map_of_the_world: (Default)
I liked this book a whole lot, it's thoughtful, complex and has well drawn characters. I wrote in a recent post that within the Rapunzel story was a retelling dying to get out here about a narcissistic overprotective over entitled adoptive parent, and this is pretty much it. It tells the story of a woman (who is just known as "Mother") who was barren and became bitter with it and would do anything to have a child including sell her soul. She is so desperate for this child and so selfish that she doesn't care about the grief and anguish she has caused to the child's mother:

the crying woman would have other children. Of course she would. she was a breeder; one look told you that. but for the running woman, the escaping woman, the child was unique

It's a really interesting critique of how being infertile in a world that says women are broken if they can't or don't have children affects women. After all this woman is extremely talented in all sorts of ways, she's musical, she's a talented seamstress and embroiderer, she has a knack with other peoples children and yet she feels broken, unfinished if she can't have her own. It also explores how some women feel so entitled to a child, any child, that they ignore the grief of the women the child comes from. When Mother discovers Zel is pregnant it is this more than the knowledge of the prince or the fact zel has kept something from her that causes her to banish Zel, her jealousy that Zel is able to have so easily something that she yearned for so long leaves her furious.

This story is also a beautiful study in mother daughter ambivalence. The narcissistic obsessive love of the mother turns itself into something abusive and controlling, convinces itself that locking Zel up in the tower is "for her own good".

Mother is desperate to keep Zel by her side easily and although she convinces herself that she wants zel to want the same out of her own free will, out of love, she also has high bargaining chips that she knows are more likely to keep Zel by her side:

I work hard too keep my arms from becoming iron like my teeth. As much as i would want to i must not shackle Zel to me. I love her. That love must be returned freely. I cannot bear anything less.And I have a ready means of persuasion p61

Zel loves her mother, deeply, as a child would if their mother was the only person they had ever really known but mixed in that love is increasing resentment and fear at the constrictions Mother places on Zels life:

Then stay with me Mother. Oh stay
I must search for the enemy
"Someday you will tire of looking for this enemy. You seem near exhaustion when you come"
"I will never tire of it Zel. I will protect you forever."
The words chill Zel more than the fall winds, more than anything else mother could have said.

Zel knows that keeping her mother happy is vitally important and in a way she wants to but she is also angry so she resorts to passive aggressive defiance:

Zels only reliable company is mother. the one slim daily hour with mother is zels best treasure. She must be obedient and good, so mother will come without fail. She calms herself...Zel feels the tension in mothers hands on her hair, Mother is always tense when zel talks of the goose. Other things make Mother Tense, also. Zel can't resist exercising her power to make mother anxious. She is almost giddy as she speaks.

Napoli has a really coherent understanding of an adolescent in mental distress. After zell has been locked up for a good amount of time her sanity starts to fracture

Zel shakes her head harder and harder...Each time her ears hit the floor they ring. Her Chest rises in pain...Pain is lovely. It stands out from a vast sea of monotony

Zel would take that sharp stone and dig trenches up the lengths of both arms, She would fill her room with blood. She would do many things. But for Mother, dear Mother

But she does not stand a second too long in the light. The suns seduction has to be planned against. The sun tries to make her believe in colours

These passages along with Zells repetitive, obsessive thought patterns and her hallucination of friendly animals depict excellently the inner workings of a trapped, emotionally abused and virtually abandoned adolescent.

One of the things I especially liked was that Napoli explained things that in the original story don't make a whole lot of sense. It never made sense to me why Rapunzel's father would agree to give his unborn child away so easily. In this retelling Mother makes thorns grow up around him that cut into his flesh and threaten him with blindness until he agrees.

