Sunday Lowdown #7

This Week at the Theatre Job

Caroline or Change continues on stage, but below, in the black box theatre, things are gearing up on set construction with the play Grand Concourse. A nun in her 30s runs a soup kitchen in the Bronx, dealing with all sorts of characters. But, when Emma, just out of high school, looks to volunteer, she’ll change everyone around her — and not necessarily for the better. The set requires a functioning kitchen. I’ll share some pictures next weekend!

Photos by Peter Ringenberg.

This Week in TV & Film

I watched Ex Machina on Netflix. It’s an indie science fiction movie that won awards for its visual effects in 2014. A surprisingly feminist film, the ending left lots to discuss.

I tried watching The Umbrella Academy but didn’t care for any character except #3 (“The Rumor”). She had the coolest power and most interesting personal story, but the focus stays on #5, and I just don’t care. I’m especially disinterested in Elle Page’s wimpy character who (at the time I quit watching) was infatuated with a loser.

This Week in Reading: Finished Books

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood: several readers were interested in my progress on Atwood’s novel, either because they loved the show or the book. While I was bored in the middle only because I saw the show and it was so similar to the book, I did enjoy the ending, which gave more of Grace’s perspective than the Netflix series.

Magic’s Price by Mercedes Lackey: well, that’s the end of the trilogy that started it all for me in 2001. The next books in the #ReadingValdemar buddy read will all be totally new territory! I wasn’t as saddened by the ending this time and will reveal why in my review Monday.

The Family Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss: a memoir I hadn’t planned to re-read, but it came at the perfect time. My anxiety has been high, so I got a book about anxiety to help me feel more in control. The book just gave me anxiety (DNF), so I picked up Doss’s memoir to take myself through an easy read that I love. My husband and I quote this little memoir more than I care to admit. Review coming next week.

This Week in Reading: Books in Progress

The only works in progress are Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith, which I’m reading aloud to my husband, and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, which I’ve decided not to finish. I started the book last night and found the writing overblown — no wonder I struggled to follow it in 9th grade. Here is an example of the writing:

He saw himself in her eyes, suspended in two shining drops of bright water, himself dark and tiny, in fine detail, the lines about his mouth, everything there, as if her eyes were two miraculous bits of violet amber that might capture and hold him intact.

Friends, if you can tell me what “violet amber” looks like, or why a person not crying has eyes like “drops of bright water” (and what is “bright water”???), you win a cookie. DNF.

Next Week in Reading:

According to my spreadsheet, I’ll start Destroying Angel, a novel with two characters who “navigate an underworld of body theft, interstellar drug trafficking, and doctors who double as dealers,” by Missy Wilkinson. I’ll start AND finish a book called This Much Country by Kristin Knight Pace, a memoir I heard about on NPR. After she got divorced, Knight Pace moved from Montana to deep Alaska to care for a guy’s sled dogs, residing in his “house” that has no electricity or running water. Lastly, I’ll start Vow of Celibacy by Erin Judge, which is one of my fat fiction novels.


  1. I also did not like Fahrenheit 451 – I persevered through it, assuming it would get better because it’s a classic – it did not.

    Alias Grace does sound pretty good – maybe it’s time for me to give Margaret Atwood another try.


  2. I love Fahrenheit 451! Actually, I love pretty much everything I’ve ever read by Bradbury. I find his style to be effortlessly lyrical, the way many current writers would like to be, but either don’t have the skill to duplicate, or that’s just not how their writing voice naturally is. Something Wicked This Way Comes is my favorite of his, but Fahrenheit 451 is right up there.

    I think ‘bright water’ is something like the way water looks when afternoon sun is reflecting off it– the shimmer of sunlight reflecting off waves.


    • That makes sense — bright water, I mean — but it was a dark night in an alley. Maybe it’s more symbolic of who this girl is, but she seemed so ethereal that all I could think was manic pixie dream girl.


      • The metaphor/simile doesn’t need to match exactly with the scene that it’s written within, just the viewpoint character’s experiences. If I write that someone’s eyes are ‘dark as midnight’, you’ll know how dark I mean, even if the scene takes place in the middle of the day.


  3. I watched Ex Machina for the first time a few months ago and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

    Strangers on a Train is one of my favorite Hitchcock movies and the story is a favorite as well.


    • I think because I read Strangers on a Train a few times before I saw the movie, I was disappointed that they were not more similar. Even something like Guy being a tennis player vs an architect really changes his personality.


  4. Yes, I’m with Kim. “Bright water” is one image that I find pretty easy. For me it would be when water sparkles – usually when light plays on it, as Kim says. Still, that whole quote does seem full-on, out of context anyhow. I’ve not read Fahrenheit 451, not being a big sci-fi fan. I did see and love Ex machina – though would need a refresher now to discuss it in detail.


  5. Oh no, 2 books you had to DNF? I remember liking Fahrenheit 451 but I also didn’t read it for school. I read it with a book club many years ago. Violet amber, is that like a hue of purple and blue? Idk.

    I owe you an email on books to pick out next read on the blog. You’ve stated something by joining me for those conversation post! I’ll send a note soon. Hope this reading week is much better!


  6. Haha, I read Fahrenheit 451 in tenth grade and thought it was dreadfully dull and clunky. Glad to know I’m not alone! I’ve always been curious about Highsmith’s work, looking forward to your thoughts.


    • Thanks, Michael. Highsmith is often viewed as controversial. In Strangers on a Train, there are many inferences that Bruno and Guy, in some way, have a m/m relationship. Then, Highsmith wrote The Price of Salt (later made into the movie Carol), which has a f/f relationship. She was publishing in the 50s!


  7. Ah, that quote you included from Farenheit was painful to read! No wonder you DNF’d it. I really liked that video you included from your theatre at the beginning, the show looked amazing!

    I’m sorry to hear your anxiety has been high lately-any particular reason? I had a few panic attacks when I was in university, and I found watching Murder She Wrote always made me feel better. In fact, when I had Ava and felt like my life was falling apart days after I gave birth, I again watched MSW just to feel like myself again, and my god it worked!


    • Hi, Anne! I didn’t know that you had panic attacks, though you’ve occasionally said that your toddler can be a jerk (this is normal!) and figured that was stressful. I’ve had chronic generalized anxiety my whole life. If something bothers me, I fixate on it. I replay everything that happened in relation to that thing over and over and over and over in my head for days. This is part of why me having reading goals is important. I feel *mild* guilt if I miss a personal goal, and it gets me reading again.

      I was kind of surprised that Fahrenheit 451 is so rough. I mean, no wonder I didn’t understand the book when I read it in 9th grade. Surely, there must be a committee of adults who can speak up and point out which books in high school were just not effective.

      Thank you for your compliments about the show! This is the last weekend, then it’s on to the next one!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I luckily don’t suffer from anxiety much anymore (except when I’m flying, I take some pills when I have to board a plane!) but this is the type of thing that can affect anyone at anytime -as you know!

        And yes on the committee of adults-can’t we find a better book that deals with racism than To Kill A Mockingbird already? Jeez.


        • It’s a book that all high schools use to talk about race. It’s written by a white woman about a white girl who loves her white father. I just. . .I mean, I know there’s more to it, but still. All I can think of are the people who blog about #ownvoices books and how much they must loathe To Kill a Mocking Bird.

          Liked by 1 person

  8. I just finished The Umbrella Academy and fully admit that Ellen Page’s character is my least favorite. I tried to sympathize with her, but I just grew more and more irritated by her character. Too bad you couldn’t get through Fahrenheit 451, but it happens. That Destroying Angel cover is mesmerizing. Hope you are having a good week so far.


  9. I’m sorry you guys had to read Fahrenheit 451 in school. Bradbury is a magical writer, and yes he does overwrite but F451 also has lots of important things to say. Still, my favourite Bradbury is The Illustrated Man which expresses a sense of wonder about space travel years before it was even thought to be possible. And just for once we have a shared experience – Ex Machina, which I saw and greatly enjoyed some years ago.


  10. “…Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, which I’ve decided not to finish. I started the book last night and found the writing overblown — no wonder I struggled to follow it in 9th grade.”

    Yes!!! I struggled through Bradbury’s writing in Fahrenheit 451. I’m glad I pushed through so I can say I’ve read it, but it was not an enjoyable read for me. I tried another one of his books, The Halloween Tree, and it was much of the same. I doubt I’ll ever pick up another one of his books…


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