I understand the need to cut slack to authors whose viewpoints are racist or bigoted in light of today’s values. This is particularly important when aI understand the need to cut slack to authors whose viewpoints are racist or bigoted in light of today’s values. This is particularly important when an author’s views were progressive in their day. For instance, Thomas Jefferson can hardly be called a racist when his views were downright radical in his time. Yes he owned slaves (during a time when this was the norm for men of his stature), but had he been around today his views on equality would likely put most of today’s liberal minded folk to shame.
So what do we do with authors whose views today, right now, in our context, are flat out bigoted or racist. What is their excuse? Can they have an excuse? I don’t think they can have an excuse.
Nothing can excuse Lorelei James. Even though it is clear that this woman sees herself as caring and open-minded, even though she writes about “minorities” in a way that she probably thinks is fair and balanced, even though she potrays interracial relationships, even though she offers graphic same sex lust scenes, even though she “empowers” her female characters by putting them in charge (sort of) in the work place – she can’t overcome her bigotry, her outdated adherence to gender roles and her downright racism.
She gives us an “Indian Princess” who considers herself entitled because she is “half-white” (see what James does there? She doesn’t call her a “half-breed’ she calls her “half white.” It’s so much better that way isn’t it?) She gives us gay men who are written off as “sissies,” but at least she offers some graphic man on man on man dream sex (see what she does there? She gives us the big “taboo” made okay by the dream sequence, and she refrains from calling her “sissies” “faggots.” It is so much better than way isn’t it?). She gives us an artist who wants to make the “Indian Princess” his subject, and he wants to put her in “beaded buckskins,” riding a horse, wild and free, through the Wyoming plains. (see what she does there? She honours the Indian spirit, not Native or Aboriginal –- never that, and makes the modern savage noble again. It is so much better than putting her characters in residential schools isn’t it?) She gives us a strong woman who runs a ranch, but willingly gives over all control in the bedroom (at least she’s strong somewhere –- so that’s good); she gives us a responsible, sober strong, Indian man (at least he’s not the “drunken stereotype” as he himself points out -– so that’s good); it just goes on and on. Yep she sure gives us a progressive view of race and gender.
Seriously. Who thinks like Lorelei James? Who walks around, now, today, thinking that it is okay to see the world the way she sees it? A whole hell of a lot of people, unfortunately. The Republican base in the U.S., the Conservative base in Canada, and a great deal of the folks who see themselves in the centre or as having "moderate" political views. Too many.
I can cut Thomas Jefferson slack, as I can with the countless great writers who made strides in their time but fall short of our morals today.
I can’t cut Ms. James and her peers slack. With any luck their work will not last long in anyone’s memory. ...more
Rare wonders abound Evergladly in Florian's poems. Polliwogs, frogs, and lizards Terribly cute and kitschy and surreal. I'd have liked more consistency LeRare wonders abound Evergladly in Florian's poems. Polliwogs, frogs, and lizards Terribly cute and kitschy and surreal. I'd have liked more consistency Less rhythmic dissonance Else this book was a joy that made us smile Scoutie will attest, reptilian wonders are the best
Sorry about the acrostic poem. Bronte and Milos have been writing them lately, and it seemed a fitting way to honour Florian's lizards frogs and polliwogs. Scoutie loved it, and she's the proper critic for this book. ...more
Cinderella, or The Little Glass Slipper -- My first Disney surprise of the volume. I had always been under the assumption that Disney’s early fairy taCinderella, or The Little Glass Slipper -- My first Disney surprise of the volume. I had always been under the assumption that Disney’s early fairy tale movies were glossy, post-WWII bastardizations of the earlier versions of the tales. So I was surprised to discover that Charles Perrault’s 17th Century version of Cinderella was, with the exception of an extra ball and a lack of talking mice, the clear source for Walt’s masterpiece. I’ve always been partial to Cinderella (the best princess movie from the pre-Eisener (post-Walt) era, before the Mouse House turned “princess” into a dirty word). The animation is gorgeous (and so wonderfully blue), the music is properly serious and its storytelling is tightly woven. Silly as it may be, knowing that it is almost completely based on Perrault’s story makes me feel a smidge less guilty about my appreciation.
