Horrible stories with amazing music

WARNING: SO MANY SPOILERS

Not so much horrible as in “badly told”, like, say Love Never Dies or Batman vs. Superman. More like, this is horrendous, why would someone write a musical about this? Take, for instance, the works of Rodgers and Hammerstein. You’ve got The Sound of Music,, an uplifting story about an Austrian family escaping Nazi Occupation. And then you have the musicals R&H based on 20th century plays like Green Grow the Lilacs and Liliom.

That’s Oklahoma and Carousel, you guys.

 

Oklahoma-DVDcover Carousel_film_1956

I grew up on these musicals. They both had the honor of having Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae as their stars, so my mother and I watched them constantly on the weekends. I didn’t really pay much attention to them as a child; they had great music.

Enter adulthood (I was probably in my early twenties), and my first time watching Carousel since I was eleven or twelve.

From Carousel
Here is Billy and Laurie (shit, is she Laurie or is Laurie in Oklahoma?). The night they meet, singing “If I Loved You.” Basically, they’re both in a bind and decide the best way to get over the fact that they’ve both gotten fired is to go get married.

Saywhatnow?!

I have since watched it several times, and I just can’t get over the fact that this is a show I’ve watched since birth. I can only say the only reason my mother let me watch a movie about an abusive asshole of a man who fell on his own knife (TUCKED INTO THE FRONT OF HIS PANTS! Billy Bigelow is not very smart) while trying to get money for his unborn child (his heart was in the right place, I guess?) was the music. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is probably her favorite song, ever, so take the good with the bad, huh?

I don’t know what to say about Oklahoma. The music is catchy, I guess, but it might have just been force of habit. The love story is cute, and the ballet is beautiful. Until it’s destroyed by the dark imagery of Jud Fry. The sexual predator. No, seriously. Even if what was left in the 1955 movie was more of a Rebel Without A Cause-style misunderstood antihero, Jud Fry was intent upon committing sexual violence. Rod Steiger might not have been able to pull it off, but here’s the song they cut, performed fantastically by Shuler Hensley:

Yeah. It’s probably best I didn’t grow up listening to that song. Though learning “I Caint Say No” as a child was probably not the best thing for my development, but you know.

Lest you believe I am prejudiced solely against good ole R&H, let’s talk Fiddler on the Roof.

Topol always reminded me of my dad growing up. He’s always had the beard and they look the same when they smirk. I dunno.

I turned this movie on just a few hours ago during the denouement. The townspeople had already been informed that the Tsar has evicted them. They have already sung “Anatevka.” Tevye and his family are packing things up to leave. He has already said “Maybe that’s why we always wear our hats.” All of the happy times have ended. The Russian Jews are leaving the Ukraine. They are moving west, some to Palestine, some to Europe, some to America. Their children may suffer persecution and prejudice to an even further extent than they might have ever seen in the Ukraine. We don’t know. Hope is gone, all is lost. The wandering people must wander again.

THIS IS HOW THIS MUSICAL ENDS.

At the beginning, Tevye and his family are happy. Poor, but happy. Based on Sholem Aleichem’s Yiddish stories (which I have not read…bought twice, but never picked up), Fiddler on the Roof tells the story of Tevye, Golde, and their three eldest daughters, each finding romance in their own way. Each romance takes a little more out of Tevye, until he just can’t take it. Beyond even this, the period is a rocky time for Jewish communities in what is now the Ukraine. The wedding celebration of the eldest daughter is interrupted by a needless (though thankfully bloodless) pogrom. While revolution sparks in other parts of the kingdom, military-sanctioned violence towards Jews becomes more of a thing. And, well, I’ve already told you where that leads.

The difference between Fiddler and the R&H gems of the forties, of course, is that the shit that sucks is shown to suck. Oklahoma and Carousel are both these cheery movies (both involving deaths! Caused by the main characters! Nobody dies in Fiddler!) that end happily, with themes that nobody should ever want instilled in their children. Mrs. Bigelow apparently can’t be happy for the fifteen years after her husband dies, until a ghost whispers into her ear. And Curly and Mrs. Curly are “Soon to be livin’ in a brand new state”, after a citizens’ court decides that Curly is not guilty of killing a man who “fell on his knife” because he’s supposed to get married and the judge is too far away. Or something.

