Clearly, I have to start watching this show.
My NaNoFiMo is back! I did an entire mailbag (mailbag 6) today (that's, like, four short chapters to you.) But tomorrow, when I do the next mailbag, I'm going to get into some serious cutting out of things. And some serious rewriting of things. I think the hardest rewriting of things will start in mailbag 8 or 9. (Can't remember.) So I'll have a little space to run up to it.
Also, because I got stalled, my Mo is going until Dec 11th. I don't know why I chose that. Random, I guess.
I just read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.
Yes, I'm far behind. It was published seven years ago. Yes, that's how long it took me to get past my now-entrenched contrarianism. Yes, I'm that bad: if a book is being hyped, then I simply won't read it. It takes something as deeply in-tune with all of my priorities and isshooz as The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, to get me around the contrarian thing and actually reading the hyped boox.
And no, I didn't have an epiphany reading The Lovely Bones that caused me to realize that by being contrarian I was missing wonderful boox like this one. The Lovely Bones just wasn't that great. In fact, it's a perfect example of one of those boldfaced lie family melodramas in which everyone is a good guy, and everyone, even though they make mistakes, does it for the most noble and loving of reasons. The book proposes a universe in which there is an organized Heaven (which is problematic for me right there), in which Everything Eventually Is Okay, in which families always love each other, even when they fuck each other up (the serial killer's mother loved him, she was just crazy), in which dead people get a chance to fulfill their whatevers before they move on, in which the people dead people leave behind wait around and don't move on until the dead people are ready for them to, blah, blah, blah.
Yeah, and much was made of how this book, that came out soon after 9/11, touched a nerve in American society. You bet it touched a nerve: it told us exactly the kinds of soothing lies we needed to hear about death: that death is always meaningful, that lives are always meaningful, that trauma can be overcome (even after you're dead) and it's your fault if you don't overcome it, that you will live on after death, and that all of your fantasies about being loved and missed after death will come true, and then some.
Also, the whole literary writing style thing? After about the midpoint of the book, it seems the book wasn't edited that well, because there are whole paragraphs where you can't tell who the subject of the sentences is, or what's going on at all. But, of course, it's all Beautifully Written.
What I DID realize was that contrarianism isn't protecting me from this kind of drivel. Sturgeon's Law applies across the board, unless you're reading only canon classics and prize-winners (and even then.) What I AM missing is a big part of the public discourse on literature. I realize that much of the public discourse on literature is about drivel, and taking drivel seriously. But I do need to know what drivel is being taken seriously and why. So my new resolution is to read the biggest hyped books every year. I'll wait to the end of the year to find out which ones were the biggest hyped, but I'll read them. This includes the "literary" stuff (was The Lovely Bones considered literary?) and the Dan Brown/Stephenie Meyer stuff.
It used to be that saying "Life's too short" about giving up on a book or a movie was a very serious accusation of suckitude. The lesser insult was "I have better things to do."
But now I'm about halfway through my expected life span as an American. I've noticed recently, with books, movies, and even TV, that I'll give up on things much more easily, with the thought that I don't have all the time in the world to read (or watch) crap, and I still haven't read Moby Dick (or seen The Bicycle Thief) or whatever, so I shouldn't waste my time on this. I think it's a function of mid-life crisis.
It's also a real consideration, though. I'm genuinely starting to feel how limited time is and how crappiness is a terrible thing to waste my mind on. But I'm still working on the idea that I should finish every book I start, and still working with the sensation of failure when I don't.
Right now I'm trying to get through William Gibson's Virtual Light, which I picked up because it mentions Thomassons in it. Every time I pick it up, I'm reminded that: a) I still haven't read Neuromancer, b) I'm not all that interested in Gibson or cyberpunk, but really should read at least that one seminal text before I kick the bucket, and c) I'm not really into this book, but feel I should finish it since it's not at all a bad book.
So I think the new rule should be: since I'm going to spend this time reading anyway, but I'm never going to get this reading time back, should I really be reading THIS? Or more precisely, at the end of my life, if I were granted the power to remember every book I had read, would I regret wasting my time on this?
I think the answers are no and yes. So I'm kicking this book to the curb and instituting this as a rule.
This post on Broadsheet alerted me to a new study in the UK that shows reporting of child sex abuse has risen sharply, and with it the reports of women -- mostly mothers -- being the abusers.
