musings on art, musings on creating

the messiness of emotions & “Hamilton”

I cry. Not heartbroken, but I cry. Tears rise up, choke my throat, cut off all but a whisper. They drip, drip, drip down my cheeks, land somewhere near my collarbone, and I try to hold on. I’m driving, and I’ve already cried too much this trip. Traffic and stoplights demand my focus, and all I can do is wade through the unimaginable.

Only, it’s not my unimaginable. My life has held no tragedy. I am wildly privileged in that my family loves and accepts me. I haven’t gone hungry. I haven’t struggled to learn, to earn, worried about student loan debt or a job.

But these words, they rise up, rise up, rise up, inexplicable. I scream them, sob them, allow them to shake me to the core. I appropriate these words: the accents, the cadence. The speed with which I have managed to make them tumble from my mouth is close, but not enough. I practice.

Hamilton is not the first piece of musical theater to make me cry. I can’t remember what was. Emotions well with overtures. That’s what art is supposed to do: make people feel. Anger, heartache, glee, terror, delight.

Trying to codify how Hamilton swirls emotions feels as impossible as Hamilton itself. Who’d’ve thought a rap musical about a forgotten Founding Father would eat at the public consciousness? How do I listen to the whole album without tears?

Even whispering the words to myself, a fist squeezes my heart. No song finishes without some rallying cry.

“I’m not throwing away my shot.” “Rise up.” “How do you write like you’re running out of time?” “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story.” “I will never be satisfied.”

It’s just the first act, with its triumphant tale of bastard orphan rising to Treasury Secretary. The quiet and raucous, horrifying downfall and death that litter the second act bring their own sadness and forgiveness.

More eloquent and elegant people write about the transcendence of Hamilton, its ubiquitous grasp, reaching out farther and further and beyond. Our history, our present, perhaps and hope for the future.

All these things, the hard work and joy and sorrow of searching for the perfect word and grasping at quicksilver emotion. Hamilton is a rallying cry and an admission of defeat. It makes me sit up, buckle down, tell my story. And it makes me so very aware of how hard that is.

Maybe that’s why I cry. Maybe it’s just so damn good. I’m telling everyone I know this story. And I burn.

apologies to Lin-Manuel Miranda for borrowing so many of his lovely words just now.

musings on art, new from the book

finally ready – editing the book

about a year ago, I completed the first draft of a still untitled novel. It felt like I’d be ready to edit in a couple weeks and have things ready to be shown off impossibly soon. It’s been over a year, and the grammatical edits of that shaky draft are half-finished, buried in the depths of my desk.

The sun is metaphorically shining, though. I’ve been working on the “When Sheets Attack!” series, and sadly anticipating the end of some of my favorite television. That television was one of the things that nudged me along the path of a novel based on the history of my little town. I’m ready for re-writes now. Plotting will be changed. Facts will hew more closely to the historical ones, and focus has shifted. The fascination lies far less with the autopsy than the reverberations though the lives of the men involved. It is time the text reflected that.

currently reading, musings on art, quotes

currently reading: “All Creatures Great and Small”

“All young animals are appealing, but the lamb has been given an unfair share of charm.”
– James Herriot, “All Creatures Great and Small”

that line. Not only is there the absolute ring of truth {lambs do possess a great deal of charm}, but “an unfair share of charm” is one of those phrases that trips merrily off the tongue. Say it. “unfair share of charm.” The more it is said, the more charming the phrase becomes. Rhyming helps, of course, but that phrase is one that either came to the writer’s mind in a quiet flash of truth or required a great deal of thought. I’m thinking it was the former.

currently reading, musings on art, quotes

currently reading: “Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.”

“With an unprecedented degree of leisure time, and more media access than ever before, the fifties woman was the single most vulnerable woman in American history to the grasp of prefab wholesale thought, and by extension, to the men who made it.”
– Sam Wasson, “Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.”

In a fascinating study of how the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and, by extension, Audrey Hepburn changed the face of multifaceted women in film, Sam Wasson lays out the history of the short novel by Truman Capote and the backgrounds of the men who were up against the Code and each other to make a smart, funny, truthful film about people who have sex, as people do.

By taking the reader through the back story of Hepburn’s career and how the American public had {have} been forced to view life through the camera lenses of Hollywood, Wasson provides some insight that still resonates today on how people in general and women in particular are often at the mercy of the men who decide what we watch.

The quoted line could just as easily include today’s women, though I’d suggest we, perhaps, have less leisure time and at the very least more methods of media consumption, though whether our choices aren’t as neatly made by prefab wholesale though is up for debate..

currently reading, musings on art, quotes

currently reading: “Riding the Rap”

“Raylan…did something every lawman knew guaranteed attention and respect. He racked the pump on the shotgun, back and forward, and that hard metallic sound, better than blowing a whistle, brought the two guys around to see they were out of business.”
– Elmore Leonard, “Riding the Rap”

Leonard knew just how to set the tone for a story and to explain the actions and motivations of a character in the quickest of ways. I think I”ll go want the pilot episode of Justified {the FX series based on a short story Leonard wrote about Raylan Givens, which incorporated parts of the story of “Riding the Rap” in the third episode of the first season} now.

currently reading, musings on art, quotes

currently reading: “The Jungle Book”

“Now, Tabaqui knew as well as anyone else that there is nothing so unlucky as to compliment children to their faces.”
– Rudyard Kipling, “The Jungle Book”

Somehow, this is the first time I am reading “The Jungle Book.” That quote jumped out from the second page, highlighting the differences in parenting from the 1890s, when it was written and published, to now when every child is a special unique snowflake. Perhaps English children are still protected from excessive compliments, but I doubt it.

Books written years and centuries ago are such wonderful repositories for the common thought of the time, especially ones such as this that were written to teach children lessons. Even this lesson is multi-layered: it reinforces common thought that too many compliments will lead to inflated self-esteem, but it also reminds the children listening or reading that they may be receiving compliments, even when they never hear them, and to not give up hope.

currently reading, musings on art, quotes

currently reading: “Wilson”

“The purpose of a college education, Wilson said throughout his academic career, was to teach young men to think as differently from their fathers as possible.”
– A. Scott Berg, “Wilson”

Disregarding Woodrow Wilson’s time and thoughts, and therefore reduction of women from the statement, this is one that encompasses the idea of a college education for me. One does not attend college to regurgitate staid facts and the thoughts of others, but to take a short moment of freedom to pursue new lines of thought. Whether or not those new lines of thought are the same thought generally by most young people on their first departure from the home is another matter, but the fact that higher education is intended to broaden the mind and bring forth new ideas is one that should be shouted from mountaintops.