This was TERRIBLE. Terrible!!! Why are you here book??? Why do you exist?? Why do you suck SO MUCH??? Ugh!! I was listening to this while walking to w...moreThis was TERRIBLE. Terrible!!! Why are you here book??? Why do you exist?? Why do you suck SO MUCH??? Ugh!! I was listening to this while walking to work in the morning, and I’m pretty sure I was waking up whole neighborhoods with my loud, “UGGGGHHHHHHH”s because I could not refrain from reacting to what a bitch this book is. This book is such a little bitch. It is not SO bad to start out with, just your normal Anita Blake bitchiness, like, “girls shouldn’t wear pink; girls shouldn’t shop; girls shouldn’t be feminine; girls shouldn’t like boys.” And then the boys like her sooooo much because she is such an asshole. So, don’t worry, slatherings of male approval if you don’t wear pink.
OH MY GOD. UGGGGGHHHHH.
And THEN, after you trudge through Anita’s complete lack of personality and LAME sense of humor, why not throw on some racism, homophobia, and a huge helping of ableism? WHY THE FUCK NOT?? UGGGHHH. I want to punch this book in its smug little curly-haired kisser. It makes me figuratively puke.
According to people who have read beyond this book, at some point, Anita starts having sex with random monsters, which . . . whatever. I don’t even care about that because she is so obnoxiously prudish in these first two books. And, the thing is, if you don’t want to have sex with a vampire, more power to ya girl. But THEN the simpering self-congratulation about it. It makes me crazy. You suck so much, Anita Blake. You are everything wrong about anything to do with gender.
I figure there are numerous ways women can react to sexism when they realize it is there, so I’ve made a little chart to illustrate my thoughts on the matter:
As you can see, in my mind, all choices except doing whatever the fuck you want lead to a woman’s life being basically sacrificed to sexism. And this probably works the same with masculinity, too, obvs. I feel like I've forgotten another manifestation of women accepting sexism that looks almost like feminism, but I can't think what it is. And Anita Blake, all through this stupid book, is calling herself a feminist. You know she's a feminist because all the boys think she a spunky little hottie. Puke. This fake bullshit is such an easy justification for people saying they aren't feminists. But, how can you say anything is feminist that hates women and only seeks male approval? Puke.
On the one hand, I am so grateful to the women who came before me and forced people to recognize their skills and abilities so that hopefully in the future this stupid conversation will never even happen. So grateful. On the other hand, I think it is disgusting that the lives of capable women are sacrifices to either some kind of awkward attempt to be men or to a fight for the mere survival of girls because they are girls. I would consider someone like Lisbeth Salander an example of a woman who is painful to read about because her life is totally sacrifice to the mere survival of women. I don't think that's bad on Lisbeth's part, just depressing. I would consider Anita Blake a grotesque caricature of a woman trying to prove she is a man. Ugh. So uncomfortable to watch and annoying to hear about. Dude, just let girls wear pink if they want to wear pink. Pink is just a color, so dislike it if you want; but, also, pink is our childhood. And girlhood is not bad, so to the extent pink symbolizes women at our most innocently feminine, it pains me to hear women criticize it with the weight of rejecting their own innocent femininity. Again, like or dislike pink. Whatever you want. But, there is nothing noble or professional about hating the decorations of girlhood.
Aside from that, oh my god, the ableism in this book is absolutely disgusting. There is this whole section about a prostitute in a wheelchair, and Anita is like, “OH MY! KINKY! That is disgusting that anyone would want to have sex with a woman in a wheelchair!” No, you are disgusting, Anita Blake.
This is totally just a personal pet peeve, but it also really, really annoyed me the way Hamilton imagined being hardened to crime. Anita is hardened to crime here, so that means that she tosses around body parts at a crime scene and dares police officers not to puke in a room where the carpet is soaked in blood.
(Sidebar: it only really bothers her when she sees the dead bodies of children. Which, okay, I agree that it is, for whatever reason, exponentially more disturbing to hear about violence to children than adults. In a room soaked in blood, however, it strikes me as weird that she would not be bothered at all by a police officer jiggling a boob attached to a bloody rib cage, but a child’s hand would make her swoon.)
I have been privy to some pretty hilarious I-work-in-the-criminal-justice-system jokes lately, and, here, Hamilton did not even come close to what those sound like. Because they are only funny if they are respectful, if they have some kind of hope that some good will come of all of the criminal justice bullshit. This was so disrespectful. Not even close to funny. This link is totally NSFW, but it is How You Do criminal justice system investigation comedy. Hamilton's jokes are stupid, and her protagonist is stupider, and her snotty attitude about everyone who isn’t a 5’3”, 107 lb., curly-haired sprite is stupidest. Gross. UGGGHHHH. I hate you, book.
The audio reader was still good, though. I don't know how she managed reading this whole series. Voice of steel. Ugh, puke again on behalf of the poor reader.(less)
Culture imposes on women constant indoctrination of the idea that our vaginas should make us small, weak, and incapable of caring for ourselves or oth...moreCulture imposes on women constant indoctrination of the idea that our vaginas should make us small, weak, and incapable of caring for ourselves or others.
