Sunday, September 21, 2008

Stand still

A phrase has been running around my mind all day: The tyranny of beauty. I keep trying to catch it and I've gotten close a couple of times, but it slips away at the last moment. It feels like the beginning of a story, or maybe it's the theme or the title, but it's not going away any time soon.

Another phrase tags in once in a while, but it's not one of mine. It's a phrase from a book I just finished. "She's no better than she should be." It's a New England phrase, and I think I know what it means, but I'm not sure. How can someone be better than they should be -- or worse? It's a snide way of saying someone isn't as good as they look or act and that there's monkey business going on behind closed doors, I think.

I just finished reading Peyton Place and Return to Peyton Place last night. It took me a while, fitting it in between working hours and review book hours, but it was really good. I had read Peyton Place once before but not the sequel, although I have seen both movies and recently saw them again. I always want to check out the book to see how close it is to the movie and, as always, this one was quite a bit different. So I checked out Wikipedia because I wanted to check out a theory -- that the character of Rita Moore in the book is Lana Turner in real life. There are similarities. I couldn't find it on Wikipedia but I did find out that they were completely off base about the novel version of the sequel. The movie sequel plot was given as the novel, which is why people shouldn't trust Wikipedia so much; they are often wrong. But I digress...

I checked out the Internet Movie Database and there was nothing about whether or not Lana Turner was the model for Rita Moore, but the characteristics fit and she had, in fact, just married again before Grace Metalious wrote the sequel. It was interesting to see how the author dealt with the difference between writing a screenplay and a novel (something few authors enjoy since their work is utterly changed and diminished by Hollywood) but the author, in the character of Allison MacKenzie, was given instruction on the differences and why. It is similar to what I read in an interview with the author of Becoming Jane Austen when his book was given the Hollywood treatment.

Both movies were sanitized and some of the more brutal and overtly sexual aspects of the book were softened or taken out altogether. Although Doc Swain was in the first movie, and in both books, he was left completely out of the movie sequel, as were several other characters. The reason for Mike Rossi being fired was changed to refusing to take Allison's book out of the school library when the actual reason for his firing was that he was related to Allison who wrote such a horrid and obscene book. The school board hired Mike back when his replacement turned out to be incompetent, but I guess since Hollywood decided to put more emphasis on the town's reaction to Allison's book, Samuel's Castle, than the author did in the book, it only makes sense. Constance MacKenzie, Allison's mother and Rossi's wife, did not call the book obscene nor did she shun Allison because of it -- or make her big speech at the end to Roberta Carter who was humiliated at the town meeting. Connie was behind Allison 100% from the beginning and biding her time for Allison to get over the fact that Connie had lied to her about being married to Allison's father.

So what does this have to do with the phrase that keeps running in circles in my mind? Nothing. It has to do with the second phrase and not the first. I know what the tyranny of beauty is, but not how it's going to end up in the story. Ever have that happen, get an idea that refuses to make itself into a proper story without a lot of chasing and wrestling?

It sometimes takes a while for an idea to gel enough for me to get a clean story out of it, but this is not the same thing. This is the glimmer of an idea, like a word on the tip of my tongue or the name of an actor or someone I'm supposed to know, that refuses to jump the synaptic gaps in orderly fashion so that I can pin it down and go on to the next item on my list -- or write the story that's brewing. I guess I'll have to let it steep a while and figure out what it has to do with small town Midwestern royalty.

That is all. Disperse.

No comments: