Friday, September 15, 2017

spring and summer reads: horror and autobiography

I have been so busy the past few months with my own book and now assorted hurricanes, that I didn't have a chance to post reviews of all of the books I have been reading. The first bunch is a combination of horror and autobiography, which pretty much sums up my interests of late. Anyone have a good horror autobiography to recommend?

In the meantime, here are a few titles from my recent reading list:

The Men in My Life: A Memoir of Love and Art in 1950s Manhattan - Patricia Bosworth

This is a fascinating glimpse into a woman's life in the art and theater world of 1950s New York. Patricia Bosworth was born into a wealthy San Francisco family. Her father, attorney Bartley Crum, saw his career and fortunes dive after he defended the Hollywood Ten (Hollywood directors and writers who were blacklisted as Communists during Senator Joseph McCarthy's Red Scare fear campaign - Dalton Trumbo, Edward Dmytryk, Herbert J. Biberman, Lester Cole, Alvah Bessie, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, and Adrian Scott.) Crum moved the family to what he hoped was a more open and understanding New York, but he never really bounced back.

Complicating matters was his drug and alcohol abuse, which landed him in multiple unsuccessful dry-out attempts. He did manage to acquire a few  high-profile clients, including actors Rita Hayworth and Montgomery Clift, who would visit the house and gave young Patricia a glimpse into Manhattan's film and theater world. She would later join the famed Actor's Studio and work with, or at least brush up against, actors and artists like Steve McQueen, Marilyn Monroe, Diane Arbus, Gore Vidal, and Helen Hayes, among many others. Her most notable film role was a small part in The Nun's Story, starring Audrey Hepburn. But Bosworth's tale of that time on a movie set in Rome was far from glamorous, coinciding with a harrowing personal and physical event that shines a light on how far women have come since the 1950s and how we need to keep it that way.

Family tragedy was compounded when Patricia's younger brother, Bart Jr., committed suicide. It is clear to the reader that Bart was homosexual. After he and a friend were found in a compromising position at school and the friend subsequently killed himself, Bart sank into a deeper and deeper depression until he ultimately chose to take his own life.The family seemed helpless or oblivious to Bart's plight. Although Bosworth doesn't address issues of homophobia and mental illness directly, there are echoes of depression, addictive behavior, and denial of true self between both the father and son. What is even more tragic is that young people in Bart's position sometimes still feel compelled to take their own lives today.

Bosworth ultimately gave up acting to pursue her real passion, writing, and she has become well known for insightful biographies of Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Jane Fonda, and Diane Arbus, as well as writing in more detail about her father and the Hollywood Ten (Anything Your Little Heart Desires: An American Family Story, 1997).

I found her story fascinating and am eager to now try some of her other biographies.

Patricia Bosworth in her Actors Studio days

Echoes From the Macabre - Daphne Du Maurier

I have always loved Du Maurier's Rebecca and have read Don't Look Now before in some other edition, but I don't think I had ever read the original version of The Birds, which was the basis for the classic Alfred Hitchcock horror film. Set in England the story is just as scary, and even more bleak, if that is possible. The rest of the stories are also very good, in a suspenseful, and in some cases, very creepy kind of way. They include: The Apple Tree, The Pool, The Blue Lenses, Kiss Me Again, Stranger, The Chamois, Not After Midnight, and The Old Man. I honestly don't want to even give a summary for any of these, as I think it is best to read them with no preconceptions. It is clear to see why Hitchcock loved Du Maurier's sometimes twisted take on life.

The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson

A true classic of horror, which tells the tale of four paranormal researchers who decide to spend some time in one of the most horrible-looking and possibly -acting houses of all time - Hill House. Dr. Montague, an erudite ghost chaser, enlists the help of three young people to prove that Hill House is truly haunted and evil. What could go wrong? Luke, who is a descendent of the original owner and builder of the terrible manse, chooses to treat the experiment as a joke. The beautiful and mysterious Theodora's motives to being there are unclear, but it is likely that she approaches the situation as a thrill seeker. Eleanor, an unhappy and possibly unstable young woman, hopes that Hill House will be the exciting new chapter in a previously dull and uninteresting life. When the cook and her husband tell the guests that they won't stay after sundown that should be the quartet's first clue that something is very wrong about Hill House.

