Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Season of Envy

LUCY BURDETTE: Last week I came across a fascinating article by Dennis Palumbo, one of our previous guests on Jungle Red, in which he talked about the impact of awards on a Hollywood career. One of his patients (Dennis is both a psychotherapist and a writer) calls this period after the Oscar nominations are announced "the season of envy." And he compares it to the sense of longing and insecurity many of us experienced in high school. I suspect this description might go for writers just as well--we'd always like to reach some peak a little higher than the place we are now. There are tons of awards coming up in the writing world that can contribute to these feelings, like the Lefties, the Edgars, the Agathas, the Macavities, the Anthonys--and I know I'm leaving some out. And we've just learned that Meryl Streep won the Oscar for best actress in THE IRON LADY, and THE ARTIST cleaned up otherwise.

I thought it might be fun to talk about the award we each most covet--never mind whether we have the talent--and what it would be for. I can imagine enjoying a number, but I'll name just two. The first would be an Oscar for best actress in a role like Meryl Streep played in JULIE AND JULIA--a real character part where viewers are astonished at how well I was able to inhabit someone else's skin. (This will never happen as I am completely devoid of acting talent.) And the second would be the Nobel Peace Prize. I'm not sure what exactly I would have done to deserve it, but I can't think of a better goal.

RHYS BOWEN: Boy, you certainly don't start humbly, do you Lucy? Where can I go from there? Actually I want to win an Edgar. I covet that little statue with the bow tie. I have won most other awards in the mystery sphere and I was nominated for the Edgar once (at the same time as Julia) but I suspect I'll never come close again. I actually wrote a poem about it. A couple of verses go:

"I just want to win an Edgar
That little guy with bow tie red-grr
And with an R beneath his head--grr
Quoth the maven, "I'm not sure."

"If you want to make your marker
You must write a book that's darker
Change your name to T Jeff Parker
That's the only way to score."

There was more but that gives you the gist.
Of course I wouldn't mind winning anything at the Oscars, because I'd like an excuse to buy a dress like that.

HALLIE EPHRON: Laughing, Rhys! I wouldn't mind an Edgar...

BUT, since we're talking fantasy here, what I really covet would be a Grammy for singing like Aretha. Or Olympic Gold for high diving.

ROSEMARY HARRIS: At the risk of suggesting that I'm more highly evolved than I am, I don't really think too much about awards. Don't get me wrong, I was pleased to be nominated for the Agatha and the Anthony - and like Rhys, I would love an excuse to buy and wear a killer gown but it doesn't go much further than that. If pressed I would say a Pulitzer for writing a novel that really speaks to women - or failing that, Miss Congeniality. How's that for a range?

LUCY: Oh, I wish I'd thought of the Olympic gold medal--Maybe basketball, or floor exercise, or figure skating...Ro, Miss Congeniality--that will keep me chuckling all day. I say we just go ahead and award that one to you right now!

JAN BROGAN: Well, I'd have to say the award I'd most covet is the Pulitzer for history, but right now I'm sort of a stick in the mud about awards, and you can blame it on NPR. Last week, they did a story on why Woody Allen shuns the Oscars (except in 2002 when he was promoting NYC after 911). He believes strongly that art is so subjective, it's madness to pick one as the best, The works aren't comparable in any way.

Now this is particularly powerful because Woody Allen HAS won Oscars. Three times, so its not out of envy he says this. I have been thinking about it ever since - and thinking that if that is true, the Oscars are just another reality show.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Eeesh. It all started when I was a kid, and felt like I was never good enough. (Lucy, jump in here..) So as a result, I think I became very competitive. And I do like awards.
Example of why this happened: my mother, upon hearing that I'd won another Emmy, responded "Oh, honey, do you still care about things like that?"
Anyway, yes, mom, I do. Sorry. I'm a bad shallow person. And I would LOVE an Edgar. (And an Oscar for best screenplay. OOOH. YES!) And I still look at my mystery awards with endless delight and happy memories and much gratitude. Who'd a thought?