I have to say though I didn't really like the prince, he seemed as obsessive and controlling as Mother, he also seemed like a scary stalker. But I suppose there is only so much you can do with fairy tale princes,

Something I didn't think about while reading the book but that strikes me now is how well the settings are described, how real and easily imaginable they are. i don't have a big imagination for places but I could see these all vividly, almost smell and feel them.

cross posted to [ profile] other_tales
map_of_the_world: (Default)
I thought I was going to hate this book, the first couple of meetings with the protagonist put him in a horrible, horrible light and leave the reader with no empathy for him. He thinks it's hilarious to put rat guts and blood in his sisters towel so she gets covered in it after a shower, and he doesn't understand why no one else in his family finds it funny. I think the author expects the reader to find it funny as well but I personally was just thinking "psychopath". The book is aimed at adolescent boys but to be honest if any of the adolescent boys I work with found that sort of thing funny I would be pointing them in the direction of the nearest mental health unit.

Anyway the book got better while never being brilliant or particularly believable (I mean its about demons and werewolves its not supposed to be believable in the real sense but I don't think the author ever captured adolescent boy psychology sufficiently.

I had thought I knew what was going to happen though, that it was going to be really formulaic but there were quite a few twists and turns I wasn't expecting that took the story to quite interesting places, however I think the fact the protagonist was so horrible in the beginning of the book meant that I really lacked empathy for his grief over his family dying so didn't really connect with his character till really late in the book.

Nothing about this book really jumped out at me, it wasn't terrible and it passed the time, but it wasn't really original either (lycanthropy being passed down through genetics and playing chess with demons for peoples souls, ho hum)

I did like the idea of a demon that fed off peoples grief and despair though, I think a lot more could have been made of that. I think it could have been used as an exploration of the nature of grief which would have been a really useful teaching tool for adolescents. In fact there are all sorts of things in this book that could have been explored better such as the psychiatric hospital he ends up in (which is nothing like any psych unit I've ever been in or heard of.)

The demons seemed too caricatured to be scary and there was nowhere near enough suspense or creepiness in the book. I don't think i'll bother reading anything eles by this authout to be honest.
map_of_the_world: (Default)
I read The Sandman: The Dolls house yesterday and I really didn't like it, I'm really disappointed about this to be honest because people have been telling me for ages that I would love it. Maybe I just didn't get it because I find visual narrative much harder to interpret than just writing but I think there were things about it that genuinely disturbed me, and not in a good way.

From the off I was really uncomfortable with the initial story. It seemed really culturally appropriative, based as it was on indigenous peoples tribal rituals, as if its okay to take stories that don't belong to us and fuck around with them for our own entertainment. I don't know if the story told here is one that is passed down in any tribal culture or if Gamian made it up, but I do know that there are stories that are private and tribe specific in indigenous cultures and people who do not belong to those cultures do not have a right to tell them or even know them. (And it just seemed to be "look these noble preliterate people! they tell stories, while still being ignorant primitives!) Added to which the context that this particular story is told in doesn't make sense, the narrative tells us it is a story that is told by the men of the tribe to the boys about to go through the ritual that turns them into men (circumcision in this case) and it is stressed that it is a story that is only told once a lifetime (by the older man) and heard once a life time (by the younger man) and this is how it is transmitted, and this version of the story is only told to men by men.

So who is telling the story? Why are they breaking a generations old tradition and telling it outside of their tribe? How do I as a woman have access to it?

I'm well aware that Gamian probably made this story up but that isn't the point he is still taking part in cultural appropriation by his depiction of indigenous peoples and the idea that all stories are the property of everyone, even those who don't belong to the culture they come out of and are very likely part of a culture that has or does oppress the culture the tale comes from.

