You know, I think after talking to a couple of people about it, reading a couple of reviews, I can see better why someone would like these books. I amYou know, I think after talking to a couple of people about it, reading a couple of reviews, I can see better why someone would like these books. I am not a girl who cares for The Wings of the Dove, so I cannot understand this particular preference, but I can observe that people have it. I guess that there is something about vague wordiness that is attractive to some readers, and, you know, I can see how that is a thing. Maybe it is like black licorice. Like, it is objectively disgusting, but some people like it. ;-) I kid! I kid! . . . mostly. Anyway, I would not say that I have a particular problem with Ms. DeStefano’s vague wordiness, actually, but it is my impression that, for some, this characteristic redeems the absence of character development, plot, and understandable world building in her books. So, there’s that. I will tell you what I do have a problem with, though, but I feel like I need to move to a new paragraph at this point, so you are going to have to be content with no snappy thesis sentence in this review. It’s the DeStefano way!
Ahh, yes. Much more comfortable. Soo, anywhoo. In one of my Intro to Lit classes in college, I had this lovely professor who advised us that whenever we read anything, we should ask ourselves who wrote it and what his or her agenda is. This is how I read books, and because I value direct communication, I probably base a lot of my opinion about a book on how clearly I can understand who wrote it and what the agenda is. (I am not using agenda as an insult. I think we all have agendas. Maybe “message” is a better word, but in books, I think they would mean the same thing.) How does the book present the world? What does it normalize? What does it question? Sometimes this is a more complex issue than others – for example, in the Uglies series, while Scott Westerfeld seems to try to say superficiality and self-mutilation are bad, I think he really does more to normalize them. Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden series is another difficult one on that front.
First, I guess I’ll talk about figuring out who the author is, and then I’ll get to talking about the book and its messages in a minute. Ms. DeStefano is a twenty-seven-year-old woman whom many have mistaken for a teenager. Maybe, in some ways, that is not a bad thing from a marketing perspective because it makes her more relatable to her audience. Otherwise, infantilization bothers me, and it bothers me when women play into it because I think it is usually manipulative, but I guess I don’t feel too strongly about it compared to the other things that make my head explode about this series. What I actually want to talk about are Ms. DeStefano’s choices in dealing with her position as an author in the midst of reviewers, so you’ll have to forgive me for the digression or report me to the authorities if you wish. I guess I’ll put that digression at the end, so you can choose to read it or not. It’s kind of loooong, and probably nobody cares at this point anyway. My main thought is that when authors, and Ms. DeStefano is certainly not alone in this, publicly react to reviews from an instinctive emotional place and make reviews about their feelings (or even when they privately contact reviewers in this way), it really comes off as a show of strength to reviewers, even if the author intends to be benevolent.*
So, anyway, about this book. It makes The Lord of the Rings look like a fast-paced, action-packed, breathtaking ride at blinding speed through a roller coaster of plot. Meaning, nothing happens in this book the entire time. Gabriel is still a cardboard cutout of UR boifriend with blu Is. Rhine swoons I don’t even know how many times. The damn candies (view spoiler)[are the key to the disease, just as you expected (hide spoiler)], and there is a drop-in mute, disabled, possibly autistic child who serves no purpose other than to . . . no, she serves no purpose. She scampers A LOT. On. All. Fours. And there’s one part where she hangs upside down from the back of a bus seat, and I’m not totally sure what the logistics on that are, considering the size of bus seats I’ve encountered, even compared to the size of babies.
But, aside from the offensive drop-in disabled puppymonkey child to make everyone look cute (or eeeevil, depending on who you are), we also remember that smart kids still can’t have voluntary sex with someone they like, but since kids must have sex, they have to stumble into a sex trap. So, Rhine and Gabriel fall into the grips of an eeeeevil brothel owner who for some reason talks like a Russian villain in a cartoon. She pumps them with aphrodisiacs and they do the deed in a cage in front of an audience (I think – this is never totally worked out a la Wings of the Dove, and I was left with the feeling that they were just making out, even though that doesn’t really make sense). So . . . that happens. It is voyeuristic and disempowering. Not, like, they would have wanted to have sex, but you know. The aphrodisiacs made them do it. This continues the image presented over and over in these books that women cannot want sex just for its own sake, but either must want it for some unhealthy ulterior motive or be forced into sex. It also continues the image that women cannot say “no” to sex and actually have people listen to them.
Then, after the aphrodisiac cage and some other hijinks, (view spoiler)[Rhine winds up back at the mansion because no one realized that tracking devices are a thing, and the statutory rapist from the first book is like, "UR rong, I never hit U! UR tearing me apart Lisa!" And then she finally, after NOT FINDING HER FREAKING BROTHER THE WHOLE TIME (because, let’s be reasonable, it is difficult to find people when you have to swoon all the time) sees her brother on TV, and he’s sparin’ for change on the street in front of a news camera, like you do when they’re going around shooting everyone in a dystopia. AND SCENE (hide spoiler)]. Probably the main issue I have with these books is that I feel like they are saying nothing in a direct way, but doing a lot to normalize a sense of female victimization. Ms. DeStefano takes on the voice of trafficked child prostitutes, and then she does nothing to give them actual humanity or strength. This is a topic I have studied a little bit and really care about, so painting trafficked girls as boring, shallow waifs is offensive to me. I guess I don’t have much else to say about that.
I think I’ve said this before, but another thing that strikes me as odd in this book is that the statutory rape is treated as, well, you know, kids will be kids, but medical testing is painted in a weirdly ambivalent way. Rhine’s parents did it, so she is in favor of it, but it is also painted as the most evil thing in the book. I am confused about the book’s position on this, and that ends up adding to my overall boredom because ultimately I don't really care one way or another what the position on this is, I'd just like to know what it is.
I still cannot give this book one star because, even though it was probably objectively worse than the first one, and even though Skye O’Malley had panthers on leashes, which is AWESOME no matter how you look at it, Skye had a child being raped by a dog, and this book did not. So, Fever gets a freebie star for that. If you are not working on a bestiality-to-no-bestialiaty scale, though, this book is mostly pretty boring. I mean, this book is boooorrinzzzzzzzzz.
And, here’s the thing, you can get offended at the fact that I thought your book was boring, and that I think it normalizes rape, if you want to, Lauren (if you don’t mind me using your fist name). But, I’ve been told my writing is boring and wrong and what have you on the internet, and it is just a person’s opinion. And in this case, the person who called you boring has way less power than you do (see below for more on this). And I also do mean that to be constructive criticism, even if it doesn’t come off that way.
Ultimately, it is probably a pretty simple fix to make the next book less boring. You do a lot of telling and not showing. You tell us, for example that Rhine is an Aquarius, so she is unpredictable, but I have not yet seen her be unpredictable. I have seen many, many Aquariuses be unpredictable in many, many unpredictable ways, but I have not seen that from Rhine. I have seen her romanticize her surroundings, as a Libra like yourself might do, but I have not seen her be unpredictable or witty like an Aquarius might be. Also, you indicate that Gabriel wants to protect Rhine and Linton is in love with Rhine, but I have not yet seen them express anything other than not wanting other people to touch her. My understanding is that they do this because she has two different colored eyes, which makes her special to them. That is perplexing to me. If you could say less and show more about why they would like her, it would help me out.
Speaking of her being an Aquarius, I feel really bad that I am releasing a negative review right before Rhine’s birthday. But, since I am pretty convinced someone lied about her birthday, and she’s actually a Libra, I’m going to go ahead and wish her a happy fake birthday and release the review. Happy fake birthday, Rhine! I hope rehab is very successful for you and that you grow a pair!
