Belle Cantrell and Sissy LeBlanc

It was the book cover.  I kept seeing it in the bookstore, and finally had to buy The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlancand start reading.  I was pleased that from the start, her story was as captivating as the cover.

Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc cover

Then I read The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell.  Just as captivating.

Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell cover

Then I passed the books on to my mom, who also enjoyed them.  Then she passed them on.  This was about 12 years ago, and I’ve just requested them from our library so I can read them again.

Sissy LeBlanc would have been about 5 years older than my mom.  The author’s summary sets the stage:

“It’s a steamy June afternoon in Louisiana, circa 1956, and Sissy LeBlanc is sitting on her front porch….  She’s been living in stifling old Gentry since the day she was born and trapped in a sham of a marriage to PeeWee LeBlanc since she was only seventeen. In short, she’s fed up, restless, and ready for an adventure. Sissy just never imagined temptation would come into her life that breathless summer day as she sat smoking on her porch swing. For although she may have been fixated on the taut muscles of the lineman shimmying down the telephone pole across the street, she hadn’t allowed herself to imagine that he’d be none other than her high school sweetheart, Parker Davidson, who left town fourteen years before without so much as a wave good-bye. But suddenly, here he is, leaning in for a kiss that will stir up more excitement than Sissy could ever have imagined…”  (From Goodreads)

In June 1956, when Sissy’s story opened, Elvis Presley’s first studio album would have been released just three months earlier.


Then there was Sissy’s grandmother, Belle Cantrell, who would have been about the age of my mom’s grandmother (my great-grandma).

“Welcome to the world of beautiful, irrepressible Belle Cantrell, years before she becomes grandmother to Sissy LeBlanc….. It is 1920, prohibition is in full swing, women are clamoring for the vote — and in the little town of Gentry, Louisiana, narrow-minded intolerance is on the rise. Sent to jail for swimming in an indecent bathing costume with a group of suffragists, Belle Cantrell knows her behavior broke the rules. But sometimes — most of the time — she has to twist the rules a little, because they all say the same thing: “Don’t.”

A sexy, sassy story of murder, adultery, romance, bigotry, and regular church attendance, with laugh-out-loud humor and a cast of zany, endearing characters you won’t forget, The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell is a big comic love story . . . and much more.”  (From Goodreads.)

What I most specifically remember about both books was that the social issues of the day weren’t glossed over.  They were a real, and sometimes sobering part of the story.  I’ve forgotten most of both stories, which is why I want the experience of reading them again.


The author, Loraine Despres, has only published these two fiction novels.  I wish she would write some more fiction novels in the vein of Sissy and Belle.  But hey, she’s famous and quite accomplished, even if you haven’t heard of her.  According to her bio, she penned the ‘Who Shot J.R.?‘ episode of DALLAS!  I think Sissy and Belle would make good TV movie characters as well.

A new ‘Rebecca’ movie is coming.

In 1940 the Alfred Hitchcock version of Rebecca, starring Lawrence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, won the Oscar for Best Picture.  The full movie is available on YouTube.

In 1962, an hour-long TV version was produced, starring James Mason and Joan Hackett.  It did a surprisingly good job of capturing the story, I thought.

In 1979, Rebecca was made into a three-part miniseries, that aired on PBS.  There isn’t a trailer on YouTube, but this is better–the first 9 minutes of the miniseries.  This was my introduction to Rebecca.  I was instantly captivated.  After watching the miniseries, I looked up the book and read it.  Then I read more books by Daphne Du Maurier.

In 1997, Rebecca was again made into a PBS miniseries, with Charles Dance as Maxim and Diana Rigg as Mrs. Danvers.  It’s on YouTube.

Now Netflix has commissioned a remake of the movie, to star Lily James and Armand Hammer.  Multiple publications have reported the news.  No word yet on a release date, or who will portray Mrs. Danvers.  I’ll be watching.

My unabashed praise for the book:

If ‘Rebecca’ the movie looks intriguing, I highly recommend checking out the book, and Dame Daphne Du Maurier’s other books.   Here are a few I’ve enjoyed:

  • The King’s General
  • Jamaica Inn
  • My Cousin Rachel
  • Frenchman’s Creek

All of the books I’ve listed except The King’s General (I think) have been made into movies; like Rebecca, more than once.

If none of the above-mentioned works look familiar to you, surely this one will.  Dame Du Maurier wrote The Birds.

The Birds scared me to death as a kid.  Thank goodness I didn’t know the connection to Rebecca, because if I did, I never would have watched or read Rebecca.

Now back to Rebecca

To my delight, Rebecca the novel came in at #25 in the ‘Great American Read’ Top 100 reader’s poll for 2018.  My personal copy, the 1939 Doubleday edition:

RebeccaRebecca2bRebecca1b

Menabilly Estate in Cornwall, UK, where Dame Du Maurier lived and raised her family, and where many of her stories (including Rebecca) are based, now offers lodging for visitors.  This is near the top of my travel bucket list.

IMDB movie links —

Daphne Du Maurier book list on Goodreads

 

Six Updates on Things I Wrote About in 2018

Just for fun, here is what has happened with some of the things I wrote about over the last year.

1.

Our historic ballpark is gone.

The entrance to our 84-year old ballpark looked like this in September, when they announced it would be torn down.

WP_20180903_003 a

They first tore the grandstand down.  Here is the site in November, when only the box office and entry gate remained.  Now those are gone too, and it’s a big flat dirt field.

stadiumtorndown2 RSR

stadiumtorndown b RSR

In 2020, we are supposed to have a new ballpark in its place.

2.

I finished reading “Sticky Fingers”.

Sticky fingers cover

After my blog post about the book, it took a couple of renewals from the public library, but eventually I finished the book.  It is a well written book about a repulsive character.  It was a repulsive read to the end.  It made me want all of those hours back that I’d spent over the years reading Rolling Stone magazine.

The soiling of Page 393.

As I was pushing on to finish the book, a bad thing happened.  I took the book with me to the movie theater to read while waiting for the movie to start.  I bought a little bag of popcorn.  Too late, I realized the bag was leaking butter.  I soiled the library book on possibly the most important page, and maybe the only important page of the entire book.

Page 393 a w RSR

When I returned it to the library, I confessed and showed them the page.  I’m waiting to find out if they are going to bill me for the book.  They certainly are within their rights to ask me to pay for it.  Because I was up front with them, and the stain was confined to a couple of pages (it bled through to the next page), they will not ask me to pay for a replacement book.  Lesson learned!  Have I mentioned how much I ❤ our library?  Well, this is just the latest reason.

3.

The electric blanket needs another repair already.

Thanks to the foster pup, aka “Jaws”.

Chewed plug aw RSR

4.

The pepper plant is still growing.  

The Poblano pepper plant that I’d planted and tended outdoors all summer, is now in a pot on the enclosed porch in the south sun.  It gets cold on the porch but has stayed above freezing.  When the sun is shining, the room can get above 70°.  Three peppers are growing on the plant, albeit very slowly.  I may be waiting all winter for a harvest of three peppers.

Outdoors vs Indoors:

 

Indoors

5.

Another Coco dress is in the works.

Here are numbers 1 and 2.

 

Sneak preview of #3:

Yellow Coco aw RSR

6.

I’ve made a shell from the 1937 pattern making instructions

 

and it fits.

IMG_20190101_160201865a w RSR

 


Aaand another holiday season is in the books.  One of my favorite holiday songs goes from reflective to angry to a call for hopefulness.  It sums up the end of the holiday season the way I feel it–looking back on the joyous gatherings of family and friends, and looking forward to the new year.

“And so I skate, across the Thames, hand in hand, with all my friends.  And all the things that we planned…

“Goddamn this government, will they ever tell me where the money went?  Protesters march out on the street, as young men sleep amongst the feet.”

“The end of Christmas day, when there is nothing left to say, the years go by so fast, let’s hope the next beats the last.”

 

 

Sticky Fingers–what I’ve been reading

Though I’m only halfway through this book, I’m ready to write my thoughts.  Maybe I’ll finish the book, and maybe there will be a ‘Part 2’ of my review.  But it’s just as likely that I won’t have anything further to say about it.

