Monday, October 09, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Dating Is Murder

As a geeky, introverted teenager who spent a great deal of time at her grandparents' three-channel-cableless house in the summers, I was beyond addicted to the soaps. In fact, I remember once my mother was arguing with me about my "attitude"* and, since I rarely left the house for anything but school, she had nothing to take away from me but Guiding Light. (I also remember writing an impassioned "speech" in my journal about how I wouldn't let her take that away from me since it was the only thing I had in my life, but that's a topic for a whole other sort of post, one which it's probably in everyone's best interest for me to avoid writing.)

As another example of my addiction--I was in seventh grade when President Reagan was shot. I have a very vivid memory of rushing in the door after school, and being totally traumatized by the footage of the shooting. No, not by the violence of it, or the possible ramifications for world politics--no I was traumatized by the fact that As The World Turns and Guiding Light had been preempted by that coverage. I mean, c'mon! The guy was already in surgery, replaying the footage over and over again wasn't going to help anything and playing the soaps at their regularly scheduled times, in their entirety sure as hell wasn't going to hurt anything, right?

So, my purpose in revealing yet another freakishly geeky aspect of my personality wasn't merely to make all those other freakish geeks feel a little less alone but to lead into the story of a related freakishly geeky habit of mine. I have a startlingly good memory for faces and characters from the soaps in the early '80s--soaps, I feel it's important to note, that I haven't watched on any kind of regular basis since the '80s Not only do I know Meg Ryan was on As The World Turns as Betsy Stewart Montgomery Andropoulos, I vividly remember many of her scenes. It's actually kind of alarming to me how much of the stuff I can recall from soaps during that time period--not least because it makes me wonder how much of my brain space is being used up by such useless crap when it could be used for significantly more important things.

Anyway, I feel a sort of proprietary attachment to the actors I remember from back in those days. When I see Julianne Moore in a movie, I will say with a completely undeserved sense of pride (as though I "knew her when..."), "She used to play identical half-sisters on As The World Turns!" And don't even get me started on Kevin Bacon, who (briefly, but memorably, at least to me, not that that's saying anything) played bad boy Tim Werner on Guiding Light...

Imagine my delight when a few months ago, I found a short story in Ms. magazine written by Harley Jane Kozak, who a million years ago, played Annabelle Simms Reardon on Guiding Light. Even though her character eventually faded away into domestic boredom--um, bliss--with Tony Reardon, she was introduced to the show in dramatic fashion as the Mystery Woman in a decades-old photo featuring the patriarchs of all the town's Big, Rich, Powerful Families (as well as their "help," the poor beleagured Reardons)**. Harley went on to a career in movies, including Arachnaphobia and Parenthood.

So I read the story with the same propietary (undeserved) pride I usually feel toward my wayward soap buddies--and with maybe a little apprehension because, after all, writing and acting aren't at all the same thing. Turns out she's good at both and I was delighted, at the end of the story, to find a plug for not one, but two books she'd written.

I've since read both the books--which aren't really my kind of book (to the extent that I can be said to have "kind of book" since I read an absurd amount of books in a wide variety of categories) and the truth is, if it weren't for Harley Jane Kozak's name on the cover and my borderline obsession with former soap stars, I'd never have picked up Dating Dead Men. But, by the time I was finished with it, I couldn't wait to read the sequel, Dating Is Murder.

The main character, Wollie Shelley is the kind of accidental heroine who finds herself embroiled in murder mysteries and weird dating scams. She's so smart about so many things and so very dumb about men. In short, she's like a lot of women you know. And, really, the plots are interesting but what's going to keep me coming back is the goofily complex character that Harley Jane Kozak has created on the page.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Fun.

*I'm not sure whether I put "attitude" in quotes because what my mother perceived as my "attitude" still seems to me to be simply my personality at that shining moment in time and, therefore, not a deliberate attempt to drive my mother insane or if I put it in quotes because "attitude" didn't even begin to cover the challenge I probably presented my poor mother in those days.

**I'm not sure who this could possibly matter to (but me), but I feel the need to add that the woman in the photo wasn't Annabelle at all, but her long-dead mother, in whose death all those rich powerful patriarchs were somehow (though, lucky for all concerned, I don't remember how) implicated.

1 comment:

  1. Youngest Sister10/10/06, 11:03 AM

    I do that all the time with the soap stars thing. I tell Justin randomly that so and so was on Young & the Restless when I was five and he really just doesn't seem as fascinated as I am by that information.