The whole serial killer convention squicked me out completely and nor did I really get what it bought to the narrative, and the guy who was all about the eyes was too disturbing for me. I get that I actually have a really low squick threshold when it comes to dismemberment and similar issues but the whole "I kill transsexuals because they fascinate me" thing was so not okay, there was no critique of this, there was no acknowledgement of the danger trans people live under, of the fact they are more likely to be killed than cis people, of the fact that they were being killed because they were trans when all the other victims seems to just be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Also there seems to be too much rape for no good reason that doesn't really go anywhere. It's not explained who raped Unity, there seems to be no affect on her daughter when she finds out shes the product of that rape. And the almost rape of the main character seems pointless and leads to nothing, the connections made to red riding hood here are also really unsubtle and clunky

There were somethings I liked about it. I like stories about stories, I like stories about dreamscapes, I love the fact that Gilbert told one of the oldest forms of little red riding hood (the one that I unconsciously think of as the "real story") I like that Gilbert was a place and a person. I liked the story about the guy who lived forever. I do have the next book (I borrowed them both from [ profile] andygrrrl) and I will read it to see if I'm being too harsh but I'm not going to get my hopes up.
map_of_the_world: (Default)
I really enjoyed reading fight club i partly because I'm interested in how multiple personality is portrayed in literature, but mostly because its about the construction and creation of heterosexual male masculinity. I'm probably more interested in the construction of masculinity than I am in the construction of femininity, maybe because I've never been and never will be expected to fit inside it, the more obscure rules of and aspects masculinity are not something that the world had tried to teach me and then spent much time in hand wringing when I failed miserably at them.

I have to say some of this book, in its nihilism reminded me of American Psycho with its litany of clothes, objects,and out of control materialism

"You buy furniture, you tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. buy the sofa, then for a couple of years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled, then the right set of dishes, then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug.

ultimately though found it much, much more redemptive than American psycho, (which was not at all redemptive and was stomach turning.) Because unlike American psycho the narrator of fight club gets the pointlessness of things and the emptiness of living a life like that,

Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things that you used to own, now they own you."
Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don't need. Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they don't really need.

This is where Tyler Durden comes in. The narrators uppermost self, is too comfortable, too conforming and too scared to blow it all over and start again so Tyler does it for him.

but I also thought the class issues were really interesting and the ripping away of the myths about how society actually works

"You do the little job you're trained to do.
"Pull a lever.
"Push a button.
"You don't understand any of it, and then you just die p12“

The people you are trying to step on, we’re everyone you depend on. We’re the people who do your laundry and cook your food and serve your dinner. We make your bed. We guard you while you’re asleep. We drive the ambulances. We direct your call. We are cooks and taxi drivers and we know everything about you. We process your insurance claims and credit card charges. We control every part of your life.”

Although technically I guess some of the jobs mentioned are not so much working class jobs but service sector jobs. We live in a world that lies about power, that routinely states that the people with the power are those at the top of the pyramid and we all swallow that lie. When actually if everybody in service sector jobs stopped working or just revolted all hell would break loose. And I think a lot of middle class people don't understand how much impact service sector jobs have on them and what their lives would be like if they weren't done. I once heard a media studies lecturer say that media studies was more important then pluming, which made me go "WTf" I love media studies, I love media studies theory and I do think ideas are important but seriously? Clean running water and toilets that work and someone who knows how to make that all happen and fix it when it doesn't? yeah, If I have to choose I'll take that over Adorno and Althusser any day thanks.

I also though the connections between a certain type of Christianity and how white western culture perceives god was interesting, which of course is also about how we, as a culture construct masculinity

"The mechanic says, 'If you’re male and you’re Christian and living in America, your father is your model for God. And if you never know your father, if your father bails out or dies or is never at home, what do you believe about God?'"

Partly I'm interested in that nowhere in the book is the possibility of a female god, surely a female good would make a lot of the issues around and the reasons for constructing and creating masculinity as it is now moot? Also I never made the direct connection between masculinity and god before (which is kind of dumb I know)
and its interesting that the type of masculinity being explored here is essentially adolescent, as it is in a lot of popular culture because we live in a culture where men don't have to, are not expected to, grow up, which is I think part of the refusal to take responsibility for their children (I don't for a minute think people should stay in unhappy relationships but I do think people should take responsibility for and children that arose out of those relationships) and because they aren't expected to grow up theydon't get to partake in the good things about adulthood, such as intimacy and community building and so do feel empty I guess
map_of_the_world: (Default)
This is the third time I read this book but the first time I really enjoyed it. The first time I was too young and the second time I was too rushed. Going back to it was prompted by the films, I love them but I know that they meander away from the original story. I read it slowly and really luxuriated in it.

