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Monday, The Great Beauty

I’m watching a black squirrel hang upside down and scoop seeds from my bird feeder, surrounded by sheets of ice. Once I opened the feeder to fill it and a squirrel popped out. Well, if you have to be a squirrel stuck somewhere, a cosy room full of seeds is a pretty good place.

And I’m thinking about Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and the deaths of extraordinarily talented people who seem to have everything going for them. I’m thinking of the man who delivers my newspapers every morning, an immigrant rising in the middle of the black freezing night for this most thankless job, and how Hoffman’s life would be one of incomprehensible luxury to him. And yet, the misery of addiction and a terrible lonely death we cannot understand.

And I’m thinking about Woody Allen. His adopted daughter Dylan Farrow, as a result of Allen’s recent Golden Globe Lifetime Achievement award, has published a letter accusing him directly of sexual abuse and trying to shame actors like Cate Blanchett who’ve worked in his films. I feel very sorry for Dylan, who is obviously still suffering deeply, decades after whatever happened happened. I’ve heard too many stories of sexual abuse in my class to dismiss anyone. But I also know from class – and from the memoir of incest “The Kiss” that I read recently – that men and women who were abused in every way as children (and “The Kiss” tells an almost unbearable story) can move on, heal and lift above and get on with life.

Perhaps it’s harder to do when the man you accuse is famous. And, let’s face it, a genius. However, Dylan’s allegations were investigated, and no charges were laid. She can accuse him all she wants, but it’s unjust to call out actors. If you think Cate Blanchett would turn down a once-in-a-lifetime role because of an unproven allegation of sexual abuse, you don’t know many actors. Actors work.

A tiny slump, this end: the woman I’d hoped would be the publicist for my book called. She said she loves my writing and the book itself, but won’t try to sell it. She’s not even taking fiction right now, only current events non-fiction, the only stuff she can get on the media. “If you’d slept with Paul McCartney,” she said, “it would be different.”

I did, I so did! In my dreams. So – onward. We don’t do this for fame and riches. Luckily.

Two cultural events yesterday – the Italian Best Foreign Film Oscar nominee “The Great Beauty,” and Downton. Both visually stunning, full of glorious scenes and beautiful backdrops, fabulous characters and rich costumes – and both, in the end, a bit disappointing. At the end of Beauty, Ken turned to me and said, “I guess I’m just not smart enough.” I felt that too – what the hell was that about? It’s obtuse and too long – but it’s gorgeous. And since I hope to be in Rome this year, a must see. But are the Romans really that grotesque and Fellini-esque?

And Downton is getting a bit … wearying, despite some wonderful scenes; we can see the writer shoving his characters, one after the other except for dear Mrs. Hughes, into crisis. Of course Edith has one sexual encounter and becomes pregnant. On we go with Bates the steaming volcano, Thomas the lying schemer (where did that new lady’s maid come from, did I miss something?), a stream of handsome new beaux for cold Lady Mary, who is really tiresome. I’ll keep watching, but I might keep a magazine nearby for the scenes without Maggie Smith.

Now that I’ve brought you up to date – more or less – one more thing. I’ve been sorting out stuff to illustrate the book. Here’s a picture of my parents in 1955, at Lawrencetown Beach in Nova Scotia. Not a bad looking pair, wouldn’t you say? Makes my heart constrict.



4 Responses to “Monday, The Great Beauty”

  1. Anonymous says:

    What an utterly beautiful photograph of your parents!

  2. beth says:

    Yes, they were very good-looking people. I'm not sure what happened to my brother and me.
    And this was just a few years after my father nearly died of polio. And just before my mother left him for his best friend – but eventually came back. Stay tuned for the next book.

  3. Anonymous says:

    How lovely to have a photograph like this, Beth. I didn't realize before that you do resemble your mother. You're such an individual that I didn't see it when Sylvia was around. Lani

  4. beth says:

    Thank you, Lan – though 'beautiful' is a good word for her, and 'such an individual' for me. I see Dad more when I look in the mirror. Mike and I are such an interesting mix of them both. No doubt about parentage, anyway. And yes, weren't they photogenic?

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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