Palace of the Blue Butterfly | Episode 13. I don’t know where you’ll be when you read this, but I’m going hiking, and, if we can finish all the chores around here, we’re planning to car camp. Yes, by a river. I just want to be sitting on a rock, reading a book, listening to the rush of a waterfall as it tumbles over granite into a blue-green pool.
What am I reading? Well, it’s almost summer, and since the book group just hefted Anna Karenina, mentally and physically (Best. Novel. Ever.), we’re reading something lighter, or maybe darker—-Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler. But hey—look at what the critics say about it.
“Raymond Chandler was one of the finest prose writers of the 20th century. He wrote like an angel.” Literary Times
It’ll be a great read on a rock in the sun or by the . . .
Palace of the Blue Butterfly | Episode 12. Remember when I said that I loved crumbling old villas? Must have been early imprinting. On drives around the south, my mother would always find these abandoned, old plantations in places like Georgetown, South Carolina and the like, would stop the car, and I’d find myself stomping through the kudzu, peering through . . .
Palace of the Blue Butterfly | Episode 11. The great surrealist artist Leonora Carrington died on May 25, 2011 in Mexico City. She was 94. It was weird because my friend Frances in Mexico and I had just been e-mailing each other about Leonora, and Frances was telling me about the time she met her a couple of years ago. I’d mentioned to Frances that I was going to write a bit about Andre Breton and the group of European exiles who, fleeing persecution from the Nazis, came to Mexico in the early forties. They were a remarkable crowd. As Frida Kahlo said, “I didn’t know I was a surrealist until Andre Breton told me I was.” And Breton famously said . . .
Palace of the Blue Butterfly | Episode 10. Early spring on the ranch has come and gone. This year my Yellow Butterflies magnolia bloomed for the first time since I planted it three years ago, and of course, the tulips, the forsythia, the heavenly daphne rewarded all my hard work. It’s a charmed time of year, a time when I can relax on the porch, all the stooping and planting of last fall forgotten.
The east-facing front porch is my . . .
Palace of the Blue Butterfly | Episode 9. Today I’m going to show you a little you tube movie of the famous chef and — what can I call her? — the great food historian Diana Kennedy. You’ll be reading a lot about her. She was just given the James Beard Award for the best cookbook of the year for Oaxaca al Gusto.
The You Tube is in Spanish and is an interview for the, I guess, Mexican version of the AARP. It would be too tedious for you to read a whole word for word translation, so I’m just going to give you the gist.
I’m showing the Spanish language interview because the production values are the best. In it you can see Diana Kennedy in all her glorious 88 years at her home in Zitacuaro, Mexico. It is there that she gives . . .
Palace of the Blue Butterfly | Episode 8. Okay, so I’m a romantic. I admit it. Maybe because I’m from the South, but I love the Gothic. I love crumbling buildings draped with vines, overgrown gardens with a bit of wildness in them, anything scented and sultry and dark.
Sometimes Mexico seems more southern to me than the south, more gothic, more brooding and, yes, more romantic, like this hacienda . . .
Palace of the Blue Butterfly | Episode 7. Why did I choose Mexico as a setting for my book? Two reasons: When I was seventeen, my mother and I took off for Mexico City in her huge Buick Elektra. It was a road trip moment, really exciting, a bit dangerous, with great scenery as a backdrop. Anyway, I fell in love with Mexico. It’s that simple, early imprinting and all that.
The second reason? Well, that has to do with the craft of writing, with the essential element of conflict, and one of my all-time favorite types of conflict involves a woman trying to negotiate a life in a foreign country.
Once I had the setting for my book, I had the conflict. Given all the tension and danger in Mexico now, what was my character doing there? Whom would she meet? Where would she go? And I wanted to . . .
Palace of the Blue Butterfly | Episode 6. Women’s Fiction is more or less this: Fiction, a novel or story, in which the woman’s emotional growth and change drives the plot. There may be romance, suspense and mystery, but in the end, it matters less who-done-it or whether the girl gets the guy than whether the woman is a changed, older, wiser, better person. Uh . . . Jane Eyre anyone?
I consider Anita Shreve to be a wonderful Women’s Fiction writer, but she hates the term and has lobbied to not have her books called . . .
Palace of the Blue Butterfly | Episode 5. Here’s the way I look at it. If I weren’t supposed to enjoy reading and writing ChickLit/Romantic Suspense novels, would hammocks, Lipton’s Diet Ice Tea with Lemon and Bain de Soleil suntan lotion ever have been invented? I think not, girlfriends.
So what is Chick Lit? And why do women like it? Well, as Laura Caldwell says, “[Chick Lit] connotes a work that appeals to women . . .
Maria Felix. The great actress of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema. I couldn’t resist putting her up for all to see. Notice the cute little bandana around her neck. I’m always lounging around the ranch like that, don’t you know — menos el cigarro (without the cigarette). I wish.
Of course to come across as the Boss Lady like Maria Felix, I’d need ranch hands. Oops. Forgot about getting a few of those somewhere along the line. Wait. Dave just reminded me he’s the ranch hand.
Anyway, all writers have images they carry around in their heads. Maybe that’s why we write — a need to empty the vessel. Maria Felix, Delores del Rio, Katy Jurado — the Mexican screen goddesses . . .