It takes a village to hide a murder, you guys.

These are just the three that I have been thinking of, out of many many awful stories featuring beautiful music, mainly because I watched Carousel on a whim a week or so ago and had that same visceral reaction that I always forget about. But I always come back to it, mainly for this:

I could listen to that a million times, no matter how misogynist it is.

Sigh. Musicals, man.

Challenge Check-In #1: Clean Your Reader

There are ten days left in the Clean Your Reader Challenge, which was for the first quarter of 2016. Because my combined collection of unread ebooks numbers in the several hundreds, My goal was to clean up my Nook app, which was only about 15 books strong in the unread category.

I’m down to 2! Woohoo!

But this isn’t because I’ve been reading them. I did read a few. But I took my own advice about weeding (or in this case, archiving, because I still feel weird straight out deleting them) and got rid of several that were no longer interesting to me. I was also honest with myself about whether I would want to read them in the future.

So basically, I Kondo’ed my Nook app.

I read the descriptions of books that I had bought years ago. Sometimes, I even read the first chapter; Sovay, for instance, had a really interesting premise, but really polar reviews on Goodreads. So I read the first chapter. Bored. To. Tears. Bye bye, Sovay!

When I’d finished, I was down to six books that I really thought I might be interested in reading. And I was finally able to sit down and read Uninvited. Varying circumstances made it so it took me several weeks to get through the first fifty pages (ugh. Deadlines.), but when I started reading it in earnest again, there was nothing that could stop me.

Well, besides sleep and dinner plans.

(But seriously. I will have to write a whole post just breaking down my feelings on Uninvited and its sequel, Unleashed.)

When I went back to visit the app once again, I took a good look at the five books remaining. And did more of that book-Kondo thing. Do I really have a strong desire to hear this story? Have I tried before and made the decision to come back to it? Maybe someone told me I had to read it?

I archived a couple more, and now I’m down to two unread books on my Nook app, which I am definitely going to read this year, but probably not by the end of March. Both are kind of intense looking and I plan to spend the next ten days enjoying some superfluff.

So I would call this attempt at Clean Your Reader a draw. It wasn’t a total bust; I cleaned it out good. But it wasn’t a win, considering I only actually read two of the books.

Next stop, iBooks.

What was it I said the first time?

Oh right. Hypatia help me.

Out of My Zone: Captive Prince

(Warning: This is vaguely spoilerish for the first book in the trilogy.)

I read very little fantasy. I read even less character-driven, court intrigue fantasy.

I do, however, love slow-burn, forever to build relationships, enemies-to-lovers stories, and M/M romance.

Captive PrincePrince's GambitKings Rising

So when I discovered that while Captive Prince was going to be in that first set of categories, it would also live in the second set, I was all for it. I just didn’t expect to be ready to devour the entire trilogy when I wasn’t going to have the chance to do so right away. (Not because I couldn’t have just bought two of them if I wanted, but because I am still trying to retain the base tenets of my version of Read My Own Damn Books…which I’m actually not doing very well, so far.) I have been getting more books from the library recently (it works well for my urgent reading needs) so I’m waiting for the second and third.

Here’s a quick, vaguely spoilerish rundown of the story:

Damen is a prince. His father has just died, and his (illegitimate) older brother has taken the crown, declaring Damen dead. Of course, he’s not dead, he’s been captured (by said brother) and sent as a gift to the Crown Prince of the neighboring kingdom, with whom Damen’s kingdom has been at war for several years. Damen even killed the former Crown Prince on the battlefield several years ago, an occurrence that wins the Prince Damen no love from Crown Prince Laurent. But every story needs a parrying twist: No one in Laurent’s country knows that Damen is actually that Damen. They think he is just a solder the current king has just sent there to be broken. And of course, since this fantasy universe has not yet reached the sophistication needed for portraits, cameras, or smartphones, nobody knows what Prince Damianos, called Damen by his near and dear, looks like. So there’s that.  This is not your average M/M romance where everything gets resolved in the end and everyone is happy. Honestly, it probably shouldn’t even be considered a romance, based on the first book. This is an alternate world with slaves (some of whom were trained as sexual “pets”) and very Medicean court intrigue. This story does contain a bit of underlying sexual tension; but mostly it’s about learning who these people are and how they fit into this political structure.

