Books: The Sound of Gravel and T.V. (the Book)

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

This is a great book.  It is the autobiography of Ruth Wariner,  the daughter of a Polygamist cult leader shot to death by his brother when she was only three months old.  Her mother Kathy married another polygamist, this one an abusive sociopath. Kathy ultimately had 10 children between her two husbands two of whom died during their childhood and a third one was institutionalized with various issues.  Ruth grew up in abject poverty shuttling between despicable living situations in multiple cities in the Southwest and Mexico.  Most of her time was spent in the polygamist enclave of Colonia LeBaron in Mexico founded by her father where she had 39 brothers and sisters across several families.

Ruth’s recounting of her early life is a difficult read but riveting.  Every adult fails her and her siblings.   However, at her core, Ruthie was a survivor and was ultimately responsible for saving her siblings and getting them out of a miserable and dangerous situation.  This story is compelling from the very start and the book is hard to put down.  I don’t know what it is about stories describing cults but this one is fascinating and a page turner.  While she endures one horrific event after another, there is still an enduring love for her mother and siblings that transcends the day to day difficulties.  The fact that Ruth could ultimately receive an education and write such a heartfelt chronicle of her childhood is a testimony to the strength and resilience of her character.  You’ll want to read this book.

TV (the Book) by Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz

This is the latest book by prominent TV Critic Sepinwall and this one is co-authored by another well-known critic Matt Zoller Seitz.  It chronicles the best 100 TV shows ever using a series of somewhat subjective criteria but complicated enough that it takes an entire chapter to describe it.  There are also lists of shows that they liked that didn’t make the final cut either because they weren’t eligible due to the fact they are still in production or because the critics still loved them despite not making the top 100.  This is a book that is only for the die-hard TV fan.  I did not read all of it.  Each show had a description and explanation for why the critics liked it but if it was a show that I will never watch, I didn’t bother to read what was said about it.

I follow Alan Sepinwall closely and have a great deal of respect for his reviews.  He always influences which TV shows I decide to watch.  I do wonder, however,  whether a more diverse voice as his co-author would have made for a different list.  Specifically, a great female critic (like Maureen Ryan) might have had a very different perspective on the rankings.  I found the rankings to be heavily populated by shows that I find to be more “male-oriented” like violent cop shows and some animated ones.  For example, I’m not sure the Simpsons would have been voted the top TV show of all time had a female voice been counted.  Other shows like “Big Love” might have cracked the top 100 and Sports Night may have been ranked higher along with countless other shows that appeal more to women.  The top five shows were:  The Simpsons, The Wire, The Sopranos, Cheers and Breaking Bad.  These would not have been my five shows but it is hard to argue that they aren’t deserving of a high score.

Everyone can argue the order of the rankings based on their personal favorites but the book is an exhaustive read with lots of thoughtful insights into many shows of the past 50 years. The arguments the authors used for their selections are solid and not particularly controversial.   For TV lovers, it will give you ideas for what you might like to binge watch in the future.  For others, it is likely a pass.  I’d love a book from a couple of female critics to see how their rankings might play out.  Until then, I’ll keep this around as a useful reference book.

 

 

 

TV: Orphan Black, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and World of Dance

TV premiers and finales have wound down but we still have a few.

Seasons Premiers: 

Orphan Black (BBC America)

Orphan Black premiered this past week for its fifth and final season and the fate of all our favorites clones is up in the air.  Sarah is wounded and crawling around an island trying to find Cosima.  There is some sort of weird monster lurking on said island in addition to the crazy cult which is holding Cosima hostage. The potential cure for her resperatory disease needs to be injected in her uterine wall so she escapes her cabin to go find it.   Alison and Helena are still camping although Art, with his super dangerous new partner,  captures Alison while Donnie escapes without helping her.  Despite the fact they didn’t get Donnie or Helena, the latter is speared by a piece of wood into her uterus as she tries to escape.  We can’t lose Helena’s babies!  Rachel is now apparently second in command in the bizarre group that runs the commune and offers to inject Cosima saying they need to stay on the island and find a cure for all the clones.

