Posted by: Patrice Fitzgerald | February 7, 2010

I vote for Precious

A lot of people are talking about “Precious” and whether the reactions are falling along racial lines.  Ishmael Reed, in the New York Times, says that, “Among black men and women, there is widespread revulsion and anger over the Oscar-nominated film about an illiterate, obese black teenager who has two children by her father.”

I can’t say how black people feel.  But I can tell you how one white woman feels.

I finally saw the film, just this weekend. I had been putting it off because I thought it would be pretty hard to take — and it was, but it was also powerful and worthwhile. I went out and bought the book and finished it today. The book is even more specific about the abuse than the movie, but the main character’s amazing growth in understanding, because we are privy to her thoughts, is even more compelling.

Does it portray this particular black family as monstrous?  Indeed it does.  Even Director Lee Daniels said, before he showed the film in Cannes, that he was in part embarrassed to have a foreign white crowd see black folks this way.

Ironically, in the book, the character Precious reads The Color Purple and identifies with the protagonist, and learns that there are people who didn’t think it should be made into a film because it paints black men in a bad light. The character Precious, who is just learning to write, says, “I love The Color Purple. That book give me so much strength. Ms Rain say a group of black men wanted to stop movie from the book. Say unfair picture of [black] men. She ax me what do I think. Unfair picture? Unfortunately it a picture I know, except of course Farakkhan who is real man.”

I did feel that Sapphire (the author of the book PUSH on which Precious was based) who was both a social worker and a teacher for a number of years, must have combed her case files to pile all the dysfunction she could find on this one young lady’s family. But you know… that’s what we do in books. We find the extreme, the dramatic, the most moving story. And open it up to the world.

Certainly Charles Dickens portrayed most of his characters as the most unfortunate of wretches, and often the victims of people who should have protected them.  And 16-year-old Precious is Dickensian in the extreme.

Ishmael Reed is right that when awful things are done by white characters in film, we don’t impute that to all whites — but that’s because white is the dominant culture. We look at such a movie and say, yeah, some people are slimy. We don’t say all white people are slimy.  It will be interesting to see the reactions to a film about Stieg Larsson’s character Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” — another woman who is subject to unconscionable abuse — a white woman.

And I don’t think most Caucasions will watch “Precious” and conclude that there is a lot of abuse amongst African-Americans — except to the extent that such horrendous abuse would probably be noticed and attended to if Precious weren’t one of the most marginalized of children.

That’s the point I think the film is trying to make. Sometimes children are treated horribly. In this case, no one looked hard enough to discover what was going on and why she was in such dire straits.

The white women in this film, the social worker (Ms. Weiss, who was played by Mariah Carey but is of indeterminate race, a point Precious makes) and one of her teachers, are mostly well-meaning clueless types who sometimes make things worse. I don’t think they’re lauded as the saviors in the least.

I think Mr. Reed took racial umbrage too far in his attempt to make points. But yeah — maybe we need to make the same film with terrible white parents doing shocking things to their white daughter. Only the difference is that probably someone would rescue her. As they should have rescued Precious.

But finally she rescued herself.

Posted by: Patrice Fitzgerald | February 6, 2010

Fitzgerald (the other one) and his local inspirations

I often kid with people that the reason I both write and sing is because my grandfather was F. Scott Fitzgerald and my grandmother was Ella Fitzgerald.  They look impressed for a moment, and then the light dawns… I must be kidding.

Which of course I am.  I don’t think the two knew each other, and if they did, they wouldn’t be the right ages. Ella, born in 1917, was almost the same age as my Dad, who was born in 1919.  F. Scott was born in 1896, so he’s of an earlier generation.

But here’s something that’s true — I wrote a fun column about F. Scott Fitzgerald and his summer in Westport, Connecticut, which seems to have inspired The Great Gatsby.  Read it at Westport Patch.

Posted by: Patrice Fitzgerald | January 20, 2010

A Little Inspiration for Writers

Don’t give up.

Jessie Foveaux, who began writing her memoir at 80, sold it for a million bucks when she was 98.

Helen Hoover Santmyer sold a best-seller at 84.

Freddie Mae Baxter got a six-figure advance when she was 75.

Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first book in the “Little House” series at 65.

Norman Maclean, who wrote his first novel, A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, at 75, had it turned into a film starring Brad Pitt, among others.

It’s not too late for the rest of us!

Posted by: Patrice Fitzgerald | December 27, 2009

Tax Season for Singers

December is almost over, and the big performance month for church singers is coming to an end.  It’s wonderful to have so many places to sing, and so much beautiful music to enjoy… an embarrassment of riches!

