Sunday, October 21, 2012

Housewives in the Time of Cholera

I should have been in bed hours ago, but I can't bear to sleep while the house is so quiet and I'm alone, so why don't you and I talk?

I asked a friend if she watched the TV show Breaking Bad. No, she responded, she can't handle dark shows, they make her too depressed. She liked the Real Housewives on Bravo. I laughed because my friends are always trying to make me watch the Real Housewives series, but they make me too depressed; I weep for the future of America when I watch the Housewives (sorry, Susie and Noelle.) I'm not sure why shows that are clearly meant to be campy and ridiculous, like the Housewives, sometimes make me sad, and the intense shows, like Breaking Bad, are like Lisa Frank unicorns dancing around my heart, but that's how I feel. When every element of a program is perfection, like it is on Breaking Bad, it's a joy to watch. It's the culmination of an extraordinarily talented group of people producing the best work of their lives. Everything from the performances, the writing, the acting, the production design, even down to the art direction, is masterful.

Take the lighting: when Walter White and his wife Skyler are being open and honest with each other, the lighting in their house is bright and cheerful. When they are lying, or things are complicated, or they simply aren't speaking, the lighting isn't just dark, it's oppressive.

It's a relief to experience a piece of art like Breaking Bad. It's the same feeling you get when you see a Van Gogh in real life, or a Mahler symphony, or the first time you heard The Joshua Tree. When you connect with a piece of art it's almost hard to handle how it vibrates through you. Kinda like meth, right? (I'm guessing. Never tried meth, but I did drink a lot of Diet Cokes in a row this week. Totally the same.)

Love in the Time of Cholera is supposed to be my favorite book, but it's been years since I'd thoroughly read it. When Christy challenged me to discuss it with her (she did not like the book) I decided it was time for a re-read. What if I've read too much in the meantime and it's no longer even in my top 10? Thanks to a cross country flight I'm about 2/3 of the way through Cholera. I'd forgotten how Gabriel Garcia Marquez jolts me. Makes me question everything I've ever written (discarding it all, immediately.) The simultaneous thrill of beauty and connection, tangled with the despair of knowing you'll never make anything like it, not if you, or your band of monkeys, banged at a typewriter for a million years.

The truth is that the first time I read Love in the Time of Cholera I couldn't finish it. Not because I was bored, or got distracted, but because I couldn't bear to finish it. I wanted to keep reading it for the first time. I wanted it to last for the rest of my life. Probably the same reason that I've never watched the last episode of Firefly, even though I own the DVDs. Someday I'll watch the last episode and it will be finished and I won't be able to live in it anymore. After I read Gone With the Wind I tried to read Scarlett, the sequel penned by another author. I got about three pages in and dropped the book. Margaret Mitchell's prose is extraordinary (rising above even the ugly early 20th Century racial stereotypes, characterizations, and anachronisms,) and the sequel's simply isn't. The connection broke.

So now it really is time for bed, which is not a piece of art, nor anything I'd watch over and over, but it is a nice place to rest until I have time to read, watch, or listen again. Maybe I'll dream something beautiful.


Emily Foley said...

I've never watched Breaking Bad which is practically sacrilege since I live in New Mexico. Every friend in Albuquerque has some connection to it--they were an extra, they got stuck in a traffic jam because the street was closed for filming, they got their car washed at the same Octopus that was on the show, or they ran into Brian Cranston at the airport. They're currently casting extras for the fifth season and requested a little blonde girl with blue eyes. I submitted my daughter's picture because you have to when you have a kid that fits the description perfectly, don't you?

Anyway. I've never read that book, either. But I do know what you mean. It's what I felt like for those 3 minutes in the very middle of East of Eden. Timshel. Life changing.

whitneyingram said...

This reminds me of when I told my friend about "Friday Night Lights" and her and her husband started watching it. I told my husband that they started it and they were loving it and he said, "That bitch...." Bitch because he was so jealous they were going to have the most enjoyable TV to watch for the next few weeks. It's the worst when it's over.

Alicen said...

Oh man. Breaking Bad. Yes. All you said about it. I feel so pathetic that my Sunday nights are just not the same when the season is over. My husband's arms are healing nicely though after the weeks of grabbing intensely. Now I'm going to have to read this book. Yes, Housewives is so far from being artistic I think people may die a little every time they watch it, which is exactly opposite to what art does to a person. If you know what I mean, which it's obvious you do. Hope you had wonderfully colorful dreams!!

Melanie Jacobson said...

I had to quit watching any kind of Housewives because I live in Orange County and it was making me hate everyone. The other versions, like you, make me worry for the future, human decency, etc. I couldn't watch Breaking Bad. It's because I don't do anti-heroes. I watched the first episode, and I was like, "No. I can't." And Love in the Time of Cholera. Hmmm. I could discuss it forever because it's so rich and layered. But I didn't like it or connect to it. I guess I never understood his love for her. It seemed so unfounded on anything, and I guess there's the whole argument that his romantic ideal became the real thing in the end, but . . . I don't know. And he did way too many heinous things in the in-between for me to be on board with him. See feelings re: anti-heroes.

So my cultural arts recommendation this week is the movie Argo. Dug it.

And beyond all of that, I hear what you're saying in the broader view here, about connecting to a piece of art. This is a really dumb example, but honestly, what moves me that way right now is the TV show Parenthood. Every week I'm slightly awed. And the book that most recently made me sit back and go "Wow" was a Sara Zarr novel. I love that there's so much nuanced, complex, awesome art to drink in.

Fig said...

So here's my part of the discussion: loved the writing. So rich, so vivid, GGM does things with words I've never seen anywhere else. I remember feeling like I was tumbling down a bright, brilliant tunnel while reading it.

But when the protagonist (or partial protagonist) is such a bizarre and unapologetic pedophile, I can't hold onto the writing as well. Am I a terrible literary analyst if I can't separate story from writing? Because sometimes I just can't.

Hailey said...

Yes!! RH from any city just makes me feel so, so uncomfortable and sad. I can't do it. I'm so excited that I'm only on season 2 of Breaking Bad--I like to take it slowly.

Hildie said...

Whitney, I feel the same way about Friday Night Lights. I simply can't watch the last three episodes. I never want it to end.

Erin said...

About three years ago, my husband asked me to watch Breaking Bad with him. I watched the first two episodes, and told him I couldn't stomach it. But week after week, he would rave about the show. So, two years later, I decided to try it again. I slogged through the first five episodes, but by episode six, I was hooked. I was more excited about it than my husband was. I talked about it with anyone who would listen. I Facebooked about it. (People would always say things like, "You? Watch that show? But you're such a... good girl." I'm more excited than my husband is about BB now. That last scene of the last last episode we saw gave me goosebumps and nearly made me pee my pants. I've never had a show do that to me before.

Wow. That was tangential. Next time I go to the library, I'll have to look up Love in the Time of Cholera. I've never read it. I've barely even heard of it. (Ducking so as to avoid getting hit.)

Delightful Domestic Science said...

I mourn when a brilliant series or book is over. I read beautiful books at an achingly slow pace for the reason of spinning out the deliciousness.

I haven't watched breaking bad or read cholera but will now.

Thanks for having a brain.

xx Holly

PS have you read "Think" by Lisa Bloom? I thought of it when you mourned the awful housewives show.

Miggy said...

I can relate. Although sometimes (often even?) it's not that it's such a beautiful piece of art it's just that I realize the book/movie/whatever is not my life and that makes me sad. Like in high school when I saw Swing Kids for the first time. Not the most amazing movie ever or anything, but swing dancing in Nazi Germany in the 1940's? I wanted that life!!! Maybe not the Nazi's so much, but even that element adds to the tension and drama of the time. After watching that movie I was depressed for days knowing my life would never be that movie.

Or even the end of The Wonder Years... I've always been drawn to either the 1940's or the 60's/70's so again, knowing I was NEVER going to live in that time period and to see my vicarious time-machine in the form of a TV ending was too much to bear.

OK I'm sounding really melodramatic, but I'm just saying...I get it.

eliana23 said...

You are right. As always. About the book and the show. We just rewatched seasons 1-4 to tide us over till the last bit comes on, and it was fascinating how much more I noticed.
I had to put down ATONEMENT for a while before I could read the second half. I was too worked up.

Bebe McGooch said...

I feel the same way about Housewives. But I'm also not in a position to watch Breaking Bad. Maybe when I'm back on my meds and no longer pregnant! Yeeha!

Amy said...

Yes. Thank you for standing up for art.

Annette Lyon said...

I adore books like that. I haven't read that one--it's hereby on my TBR list!

Vanessa said...

After catching up on all seasons of the housewife shows last year I realized a couple of months ago that I hate them. Hate them and that I had wasted a year of my life. You are not missing out on anything.

Marianne & Clayton said...

Maybe I need to reread LITTOC. Maybe it will improve? I really disliked it the first time, but I often dislike all the things other people adore. Tom's shoes, Florence & the Machine... quinoa?

The writing was extraordinary, but he spent so much time extraordinarily detailing bowel movements, urine smells and sleeping with 12 year olds that I had a hard time rooting for the protagonist. Or almost anyone in the novel.

And the last episode of Firefly isn't that exciting- definitely not a closer. Go ahead and watch it.

Marianne & Clayton said...

Yikes. That sounded ruder than I meant it. If it helps, one of my favorite novels is Tess of the D'urbevilles. And heaven knows that is rife with horrible characters and no hopeless situations. I've had to defend it many times. On a lesser note, I also loved the movie Pitch Perfect and ate a Cup o' Noodles today. Feel free to mock me.

Kerri said...

This is late to the party (seriously late), but I love this post. I didn't love Love in the Time of Cholera, though, so I maybe need to give it another chance, but I know that feeling of holding my breath through beauty and the pain of knowing the moment is inevitably going to end. I felt that way watching and listening to Hilary Hahn with the USO this weekend, and also at the peak of the fall colors, and also in the middle of that deep, long snowstorm last week. That ache is gorgeous and horrible and I want to feel it again and again.

Also, thanks for your comment on my post. When I saw your name on my little blog, I felt like a rockstar was visiting my house. Ha. I really appreciated the links. Validation makes me happy.