Friday, August 27, 2021

The Doll Factory ... and a weekend in Venice



What an astonishing book. I started to read it thinking it was going to be a murder mystery with an historical setting. What a surprise to discover that it takes place in mid-19th century London, and the characters are the reknowned Pre-Raphaelite artists Louis Frost, John Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rosetti and others. And that the principal character was none other than Elizabeth Siddal, the Pre-Raphaelite artist who is best remembered today as the model for the very famous Millais painting of Ophelia drowning in the pond with all the flowers around her.

I found it fascinating that this book - obviously well researched - took these people and completely fictionalized a story around them. Nothing taking place during the time period in the novel is factual. In fact, the novel would lead one to believe that Ms. Siddal was the wife of Louis Frost, when in real life she was actually married to Rosetti.

London itself is a major character in this book - and the events that took place in it. Especially events such as The Great Exhibition of 1851 (the precursor of The World's Fairs) and the venerated Royal Academy curated yearly "On the Line" exhibits by the finest artists in the nation, both of which play large roles in this novel. The author does a marvelous job of bringing the images and sounds and smells of the city fully to life. It's very easy to feel yourself living in the world of the novel while reading it...a special gift to me, as a reader! And she doesn't shy from making the squalid and brutal as tactile as the lush, beautiful and splendid. It was all part of that world and all part of this story.


Courtesy of Jeanie at The Marmelade Gypsy blog, who recommended them, I spent an enchanting weekend in Venice. I didn't get to fly over to Italy (darn it), but I read two terrific novels over the weekend by Donna Leon which take place in Italy. This is the post in which she discusses them.

The Commissario Guido Brunetti mysteries are a series about a police detective in Venice and his astute ability to ferret out the evil-doers in that marvelous city. He has a splendid bevy of of cohorts in both the assistant policemen in the constabulary and his family which he heads with his wife, a socially conscious lady of independent means. Another major character in these books - at least the two I read - is the city itself. And Ms. Leon does a splendid job of dredging up all my fond memories of Venice from my college 3-month stay there as an exchange student. She has a way of bringing the unique way of traversing the city (you have two choices - get a boat or walk) fully to life. I was also amused that Commissario Brunetti started his day out with cappuccino and brioche from a sidewalk cafe/bakery every morning; that was just exactly how I started my mornings 50 years ago! Neither of these books took place during the magical event of Carnivale. I was fortunate to have spent my college time there during Carnivale, and I have since returned on holiday for Carnivale. I am hoping that one (or more) of these stories takes place during that fantastic and exotic time; I'm getting the entire boxed set, so I'll know by the end of the year!

The mysteries themselves I found intriguing and original. It was a fluke that the two I picked up happened to have the same sort of theme about them: the murders involved socio/ecological interests. I've read some of the other descriptions of the books and they're filled with more lurid subjects (greed, adultery, sex, dysfunctional families, etc. 😂). I really was rather surprised by the guilty parties - and the standard murder mystery 'chase' scenes in both books were raised a notch with the necessary addition of the Venice canals and boats and unique street layout.

The writing is sharp and clever. The characters are honest and sincere, but they also often have a touch of cynicism and dry humor that livens them up and makes them very urban and real.

These are fun - and quick - reads - and I thank Jeanie for the recommendation. I look forward to more.

Right now I'm in the midst of a most strange and unusual and rather wonderful book, The Perfume Thief, by Timothy Schaffert. I'll let you know about it next week!

Thanks for stopping by Enchanted Revelries. I hope you found something you think would be a good read for you! Be sure to stop by Beverly's Pink Saturday Blog Hop to see what other choice morsels are being offered ... and you might like to check out whatever is new over at Jeanie's Marmelade Gypsy blog!

... now go make something beautiful!

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´) Tristan




Saturday, August 21, 2021

When Your Personal Freedom is Killing People

All you regular readers know that I periodically - well, three or four times a year - will share a post from John Pavlovitz' Stuff That Needs To Be Said blog. This is one that I feel not only needs to be said, but is said extremely well...

When Your Personal Freedom is Killing People

Freedom is an unearned privilege—and you have it.

If you were born here in America you inherited it.

It came with your breath and your birth certificate.

That freedom actually wasn’t free though—it was quite costly and someone prepaid it on your behalf.

You never met them and you’ll likely never know their names.

They paid for your freedom in filthy, putrid trenches decades ago and half a world away.

They paid it on blackened beachfronts littered with the blood and body parts of strangers.

They paid it cold and alone on frozen countrysides, in places their bodies still remain.