I Shock Myself - The Autobiography of Beatrice Wood

To end things on an up note, I am including this wonderful autobiography of the little-known artist and ceramicist Beatrice Wood. Sometimes called "The Mama of Dada," she died in 1995 at the age of 105. During her long and eventful life she associated with some very interesting people, including Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, J. Krishnamurti, and the art collectors Louise and Walter Arensberg. Wood is also considered to be the inspiration for the the woman who is loved by two men in Jules et Jim, which was written by Henri-Pierre Roché, who she was involved with. Their mutual close friend Marcel Duchamp fills out the third side of the eternal triangle. What was Wood's secret to her long and storied life? "I owe it all to chocolate and young men." Check her out. She was pretty amazing.

The colorful Beatrice Wood in her studio

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

unfinished - now available in paperback!

Unfinished - A Graphic Novel of Marilyn Monroe, is now available in paperback.

From Amazon:

Why does Marilyn Monroe continue to be our iconic American goddess? A question explored in “Unfinished.” In words and pictures author and illustrator Elizabeth Periale brings a new perspective to Marilyn Monroe. "Unfinished” focuses on Marilyn from a female perspective, including touching on her many health issues. This graphic novel also shines a light on Marilyn's gifts as an actress, a talent that tends to be side-stepped in the many previous and sensational accounts of her life and death.

Monday, May 22, 2017

unfinished: a graphic novel of marilyn monroe

I am so excited to share that my graphic novel about the screen's most iconic goddess, Marilyn Monroe, is finally done — and available via Amazon's Kindle Store.

My first published book, Unfinished: A Graphic Novel of Marilyn Monroe, tells the actress's story from a feminine/feminist perspective. From the set of her last, uncompleted film, Something's Got to Give, Marilyn tells us her story, in words and pictures.

Here are a few images from the book, to give you an idea:

I hope you enjoy my unique take on this fascinating lady.

xoxoxo e

Thursday, April 20, 2017


So what am I going to watch until Legion comes back?

I just binge-watched the series on Hulu. Like so many of the new series popping up this days this show has comic book roots. But it's not a show about a guy or girl solving crimes while wearing a cool suit. It's not a show that's easy to describe.

The series opens with the main character, David Haller (Dan Stevens), living in a psychiatric hospital after a suicide attempt. But all is not as it seems. In fact, in Legion, nothing is like anything anyone has seen before. The show was created by Noah Hawley (Fargo). Viewers learn early on that Legion is part of the X-Men universe, and David and many of the characters he meets are mutants. The X-Men are always, at their heart, stories about outsiders, and David Haller is as outsider as they come. Diagnosed as schizophrenic when he was just a child, David's grasp on reality is tenuous at best. As the series progresses we learn a bit more about his childhood and his abilities, but it becomes clear that the show and David may just be scratching the surface of what he is and what he will become.

Telekinesis ...

Alternate reality ...

Don't mess with David

Legion is not just action-adventure, but it is also a love story. When David meets Syd at the institution (Rachel Keller) it is love at first sight for the pair, and the course of their romance runs smoothly - except for the part about Syd not wanting to be touched ...

"Holding hands"

Hawley has assembled a great cast for Legion. Dan Stevens takes on a very different role from his previous appearances in Downton Abbey or Beauty and the Beast. Other stand-out performances include Aubrey Plaza as David's pal Lenny, and David's Scooby gang: Bill Irwin, Jean Smart, and Jemaine Clement.

Jean Smart as Melanie Bird

David and Lenny

Legion sets itself in ... well, it's not exactly clear. The show has a late '60s, early '70s look, but so much of the show takes place in David's mind that it's hard to tell when we are exactly, or if he just really likes the look of films like A Clockwork Orange and classic television shows like The Avengers and The Prisoner. I know I like those shows, so Legion appeals to me aesthetically. I don't want to tell too much more about what happens in the show, as it's best experienced spoiler-free. Maybe a rewatch is in order until David and the gang return in February 2018 ...

