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June 3rd, 2010

Moonshine Trailer!

The beautiful and multi-talented Alaya Dawn Johnson has written a wonderful 1920's vampire mystery/romance/social commentary/noir called Moonshine.  She gave a wonderful pub party, where we all dressed up in flapper dresses, rouged our knees, put feathers/bandeaux in our hair, drank gloriously-named cocktails, and Charlestoned until we dropped. 

And now there's a trailer which includes scenes of the party and a very charming faux-1920's radio-news soundtrack.  I love it almost as much as I loved the book.  Which (briefly) is clever, exciting, elegant, and has not only the hottest (literally) romantic semi-anti-hero in the history of hot dudes, but also a truly complex and interesting heroine, and a cast of secondary characters I loved so much I wanted each of them to have a book of their own.  Iris, I want to interview you!  I also want your wardrobe, and all your hats, but that's another issue.

Anyway--watch the trailer, marvel at the utter coolness of SF Guys In Hats, and then Buy The Book.  You won't be sorry.

Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson

First of all:  I handed the book in.  Tuesday, about 10 minutes before it was time to leave the house to have dinner at a lovely soba restaurant in the East Village justinelavaworm introduced us last week, called Soba-ya.  I ended up not hating my book hardly at all, which is a good thing, since there will inevitably be tweaks.  But it was a long, hard slog.  I want to write about why (other than just the fact that writing a novel is, by definition, a long, hard slog), but not now.  I'd much rather write about wonderful, hand made and cut soba noodles with ikura (salmon roe) and lots of daikon and hand-grated wasabi and the best sauce ever, not to mention Seasonal Sake, which I liked better than Ellen did, but that was ok because who should turn up just as we were about to tuck in but the aforementioned Justine, Scott, and the charming agent Jennifer Laughren from San Francisco, in town for BEA and a visit, and they got some lovely sake and shared it with us.

Jennifer (it turns out) really likes Changeling, and was kind and enthusiastic, and made me incredibly happy and loved.  Which is all an author really wants, right?  I mean, besides a movie deal with full oversight of the script, cast, director, and advertising, not to mention many zeros after the (two figure) number. 

Anyway.  Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson.  

I liked it, but it wasn't my play.  The writing, the attitude, the aesthetic, the actors, the dialogue, the directorial style and decisions, were all geared to a demographic that wasn't me.  With a few exceptions, everybody in the audience was hovering around 30 and was probably pretty literate in the areas of popular culture I know little of--at least, they roared at lines I didn't realize were jokes, and made appreciative noises when the cast struck attitudes that clearly referred to something (because they sure as hell had nothing to do with Andrew Jackson), but I didn't know what.  After a while, the disconnect between what I was seeing and what most of the audience was seeing became surreal, like reading Gulliver's Travels as a child, with no notion of the political or social context of the satire.  There have been children who liked Gulliver anyway, but for its strangeness, not its familiarity.   

Which is the level on which I liked Bloody.  Historically, the figure of Jackson himself is a troubled one.  He killed a lot of people, he fomented a lot of hatred and prejudice, he ran roughshod over the Constitution and the Supreme Court, he was primarily responsible for the Trail of Tears.  He genuinely tried to govern for the people, and he founded the Democratic Party.  And he was clearly a charismatic speaker without an ironic bone in his body.  Which made the intense irony that infused every molecule of Bloody particularly, well, ironic.

In fact, there is nothing about this play that isn't ironic.  The costumes, the gloriously cluttered neo-Frontier-salon set that spills out over the audience in the shape of dozens of falling-apart chandeliers overhead and portraits of 19th C. White Guys in Wigs (and lace collars) all up the side aisles.  The hand mike holstered on the incredibly angsty Benjamin Walker's left hip, balancing out the six-shooter holstered on his right.  This is a very modern Jackson--an emo-rock star Jackson, a Jackson who knows just exactly how hot he is and how fucked-up he is, but is still capable of being surprised when Blackhawk, the man he's betrayed more times than there are stars in the sky, puts together a coalition of tribes to fight against the troops who are trying to forcibly relocate them onto reservations in the West.

Arguably, it's a very modern story.  They certainly have made it one, and the New York Times Review does a very good job of lining out the political correspondences between 1829 and 2009, and the ways in which the play manages to send up both Sarah Palin and Barack Obama at the same time.  But in the end, I found myself with a very "So What" attitude towards the whole thing.  The insights aren't particularly insightful:  Politicians are corrupt. Check.  Democracy is a ponderous and inefficient method of governing a country.  Check.  And the comedy?  Well, politicians are comic. Check.  Farts, getting drunk, belching, and sex of any kind is hilarious.  Doesn't float my boat, but Shakespeare thought so, too, so check. Wheelchairs, lesbians, gay men, women, wives, and massacres are hysterical.  Argh.  I know they meant it all ironically, and the Dead White Guys came off even worse.  I wasn't offended.  But surely they could have come up with some newer jokes?  For a New Rock Musical?  D'ya think?

For what it's worth, Michael Crane as Blackhawk brought a lot of dignity to an uphill kind of part.  Benjamin Walker emoted his brains out as Jackson, and looked positively edible in tight black jeans and a very tapered white shirt while he did it.  If the historical Jackson had been in touch with his inner brat as Walker, either the Trail of Tears wouldn't have happened because he'd have been locked up in a mental hospital somewhere, or it would have happened a lot sooner.  The women did their level best with unrewarding material.

It really sounds like I hated this, doesn't it?  But I didn't.  I laughed (although not always when everybody else did), and I rather liked the music, and some of the satire was spot-on.  But it didn't quite add up to a play, not for me.  I couldn't help thinking, as we left, that it was going to seem incredibly dated in 10 years--maybe less. 

Enough of this maundering.  I have to go get the suitcases out of the closet and start packing.  Today, New York!  Tomorrow, Devon!


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