Others paid in churches in Birmingham and on campus squares in Ohio and in streets of Chicago.

Generations of Americans sacrificed family and future and body and breath, so that you could be pulled from the birth canal nestled in the warm embrace of the easy liberty you’ve come to believe you deserve.

Which makes it all the more tragic and shameful how little regard you have for that freedom now, how much you’re squandering it over and over because you’ve decided the simplest of requests are too much for you to bear and constitute an assault on your personal liberty:

Putting a tiny piece of cloth over your nose and mouth while you’re at the grocery store.

Getting a free vaccine that has been carefully researched by people qualified for this very work.

What a stupid, selfish waste of the freedom people paid so dearly for.
What a brazen middle finger to those who gave everything.
What a squandering of the gift that is this nation you claim to so love.

Your courageous, selfless forbears were asked to fight and die on foreign soil in order to save other American lives—and they did.
They braved bombs and bullets to perpetuate this place where liberty resides and you were generously handed.
In times of war, people here went without for years in cause of the soldiers who were preserving the democracy we were born into.
Activists here gave up security and safety for your right to vote and marry and to live unfettered by tyranny.

Today, you’re being asked to simply make the smallest effort to accomplish the same noble task and you can’t manage that. You are interpreting your temporary, tiny, fleeting inconvenience as perpetual and inhumane persecution—that’s how soft and sad we’ve become, how small our battles now are, what we see as worthy causes.

That’s the way freedom works, though. No one gets to tell you how to wield it or what merits your indignation or what is worth your outrage.

But from where I’m standing, you’re making a mockery of the lives of Americans, who in trenches and on beachfronts and countrysides and churches and campuses and street corners, spilled blood and lost limbs and sacrificed life on your behalf. You’re showing stratospheric disregard for other human beings who share this place with you, all in the name of not wanting to be told what to do.

That’s the thing about the “personal freedom” you seem to be missing: it was never supposed to be just about you. It wasn’t purely about independence, it was about interdependence: about loving our neighbor as ourselves, about being our brother’s and sister’s keeper, about caring for one another because we’re all in this together. That’s what the anthems declare and the statues proclaim and the songs ring out.

You’re being asked to wear a mask and get vaccinated, not just for you, but for other Americans:
so that vulnerable people aren’t exposed to a virus their bodies likely cannot overcome.
so that already exhausted healthcare workers will not be overwhelmed by a continual flood of sick people.
so that thousands of unprotected children don’t get sick and disrupt the school year and kill their teachers and bring home a deadly virus to their families.
so that we aren’t hit with another tidal wave of sickness and death that we will be unable to come back from.

But if you feel like that’s asking too much of you, go ahead and scream and complain and protest and threaten and beat your chest like you are defending liberty: that’s what someone sacrificed so you could do.

I’m just not sure your politics and your preferences are hills worth them dying on.

I think you may be wasting your personal freedom.

I think it’s getting people killed.

That may be a you problem.

-- by John Pavlovitz

Just something for you to think about - and perhaps also share with others, if you're so inclined. go make something beautiful!

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´) Tristan

John Pavlovitz
John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina. A 25-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, John is committed to equality, diversity, and justice—both inside and outside faith communities. When not actively working for a more compassionate planet, John enjoys spending time with his family, exercising, cooking, and having time in nature. He is the author of A Bigger Table, Hope and Other Superpowers, Low, and Stuff That Needs to Be Said.



The Lost Pink Saturday Blog Hop Post

 As most everybody who has read my post with any regularity knows, I always credit people whenever it's appropriate. I started blogging almost 20 years ago, and it's just second nature to me.

Today, after almost 3,000 posts, I neglected to do so. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa.

Well. Although I usually only receive about 5 or 6 comments on each post, my inbox was FILLED with comments from people letting me know that I hadn't given credit to the original author. And these were not pleasant informative posts; not every single one was nasty - but over half were ugly hateful snide and vicious.

I got so upset (and, admittedly, angry) at the tone of many of these messages (think bitter, lonely, disillusioned, and chip on the shoulder abandoned wives), I just deleted the entire post. I wish they weren't cowards and identify themselves so I could do something that would really make them vent their spleens - like maybe tipping over an outhouse on their front lawn.

So, no post this week. 

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´) Tristan




Thursday, August 12, 2021

A Pink Saturday Movie Star ... and Some Terrific Books!

Halfway through a marathon of Ann-Margret movies, I realized she must have worn pink more times on screen than any other actress! I figured she needed some representation on this week's Pink Saturday post!

I would say something obvious like, she's certainly pretty in pink! But, face it, she was pretty in just about any color!

