Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
For decades the science fiction genre has long excluded the female demographic. Although it is unclear why, one can perhaps assume that women’s exclusion was rooted within misogynistic sexual and gender-based viewpoints. What IS clear, is that Madeleine L’Engle’s novel A Wrinkle in Time was unique for its time and a welcomed surprise enjoyed by all audiences, later winning the John Newbery Medal in 1963. Over fifty years later, it seems only fitting that Emmy Award-winner Ava DuVernay would be chosen to direct the re-adaptation as the first black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of over a $100 million.
The sudden disappearance of NASA scientist Dr. Alexander Murry (Chris Pine) has caused havoc on both his children Meg (Storm Reid) and Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) as well as his wife Dr. Kate Murry (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). This leads to gossiping among peers and bullying by classmates. The Murry family endures as best they can until three celestial visitors – Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) – come to help. Asking what appears to be the impossible, Meg, Charles Wallace, and a classmate Calvin O’Keefe (Levi Miller) seek to find Dr. Murry, who has been missing for the last four years.
Traveling through time and space by a process called tesseract to Uriel, a planet billions of light years away, the three children join Mrs. Whatsit, a spunky, form-changing character who interacts well with the children; Mrs. Who, a great linguist who recites insightful quotes when she cannot find her own words; and Mrs. Which, the most omniscient of the group. After arriving in Uriel, each child is made aware of their special talents. Calvin, a supportive, fearless boy whose agape love for Meg, is quite remarkable to watch as he unfolds. Charles Wallace, a telepathic genius with an extensive vocabulary, is extremely poised for his tender age of five. And Meg is a mathematic wiz, who, like many adolescent girls feels awkward about her appearance due to her curly, brown hair and large spectacles.
As the search begins for Meg’s father, the children encounter an evil darkness cast by the “It,” who rules from its planet called Camazotz. The It’s purpose is to cast confusion, jealousy, anger, fear, and pain throughout the world. Realizing that her father has been taken by this entity, Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin embark on an unforgettable journey.
The cinematography and use of color in this film is superb. From the use of aerial photography to the use of cinemagraphs, DuVernay takes the audience on a magical journey. More importantly, slogans such as “Be a Warrior,” and encouraging teaching moments that acknowledge “all hair is beautiful,” and to “embrace your faults,” should resonate well with both young girls and boys of all colors, backgrounds, and religions. Although L’Engle’s strong beliefs in the Christian faith didn’t rear as strongly in the movie as it did in her book, DuVernay does an excellent job of taking a timeless classic and turning it into a stunning re-adaptation.
The announcement that the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus will be closing on May 21 marks the end of an era. The company began nearly a hundred years ago when the Ringling Bros. World’s Greatest Shows merged with Barnum & Bailey’s The Greatest Show on Earth. Both circuses had been around much longer and indeed this closure comes after 146 years. In that time the three-ring Big Top has become one of the most instantly recognizable and iconic images in our culture conjuring up images of popcorn, cotton candy, sequined aerialists, elephants and clowns. Indeed, circuses have inspired a number of literary works over the years as well.
Toby Tyler or Ten Weeks With the Circus (1881) By James Otis Kaler. First published as a serial in Harper’s Magazine before being published as a children’s novel, in the vein of instructing children in moral lessons. Toby runs away from an foster home to join the circus only to learn that the reality isn’t nearly as light-hearted as the shows themselves. His employer is a harsh taskmaster and his truest friend is Mr. Stubbs the chimpanzee. It was considered a classic of children’s literature for many generations and inspired a Disney film in 1960. It was Kaler’s first book and his most well-known and successful.
Spangle (1987) By Gary Jennings After surrendering at Appomatoxx at the end of the Civil War, two former Confederate soldiers join a traveling circus that eventually leaves for Europe. The novel spans six years (from the end of the Civil War to the Franco-Prussian conflict.) Along the way the novel examines both the social structures of the Reconstruction South and of Europe at a time when the monarchy is beginning to crumble. Jennings was widely praised for both his wealth of historical detail and his ability to bring exotic settings to life.