* I was actually thinking pretty seriously about author/reviewer interaction on goodreads.com for a few days before Ms. DeStefano let us know what she thinks our dark, 4chan corner of the internet. Her posts, and her subsequent behind-the-scenes attempts to regain favor with readers obviously did make me think more about the circumstances of author/reviewer respect, though, so I am going to talk a little about it here. Author/reviewer interaction is, perhaps, the most over-discussed topic in my entire world right now, other than, maybe, the topic of charging real costs for public records requests, but that is an entirely different boring story. So, I am definitely apologizing for wasting your time by adding my voice to this ridiculousness, but I feel compelled.
I guess, you know, I’m in law school, and that’s definitely part of who I am as a reviewer. I spend most of the day arguing, in a mostly non-personal way, with people who have different opinions than my own about almost anything you can think of from furniture to rape to the prison system to licorice. And I think, for the most part, goodreads tends to interact in a similar way. We present our opinions and tell our story, and then someone tells us that we are a fat, lesbian, Rachel Maddow-lookalike, tiring elitist, and someone else thanks us for our opinion and story and says it changed their life, and then we all go back to our realities. I’ll not say that I haven’t had my feelings hurt on goodreads, but who among us has not been hurt by those we love? So, I might be wrong, but I think I can see what Ms. DeStefano is saying when she says it is difficult to read a negative review on goodreads. This is another thing, though, that I observe to be true, but do not necessarily understand. I guess, I like it when people disagree with me, so we can work out our ideas, and everyone can grow and become better through talking and thinking. I even think it’s funny when I get an angry troll who corrects me and says my writing is garbage. My feelings get hurt, on the other hand, when an authority figure steps in to reprimand me for expressing my thoughts.
So, that is where I am going with this. It is my impression that some authors do not realize that by the very nature of getting paid for their writing, they carry a certain amount of power within the writing community as far as everyone else is concerned. They are the trustees of the school, the investors in the project, and when they show up, the kids had better be on their best behavior. I have seen loads of wonderful author/reviewer interactions, but still, when the authors show up, there is a hush. Maybe this is sad sometimes for authors, and I can definitely see why Caris chooses not to embody his author profile, but ultimately I do not feel bad for these poor little rich kids. As reviewers, we come on this website because it is what we do – our fingers love to type, we tell stories, we love and hate books, and we love to write. And we get reminded constantly that we are not as good as published authors. I am not trying to claim some kind of nobility for it; I am just saying that we are all writers, but for those of us who are not paid to write, those who are paid for writing have a certain amount of power.
So, I guess my point is that whether an author intends it to be this way or not, stepping into a reviewer conflict can feel like a show of strength to reviewers. It can feel more threatening than a normal trolling. Even if you mean to say, “Oh hai! Conflict is a bummer!” it can feel to a reviewer like, “I am talking to other published authors about you and how you hurt my feelings and how they should not support your writing.” I am writing this in the second person because Ms. DeStefano is one of the authors who has made it clear she is monitoring reviews, but she is among many, and I think it is a potential learning moment for many authors and reviewers who have suddenly run into each other on these internets. I give major kudos to authors who can show up on a review and just validate what people are saying without trying to make it about that author's emotions. I also give major kudos to authors who can step away from the computer when they need to. It bothers me when I see authors do the opposite, whether they do it behind the scenes or in public.
As reviewers, we give good reviews and your book sells; we give bad reviews, and your book sells. But, you complain about us, and sometimes our writing disappears, and that is how we know where the power lies. As reviewers, most of us have had our writing, bodies, sexual orientation, political views, and grammar choices questioned and criticized, too. But, that is part of the fun and part of the nature of writing. I know that you, and other authors, have said that you do not want to stifle reviewer reaction to your writing, but when you make it clear that every sentence we say is life or death to you, it comes off as a show of strength because you have power over our writing and we do not have power over yours.
I received an ARC of this book from a book blogger friend. Thank you!!!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book is like if the best book in the world had a lust affair with the worst book in the world, and that affair resulted in the birth of two childThis book is like if the best book in the world had a lust affair with the worst book in the world, and that affair resulted in the birth of two children, a brother and a sister. Then, those children had an incestuous affair with each other, which resulted in the birth of two children, a brother and a sister. Then, those incestuous children had an incestuous affair, which resulted in the birth of twins, a brother and a sister. Then those incestuous, incestuous twins had twincest with each other, which resulted in the birth of a child whom they named Quasimodo for no particular reason. Then, Quasimodo, the incestuous, incestuous, twincestuous child, committed bestiality with a giant, alien crab; and then the seed from that mating read a blog about oil shortage, watched Jurassic Park, and decided to write a book. In other words, this book is spectacular.
The funny thing about this book is that almost everything in the entire story seemed like an error, but nothing seemed like a mistake. So, goes toward proving what a waste of time this entire book is. I like that.
One of the best parts:
Axis[, chief warrior of the raptors,] stood on the hill overlooking the village. So many lives, all his responsibility . . . . [A] pyre was burning nearby, the bodies of raptors and Skjerdals piled high, a thick black column of smoke rising up. Looking at the column, Axis imagined he could see the faces of all those lost lives in that smoke: the face of Asnyllo, a good childhood friend. The face of Blasdij, a girl he once dated. He thought he saw some horses, too, and a clown, but it was the faces of all those dead raptors that really bothered him. And maybe that clown a little bit.
That quote would be akin to a spoiler if there was a plot in this book, but there is not a plot, so don’t worry. It’s all pretty much random stuff like that. And a lot of wild sex.
The rape was interesting in this book because it was mostly not rape in that it was sex with a blow-up doll who did not want sex, but begged for sex, and then strangely morphed into a “warrior queen” who begged for sex. So, that raises the question of whether prostitution can ever be voluntary and answers it with a no. There is also that . . . other rape scene . . . with the giant mole rat. So, there’s a lot of rapey, non-rapey sex with creepy blow-up doll people.
Also, there is a homosexual biologist, whose scorpion tail pusses and spurts ineffectually and who is a homosexual.
(view spoiler)[AND THEN AT THE END V.D. BURNS WRITES A BOOK CALLED BLOOD LUST ABOUT ME FALLING IN LOVE WITH A WEREWOLF VAMPIRE!!!!! So, surprise ending. Probably the coolest thing anyone has ever done for me. Thnx, Mr. Burns. (hide spoiler)]
Basically, this book is either the best or the worst ever, or some kind of incestuous spawn of the two, and scientists will study it for eons to come. I enjoyed reading it fully as much as I enjoyed reading Twilight, though I’d have to say I got more out of Twilight because this book probably is to dude culture what Twilight is to the ladies. I am not a dude. Also, there is no real, continuous story in Gods of the Jungle Planet, so there’s that. I probably laughed harder at this one than I laughed at Twilight, but that’s difficult to estimate. I laughed pretty hard while I was reading Twilight, but it does not have a part with a clown.
V.D. Burns, kids. Get tested; use protection.
A kindle version of this book was forced upon me by a lizard-like being with a scorpion tale protruding from his head. He was asking for meatloaf.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Wherein we learn, ladies, that it’s not such a bad thing if our fellas don’t talk to us, as long as they buy us stuff. Wherein, likewise, the fellas lWherein we learn, ladies, that it’s not such a bad thing if our fellas don’t talk to us, as long as they buy us stuff. Wherein, likewise, the fellas learn that it is their duty to talk – talk, or the people you love will die!! And, as usual, everyone lives happily until the next time their clothes accidentally fall off in public. (such a nuisance!)
People have basically said all there is to say about this book, so I won’t keep you for very long. The accidental-nipple-in-the-mouth part was the best part, no doubt. Because who can’t identify with the idea of having a stray nipple wander into somebody’s mouth? My nipples are always wandering off somewhere, forgetting to call when they stay out past curfew. Believe me, I counted myself lucky when they made it through high school without winding up on a milk carton. And it’s kinda nice in the book how whatserface’s nipples were pointing in the right direction – no need for a dreary love triangle. I can get behind that.