Orphan Black has certainly had its ups and downs over the past 5 seasons and I totally lost the ability to understand what was going on during the season that had the male clone army but now that we are winding down, I hope we get some answers and happy resolutions for the best of the clones.  Tatiana Maslany is so amazing and what she has done with these many characters is groundbreaking.  This show is probably a good summer binge if you haven’t seen it.  I think being able to watch it all at once will make for a better understanding of the crazier plotlines. 

House of Cards (Netflix)

I don’t watch every season of House of Cards all the way through but I thought last years was good so I tuned in this season.  As usual, I didn’t remember what happened 12 months ago but one doesn’t have to in order to get the basic gist of what is going on.  I’m about one-half way through this season and with a crazy sequence of events, Claire is Interim President and she and her husband are manipulating everything in sight in order to make that permanent.  Joel Kinnaman is an effective “villain” trying to prevent that from happening .  Doug Stamper is back with unclear motives – is he the newest bad guy?  If he is, that could make for a most interesting plot-line.

I can see that although the Showrunners of House of Cards wrote and filmed this season well before the 2016 US Presidential election, the stories are eerily similar.  House of Cards is so out there and our real White House is like a dystopian novel.  These two together create an environment where reality and fiction are indistinct from each other.   I’m not sure how long viewers will stay tuned in when entertainment inadvertently becomes a reality show.  The show, with all its fine acting, just isn’t strong enough, in my opinion, to transcend this issue.  Perhaps if it was the best series on TV, people might find this exaggerated dose of reality intriguing but that’s just not the case.  I’ll do a final report when I get through the entire season and hoping for stronger episodes in the second half. 

Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

Ouch, the reviews are in for this season and they are not good.  The entire season takes place over the course of a 3-day prison riot and apparently, nothing works well with this new format. I have watched the first episode and I’m not sure I buy into any of the reactions of the various inmates to their circumstances.  The character development so carefully crafted over the last several years seems to have been abandoned for many of them during this time of crisis at the prison.  Samira Wiley’s Poussey is sorely missed as a character both within the show and for the viewer.  I have always enjoyed OITNB so I will give it at least half of a season but if it is as bad as the reviewers have said, I’m not sure even I can get through that.  More to come on this one. 

World of Dance

I’m not a big reality show person.  I watch the Voice from time to time and I watched So You Think You Can Dance for years until it deteriorated to the point where I just couldn’t watch a couple of summers ago.  I will try it again this summer to see if has gone back to its roots but in the meantime, a new dance show premiered that I thought might have some potential.  World of Dance has Derek Hough, Jay Lo and Ne-Yo as the judges along with Channing Tatum’s wife Jenna as some sort of backstage cheerleader.  I’m not sure what her role is.  At any rate, the show brings dance acts from across the world doing all kinds of dances and divides them into age groups.

I’ve seen a few shows and I’m not very impressed.  Some of the acts are good but others seem picked just because they do something different, not because they are very good.  There is nothing new or particularly innovative here and it can’t compare with the quality we used to see on SYTYCD.  If the latter is even close to its original level when it premiers later this summer, I’ll dump the former in a heartbeat. In the meantime, there are only 10 episodes and hopefully we’ll be to the next level of competition soon and the acts will become stronger.

What I’m streaming this summer:

  • I have started in on a Game of Thrones rewatch but it is slow going and I’m sure I will not have made much progress before the new season premiers on July 16th. Nevertheless, it is fun to be back in Season One amidst the many characters who have long since been killed.
  • My big watch this summer will probably be the Wire. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Movies: I Daniel Blake

 

I Daniel Blake 

I, Daniel Blake won the BAFTA for best British film of 2016 as well as well as the 2016 Palm d’Or at Cannes but has just been released in the US.  It is the story of a blue-collar construction worker, played by Dave Johnson, in Newcastle UK who is on government benefits after having suffered a heart attack.  For some inexplicable reason, the government decides to take him off the benefits despite his doctors telling him he can’t go back to work.  Daniel’s travails as he tries to work within the system to reinstate his benefits will resonate with most viewers –  particularly the hours spent on the phone “on hold” waiting for a representative only to get a bureaucratic response that is useless.  In addition, Daniel, like many in a similar situation, is computer illiterate but forced to apply for benefits on-line.  His mostly unsuccessful attempts as he tries his hardest to do what is asked of him are heartbreaking.