"A woman could obviously never be a fire fighter, for example." "We couldn't send a woman to do that military job because what if she got her period? She couldn't take a week off when she's there!" "There are just some days in the month when a woman diplomat wouldn't be able to do her job." "I wouldn't watch women's sports because women aren't as strong as men, but I guess the clothes are hot." "But, if we hire her, she'll probably want more time off because she has a kid, so she won't be able to do her job." "Sure one 'woman' did that, but she isn't like real women, and she's probably a lesbian."
It is easy to internalize that thinking, even though it obviously makes very little sense. Plenty of men are short and women are tall. Plenty of women are athletic and men sedentary. Gender has very little to do with physical strength, abilities, or athleticism. And, of course, plenty of men experience indoctrination that they are weak or lazy, and plenty of women, thankfully, live in families that undermine these stereotypes, so I'm not talking in specifics here. What I'm talking about is media and culture and the gendered expectations they impose as a sort of zeitgeist based in gender. That spirit is still that femininity is weak and masculinity is strong, and even where we see it making no sense, it is easier said than done to untangle right from wrong.
This second installment of the adventures of Lisbeth Salander looks very academically at appearances in basically the same manner as Girl With the Dragon Tattoo analyzed consent. It has Lisbeth with dark hair and light, tattoos and implants. It sizes her, the smallest of small girls, up against the most giant of giant men. It is also clever, in the same academic way that GWTDT was with consent, in easing the reader into comparisons and becoming more extreme, developing the idea to its furthest, as the book goes on. The boxer takes on the giant; Lisbeth takes on the douchey biker: Larssen eases us into the comparison of sizes and appearances. And the idea is this: appearance and size do not dictate our successes and failures; they should not dictate who we are.
I think the idea of Lisbeth getting implants early on in the book is interesting. The feel of the way it plays out with her seems . . . off, but I still can appreciate a sort of contrast between my instinctive reaction to Lisbeth altering her body with tattoos to my reaction to her altering her body with implants. On the one hand, I do think my aversion to the idea of implants is valid because of all of the women I’ve known whose implants have become infected or calcified. It’s just a bad health decision in most cases, in my opinion, in a way that I don’t think tattoos are unhealthy as a rule. On the other hand, I can see how altering your own body, in any way, can be experimental and interesting and give a sense of ownership. So, to the extent I start to judge the choice to get implants as succumbing to an oppressive social idea of women’s bodies, and getting tattoos as valid and empowering, I don’t think I’m being entirely fair. I am cool with a woman doing what she wants with her body, and judging a woman based on plastic surgery ultimately seems as dumb to me as judging her based on her tattoos.
Still, it seems unlikely to me that a woman who had a bad day would run herself a Jacuzzi bath and sink to the bottom of it, pinching her nipples really hard, even if she had just gotten a boob job she was super excited about. That seemed weird. It also seemed weirdly simplistic to me to describe how pleased Lisbeth was with her implants and how they made her feel attractive. I don’t dispute the idea that implants could make a woman feel attractive, but that seems like a shallow emotion to describe compared to other, underlying feelings that go along with it. Maybe it is not true for every woman, but when I drastically change my appearance to look more like a magazine and get a lot of positive feedback for it, there is always a feeling of betrayal I have that goes deeper than the flattery. I look more like a doll, and what people want from me is that I be a doll. But, I know that is not who I am or want to be. It also reminds me that people are suckers for media. So, while I don’t think those are universal feelings, I do think that Lisbeth and I have similar enough outlooks that it throws me off that she would be so single-mindedly pleased with her boobs.
Also, I will tell you right now that blond hair is not a good disguise. You go from dark hair to blond and you immediately get a lot more attention. Not that I think people would have identified Lisbeth, because I think they would have just been looking at her hair and boobs, but it is not a good disguise.
So, I appreciate the academic comparisons of appearance, but I felt very disengaged with this story and these characters overall. Blomkvist is such a douche. Every time he said something, with his simpering patience, I wanted to punch him. The letter he wrote to Salander. Oh my god. I hate that guy. What a manipulative, selfish martyr.
What was with Larsson being totally cool with Salander’s statutory rape of the island kid? Oh wait, huh, did he say later in the book that the age for statutory rape in Sweden is super young? Nevertheless, why was Salander okay with that? Everything that happened at the beginning of this book was very disorienting. In GWTDT, you could have cut the first 100 pages, but in this, you could have cut the first 200. Not looking forward to the first 300 pages of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.
I don’t hate Salander at all, but I do feel somewhat indifferent about her. At the end of this one, when (view spoiler)[she dies and gets buried, I was like, “Huh, that is a bold move,” but I felt no emotion about it. And then it is made less bold by her rising again, but whatever (hide spoiler)]. Partly, regardless of what happens to her, I think Lisbeth’s life is already forfeit to this war she is fighting, so it is difficult to have hopes for her. She isn’t really a person, with her own dreams, because that isn’t possible for her - she is a sort of slave to fighting hatred of women. That is important, and I love that about her character, but at the same time, it’s not very human. It’s not emotionally complex.
