Books & Blog: April 18, 2016

Books of the Week:

  • Borderline, Mishell Baker
  • Luckiest Girl Alive, Jessica Knoll
  • The Road to Little Dribbling, Bill Bryson

Mishell Baker’s kickoff first novel was recommended to me by Seanan McGuire. That rates it pretty high, already. Borderline is worldbuilding at its most original. It’s a credit to Baker’s talent that she picked a thorny protagonist and made her work. Millie Roper has lost her legs in a suicide attempt she doesn’t remember, when her movie-making career came to disaster. She has nowhere to go and nothing to do, until Caryl Vallo steps into her hospital room. Vallo offers Millie a job . . . but it involves magic and the fey. And Millie comes to realize she’s been selected because she’s dispensable, like all the other borderline personalities. But Millie is driven to solve problems, and she won’t give up her job. I loved this book.

Luckiest Girl Alive is Jessica Knoll’s reflection on the horrors of high school and the impossibility of ever knowing another person’s heart. Ani FaNelli has remade herself since the awful events of her teen years, and she’s engaged to the perfect man. She’s going to have the perfect life. She’s sworn it. But the past won’t be suppressed, and Ani has to remake herself yet again. This is quirky mystery with plenty of surprises.

Bill Bryson is one of my favorite non-fiction writers. The Road to Little Dribbling is an account of his return to England after many years. The charm of the countryside is still there, but much else has changed. Bryson’s style is more tart now that he’s older (he has that in common with many of us), but the style and gentle eloquence are still there. He’s a charmer.

Blog

I’ve had the pleasant adventure of being on several television sets, and it’s always fascinating to see how it all works. For every actor, there are maybe ten (or more) people off-screen doing a myriad of jobs to make a few seconds of film happen. Makeup artists, hair arrangers, the manager of the trailer lot, cameramen, a director, a script and continuity person, lighting experts, assistant directors, drivers, and people who make sure the actors are comfortable between takes. (I have no idea what that job is called. But believe me, when they find heaters for frigid waiting areas, they are my favorite workers.)

Being on location is not the exciting and glamorous pastime you might imagine. In New Mexico, it hailed on the set of “Midnight Texas,” and there was a dust storm, and the altitude made some people sick. In Louisiana for “True Blood,” it was hot and buggy. In Vancouver, for the filming of “The Julius House,” it was really cold. And gray.

Every time, shooting must stop when a train goes by, or children shout in an adjacent neighborhood, or big trucks put on their breaks. Then it all has to be redone. From the beginning. Over and over. Until the director is satisfied. After one scene’s been completed, everything has to be moved and reset: lighting, cameras, actors, props. Repeat.

I’ve been impressed by the stamina of everyone involved, and the long hours spent to create every episode. This is not glamor. This is hard work. Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently. Every time I get to watch the complex process, I come away with more admiration for the craft it takes. And every time, I’m glad I’m a writer. I can work by myself, and I don’t have to get my makeup touched up every ten minutes!

Charlaine Harris