While giving it his all to work within the system, Daniel meets another victim, Katie (played hauntingly by Haley Squires), a single mother of two who has been forced to leave her home in London for a government sponsored apartment in Newcastle.  She is unable to find work and struggles to put food on the table for her kids.  He befriends her and helps fix things around the apartment to help her out. Daniel, a widower with no children, is also friends with his neighbor, a young Black man who is in to selling Chinese sneaker knock-offs out of his car but always looking out for his older mate. The unrelated people form somewhat of a “family”, looking out and caring for one another while life continually delivers them hard knocks.  Katie’s attempts to get a job and better her situation culminate in a devastating scene where she is so hungry that she takes the top of a can of beans in a food bank and tries to get the food in her mouth while she is breaking down.

The Director, Ken Loach has effectively depicted a story of how poor working class people who want desperately to be contributing members of society fail because  the “system” destroys them despite their best efforts.  There is a call-out against what seems to be the privatization of part of the British welfare system at the beginning of the film as a faceless American company “health worker” denies Daniel his benefits without any real understanding of his situation. Apparently, Loach’s political views are far left and his movies represent his perspective.  I Daniel Blake is no exception.  You will come out of this movie exhausted and sad,  questioning not only England’s state sponsored programs but what it must be like in the USA for Vets trying to get medical care via a somewhat similar system.  Although I found the film to be excellent, it is a tough, tough movie to watch – there is no happy ending here.  The themes of resilience and perserverance are prevalent throughout the film but despite a few moments of glory, and even a few comedic ones, the good people are all crushed.

TV: Three Big Finales – The Leftovers, The Americans and Billions.

Series Finales:

 

The Leftovers (HBO)

The Leftovers ended it three season run with a moving and yes, satisfying ending universally heralded by critics as a masterful conclusion to a brilliant final season.  This makes me happy for Damon Lindeloft who was the major force behind the show as he was with “Lost”.  The man who I think is perhaps the best TV creator out there deserved a big win after years of controversy about the Lost finale and he got it.  The Leftovers evolved into perhaps the best TV show of this century and Lindeloft gets much of the credit.

This last season has been a roller coaster ride with Tasmanian sex boat, A sex crazed lion, a machine that can take humans into another dimension, death and resurrection, and parallel universes but in the end, it was a simple love story that prevailed.  As Lindeloft said at the beginning of the series, we will never know why 2% of the world disappeared one fine day – just that they did.  The story is not about them but those that were left behind and how they grappled with the loss while trying to put their lives back together.  The finale focused on one love story, that of Kevin and Nora, and what they had to do to be able to be together.  It also wrapped up several other storylines in a creative way via a short dialogue between Nora and Kevin about what had happened to the people in their lives in the intervening years that they were apart.

Now for the acting.  Carrie Coon is fantastic in this finale “The Book of Nora”.  Her eyes tell it all.  They should win an Emmy by themselves. Her scene with Christopher Eccleston (who also was great in this final season) as her brother Matt just as she is about to “leave this world” is gut wrenching.  Her final scenes with Kevin, played equally brilliantly by Justin Theroux, are some of the finest I have seen in years.  These actors should all win every award out there although I have scant hope that they will.

Every television critic in America has weighed in on the Leftover’s finale today and much more eloquently than I can hope to do so I won’t go into any more detail on it.  In addition, there are numerous interviews with Damon Lindeloft out there to further enhance the understanding and appreciation of this series and the finale.  I’ll just conclude with this.  If you haven’t seen the Leftovers, this summer would be a great time to watch it end to end.  You need to understand that the first season is dark and depressing.  It closely follows the Tom Perrotta book and is a tough slog but necessary to understand the depths of grief created by the departure of 2% of the world’s population.  The critics and audiences bailed from the show in droves after the first season but the critics at least returned when the second and third seasons stormed back in a massive way with creative and less depressing plotlines.  The writers could do this because they were freed from the constraints of the book having finished that story in Season one.  I am going to miss the Leftovers.  It has been a great ride and I can’t wait for Damon Lindeloft’s next series.

Season Finales:

The Americans (FX)

As readers of the blog know, the Americans has been my favorite show for several years (although the Leftovers surpassed it this year for me).  Next season is its last and so in this penultimate season we have been slowly winding down the story of the Jennings.  When I say slowly, I mean slowly and too slowly.  This was not my favorite season.  The show moved between two major story lines; Oleg’s in Russia and the Jennings in America. I didn’t care about what was happening in Russia except for my pure joy at seeing Martha again but the rest wasn’t compelling and took away from the story that I wanted to spend time with.  The new cases for the Jennings, that of the wheat shortage and the Evgheniya/Pasha/Tuan plot did not interest me in the slightest leaving just the plotline of the Jennings struggle with their way of life as the storyline that kept me coming back.

Then there were the teaser side stories.  The writers got me excited about Philip’s son Misha coming to America to find his father only to send him home before a meeting occurs.  Will Misha ever meet his father? Is Stan’s girlfriend a spy (I think so) and if so, who does she work for?  Will we ever know?  Why are we spending so much time on Henry and boarding school?  These plot twists remained unresolved and frustrating for many viewers.  I can only hope that some of them pay off in the final season.

The most compelling development, that of Philip and Elizabeth’s increasing disillusionment with their jobs, sets us up for next season with a twist in the finale.  The Jennings were set to return to Russia when one of Philip’s targets becomes head of a key Soviet department in the US government causing Elizabeth to say that they could not go back as long as they had access to this individual.  Philip clearly cannot continue at the same level he has been operating at and is crushed.  So, we are now 10 episodes from the series finale and I have no idea how it will end other than Stan must find out that his bestie neighbors are Russian spies.  It is difficult for me to believe that the Jennings are going to drag their children to Russia but I guess that could be an option.  I can only hope that the fast-paced spy stories of previous seasons will be part of the final journey.

Although this season of the Americans was one of its weakest, it was still better than 95% of the shows out there.  It is hard for me to contemplate what my TV world will be like with the Leftovers, the Americans and Game of Thrones all coming to an end.  I don’t see any great replacements lining up.

Billions (Showtime)

I finally got through all my remaining episodes of Season 2 of Billions and it was well worth it.  Billions might be the only Showtime series that improved in its second season.  The testosterone battle between Chuck and Axe is not enough to sustain me through an entire season and it took the introduction of Taylor, played by a Gender Non-Binary individual both in real-life and as a character to add depth and complexity to life at Axe Capital.  Maybe a show about a bunch of rich white guys making millions at the expense of everyday investors is appealing to the Wall Street crowd but it doesn’t keep me engaged and the addition of Taylor was great.  Not only was the introduction of this character historical in terms of TV but also to the environment of all the high-end investment firms filled with Ivy-League educated white guys.  Having a brilliant non-binary character trying to find their way in this environment added a lot to the story-line this season.

Another improvement was that the female characters of Lara and Wendy were given more to work with in Season 2.  Although I might quibble with the act that finally drove Lara to question her marriage and start looking out for her own self-interest, she did do just that.  We are reminded of the bad-ass that was initially introduced to us early in Season 1 but who had faded into a more subservient wife role since that time.  Wendy’s motives are less obvious and her character is certainly evolving and I wonder just how the whole Dominatrix thing will play out in the war between the alpha males.  We did get a potentially strong third female character at the end of the season with Mary Louise Parker’s George and I hope she’ll be back as a major force next season.  I think we are going to have to rely on these three women to be the most interesting as those in the Federal prosecutor’s department leave me cold.

I’m not sure how long I can watch this battle of deplorable males continue but during the few moments when Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti are in the same room speaking to each other, it is television at its finest.  This season’s second to last episode with the Ice Juice play was amazing and perhaps the best episode of TV I have seen all season up until the Leftover’s finale.   I’ll be back for the next season of Billions but I hope Showtime and the Billion’s show runners have a plan to wrap it up without dragging it out well beyond its expiration date.  The overall plotline seems to me somewhat limited and as the two lead characters become more disgusting with each episode, it is hard to imagine where the viewer will find charters that keep them involved with the show.

Movies: The Lovers, War Machine and the Wedding Plan

 

The Lovers

The Lovers, starring Debra Winger (Mary) and Tracy Letts (Michael) isn’t going to appeal to the same demo as Guardians of the Galaxy but should find an audience of Baby Boomers.   It is a smart, well-paced view into a marriage past its prime.  Winger and Letts play a couple that go about their daily routine by rote, communicating as little as possible.  They are calm, they don’t argue but they also, don’t connect.  Quickly it becomes apparent that to escape this existence, each has taken up a lover and two new characters enter the fray.  There is Michael’s lover, a crazy dance instructor who constantly pressures him through histrionics to leave his wife for her and a much more placid and sensitive man (Aidan Gillen or Littlefinger for many of us!) who is Mary’s erstwhile lover.

It all comes to a head as Mary’s and Michael’s lovers continually try to force their partners to end their respective marriages.   The resultant tension created causes Michael and Mary to start backing away only to find a new sexual attraction between them.   They start cheating on their respective lovers which strained the bounds of credibility based on what had happened up to that point in their relationship but it was fun.  Intertwined through all of this is the arrival of their son and his girlfriend creating a catalyst for these relationships to implode.  Humor is interspersed with pain throughout the film but the honesty and realness of these characters is never challenged.  You will never think that you are watching an unreal slice of life despite an ending that is a bit of a stretch.

It is great to see Debra Winger on screen again as she reminds us what we have been missing.  Have fun with this movie. 

War Machine

This wartime satire starring Brad Pitt premiered on Netflix last week.  Pitt’s performance as the embattled General Glen McMahon (based on Gen. Stanley McChrystal) is completely over the top but does that make it more impactful or reduce its effectiveness?  The critics are mixed on this.  At any rate, it is hard not to have some sympathy for this General who was brought in to command the Afghanistan forces in 2009/2010.  He had his own ideas and personality and perhaps made some progress in trying to work through a very murky strategy.  Of course, it doesn’t help his legacy that his successor, General Patraeus was much more successful.

McChrystal was undone by a Rolling Stone writer, the late Michael Hastings, who was embedded for a while and wrote a scathing article resulting in the President firing the General.  The movie is based on Hasting’s book “The Operators”.  The film explores the General, his relationships with subordinates and his belief in his own ability to win the war even while everything falls apart around him.  The supporting cast is excellent from Ben Kingsley as President Hamid Karzai to Meg Tilly as McMahon’s long suffering wife.  They are all very good.

I did not particularly care for the movie.  It was no Mash.  Pitt’s acting choices in playing the General might be brilliant but the characterization grated on me.  It wasn’t the worst film I have ever seen by a long shot, and it was free on Netflix so I didn’t have to waste money on it, but the subject matter is tough and the writing not particularly compelling.  Nonetheless, war is hell and this film portrays that theme throughout.  There is no reason not to check out the movie but feel free to abandon it along the way.  That is one of the great benefits of Netflix!

The Wedding Plan

I was looking for more from this film which was rated 87% on Rotten Tomatoes.  I could not stay awake during the first hour.  I’m usually pretty good with subtitles but in this case, the lead has most of the dialogue, a melodic voice speaking Hebrew and the subtitles were positioned such that I got tired of reading them.  At any rate, it is the story about a young orthodox Jewish woman, Michal, who is jilted by her fiancé 30 days before their wedding.  She decides that come hell or high water, she will find a man to marry on the original date because life would clearly not be worth living were she to remain single at age 32.

The film is advertised as a romantic comedy/drama and is clearly more heavily weighted toward the drama.  The comedy was not very prevalent. Michal solicits help from a couple of matchmakers to help her quickly find a husband but I must admit, all the candidates looked and acted the same to me.  The only interesting male was a touring musician named Yos played by an Israeli pop star Oz Zehavi.  He had charisma and their relationship had some depth.  Other than that, it was all somewhat bewildering and I don’t think it is because it is hard for me to relate to the character’s need to be married which of course it was.