Or, maybe it is ambivalence I feel about Lisbeth, not indifference, because in this one, like in GWTDT, there was a moment where she quoted something I recently said. It came about three-fourths of the way through the book, like it did in GWTDT, and it was sort of like a slap in the face. Like watching a robot take on my personality. Weird. I feel connected to Lisbeth through those things that she says, but it still always feels like Larsson was following me around, saw me say something, and wrote it down. And seeing me from the outside didn’t really tell him what was behind the thing I said. That’s how I feel about Salander – like Larsson couldn’t crack through her character to tell me what was inside. Those are the things I want to know about a character: the guts and innards. I want an author to take them apart and show me the character’s beating heart. That is not Larsson’s skill, so I end up feeling disconnected.
It is interesting that so much of this seems so purposeful, but an almost equal amount of it seems like a waste of space. After the first 200 pages, I was with the story, but until then I was doing some serious sighing and eye-rolling. I think it is a good policy to read these books in one sitting, and probably not while you’re reading The Iliad, which is what I did. The Iliad is like a bowl of rich chocolate mousse, where you can take one bite and be satisfied for days. This book is like what I imagine a Billy’s Pan Pizza to be: something sort of tasteless to rush through for the satisfaction of feeling full in the end. There is nothing to savor, but it has its place.(less)
Kristin Cashore has this way of taking a rough stereotype of a woman and still talking about her in a full, human, contradictory way that such a stere...moreKristin Cashore has this way of taking a rough stereotype of a woman and still talking about her in a full, human, contradictory way that such a stereotype would feel if you lived in it. She simplifies the telling and complexifies heroine. In Graceling, she tells the story of a badass warrior woman, a survivor, an Ellen Ripley. In Fire, she tells the story of a beautiful trophy girlfriend, an aspiring homemaker, a super model who loves babies, a monster combination of Joan Harris and vampire Bella Swan. Our girl, Fire, is from a race of what the story cleverly calls “monsters,” and I like that both Fire and her society adopt that word as accurate. Her body is exactly what I would think of as a monster. I approve.
Briefly, for if you don't already know, in this story, our people live in a land where monsters are these sort of magical predators who crave blood and flesh, but are so beautiful and colorful that they mesmerize normal humans and animals just by their looks. They have mind-control powers, and when they are in human form, the mind control powers are stronger because, you know, humans are brainy. Fire got her name because she is a ginger, but a monster ginger, so her hair looks like fire, and she has to wrap it up because when dudes see it, they basically try to rape her and when animals monsters see it, they try to eat her. Hair is such a problem.
Now I am going to talk about my ruminations on the conflict between what our bodies are and what our essences, or souls, or whatever, are. Sometimes, I sit around and think about how disconnected I feel as a person from the way my body looks, regardless of the specifics of how I look at that particular moment – fat or thin; white, red, brown, black, or purple hair; strong or weak. Or maybe I feel disconnected from the way people react to my body; it is difficult to say for sure. It makes me think that before we are born, we are floating in the sky as some kind of disembodied essence, and we choose our bodies through a series of escalating dares. I wonder what made me choose this one.
Say, before you were born, your essence had these cards laid out on the poker table of body choices: you could be a gorgeous black woman in the 1950s in the South; the youngest, scrawniest brother in a family full of white coal miners; a rich, white sorority girl; or the son of the first Korean-American President of the United States. You know, say, that you, your essence, is a light, delicate thing, something that hates conflict and loves hot cocoa and hearth fires. Do you go with the safe bet or give yourself a challenge? Does that obnoxious other soul in the corner antagonize you into choosing the black woman in the 1950s just because it doesn’t think you could take it? Or do you go with the possibly safer, but more depressing, sorority girl? Could your delicacy and conflict-aversion handle living inside a man’s body in a society that shames delicate men?
Whatever you decide, you’re all, “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!” and you fly off into the horrors and joys of the body you chose. But, the rules are that once you’re there, you can’t remember how you got there in the first place. You have to fight that battle blind because otherwise the battle isn’t testing your instincts and you’re not as invested in the game.
Or maybe there’s some bureaucrat in the sky with a giant spreadsheet. I don’t know.
Fire made me think about who we are in essence and the way our bodies shape us because I think Cashore articulately describes the powerlessness of beauty and how, while we might aspire to that, it might not be something we really want. Fire's horrifying monster beauty and her horrifying X-Woman skill of mind control, and the shame she felt over those parts of herself were interesting. On the one hand, there is a little bit of a poor-little-rich-girl about the story that I think Graceling also had to some extent, but it doesn’t really dwell in it. There’s so much straight action and Fire is so heroic that it only nudges against the border of maudlin. I don’t think it really crosses over, or at least not often. But, I think that it illustrates how having a body, whether it is the body of a monster or not, is hard. Dealing with social reactions to a body is hard. But, it is worth it.
