**spoiler alert** Disclaimer: I received a free review copy from Endeavor Press.
Aggeler takes the theories that Marlowe might have been a spy and migh**spoiler alert** Disclaimer: I received a free review copy from Endeavor Press.
Aggeler takes the theories that Marlowe might have been a spy and might have had some homosexual relationships and runs with them like mad in a frantic dash through the Elizabethan world.
Here, Marlowe is a hard drinking, hard fighting, hard playing bisexual, womanizing and manizing (is this a word?) all over Europe, morally torn over the Catholic v. Protestant debacle, in love with word play and the theater, and, at the end of the day, willing to do what it takes to “get the job done.”
He’s 007 in a doublet, baby, doing what needs to be done for Queen and Country, meeting exotic people (like Frenchman) in exotic lands (like France) and through it all ready to solve all problems with his fists and dagger - and sometimes his pen. (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)
Be warned, the book covers the violence of the torture and executions used in that time period, and the Elizabethan-style language makes the story a little more dense to work though, but overall it is quite an adventure to follow Christopher Marlowe from his meteoritic rise to his sudden dispatch....more
I am not going to rate this book. This book is too much of an Issue to attempt rating – I will leave that to the English majors and simply record my t I am not going to rate this book. This book is too much of an Issue to attempt rating – I will leave that to the English majors and simply record my thoughts on plot and characters.
I was, obviously, braced for the racism going in. I was not, however, braced for what may or may not have been a lot of sexual subtext. Whether it was how the other schoolgirls admired Scarlet's legs or the liberal use of the word “queer” tossed around or the way Ashley’s eyes would glaze over whenever Scarlet threw herself at him, there were a lot of descriptions that could have been read as having double meanings.
Have you ever been in a serious conversation with someone like a parent or manager and they suddenly drop a phrase that could easily be taken as a double entendre but they seem unaware of it (i.e. I’ve swallowed all I’m going to swallow!) and you’re sitting there with your left eye twitching and biting the inside of your mouth and just thinking: ‘must-not-laugh, must-not-laugh’ ?
A lot of this book was like this as Mitchell blithely describes the characters interactions in ways that could have just been her oblivious to how it would be read OR it could have all been quite deliberately coded in such a way as to make some suggestions about different characters sexuality, but still slip it past the moral police.
I don’t know, but I am now firmly in the camp of Ashley-doesn’t-like-girls.
Meanwhile, I found there was an important distinction in that Scarlet and the narrator are separate. The narration stands far outside of Scarlet, making plenty of digs at her mistakes, vanity, shallowness, and self-centeredness. There is a lot of commentary about points both historical and psychological that go completely over Scarlet’s head.
However, it begs the question of how much went over the narrator’s head as well. Mitchell’s presentation of the slave characters could be read several ways; taken at face value, she seems to be showing characters who have nothing in their heads but to live and die for their masters, and no more ability to employ higher level cognitive thinking than a dog.
Read another way, we could be being shown the false front of cheerful servitude used as a mask to hide true negative feelings that slaves would have been punished for having, with a few slips of the mask here and there to suggest three dimensional characters carefully hiding behind safe stereotypes.
For example, when Scarlet reminds her father’s valet Pork where her father hid a stash a liquor and Pork responds cheerfully with a: ‘Wow, you’re right, I’m so stupid to have forgotten about that!’, I had a hard time taking his I’m-so-stupid attitude at face value. I’d be willing to bet money Pork hadn’t forgotten about that stash for a second and wanted to hold it in reserve for himself and his own family. I get that he’s lying, but Scarlet takes him at face value. And it’s unclear if the narrator or author gets it that he’s using the same lines and attitudes subordinates always use to try and escape the wrath of people with more power. Mitchell, do you get it that your own characters are laughing at you?
But I was struck by how progressive Mitchell was in promoting the idea of women’s rights as a lot of this book is her practically screaming:
“Women have brains, too! Big ones! And the South engaging in the Civil War was the stupidest decision since Napoleon thought Russia was a nice place to spend the winter! You idiot men-children I am expected to look up to and take care of are stupid! Argh!”
She head on addresses issues of classism, sexism, politics, racketeering, war profiteering, jingoism, education issues (and lack thereof) and in general shows how the South very much destroyed themselves without much help from the North.
Of course, Sherman helped.
To be fair, in the (Boston-published) history books, Sherman’s scorched earth approach reads as a sound policy to get the war over as quickly as possible, but when described as a civilian’s on-the-ground experience, it is clear its war at its very worst – harming people who can’t fight back.
But before we get to all the apocalyptic level destruction, we see the last pre-war days described in loving detail as the perfect utopian idyll of sunshine and silk and parties and balls and barbeques and flowers and cocktails and just overall this wonderful place of peace, prosperity, and no work.
Yeah, that’s nice for the 1% who actually got to enjoy all that, but for the most part all that easy perfection involved a heck of a lot of work, and I would have liked to see her get into the labor going on behind the scenes to make all that luxurious laziness possible. She touches briefly on the issue of a woman expected to be empty headed before marriage and a brilliant manager afterward, but doesn’t get into it more than that.
On the one hand, I want to object that Scarlet is never given credit or respect for how she does whatever is needed to survive – but on the other, she doesn’t give anyone else any respect either. An old neighbor describes surviving a massacre as a teenager and Scarlet just rolls her eyes and thinks “old people nattering again”, and is outright contemptuous that another neighbor dared to “waste” her own money on a tombstone for her dead sons.
And then there is Rhett. Oh Rhett. I want to like you. Really. But when you treat someone like a child, don’t be surprised when they act childishly. If he had treated Scarlet like an adult, their relationship might not have been doomed before it began.
But then the book really gets into the period of Reconstruction and started to lose me. Was the author / narrator just stating beliefs of the time period, or was she honestly that lacking in empathy that she could holler up and down the street that white women deserved access to education and business opportunities, but former slaves were just being uppity and only saying what they had been told to say by northern politicians and businessmen.
Riiiiight. Only your minority deserves consideration, no one else’s. Typical.
Reconstruction plays out as three separate threads – the bustling post-war regrowth of people willing to get busy building, the very tragic foundations being laid down for the decades of civil rights strife, and the eye-rolling exasperation at the “twilight of the gods” so many of the old families settled into, constantly harkening back to the “good old days,” sounding exactly like a pampered former aristocrat screeching at the thought of wiping his own bum.
Again, how much of what Mitchell writes down does she believe? I couldn’t say. Is it subversive? Cognitive dissonance? Too subtle? Obliviousness? I don’t know.
But whatever it is, the constant comparison by everyone, men, women, Northern, Southern, of black people to animals and children, this constant emphasis that they were “less than,” left me ashamed to be an American.
The name calling gets so bad that by the time the ant-Semitic comments started I was pretty numb to it all and was all ‘oh, yeah, I was wondering when that would pop up too.’
Not once does anyone think this is all simply chickens coming home to roost, as they say. Scarlet gets panicky at the possibility of starvation and losing her home, never once thinking how many slaves suffered from not enough food and / or were sold away from homes and families in order for owners to pay bills.
It’s heartbreaking to read how the post-war segment plays out to the sum of no one learning anything, simply trying to get things back to as close as possible to “the good old days.”
It’s a depressing part of a long running attitude of finding a group to pick on, moving from one to the next in an unceasing quest to always have someone to hold as “less than” for cheap self-esteem boosts. ...more