But, it’s also true what you hear about the rest of the book being pretty blah. The resolution of the mystery was about as tame as you could possibly have made it. Definitely the most boring option. No real character development happens throughout (other than above-noted talk/not-talk conflict). Everyone basically stays the same, and the hijinks stop after about page 100. Also, “apex of her thighs” . . . I know we’re running out of descriptors in this day and age, but really? That is a linguistically bankrupt moment in literature.
The nice thing about the nipple business was that it had a recognition of how silly these sexy books are. And there’s a sort of appreciation of the funniness of bodies that is cool - and there was a literally ripped bodice, which is funny-ish. But, seriously, if you can’t tell your nipples are in some dude’s mouth, you need to get tested for a nerve disorder. I am concerned for this girl’s health. Milk cartons aside, that’s the kind of thing you think you’d notice.
Anyway, I basically agree with Ms. Sands' premise that it’s nice when guys do nice things, but it’s also nice when they talk. I can get behind that. It’s probably why so many men are just devouring this book – men love to read books that give helpful tips about relationships. Fact.
What? No, you’re saying? It’s just us girls over here bitching about how dudes only want to talk about superficial stuff? Aw, man! Well, I guess that’s cool, too. And also, ladies, be us not daft, and let us remember our own lesson of contentment: as long as those men remember to bring us our gowns and our jewels and our damn tapestries – oh, and remember not to (view spoiler)[kilt people for us (hide spoiler)] (also learned from book) - we shall be good little wives.
Final note: bodices are fine, but I wanted a kilt to literally rip. I know the benefit of the kilt is the easy access, but, still, major disappointment.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Maybe I should wait to write this review until blood stops pouring out of my eyes, but where’s the fun in that? Skimping on exclamation points never hMaybe I should wait to write this review until blood stops pouring out of my eyes, but where’s the fun in that? Skimping on exclamation points never helped anyone. I’m not going to tell you that big corporate conglomerates are the good guys; I’m not even going to tell you that I totally agree with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment during the Lochner era (though the reasoning from those interpretations has resulted in a lot of what I consider good outcomes - like how the government can't arrest people for using contraception or being gay). But, I am going to tell you that Thom Hartman makes so many basic (wrong) assumptions about the Constitution in Unequal Protection that it makes the book completely irrelevant to any discussion of actually limiting corporate influence over Amernican government. It might be my loathing of historical fiction talking, but this book totally sucks.
There are parts of it that don’t suck, but where it doesn’t suck, more recent legal developments have made it obsolete, or sucky assumptions have infested the non-sucky-parts. Sorry, Mr. Hartman, I mean this with all due respect, and you are obviously a much more influential person than me, so I hope that instead of taking offense, you will invest in a constitutional law class.
The basic assumptions I see causing so much confusion in this book are the following:
1. That the Constitution guaranties any blanket rights; 2. That including corporations in the Fourteenth Amendment makes their treatment under the Constitution similar to humans; and 3. That it is possible to limit corporate rights without increasing government rights.
There are many, many other assumptions and errors in this book, but those seem like the ones that are most fundamental to the premise of the book and that most make this book irrelevant to any real solution. I’m going to discuss those assumptions in the order I listed them.
First, it’s important to be clear that the Constitution doesn’t guaranty any blanket rights. It doesn’t guaranty that you can say anything you want to say, carry guns, be free from searches or slavery, have a jury trial, or vote. What the Constitution does is limit the government. Congress can’t pass a law that infringes on speech; Congress can’t pass a law that infringes on your right to carry guns; the federal government can’t unreasonably search your stuff. The Constitution formed the federal government; it didn’t form anything else, so it doesn’t govern anything else.
States gave up some rights when they signed on to the Constitution, so in some ways it applies to states. Through the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court has applied the other amendments to the states, so they are an exception to the rule that the Constitution only governs the federal government. Like the federal government, state governments can’t infringe on certain rights. While the Constitution identifies rights, it doesn’t guaranty that people always have those rights. I can infringe on someone’s speech, and, unless there is a statute prohibiting my infringement, get away with it without punishment. My boss can infringe on my speech, with a few limited exceptions. Goodreads, as another example, can take down my reviews if it wants to, and I have no recourse other than getting really, really mad and talking shit about it.
So, my point is that you’re a Supreme Court Justice, and you’ve got this case in front of you. Some doofuses (Congress) wrote a statute, and it says, “Any person who dumps more than five teaspoons of toxic waste into the Mississippi River has to pay the neighbors one-hundred jelly beans per teaspoon of toxic waste.” So, now BP has dumped six teaspoons of toxic waste into the Mississippi, and it’s claiming that the statute doesn’t apply to it because it’s not a person. Do you think Congress meant to include BP when it said “any person,” or not? Was Congress thinking about who was doing the dumping, or was it just thinking about punishing anyone (or thing) that dumped?
It is the same with including corporations under the Fourteenth Amendment. The focus of the Amendment is to restrict states from infringing on certain rights. So, then, are states not restricted as long as the rights they’re infringing are the rights of corporations? Maybe. But, then what if states decide than only corporations can buy property? So, you form a corporation, buy property, and the state can search it any time it wants to. Or, don’t worry, if you already own property, you’ll be granted a free corporation in your name by the state, and your property ownership automatically transfers to that new corporation, but the Fourteenth Amendment doesn’t apply to your property. I’m not saying that would necessarily happen, but if a state can perform warrantless searches just because the land it is searching is owned by a corporation, that seems like undermining the basic purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment to me. Its purpose is to restrict state power, not to grant rights to anybody.
Second, including corporations under the Constitution doesn’t guaranty that the government treats them the same as humans. Maybe that is just self-explanatory. All it means is that states and the federal government don’t get a free pass in whatever the limits on their power is, just because they are dealing with a corporation. The criticisms Hartman makes of the Santa Clara decision are true in many points (specifically, in his pointing out that it doesn't actually do what the basic premise of this book is claiming it does), but I completely disagree that a solution to corporate abuses is to allow states and the federal government to have complete freedom in governing corporations. Saying that states can’t deprive corporations of property without due process does not mean that corporations are similar to humans. I won’t go into the equal protection clause now, but it would, likewise, be weird to me if it didn’t apply to corporations. And neither of those clauses make corporations similar to humans, they only restrict state power.
Third, the way to limit corporate rights is to increase government regulation of corporations. Somehow, that idea gets glossed-over in this book. The reason I feel this avoidance from the book is because he references Jefferson a lot and the idea that Jefferson would have wanted to replace corporate rule with agency rule is totally outrageous to me. I mean, Jefferson was like a Clarence Thomas-style nut about anti-regulation, as far as I have ever read. To me, you can't be proposing government regulation and citing Jefferson as your founding-father backup. That's the way to get a zombie Jefferson stalking your home, looking for blood.
Anyway, maybe Hartman is assuming that applying the Fourteenth Amendment to only humans would increase regulation, but that seems far from correct to me. This year, I accidentally organized a panel at a conference that turned into recruitment for a militia hoping to destroy American infrastructure. I’m not kidding – at one point a speaker put up a slide on U.S. military strategies for fighting asymmetrical warfare. It was very troubling. Flannery was there, she’ll tell you. When people asked the speaker what her plans were for rebuilding society after she’s destroyed it, she carefully avoided saying that she wants to return to a hunter-gatherer society (which is what she wants to do, I believe). This review does an excellent job of discussing how unrealistic that idea is. There is a similar dissonance in Unequal Protection, where Hartman carefully avoids telling you that his solution to the evils of big business is to create big government.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that’s a good solution. I have been saying for years that we live in a feudal society, in which corporations are our feudal lords, and I completely agree with Hartman on that point. I do not, however, agree that the alternative is democracy. Hartman sets up the dichotomy that we could live in a democratic society, but a feudal society has supplanted it. I think that is false, and that feudalism and democracy are not mutually exclusive. I think you can have a democratic feudal society, and that is probably what we have. I think the alternative to Hartmann's feudal society is a socialist society. Personally, socialism, which I would argue is just another variety of feudalism in which government officials act as feudal lords, sounds way better to me than Hartmann's feudalism, but it is not very popular with real Americans, so I can see why Hartman sidestepped the issue. I think that when a stronger government supplants strong business interests, the nominal purpose, at least, is the public good. When business interests rule, that is not even a nominal purpose.