I think girls often have a sort of out-of-body experience of someone assuming a lot about our personalities from our appearances. Probably men experience that, too, though I wonder how similar the experiences are. I have dimples, so people often don’t expect me to be as much of an asshole as I am and feel extra betrayed by my bitchiness. Fire is kind of like that, too, in that her personality is not what the stories told people to expect from that body. Regardless of what the false expectation is, because it is probably different for us all, there is still that sense of being out of place in a body. I think it is an identifiable female sentiment, and maybe identifiable because there is so much media propaganda about female bodies being wrong. But, at the same time, I have this instinctual sense that I am lucky to have a body at all, and that I should take care of it, and I get the feeling that most people have at least a sliver of that same instinct.
Anyway, I found this beautiful. I liked these people and animals. I liked Fire and I also liked the use of fire as imagery and its association with mourning and cleansing. At times, I found the light use of somewhat courtly language awkward, but that’s not a big deal when action is going down. I’m bumping this up to a five-star rating because I think it is ballsy to write a sequel that is only loosely connected to the first, and I thought that was a well-executed ballsy move. Addressing the stereotype of a beautiful, affectionate woman was smart after having told the story of a survivor in the first book.
I want to be Kristin Cashore’s friend. She is a bold woman.(less)
Oh my god, I love this book!! I love histories of women that make me freak out, and this one does that. This gives me goose bump...moreOH MY GOD!
oh my god.
Oh my god, I love this book!! I love histories of women that make me freak out, and this one does that. This gives me goose bumps. The descriptions of the conflict these women felt between wanting to be good girls and realizing that being a good girl means becoming a shell and disappearing are so beautiful and told so well. Povich is brilliant, and it’s clear that she has so much compassion and understanding for women who reacted very differently to the discrimination they all felt.
And look at that cover! That cover alone makes me freak out. AAAAAAAAAHHHHH. I am reduced to inarticulate babbling because of my love for this book. I love you, book! I love you and miss you! Don’t be over, book! I neeeeeed. I think this book is going to have to take out a stalking order against me.
Rather than only inarticulately freaking out, I will tell you something of what this book is about, I guess. It tells the story of the women who worked at Newsweek in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s filing class action lawsuits under the recently passed (1964) Civil Rights Act (Title VII). Mostly, though, it draws out all of this intense humanity from the internal and external conflict surrounding the women’s decision to sue and the reactions from the magazine.
It gets the sentiments from both sides so right, and it is compassionate, while still being direct. Povich starts the story with a few girls working at Newsweek in 2009 and waking up to the discrimination they were experiencing, and then it tracks back to the parallel story of the women in the ‘60s. You never want to hear a story like this told in a way that villainizes one group or another – the women or men or the advocates for racial equality, etc. – and this one so gracefully conveys nuance in the reactions from all sides. Oh my god, how is this story not well-known American folklore???
So, the women at Newsweek ultimately filed two class actions with the EEOC. Their attorneys, a pregnant Eleanor Holmes Norton, and, later, a pregnant Harriet Rabb, kicked negotiation ass. It is so painful to read men saying, “Well, we are trying to not be racist anymore. Isn’t that enough for you?” as though the main consideration of anti-discrimination efforts is to make white men better people. And it is painful to read women disappearing to accommodate society, but Povich tells both of those points of view smartly and compassionately. Of course, though, she includes Eleanor Holmes Norton responding to the men by saying, “The fact that you have two problems [race and sex discrimination] isn’t my concern.” And she also tells of the women she knew advocating for each other’s skills and abilities and truly creating a sense of sisterhood and comradery, once they dropped their mutual suspicion, that is true to my experience of women working together.
Povich is also really interesting about the interplay of race and gender for the black women working at Newsweek. Ultimately, the entire group of black women opted out of the class action because of the tension between advocacy for racial equality and gender equality. As I understand it, there has always been that pressure on black women to be loyal to race above gender, as though they are mutually exclusive. And the sense that white women are complaining about a gilded cage, while the black women experienced a dank, rat-infested torture chamber, overwhelmed any sense of identification with the white women who first thought of the lawsuit. Povich, also, though, very articulately describes Eleanor Holmes Norton’s take on race and gender advocacy, and that was absolutely brilliant to read. Oh my god, read this book.
When I first started law school, I was really surprised by a few of my women professors who were very competitive with women students in my class. I had just come from a male-dominated law firm in which women were relegated to a secretary ghetto, but most of the women in that ghetto were very supportive of each other. The more I thought about it, though, the more the competitiveness made sense to me. These women, becoming professionals in the ‘60s and ‘70s, fought tooth and nail to be where they are today. One of the professors who has been most competitive with me tells this story of how she was first in her class at law school, editor in chief of the law review, got the highest score on her bar exam, and she couldn’t find a job after she graduated because she is a woman. Women are not welcome in society. So disgusting. So, it totally makes sense to me that when society sets it up that there is room for one token woman in a company, you would turn against other women. And it is impossible for me to feel angry at a woman who experienced that kind of discrimination and successfully retained a professional status. That is incredible, and even if it has, at times, resulted in a bad experience for me, it is the discrimination, not the women, that I blame.