Sex abuse claims directed at men still far outnumber those aimed at women. A 2007 United States Department of Justice report noted that females are responsible for less than 10% of sex crimes and less than 1% of all forcible rape arrests. They also have a different modus operandi than male offenders -- including a higher likelihood of committing their crimes in caregiving situations and in concert with a male partner. But the uniqueness of female perpetrators can make it harder for victims, particularly boys, to come forward. The DOJ report noted “sexist beliefs that depict males as controlling all sexual encounters and females as passive and submissive recipients… Misperceptions exist about the ‘ability’ of women to sexually victimize males.” And the jokey cliche of a boy seduced an older woman muddles the seriousness of the crime.
This makes me prick up my ears because of that story I wrote a few years back (currently titled "Vacation") in which all the men disappear from the world and some women end up becoming sexually predatory with young boys. The story was inspired by the Mary Kay Letourneau case, in which a 30-something, white (blonde) schoolteacher and mother of four had an affair with her 13-year-old, Laotian student, and went to prison for seven years after she got pregnant with their second child, against a court order not to see him again. I wrote the story after reading that Letourneau had been released from prison and had immediately married her former student, who was at that point 22 years old.
The story isn't based on the Letourneau case, but is rather an attempt to explore in a more general way the kind of predatoriness that would cause a perfect Barbie-mom to go after a young boy who was in her care for much of the day (Letourneau was actually a grade school teacher, and the boy had been in her class when he was 11 and 12.) In this story I turned the tables, and actually had a rape?/not rape? scene in an alleyway. But the articles above seem to indicate that woman/boy sex abuse doesn't fit the stranger-danger stereotype any better than man/child abuse usually does (most of that happens within family or friendship circles.)
This gives me a lot to think about, like how my story works best where the public attitude is that women don't generally sexually abuse children. But this article has started to change my view of that. My tables-turning isn't quite so powerful in a world where a lot of women DO molest children. So I'm very disturbed by this on two levels. I might have to write another story, a different one, to get at whatever it is comes out of this.
By the way, I'm bound and determined to finish proofing the chapbook tonight, now that that grant is done. I hope the book, with "Vacation" in it, will be out in December.
Argh! My NaNoFiMo has fallen apart already!
I'm currently working on a monster grant proposal that's due Monday. And I'm still working on proofing the galley for my chapbook. I don't know why it's taking me so long, but it is. Those take precedence over other stuff. So, once again, NaNoFailMo.
I'm hoping I can get going on da nobble again on Wednesday. Sigh.
Yep, another reading. Fall is a busy time. Since I'm counting down to my chapbook publication, I'll probably be reading something from the chapbook. Here 'tis:
Kimberly DaSilva & Guests*Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia Street, San Francisco
Sigh, was busy trying to catch up on stuff today so not a lot done on the NaNoFiMo front. My first task was to go through mailbag #5 and punch it up a bit. So I read through the mailbag and then ran out of time to do anything about it. I'm going to have to go back in and read it again tomorrow, because I was distracted by the story in this reading (if I haven't read something in da nobble for a while, it comes fresh to me and I settle in and enjoy it -- or not, as the case may be.) So not a lot of progress, but this is how things are with dis nobble. Hard to move forward quickly.
Also, read Neil Gaiman's graphic novel Marvel 1602, and Cory Doctorow's Little Brother.
Marvel 1602 was kind of a waste of space. Hey, let's take a bunch of Marvel comics characters and put them in the year 1602! Why? Why, I dunno ... cuz it'd be cool, I guess. ...
Yeah, boring and pointless and not even much fun. Plus, it's hard to tell who's who when they're not wearing brightly colored spandex suits.
Little Brother I enjoyed like the Dickens. Very entertaining, fun, emotionally engaging, very politically aware and engaged, etc. Doctorow even was aware that his protag Marcus is a white male from the creative class, and built that privilege into the character (spoiler: at one point his Latino best friend refuses to help him out any further because he points out, realistically, that he would get reamed much harder than Marcus.) There's a bit of white-geek-boy fetishizing of Asian chix, but it's not too bad. It's just a shame that the characters of color tended to wimp out a bit, but I could find fault with anything if I tried hard enough. Suffice it to say that if you're going to have a white male hero, it's a great idea to point out that his privilege is one of the things that gets him the last yard into heroism.
Also very very impressed with Doctorow's very clear and engaging descriptions of how technology works. I really admire anyone who can do this -- Ted Chiang is one who takes his technical writing skill and turns it into amazing fiction. I learned a lot about possibilities from this book, and had fun doing it. Maybe I'll read more Doctorow. I'll definitely read more YA if he writes any more.