The real problem Hartman flatly (and wrongly) denies is in corruption. When regulators are giving BJs to corporations, there is a problem. And, I think it’s pretty clear that regulators are, for the most part, giving BJs to corporations in America, but also in other countries. The solution to this isn’t allowing more government abuse (as in, giving states the right to bypass the restrictions of the Fourteenth Amendment), it is to give the government more regulatory power over corporations. It is to require rich people to pay enough taxes that the agencies that catch corporate crimes can actually do their jobs.
Sorry, Brian. This book practically killed me. There is a sentence towards the end of this book that I can’t find now about a constitutional-law scholar who said he practically passed out when he read what Hartman’s ridiculous proposals were. That guy. I feel like that guy. I LOLed. I could go on about the errors relating to equal-protection analysis, and the founding fathers, and the restrictions on international treaties and tribunals, but you’ve probably already left the review by now. I’ll just tell you that this is a completely unreliable source of information about constitutional law. It is incorrect in ways that are both fundamental to the nature of the Constitution and ways that are trivial, but misleading. Completely exasperating....more
In some ways, maybe, both love and destruction come to us, seek us out, and we are powerless to pursue or avoi (Painting of Swann, by David Richardson)
In some ways, maybe, both love and destruction come to us, seek us out, and we are powerless to pursue or avoid them. I tend to think that is not the case, but I am often wrong, and I am too willing to make grand pronouncements about life to be unwilling to be called wrong. Or, as my friend says of herself, I am never wrong because if I hear an idea that is better than mine, I change my mind to that idea, and then I am right again. Anyway, in Swann’s Way, Proust writes a museum of love and, the other side of love’s coin, abandonment, of comfort and loneliness. Every human relationship in this story is linked to some form of art, and I think the narrator gestures at this when he says,
If only Bergotte had described the place in one of his books, I should, no doubt, have longed to see and to know it, like so many things else of which a simulacrum had first found its way into my imagination. That kept things warm, made them live, gave them personality, and I sought then to find their counterpart in reality, but in this public garden there was nothing that attached itself to my dreams. (p. 565)
There is an inevitability to all of these art/human interactions, as though what is pre-written cannot be resisted.
I am going to talk in spoilers in this review, I think, but my own personal read of this story held most of it to be largely predictable, and purposely so. The beginning of the story is the end, and the end of the story is the very, very end, and all of the telling is wrapped up together. I don’t think I’m going to hide the spoilers, then, because the narrator tells you early on what becomes of M. Swann, and then he develops it carefully and delicately so that you know just how it should be told and how he has seen it unfold. It doesn’t seem to me that what I have to say will ruin any of it, but I like to come to books fresh, so I respect that, and if you feel the same, now is the time to exit.
Proust’s characters see life translated through books and paintings and music. In that way there is a sort of self-reflexivity in the story, but also something that feels resonant today. If we have seen it done before, if someone has recognized it before, we can do it ourselves. For example, the narrator’s Oedipal relationship with his parents comes to a peak (sorry) just before his mother’s censored bedtime read-a-loud of Francois le Champi. The narrator then develops a passion for the invented author Bergotte, and when the narrator learns that M. Swann is personal friends with Bergotte, he thereafter sees the Swann family through a Bergotte-colored monocle. He falls in adolescent love with them, the way he is in adolescent love with Bergotte.
Swann, likewise, uses art as a touchstone for life. Like men, or really both men and women, now, often justify a woman’s beauty, not by their own preferences, but instead through some expectation that Heidi Klum and Jessica Alba are the framework of beauty, Swann acknowledges a women’s beauty by association to painting. Swann’s kitchen-maid can be beautiful because she is Giotto’s Charity:
He finally reconciles himself to Odette’s beauty when he realizes she looks like Botticelli’s Zipporah from The Trials of Moses:
M. Swann’s very relationship with Odette becomes embodied in the little phrase from M. Vinteuil’s sonata. We ironically know from the story of Combray that M. Vinteuil died of heartbreak at least in part, presumably, because of his own “intense prudishness” and in reaction to his daughter’s lesbian tendencies – ironic, obviously, because M. Swann’s deepest disappointment with Odette is that she has ever been with a woman. Towards the end of Swann in Love, I kept picturing M. Swann's relationship with Odette as Love the Way You Lie. I wonder if the sonata sounded like that.
Swann handed over his preferences regarding beauty to painters like we hand over our preferences to movie producers and modeling agencies. M. Swann reconciled himself to owning Odette as a mistress while they both slept with other people, but if Odette slept with a woman, that was betrayal. Today, we can handle adultery, abuse, marital rape, and bride purchasing, but if gay people get married, that will undermine the institution. People never change.
Or maybe we change, but we change as individuals. This book made me love Proust. I think he captures all of this with the awe of adolescence and the cynicism of adulthood. I also love him because he reminds me so incredibly of one of my best friends from school. My friend, whom I am calling Marcel below because, you know, privacy, matches his polo shirts to his argyle socks every day. He is always on gchat, and some of us were planning to start a blog where we posted our gchats with him because we think they are so hilarious. Anyway, I am posting some of them below because I think they are how a modern day Proust would be. In our first year of law school, a lot of people thought that Marcel was a snob. But, I don’t think he is. Or, technically, he is, and his snobbishness might stand out more because of his money, but aren’t we all snobs about something? He is a snob about BMWs, and I am a snob about coffee and middlebrow literature. So, when people say Proust is a snob, I’ve started to feel a little defensive because, sure, but aren’t you? He is also sweet and witty and shy. And has more weird allergies than anyone you’ve ever met – or at least my friend does. Seriously, who is allergic to lettuce? But, now I am mixing up my Marcels. And, oh Marcels, why do you get so taken in by other people’s rules about beauty? If you think a girl is ugly, think she's ugly. And if you like her anyway, like her anyway! But, don't get so taken in by other people's ideas and expect them to be universal. But, ah, you do, and I love you anyway.
Some cattleyas for the bitches:
And the Marcel gchats (keep in mind that this person is like twelve years old):
Day 1: I'm including this one because it is probably Marcel's favorite, but I also really love it.
12:49 PM Marcel: our sea of whirly twirly lamps is a little too organized right now
12:50 PM me: i was thinking that too
12:51 PM Marcel: much better
1:17 PM Marcel: Rosamond wants me to be facebook friends with Octave and his girlfriend so she can creep on them that makes me uncomfortable
me: yeah, don't do it she will regret it later too
1:18 PM Marcel: i don't think i'm much of an enabler anyway i mean i wouldn't want that on my resume or anything
1:19 PM me: yeah, i hear firms look for "passive aggressive" before "enabler"
1:20 PM Marcel: i'll have to work on that then i'm not sure i'm good at being passive aggressive unlike some people...
Day 2: This is really more expressive of him as a person.
9:40 AM Marcel: this dude in front of me in admin law spends his time in class looking at assault weapons on his computer all class
9:42 AM me: whoa that is not good who is the dude?
Marcel: disturbing Albert something 2L
9:43 AM me: ohh, Albert Bloch?
Marcel: that sounds right
9:44 AM me: yeah, that guy is pretty weird. he dated mlle Lea all last year he's a big republican or, like, maybe just last spring
9:45 AM Marcel: crazies attract
9:46 AM me: so true
Marcel: i mean you should see the people i've attracted over the years i sadly mean that jokingly and seriously
9:47 AM me: same 9:48 AM literally, one guy who liked me went running through the streets of seattle naked because he made a deal with god that if he gave up everything, including his clothes, god would get these friends of his back together as a couple. He was a nice guy, though. 9:49 AM and, you know, that was a really good deal for god.