Cirque du Freak (2000) by Darren Shan. Book one of The Saga of Darren Shan by Darren Shan. Darren and his best friend Steve ‘Leopard’ Leonard visit an illegal freak show where they are enthralled by the mysterious Mr. Crepsley and his giant spider Madam Octa. But Darren recognizes Mr. Crepsley as a infamous vampire and this starts a chain of events with enormous consequences for both boys. The novel was also adapted into a feature film starring John C. Reilly, Ken Watanabe, and Willem Defoe released in 2009.
Water for Elephants (2006) by Sara Gruen. Jacob Jankowski aged 93 is living in a nursing home and begins to reminiscence about his youth. Seventy years before after learning of his parent’s tragic deaths, Jacob leaves Cornell University where he’s been studying veterinary medicine and joins up with a traveling circus; The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Jacob soon becomes deeply entangled with the equestrian director August, his beautiful wife Marlena, and Rosie the elephant. The novel was a huge success that stayed on the New York Times Best Seller List for 12 weeks, was nominated for an Alex Award and a Quill Award, won the BookBrowse award for most popular book and was adapted into a feature film starring Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, and Christoph Waltz.
The Night Circus (2011) by Erin Morgenstern. This fantastical fairy tale is set near Victorian Era London. Le Cirque des Reves, the Circus of Dreams with black and white tents and costumes, is open only from sunset to sunrise and features such attractions as ice gardens, acrobats soaring without nets, and a Japanese contortionist. It also happens to be employing two bona fide magicians who disguise their actual magic as fabulous illusions and a fortune teller who’s quite genuine as well. Not to mention a whole host of other dynamic figures as well. The novel was a huge splash spending seven weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List and winning an Alex Award from the American Library Association. Morgenstern was compared to such authors as J.K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman.
Top Bigstock photo: Cars from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus train which carries elephants and other large animals.
“This is a story that begins with a barbecue….An ordinary neighborhood barbecue in an ordinary backyard.”
What happened at that barbecue frames the plot for Liane Moriarty’s bestselling page turner, Truly, Madly, Guilty. With an expert hand, she teases out what actually transpired at the cookout, along the way filling us in on the lives of those who attended with their overlapping and complicated relationships.
Clementine and Erika grew up together, the friendship orchestrated by Clementine’s mother, Pamela. Erika’s father left when she was a child and her mother, Sylvia, fell apart, her penchant for collecting exploding into full blown hoarding. Clementine didn’t always welcome Erika’s presence, resentful that Pamela at times seemed to favor Erika over her own daughter. Truth be told, Pamela related more to Erika’s career as an accountant with regular hours and a steady paycheck, than to Clementine’s as a cellist, with an erratic schedule and constant auditions.
Clementine and Sam have two young daughters, Holly and Ruby, while Erika and her husband, Oliver, are childless. Neither couple boasts a happy marriage. Clementine, preparing for an important audition, feels guilty whenever she takes time to practice. While Sam makes a show of being cooperative, he’s going through his own career crisis and has little sympathy for his wife.
Erika’s complicated relationship with her mother drains her energy, both emotionally and physically. With Sylvia’s “collecting” spilling over onto the front lawn, complaints by neighbors require Erika to visit occasionally to clean up. Oliver is supportive, but often wonders if his wife will follow in the footsteps of her mother.
Vid and Tiffany, who live next door to Erika and Sam, round out the trio of couples. Tiffany is Vid’s second wife and they have a daughter, Dakota, whose nose is constantly buried in a book. While Tiffany now makes money in real estate, she was once a pole dancer and still has the look.
The barbecue was a spur of the moment invitation from Vid. Erika and Oliver had already invited Clementine and Sam over for dinner and Vid eagerly expanded the invitation to include both couples as well as Holly and Ruby. It’s an invitation they will all come to regret.
As she did in one of her previous bestsellers, Big Little Lies, Moriarty alternates between the past and present. In Big Little Lies, the big event was a Trivia Night at a posh school for children. In Truly, Madly, Guilty, it’s the barbecue. With both books, I had the urge to flip forward to discover what crisis impacted the lives of the characters. But Moriarty manages to make the present equally compelling as she carefully adds to each character’s resume.
Moriarty, one of Australia’s most popular writers – her sisters, Jaclyn and Nicola are also novelists – is now an international favorite. Her reputation will continue to grow in 2017 with the release of the HBO miniseries based on Big Little Lies starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, and Alexander Skarsgard. Can one on Truly, Madly, Guilty be far behind?