Monday, July 23, 2012

After comments ranging from "It's really a beautiful love story" to "I found it oddly fascinating" I finally gave in and read the chart topper getting all the buzz, Fifty shades of Grey.  I found it to be neither a love story, nor fascinating, but I won't go into detail.  Suffice it to say, I won't be reading the second and third books any time soon. 

Instead, I decided to take a look back and re-read one of the first moden novels to cause a ruckus, Peyton Place.  While Grace Metalious's novel would hardly be considered scandelous now, it surely brought taboo subjects into the open and prompted discussion.  There's pre-marital sex, children born out of wedlock, affairs, gossip, incest, murder....basically the seven deadly sins packed between the covers of this now innocent work.  When it was first published in 1956, Peyton Place unbottoned the straightlaced New England of pupular imagination, revealing the secret anatomy of small town America. 

For me, this is a far better book.  The reasons are many.  There is a lot to be said about the author's skill level when it comes to plot development, sentence structure, and the rhythm of the story arc.  She's pretty good it - not in a clasical sense -  in a pop fiction sense, Metalious did a great job.  But, it's her characters that resonated for me.  She has populated Peyton Place with people we know, our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends and our enemies.  Sure, many of them are sterotypes, like the druken step father who takes adgantage of his beautiful step-daughter, but still, we know enough about these people to have some feeling for them.  We want Rodney to be safe when he goes off to war.  We want the doctor to do make an ethical choice and help exhonerat Selena from a murder charge.  We know there is something sizzling beneath the folds of Allison's tightly cinched shirtwaist dress, and we wait for it to burst.
In short, to use a theatre phrase - less is more.  I wonder if Peyton Place would be bolder if it were written today.  I hope not. 


I can't let the week pass without acknowledging the event in Colorado the past weekend.  Do whatecer it is you do personally in these situations...but, please, do something.

  These events always cause us to stop and take stock, which is not a bad thing.  But we tend to look at societal flaws as the answer.  Have we been desensitised to voilence?  Are  gun control issues at the heart of the matter?  Should video games, comic books, and rap music take the balme?  And what about the breakdown of the family - is there culpablity there?  All good questions, and all things worth examining.  But we have to be careful about saying this is a systemic problem.  One person did this and we need to consider the source of the stress, the anger, the desperation  and the illness that brought about this dramatic action. We may never get the answers we want. Our country will spend some time in the next weeks processing this, and hopefully we will move forward  confident that most of the time, most of us are surrounded by good people doing good things.