Syd at Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital

Thursday, April 13, 2017

where no star trek fan may have gone before ...

There are so many branches to the Star Trek universe: novelizations, movies, re-boot film series, animated series, magazines, television series, toys, games, etc. that even the most dedicated fan, Trekkie or Trekker might have trouble keeping up. ...

Star Trek's popularity and influence was not limited to the United States. The show may have been cancelled in 1969, but the next year in England, before the series had even premiered on British television, a series of comic strips appeared in weekly television magazines. Star Trek: The Classic UK Comics, Vol. 2 is the second in a series of three volumes collecting and reprinting these comics. These compilations may offer the first time these comics may been seen and read in the U.S. The British Star Trek comics ran for five years, longer than the original show.

Fans will recognize all of their favorite characters, at least by appearance. The artists, mostly uncredited, do a good job of capturing the likeness of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, et al. While readers might blanch at seeing Kirk wear a red shirt in the first group of comics in this volume, halfway through the first captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise appears in his familiar gold shirt. Slightly more off-putting is hearing Mr. Spock frequently refer to Kirk as "Skipper" and utter such exclamations as "What the blazes?" throughout the strips. Not the cool and analytical Vulcan science officer we know and love. ...

You can read my full review on Cinema Sentries

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

as spooky as ever: we have always lived in the castle

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is an amazing, unsettling book. It is a tale told by a fanciful and unreliable but fascinating narrator, Mary Katherine Blackwood, or Merricat, as her older sister Constance calls her. Merricat and Constance and their Uncle Julian and Merricat's cat Jonas live in Blackwood House, on top of the hill overlooking a small and small-minded village.

The author Shirley Jackson was a master of the macabre and creepy. Her short story "The Lottery" continues to haunt schoolchildren every year, as does her masterly haunted house novel, The Haunting of Hill House. Jackson lived for many years in North Bennington, Vermont, and has ratcheted up the standoffish prototypical New Englander to the nth degree in this story. The Blackwoods experienced a family tragedy six years ago, when four of the family members died one night after sprinkling what they thought was sugar on their blackberries. It turned out to be arsenic. Constance was acquitted of the crime, but the cloud of doubt, distrust, and thinly-veiled hate has hung over her and her remaining family ever since.

The details of the Blackwoods' existence and the genteel, class-conscious life that their family has led in contrast to their unneighborly neighbors plays out throughout the book. The devil is in the details - descriptions of china patterns and the meticulously kept remnants of their departed relatives - a hairbrush, a gold watch, a harp. Merricat admits her life is a difficult one, but she enjoys it - until a visit by distant cousin Charles threatens to destroy all the barriers she has carefully, and sometimes magically constructed to the outside world.

Merricat's and Constance's home and way of life are under siege. Can they hold onto any of their old, familiar graces? Can their neighbors treat others equally, without suspicion, and not resort to violence? We Have Always Lived in the Castle seems an especially pertinent and spooky read, as we sadly read more and more discussions of "otherness' and persecution daily in our press.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

big little lies

I just finished watching the HBO series Big Little Lies and, I'm sure, like many others, didn't want it to end. The slow, almost hypnotic pace of the direction by Jean-Marc Vallée in producer and writer David E. Kelley's adaptation of Liane Moriarty's book eased viewers into the complicated lives of the mothers of first graders in an affluent suburb of Monterey, California.

I quickly scooped up the book and was not disappointed by its southern Australian setting. The characters are the same: the charismatic, rapid-fire and funny Maddie, the outwardly serene but haunted Celeste, the tortured young mom Jane. These three women and their children and the men in their lives are all tangled together in a web of lies, both big and small. The story begins with a crime scene and the reader must shuffle through a series of entertaining, and at times, disturbing unreliable narrators until the truth is finally revealed.

