feminism TV what i'm reading

Portraits of the Ladies

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Rereading “Portrait of a Lady” because I want to read “Mrs. Osmond,” its sequel of sorts, written some 150 years later by John Banville. How I quickly fell under the spell of James and his formal, precise language. There’s nothing loose or modern or elliptical about his prose in “Lady.” It’s as if James was tasked with telling the story as accurately and as plainly as possible and he does so in the unaccented voice of a vicar.

Here’s a lovely turn of phrase from the preface, about James’ experience of writing “Lady” when he found himself “ … in the fruitless fidget of composition, as if to see whether, out in the blue channel, the ship of some right suggestion, of some better phrase, of the next happy twist of my canvas, mightn’t come into sight.”

He goes on to lament the city he chose for his “composition,” Venice, as too rich with romantic and historical sites that are also too steeped in their own specific significance. Switching to the third person, he feels wrong in “yearning toward them in his difficulty, as if he were asking an army of glorious veterans to help him arrest a peddler who has given him the wrong change.”

And that’s just the preface! My reading and viewing this season has been backward-looking, to a more civil place and time: “The Crown,” “Alias Grace,” “Emma Brown” “(picking up, again a century or so later, on a half-finished Charlotte Bronte novel), “Bleak House” (produced by the BBC, streaming on Netflix) and “Death Comes to Pemberly” (P.D. James’ continuance of the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy). Come to think of it, all of these are about strong but economically disadvantaged women. Except for “The Crown’s” Queen Elizabeth who has so many other crosses to bear (including that horrible husband of hers).

transgender TV

Just finished Transparent


Tagline should be: And you thought your family was nuts.

TV what people say


Just heard this word describing someone.

Wordy: hyper-articulate, a moderator of the proceedings, and a wall of sound who often offers text and subtext in a self-referential and nearly always self-reverential way. Now that was wordy!

That someone was actually a character on a Netflix series and the heroine chides him for talking too much (they’re in bed at the time). The smarty-pants characters in “well-written” television series are wordy in this way—Olivia Pope and her gladiators; the law students learning “How to Get Away With Murder.” I say “well-written” because these shows are characterized as such but I think “over written” is closer to the mark.

When I am nervous I often get wordy, and then I say to myself “stop talking Diane” and then I shut right up. Awkward and wordy, a bad combination.


Previously on Damages

All my life I have put myself to sleep with a novel, eyes pulling down as I struggle to read, dreams wending vine-like into whatever story I am reading. Sometimes I awake and try to settle myself on the page again, only to find that the words on the page don’t match the story in my head. Proust writes about this in one of his interminable Remembrances novels, this being the only thing I remember about them. I’m sure I fell asleep to him as well. Presumably he would be forgiving.

These days (or nights I should say) I get into bed with my laptop, watch the red Netflix page download and, soon enough, delight to the introduction: Previously on Damages. No matter how cold-bloodedly conniving Ms. Close is I fall asleep to her too.


These are my grownup and plugged-in bedtime stories. Proust and Damages, however different they are, they have the same soporific affect.


Horse in this race

At zinc kitchen in new haven, a pizza town that serves an excellent broccoli rabe pizza. I like a horse called went the day well. Sounds prophetic. 15 minutes until post time.


the complaint department TV

I’m in tech

I’m so over it. Raved about the Smash pilot. Was in raptures over the first episode.

And now: a Bollywood-style dance/dream sequence; Grease-inspired breakout dance number in a bowling alley; and … “I’m in tech,” offered as the reason Karen can’t accept Dev’s proposal. And why does costume/makeup insist on making Anjelica Huston look like a man and Debra Messing look like a, well, mess?

The only reason to watch is so I can sort of understand the recaps on

Uma as Marilyn