Letter from Joy
February 12, 2019
I’m sitting here in my office in Toronto looking out at the snow that is coming down in sheets, turning the city white and making visibility all but impossible. It seems that winter has arrived with a vengeance - again! After very little snow for the past ten years, Toronto is suffering through its second major storm in the last four weeks! Schools are closed, roads are impassable, and the wind is howling. What’s more, it doesn’t look as if the snowfall is about to slow down any time soon. I missed the first storm because we were in Florida, but I’m here now, and it’s something to behold. Not sure what it’s doing in Florida, but generally when we get storms like this up north, Florida gets lots of rain and much cooler temperatures. That was certainly the case in January, where after three weeks of perfect weather, it got quite chilly and wet. We got so much rain, in fact, that the water levels of the various waterways throughout our golf courses, which had been so low as to be in danger of disappearing altogether, were filled to overflowing.
Still, we had a great time in Palm Beach. I spoke at a luncheon attended by 640 women at the Polo Club in Boca Raton. It was a terrific event and the audience was wonderfully attentive to both me and the gorgeous and talented Rachel Kadish, author of THE WEIGHT OF INK, a historical literary novel. Part from that appearance, I played lots of golf, saw a few movies, enjoyed visits from friends and relatives from Toronto, did a bit of shopping and lots of reconnecting with Florida friends, and finally found some time for reading. Five books in as many weeks, all noteworthy! The first one - one of the best books I’ve ever read - is BEAR TOWN by Fredrik Backman, a Swedish writer. I absolutely loved this book and could hardly bring myself to put it down. It’s beautifully written, grips you from the very first page and doesn’t let up, and is full of beautiful sentences and insights I kept repeating out loud to my husband. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I liked it so much that I ran out and bought another one of his earlier books, A MAN CALLED OVE, which I also loved, although it’s not in the same league as BEAR TOWN. Still, it’s totally charming and captivating, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Another captivating book is PARIS EXIT by Patrick DeWitt. It’s a short and very clever piece of literary fluff, albeit with a bite, heavy on style and decidedly quirky, but thoroughly enchanting and enjoyable. I was a little let down by the ending, but just a little. I felt the same about the conclusion of WASHINGTON BLACK by Esi Eduygen. The novel was terrific, a rousing adventure story, totally different from what I was expecting, but I felt a little disappointed in the way it was ultimately resolved. Still, well worth reading and deserving of the high praise and literary rewards it’s been receiving. Next came NINE PERFECT STRANGERS by Lianne Moriarty. While not quite in the same league as the previously mentioned novels, it’s a prime example of good commercial fiction, carefully observed and well-written. Perhaps we could have done with a few less strangers - nine is a lot to keep track of - but the books is lots of fun, never dull, and easy to read.
As for movies, we saw Bohemian Rhapsody (my second time) and Miss Bala, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Not sure why they call it Miss Bala when it should be Miss Baja. Maybe the marketing people thought it would be easier to pronounce. Also saw Vice, which I didn’t like at all. This surprised me as I was never a fan of Dick Cheney or the Bush administration, but I thought the movie was just plain dull, certainly not a comedy in any sense of the word. And while Christian Bale totally transforms himself into Dick Cheney, I found the performance mostly one-note. If you saw one scene, you pretty much saw the entire performance.
Which brings me to the upcoming Oscar race. I’m going to tell you who would get my vote - not necessarily who’s going to win - and the reasons why in the main categories: Best Actor: Viggo Mortenson for Green Book. I thought he was spectacular, although I wouldn’t be disappointed if Rami Malek were to win, as I though he was sensational as well. Christian Bale could win, but he doesn't get my vote for reasons already mentioned. (I loved him in last year’s Hostiles.) I liked Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born, but don’t think he has a chance of winning. Best Actress: Olivia Coleman for The Favourite. I think Glenn Close has this one pretty much in the bag, but while I admired her performance, I didn’t quite buy the character. I liked Lady Gaga - I thought she was really good, especially in her musical numbers - but I don’t think the performance was Oscar-worthy. I thought Olivia Coleman was brilliant, even though I didn’t like the movie at all. I didn’t see Melissa McCarthy, so I can’t comment on her performance. Frankly, I can’t get too excited about any of these choices. Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali for Green Book. He was fabulous, as he always is, and I think he’ll win. Best Supporting Actress: Emma Stone for The Favourite. I think she was terrific. Her part was actually bigger than Olivia Coleman’s and this movie proves what a versatile actress she is. She can do anything. However, I think the winner will be Regina Hall for If Beale Street Could Talk, and while she’s very good, Emma Stone gets my vote. Best Picture: Green Book. I loved this movie and saw it twice, the first time at the Toronto Film Festival. I think much of the criticism that has been levied against it is unfair. It is my no means a “white saviour movie.” Nor is there any real resemblance between this film and Driving Miss Daisy, other than both stories involve characters of different races and a good deal of time is spent on the road. Yes, the story is told more from the white character’s perspective, but that doesn’t make the story any less valid. And while the racism of the time is undoubtedly gentler than what it actually was, it still comes across loud and clear. And there is a basic humanity in this movie that is missing from much of modern life, a message of hope, a feeling that differences can be overcome and decency prevail. I will be very disappointed if it doesn’t win.
The movie that could triumph, and will no doubt take home the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, is Roma, although personally I don’t think it should win either. I enjoyed the movie - I saw it on the big screen, which I definitely recommend - but I really don’t understand all the fuss being made about it. I thought it was a well-made but small movie. It has virtually no plot and moves at a very measured pace. Having said that, it does sneak up on you. Its power is cumulative and takes you by surprise, which is always nice. But I still don’t think it should win. Best Foreign Film, in my view, is Germany’s Never Look Away, a truly profound movie about the nature of truth and art that I saw at the Toronto Film Festival last fall. I thought was a masterpiece. Its three-plus hours move like a shot and it is visually spectacular - I would also give it the award for Best Cinematographer. Best Song, of course, is Shallow.
As for TV, I’ve been watching True Detective - slow but interesting, and The Bachelor. I actually think bachelor Colton is pretty good. He’s smart and sweet. I’m predicting it will come down to one of the Hannahs (the perky little blonde he says feels like home) and Caelyn, the former beauty queen and sex assault survivor. And The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is finally starting, so my shallow little self is looking forward to that.
As for my writing, ALL THE WRONG PLACES, will be out on March 12, and is already garnering some fabulous pre-reviews, so I’m very excited about that. And I have a couple of new ideas for future books that I’m going to try to flesh out in the next couple of weeks before returning to Florida, and hopefully warmer temperatures and sunny skies, for the month of March.
And that’s about it for now. It’s still snowing to beat the band, and I have some errands to run before the city closes down entirely. So I’ll sign off now and talk to you all again next month.