Monthly Musings: 6 September 2021

Rich villains, alternate endings, wine, and, new genres.

Dear Substack Subscribers, 

This is the first Monthly Musings email with an invite to join an interactive chat. I know I said put tonight in the diary but for the sake of giving the people who are new to these emails more notice, I have set up an event here:

This is a reoccurring event that happens on the 3rd Thursday of the month - so now you can definitely add it to the diary. Once lockdowns end I hope these can move from Zoom to a room.

As always if you like this content please support by subscribing - its only $2.50!

This week I watched Cruella on Disney+. I enjoyed the film, mostly because Cruella is one of the best villains ever created. 

The backstory that was given to her was not exactly believable - it made her too nice. What made the modern versions of Maleficent so great - the humanisation of the villain - let Cruella down. Perhaps it was because she is a human already.

Glenn Close as Cruella is probably another great villainess performance (see my praise of Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch from last week).  

One of the biggest differences between the original conception of Cruella and this reimagined backstory is that she becomes punk.

In all the previous portrayals she is a privileged and out of touch heiress. The fashion she wears as both the cartoon version and the Glenn Close version is high fashion.

However, in the new film she is shown growing up on the streets as a pocket thief and comes into her fortune later in life - the film is the story of how she came into her fortune. The fashion from the most recent film is grungy and there isn’t much in the way of fur. 

How she becomes the villain of 101 Dalmatians is not at all clear in this film. It seems like Cruella must transform again to go from Emma Stone’s character to Glenn Close’s. Perhaps they will make a new film based on the books that include Cruella’s husband - something that got a limited exploration in the films thus far. 

My book of the month is Lionel Shriver’s Should We Stay or Should We Go. Shriver’s most recent book is based on the present and several alternative futures.  

It is probably not my favourite book of hers. Her second most recent book, Motion of the Body Through Space, I enjoyed more. But I always try to keep up with Lionel Shriver’s worlds because she is a fantastic storyteller.

The main characters in the book are a husband and wife who make a pact to euthanise themselves at 80. It explores all the ways that both going through with the plan and not going through with it could play out - some scenarios bordering on science fiction whilst others very likely. 

Many of Shriver’s books have a similar progression. The first interview I linked to referenced The Post-Birthday World, but the book of Shriver’s that got rediscovered this year - and rightly so - The Mandibles, also plays with a near or recognisable future and the sci-fi-like future. So many this year have been commenting how close to reality the first part of The Mandibles has become, but at the same time the second half is still a distance away. 

The setting of this book in the present is also noteworthy. Shriver could be the first to produce a work of fiction that is set during COVID-19 lockdowns. Being based in the UK in 2020 Shriver herself makes an appearance as a talking head and references her book The Mandibles. 

The book and beverage pairing is very simple this month - a glass of red. You would know why if you had read the book (or seen the cover art). 

I was trying to produce a theme of what I have been listen to this week and come up with cross-genre covers. Salon has a list of it’s favourite here:

But I have made a Spotify playlist of my own favourite cross-genre covers for your listening. It can be accessed here:

Unfortunately not every cover I would add to this list is available on Spotify. Many of the best covers happen in unplugged sessions that make it to B-Sides but not albums.

That’s the musings for this month!

Please like, share, and subscribe to get these every month. I promise the next one of these will be even better!


Best wishes,