Every time I talk to a woman, I hear stories like those in this book. Every woman has these stories, and they are incredible. I love them. I do not, of course, love the way discrimination dehumanizes women, but I do love when it turns us into warriors and when it makes us think of the women who will come after us and hope for a better life for them.
Thank you! Thank you, Lynn Povich, for writing this book! Thank you, women, for living bold lives. Thank you for being good girls, but thank you, also, for giving up that idea for those of us who would come after you. It makes us more willing to give that idea up, too, and stop lying to ourselves about who we are and what we want. Seeing you advocate for yourselves and each other makes me feel like, I, too, can be a real human with a life and a passion. Oh, gush gush. Read this freaking book, women, if you want to hear stories of people like you! Read this freaking book, men, if you want to know about women. People, read this book!
____________ I got a copy of this book from netgalley.(less)
Well, imagine if Effie Trinket wrote a book about Bella Swan that took place in David Lynch’s brain, using as literary reference the Harry Potter series and the Uglies series.
It is bad and somewhat horrifying at the same time. And while both Skye O’Malley and this book had some creepy abuse of women and girls, Skye had panthers on leashes.
What. The. Fuck?
A friend informed me that the word SMIZE means to smile with your eyes. I don’t know if that makes me hate this book more or hate it less. I actually think it makes me hate it more. Oh my god, the mutilation of the English language in this book is pure sadism. The alliterative synonyms!!! Can't unsee.
I looked at all of the pages in this book, so nobody better give me any bullshit about finishing the damn thing. I got all the way to the miserable end.
There is a part where the chosen models go on a “catwalk,” which, in Modelland, means they walk down a hallway full of cats, which are possessed by the spirits of other models, and get clawed by the model/cats. Tookie . . .
that is the protagonist's name . . .
Anyway, her romantic interest, Bravo . . .
I can't even - the words: they are not enough for how stupid this is.
So, Bravo is always casually sticking his thumb into Tookie's mouth, and there are elaborate descriptions of how manly his thumb tastes. How does that even happen? This book is so bad.
I kind of like watching America’s Next Top Model on a marathon – or at least I did like six years ago. I haven’t done that in a while. At the same time, I am sort of left with the same feeling I get when I watch the movie Stomp the Yard - that it is not about anything. Like, the girls get weird pictures taken of them, then Tyra Banks yells at them in a snotty voice, and then people cry. I don’t totally get it. In Stomp the Yard, too, there is a set of standards that I can’t imagine is real. People jump around, and then other people yell, and it’s like, awwww yeeeeah, somebody won. But did somebody really win? What were the rules? Was there a German judge? I don’t get it. It is not very fun to watch or read something that is so far removed from my reality that it is only confusing.
At least now I know Suzanne Collins was modeling the Capital in Hunger Games on ANTM. I guess that’s some kind of redeeming takeaway.
Karen sent me an autographed copy of this, too. So, that continues to be spectacular.(less)
I spent most of my childhood riding my bike in the suburbs around Seattle. There was a hill I could speed down, a blackberry maze I could pretend to g...moreI spent most of my childhood riding my bike in the suburbs around Seattle. There was a hill I could speed down, a blackberry maze I could pretend to get lost in, a witch’s house, and a speed bump that was perfect for popping wheelies. When I was eight, though, we had to move to a farm in Oregon, and, for many reasons, it was a watershed moment in my life. It wasn’t until years later, when we had to move again, that I could finally appreciate the beauty of the Oregon farm and the jagged, friendly little mountains I could see from my bedroom window.
Eva of the Farm is a sweet story about moves, changes, and losing a childhood home, but to some extent losing the farm is a broader symbol of losing childhood. While it was very sweet, it still confronted a lot of not-sweet injustices and bitterness. Eva is a thirteen-year-old poetess who lives on an orchard her family owns in Eastern Washington. Her beloved grandma recently died, and her best friend moved to Seattle. Eva’s family learns they might lose their farm to foreclosure because of a bad apple crop, and Eva has to deal with all of the loss she faces.
The story is told as a poem, and Eva’s poems punctuate what happens in her life. At first, I thought the poem format was slightly distracting from the story, but by the end I really liked it. It expressed a certain simplicity and deliberateness about the story that I thought was sweet and beautiful. I think a larger theme of the story is Eva’s transformation from seeing life as black and white, evil and good, to seeing her own influence in the world and power over it, as well as the complexity of people’s reactions to life and how that affects our own complex reactions.
I would say the message of this story is that change is bad, but we can be stronger than change. I can get behind that. Though I have now moved many times, no matter how many times it happens, no matter how many times I lose a friend or face death of someone I love, it always seems bad and like it displaces my soul for a little while. The way Eva gathers the greater powers around her seems like good, comforting advice.