All and all, I was disappointed by this film.  Feel free to skip this one.

TV: Did You Think I Stopped Watching? Network Finale Wrap-Up

TV:

May sweeps came fast and furiously with most shows wrapping up their seasons.  Instead of going over each one in detail, I’m just going to provide some random thoughts on this season for many of the shows I watch: 

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC):  Wow, a huge explosion and fire at Seattle Grace (or whatever its not- so- new name is) and no one died.  It’s a first for the show that is known for its disaster finales that always entail big deaths.  We did have one doctor leave the show because of the fire but I didn’t care for that character so no big deal.  I am amazed at how this show just keeps chugging along.  I’m in for the long haul as well as the love triangle that the season finale set up for next year.

Scandal (ABC):  It’s a good thing Scandal is ending next year.  It has gotten to be so far-fetched that it spends most of its time in the world of the absurd.  Nellie as President – really? Not in our lifetime.  Olivia as a power-hungry manipulator in the white house?  I’m afraid the foundation for that plotline was loosely laid.  Fitz off to a quiet life in NH?  If true, he’d certainly be in the best place of any of them but I doubt it will last.  Olivia’s mother is back….pleez…don’t they have any new ideas?  Certainly, not for Quinn who is pregnant with who knows whose kid.  Ugh…. a show that started off so fantastically is well beyond its prime.  Wrap it up!

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (ABC):  Somehow, this show actually got renewed for a 5th season.  I didn’t love this year with the AIDA killing everyone and the alternate universe where Fitz is a baddie and his relationship with Simmons on the rocks.  I can’t say as I followed who exactly were the bad guys and how next season was set up but I suppose I might eek one more year, maybe, out of this show.  I don’t think it will last for more.

The Blacklist (NBC):  Another show where I have invested years and they aren’t exactly paying off.  To have to wait 4 years to confirm what everyone had pretty much figured out from the beginning (that Reddington is Liz’s father) was so anti-climactic as to be a “who the heck cares any more” moment.  I was sorry to see Mr. Kaplan go but am intrigued enough by the “bones” headed toward Liz to tune in next year.  If they drag out that mystery too long, however, I’m out of there!

Mary Kills People (Lifetime):  This is not the most intellectually compelling show you’ll ever see but it is well done and I hope it will be around next year.  If you missed it on Lifetime, catch up this summer.  Not only is it shot beautifully, the acting is good (particularly Caroline Dhavernas as Mary) and it is written and directed mostly by women.  Each episode moves quickly with the requisite amount of suspense and the subject matter is compelling.  And, despite its compelling subject matter, there is humor which is needed to break up the death scenes.  Hopefully there will be a Season 2 because the show deserves it.

Jane the Virgin (CW):  I love, love, love this show and it never disappoints.  The characters are amazing and have so much heart that the viewer is emotionally attached to each and every one.  This season has primarily revolved around the central theme of love or in Jane’s case, her re-entry back into the world of dating after coming to terms with Michael’s death. Her parent’s relationship deepens and ends in marriage and even her grandmother finds love.  The finale introduces us to Jane’s probable new love interest for next season and I can only count the days until this show comes back in September.  Jane is a tough show to catch up on as there are approximately 23 one-hour shows per year and there have been several seasons but if you have missed it, and have “binge” time this summer, try it out.  You won’t be disappointed.

The Flash (CW):  I thought the Flash this season was a bit too morose and dragged out Iris’s death interminably.  Barry’s disappearance at the end of the season should be short-lived next season and I assume we will be back to the creature of the week with an overall super villain story-arch.  I like what they did with the Killer Frost character in the finale by not having Kaitlin go back to normal with no ramifications.  It keeps that character complex and interesting.  Hopefully next season will recapture some of the “lightness” the first two seasons had as this one was just a little too dark for me.

Supergirl (CW):  Supergirl is destined never to have a lasting love interest and this season was heartbreaking for her as her Daxamite boyfriend Mon-El can no longer exist on earth and is sucked into a black hole in space.  On the plus side, Supergirl kicked Superman’s ass and Cat Grant (Callista Flockheart) was in the last two episodes and yes, she does know who Kara is!  Bring this woman back full-time!  We were introduced at the end to next season’s villain – a blood sucking kryptonite who was also launched from the planet as it was exploding to what I only assume will be a landing on earth.  Supergirl and Flash are my antidote to watching Rachel Maddow in the hour before them.  They take me away from it all!

Premiers:

So, with all those finales, you must be wondering whether I saw any new shows and unfortunately, I did.

Bloodline (Netflix):  The first season of Bloodline was “bloody” fantastic.  One of the main reasons was Ben Mendelsohn who was just plain spectacular.  Unfortunately, he died at the end.  Season two had Mendelsohn in flashbacks but it just wasn’t the same and the show was not good.  Season three (the final) dropped last week on Netflix and because I am a glutton for punishment, and a perverse side of me wants to see all the Rayburns rot in hell, I watched the first episode.  The whole thing took place in the dark and I couldn’t even see the characters.  It was extremely irritating.  The most obnoxious thing, however, is that I am going to have to watch it again to have any understanding of what happened.  It seems like a high price to pay to have to watch an entire season of this just to see them all get their just rewards but I can be a masochist especially during the summer when there isn’t much happening elsewhere on TV.  If you haven’t seen this show, don’t get involved with it!!!!!!

Note:  I still haven’t caught up on DVR with Billions, Genius and Legion but now that things are calming down, I intend to do some catching up!

 

Books: Who Knew the Little House Books could have been written by Ayn Rand? “Libertarians on the Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the Making of the Little House Books”

 

Libertarians on the Prairie:   Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the making of the Little House Books by Christine Woodside 

I adored the Little House on the Prairie books growing up.  They provided many an hour of joy as I immersed myself in the amazing story of this pioneer family and the trials and tribulations they faced trying to survive in the American West.  Although these books were instrumental to my love of reading as a child, I never pursued information about the author, Laura Ingalls Wilder as I grew older.  Perhaps if I did, the information contained in “Libertarians” would not have been such a surprise.  It never occurred to me that the story of Wilder’s early years would not be absolutely accurate and that her daughter manipulated the course of the narrative to support her own political philosophy.

Christine Woodside has done extensive research to prove that the books written during the 1930s and ‘40s were heavily influenced by Laura’s daughter Rose Wilder Lane and that the original manuscripts developed by Ingalls were substantially altered by Rose.  Woodside is able to compare the “before and after” to show how the finished copy bears the Libertarian philosophy of self-reliance and anti-government intervention in a direct reaction to New Deal reforms and the growing reliance on the Federal Government to solve problems.  In fairness to Rose, Woodside also makes it clear that she is by far the better writer and that the end result of her editing produced  better books than had she not been involved.

Although Laura held conservative views, it was her daughter Rose who grew to become one of the greatest proponents of modern Libertarian thought.  Laura was no writer when she undertook to write her story in her early ‘60s but her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane was a famous author and journalist and it becomes quite clear early in the Woodside’s book just how much influence Rose had while “editing” the books. A fact that was well hidden from the public at the time.  In fact, the strain placed on the relationship between mother and daughter became permanent due in part to the heavy edits Rose made on her mother’s work in order for the story to support her increasingly strong political views.

As Lane became more conservative, she interacted with other conservative thinkers including H.L. Mencken, Ayn Rand, and even the Koch brothers.  If nothing else, “Libertarians” gives us a peripheral view into the rise of conservative thought in this country.  This isn’t the easiest book to read.  It jumps around and repeats things but if you loved the Little House books and are interested in American history, I suspect you will find this read time well spent.  If you are already well versed in Ingalls’s history and her daughter’s political views and role bringing the books to the public, there probably isn’t much new for you in this book.  As for me, I plan to go back and reread these the Little House series to watch for the subliminal (and the more obvious) messages that Rose Wilder Lane was able to incorporate into her mother’s writing.