Sticky fingers cover

Great job by the writer, Joe Hagan, on detailing the life of Jann Wenner, the long-time head of Rolling Stone magazine.  Hagan held his nose and dug deep, aired out the smoke and weeded through the hype and delusions to reveal the actual person.  How the book came to be is almost a part of the story now:  Hagan was selected by Wenner to do his biography.  Hagan was given access to Wenner’s lifetime of files and writings, and had Wenner’s blessing to talk to anyone in Wenner’s past.  (Well, except the things I found out when reading that he didn’t consent to.)  Then, when Wenner didn’t like the book because it made him look bad, he withdrew his support for the book…which no doubt has added to the book’s intrigue.  “Well played,” I say as I roll my eyes.

Wenner comes across from his earliest years, as a cheater, user, backstabber and bully; and at the same time impulsive and pitiful.  I don’t want to retell stories that you can read in the book, so here is my general characterization of Wenner:

Think of a person who doesn’t bring a dish to a potluck dinner, then goes through the line first, and takes big helpings of the best food, and then doesn’t eat it all, criticizes the cooks, and knows no one will call him out for any of it.  Then he’ll do the same thing at the next potluck dinner, and the next.  While those around him graciously refrain from confronting him about his unacceptable behavior, he has moved on and is pronouncing himself to be a food critic, and invites the biggest names in gourmet cooking to cook for him in return for feedback and ‘promotion’.  Hungry for publicity, the cooks play along with him, when the whole time he’s driven not by the professional he’s held himself out to be, but by his fan boy desires for selfies with celebrities.  It’s pure absurdity.

We needed something better than what Rolling Stone magazine was from the start.  It was a publication that filled a void and for that reason, couldn’t fail.  Willing investors could always be found when Wenner’s reckless spending caused instability; which was a continuous state of affairs.  It didn’t hurt the bottom line that the writers and staff often weren’t paid as promised.  Wenner hired many people who were beginners, or were down and out, and not in a position to hold him accountable when he failed to make good on promises,…like pay for work done.  The magazine’s identity and credibility were doomed from the start, in the hands of an impulsive druggie fan boy.  From the start, he doctored articles and reviews to suit his desire to hurt or help friends and associates.  By maintaining its place in that generation’s music culture, the magazine occupied turf that could have otherwise been held by a legitimate publication that observes certain standards of journalism.

Music fans and music artists also should have something more legitimate than what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was when he controlled it.  Here I’m resisting the urge to rant further about the damage done to this institution, because honestly, rock and roll at its most basic is anti-institutionalization and anti-establishment.  Just because someone latched onto a tourism business opportunity and borrowed the rock and roll label, doesn’t make it rock and roll, or a hall of fame.

By the way, ‘Jann’ isn’t his real name.  His parents named him Jan.  He added the extra ‘n’ to appear cool.

I appreciated reading the professional critics’ reviews of the book on the Amazon page, almost as much as the book itself.  And there are a lot of reviews quoted there.  Lots of critics wanted their say about this book, or the subject.  For some reason, the book empowered journalists and critics to come out and say what they really think about the guy.  I guess I’d ask each of them why they felt the need to wait until now.  This biographer did excellent work; with a pitiful subject.

Where to find the book:

Things look brighter from here:  I’ve just been notified by the library that my reserved copy of “Thanks a Lot Mr. Kibblewhite: My Story” by Roger Daltrey is now available for checkout.

Thanks a Lot Mr Kibblewhite

So that is my incentive to finish up with Sticky Fingers.  

Paris, someday soon.

In my mind, I have my day-trip to Paris all planned.  I’ll take an early train from London or Amsterdam, and spend the day seeing the sights on foot–the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Seine; and eat at a sidewalk cafe, and then catch the night train back.

I’d like to visit the Beat Hotel

And the Boulevard de la Madeleine

This book, Fall Irmgard, has strengthened my resolve to make the trip.  It is the only book I’ve ever won in a Goodreads giveaway, and lucky me, I won an exceptionally good one.  It is the first published novel by Rand Charles.Fall Irmgard2 a RSR

The story took place in occupied Paris in April 1941, a few months before the US entered WWII.  A young American woman named Addie Bridges, who had been working in Paris and loving it, was reluctantly trying to get back home while leaving France was still possible.  The German occupiers were getting in her way at every turn, while Parisians had all they could handle just trying to endure the Nazi occupation and keep their lives and livelihoods intact.  The book was a long, slow, captivating read.  The author enabled me to effortlessly visualize the scenes–the settings and the mannerisms of each character at every encounter.  Highly recommend for readers interested in that period in history.