9:50 AM Marcel: you can't call someone crazy for believing in god joke i'm intentionally missing the point
9:51 AM me: bah dum tss
10:10 AM Marcel: i don't think i'm very comfortable with the expression that's how the sausage gets made
me: it's like "flesh it out" bad visual
10:23 AM Marcel: if norpois or cottard were in admin law i would actually skip this class but we still get bontemps so it's tempting to skip
10:25 AM me: who teaches that class?
10:26 AM Marcel: Mme. Verdurin i think i don't like her 10:27 AM but i'm not positive
me: huh, interesting i have never had a class with her, but she has always been nice to me
10:29 AM Marcel: i think she just annoys me in class and so far it has been unrelated to her red hair at least consciously
me: yeah, it is tough to separate that
Marcel: but maybe i've been seeing her red hair and just not liking her bc of that
me: definitely possible and not unreasonable
10:30 AM Marcel: i'm not sure where i picked up my default of strongly disliking redheads until i get to know them like gilberte and saint loup are great
me: true, but they might just be an exception to the rule
Marcel: fact 10:31 AM one of my business partners has red hair and i appreciate greatly when he wears a hat
me: "one of my business partners." please say more words about that.
Marcel: well one of six others 10:32 AM they're certainly not all redheads
10:33 AM me: "business partners." please say more words about that.
10:34 AM Marcel: Beta Cascade Ventures, LLC we're an investment company with focuses on philanthropy, education, and networking
10:38 AM me: huh 10:39 AM that is very 1% of you
10:40 AM Marcel: our logo is a sailboat
me: o m g
10:41 AM Marcel: i'll have to show you sometime...more
As an unmarried person with many married friends, I have heard my share of lectures and seen my share of demonstrations about how to have a successfulAs an unmarried person with many married friends, I have heard my share of lectures and seen my share of demonstrations about how to have a successful (or repair a broken) marriage. I get why you would have to talk about marriage lessons after you learn them because it really is an accomplishment to realize something about relationships. But I never realized until I read this book that it would be SO MUCH MORE FUN if they told their stories with ZOMBIES!!!! Yaaaaay! Not that I wish they had to fight zombie hordes (well, maybe I do wish some of them would, if we’re being completely honest . . .). But, sometimes I bet half of what they’re saying is made up anyway, whether they know it or not, so add some freaking undead, people!!
So, yes, I’m giving this book a very inflated 4 stars. This is another casualty of the Skye O’Malley tragedy. This is probably more of a 3-star book, but it’s so much better than all of the other RBR reads! I’m suspicious that it is better because it’s not actually a romance, but we’ll choose to turn a blind eye to that for now. The minute I held this book in my loving little hands at Powell’s in Portland, I knew we had a connection, though. This is my kind of self-help. Self-help with BRAAAaaaaAAAINS!!!
My only complaint is that there is a great part with a cult, but the cult was not nuanced enough for my taste. I like to see a cult that has some draw at first and then later chains you up. The cult leader in this book was a little too stranger-danger for me to feel sorry for them when they got locked up. Don’t worry, I won’t tell you what happens then.
I think that complaint goes to how I still think watching zombies is a more pleasing overall experience than reading about zombies. Like, if the cult leader guy had been on the TV, it probably wouldn’t have bothered me that he was too obviously loony tunes. Horror movies are so flash-bang that you don’t have the time to pause and want a little more complexity. And I don’t want to want complexity with my zombies! If I get it, great, if not, then I get omg-we’re-all-gonna-die instead, which is just as good. So, basically, I’m bothered by my being bothered.
There’s not a lot to say about this particular piece of litratuhr, and my fellow rippers have done an excellent job in their analysis already by noting the references to Whedon, Zombieland, and Shaun of the Dead. I was satisfied by those references. Jesse Petersen knows her shit. Also, she knows where her book is going to land in the continuum of zombie stories. That’s a bonus. But, now I am off to explore the complexity of the human spirit in The Egg Said Nothing and This is Not a Flophouse. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about those two because I can already tell they have a beautiful mix of subtlety, nuance, and flash-bang. ...more
Did you hear about how Pac Man was almost named Puck Man, but they decided not to because Puck can so easily be mistaken for another word? Yeah, I thiDid you hear about how Pac Man was almost named Puck Man, but they decided not to because Puck can so easily be mistaken for another word? Yeah, I think something like that was happening with Fu*k the Reluctant. Elaine Knighton was trying to bring back the laughter that the video game gods had taken away. For teh children. The story itself isn’t really a knee slapper, but it’s about characters named Fu*k, the Iron Maiden, and the Hurler, so that makes up for a lot. Ironically, the Hurler doesn’t hurl, the Iron Maiden is not the band (I know, bogus), and Fu*k . . . well, he gets it on less than his name would suggest. He’s reluctant, you see. They all are.
I had to do a senior project in high school, so my friend and I decided to make ours a theater project. We taught script-writing classes at the local middle school, and then had the kiddos act out their plays after they had written them. It was fun. This one girl wrote a play that was probably pretty ahead of her time. She didn’t have a sense of . . . time continuity? The story was about a girl who had to go out in the woods and fight these wizards to earn some kind of prize (I forget what). It was basically a video game. My favorite part, though, was that at one point a stage direction had the girl sitting down in front of a tree to eat seven apples. Take that, Samuel Beckett! Seven apples! Try doing that for a matinee and evening show. You’d have to cast Nicole Kidman, or something.
There were a lot of awesome moments in this book that kind of remind me of that. It gave me that feeling like, well, I’m happy for you, characters, that you were conveniently able to eat seven apples, but did I need to be part of that experience? No. It’s boring. A reader must skim.
Having said that, I’m pretty sure that this book is what so many people wished Mockingjay had turned out to be. Fu*k is about a feisty young woman, abused by the world, who wants to protect her kingdom with a quiver of arrows. She meets a man who she thinks is her enemy, but who is actually her friend, and then she can’t make up her mind how she feels about him. DON’T WORRY, I won’t spoil for you what she ultimately decides. But the book is about these two people deciding whether or not to fu*k, and how their deciding to fu*k brings political peace to the realm. oh, cr*p, spoiler. I think that’s what some people wanted Mockingjay to be about. It’s not gut wrenching, and with every twist, you know you’ll get back on the path to a happy end.
This is actually one of the best bodice rippers that I’ve read in my limited foray into the genre. It has a lot of the good ol’ anti-feminist propaganda, like when the Iron Maiden says, “no,” she really means, “yes.” She's not genuinely confused, she just can't express desire. And through all of her psychological trauma and misery, it turns out that what she really needs in order to heal is Fu*k’s penis. Sexual healing. This is the opposite of the wikimagvag, but it’s more familiar, right? We were all like, “WTFu*k?” when we started coming across this phenomenon of mystically healing lady parts, but when I read this, it was immediately familiar. Women who are good at stuff just need to have sex in order to remember how to be women again (aka, not good at stuff). Duh. We all know that. So, then, was Judy Blume actually being consciously subversive to this rhetoric in Wifey? I still refuse to give her credit, but I find myself more perplexed. Is it subversive to say that men need women, instead of saying that women need men? It seems more like a playground shouting match where everyone ends up saying, “no YOU are!” Which is totally respectable. None of us really know who is more needy than the rest. If you start pointing fingers it might not end up being you.
This week, three different women, whose lives I don’t particularly envy, but don’t despise by any means, asked me when I’m going to start having bab*es. Maybe because they know that I’m hating my second year of law school as much as I loved the first. And if you are unhappy, pregnancy is probably the answer. That’s the basic moral of this story, too. It’s a classic. It makes my soul die a little bit, but it’s a classic. And it’s not that I’m against children, other than their being evil little no-neck monsters. But I am as bad at relationships and people as I have been good at law school, so it’s probably not good to sic me on helpless innocents. And I can’t ask these women, in return, “When are you going to start going to graduate school?” It’s strident, and if I’m strident, I’ll have to have even more bab*es later to make up for it. Fu*k.