I have some great books this week for you to think about when you're selecting a new read next! I've been a very lucky reader, with some very good ones this week!


I'm not sure if this is one of the most fascinating and interesting books I've ever read; or if it's one of the most disgusting ugly and warped views of humanity I've ever read. Either way, it's at the top of the list.

It takes place in 18th century Stockholm, in the absolute destitute areas of privation. Squalor, filth and casual brutal violence are the order of the day. A body has been found in the sewage pit of a river: a corpse that has no limbs, no eyes, and no tongue. The watchman, Mickel Cardell, an amputee ex-soldier and Cecil Winge, a brilliant lawyer, dying of consumption, turned consulting detective to the Stockholm police, are teamed to ferret out the murderer. First, they will have to find out who the mutated corpse was.

In another street in the same hellish location, a young woman has been falsely accused of prostitution and is sent to a "work farm" which is little more than slave lodgings and torture.

To this horrendous milieu a young man comes from the rural countryside to make his fortune - and is swiftly led to his destruction.

These four people - and the corpse - intersect each other's lives and change them, sometimes without being aware of it.

This is a bleak, bitter and cold - both figurative and literal - world for this mystery and character study to revolve in. The characters are not pretty - they do not rub elbows with admirable people - they do not hope to save the world or even believe the world can be saved. They certainly don't believe they can be saved themselves. But they all struggle on trying to survive. There are elements of it that reminded me at times of the pathetic existence of those in the novel Angela's Ashes, but this always managed to surpass the horror.

And yet, it was fascinating. Perhaps in the way you don't want to look at a traffic accident, but can't stop yourself. I just kept reading - voraciously - to find out what was going to happen next; and yet I almost dreaded to find out.

So, take from that what you will. Perhaps it will intrigue you and you'll want to try it. Or maybe you'll discern it's not your cuppa. For those who love a good mystery, this is not ever going to be included on a list of 'cozies!'

This was an interesting premise for a mystery/thriller. The setting is late 17th century Boston, and witchcraft trials are taking place around the New World settlements. Mary Deerfield, a young and beautiful widow decides to take a popular well-to-do man as her second husband. Unknown to her - or almost anybody in the city - he is a secret drunkard and violent wife beater who murdered his first wife in an unprovoked fit of rage. During one such rage, he brutalizes Mary and she decides she must divorce him; divorce at this time was no small matter and she was going to have her hands full. But, it gets worse when she is suddenly called out as a witch and she is not only fighting to get out of her marriage, but fighting to save her life from the bonfire execution decreed to all condemned witches.

This was melodramatic and passionate - and a ripping good story. There were chase scenes and hiding scenes and amazing surprises when characters expose parts of themselves I didn't expect at all.

If you want to have fun with an historical murder mystery/thriller, this is a good one. It's fairly short and a quick read. There's also a tad of romance in there, but not nearly enough to spoil it!

Oh, my! I finished this thoroughly enjoyable mystery early last evening - and I'm still chuckling over some of the turns of phrase and astute observations on the human condition generally and the film business specifically.

Pretty As a Picture is written from the point of view of a nebbish-y, OCD afflicted, neurotic and fiercely loner female film editor. Marissa Dahl ("as in Roald, not as in Barbie") is hired to edit a prestigious film by current Hollywood artiste bad boy, Tony Rees and is spirited away to a resort island where the filming is taking place in a retro grand hotel which was the scene of a murder years ago. And the roller coast ride begins!

Marissa is obviously somewhere on the spectrum, though it's never stated outright. However, her quirks, neurosis and psychologically required daily rituals are treated not only with respect and compassion, but often with self-deprecating humor that is never insulting or offensive. Autism is not really in my wheelhouse, but I feel as if I understand it a bit better after reading this book. And the education comes with many chuckles and at least one hearty guffaw in every chapter.

The mystery is confusing, infuriating, deliciously scandalous, and compelling - and, I have to admit, the resolution was out of my fact, I thought I had it all figured out and couldn't have been more wrong. I love that in a mystery!

Add to all that a fantastic (in all senses of the word!) array of secondary characters - from the actors, producers, crew and director of the film, to the man mountain bodyguard who has been assigned to protect Marissa on the shoot, to a pair of teen internet influencers who have turned to amateur detecting.

I also love the way the author has created a multi race cast of characters with race never being an issue. Sometimes in a description she will state whether a character is black or white or Asian - sometimes she doesn't. I decided about half way through the book that Marissa was black. I don't know why I decided that - nothing STATED that she was - I just 'felt' she was. Then, by the end, I thought she must have been white. It doesn't make any difference. But, it added to the 'unknowns' in the book.

