Thursday, October 18, 2007

My Big Chill Epiphany by Kristy Kiernan

I've been reading all of these wonderful posts (if you've not read them all, please scroll down, so much talent here!), and since the life of a Southern author has been covered so well and beautifully already, I'm veering off-road here. I'm going for a two-parter, a double-header, a literary hat trick...wait, that's a three-item thing, isn't it? You know, I never was a big sports fan. Anyway, I'll be writing about two seemingly unrelated issues today, and by seemingly, I mean completely.

First, The Big Chill.

Have you watched it lately, and I mean watched as in sat there and stared at the screen and listened to the dialogue, perhaps getting up to dish out some fabulous panang curry from the excellent Thai place down the street but putting it on pause while you did so? And not the TNT version, but the DVD or, if you've not yet joined us here in the current decade, VCR tape (or perhaps Betamax is your thing?).

I don't know, maybe it was the late hour, my desperate need for vacation, or the fact that my tongue was on fire (when you say "Thai hot" to actual Thai people, be sure you mean it), but that movie really was groundbreaking, wasn't it? It came out in 1983. I was fourteen, and I don't think I properly appreciated the true groundbreaking-osity of it. Of course, I'm slightly older now (go ahead, do the math), and I saw all kinds of things in it that I'd never seen before.

For instance, the JoBeth Williams character, Karen? I used to think she was so sweet and just a bit disappointed in her life, and was incredibly sincere in her heart-baring monologues directed at Tom Berenger (Sam). Now though? Whoa! What a manipulative witch! She was horrible! How did I not see that before?

Anyway, scene after scene I saw things in a new way. Am I getting smarter? Is that it? Let's all hope so. Perhaps that will actually carry over into real life, and I will become more adept at reading people? Or maybe the Thai cooks were just having a bit of fun with me and chopped some magic mushrooms up in the panang. Whatever. (But I'm going there again tonight.)

So, on to what I was going to write about in the first place. (See, that's what we call a "transition." Some are, admittedly, more elegant than others.) As you are reading this (I hope someone's reading this), I am likely reading on the beach. We spend a few weeks on an island, much like Big Dune in Catching Genius, for vacation, and all I do is read. As soon as I finish one book, I open another. It is my idea of heaven.

Three weeks of one book after another means quite a few books, and so each year I bring more books than clothes. I don’t always get through all of them (as people who've read my vacation book list before will attest when they see some of the same books on this year's list), but I give it my best effort.

I was going to do a little thing on each book, but after my whole self-indulgent (isn't that what blogs are for?) Big Chill epiphany, I figure the post has gone on long enough, so, without further blah blah blah, Kristy Kiernan's 2007 Vacation Reading List:

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

The Midnight Disease by Alice W. Flaherty

Collected Stories of William Faulkner

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres

Set Me Free by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

The Abomination by Paul Golding

Atonement by Ian McEwan

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

The Messenger of Magnolia Street by River Jordan

Paint It Black by Janet Fitch

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon

The Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London

1 Dead in Attic by Chris Rose

Thoughts? Comments? Concerns? Jeers? Jibes? What did you think of JoBeth? Did you notice they never showed Glenn Close snorting coke? And why on earth were Tom Berenger and Kevin Kline making up a bed in the attic so tightly that an Olsen twin would have a problem slipping in it?

How about the books? Did you love any of them? Hate any of them? Feel vaguely disgusted or aroused, or perhaps both, by any of them? Please, feel free to use the comment section. I eagerly await your brilliance.

Cross-posted 8/20/07 The Debutante Ball.

Bio: Kristy Kiernan grew up reading every Southern author she could get her chocolate-covered hands on. Her debut novel, Catching Genius, was published in March, 2007, and her second, MATTERS OF FAITH, is slated for publication in Summer 2008. She also enjoys writing about herself in the third-person, though she'd never speak of herself in the third-person. That would be pretentious.


Keetha said...

Oh, man, do I love The Big Chill. I always thought it was so well done, such a great 80s movie. Such yuppie angst, such revelations...I like it a lot. I haven't seen it in a while. Perhaps I should check it out. Maybe I would see it differently. The scene where they play football in the yard? Love that. Slightly less love Kevin Kline's accent, bless his heart.
Your reading list is impressive - it's all serious and stuff! Please report back on those books!

ajmayhew said...

Thanks for a stimulating blog. Comments on two things—One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (the book) and The Big Chill (the movie). Thinking back to 1965 and my first reading of Cuckoo’s Nest—I was caught up in the story and, back then, unaware of the writing (great books are like that). I read it again some twenty years later, when I’d begun writing myself, and was stunned at all I missed first time around. The first-person present-tense narrative (new to me all those years ago). That Randall Patrick McMurphy’s initials imply speed. That Nurse Ratchet is a toothed wheel—converting RPM’s forward motion into eternal rotation. By the time of my second reading I could only envision RPM with Jack Nicholson’s face, and Nurse Ratchet (Big Nurse, as she’s first called) with Louise Fletcher’s. Missed in the first reading was the obvious connection of RPM and his gang to Jesus and the twelve, eg, somewhere in the book someone asks RPM (I’m misquoting here), “Who do you think you are?” And RPM responds with a non-sequitur blasphemy, “Jesus!” Remembering this makes me want to read the book again, and I will, because I love books that both entertain me and give me social lessons. Cuckoo’s Nest made me want to stay sane (or at least give the impression that I am) to avoid incarceration.

The Big Chill…I saw it in a theater with my youngest sister (Susie) in 1983; we were both single for seven years, mothers, divorcees, often dateless on Saturday nights, so we’d go out together for pizza and a movie. I’m nine years older than she, and in a flurry of pregnancy and child-rearing, had missed much of the sixties and seventies, thus I was deeply grateful to have Susie sitting beside me, poking me to pay attention to the soundtrack (she was and still is savvy to popular rock in a way I never have been). Now I remember hearing, as if for the first time, the rich legacy of seventies music…the soundtrack was bound to engage aging hippies in a morass of nostalgia (like the characters in the film). Years later a lover sang to me, “When a Man Loves a Woman” and my connection was to the film, not to Percy Sledge singing from the radio. Hearing “I Second that Emotion” during the movie, I was caught up—in my writer’s ear—in the cleverly worded title, whereas Susie experienced it in memories of dancing to Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. Over the years after seeing the film, I cringed when “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” was used to sell raisins and underwear, but couldn’t stop my feet from starting to move to the bass beat. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and “Joy to the World,” and “Natural Woman” and “My Girl” and “The Tracks of my Tears”—who was the genius who selected these songs to play behind the story? And knowing now, as a writer, the cost of quoting just one line from popular music makes me wonder at the cost of royalties for such a soundtrack (but given the success of the movie, why worry?). Today I looked on Amazon to see if there’d ever been a novelization of the original screenplay, and was relieved that there hadn’t been…because, like re-reading Cuckoo’s Nest and seeing Nicholson’s and Fletcher’s faces, I cannot imagine the emptiness of reading—“In the Midnight Hour” under a “Bad Moon Rising”—a book of The Big Chill without the soundtrack playing in the background…

Kristy said...

Hey Keetha, listen, don't think I don't know what "bless his heart" means! We're allowed to say ANYTHING about people if we attach that handy little phrase, aren't we? :-D Sadly, I never even noticed his accent. I'm terrible at them. I start off doing Irish, and end up sounding like a cross between Bono and Bob Marley. I know.

And you're right! *gasp* I just noticed how serious my list was! Wow, I need some comic relief, don't I? Okay, my brief report (I'll dish more on my next post) is that apparently I do love reading unremittingly grim books, because I've enjoyed everything I've read so far (I'm up to six completed). Thanks for reading and commenting, K!

A.J. :-) Well, may I just say thank you for giving up 45 minutes of your post to accommodate my vacation schedule? Very generous of you.

I'm not deeply into Nest yet, but I have read the first few pages and am SO intrigued. I've never seen the film and am holding off until I read the book. Truly, all I know is it's about a disturbed guy in a mental ward and J.N. made his name in the movie. I love the little inside things you've pointed out! I'll go in search of more when I've finished it. I THINK I'd have gotten the 12.

I loved hearing about your Big Chill experience! I was so tired of those songs years ago, but after some time away from them I really enjoyed the soundtrack. And might I just mention how incredibly envious I am that "A LOVER" sang to you?!?! That's just plain fabulous.

And, after my epiphany, I'm a little intrigued by the idea of a novelization. I mean, wouldn't it be interesting to really be inside the manipulative little head of Karen? Hmmmm...

ajmayhew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ajmayhew said...

Kristy, I meant to say one other thing, re Chill. There's a reason why we don't see Sarah (Glenn Close) doing drugs...she's a saint, and saints don't snort or smoke dope. If she did, we'd question her motives in letting her husband be a sperm donor (the old-fashioned way) for Meg. Your observations about Karen (Jo Beth Williams) being a manipulative bitch...well, I missed that totally, and will watch the film again this week with that in mind. Can't help wondering if the way you view Karen now is a product of your 14, I was naive, looking for sweetness and love and proof that life worked better outside my home (parents, sibs) than it did inside (alcoholism, emotional abuse, denial, but love and humor and real affection that kept us together). So at 14 I would have bought Karen's sugary facade simply because I wanted life/her to be that way. But at 38, my wisdom and experience would have given me a dose of reality and I think I'd have seen "through" Karen. Just a thought...but these ruminations make me want to rethink other movies I loved when I was a kid. One that leaps to mind is All Mine to Give...I was 17 when it came out, and I dearly loved it; went back to the theater several times and saw it over and over (back then you could go to the movies and watch a film four times in one sitting if you wanted to). Recently All Mine to Give was on tv. I'd wanted to see it again, and couldn't find it in video rental stores or on Netflix. So in a mindset of eager anticipation, I sat down to watch it. I was astounded to realize that it was maudlin and excessively sentimental, so typical of the entertainment of the time, eg, The Lawrence Welk Show and Doris Day/perpetual virgin movies. Again, as a teenager I wanted to believe in the message of All Mine to Give. Now, in my maturity, I can see behind the curtain, through the smoke and mirrors, in what feels like a healthy perspective rather than a jaundiced view. 'Nuff said!

Anonymous said...

Hey y'all...Annabelle here. I am going out to rent "The Big Chill" TODAY. Need a little relief from sources who go on the record and who then say, a day after the fact, via Certified Mail no less, that they no longer want to even APPEAR in my next book, which is a non-fiction account of six chaplains at Grady Hospital awhile back, leading up to the Atlanta Massacre. GEEZ! Talk about needing comic relief...and maybe Thai too.

Glad to see Chris Rose made your list, Kristy (even if I didn't). KIDDING!!!!!!!!!!!

Love ya lots (and please send happy vibes my direction),