Jane, Maddie, and Celeste share a high-end kaffee klatsch

Moriarty perfectly captures the Mommy Wars that some people indulge in these days and invites the reader inside the heads of the three main female characters. We see the men in their lives through theirs and other's eyes, but a little like the classic film The Women, the emphasis is squarely on the ladies. Themes of abuse, to children and adults, runs throughout. The setting may be beach/bucolic, but the passions run deep. Big Little Lies is a great read and I'd be willing to check out more by this author. There are rumors of a second series of the HBO show, too.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

goodnight, sweet princess ...

I happened to be at the Disney Park that has franchised most of the Star Wars experience last week when I heard about Carrie Fisher's passing. Talk about bittersweet, as we saw posters of Princess Leia, from all of her franchise appearances, around the park. I first saw Star Wars on its first release in 1977, and loved her spunky take on the princess, although I have to admit my young teen eyes and heart were mostly focused on the dreamy Luke Skywalker. But I have enjoyed Carrie Fisher in many other things, so she has never been only Princess Leia to me. When Harry Met Sally, Hannah and Her Sisters, an adaptation of an Agatha Christie mystery, Appointment with Death, come to mind. I also really enjoyed the HBO version of her stage show, Wishful Drinking. I'm not sure when I first realized she was also Debbie Reynolds (and Eddie Fisher)'s daughter, but I remember liking Postcards from the Edge and knowing it was a version of her life.

I decided this week that I wasn't yet ready to let her go and that I needed her voice in my head, and downloaded two of her books, Wishful Drinking, a text version of her one-woman show, and her latest and last book, an autobiography, The Princess Diarist.

Wishful Drinking is a little chaotic, as Fisher jumps back and forth in time, from her childhood to Star Wars stardom, to dependency on drugs and alcohol, to her long romance and brief marriage to Paul Simon, to the choice to use electro-shock therapy to try and tame her bipolar disorder. All through this roller coaster ride she is funny, witty and observant - of herself and the people around her. The reader can get a feel for what it might be like to hang out with Fisher when she is on a roll (which was probably most of the time).

The book does feel like a script for a play, however. A little bare bones. I was hoping it might be fleshed out a bit, with more anecdotes or insights that aren't part of the stage production. But it was a fun, fast read. There was a poignancy too, as it is hard not to wonder if so many of the "solutions" she has chosen over the years to help her cope with her manic depression may have played a role in her death - the aforementioned drugs, alcohol, and electroconvulsive therapy, as well as her recent rapid weight loss, at the behest of the producers of the latest Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens.

The Princess Diarist is a different type of autobiography. Fisher recently found some journals she kept during the making of Star Wars, in 1976. She leads the reader through a nostalgic trip down memory lane to the making of that film and her red-hot romance with one of its costars, Harrison Ford. That, her love affair, is really what the book is all about. But it isn't simply a kiss and tell. I doubt that anything associated with Fisher could ever be termed simple. She lays the groundwork for the newbie: her crazy Hollywood upbringing, her tentative start in show business, and how she was cast in the role as Princess Leia. It's all interesting stuff. And then she gets to England and the set of Star Wars and has a drink at a birthday party for George Lucas and gets to know Harrison ...

She is not mean or too revealing about the man in question, but it is very clear that she was young and in love and this is her first really big romance. With a married man. First she tells the story from her present perspective, of looking back at a long lost love, and then she includes diary entries of a young woman, very much smitten, but also upset with herself (and him, although she won't completely admit it) for their cheatin' hearts.

Her ambivalence about the affair may seem surprising to readers who think about the free-wheeling '70s and Hollywood mores, but one must remember that Carrie Fisher's family was fractured by one of the biggest cheating scandals of the day, when her father Eddie Fisher left her mother Debbie Reynolds for the recently widowed, best friend of the family, Elizabeth Taylor. Fisher never forgets that history for a minute, and it clouds her romance with her costar. Many of the diary entries are poems, and some could have even been turned into songs. The passion of youth is there, but also the love of wordplay. Fisher was a talented writer.

Both books could have, should have, been longer. She definitely leaves us wanting more.