__________________________ I received a copy of this from the publisher, but I gave nothing in return.(less)
This was so vile. Like, SO VILE. This was gross. It was both gross like, EEEEeeeeeewwwwwwWWWWWWWW, and also like, CAN’T UNSEE! So, it kind of covered...moreThis was so vile. Like, SO VILE. This was gross. It was both gross like, EEEEeeeeeewwwwwwWWWWWWWW, and also like, CAN’T UNSEE! So, it kind of covered a spectrum of gross. My favorite part of Furry Piranha is the surprise, twist ending. My favorite part of The Curse of the Screwicorn is the long saga of the soccer field turned unicorn hideout. Shield your children from this book, folks. Cheerleaders were harmed in its making.
And animals. Animals were harmed.
And trees, and, like, parking lots, and things like that were harmed, too.
Also, it turns out Joel Cunningham is one fucked up mother fucker. But, possibly a genius.
I read a lot of this book at work on my lunch breaks, so that was a little weird. It wasn’t so much weird in the contrasts as in the similarities. Sometimes my job is a little bit like listening to an audio of a Guy and Campbell book. I love my job.
For those of you who insist on some kind of flap-copy summary in a review, Double Feature is a collaboration between renowned authors Vernon Burns and Albert Clapp. If you haven’t heard of those two, then you haven’t been paying attention. Pulp-literary movers and shakers. Furry Piranha takes place in South/Central/North America (in Brazil, where the Mexicans live). Or, does it? The Curse of the Screwicorn takes place in the frigid blizzards of San Francisco. Furry Piranha is the story of one man with a giant penis learning to see himself as he truly is. The Curse of the Screwicorn is the story of a woman taking vengeance against the men who ruined her life. It is kind of like the TV show Revenge, but with less kung fu and guns and more unicorns. Screwicorn is more of a boy book, you know, what with its more unicorns and less kung fu.
And, as always, if you’re looking for bestiality, Guy and Campbell is where to go.
So, this is where ratings fail me. I mean, ratings are kind of ridiculous anyway because how can I fit all of my love for the books that I love and al...moreSo, this is where ratings fail me. I mean, ratings are kind of ridiculous anyway because how can I fit all of my love for the books that I love and all of my hatred for the books that I hate into five little stars? I can’t. Here’s how I feel about this book: I liked it exactly as much as I liked Divergent. That used to be a four-star rating for me. But, then I read Graceling, which I like a ton better than Divergent, so then Graceling became a four-star for me. Because, I mean, I can’t love Graceling as much as, like The Hunger Games or Daughter of Smoke and Bone, for example. AAARRRGHHH! What is a girl to do???
I am having a star-rating meltdown about this book!
I am giving it four stars because I liked it equally to Divergent, but this stretches my four-star rating to cover a really broad range of books. I like Tris. Four is hot. The action is fun in this story. There is a lot of good to it. But, the fact that I am giving this, Swann's Way and Girl With the Dragon Tattoo four stars shows that there is true injustice in the universe, and in my rating system.
I am often confused in YA novels about whether people are having sex or not, and if not, why not. That is true in this book. These kids are sleeping in the same bed the whole time, but I honestly can’t tell you if they are sleeping together. I guess I’d say not. But, there is a lot of non-sex activity that leads me to wonder whether I’m supposed to think that the fade out is fading out to sex. I guess it doesn’t make that much of a difference to me, but I am curious.
But, now down to something more serious. A lot of this book is about suicide, I think, and Roth deals with it in a way that I basically like. For various reasons, I take the topic of suicide very personally, as we all probably do. It makes me so angry when I see those books, and I think there were a few of them coming out a couple of years back, that go through a story explaining why a group of people caused a suicide. While I do think it is possible for a person to be driven to suicide by the treatment of others (as, of course, the It Gets Better project addresses), I think that ultimately suicide is a very personal, and often only selfish, choice.
By saying it is selfish, I don’t mean to be accusatory or uncompassionate to people who struggle with suicide. And I certainly don't mean to disparage the memory of anyone who is dead because of that monster. Honestly, the reason I feel personally about suicide is that I grew up in a house where my father often threatened to commit suicide, and I myself was suicidal for a lot of years (though I haven’t been for many years, so no worries on that front). I like how Roth talks about the interplay between self-sacrifice and selfishness and how that struggle manifests in the question of whether life is worth it. Strangely, I feel like she danced around that struggle a lot in an attempt to show and not tell, but I feel like the complexity of that issue is here in this book. Tris struggles with the sacrifices others have made for her and in her self-focus, which manifests as self-condemnation and survivor guilt, her internal struggle in this book becomes whether she can continue to live when so many have died. I like that (view spoiler)[ultimately she decides to live on her own and for herself, and not just for Tobias (hide spoiler)].
In the end, the crushing, spiraling questions of whether we would be better off dead is only selfish, and I’ll tell you the answer: no. No one else will be better off because of your death - suicide is not generous. Your life is important, even if you don’t even typically kick as much ass as Tris. Your life is important independent of what anyone else thinks of you or how much they sacrifice or don’t sacrifice for you. Your life is important even if people hate you as much as you think they do. Probably, if you get over yourself, and stop worrying about all that bullshit, you could kick an equal amount of ass to the ass that Tris kicks in this book. You could do it. I like that Tobias doesn’t feed the Audrey II monster of Tris’s selfish self-condemnation because I think that is what people need to hear. Sometimes pity from others doesn’t cultivate self-respect, but only grows the weeds of self-pity.
