What with all the Femmes Fatales attending Bouchercon in Long Beach – except for various good reasons Dean, Mary, Kris and me – I’m feeling a bit lonely. This is the first World Mystery Conference I’ve missed since Monterey in 1997, shortly before my first novel was published. The panels, the parties, the schmoozing in the hallways, the late nights around the bar, the big city lights … I’m missing them all. Keeping up via Facebook from a small island in the Bahamas just doesn’t cut it, ya know?
Yesterday, my husband offered to treat me to lunch to “cheer me up.” I declined, deciding instead to take a long, solitary walk along the Atlantic beach not far from the retirement cottage we’ve recently purchased in the tiny settlement of Hope Town on Elbow Cay in the Abacos. (My actual footprints shown above!) Walking clears the brain, helps me sort things out – how do I cook the fish for dinner, what do I do about that huge plot hole in the work in progress, what to write about in this blog?
Greta Garbo famously said, “I want to be alone.” According to Wikipedia, this line, spoken by the reclusive star in the 1932 film Grand Hotel, was already a running gag, beginning with her silent film, Love (1927) in which a title card reads, “I like to be alone.” Two years alter in The Single Standard her character says, "I am walking alone because I want to be alone" and in the same film, she sails to the South Seas with her lover on a boat called the All Alone. In 1931’s Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) she tells a suitor, "This time I rise... and fall... alone." In Inspiration, released the same year, she warns a fickle lover, "I just want to be alone for a little while" and later in Mata Hari she says to her new amour, "I never look ahead. By next spring I shall probably be... quite alone." By the time Grand Hotel was released, then, the motif had become indelibly linked to Garbo's public and private personae. Later, in 1939, it was even lampooned in Ninotchka when emissaries from Russia ask the actress, "Do you want to be alone, comrade?" "No," she says bluntly.
When Garbo died in 1990, the New York Times quoted the star: "I never said, 'I want to be alone'; I only said, 'I want to be let alone.' There is a world of difference."
As I hosed the sand off my feet after my solitary walk, I decided that my favorite Garbo line was in Anna Christie (1930), her first speaking role: "Gimme a whiskey, ginger ale on the side, and don't be stingy, baby."
Please join me, dear readers, and let's talk about where YOU go when you want to be alone?