Damen and Laurent are not people I would find myself liking as real people, but each of them is a bit of my kryptonite as problematic romantic heroes. The problem, of course, is that they each have the PRH trait, so there’s double facepalming involved; one of our heroes is the betrayed, hardened slave-prince with a hidden heart of gold, while the other is the quiet, cold, not-slave-prince with secrets…and also maybe also a hidden heart of gold? I don’t know yet. We’ll see.

There are a lot of things that people have problems with being portrayed in this book; and those people have a right to their opinions. I would never say that the slavery, rape, and torture either mentioned or referred to in this book are something that I find “sexy” or anything close to it. It’s all pretty fucking awful, actually. The varying nuances of the mental and biological inclinations of pets and lords alike are all very human, and the way they are perpetuated in a society built on slavery is…more than awful, even in its pretty package. But it is an incredibly well written book in which the author managed to make me interested in people I didn’t like doing things I wouldn’t usually care about.

Win for everyone.

Now here’s hoping book two won’t become too Stockholm Syndromey.

February Check-In: Kevin Price Made Me Do It

February was kind of a light month. I finished ten books in total. Two were audiobooks, two were part of my newest writing gig (more about that later), and the rest were either carry-overs from January, holds that finally came in, or books I selected for the Read Harder Challenge on Book Riot. There were some really good books in that month, including Beverly Jenkins’ ForbiddenChimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feministsand Alyssa Brugman’s Alex as WellAmong others, obviously.

Alex as well We Should All Be Feminists Forbidden Cover

I realized at the last call for Best Comics We Read in February on the Panels back channels that I didn’t read any comics this month.

Whoops.

I enjoyed every book I read, but my reading during the second half of the month suffered from a bit of a deterrent.

And their names were Kevin Price and [insert Fandom name, usually Connor] McKinley.

Here’s the story:

On February 18, five books into the month, I saw The Book of Mormon (on tour, not on Broadway, sadly). And it was amazing. I’d heard several of the songs before, (I’d performed several of the songs before!) but I wasn’t completely familiar with how they all came together. And, crudeness and all, I loved every minute of it.

You should listen to it.

There was an occurrence during the last song that got my fanfiction-reading always-OT3-anywhere curious: Nabalungi was between Elders Price and Cunningham, and was holding a hand each. This wasn’t during the curtain call for bows, this was during a dance number. Guess who zeroes in on it and wonders if other people have done the same? The question plagued me for a day. Were others interested in the possibilities? Had anyone (besides my BFF, to whom I had mentioned it almost immediately upon making the discovery) seen just what I had?

According to AO3, nobody had.

They had other pairings in mind.

Or more, they had another pairing in mind: Elder Price and the ever-helpful Elder McKinley.

(Originally posted on Tumblr: http://classysushi.tumblr.com/post/8965381182/oh-elder-mckinley)

I hadn’t even considered that the whole damn two hours of the show. Partly because I didn’t really read Kevin Price as any kind of sexual being, let alone a bi- or homosexual one. And actually, some of the stories reflected that. While “biromantic asexual” was not actually a tag I ever saw, there was at least one instance in which that was likely the characterization. There were even a few instances in which Kevin was demisexual. But the majority of the stories featured Kevin being very much just straight out homosexual. Sometimes out in combination with distancing himself from the Church in Uganda, sometimes very much closeted and suffering psychologically from the events that occur in the latter half of the show. And sometimes there’s just ridiculous fluff from either during the Uganda mission or back in the States. Sometimes there are AU stories, but I wasn’t particularly interested in Concert Choir AU or Boy Scouts AU.

This is to say, my “readerly productivity” went down for a bit in the second half of the month. I’ve been reading books the past week or so, but I still have the urge to go look for a new story.

I know how this goes. I have gone through this pattern before. I’ll binge for a few days, then go for something new every few days, and then I’ll occasionally go back and see what’s going on. But I’ve been really focusing on the published stuff, just because I look at it in my house and on my devices all the time and think: “Fuck. I really need to read more of these.” So somehow, my subconscious kept me not interested in any of my fandoms, even when I’ve gotten updates on stories I’ve been reading for years.

Because books.

Onward.