I don’t know if I’d say I generally like this book. I can’t give it the three stars I’d like to (to put it above Pleasuring the Pirate) because it’s not fair to other three-star books. It was totally not awful to me. At worst it was boring. At best it was silly. And there’s one kind of dashing part of galloping away on a horse to go camping, and I liked that. And some nuns. They were cool. Everyone talked like Yoda. Oh, and a weird part with a mystical shepherd. That was pretty nice and Monty Python-esque. Fu*k is pretty disapproving of me, but I can take it. It would like to see me off having bab*es, but for now it will have to settle for reviews.
This book is the outtakes from every David Lynch movie. Not the blooper reel, but the scenes that Lynch cut to shave some minutes or just because theyThis book is the outtakes from every David Lynch movie. Not the blooper reel, but the scenes that Lynch cut to shave some minutes or just because they were unnecessary and boring. It is, in that way, a found-art piece of all the scraps of daily life and all the momentous decisions people make to be boring.
To me, Blume got the inner life of this cowardly woman, Sandy, all wrong. And I can understand why that would happen. I think women, especially married women, but actually most of us, learn to protect ourselves from judgment and ostracism by writing so many layers of narrative about our selves, and then wrapping our real, vulnerable selves up in those narratives. Eventually, something that we were playing at becomes who we are in an instinctive way. But, I don’t think it becomes who we are in a complete way.
For example, Sandy’s outer narrative is the happy homemaker, and Blume’s inner narrative of her is the scared little girl who longs for sexual freedom. Sandy chooses to abandon the ephemera of sexual freedom because she is a coward. She realizes that she would be equally unhappy in any marriage, so she chooses to stay in an abusive one. She is a threat from Judy Blume to every unhappy housewife who doesn’t value her own sexuality. At the same time, she is Blume’s symbol of the futility of women fighting for freedom in a biased world. She is Blume’s cowardly version of Edna Pontellier.
I don’t buy it, though. I just do not believe that people are that boring. I think there is more that is villainous and more that is heroic in every person than Sandy’s outer and inner narratives allow. Honestly, I’ve thought a lot about these inner and outer stories because Sandy is exactly what my mom’s story of herself always was. That’s not to say that it was a revelatory experience to read this book. It was more like a joke I’ve heard so many times that I forget the end is even a punch line. My mom left her Norman and chose her Shep, but that is neither here nor there, really, in the story. ***END SPOILERS*** And I guess that’s my problem. No woman’s story is actually about her relationship to men. When women frame them that way, I think it’s a smoke screen for an inner life of which they are honestly ashamed, or even of which they are so proud and protective that they can’t share it. Blume sets up an outer, Republican Sandy, and an inner, Democrat Sandy, thereby keeping all of her selves shallow and political.
That is to say that this story about the inner life of a suburban housewife, written by a woman, fails the Bechtel test (credits to Ceridwen and Sock Puppet for bringing that wonderful invention to my notice). And I get that sex is the point of the story, but even in the lesbian adolescence scene, Blume describes one girl as the man and one as the woman, clear that the conduct is about preparing for later heterosexual sex, not about the relationship between the two girls. Then, the description quickly jumps to Sandy’s uncle feeling up his sister-in-law.
And I guess I’m making these criticisms because I don’t think it’s fair to compare this book to bodice rippers or paranormal romance. This book is not silly by any stretch of the imagination. It is not about sunsets and dragons and symbolical fantasy. It is about reality and real fantasy. So, it fails. It’s not true. Sandy’s inner reality is garbage, just like her outer reality. I do not believe that an experience between two adolescent girls lying naked in a bed would contain as little intimacy or feeling as Blume describes. I’m not saying that Blume is lying, I’m just saying that her writing here is as cowardly as Sandy. And I think when women do the zombie act, it’s just that – an act. On some level, I’ll accept that it is a coping mechanism, but it is not real. Maybe it is just my paranoia, but I think feminine cowardice is a lot more sinister than it looks. It is a passive-aggressive version of ambition.
At its best, this book has the atmosphere of Romeo and Juliet - some morons trying to work out their feelings, while the world crumbles around them. At its worst, this book is Eat Pray Love’s mom – trying to show that women aren’t idiots by working with the premise that women are children. After all, who protests the most about not being children? Children. Ultimately, even if you look past all the garbage of Sandy’s fantasies and shallow turmoil, this book still commits the ultimate sin. It is boring.
Also, all the food they eat is really gross....more
Monsters are inevitably campy. That is a rule. You might not think it’s true, but you’re wrong. I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you, but theMonsters are inevitably campy. That is a rule. You might not think it’s true, but you’re wrong. I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you, but the rule also applies to space. Monster stories and space stories range from those that deny the campiness and try to be really soulful social commentary to those that are hilarious in acknowledging the campiness and still manage to have something brilliant to say. There are levels in between those two extremes, but I’m trying to give you the framework of how I evaluate monster stories. Thankfully, in this book, Carriger embraces the silly. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Soulless has anything brilliant to say, but it does not commit the sin of claiming to have soul where there really is none.
I’ll give you a couple of examples of what I’m talking about, so maybe it will make sense. (Note: if you hate people comparing movies to books, none of my reviews are for you, but especially not this one. I’m sorry, but comparisons must be made.) With vampires, you’ve got your Daybreakers and you’ve got your Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Movie. The former manages to be completely serious and still not make the obvious social commentary about finite resources that was sitting right there, waiting to be made. The latter is silly the whole time, but still has a nice, solid girl-power message. With space, you’ve got the obvious example of the Star Wars series. The new trilogy is outrageously campy, but never openly acknowledges it, so I’m left incredibly uncomfortable with everything it’s telling me. The old trilogy has one-liners and robot comic relief and whatnot to give you that silly sense that We’re In Space, Friends! Examples abound, and my theory is that camp is inevitable in these genres if only because they involve elaborate costumes. So, embrace the camp, writers! I can see it there, even if you don’t want me to. Trying to hide it makes me embarrassed for you.
I’m feeling like the same rule applies to the romance genre. Bodies are funny, so when there are these earnest descriptions of passionate sex in these books I’m laughing at them, not with them. And they don’t seem more passionate for their excess earnestness.
This book is a relief because Carriger combines monsters and romance and takes none of it seriously. It’s a pretty slap-sticky story, actually, and that made it difficult to get into to begin with, but after I got more used to that, I liked it. Basically, the story is about this girl:
She is a "preternatural" Cinderella, but then she meets werewolf Ewan McGreggor
and they reenact a scene from the show Moonlighting, but realize WAAAAY more quickly than Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd (thank god) that they were confusing love for hate and start getting’ it on. (Gerard Butler:
is the more obvious casting choice for our hero, but Ewan McGregor is perfect, and I’m still mad at Butler for The Ugly Truth, so he’s not getting any work from me.) To add to an already solid sexual tension, in the background you’ve got a solicitous but exasperated Jeeves, a Rupert Giles werewolf, Elizabeth Bennett’s parents, a Scottish accent, mad scientists, a steampunk tea kettle, and, best of all, an umbrella weapon!!! It’s true, there’s an odd running joke about sitting on a porcupine, which is kind of funny, but maybe going a little too far away from Buster Keaton and toward the Lil’ Rascals for my taste. You’ve got to take the lame whoopee cushions with the awesome banana peels, though, and no complaining. I think that’s what people mean when they say life’s not fair.
