Dreamlike reviews: Hadesdown, The Ghost Keeper, and The Sopranos (again)

You know what the real thing is about being in your mid-40’s? You can do everything you used to do in your 30’s, but you cannot bounce back.

I was in Chicago at the FemCatholic Conference last weekend, and it was completely wonderful. Met Mikayla Dalton, Corita Ten Eyck, Theresa Scott, Leticia Adams, Donna Provencher, Jenne O’Neill, Aimee Murphy, and so many others in real life for the first time, and I spent lots of time with my wonderful friend Elisa Low.  And Nora Calhoun, and Hope Peregrina and Ben Zelmer, and Samantha Povlock! And Shannon Wendt and Meg Hunter-Kilmer and ARGH the woman at the Femm Health table whose name is escaping me at the moment. And so many other brilliant, interesting, driven women I admire so much. I felt so out of my league.

Anyway, now I’m lurching around like a reanimated but still desiccated mummy, dizzy and incoherent, picking ridiculous fights with people I care about, and complaining about how bad my head feels and always feels, and I just can’t seem to snap out of it. I blame feminism. And airplanes. And train madness! (I did not take a train.)

Oh, if you want to hear my talk and all the talks at the conference, you can stream and download the whole thing for $49. My speech was called “When Women Say Yes: Consent and Control In Sex and Love.” It was about . . . a lot of things.

Also, I’m sorry we haven’t put out a podcast since the middle of February. Soon, I promise! I’m sorry! You could listen to that one again if you wanted to. Sorry.

Anyway anyway, I don’t want the algorithms to forget me completely, so here are some quickie reviews of things I’m enjoying while busily burning through all my social capital:

Listening to Hadestown

My daughter Clara turned me onto this musical. Originally a New Orleans jazz-style folk opera concept album about Orpheus and Eurydice by Anaïs Mitchell (I know. Stay with me), it’s now a musical that’s premiering on Broadway this month. You guys, it’s so good. Entirely successful world building. I am a sucker for anything based on Greek mythology, but become irrationally enraged with anything that doesn’t do it justice. This one is just weird enough to work.

From The Theater Times:

[Mitchell’s] version isn’t totally pin-downable about where and when it’s set–it’s mythic, after all–but there’s a Depression-era vibe to above-ground scenes, where penniless poet Orpheus and his lover Eurydice struggle to survive. It is hunger that allows the wealthy Hades to tempt her down to the underworld–to an economically secure but soulless industrial town, where men may be guaranteed work, but forgo contact with the natural world. Naturally, it is Hades who gets rich from their labor.

You will not believe “Why We Build the Wall” was written in 2010.

But this isn’t about politics; it’s about mankind. “Wait For Me” just about killed me.

All in all, just a fascinating, captivating, completely original work. Perfect lyrics, songs that stay with you. Such good stuff.

What I’m reading:

The Ghost Keeper by Natalie Morrill

It is not a chick book, despite what the cover might suggest if you are one of my jerk sons. I keep plucking people by the shirt sleeve and shakily asking if they’ve read this book yet. I don’t know why I haven’t heard more about it. It did win the HarperCollins/UBC Prize for Best New Fiction, which is a good start. I’m working on a review for the Catholic literary mag Dappled Things, where Morrill is fiction editor.

This is seriously brilliant lyrical writing, on a level with the best of Michael Chabon or . . . I don’t know, I don’t want to be crazy, but I keep thinking, “Edith Wharton, no, E.M. Forster, no, Faulkner . . . ”

It follows a Jewish Austrian boy with a very particular vocation that keeps pulling him back. He grows up and starts a little family, and they are so happy, until the Anschluss.

The book follows them before, during, and after the war, and I’ve just gotten up to the chapter that describes another, related love story, but an infernally inverted one. And then they all need to figure out: What is love? What is loyalty? What is forgiveness? GOSH. I haven’t finished it yet, but even if it totally mucks up the ending (which I don’t anticipate!) I’ll forgive it, for all the moments of gorgeous tragedy and piercing joy. Do not read on airplanes unless you don’t care if you get stared at for gasping audibly while you read. Wear a sweater; you’ll get chills.