We did the Vivaldi Gloria at the Unitarian Church in Westport (avec une solo pour moi), two French and one English carol at the Congregational Church in Weston with a small chamber group, and the Vallis Musicae Lessons & Carols in Farmington — unfortunately we missed the first one because of that big snowstorm, but the group is still going strong, and planning the third choir trip abroad — this one to Argentina!  And we joined the Special Projects Choir at the Westport UU church for Christmas eve.  We’re also singing solos and duets (and Richard is playing trumpet) at the Unitarian Meetinghouse in Hartford, rescheduled from 12/20 to 1/3 for an extended Christmas-season service.

In years past, I’ve sometimes hit two churches on Christmas Eve by singing at the evening service at the Meetinghouse then jetting over to St. Pat’s in Farmington when Gabi was there to sing at the 11:00 p.m. mass.  Doable as long as the weather isn’t bad.

What’s tough is that all of this wonderful opportunity comes at cold season, and a lot of rehearsal combined with a lot of germs can sometimes mean you end up with an overtaxed voice at Christmastime.

If only the big winter holiday happened in the summer!

Posted by: Patrice Fitzgerald | December 25, 2009

Opening the Door to a Stranger

Several years ago, I was asked to sing at a midnight service on Christmas Eve in a church some distance from my home. I was living in West Hartford at the time.

The invitation came at a time when I wasn’t singing regularly, and I missed it.  I knew that I could work this one-evening commitment into my busy life — nurse five-month-old Laurie, leave the house by 10:30 p.m., get to the church for a brief rehearsal, and be back in time to get a few hours sleep before she woke up for her 6 a.m. feeding.

It seems odd to me now that I would make this trip, in virtually the middle of the night, to a church I didn’t know.  But I wanted to sing, and I was flattered to be asked.

On the way there, it was bitter cold, and I lost my way.  I found myself on a four-lane highway.  At this time in my life, I was in baby mode, and my world was circumscribed by the tiny and tender.  The traffic on that highway, sparse though it was so late on Christmas Eve, seemed to crush in on me.  Cars in a hurry.  Trucks in a hurry.  People in a hurry.

Everyone was rushing.

I stopped by a lonesome payphone to double check the church address; it was long before we used cell phones.  I felt the bright bite of snowflakes on my nose and inside my collar.

When I finally arrived at the church, I stepped into a glorious, light-filled foyer, aglow with candles and flowers.  The rehearsal was nearly over, but I knew this music.  I donned a choir robe, and I was ready.

Slowly, as the congregation assembled in the pews, the vaulted ceiling filled with the happy sound of holiday greetings.  We in the choir made our way up the aisle in a candle-lit procession, our voices echoing throughout the sanctuary.  We sang “Angels We Have Heard On High” and the harmonic peals of the “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” swirled around the church and beamed off the stained glass saints.

I was so glad I had come.

Afterwards, I got in the car for the long, cold drive home.  It was 1:30 a.m. on Christmas morning.  Still sated with the glow of music and warmth, but very tired, I coasted back toward home.  I knew that my baby daughter would be up with the dawn.  All I could think about was how good my bed would feel.

Just before I turned onto Homestead Avenue in Hartford, in a part of town where I sometimes lock my doors, I noticed a car ahead trying to avoid something in the road.  In the middle of the street, on a patch of ice, lay an old coat.  No.  It was. . . an injured dog?

Oh my God.

It was a body.

Continued at Westport Patch

Posted by: Patrice Fitzgerald | December 13, 2009

This is not how I expected it to be

I don’t know about you, but I’m 54.  I didn’t exactly anticipate drifting off into the sunset at this age, happily surrounded by every material thing I could imagine.  I’m not ready to drift off anywhere yet.

I’ve been lucky in life; lucky with my parents, lucky with my education, lucky with so much of what has come to me, some of which I earned and some of which I simply, well… lucked into.  So I can’t complain.  And I certainly never asked for mansions or yachts or diamonds dripping off me.  Which, as it turns out, I didn’t get.  But I live well enough.

What I didn’t expect was this creeping dread.  This lingering feeling that I can only compare to the omnipresent fear of nuclear annihilation that I grew up with.  We at St. Mary’s School did the drill regularly, climbing under our desks with our hands over our heads and experiencing the peculiar confusion that hits a seven-year-old when she’s trying to contemplate how a wooden desk could stop the mushroom clouds.  But Sister said to do it, so we did.

And thus I grew up knowing that someday, probably, unimaginable destruction would visit my neighborhood.  If not today, then soon.

