Ginny Kelly is an investment-banking buppie at the start of the 90s, living and dating in Chicago. She's not actually a private investigator, being le...moreGinny Kelly is an investment-banking buppie at the start of the 90s, living and dating in Chicago. She's not actually a private investigator, being less hard-boiled than "the hard-bitten type that cries at Disney movies and opens her purse to the homeless."
When her best friend's girlfriend is shot dead behind a lesbian bar in Chicago, Ginny investigates by cheating on her own girlfriend with a psychotic defense attorney who miraculously, does not boil her cat, Sweet Potato, because I am hella sensitive to animal harm and omg the pussy jokes.
Eventually, Ginny investigates and solves the murder despite herself. Mainly she drinks, which is commented on in a kind of subtle, offhand way but is never directly commented on or resolved.
She's kind of like the antithesis of VI Warshawski apart from them both being lesbians and she's incredibly well-written and fascinating. She's very at home with her own experience as a middle-class black lesbian and how that differs from parents' experiences and expectations along with how it isolates her in her pursuit of a career in a very white world. As she says of her relationship with her best friend:
I did not have to paint for her the backdrop of my American history. Bev understood how hard it is to know that there is nothing happier than little black girls coming from a beauty parlor or nothing sadder than little black girls in the rain.
A little meandering in the middle, and there are parts where the relationship drama overshadows everything, but eventually the story gets back on track and you understand exactly how it is that friendship can make detectives out of the unlikeliest of people.(less)
Such a trip. I feel like I just read about every girl I ever knew in Sacramento and the Bay Area.
The worst thing about depression is how true your vi
...moreSuch a trip. I feel like I just read about every girl I ever knew in Sacramento and the Bay Area.
The worst thing about depression is how true your vision seems, like misery is the only correct perspective and everything you think when you're happy is a sham. I didn't even want to be happy anymore because I'd rather live in honest misery than fake bliss. I cried openly through the throngs of cheerful lesbians and boys with neat haircuts and why does everyone in the Castro look so fucking healthy? Maybe you should drink some coffee, Ashley suggested.
I love Louis L'Amour, I love The Man with No Name, I love Shirley Maclaine the drinking nun, I love terrib...more Silly, schmoopy elder gods.
I love Westerns.
I love Louis L'Amour, I love The Man with No Name, I love Shirley Maclaine the drinking nun, I love terrible terrible 70s Western paperbacks with horrible plotlines and inappropriate covers. I. LOVE. THEM. I cannot help myself. But I didn't realize what Westerns really could be until I read this book.
Weatherwitches! Condemnation of colonialism! And Manifest Destiny in particular! Manlove! In prisons! Gigantic killer storms! Condemnation of skeevy missionaries! Funky funky multi-god system where all gods are terrible to one another and/or certifiably insane! Snarky dialogue! Extensive cave systems! Disappeared indigenous gold statue-makers! A large portion of the American West that can kill you with its brain!
This book is like Christmas, if I was into that sort of thing.
It made me realize that what I most love about Westerns, what’s most drawn me to them is that they’re the bastion of the eco-gothic, as described by Elizabeth Bear (via Caitlin R. Kiernan*):
We look around at the world and we're fucking scared. There's this underlying idea of the implacability of the universe and the smallness of humanity. We know that there is no guiding, caring force. That life is amazing in its tenacity and persistence, but that ultimately, it's completely pitiless. And if you take it too far, if you unbalance it enough, it will crush you. This idea of the tenacity of life in a pitiless universe. And nobody else seems to fucking GET IT. Because life is tenacious, but humanity is disposable.
In God Eaters, that idea permeates not just The Burn -- which is awesome and for me at least, pretty much describes all of Nevada to a tee -- and the Burn River with its phosphor-soaked polluted plants, but the whole desert our heroes escape across post-prison-break, and the way the landscape dismantles and reclaims the church (of yon skeevy missionary) and cave-temple (of the disappeared indigenous people). Even when the action doesn’t necessarily invoke the landscape it’s always there in some menacing fashion, just off-screen. You do get the sense that during the escape, there’s a really good chance the desert’s going to get the protagonists before the Watch does. And the few times Ash tries to describe Back East it comes off as so inconceivable against the background of the desert West as to seem like another planet.