And we’re watching:

Well, we’re still watching The Sopranos. This is the second time around for me, and it’s even better than I remembered. It’s so much funnier than I remembered. It’s a little scary how much more sympathy I have for Tony this time.

I also think they should have won some particular prize for the depiction of dreams.

I guess the common thread in all these things is a sort of lyrical dreamlike quality, realer than real life.

That reminds me, what movie or TV show has the best, most accurate portrayal of dreams? It’s so easy to get it wrong and overplay your hand.

Drip, drip, drip.

I had a dream, and I’ll tell you what it meant, because it might be meant for you.

Quick disclaimer: I think that dreams are mainly a way for the quieter part of your brain to tug at the sleeve of the noisier part of your brain, and to say, “Hey, shut up for a second. Here’s what we really think and feel about The Thing.”

As I’ve said in the past,

Sleep is a place where the supernatural, the natural, and the occult can all get a leg in.  Aquinas  acknowledges that God occasionally communicates with people in their dreams.  But I’ve also heard many people say that they or their children had persistent dreams of malevolent rats, spiders, snakes, or other fearsome creatures — and that these disappeared after the room was blessed or some occult influence was rejected.

But most dreams are just your own mind at work.  If my subconscious takes the trouble to put on a memorable show about something when I’m asleep, then it’s often something I really need to deal with; and so, especially with disturbing dreams, I make an effort to decode them.

The other day, I dreamt a long, long dream about running and hot air balloons and factories and meddling kids; but the whole time, I was putting off looking under the kitchen sink.

In real life, I have, in fact, been putting off looking under the sink, because I know it’s dripping. But in my dream, I got down on the floor and opened up the cabinet. I saw that there was a little valve controlling the drip, and I was pretty annoyed that it was such a simple fix. Why didn’t we just take care of this sooner? So I tightened it right up, and–

WHOOOSSSSSSHHHHH. The water came gushing out in a horrible flood. Oh, no, I must have turned it the wrong way! So I quickly tightened it up in the other direction, as far as it would go, and–

WHOOOSSSSSSHHHHH. Flooded again.

So, I put it back the way it was.

It wasn’t easy, either. You had to get the position just exactly right, and there wasn’t any wiggle room at all. It took a really light touch to get the balance perfect, to keep it from gushing and spewing and wrecking my entire kitchen.

And once I got it in just the right spot, it was still leaking. But at least it was a slow leak. And I knew I could live with that, at least for the time being. It couldn’t go on that way forever, but I was right up against the end of the dream, so I had to let it be for now.

I share this with you because it is November. Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas. For lots of people, this means yummy cinnamon smells and twinkly lights and hot chocolate by a fire. For lots of other people, who don’t live between the pages of Real Simple magazine, this time of year means having way too much to do. Way way way too much to do. Even way too many truly important things to do, even after we simplify and prioritize and trim off all the nice but extraneous things we’d like to do.

A good many of us are going to find ourselves not getting everything done — important things, vital things. We are going to walk around with a sense of guilt and dread because we know there is this steady drip-drip-drip of failures going on behind the cabinet doors; and we’re probably beating ourselves up for not getting down to business and taking care of it, you lazy, irresponsible bum.

But I’m here to tell you: It’s probably not your fault. It’s probably not a matter of just forcing yourself to squat down and adjust things until it’s all nice and tight and tidy and taken care of. Right now, probably that can’t be done. It’s just not a tidy time, and that’s not your fault.

Not only is it not your fault, but you’re probably already working really hard, and employing a lot of skill and talent and a delicate touch, to keep it that drip of failure as slow as it is. So let it drip! You can definitely revisit it later; but don’t blame yourself for not doing things that no one person could do. There is such a thing as doing everything you’re supposed to do and still failing. All of your hard work is keeping that drip slow. Good work, you.

Does this apply to everyone? No, it does not. Some people do need to work harder, get their acts together, and make a bunch of adjustments so that things get better. If you’re not sure about your own situation, then write down all the things you’re supposed do every day and ask yourself if you’d expect someone else to do them all perfectly. If not, then lay off yourself. Let it drip.