Of course it never happened, and slowly that amorphous fear dissipated.  Around the time the Soviet Union imploded, it disappeared.  Sorta.  Kinda. Leaving only the shadow of the original fear.  Once you live with that type of long-term dread, it doesn’t ever go away completely.

What I didn’t worry about was economic concerns.  My dad talked about (and reacted to) the Depression his whole life.  His worldview was shaped by that experience, much as I am sure today’s young people will be influenced by our current financial straits.

I worried about money in the normal way; there were ups and downs, but there was always money for food and shelter and the occasional movie. Sometimes lots more than that.

But now… the fear has come back.  This kind of “we don’t know how bad it will get, or how to solve it” feeling that you can’t get your mind around, except as a frightening specter.  A concern that the unknown might be coming… the unknown that could be worse than you can handle.

It’s okay for now; I’m young yet.  I’m not excited about feeling this kind of dread ten, twenty, thirty years from now.

That would be bad.

But then again, maybe by that stage I won’t really see past the small circle of my days and my intimates.  And I won’t know.

And I won’t care.

Posted by: Patrice Fitzgerald | December 8, 2009

Tiger Woods Mistress #10 — Okay, I confess. It’s me!

I’ve had enough.  All these babes coming out of the Woodswork (you know I had to say it).  And not a word about me and the greatest golfer of all time.

It’s true that I’m not a Perkins waitress, a porn star, or a golf tournament groupie. But gosh darn it, I will not be ignored.

Our trysts did not involve Ambien, texting, sexting, or tweeting.  They were, in fact, more traditional.

I liked it that way.

Tiger and I got together through the old-fashioned medium of television.  I watched him as often as I could manage — I had to make sure that my husband didn’t get jealous — it couldn’t be every weekend.

I remember my eager anticipation as Tiger approached, his manly shoulders squared. The masterful way he wrapped his strong arms around the equipment.  The long drives followed by the short strokes.  And then… I blush to say… my bliss when it went into the hole.

No one can imagine how he made me feel.

And now it’s all so dirty!  The tabloids, the press frenzy.  All those floozies.  Nine of them, as of yesterday.  Maybe thirteen tomorrow.

I’m above that kind of trash.  My relationship with Tiger was aboveboard.  So pristine and admirable was my love that even his wife approved.

I’m proud to say that she knew all about me.  And she didn’t mind.

Alas, it’s ruined.  Never again can the man of my dreams tee it up for me in quite the same way.

Farewell, Tiger my love.  I will always remember the way you swing.

And don’t worry; I’ve taken my name off my phone.

P.S.  Call me when the paparazzi go home!

Posted by: Patrice Fitzgerald | December 4, 2009

The joy of bookstores

A little belatedly, I admit, I just came across this short but wonderful speech given by Paul Auster upon receiving the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association’s Legacy Award prize in the fall.  Read it at the Carol Mann Agency blog.

Also, watch this space for an encore posting of one of my first ever (and most favorite) blog entries, in celebration of my one year anniversary as a blogger.  And this time I’m going to add the photos I took!

Posted by: Patrice Fitzgerald | November 29, 2009

Freelancin’

Dear Faithful Readers:

If you’ve noticed that I haven’t been blogging much this month, it’s because I picked up two freelance gigs for the newly launched Patch online news sites covering Ridgefield and Westport, Connecticut.  It’s been great fun but it is taking up some time.  I guess that’s why they pay us!

Check out all my articles at both Westport Patch and Ridgefield Patch via this page.  So far I’ve covered such topics as the electronic connections of the a gubernatorial candidate from Ridgefield, the canine star of an upcoming middle school musical, a wonderful charity event featuring delectable chowders, and comedian Bob Saget of Full House (who turns out to have a really dirty mind.)

But the super excellent outstanding news is that I finished my book LOOKING FOR MR. RIGHT.COM: How You Can Find Love Online and have sent all 63,000 words off to an awesome agent who may, if my dreams come true, offer to represent me.  Send all good wishes in my direction!

Posted by: Patrice Fitzgerald | October 29, 2009

Sonnet for Colin McEnroe – for Sonnet Day on WNPR

Sonnet For Colin McEnroe

When pledge day comes and Colin takes the mic
His listeners ‘pon the edge their chairs do sit
And wallets out, both rich and poor alike
Do calculate just what their budgets fit
His lofty sonic effort to support
Through means most tightly strain’ed by the times
Yet who amongst them would not still resort
To begging, theft or e’er more heinous crimes
For McEnroe’s a tonic for our state
An edifying, entertaining rake
Who makes us laugh and keeps us up to date
And all the while makes politicians quake

Yes, his show afflicts the comfortable sore
But comforts the afflicted… even more.

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