But a propos of "the season of envy"--that's not how I feel when I lose. When I lose, I always think--"I have to work harder! I have to be better!"

RO, you ARE Miss Congeniality. SO, hurray, and we are sending you a tiara.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Yeah, I have to confess with Rhys, that I'd like an Edgar. It kind of feels like the one that got away. When Jeff Parker won, for the deservedly fine CALIFORNIA GIRL, Ross leaned over and said, "They just switched names at the last minute because his kid and elderly dad are here with him." So if I'm every invited back to the Banquet, I'm bringing the whole family and a three-legged, blind dog with me. No way I won't win then.

Ahhh...fantasy award? Picking up an Emmy for Best Screenplay (on the stunningly-successful series based on my books, natch.)

Too bad we don't have things to award like the OBE in America. Rhys, are you still a British citizen? Could you become a Dame?

RHYS: I have dual citizenship, so in theory I could become a Dame. You'd have to curtsey to me, of course. If we're going all out, I'd rather be a baroness, like Lady Thatcher. And I want an Olympic medal too--ice skating? And Julia, if you bring your blind dog, I'm coming in a wheel-chair.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Doesn't everyone who writes crime novels want to win an Edgar? Or the British equal in prestige, the Gold Dagger? But while it's thrilling to be nominated for awards, and even to win them, I can think of few things more excruciating than waiting for that final announcement. Then if you've lost, it's half disappointment and half relief that you don't have to walk up on that stage and babble something totally incoherent.

But as much as I appreciate the Edgar (having served on enough committees over the years, I know how much hard work goes into that short list) and the fan awards, and as much as I love the Oscars (and I do) I have to admit to feeling a bit Woody Allen-ish about it all. It's the same reason I think we shouldn't pay too much attention (or maybe even read) reviews of our books. These things are all so subjective! And in the end, no amount of awards or reviews change a single thing about our relationship with the words on the page.

And now that I've had my high-brow vent, Julia, I'll fight you for that Best Screenplay award for the stunningly successful series based on my books:-) But Dame Rhys may win it first.

JULIA: If Rhys ever becomes a Dame, we shall INSIST she wear towering great hats a la Lady Violet in DOWNTON ABBEY. Agreed?

LUCY: Agreed! And if any one of you are up for the Edgar or best screenplay, we'll all come and cheer you on! And speaking of winners, Virginia wins a copy of AN APPETITE FOR MURDER for her spaghetti in the German chocolate cake story. (Send an email to raisleib at gmail.com so we can work out the details.) And Theresa of California won the DVD on Sunday.


  1. For traditional reasons, I've got my eye on the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award. If I could ever write something that Ian would approve of, well... life would be good...:)

  2. Back in music class in elementary school the class was divided into Bluebirds and Crows. Bluebirds sang and Crows mouthed the words. I was a Crow so of course I'd like to win a Grammy.

  3. Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. I would be the best friend/mother/sidekick that wowed everyone.

    Woody Allen's idea is spot on, and it's why I take issue with almost every "best" award, and rarely read any reviews, let alone "one stars". It's physically impossible for everyone judging to view/read/analyze every potential work.

    Rosemary, I have a tiara you can borrow.

  4. OH I volunteer to write Debs or Julias screenplays! There's a solution! And we can ALL go up to the podium in our dresses...

  5. Bluebirds and CROWS? Darlene, dear long lost sister, that is terrible and fodder for a psychological drama...although you turned out fine, I guess...

  6. How about a National Medal for the Arts, presented by the President? I could go for that.

    Or an Oscar. When I was in high school and beat a friend out for a part in the annual musical, she wished me an Oscar in her year-end public good-byes. So that's always stuck in my head, though I can't say my acting talents deserve it!

    Or an Edgar, since it's the Oscars of the mystery world.

    I want to see Rhys in a fabulous hat!