But, on top of it all - oh, so so so clever and funny. I recommend it to any and everybody. Even teenagers can be urged to try it - there is little in the way of cursing (I don't really recall any, but I don't want to say that definitely) and no sexual activity described, and the pacing of the action will keep any young person interested.

I'm keeping this on my Nook 'top' of the list because in a few months I want to read it again...I'm sure I missed a few quips or jokes in there! 
Well, that's it for this week. Hope you enjoyed a little Ann-Margret this morning - and perhaps found a book that you didn't know about that sounds interesting to you.Thanks for stopping by Enchanted Revelries - be sure to check in at Beverly's Pink Saturday Blog Hop and check out all the offerings there this week! And then, go make something beautiful!

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´) Tristan

Enjoy a little Ann Margret in pink with your morning cuppa!




Friday, August 6, 2021

A Reading Chair for Pink Saturday


The perfect chair to spend a Pink Saturday with a cuppa and a good book! And here are this week's reads in a capsule ... it's been a very good week for choosing books!

I was totally intrigued and engrossed in this triple-era mystery. First we have the Cadences: wealthy early century bank owners and manor house owners who have a lot of secrets and skeletons and emotional baggage and pitfalls. Next we meet the depression-era children, Ella, Victoria and Clem. They are friends who also have secrets even at their tender age, and one which they will carry to the end of their lives. And, finally, we meet Amy - Ella's grown grandaughter - and Jan, Amy's boyfriend.

Although the story travels the world, it centers on The Poisoned Village. The Poisoned Village is Priors Bramley, a village shut off in the 1950s so that the area could be used for chemical weapons-testing during the Cold War. When the village was evacuated and the razor wire and signs surrounded it, a long history of dark secrets was also closed off to the outside world. Now, sixty years later, the village has been declared safe again. And there are people who want the ugly secrets kept hidden in Priors Bramley forever - and there are some who are searching out answers which promise to stir the secrets to the surface.

If you are up for a neo gothic thriller this one should be next on your list! I do wish Hitchcock were still around to film this story ... he might even surpass Vertigo with this material! 

and speaking of Vertigo! ...

Vertigo has always been not only my favorite Hitchcock film, and my favorite film noir, but my absolute favorite film - period. I've seen it over 100 times. And I will still watch it. So, when I found out about this analysis by the renowned film critic Charles Barr, I knew it was no-brainer must-have.

This is a cold analytic study of the film, dissected scene by scene and compared with Hitchcock's first film, the 1924 British silent White Shadow, which has dramatic comparable lines. Barr also discusses at length the cinematography stylistic choices, the actors' poses and camera framing techniques, and the heavy uses of long silent stretches in the movie with lavish orchestral soundtrack. And he takes all of that and assesses how it makes for a stronger, more emotional and more sturdy film. He also shares some of the scenes which were filmed at the studio's behest and which were then discarded as inappropriate for the film Hitchcock envisioned.

I found all of it very interesting and I was ready to delve into the next chapter, when I realized that - I had finished the book. It's only 92 pages long. And a lot of that is taken up with film stills. So, that's my reason for the 2-star review. The little glimpse of insight was excellent. Though, I would suspect anybody not a major Vertigo aficionado would be bored to tears by it. This is very genre specific material. But, for those of us fans, it's a very well done study.

But, I don't think anybody should pay $15 for a 92 page book. Sorry. I felt ripped off.
...and, as it's been a noirish kind of week:
I've wanted to read this for a couple years; I guess it was good I waited, as it's been revised and updated. And it's a terrific read by Eddie Muller, the film noir host on Turner Classic Movies channel. It reads much like Muller's film introductions in his distinctive hard-boiled crime story style. It's entertaining without question - and chock full of information and background. The book is divided in chapters on the various 'settings' for film noirs (this is American film noirs, he doesn't try to traverse the entire planet): Sinister Heights (Exclusive Enclave of the Criminally Corrupt); The Precinct (Battered Bastion of Law Enforcement); Hate Street (Randy Region of Ruined Relationships); Hate Street (All the News That's Unfit to Print); Shamus Flats (Lost Someone? Gumshoes for Hire); Vixenville (Fiefdom of the Femme Fatale); Blind Alley (Crossroads of Coincidence and Fate); The Psych Ward (Where Veiled Veterans are Quarantined); Knockover Square (Deluxe District of Heists and Holdups); Losers' Lane (Street of Sorry Psychopaths); The Big House (Last Stop on a Wayward Course); Thieves' Highway (The Risky Road Out of Town); and The Stage Door (Enjoy a Show...Before It's Too Late). Within each chapter, Muller shares the quintessential films that make each of these categories enticing and thrilling to watch, along with photos, trivia, cast information, and production personnel. And it's NEVER dry reading. Somehow - I'm not sure how, but he does it - it all reads like one long screenplay. It's a very original concept; and, a successful one.

