Thursday, April 29, 2010

Discovering Marilyn

One recent evening I was browsing Netflix, waiting for my sweetheart to come home, and I came across Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I remembered seeing bits of it on TV when I was little, although the only part I remembered clearly was when Marilyn Monroe's character, Lorelei Lee, meets the owner of a diamond mine and fantasizes a big old diamond where his head would be. I must have found that pretty funny when I was a kid, because that's all that stuck with me, other than a general impression of silliness.

I'd just finished a long and sort of bruising day at the day job. I was in the mood for silly. I zapped it to my TV and settled back. And from the opening number--"Two Little Girls from Little Rock"--I was in a state of wow.

This isn't a movie review, because I unabashedly adore this movie. Yes, the male stars are completely forgettable. Yes, the plot is entirely predictable--its main concern being the number of skin-tight outfits it can smoosh our heroines into. (Marilyn's co-star is Jane Russell, the actress for whom Howard Hughes engineered a new kind of underwire bra to achieve the exact right cleavage for his movie The Outlaw.) Yes, it has dialogue like this:

Anonymous Male Character 1: (gesturing at Marilyn and Jane)"If this ship sinks, which one would you save?"

Anonymous Male Character 2: "Those girls couldn't drown!"

And yes, Marilyn does get stuck climbing through a porthole.

It's that kind of movie. Dumb. Cynical. (Have you ever really listened to the lyrics of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend"?) And silly beyond all belief.

And yet. Love, love, love. Jane Russell is at her wisecracking best. Marilyn's Lorelei Lee is absolute perfection. If it's true that it takes a smart actor to play a dumb character, Marilyn must have been a freaking genius.

Before this, I've never seen an entire Marilyn Monroe movie. For some reason, I had the impression that mostly she stood around and looked...well, like Marilyn. Before this, whenever I thought about Marilyn Monroe, I mostly thought about drugs and Kennedys and tragic death. But when she launched into...

"A kiss on the hand may be quite continental..."

...I literally got goosebumps. There's a reason that performance is iconic, and it's not because of the dress, or the platinum hair, but because Marilyn was just insanely talented.

I realize everyone else in the world is probably already aware of this. I'm embarrassed to admit it was a revelation to me.

I'm a newfound Marilyn fan. And if you see me driving around, singing in my car, it'll either be "Two Little Girls From Little Rock" or "Ain't Anyone Here for Love" (which, BTW, if you thought beefcake was a recent invention, think again), or "Bye Bye Baby," or the queen of them all, "Diamonds."

Every last cynical, scintillating syllable of it.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Buy Books--Help Teens

If you love reading--especially if you love reading fiction--you can probably point to one or more books that made a difference in your life. Maybe it's a book that introduced you to a whole new world; maybe it's a book that gave you comfort or escape when you needed it; maybe it's a book that fired your imagination.

If you love books, try to imagine what it would be like to grow up without them.

One of the cool things about the YA lit community is that it's crammed with folks who not only love books, read books, review books, and write books for teens, but who also actively work to get books into teens' hands. Guy's Lit Wire, YALSA, Readergirlz, and If I Read I Can Do Anything have teamed up for Operation Teen Book Drop 2010. One of the goals for the book drop this year: provide two Native American reservation schools with much-needed titles for their libraries.

Colleen Mondor, of the Chasing Ray blog, writes very eloquently about the schools, their needs, and details of Operation Book Drop here. I can't say anything about this topic better than she can, so I'll leave you in her capable hands. If visual is more your style, here's a video.

OR, if you're one of those spring-straight-into-action types, then jump over to Powell's Bookstore wishlist page, enter in the search box, and choose a title (or two, or three, or however many you like) from each school's wishlist. (Be sure to bookmark Colleen's blog post first, so you'll have the schools' addresses handy.)

I was lucky. I grew up in a household that could afford books and had a lot of them (almost 2,000 at one point.) My parents sent me to private schools that had small but well-stocked libraries. Books have had such a tremendous impact on my life, I can't imagine where or even who I'd be without them.

Not everyone has to be an avid reader. But everyone who wants books should have them available. If you can, help put a book in the hands of a teen.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Blog Contest Winner!

Thank you to everyone who stopped by to comment on Once More on the Dance Floor! I'm delighted to announce the winner, chosen by a random number generator, is jpetroroy.

The consensus definitely swung toward the new cover, although the old one got a lot of love, too. I like them both in different ways. I agree with the commenters who noted that each cover emphasizes a different aspect of the book: the new one more on the romance (although the book isn't a romance novel, there's definitely a bad-boy-love angle), and the old cover on the historical aspects. Since I'm a history buff, I must admit I lean a weency bit more toward the old cover. I just love that red fingernail polish and the pinstripe suit!

Thanks for playing, everyone, and for telling me what you think!