But, here’s what I want to talk to you about today: appearances. My favorite book when I was little was The Blue Castle. Valancy Stirling is told all her life that she’s ugly, but really she’s spectacular, and she gets to shove it in everyone’s faces. In Soulless, Alexia has pretty much the same character arc, so she probably gets an automatic pass from me just for that. That said, in my limited reading of the romance genre, the thing that I HATE THE MOST (other than the rape) is the idea that there is one, specific kind of beauty that you can describe using hair and breasts in a really vague, annoying way. That seems so false to me, because in my experience, no matter what I think of my friends’ appearances when I first meet them, they become beautiful to me after I know them. Same rule with enemies, but the opposite outcome.
So, we all get kind of riled up when people describe women really shallowly or assume that women will be one way or another based on their looks, and with good reason. I even think part of the point of Soulless is “Who knows why people are attracted to each other since there is no one kind of beauty?” which I like. But have we all just seen so many movies where beautiful women fall all over themselves about ugly men that we’re permanently mad and don’t care how meanly and shallowly we talk about men? I feel like these books are almost cruel in their stereotyping of the physical appearances of men.
In Soulless, we’ve got the hero, who is a growl and a half, no doubt, with his Scottish and his hungry eyes. But then we’ve got poor Mr. MacDougall, who’s a coward because he’s got a full figure. It’s pretty easy to see how our own genders are marginalized, and I guess that’s why we like it – it’s easy. But why do we talk about each other with such disregard and even cruelty? I’ll never forget the day, not so very long ago, when I realized men have feelings, too. It’s pretty terrible, but the thought had just never occurred to me before. I’m sure it’s not a usual thing to have that be a major revelation, but sometimes I look around at the little, petty meannesses between people, and I think maybe we all should be reminded . . . I don’t know . . . that people are not different? Just, not to be a jerk? Maybe it wasn’t mean in the past to stereotype men based on their body types because women were judged on looks and men were judged on money, but even assuming that used to be true, I don’t really think it is a valid excuse anymore. And certainly not in a book that seems like it’s trying to overcome stereotypes of the female protagonist. It bothers me when people are hurt by an attitude and then choose to perpetuate that same attitude towards others instead of reflecting on their own similar or contributing behavior.
Rant almost over, but I also have to say that this double standard of how women are allowed to act about men reminds me of Carrie-Bradshaw-type girls who will be like, “I forced my boyfriend go to a horrible party that he hated, and now I will cry into my pillow because he doesn’t give me DIAmonds.” I’m not saying people shouldn’t demand respect from each other, but demanding respect and being a jerk are not the same thing. Rant over.
So, that’s my complaint, but I really took more space ranting here about it than it took in the book, and I still liked the story. Carriger clearly understands my theory about the carnival nature of romance and describes the bodies with a silliness that is refreshing. I was laughing with her, not at her. Plus, it was only one book long! I can choose whether to read the next installment or not! The book was actually the length of just the one story. I can’t tell you how pleased that makes me. High fives all around for that! Overall, it’s openly campy and upfront about its lack of soul, and that’s really all I’d ask for from a monster romance....more
**This review contains spoilers, but don’t let that turn you away. Really, I’m doing you a favor.**
I’ve generally thought of myself as a fan of drunk**This review contains spoilers, but don’t let that turn you away. Really, I’m doing you a favor.**
I’ve generally thought of myself as a fan of drunk writing, but Skye O’Malley is solid proof that even the best ideas can go horribly wrong. What I’m saying is that there is no way most of this book wasn’t written in a creepy, drunk, sadistic binge. Until now, I have been reluctant to label the shelf of books I hate just "burn pile" because it seems so wrong to burn any books. This book has convinced me that burning books isn’t always so bad, so time to rename the ol’ shelf.
I’ll admit that part of my problem with this book is that I read the wrong sections. It was obvious from the start that I wasn’t going to read all of the pages of the book because no book this silly, I thought, should also be this long. I had two options: either read the dialog and rape scenes, which I believed made up the essence of the “story,” or read the detailed descriptions of every stick of furniture in every house, every stitch of clothing everyone wore, and the recipes to every item of food that everyone ate in this entire book. In retrospect, I’m not positive why reading the dialogue and rape scenes sounded like a good choice. We’ve got this whole fun, silly MST3K for books thing going on here, though, (Mystery Science GoodReads 3000?) and I thought if my only contribution was that the harshness of everyone’s black velvet bodices was softened by fragments of lace, it would take the fun out of the game. That was a major tactical blunder on my part. What I didn’t realize was that if you only read the dry clothes/furniture/food descriptions, this book would just be a fashion porno, like reading Vogue without pictures or Sophia Copella’s notes from the movie Marie Antoinette. Boring, maybe, but not rage-inducing offensive. The other road leads you to a child-rape scene that I HATE SO MUCH I can’t even find words to describe this total nausea I feel from it.
People say, you know, it doesn’t matter if authors put scenes in books that so violate the reader’s brain that the readers find it necessary to reach for bleach and a syringe. I might be paraphrasing, but I think that’s the idea. The argument goes something like, authors don’t necessarily want all the stuff they fantasize about to actually happen. I have two responses to that:
1. DUH! and
2. I don’t care if they want it to happen, I care that they want me to read about it happening. (okay, I also have a third thing:
3. I’m not talking about censorship, like there should be laws about what you can and can’t write, even though there are laws about that, and I’m basically in support of those laws. I’m a big fan of the First Amendment so far. I, too, am exercising my freedom of speech by just getting really, really angry by what I see as an author’s choice to create a totally sadistic fantasy world where she could torture women and children and then her choice to release it to the public so I would one day read it. You’d think there’d be some idiot things people wouldn’t do just because they didn’t want to do them, without even needing them to be against the law.)
There are some circumstances where I can see how it is necessary to write about really horrible things – to warn about holocausts, to show the danger of blind fear, things like that. The thing that really kills me about EVERYTHING in this book is that there is NOTHING redemptive or cautionary about the violence and disregard for humanity written in to it.
Authors are the gods of their own universes. No book represents complete reality, obviously, and so I hold authors responsible for the ways they create an altered reality. Regardless of Ms. Small’s intent, I’m going to proceed with the assumption that she’d like me to believe her characters and approach her story with a certain amount of credulousness. I’m trying to convey the thing that really gets me about this book. The woman created this little girl in order to display her in this totally inhuman way, and it served absolutely no narrative purpose other than sadistic voyeurism. As a reader, suspending my disbelief, this little girl existed to me on some level. And I contend that the worst part is that Small knew what she was doing. In this scene, as in the other scenes that she intends to be rape, she describes the victims with a cold accuracy that makes my skin crawl. Then, suddenly, back to fashion porn.
So that you don’t ever feel the need to read this book, I’m going to give you a summary of its major plot-points and overall message, and highlight a couple of moments that lived up to my MSGR3K hopes. I’ll go ahead and gloss over the more ABOMINABLE parts of the story.
This is a historical account of a legendary Irish witch who had a catfight with Queen Elizabeth I over a boy that neither of them wanted to have sex with, while Elizabeth was PMSing. The moral of the story is that the more husbands and children a woman has, the happier she will be, but the more political influence a woman has the more the entire world will suffer.
The witch carries her power in two small globes. Through these globes, she manages to destroy all men who come in contact with her. Her male counterpart is a sort of Goldilocks character, always finding women too sexy or not sexy enough, until he ultimately consolidates his power with the witch. The witch is educated in Ireland in incest and fancy clothes. She sends her first husband to an early grave by breaking his back. Then, she is able to focus her energies on the family piracy business.
Unfortunately for the witch, in a moment of plot-twisting, she is taken captive by other pirates, and winds up in Algiers with a tidy case of the amnesia. Luckily for her, the local Whoremaster falls under the spell of the small globes. After the narrator tells him that intelligent women are really rare and the witch is an intelligent woman, the Whoremaster marries her and makes her his business partner. She realizes how terrific it is to own brothels, and they walk around with some panthers on leashes. (There are so many reasons why the panthers on leashes thing is awesome, and not just because of what it says about strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities in pre-Elizabethan Algiers.) The Whoremaster, too, dies from the curse of the small globes, stabbed in the night by a catty whore who thinks he’s the witch. Oops.
