Happy Hallowe’en, all. It’s a sad anniversary in our family and I do reference that in my latest Substack piece, though it is about other matters. Also, Happy Reformation Day, Protestants!
About two years ago, I posted about Ada Calhoun and one of her books here. At the time, I did not know that she was the daughter of Peter Schjeldahl, the art critic and essayist. He wrote a phenomenal essay about his cancer diagnosis three years ago and died last week. Only a month ago, I read Calhoun’s latest, Also a Poet, which was, in large part, a tribute to her father and their less-than-perfect relationship. She writes about the struggles of wishing you had had parents that were, for example, more attuned to you, prouder of you, but then also understanding this: you get what you get and good things can come from difficult bonds or even bonds that do not feel strong. Noteworthy for me that Schjeldahl was Norwegian-American. I recognized the unwillingness to praise one’s child, a trait my mother certainly demonstrated. I also recognized the frustration of having parents that seemed perfect (or close to it) to the outside world, while being only human at home. Rest in peace to Schjeldahl and may his daughter continue to write.
What a career – and yet Lansbury was never an A-List movie star, which shows you how stupid those rankings are and how silly Hollywood can be. The first time I saw her in a movie I was a kid, and it happened to be her first movie, Gaslight. I remember it well, because the movie scared me and she was wonderfully nasty. That she could hold her own against/wish Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman is quite something. She was a teenager. Another Lansbury performance that I love – I believe her third movie – is The Picture of Dorian Gray. In the film, she was the victim of the protagonist though in real life, she and Hurd Hatfield became firm friends. He guest starred on Murder, She Wrote several times and she apparently convinced him to buy property near hers in Ireland.
Impossible to do her versatility justice – think of how wonderfully creepy she was in The Manchurian Candidate, for example. (She also played Elvis’ mother in Blue Hawaii – truly, a terrible film.) She had a remarkable stage career, as well. I mentioned Murder, She Wrote above – sue me, but I loved that series. So fun. There was a reason it was so successful and has such staying power. It is crazily popular in Italy, by the way.
FYI, I had a lovely aunt who looked so much like her. Obituary – of Lansbury, not my aunt – here.
If you’ve ever read Bill Browder’s Red Notice, you will have learned something of a Chrystia Freeland that you had not known previously. (And if you haven’t read it, I recommend it – excellent book which should add to your understanding of Russia.) What you learn is that there was a time when she had substance and principles. Of course, entering the world of politics is going to take that away – it must. But I caught a glimmer of that Chrystia when she made her comments about mining and LNG on Friday. She sounded like a Cold Warrior, which, back when she was principled, she was. I thought it was interesting that she made those comments, and not her boss. Our prime minister lets her be the heavy so he can continue to be the bungee-jumping buffoon we’ve all come to know and not love.
It remains to be seen if there will be follow-through, and since Canada doesn’t have the capacity to send LNG to our European allies – at least directly, I suppose we can send it via the United States – perhaps the words were just that, words. But I was happy to see Cold Warrior Chrystia back, the woman who impressed Bill Browder in the 1990s. I was also happy to have Canada sound less wussy than the United States.
I adore this story. I am thankful there are such people.
Dame Hilary passed – accomplished writer of historical fiction (and plain old fiction). I wrote about some of her work here.
Such a talent, and her songs foreshadowed the divisions we see now between elites and people who actually have to work and do useful things. The divisions were always there, of course, but they have been exacerbated. What amazes me is that she didn’t finish middle school and yet…take a gander at these lyrics. My goodness. God just throws talent dust on some people.
And here’s another terrific one, with what I think is one of the all-time great song lyrics: “But the man I love when he picks up trash he puts it in a garbage can.”
I wish I could find a clip of the interview without the outside commentary, but so far, there does not seem to be one available.