  7. Maybe we should just have our own Jungle Red awards, where we could all wear big hats and receive tiaras.

    I've been reading the usual media carping about the Oscars and just really want to say a big SHUT UP and WHY DOES YOUR OPINION COUNT ANYWAY? It was fun, I enjoyed it, and even though BEST of anything may be subjective, I love the techie awards. Sound editing, set and costume design, cinematography, digital effects, makeup, score... These are the people who work so bloody hard behind the scenes to make movies magic, and I love seeing them get a chance to shine.

  8. I can't even count how many times I've watched the Damon and Affleck acceptance speech for the Good Will Hunting screenplay and thought SOME DAY.

    But I don't want to just win the award. I want to be a part of that little Hollywood family just like Meryl and Marty, not just a temporary guest at their ceremony. Dream big, huh?

  9. Oh, I'd want an Edgar for sure--it would appeal to the insecure adolescent inside me who just wanted to be part of the in-crowd.

    But, to be crass, if I had to choose, I'd rather land on the NYT bestseller list! That would be award enough for me. :-)

  10. Oh, I'd want an Edgar for sure--it would appeal to the insecure adolescent inside me who just wanted to be part of the in-crowd.

    But, to be crass, if I had to choose, I'd rather land on the NYT bestseller list! That would be award enough for me. :-)

  11. Susan Elizabeth--yes exactly, dream big!

    Darlene, I hate that story. I have another friend who remembers something like that as clearly as it was yesterday--and he's in his eighties!

    Debs, you might be onto something--Jungle Red awards--we all win--tiaras all around! (Except for William, unless he really wants one...)

  12. Most entertaining, ladies! You get the award for most warm, welcoming, helpful, insightful, and entertaining blog. Shall we call it The Blabber?

    I want the mirror ball trophy from Dancing with the Stars. How's that for shallow? And an Edgar or an Agatha. I'm too old for an Olympic medal or for the title of American Idol--just keepin' in real, dawg--so I'll "settle" for the NYT bestseller list like Lisa. I'd use the occasion to buy myself an Oscar-caliber dress and find somewhere suitable to wear it!

  13. Ladies, you all deserve tiaras~

  14. A couple of years ago Hank and I were nominated for the Agatha and we all wore tiaras and then auctioned them off for charity. It was fun.

  15. You all DO deserve tiaras but I still want to see Rhys is a big hat like the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey!

    Cathy AJs

  16. I would like an Edgar and an Agatha (deleting all sex and violence now).

    1. Wheelchair: Check
    2. Poster Child Braces: Check
    3. Forearm Crutches: Check
    4. Dog: Check
    5. Blind Cat: Check
    6. Deaf Husband: Check
    7. Book: Working on it

  17. thank you Mami and Laura! Rhys, I can't believe I missed the tiara.

    Rein--you raise an interesting point. Wonder if there's been a case of the same book winning both an Agatha and an Edgar?

  18. Hi Lucy,

    Laura Lippman has won both the Agatha and Edgar, among others.

  19. Now that the Web people have made it more difficult for me to prove that I am merely human I can no longer participate in this blog before work or while on breaks! I miss out on so much...sniffle...

    Well, enough crying:I have never been a candidate for Best ANYTHING so I can dream big if I want. Therefore, despite my innate klutziness (and my fear of falling) and the fact that I am a few days away from turning 63, I would like to win an Olympic Gold Medal in figure skating -with a perfect score,of course. And the cutest costume. And maybe wearing a big hat.

    And Lucy and I can share that Nobel Peace Prize. And our efforts to succesfully achieve permanent peace would be so spectacular that there would never again be a need to award a Peace Prize. We would of course be very modest about it.

    I would use part of my share of the money to invent the kind of technology that would never exclude a real human being from participating in the blog of his or her choice,provided that the person made tasteful comments.
    Deb Romano

  20. You go Deb--I'll take the silver in figure skating. They'll be astonished at what middle aged women can do...and love your technology idea!!! These letters we're supposed to figure out and type in are ridiculous...