The Sleeping Beauty in the Woods -- And here’s my second Disney surprise. Walt and his cronies did away with the nasty Ogre Queen Mother who tries to eat the Sleeping Beauty’s children after she wakes up, but the first half of Perrault’s tale is intact, so Disney, once again, stuck closely to his source material with excellent results. I have to say, though, that I would love to have seen the Ogre Queen Mother munching on the well-dressed animals the cook prepared to trick her into thinking they were her grandkids.
Little Thumb -- The anti-Ogre sentiment gets a bit much in Little Thumb (Tom?). He and his brothers – after their poor parents try to lose them in the wild to relieve their responsibilities and survive themselves -- stumble into an Ogre’s home, and the big, mean, evil Ogre man – whose natural prey seems to be humans – tells his wife that he wants to have all these yummy little boys cooked for the next days dinner party.
To save his and his brothers’ skins, Little Thumb tricks the Ogre into cutting the throats of his seven daughters rather than the throats of Tom and his six brothers. Then Tom steals seven golden crowns and the Ogre’s magic boots, and he becomes an important and rich messenger.
Probably my least favourite story, Little Thumb’s Ogre-other is just the sort of insidious racism that makes my skin crawl. If the Shrek movies weren’t so crappy in so many ways, I could almost appreciate their attempt to turn Ogres into protagonists. Almost.
The Master Cat, or Puss in Boots -- I knew nothing about this story until I read this take. The Master Cat is a jerk. He victimizes an Ogre King, a king who seems to be a pretty decent ruler. His people, whom we meet throughout the tale, are kind, healthy, prosperous, and Puss just walks in and kills the Ogre King and hands the King’s lands over to his own “nobody” master. Puss’s master gets the castle, gets the girl and wins big.
Just under a hundred years later it would have been Puss in Guillotine.
Riquet with the Tuft -- My favourite of them all. What a shame this has never been adapted to the screen. The ugliest guy in the land is blessed with the greatest wisdom and intelligence. The most beautiful girl in the land is cursed with the greatest stupidity. So the ugliest guy gives her the gift of an intelligence to match his own, but she must marry him in return. What happens next is fascinating, and one of the finest lessons I’ve read in a fairy tale. I think Paul Giamatti and Charlize Theron (remember her character in Arrested Development) should make this on the stage somewhere.
Blue Beard -- DON’T LOOK IN THE CLOSET! Just once I would love for someone in one of these stories to do what they are asked. I suppose we wouldn’t have a story then.
The Fairy -- This is a weird one. A fairy rewards a girl who was nice to her with a mouth that spews gems whenever she speaks and curses her mean sister with a mouth that spews lizards whenever she speaks. A Prince falls in love with the gems and marries the nice girl, making her happy forever while she makes him rich. Ummm ... okay. Come to think of it, though, I bet gems from the mouth would have benefited Carrie in Sex and the City.
Little Red-Riding Hood -- I have to spoil this one. Sorry folks. The Wolf ... he eats Little Red Riding Hood. His trick succeeds. His teeth are there to better eat her. And that’s it. Story over. Eat your heart out Wile E. Coyote. ...more
They're seven going on eight (for those of you who don't know or aren't sick of hearing it), and I read them Tolkien and Le Guin back to back. I read the former with deliberate performance and emotion. I read the latter in a monotous, almost plodding voice. I think both methods go to the mood and texture of their respective pieces. And The Wizard of Earthsea won.
This review was written in the late nineties (for my eyes only), and it was buried in amongst my things until recently when I uncovered the journal inThis review was written in the late nineties (for my eyes only), and it was buried in amongst my things until recently when I uncovered the journal in which it was written. I have transcribed it verbatim from all those years ago (although square brackets may indicate some additional information for the sake of readability or some sort of commentary from now). This is one of my lost reviews.
I loved being surprised like this. Every once in a while someone out of the ordinary suggests a book to me and I give it a shot, and I am blown away. That's the case with Tigana. What a brilliant fantasy novel. Heavy on character, light on fantasy, completely invigorating.
I was never sure who I liked more -- Brandin, the so-called tyrant, Dianora, his lover, or Alesson, the Prince of Tigana. In the end, I would go with Brandin. I love villains who are not so villainous, and he is certainly one of the most complex fantasy antagonists I've ever read. He has done some crule things, even barbarous things, but he did them for very human and understandable reasons. The death of Stevan, his beloved son, was an understandable catalyst for his crime on Tigana. But what makes him a tragic and beautiful figure, a truly rich character, is his capacity for total love. He was a realistic man wielding fantastic power.
To me, Tigana was about Brandin. How will my friends see it?...more