There is one part that I particularly like in this, where Tris asks Tobias if he is giving her an ultimatum, and he says, no, that he is just stating a fact that he won’t consider her to be herself if she continues to be self-destructive. Snaps to that, dude. There is a lot of heaviness and mistrust to this book, as, really, there was in Divergent as well. In part, I think that happens because this whole series pretty clearly comes from a framework within Protestant Christian morality, but questioning it, which is basically a serious situation. The story, though, feels burdened in some way by that questioning.
I think Graceling was more fun to me partly because it lived outside of that type of structure, so it felt less rigid. At the same time, both books dwell heavily on the idea of control, and that is really interesting to me. I think the idea of control is particularly relevant to the audience of these books, so I’m glad there are smart women exploring stories based on overcoming control with strong, vulnerable heroines who grow in learning to trust themselves.
To copy Catie's style, the song that feels to me like this book is Radiohead’s Reckoner.(less)
**spoiler alert** If there's one thing that makes my blood boil and my skin ripple with creepy crawlies, it's a story that disrespects real suffering....more**spoiler alert** If there's one thing that makes my blood boil and my skin ripple with creepy crawlies, it's a story that disrespects real suffering. For me, this was one of those. Even though it started off really well, the second half majorly crashed and burned. Think there are two stories of suffering in this series: the teen-angst romance and the story of genocide and grief. This was such a huge fail for me in the way the grief story becomes an afterthought so the teen-angst romance can get back in the spotlight. This story is about how attraction to a hot guy molds a girl and changes her fibers, defines (in some undefinable way) who she is, and grief is something that, while uncomfortable, passes like a bruise. I think the opposite is true.
Murder and the Manic Pixie
I googled "genocide statistics," and these are the numbers the internet came up with for me:
Armenia: 1,000,000 killed from 1915-1923 China under Mao: 58,000,000 killed USSR under Stalin: 20,000,000 killed (Robert Conquest, The Great Terror) Holocaust: 5,700,000 killed from 1933-1945 (Nuremberg Trial) Khmer Rouge (Cambodia): 1,600,000 killed between 1975-1978 Bosnia: 250,000 killed from 1992-1995 (U.S. State Dept.) Rwanda: 1,000,000 killed in 1994 Somalia: 300,000 killed from 1991-present (IRIN, a UN agency) Darfur: at least 450,000 killed from 2003-present (UN High Commission on Refugees) (http://www.urbanministry.org/wiki/gen...)
It is kind of interesting that when we talk about war and genocide, we round the numbers so cleanly. We shove individuals off the statistics because one million makes a catchier number than 999,876. Or, maybe, we just estimate because it's not possible to even know how many people died. It is certainly not possible to estimate how many survivors have been broken by genocide, not to mention the lives broken by racism and sexism, the slightly more chill siblings of genocide.
Chris Hondros, Samar Hassan, 5, screams after her parents were killed in Tal Afar, Iraq
I understand why Stalin’s regime romanticized and justified genocide, and the same with Pol Pot, Hitler, and Mao. Propaganda is useful when you are clinging to maniacal power. And as Eddie Izzard says,
We think if someone kills someone, you go to prison, that’s murder. You kill ten people, you go to Texas, they hit you with a brick – that’s what they do. Twenty people, you go to a hospital, they look at you though a small window forever. And, over that, we can’t deal with it. Someone who’s killed a hundred thousand people . . . we’re almost going, ‘Well done! You killed a hundred thousand people? You must get up very early in the morning! I can’t even get down to the gym.’
About this book, though . . . we see a lot of genocide in the world . . . and it seems disrespectful to me to romanticize a genocidal warlord, whether it is for the purposes of propaganda or for the purposes of a YA fantasy novel. Pushing Akiva’s choices onto the Emperor, or whatever he was called, just doesn’t ring true to me. You kill the people you kill, even if someone else told you to. And I’m not saying that books for a younger audience can’t talk about genocide. The Gregor the Overlander series blew me away when it went into genocide. Truly amazing. This book, though, was a whole book full of manic pixie dream girls dabbling in genocide and then gazing at each other.
Even the dudes in this book are manic pixie dream girls. And it’s like, you know: genocide just gets so monotonous and tiring after a while. Genocide ennui is so now. You kill and kill, and at first it’s fulfilling, but then you’re like, “this really isn’t getting me laid the way I thought it would, even though I got these eyes of fire and a dreamy widow’s peak and, like, shawls fulla moth-birds I picked up at Hot Topic.”
Then, you gaze across a crowded battlefield at this girl, and she’s all, “OMG, all I want is hugs! And I know you (view spoiler)[killed my whole family (hide spoiler)], but I’m pretty sure it was just because you loved me sooooo much!”