Which brings me to colonialism.
Sorry, but I am in fact the type of person who sooner or later will find a way to invoke a condemnation of colonialism into most otherwise normal conversations. Feel free to pre-pity my co-workers at tomorrow’s staff BBQ.
Sarah Vowell once reviewed a tiny mayfly-like tv sitcom called “Thanks”, which chronicled the hilarious lives of 17th century American pilgrims. In the review, Vowell writes, “I’m tempted to say that a satire on Puritan morality is entirely appropriate at this moment in American history. But a satire on Puritan morality is appropriate at every moment in American history.”
And I feel the same way about Manifest Destiny. I say bring forth not just satire but out-and-out refutation of a political doctrine that basically boiled down to “What’s yours is mine. Because AMERICA.” I can safely say we’re not at a point in this country’s history where we can get enough of pointing out how problematic that is. And God Eaters has the routine down pat.
I’m not sure why translating the massacre and forced removal of Native Americans into the mythologic history of Javaians is so effective, but for me it totally works. It’s hard to conjure one iota of sympathy for any of the white settlers the heroes encounter;. From the band of bullying boys that open the book (and oh how the quote “The whole province was a free lunch for a white boy with some time to kill” just gives and gives and gives) to Kinter, to the warden and the racist storekeeper, to the aforementioned SKEEVY-AS-FUCK missionary, there’s really little to recommend white people in this book. Hajicek avoids the trope of the noble savage, not just in terms of Kieran being complicated and snarky, and also with scenes like the homeless natives camping by the river and abusing their harai child.
You guys, this book is COMPLICATED. And WONDERFUL.
One of our heroes kills people. As Ash puts it so nicely, "He kills people. In batches, to save time." I mean, obviously, he stops killing people and finds time to adorably fall in love ("Damn it, boy, what are you *doing* in there that's so much more interesting than being in the world with me?") and go charging around pounding on the god that steals his treasure, but he does start out the book killing people. Throughout, he remains snarky. I like these kind of complications. I like heroes who are more Man With No Name and Lee vanCleef-y (y’all I am old) than High Noon Gary Cooper-y.
Also, as you might by now have noticed, there are tons of quotes from this book that I loved and loved and loved. I don’t know why, but it was heartening that this time through I dog-eared all the same pages that I dog-eared last time through. All the same quotes hit me just right and made of me a huge fan of people who can just do that so beautifully with words.
I loved Ash’s empathy, and that he kept accidentally falling into Kieran’s head. I loved the co-dependent hair-brushing. I loved that technically Kieran’s a sympathetic portrayal of a sex worker in literature because I am here for that too. I loved the system of magic, and how detailed it was, but also how easy to grasp. I loved the problematic gods. I continued to love the harsh landscape.
I didn’t love the imprisoned girl with the black taxidermied wings, and I really didn’t love the skeevy missionary, but I wasn’t supposed to love them. I was supposed to understand the former as another symptom of Thelyan’s cruelty and the latter as the inherent hypocrisy of a church in disapproving of same-sex relationships while sleeping with under-age girls in coerced and subjugated situations.
I loved how once Kieran let go, he just fell and fell and fell for Ashleigh Trine.
And I’m sure I’ll love it all again the on the next read-through.
*In the journal entry I'm quoting, Kiernan attempts to ascribe the coining of “eco-Gothic” to Elizabeth Bear and Chelsea Polk; but wikipedia would like me to believe that it began with a writer named Hilary Cunningham Sharper; however, as the sole source for that attribution is Sharper’s personal website, the jury’s still out.**
**Stuff like this can keep me cheerfully fascinated for days at a time. (less)