Meanwhile over in the sewing corner, I’m trying to figure out what to make with this Paris-themed fabric:  Dress, skirt, curtains, or all three; … andIMG_20180720_071127065_LL b panel RSR

I’m savoring Paris-inspired music.

 

And Never Let Her Go

The difference between this and any other Ann Rule book, is that something made me pick this one up at the bookstore, take a quick look through it, buy it and read it.  Ann Rule has done important work in writing books about stalkers and murderers who outwardly appeared to be leading ordinary lives among us.  I find the books too haunting to read.  But something about this story made me want to know what happened.

And Never Let Her Go

As I read further into this book, I began wondering why I had never heard of this story on the news.  The Delaware Governor’s beautiful secretary goes missing and then the murderer turns out to be a well-connected, married lawyer from a wealthy family, well-known in the region.

The news story may not have reached me in real time in 1997, but in 2000, this book did a thorough, careful job of helping me get to know these people.  Anne Marie was tall, slender, kind, fun loving and beautiful.  Her doom was being at her desk when this man came to the Governor’s office for a meeting.  He pursued her the way an experienced man pursues a trusting young person.  He was practiced at cheating on his wife, and cheating on his girlfriends, one of whom was the wife of one of his law partners.  Before long Ann Marie was trying to figure out how to leave him.  That’s when he turned on the other type of manipulation, in which he made her think she owed him.  He stalked her as well.  When those tactics stopped working and he sensed she was getting away, he murdered her.  With the help of one of his brothers, he dumped her body at sea.

Anne Marie kept a diary, which would seem to make an open-and-shut case.  But no; it was anything but that.  When he was arrested and prosecuted, he manipulated family and friends from jail; trying to get them to lie for him.  He paid a thug to break into another girlfriend’s house to scare her into lying for him.  Meanwhile, he was setting her up to take the fall for his crime.

Maybe I was drawn to this book because I was close to Anne Marie’s age, and worked with some suits who thought they had perfected the double life.  I don’t know.  When I finish a book, I usually pass it on.  The ‘keepers’ that remain in my possession, take up less than a single shelf in my bookcase.  This is one of the keepers.

Read and watch more:  

Book:  There was another book written about Anne Marie’s murder, titled ‘Summer Wind‘.  It is a shorter book, but also did an excellent job telling the story.

Newspaper articles:  The Delaware News Journal recently did a story marking the 20-year anniversary of the murder of Anne Marie.   https://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/2017/11/15/thomas-capano-convicted-murdering-anne-marie-fahey-and-conviction-how-happened-one-turn-after-anothe/851736001

That newspaper story links to this in-depth report on the case and several key individuals.  https://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/2017/11/15/20-years-after-capano-arrest-juror-breaks-silence/839587001

Movie:  Ann Rule’s book was made into a TV movie, also titled ‘And Never Let Her Go‘.  It starred Mark Harmon.

The movie is available on DVD https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000UAE7J0

I couldn’t find an official movie trailer, but here is a collection of scenes from the movie.

The movie contained a clip of this beautiful song, which made me search for the song and buy the album.

Twenty years before #metoo, and the outing of Matt Lauer and Bill Cosby (two of a growing list), we all knew there were people among us in our daily lives, shrouded in respectable suits and positions, underneath which they honored nothing but their desire at any given moment.  They thought they had somehow been endowed with an entitlement to take what they wanted, by criminal means if necessary, and have their colleagues and subordinates help keep it all in the closet.  They are still out there among us.  Don’t be their next target, and don’t be an enabler.  My wish is that Anne Marie never be forgotten.

I ran; I sewed; I read

I ran.  

This morning was my fave annual 10k trail run.  There were muddy creek crossings. STD creek crossing 2 2018

STD muddy hand

STD muddy legs

There was a dam to scale.  It was ‘dam’ high and steep.  STD dam wide shotSTD dam

And then came the descent.  STD dam top view

I stayed on my feet for the descent, but in my mind I was one misstep away from doing a spectacular tumble a la Gloucestershire Cheese Roll-style.

At the race finish, a little mud wasn’t going to stop me from savoring a delicious juicy orange.  STD orange

I sewed.  