The witch hightails it back to England, where the small globes bewitch her a third husband, a man with Shreck-green eyes and a phenomenally long tongue. They have some odd make-out sessions, one where they fence with their tongues (p. 203), and another where “[h:]is mouth closed over hers, his tongue exploring the roof of her mouth, then flicking downward to tease at her sensitive breasts” (p. 291). Even this lizard man can’t escape the curse of the small globes, however. He contracts an X-Files type of illness, where they have to pull grey, alien mucus membranes out of his throat. His species could not survive on Earth for long. (Okay, I added the alien part, but only because it makes the story better.)
Then, there’s the consolidation of power with the Goldilocks dude, the catfight with Elizabeth, and an It’s-a-Wonderful-Life ending, where the witch tells us that having a bunch of men, who are totally your BFFs, is better than a bag of emeralds.
I haven’t touched on the swooning, matted chest hair, or the tear-away clothes everyone seems to be wearing throughout the book. It’s probably enough that you just know that they’re there, creating atmosphere. There’s really nothing left to say that hasn’t already been said by my esteemed MSGR3K colleagues. I’m only glad that I gave Pleasuring the Pirate two stars, so that I can show that I like this book LESS. Oh, also, Historical Fiction, you and I have had a rocky past, but I didn’t expect this, even from you. Don’t try sending your spies later to talk me out of this pure hatred. You and I are through....more
**spoiler alert** I was able to check out PLEASURING THE PIRATE from the law school library at the same time as I checked out Анна Ахматова, Полное Со**spoiler alert** I was able to check out PLEASURING THE PIRATE from the law school library at the same time as I checked out Анна Ахматова, Полное Собрание в Одном Томе, so that was pretty much the most successful library experience ever. __________________________
There was this one day, when I lived in Ukraine, where I was stuck in this town with some friends because another town had exploded, and, unfortunately, it made it so that I couldn’t take the train home. So, we all decided to go to this resort for lunch and really splurge. I decided to play it safe and go for a beet salad and fries, but one of my friends decided to really spend a lot and order a fruit salad. We were all skeptical about this choice. Don’t get me wrong, I pretty much lived on clementines through November and December that year, but this salad boasted of apples, oranges, bananas, and pineapples, all together, as I recall. There’s no way you could put together that combo in Ukraine without something suspicious involved. Nonetheless, the salad arrived, just as promised – apples, oranges, bananas, and pineapples all collected in a little bowl. What the resort didn’t prepare us for was that they were doused in ketchup and mayonnaise. It’s combinations like a mayonnaise fruit salad that make me want to give up on "creativity," and Pleasuring the Pirate was a big ol' fruit salad with mayonnaise.
I admit that it is important to note that my disappointment in this book is in direct proportion to the awesomeness of its title. Also, I wrote a first draft of this review, in which I was prepared to argue that the author was arrogantly ripping off classic works of art, and in making the argument I realized I was completely wrong about that. My apologies to the author for even thinking it. Also, I refused to be put off by the "moist groins", the excessive "splaying", the anachronisms, or even the fact THAT THE MAIN DUDE’S NOT ACTUALLY A PIRATE. What do we expect from romance but moist groins and splaying? I choose to count those things as awesome, despite their off-putting nature. And, as Geoffrey Tennant says, Shakespeare wasn’t worried about anachronisms, so why should we be? He also didn’t mind throwing in some pre-action seafaring, so I can swallow my disappointment on that, too.
I don’t believe that any entirely original art exists, nor do I believe it should exist. I think that if someone came up with entirely new art people would hate it, or not be able to acknowledge it, because we would have no frame of reference for it. So, maybe it does actually exist, but we don’t call it art until someone else fills in the other rungs on the evolutionary ladder. Anyway, I think art, or at least writing, is more like cooking. We’ve got all these ingredients already and people just mix them up in new ways and reinterpret based on their own taste and experience. And this is how we are able to both recognize ourselves in books and expand our minds to include other philosophies and experiences. Really meaningful books are like when you’re watching Top Chef, and one of the contestants combines two ingredients that would never have occurred to you but ends up looking really yummy.
But some combos are just gross. To illustrate what I mean in a literary sense, rather than a pineapples and mayonnaise sense, I’d like to walk you through the story of Pleasuring the Pirate told by the ingredients I believe the author was combining. Again, it is not the fact of her using the ingredients that gets me (although they all are a little half-baked – hardy har), but the combination. Warning: this is full of annoying links, but they’re only meant for clarification if you’re not sure who I’m talking about.
The story starts out with Joan of Arc meeting Gaston and his faithful sidekick Lefou in battle. They all head on home to the castle, realizing the whole spat was just a misunderstanding, and nobody gets violently raped. When they all get to the castle, they switch costumes, and the story becomes all Cinderella on you – with the twist that Cinderella has to work her darndest to get the Prince married off to some wealthy debutante or another. Meanwhile, there is a Goonies side story involving some buried treasure. Not really a booby-trap situation, unfortunately, and Lefou changes hats to become Sloth. The Prince/Gaston’s old bff shows up, too and it turns out that he loves children, in a "fire of my loins" kinda way. Blah blah blah. Awkward bed sandwich scene that the author claims was taken from reality, but that many, including bloggers and Wikipedia, say was probably greatly exaggerated. Prince gets carted off to jail for breaking a minor procedural rule and they reenact The Passion of the Christ (luckily, off-camera action). Then they do the escape-from-execution scene from Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Then, in an Overboard twist, there’s a vague reveal that our bastard Cinderella is really the king’s daughter.
So, I’m not sure that any of the above makes any sense, and that’s not really the point anyway. I haven’t told you what the wrong ingredient is yet. All of the above pretty much fits. It’s not, like, garden pea cappuccino with foie gras, black pudding, and pancetta, but it’s an average hamburger and fries. It’s predictable. The thing that sent me over the edge was this one chapter that is almost exactly my favorite chapter of Oliver Twist. So, in PtP, there is a side-character named Mrs. Beadle (yes, immediately reminiscent of Mr. Bumble, the beadle, in Oliver Twist, but I let that go when she first appeared), and she has this awkward falling-in-love scene with Lefou/Sloth. This was completely unacceptable to me. I was prepared to write a review talking about how an omage is so different than a plagiarism with the hopes that your audience is too stupid to catch it. But then I realized that what she did really is more of an omage, and maybe she is hoping that her audience will catch the reference. Here’s hoping. The whole combination of the story, though, was just sloppy and gross to me.
I haven’t talked about the sex because that’s been covered to the extreme by other reviewers and threads. I will reiterate how much I completely agree with Ceridwen that the part when our bastard Cinderella wants the Prince to be rough with her left me kind of bored. The plot line of the sex was meticulously purposeful, where the story was all over the place. Maybe "meticulously purposeful" isn’t the right choice of words. Canned? Instructional? From the passionate makeout sessions that lead the Prince to politely asking for permission to deflower bastard Cinderella, to the no-no on sex with kiddos, to the superior compassion for the courtesan’s homosexual friend, all of the sex issues read like a pamphlet on how people should be.
This leads me to my theory on mass-market romance. I think it started as instructions for girls on what goes on under the sheets and in the kitchen. Maybe this is obviously true or obviously not true, and I welcome any outside knowledge people have. It seems like its main purpose is to be the spoonful of sugar that makes the health-class and home-ec medicine go down. It feels so . . . obsolete. I’m sure there are kinkier variations that are ahead of the times. I guess I’m partly saying this because you hear people say that mass-market romance is girl porn. It feels more like girl video games to me, though. It’s where you go to learn how to be the manipulative bitch to the video games’ arrogant asshole. Keepin’ the genders in their respective spheres one soulful pirate and buxom treasure hunter at a time. ...more