We’ll give the final work to the poet Spike Jones:

Maybe it’s not your fault. Maybe you’ve just met your Water Lou!

 

My dream self thinks the new evangelization is mainly about cookies.

One of the major perks of blogging at Patheos is that Elizabeth Scalia occasionally shares her dreams with us. As the lost sailor in the Dark Island says, “Not daydreams:dreams!”

As much as I loved the dream where I served canned beans in the can at the event that wasn’t no Edel Gathering, Elizabeth dream the other night gave me even more pleasure. I’ll tell Elizabeth tell it.  Oh, and for those of you  not familiar with Margaret Realy, blogger at Prayer Gardens and author of soon to be four books, most recently A Garden of Visible Prayer, I haven’t spoken with her face to face, but my general impression is that she is . . . not loud.

Oh — and I also appreciate how, even in her sleep, Elizabeth is plugging her writers!

***

I awoke from a dream in which Simcha Fisher, Margaret Rose Realy and I were all doing “home visits” as part of some parish evangelical outreach. We were supposed to go to a house, introduce ourselves, say we’d been trained by the parish and ask if they would like a blessing. That’s all. We were just offering blessings to people. This lady opens the door and steps out into the beautiful sunlight with her little dog and says she’d like a blessing for her dog.

I tell her we usually bless the animals ever October for Saint Francis Feast, and Simcha whispers to me, “let’s just bless the dog. It’s evangelization. And my feet hurt!” Margaret begins to bless the dog on her own, very loudly, and Simcha sits down on the woman’s front step, wondering if the woman has any cookies.

When Margaret is done, I ask the lady if she would now like to be blessed. She looks doubtfully at Margaret, and says, “Depends. Does it have to be loud, like that?”

“I can bless you very quietly,” I assure her.

“Can we do the part about rejecting Satan?” She asks.

“That’s the renewal of baptismal promises!” Simcha says. “I have bap-a-tized 15 children. Irene says ‘bap-a-tized.’”

“I don’t see why we can’t let her renew her baptismal promises if she wants to,” Margaret says. “In fact I think every blessing should require that. We should be eager to say ‘I reject Satan and all of his works…”

Margaret is getting loud again, so I tell the woman, “sure, you can renew baptismal promises”, and we lead her through it and when she’s done I pronounce, “this is our faith, the faith of the church; we are proud to profess it,” and then move into a standard blessing.

Suddenly Margaret falls to the ground as though slain in the spirit, and begins shouting about how Christianity is painful and not a warm blanket but the cross, but she is willing to bear the cross.

Simcha sits back down and starts looking at her swelling ankles. The woman lights a cigarette and, watching Margaret, asks “what is this? Is it something new?”

“It’s Flannery O’ Connor,” I tell her. “She must have read Tod Worner‘s latest piece.”

By now Margaret is shouting to the sky, “Take me now, Jesus! If you want me this instant, I am yours!”

The woman says “I guess she and Jesus are having a moment…”

Simcha says, “I think her blood sugar is low, are there any cookies?”

“I think everyone’s blood sugar is low. Margaret, get up. Let’s go have ice cream.”

“Oh, ice cream sounds nice,” the lady says as her dog starts licking Margaret’s face, and Margaret giggles.

“Ice cream!” shouts Simcha, launching herself off the stoop and running toward the car.

me get ice cream

My dream self is a raging jerk.

A reader had this dream about me last night:

You had some sort of Catholic women’s gathering at your house, and women from all over were coming. When we got there, there was a sign on the porch that said, “This ain’t no Edel gathering.” We went in and on some tables was the food. You said, “I’m pregnant and I like peanut butter and I like sausage. So you can make yourself a peanut butter sandwich, or a sausage sandwich or a peanut butter and sausage sandwich.” There was a large can of peaches with a spoon in it. You said, “after you eat, go outside and find some twigs and make a craft or something.” I mentioned to you that I was expecting our 5th baby in November and you just snorted and said, “Amateur” and walked off. Then I woke up.

I can’t tell if this means I’ve arrived, or that I’ve departed.