OK, I love this.
Artist Cynthia von Buhler created dollhouse miniatures to try to solve her bootlegger grandfather’s 1935 murder. The result is Speakeasy Dollhouse, which grew from a series of dollhouse sets to an “immersive experience” theater project (seems a bit in line with Sleep No More, perhaps?). As a big fan of Frances Glessner Lee’s fantastic Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death (which von Buhler acknowledges were a big influence on her own project), and, really, anything related to historical murder mysteries in general, this sounds pretty amazing.
You can read an interview with von Buhler over at Salon, in which she talks about transmedia storytelling, curiosity, and family secrets.
My dear friend F. Lee has a new webcomic up at New Paradigm Studios called Justice Is Nocturnal. Go check it out — the art is stunning (like always) and it’s a wonderful mythological twist on noir. I know a little of what’s in store, and I can’t wait for more!
I think I’ll save a full write-up until the show is finished, but I have to say I feel like I’ve been waiting for The Bletchley Circle my whole life.
It’s about a group of female codebreakers in post-WWII Britain solving serial murders. This is absolutely everything I love — feminism, friendship, mystery, period drama, cryptanalysis. I just — I can’t even. I’m so in love. The only problem I foresee is that there are only three episodes.
If you’re still on the fence, you can read the review in the Times, but I wouldn’t waste a single second. Go watch the first episode on the PBS website right now.
So over on Salon, Christopher Wallace has a piece about English detectives and asexuality. I’m reading along, going, ‘Yes, yes, OK’ — anyone with two wits to rub together could figure out that Holmes was probably asexual — until I came to this:
It is a tricky thing, making of an abstemious protagonist a vivid personality. It is usually in the so-called base passions, the Tolstoyian temperaments, that a character reveals himself.
And then I stomped around for a while like Godzilla, crushing small cities underfoot.
I can understand where Wallace is coming from, insofar as romance is often the source of conflict and tension in many narratives, but to imply that a character can’t be well developed without a romantic object is just plain stupid.
Maybe it’s just the approach of Valentine’s Day that’s got me all wound up, but I am so absurdly sick of the assumption that one is somehow not a full person without a romantic partner. Particularly if you’re a woman, you must be unfulfilled unless you’re paired off with someone. I’m pretty comfortable as I am at the moment, and I’d like to think that my character does a pretty good job of revealing itself — quite vividly, thank you — all on its own.
The comments on the Salon article do a pretty good job of roundly critiquing Wallace on every point from the Holmes canon to sexual politics, but good grief.
Oh, you know, just an average evening: researching crime scene clean-up and writing about blood spatter.
What is my life.
In honor of the holiday season, here’s a piece of fiction. It’s a mystery story of sorts, wrapped in a Christmas party — but be warned, it’s not exactly what I’d call “merry and bright.”
Not a lot of peace on Earth and good will toward men in my line of work . . .
Salon shared a great excerpt from Richard Lingeman’s book The Noir Forties on the rise of the femme fatale, in which he attributes the genesis of the noir genre to war-era German immigration to America, and connects the femme fatale to postwar male anxieties about self-reliant women. Characterizing the femme fatale type, he says:
Feminist critics would later celebrate the noir woman — the iconic femme fatale — as a lioness of empowerment and sexual freedom. Janey Place articulates this view when she writes that the noir era “stands as the only period in American film in which women are deadly but sexy, exciting, and strong . . . active, not static symbols . . . intelligent and powerful if destructively so.” The femmes fatales were certainly more than just sexpots; they were apolitical rebels against the traditional female role. Depression babes ambitious for a materially richer life but lacking education or business ambitions, they rejected domesticity (unless they wanted to negotiate a marriage of convenience to a wealthy man) and used their sexual wiles to undermine patriarchal power — to “unman” a man and thus control him.
Lingeman mentions Mildred Pierce in the article, and it just so happens that Michelle and I were recently discussing the trailer for the 1945 adaptation, which grossly mischaracterizes the plot and themes of the film in order to emphasize exactly the qualities Lingeman is describing. Check it out: