The Bistro

The Bistro

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Join us here in The Bistro for a discussion on the entire Gamache series. Feel free to ask or answer any questions about any of the books or the series as a whole.

Discussion on “The Bistro”

Oh dear Barbara. These are such sensitive issues. I am absolutely certain no offense was meant by anyone. I know we were talking about terms used in different countries and I think it is very different how people identify who they are and where they come from.

In America and Australia being born in the country does give you citizenship but it doesn’t guarantee you identity. That is what I take from this discussion. What is so interesting is how we come to define who we are and that is such an evolving process.

It is indeed a tricky process when we struggle to find identifying labels for ourselves let alone anyone else. We certainly don’t want to offend! Let me tell you a cute little story.

When Erin was in Kindergarten she was telling me about her day and one of the little boys in her class. I was trying to work out which boy she was talking about as she couldn’t remember everyone’s name. She racked her brain for an identifying feature or two. “He is the one with glasses mummy!” She finally said triumphantly. She pointed him out the next day. Yep he had glasses but he also had very dark skin, unique among her class mates. I loved the fact that she didn’t “see” that!

Millie, I do not need to apologize for the length of time my people have been a part of this country. I have stated before that I belong to no heritage organizations because some of the members think that being a member of this or that means they are superior to others in some way. I did not choose my heritage. When I read the comment (in the newspaper) made by some who live here in Augusta and come from other parts of the country, I get very upset at the unfairness of it all.
Oh, before I get blamed for something else let me say that I wasn’t being a racist when I used the designation of African-American. It is considered correct as the group chose the designation. By the way, I don’t like to be called white because some people use it as an insult. I think being called Caucasian is odd. If I ever think of what I would like my designation to be, I’ll be sure to say.
More later……..maybe. I have enjoyed your posts and……oh never mind.

Julie, did you ever watch a TV show called “Numbers”? FBI agent with a younger brother who was a math genius. My hubs and I loved it because of the interaction between the brothers and their dad and the other Agents. They were good ‘who done its’ but interestingly enough, when one of the Agents left the show, we lost interest for a while. The show’s final episode dealt with a ‘happily ever after’ resolution to the main characters finding love mattered more than their jobs. Loved it.

I was worried about you since you hadn’t dropped in lately. Sorry to hear that you are in a bad time.
We loved Numbers.
I just searched back to see what I had written that caused the Not writing out the number comment. I was shocked that I had not typed what I thought I had said and evidently had not reread before posting. We were discussing pet peeves and I intended to say that I did not like ads that said something like “just4you”. My error.
I did not ever say that I thought all Americans were treated the same. I would have had to be mentally challenged to think such a thing. I will accept someone taking issue with me about something I actually say or do. I am a flawed person as is everyone but I protest at the putting of words in my mouth. I said that I thought being born in America meant that a person’s nationality was American.
NO I did not grow up in an enchanted place. I am not some unaware silly goose.
I’d better post this now before I make another error and cause it to disappear. I also need a tissue.

I loved that show. So did my husband. Of course, Vern watched because he liked Rob Morrow, and I watched because I thought David Krumholtz was very sexy, hahaha. Still do, but of course, the people I find sexy, many others just find strange, hee hee. It’s been awhile, and I do remember a main character leaving, though can’t quite place it now, and of course, also remember the happily ever after.

Downton Abbey, my husband lost interest after episode three. But he would look at me and say, “You weren’t kidding that your Uncles and Dad held on to ‘old world’ beliefs regarding a woman’s place!” Not that they had anywhere near that kind of wealth or property…. But they did have housemaids before deciding to move to America – the political unrest got to my mom… Others followed a decade later. As others, Maggie Smith & the costumes are why I continue to watch.

Hello all. Just realized it’s only been four days since I popped in. Feels like forever but I t’s been a tremendously difficult four days for me. The 11th was the fourth anniversary of one of my Uncle’s passing and finding out my dad had dementia… I fell apart emotionally, rearranged some mental pictures and pulled my scattered pieces back together. There’s a great acient quote I like (can’t remember who first said it, though),
“Everything is different and nothing is different.”

That’s how I feel. Outwardly, nothing has changed. Inwardly, I’m a different person. I looked at so many things that I chose to accept as truth about myself, my abilities and discarded those that no longer serve me. Some will still take a more intense Soring Cleaning… Took a deep breath and plunged head first into the world behind the characters that have been waiting patiently for me to ‘tell their story’ for the past 18 years. And I found the place to start their story. My ‘chapter one’, which I wrote four days before my dad passed away, comes much later in the ‘story’. I now have very rough ‘compass points’ of enough scenes and how they weave in and out for the entire Part 1 (with apologies to Barbara for not writing out the number 😉

I panicked a bit when I read many of you don’t like to read stories where there are nasty people and even considered reworking my ideas, but stopped myself.
1: Nancy, you haven’t met my extended family! LOL I’m sometimes called upon to be ‘mediator’ between sibling or cousin ‘disputes’, shall we say. I can see both sides and help them change ‘perspective’. We’ve talked about how a small shift in perspective can change how we see things a lot in this group…
2: Barbara, you must have grown up in an enchanted place to believe ‘anyone born in America was considered American’. Just ask one of my younger first cousins! And she is blond, fair and has hazel eyes. Plus I spent a lot of my youth in a big Northeastern city. It is not (to be fair, let me change that to it WAS not) “the City of Brotherly Love” as its motto proclaims. No idea if it’s any better now. No desire to go back even for a visit. I lived there in the 60’s, before the Civil Rights movement… No, not everyone born in America was treated as an American there. So you can probably imagine how someone not born in America was treated. Even though I had dual citizenship till I was 21.
3: Anna, my family in America still uses the 1st, 2nd generation designations…

Anyway, here’s a number four: Julie, I want to apologize for snapping at your comment, ‘all you had to do was let it out’. I appreciate your thought-filled response. My only excuse is that it touched a nerve. I’ve been struggling for 18 years ‘to just let it out’… And now, thanks to all of you, something magical is happening in my life. The novel, my novel, is coming to life! Right after I started participating in discussions of TLWH, I mentioned it was hard for me to join groups…
I’m so glad I joined this one! Below is a link one of my old theatre friends sent me today as a reminder that although we all miss ‘the good old days’, we not forget to embrace the goodness in our lives that replaces what is no more. Enjoy the Divine Miss M (Bette Midler) perform “In My Life”.
Because as much as I will treasure the memories of my old stomping ground, ‘I love you more’.

Millie – I didn’t take offense, so please don’t apologize. After I read your comment I just realized that what I’d said could have sounded insensitive, and wanted to explain a little further… I’m a really thin-skinned person (as I think many of us here are), so I know it wasn’t that I didn’t take offense because I’m not that kind of person. It’s because your comment wasn’t offensive.

Please don’t change your characters because they might make someone uncomfortable reading them. Downton Abbey is really a bit of fluff – when there’s someone there who is unpleasant, I can understand someone deciding not to watch, because there really isn’t an overriding, compelling reason to watch anyway. For me, I kind of like seeing those kind of characters, because sooner or later, they get their comeuppance, and I do love to see that. Granted, Mary’s is a long time coming. There’s also a certain amount of “Well, she’s English, you know” – she could have come right from my family, and fit right in. So maybe there’s a bunch of people who don’t even notice, because it’s just business as usual. At any rate – I don’t see how you have a good story about how people relate to one another, if everyone gets along, and is nice as pie. A story like that, while perhaps pleasant to read, doesn’t have anything to teach me, and not much to capture my interest…

Keep on keeping on…

i just re read one of the Deborah Crombie’s where an incidental character has gone off to Canada, to a little place called Three Pines. Love the crossover!

I enjoyed the first couple of seasons of Downton but not the cattiness. I know we talked about the need for conflict in stories and having a bully or unpleasant person can provide that but ongoing nastiness is just plain wearing!

Especially in a situation where the main catty person is the heroine of the story and the one we’re supposed to identify with! Or at least, sympathise with. In this last season, I’ve put that person in the “love to hate” category, though I still watch, hahaha. The clothes and the sets are so beautiful, and the stories are second to me. It’s the sumptuousness of it all – the last of that kind of thing, it’s interesting to see it as it was at the end…

I watch Downton Abbey to see Maggie Smith, the clothes, and the sets. Lady ” I’m so superior to my sisters” has a very exaggerated opinion of herself.

Just thought of something else. We haven’t had TV for some years now but I did watch the first season of Downtown Abby. I never went further because I found the way the sisters treated each other to be totally offensive. (My daughter said, “Oh Mom, that’s how sisters are”….but I don’t know how she’d know since she and I are both only daughters!!! My mother had three sisters and they would never have been so horrible to each other.) Some people told me that the series was better in subsequent seasons and they didn’t act this way but I just could not get interested in watching it again.

Nancy, whoever is telling you the sisters don’t treat each other that way in subsequent seasons is either fibbing, or hasn’t watched the latest season, as the older girl, who is perfectly lovely looking has just been a witch to her younger sister, and would have sent me sobbing away to another town! And so far, she has only been admonished once by any of the rest of the family… even though they all know something she doesn’t about what’s going on.

I have been rereading Deborah Crombie’s series while we wait for The Nature of the Beast. Louise recommended her as an author. She lives in Texas but her books are set in England. I realised that while the detective component of the books was interesting, what really kept me turning the pages was the relationships between the central characters and their friends. Are Detective novels really just soap operas with a murder thrown in I wondered? Well soap opera may not be the right term but it does come back to the people and the characters.

Are there any fictional series, novels or even TV shows, that keep you coming back where the characters are not your prime interest?

Anna, my main interest in a mystery is the interaction of the characters. I enjoy the way they solve the puzzle of “who done it” but it’s the characters and their very human struggles and comic interactions that fascinate me. I love Deborah Crombie’s books because her characters come to life. And I don’t read books where the main persons are ones I wouldn’t want to know. I used to enjoy Anne Perry’s books but they just seemed to get darker and darker. So I stopped reading them. I love the Brother Cadfael series (Ellis Peters)…all twenty of them..and reread them from time to time. I guess the authors I tend to read are like Louise. They still believe that goodness exists and their imaginary characters relay this to the readers.

That’s interesting, Anna – I think that a few modern TV shows have tried to be about the crimes and less is known about the characters and their relationships, but the ones that truly engage me are always the ones about relationships. Sometimes I think this is because of my individual quirks – I once had a conflict with a co-worker, and when our boss was trying to mediate, she observed that Colleen was trying to look at just the work, whereas I had a relationship with everyone in the office. And I thought – how do you not have a relationship with the people you spend every day with? This may have been why we never saw eye-to-eye, hahaha.

It can be very hard to engage with people who don’t understand relationships are core to the way the world works, even at the highest diplomatic levels.

Interesting question. I think the characters are what keeps me coming back to a book, movie or TV show. When I was young, I watched soap operas on my lunch break until one day I thought what a spoiled brat one character was. No more for me.

Clever Cathryne to remember the Antipopes. There is a trick for non Catholics.

There was a schism in the church Julie and for a while there were two lines of Popes running, the one in Rome and a second Papal seat in Avignon in France. Both lines claimed to be the rightful ones.

Now, that would be interesting to know about… Even though I’m not religious and have very little religious knowledge, I do know that for many, many years, the Pope was also a political figure and impacted history a great deal. History fascinates me, but I must admit I’ve not read much from before Henry VIII.

Millie, I’m going with Benedict XIII as your Pope, though he was an Anti-Pope, so I hope he’ll count. He seemed to think he was the rightful Pope!

Julie, I couldn’t agree more with you. Anna’s book is masterful. Interestingly, the way most books from ‘unknown authors’ get a wide audience is through word of mouth. It is up to the ‘first readers’ to encourage others to read it. 😉

This group is a constant surprise Millie! That’s what I love about it.
I agree Julie,just go google the Popes but there are an awful lot of them. Still it’s good fun.
Barbara, Augusta is looking stunning. Just watching a replay ofthe first round. I see the sun shining and the flowers are in bloom. Anyone know why the caddies at the Masters wear boiler suits?? That can’t be fun in warm weather.
I have to stop eating Easter bunnies, I will look like a blimp. It’s making me very lethargic and that hinders writing.

I went looking for why the caddies wear the suits, Anna – didn’t really find an answer, but do know that they’ve been required to wear the same basic uniform (the white jumpsuit) for a long time. On top of that, they need to wear an apron with pockets to hold all the paraphernalia needed along the course, and it also needs to be sturdy enough to hold the velcro name and number tags on the back – they’re velcro so they can be changed, and the number can be added at the last minute… They look for all the world like mechanics’ suits, don’t they?

I think it stems back to days when basically, all the caddies were black, and perhaps even hearkening back to a time when that kind of position would have been held by a slave, and the all-white uniform was, first, to take away any individuality, and second, to make them look “sharp”… all a part and parcel of “keeping them in their place”. Today, tradition is keeping the uniform in place, though nothing else, thank heavens.

Julie, I too checked on the white jumpsuits for the caddies at the national. Bobby Jones set the rule when he formed the Masters Tournament. Why? Good question. I’ve asked a sportswriter in an email. I told him not to research it this week just when everything here is back to normal. I just thought, If anyone has connections to golf or sportswriters, etc. maybe someone else could get to it sooner.
You and I have the same idea as to the true reason, though. You know that only African-Americans could serve as caddies at the National for many years and tournament players could not bring there own caddies.
The PGA would not allow caddies working any tournament to wear shorts until recent years. Of course that is if the club rules allow it.
Anna, a question. What are African-Americans called in Australia? African-Australians? Every day I seem to have more and more questions about everything.

Thanks for the research Julie and Barbara. It seems a strange choice of ‘uniform’ but in the historical context I can see why the nondescript nature may have been used. My mum was quite a good golfer and associate Captain of the Golf Club where I grew up. It’s the sort of question I would have asked her but she won’t remember now sadly.

We don’t use the phrase African-Australian that I know of. Because we are a young country and everyone is from somewhere else if a descriptor needs to be applied it might be Australian of Nigerian descent or Irish descent or Indian descent. When I was growing up it wasn’t uncommon to hear people identify as first generation or third generation Australian. I was only second on my father’s side, my grandfather having emigrated from England. It’s hard to know at what point we stop identifying as being Australian but of somewhere else. Most people are quite proud of being both at the same time which is nice for the most part. That’s not to say there isn’t racism in this country. There is sadly. But I am not sure if there is a country free of some sort of racial or class tension.

Thanks. When I was growing up, we usually spoke of people being Americans no matter what race they were. I thought if you were born in the US you were American.
I don’t think there is any country without racism or prejudice either.

Julie, if you like games, just do a Google search and pick one. I doubt anyone will guess, but like you said, this group can surprise!

Okay – then with Google as my witness, I choose Pope Leo VIII. Can’t wait to hear who it really is…

Barbara, I see why you’re excited! Anna, ‘three’ books are simmering in your mind? But then, you’ve created a platform on which so many fascinating characters stand, I bet you’re mind is filling in details of many simply because you’re as curious to know more as we are. Write On!

Anna, ‘like Tinkerbell’! The more people who believe, the more real the place and the characters become. Love that! The Cove or Three Pines may not be on any map, but they are real. So real we need ‘the Bistro’ to keep the fire going untill the next book so we can enter again.

Julie, your ‘all you had to do was let it out’ comment about Anna’s story floored me. It’s true, but so hard in some ways. I don’t know about Anna, but scenes don’t come to me in tidy sequenced order. They come in bits and pieces and finding just the right spot, with just the right dialogue, and connecting them so it’s doesn’t slow the pace, but adds ‘spice’ can be so daunting some days. At least for me.

Oh, Millie – I know that’s true – that it doesn’t come easily, and “all you had to do was let it out” sounds very facile. I didn’t mean it that way – I’m just in awe that something like this wonderful book could be inside someone… I’ve had teachers tell me I write well all my academic days, and it lead me to believe I ought to be trying to write… Problem is, I don’t have anything to say, hahaha. I get it now, after reading how you and Anna have been working – it needs to be there, clamoring to come out! Makes perfect sense that it would come out all higgledy-piggledy, and you have to put it together in some semblance of order, haha.

Oddly, I finally found my creative talent to be visual, even though I can’t draw, and have never thought of myself as “artistic”… It’s funny what you find out about yourself once you go looking…

I agree, Anna. That was the one thing I didn’t believe about the otherwise excellent article. Not only will writing be with us, but so will reading. It’s not a dying art. Obviously the author doesn’t know about the Bistro! The ‘waiting lounge’ till Louise’s next book comes out. 😉

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