September 17th, 2009


The Bonesetter's Daughter

Last night I attended one of OPERA America's quarterly salon series, this one featuring live excerpts from Stewart Wallace and Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter, an opera adapted from Tan's 2001 novel of the same name. The music and singing was gorgeous, but I have to admit it still feels weird to hear an opera sung in English. Being 86,000 years old, my mind always expects either Italian or German when it comes to opera, and wants to label anything sung in English simply a musical.

The story of both the novel and the opera sounds pretty amazing -- another generational tale of three women from an author who has made this her specialty, though this time incorporating a lot more Chinese mythology and ghosts -- however it also sounds incredibly depressing, what with all the rape, suicide and misery. Not sure I could stomach the whole story. I must be getting overly sensitive in my old age.

Composer Stewart Wallace was in attendance to introduce the excerpts, fill us in on the history of the opera and even sing the role of Chang the coffin maker. The whole evening was an amazing experience. I'm grateful to OPERA America for putting it together, and to my gf for putting me on the guest list.


"So...what's the craziest thing you've ever done for money?" That's a question I've long wanted to ask of strangers on the street, and still may one day for a book project. I'm sure most of the replies would involve wacky jobs or having to rub a grandmother's feet in order to secure a loan.

But if people are being honest, at least some of the answers will involve sex.

Anna David's charming, breezy novel Bought approaches this delicate subject matter in fictional form, though it's based on a true-to-life article David began writing some time before. In the novel, red-carpet celebrity interviewer Emma Swanson, transparently David's alter ego, stumbles across the story of a lifetime--the new prostitution. Instead of exchanging sex for money, this new breed of women essentially sleep with wealthy, powerful (and often married) men in exchange for gifts. In other words, sleep with a guy and suddenly you've got a closetful of thousand-dollar Chanel pocketbooks, or expensive boots, or your rent is paid for the next six months. Emma befriends a woman who is the veritable queen of this new kind of prostitution, Jessica, and tags along with her for research for her article. As their friendship grows and the line between the personal and the professional is crossed, Emma finds herself living a more dangerous lifestyle of partying and cocaine until she very nearly becomes a prostitute herself in order to land a too-good-to-be-true magazine editor position.

Anna David is an accomplished writer whose prose is smooth and who has a great eye for detail, especially when it comes to L.A. high society. The story is fun and fast--a quick read at less than 300 pages--but what it's missing is emotional resonance. It could have used some deeper emotions that would pull the reader further into the characters, but instead David sticks to the surface, skimming like a tossed pebble instead of sinking down to where the real meat of the matter is. Still, it's a very enjoyable novel, even if it's something of a trifle in the end.

Definitely recommended for airplane flights, long bus rides and beach reads, but if you're looking for something deep or transformative you might want to hold off on this one until next summer's beach season.

Republican Comedy Hour: The Birthers

Another birther lawsuit has been rejected in federal court.

You gotta love these "birthers." Despite overwhelming evidence of President Obama's citizenship, including a certificate of live birth from Hawaii and a birth announcement in the local paper when he was born, these wackjobs just can't give up their fantasy that he's so "other" he couldn't possibly be an American. Chris Matthews had a great line about the birthers. He said the issue isn't really about documentation, it's about pigmentation, and I'm inclined to agree with him.

The funny thing--if one can find humor in rampant delusion--is that it wasn't all that long ago that Republicans were buzzing about doing away with the Constitutional requirement that presidents must be born in the U.S. (a change I would support, by the way), presumably in case they wanted to run a Schwartzenneger ticket. Now many of these same Republicans, essentially bending over and spreading their cheeks for this lunatic fringe, are talking about legislative proposals that all presidential candidates from now on have to publicly prove they are native born. As if this has ever been an issue anyway. Have we ever had a president who sneaked into office without being born in the U.S.? Have we ever even had a real, viable candidate who wasn't born here? Please.

The modern Republican party: Never missing an opportunity to act like morons.