. Just 20 minutes. It's a great story. Honest.

:)

https://www.classicshorts.com/stories/harriet.html

 

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I always have a rotation of books when I read. Currently they are The Brothers Mankiewicz, Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando, and The Big Picture.  Good books all [ at least so far; I haven't yet finished any of them.]

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Reading "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin This is for a book club, not sure I would have taken this up otherwise. The wakening itself is a slow burn and the culmination hasn't hit yet. The foreshadowing is extensive and not altogether ineffective. Chopin's  style has been likened to Maupassant and one blurb suggested that she has added something that is beyond Monsieur but I don't see it. That's not a slam, it's not easy to eclipse the master. This book was written in 1889 and this is a little early for the material. It apparently ruined her life, she was shunned mightily for her audacity. "Sister Carrie" appeared only 10 years later without compromising the author too much. But this latter, though highly suggestive, did not engage in detail. Also, it was big city stuff while the Chopin is regional, that could make a difference. Chopin's much shorter novel makes the issue front and center without a lot of diversion (as in the other), and that didn't help. Anyone else read this?

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3 hours ago, laffite said:

Reading "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin This is for a book club, not sure I would have taken this up otherwise. The wakening itself is a slow burn and the culmination hasn't hit yet. The foreshadowing is extensive and not altogether ineffective. Chopin's  style has been likened to Maupassant and one blurb suggested that she has added something that is beyond Monsieur but I don't see it. That's not a slam, it's not easy to eclipse the master. This book was written in 1889 and this is a little early for the material. It apparently ruined her life, she was shunned mightily for her audacity. "Sister Carrie" appeared only 10 years later without compromising the author too much. But this latter, though highly suggestive, did not engage in detail. Also, it was big city stuff while the Chopin is regional, that could make a difference. Chopin's much shorter novel makes the issue front and center without a lot of diversion (as in the other), and that didn't help. Anyone else read this?

Yes, I read it in college and recall thinking it was too thin to dislike, but also genuinely liking it.  also it is sort of a big deal considering its time and its country  (1889 and AMERICA) Makes a good companion piece to THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL by ANNE, the FORGOTTEN BRONTE SISTER or (especially) WIDE SARGASSO SEA, which is another one that is not only to slender a story to dislike, it's also (as i recall) pretty good.

I dislike short stories, I love (good) LONG BOOKS, but I am oddly forgiving of NOVELLAS.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Now THIS is interesting.

We all got to talking about GRAND HOTEL in the I JUST WATCHED THREAD a few weeks back and it inspired me to order a copy of the VICKI BAUM NOVEL OFF AMAZON. I am only on page 50 out of 300, but thus far- the differences are FASCINATING:

*In an INTRIGUING reverse from the movie, BARON CON GAIGERN (the BARRYMOORE character) is actually written explicitly as being YOUNG while GRUSINSKAYA THE BALLERINA (GARBO'S role)  is written as approaching MIDDLE AGE. This adds a more interesting dynamic to their relationship and it also interesting because I've read GARBO felt she was "too old" to play a prima ballerina!

*GRUSINSKAYA is far more interesting in the novel- in the short bit I have read, it delves into where he ANXIETIES come from better than the movie. we are actually introduced to her while she is dancing onstage- she goes out to take a bow and sees the audience is heading for the exits. HERR BARON and her IMPRESARIO are the only ones clapping, which she chooses to hear as thunderous applause. Her maid SUZETTE is also given more backstory than we get in the movie.

*the LEWIS STONE character is featured prominently (thus far) and in this version he is a WWI vet who lost half his face to an explosion.

*parts of the hotel are described as being shabby, which surprised me.

*KRIENGELIN (the LIONEL BARRYMOORE) character is just as annoying in the book.

*there is, honestly, kind of  a funny bit about how all the elevator operators in the GRAND HOTEL are one-armed vets from the War.

it's quite well written, and it also explores how the world was starting to explode in 1930- with wireless, transAtlantic flights, jazz music, news, motion pictures, etc.

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54 minutes ago, laffite said:

Did she say anything like, "Look, I want to by myself, okay?"

Actually, yes...

EDITED TO ADD: keep in mind, i have only read 50 PAGES THUS FAR, and the "I VANT TO BE ALONE" scene occurs sort of 1/3 through the movie...but to paraphrase, there is a section where it gets into her backstory, her anxieties and the reason she's such a b i t c h (which she IS in the novel AND I LOVE IT) is because of the CONSTANT PRESSURE SHE'S BEEN UNDER HER WHOLE LIFE.

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