And then her wise, exotic nanny is all, “Honey chile, you just gotsa go get yo man! He only (view spoiler)[killin’ ev’yone you loved (hide spoiler)] ‘cause he’sa grievin’ fo you. If you go back to him, maybe it will bring peace ta tha whole wide universe and tha moons’n stars.”
Really? . . . Really?! It kind of highlights how convenient the resurrection convention of this series is. It’s okay that he’s a mass-murdering fuckhead! We’ll just bring the people we cared about back to life, and no harm done!
Now, I love Romeo and Juliet. I love it a lot. When I was in college, my genius roommate used to convince guys hanging out at our house to perform the balcony scene with her as a comedy. The play makes this wonderful, sad-clown comedy. Juliet is a crazy person, wanting to pluck Romeo back to herself like a little bird on a string, bwuhaha. Romeo is a self-centered ass, in love with the idea of being in love and bragging about his girlfriends to his buddies. It is kind of hilarious, especially set to the backdrop of the plague breakout in Verona, which gives some perspective to the childish dramatics of our couple.
I have also seen one completely earnest, sad, beautiful production of Romeo and Juliet. The actors playing the couple were living together in real life, and they had this palpable spark between them that made the star-crossed fate truly tragic. The lighting was intimate, like the production in Slings and Arrows once it turns beautiful (here at 2:50) and the couple was still dumb and cursed, but I may have teared up a couple of times because they were beautiful and hopeful.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone caught elements of both comedic and tragic readings of Romeo and Juliet perfectly. The real tragedy in either reading is that the story of these lovers can only exist within this window of time. It can only exist with the suicide at the end. Like any romantic story, it only works if the sun sets at the appropriate time. Otherwise, you start to realize that he snores, and she chews too loud. He says all his sentences as a question; she can’t ever remember to put the cap back on her toothpaste.
Or, worse than snoring, as Taylor so beautifully showed in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, he has the capacity in him to commit genocide and kill every one you ever loved. It is beautiful because that changes the entire game; it changes the entire person he is. He is not the person dreaming of peace and respect for all creatures. He is the person killing them.
“Or is he?” Days of Blood and Starlight asks in its backwards bulldozing over the beauty of the first book. Maybe he was super provoked and it was okay that he killed and betrayed everyone because he was like, really, really sad. Awww. Poor little mass murdering fuckhead. He was so sad!
Romance and Grief
So, the thing that bothers me in the fallout in this book is Karou. This story assumes Karou's devotion to this dude, into whose eyes she's gazed for like twelve seconds, would be a strong enough feeling to overcome her grief for her family.
It creeps me out when women in real life blindly stay with men who make them feel terrible. It says something to me about the degradation of the soul. I think that plenty of smart and interesting women do that, but it is at its base a creepy choice to me. But, then, nothing in this story built up to Karou for that type of creepy choice, so her actions and feelings for Akiva just made no sense to me. There was this idea that it could be noble to go back to someone who made you feel the worst you could possibly feel. It’s not romantic, but it’s also confusing.
It also makes no sense to me because romantic feelings (especially early, fiery romance) are like a delicate collectible unicorn figurine, and grief is like a jackhammer. Sometimes romantic feelings can’t survive someone’s table manners and overuse of the word “absolutely,” and it is beyond me to conceive of a situation, aside from being creepily insane sufferer of Stockholm syndrome, where romantic feelings could survive the murder of one’s whole family.
Other Miscellaneous Complaints
Am I wrong, or did all the hand-burning on the doors stuff happen when Karou was seventeen? But, I know Brimstone made her a baby because she has memories of her childhood, and it’s never indicated that they are false. So, like, this book is trying to tell me that Akiva was the nicest guy ever, and dreaming of peace, but then he did all of the hand-burning stuff in reaction to seeing Madrigal get killed? But, he just waited seventeen years to express his heat of passion genocide? That makes no sense.
Also, if the hamsas work after you cut off a hand – so they have some kind of magic of their own aside from the soul inside of the body – why didn’t they just burn hamsas into the outside of the walls of Loramendi? Further, how did the whole group of angel soldiers stand around holding the hamsa hands without also accidentally hitting each other with hamsa magic? Dumb.
And why be such an asshole to Ziri, book? Why be such an asshole to the ONLY actually badass character in this entire story? WHYYYY????
Overall, I often don't agree with that advice to writers (I think from Faulkner) to "kill your darlings," and I feel like writers often misapply it because they have something to prove. But, in the first book, Taylor so boldly worse-than-killed Akiva by revealing him to be a mass murdering fuckhead. Trying to resurrect his character by romanticizing what he did felt cheap and disrespectful in this one. Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, like Akiva, all had motivations for their mass murdering, but they were not romantic motivations. It is not romantic to commit genocide or kill your girlfriend’s family. It is not romantic to make another person feel terrible. It’s not romantic to want to make out with a guy who killed your family. It just isn’t. ______________________________ I got a copy of this book from a friend, and nobody paid me anything to rip it to shreds with the crescent blades of my keyboard.(less)