When getting dressed for the race this morning, I noticed my HRM (heart rate monitor) was way too loose.  I cinched it down to its smallest, but it was still too loose.  The several-years-old elastic was giving out.  So, I quickly threaded the sewing machine with black, and cut a big 9-inch section of elastic out of the band.

Garmin strap repair 1

Then I sewed the shortened band pieces back together.  Garmin strap repair 2

I put the shortened HRM back on, and it was still too big, so I took it off, cut out another 6 inches.  And sewed it together again.  Then it fit, and I was off to the races…literally.  Garmin strap repair 3

I read.

Back home after the race, I plopped myself onto the couch and re-dedicated myself to reading A Confederacy of Dunces.  I’d started it long ago, and liked it, but then set it aside, forgotten.  Now it is one of the books in the Great American Read list, and it is my choice for the Read.

A Confederacy of Dunces

 

Can I do this?

I have to.  Every so often I need to find a new strategy for moving out the old and unnecessary stuff.  Where does it all come from?  I swear, I accumulate stuff even while on a purging mission.  Figuring out a preventative strategy, that keeps the stuff from entering my house in the first place would be the ultimate accomplishment.  Until then, I’m stuck with regular purging missions.  This looks like the one to try.  [40 Bags in 40 Days]  According to the ’40 Bags’ plan, I have until March 1 to form my strategy of purging a bag of stuff for each day of Lent.  Should I really wait that long?

Clutter is everywhere in my life at the moment.  In every room of my house, in my email inbox(es), in my ‘social media life’, in my office, and in my car.  My yard needs more of a cleanout before spring. And then there is my sewing project pile that is massively out of control.

Even my donation box is out of control.

donation-pile-rsr

It is this book.  Which I realized is just more clutter.  Sigh.  I did read it and get inspired…that year.  Sadly, there are some more ‘decluttering’ books further down in the box from other years.  This year I resolved to purge the decluttering books, rather than adding another one to the stack.  This way, others can benefit from them now, as I no doubt did at the time.

donation-pile-closeup-rsr

Everything in the box will go to Goodwill or the DAV, except for two items that will each go to separate drop off sites.

This knitting machine that I’d wanted my whole life has been the source of several experimenting attempts, but made only one complete garment in the entire two decades I’ve owned it.  *embarrassed*  It is going to the local non-profit creative studio.

knitting-machine-rsr

The warm boots will go straight to the homeless diner.  Someone needs a pair of warm boots.  Today.  boots-donation-rsr

Cleaning out is always a raw, unfiltered trip down memory lane.

“This shirt is the one I lent you,
And when you gave it back
It had a rip inside the sleeve
Where you rolled your cigarettes
It was the place I put my heart
Now look at where you put a tear
I forgave your thoughtlessness
But not the boy who put it there.”

It’s the start of the year, when a lot of purging goes on.  Very best wishes with your own projects.

Libraries, dresses, deer, rain and a rainbow.

This past weekend, I attended a meeting in the ‘Carnegie Building’, in the town where I grew up.  The building was the public library when I was a little girl.  I was sooo upset when they built the new, big modern library and closed this one.  That was years and years ago, when I had to ride my tricycle 10 miles uphill both ways, to get to the library.

(Image source.)Carnegie Library Lawrence

This was my first time in the building since it was the library.  These days, it is a meeting and reception venue.

After the meeting, I shopped the lovely downtown, just one street over from the library.  I stopped in a cool vintage clothing store, and came home with two great finds.  This madras dress will be excellent for bicycling.  I had to take up the hem about 3 inches so it won’t look dowdy with my proportions.

Before–with the new hemline marked with the ironMadras vintage dress-w

AfterMadras dress shortened-w

I wish I could wear the longer length.  But I’m not tall enough, and nothing will change that.

And then this totally awesome gem!    Vintage dress green & daisies

It needs no alteration…, as long as I don’t gain a single ounce.

On getting home that night, I did a run/walk on my 3.5 mile loop.

There was a rain shower in the distance.Rain cloud-w

Deer in my favorite cultivated field.Deer1-arrows
The six deer were hanging out at the edge of the field, but they headed into the trees when they saw me.Deer2

And then as I approached home, a rainbow.Rainbow

Some days are this good.