Obviously, I highly recommend this to anybody who is a lover of film noir or hard-boiled detective crime novels. The hard copy is a deluxe book, with glossy paper that makes the well reproduced black and white film stills and photos pop right off the page. However, I chose the Nook version which allows me to click on a photo and enlarge it (the way a photo on a phone does). That way I can examine all the little details in the photos, which I find really interesting.

“I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings.”

“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”

“Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.”

I'm crazy about this stuff!
After so much noir this week, I needed a change of pace, and this well-written and lavishly illustrated biography was just what I needed. 
Sal Mineo was such an unusual combination of angry young rebel and sensitive artist to become a teenage heartthrob movie idol. His career began on Broadway, playing first as an extra, young boy in Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo and then as Prince Chulalongkorn in The King and I starring Yul Brynner and Gertrude Lawrence. He is probably best known for his iconic role opposite James Dean in the classic film Rebel Without a Cause, for which he was Oscar nominated; but, he was also nominated for his outstanding work in Exodus opposite 16 year old Jill Haworth (the future Sally Bowles in Cabaret on Broadway) and won the Golden Globe for it. He had several top ten hits and had girls screaming and chasing him like all the rock and roll stars of the period. Then he made the tragic mistake of admitting his bisexuality. His career dried up. He went back to his roots, the theatre, and started producing and occasionally directing and/or appearing in controversial plays that explored society sexual and cultural taboos. He starred in the west coast production of P.S.Your Cat is Dead and directed and played Rocky in the controversial prison play Fortune In Men's Eyes He did have a long term relationship, but his life was cut short by a botched robbery.

This book was well researched and there were many interviews with people who both worked with him and were involved with him in personal relationships. It was well written, and stayed fairly true to life events and didn't dwell too heavily on the more sensational and exploitative parts of his life. His interest in the arts and his attempts to live a cultured, artistic and somewhat private life was explored and I found was sympathetic. There are many photographs - private candid shots, publicity shots, film stills and play photos - all well reproduced and clear.

I recommend it to anybody who is a fan of Mineo's - especially if you've only read the more lurid accounts of his life (I've read two that were just dreadful). And, if you only know him as Plato in Rebel Without a Cause, this is a very good way to learn more about a young American artist cut down too early in his life. 

I can't believe I'm giving this 4 stars. I mean, honestly, this is not great American theatre repertoire material. Nobody is ever going to mistake it for a play written by Tennessee Williams or Eugene O'Neill or Arthur Miller or Edward Albee.

But, it is the laugh out loud, knee-slapping, funniest play I have ever read. I used to think the funniest play ever was Paul Rudnick's I Hate Hamlet. Nope. This is it. Not only funny - but has the most outrageous and mind-blowing twist ending ever. It's not a mystery - but this ending is right up there with the Agatha Christie oh-I-don't-believe-it final curtain!

If you get a chance, read this play. It will only take you about an hour or so to read it. And trust me. I dare you to read the paper bag scene and PICTURE IT in action and not howl with laughter! 

This book has a terrific 'hook' reads as if written in real time. It's not - just as films that are supposedly in real time (I'm thinking of Run, Lola Run, Rope, 12 Angry Men, Phone Booth, Dog Day Afternoon ), there are times when there is a quick shift forward which is almost unnoticeable. But, the intent to present as real time is there - and it certainly reads that way. It's clever and well-done.

A woman's infant has been kidnapped and she has been given very specific instructions on what is required to get the child returned to her. She and her best friend spend a terrified time trying to, not only follow the demands exactly, but also, determine who is the criminal and why she was targeted.

I can't give any more away - it's too good to spoil the discovery on your own. This was a fast read; not because it's short or simplistic but because it's genuinely suspenseful and tense and I tended to race through it to find out what was going to happen next.

It's a good one. I've never read this author before but I'm going to search out more!

And, if you prefer lounging to sitting while reading on Pink Saturday morning or afternoon, here's a nice comfy chaise lounge that should fit the bill nicely ...

I hope you found something that sounds like a good juicy read to you ... and when you're all inspired from your reading adventures, be sure to check out the other offerings on today's Beverly's Pink Saturday Blog Hop, then go make something beautiful!

¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´) Tristan