1. I might as well come out and say it—I’m writing my first genre novel. I started last October. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has come and gone and yet I am still plugging away. I broke the 60,000 word barrier a month ago. Since my personal goal is at least 100,000 words, I have a long way to go.
This is a huge achievement for myself, as all my previous attempts at writing a full-length novel have failed. It’s easy to get discouraged with a personal project when one doesn’t have much self-confidence. I hope I just didn’t jinx myself with announcing this project!
Progress on this current project has been slow since I’ve been eagerly reading up on 19th century history, social customs, and language. As a reader, anachronisms are a major pet peeve of mine, so I think I am going completely overboard with research. I started a database of archaic words and idioms, in the hopes it gives my depiction of the era more credibility.
I actually suffered a bit of a setback recently. In the middle of fact-checking, I found out a natural calamity occurred in the neighborhood where my novel is set. It infuriated me that I hadn’t known about it before. After a few days of seething, I got back to work and decided to scrap two entire chapters. It’s gotten to the point I can almost laugh about it. At the time I really felt like banging my head against the wall.
2. Adam and I have finished The Wire. Now, the next time I watch Game of Thrones I am going to be thinking, Damn it, Carcetti, you used to be my favorite political sleazeball, now you’re just the sleazeball that let me down.
When we started watching, Adam told me that Aidan Gillen acts more like Littlefinger in The Wire than he does in Game of Thrones. Perhaps this statement will not make sense to anyone who hasn’t read all the G.R.R. Martin novels yet, but really, it must be seen to be believed. (He certainly wins my vote for having the cutest animal companion on an IMDB page.)
Anyway, season five was amazing. The ending was absolutely satisfying—even the heart-breaking moments were good. Most of the loose ends were tied up, and almost everyone who mattered—whether it was in season one or season four—came back for one last scene, whether it was in a montage or a cameo. I know it’s a hipster thing to fawn all over The Wire but the show does have incredible writing and plotting. If I had watched it while it was airing on TV, I probably wouldn’t have had the patience to wait week after week. But seeing it marathon-style was a schooling in crime fiction writing.
And McNulty, I’m through talking to you. I rooted for you and you broke my little fangirl heart.
3. Two weeks ago, I went downtown with my sister and our friend Mabel to check out the Terracotta Warriors exhibit at the Asian Art Museum.
The warriors they had on display were larger than I thought they would be. I do not think they are equal to the size of Chinese males living during that era. The warriors had large, beefy hands, too, which I found absurd. Nevertheless, everything else about them was impeccable, from their hairlines to their armor.
Some of the figures still had traces of their original finish. While there were colored simulations of how the warriors must have appeared when they were first made, I actually prefer them with their current muted shades. I grew up with that mental image, so the idea they were originally painted garish colors seems an anathema to me. I first encountered their original coloring in a recent copy of National Geographic. I haven’t gotten used to it.
Aside from the warriors, the exhibit also showcased many gold and brass ornaments, some still covered with thick layers of patina. The real stand-out among these objects were the horses.
Now, I do not consider myself a horse person. As a child, I didn’t go through that classic “I want a pony” stage. The last time I was impressed with a horse, it was a beautiful ceramic specimen I saw in the Art Institute of Chicago. But those terracotta horses. Jesus Christ! Their craftsmanship made my jaw drop. They are beautiful and majestic, and they looked great from every angle. If it was possible, I would prostrate myself in front of the artisans who made those horses and asked to be made their unpaid apprentice.
The exhibit ends on May 27, so there is still time to catch it. If you are in the area, please check it out. Go for the warriors, but stay for the horses. It might be easier than flying to China.
4. I also finished watching HBO-BBC’s new mini-series, Parade’s End. I wonder if Benedict Cumberbatch will ever get tired of wearing top hats and World War I uniforms, because he seems so well-suited to the Edwardian era.
I’ve never read any Ford Madox Ford or Edith Wharton, but Parade’s End reminded me of Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence (1993). The geographic and temporal settings differ but they both involve male leads who are just dying to commit adultery. Yet due to their own scruples and sense of honor, they can’t seem to bring themselves to do the deed.
The main difference may be the women they are thinking of cheating on. Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) is married to a saintly wife, while Christopher Tietjens (Benedict Cumberbatch) is shackled to the most manipulative, unfaithful bitch in London—she’s like a flapper version of Cersei Lannister. Have I said too much?
I enjoyed Parade’s End—it’s not for the impatient or those who dislike subtlety—but then I also happen to love that historical era. There’s not much in the way of fan service—Mr. Cumberbatch only takes off his shirt in the fifth episode—so if you are looking for cheap thrills, you need to look elsewhere.
For Cabin Pressure fans, there’s an added kick: Roger Allam (the guy who plays Douglas) shows up at a commanding officer in the last episodes. Every time he popped up on screen, I kept thinking, “why do I know that voice?” And then something on TV Tropes clarified it all for me. (Ye gads, Douglas outranks Martin once more! My mind is blown!) After that realization, all it needed was John Finnemore as a subservient batman. Now that would have turned Parade’s End into something incredibly surreal. I’m glad the BBC held off on that.