This book is criticised a lot because of its lack of characterisation but its supposed to be part of a myth cycle. Myth cycles have never been big on characterisation, they are all about archetypes and overarching narrative. To me it reads as if its not supposed to be an actual journey but a metaphor for a psychological one. I feel that a myth cycle that contained lots of characterization and lots of personal angst would be flawed in itself.

I do have issues with the gender and class relations in it but i took in to account while reading not only was it set thousands of years ago but Tolkien started writing it in 1937 when unequal class and gender relationships were seen as normal.

It also seems like an elegy in some places, a meditation on loss, on how what has been can never be again whatever the outcome of the journey, which may very well have been the effect of the wars on Tolkien's subconscious although he denies that that's what it was consciously about.

I love that parts of it are so dark, I love the scenes in the mines, just for themselves, their darkness and claustrophobia, but also because they can be seen as metaphors for the darker more frightening parts of who we are.

Tolkien is also often criticised for lack of pacing in his narrative but I thought the juxtaposition of the slowness of the narrative with the urgency of the fellowships journey set up some interesting tension for the reader

I also love some of the gems of wisdom

I wish it need not have happend in my time'said frodo
'So do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'

He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom

Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens

After having read it again it is obvious where the films differ from the book, but I really like that because that's how cultures treat myth cycles, they foreground and mutate the bits that are culturally relevant and background the bits that aren't
map_of_the_world: (Default)
The writing in this book was not as bad as I’d been led to believe it was going to be but the book itself was teeth grindingly awful all the same, I only picked it up because ~I wanted to judge it for myself rather than believing all the hype surrounding it. It horrified me in a way that had nothing to do with vampires,

Firstly as soon as Bella moves in with her father she turns into a surrogate housewife pretty much, doing the cooking and laundry even though he’s been feeding himself and doing his own laundry for years.

I don’t understand how the relationship between Bella and Edward is supposed to be romantic and seductive and all those other things it’s been touted as. Edward comes across as a scary controlling sadistic stalker that Bella should run far away from at the soonest possible opportunity

Someone breaking in to your room to watch you sleep every night, or taking you places you don’t want to go because they are physically stronger than you, or repetitively telling you that they are so much stronger than you and could easily kill you if they wanted to, or telling you it’s your fault the other vampire wanted to drink you because you smelled so nice, (rape apoligism much?) is really disturbing and adds up to the kind of relationship where the woman eventually ends up getting killed rather than true love.

I think the issue of abusive relationships is something that should be discussed in adolescent literature, very much so, but the problems with this book is that firstly this isn’t presented as an abusive relationship and secondly there are no healthy romantic relationships in the book, Bella’s best friend, who is clearly only a foil to move the story on, there is no depth of connection between the characters, is obsessed with her boyfriend, Bella’s mother, who is drawn as flaky and dependant seems to be following her partner round the country like a devoted sheep dog.

There was an article in the womans literary journal Mslexia about the author Stephanie Meyer that I found really problematic. Apparently the twilight series is Buffy the Vampire slayer without its smart arsed humour - and its sex drugs and rock and roll so Buffy without some of the bits people really, really liked, but it’s also Buffy without well drawn characters or deep rich female friendships/relationships or opposing viewpoints or any healthy relationships. Buffys relationship with Angel, especially after he came back from Angelus was somewhat problematic but firstly there was discussions amongst Buffy’s friends about that but also Willow and Oz had a loving non abusive relationship and even Xander and Cordelia, while being a really bizarre pairing, weren’t’t abusive to each other.

Also apparently Meyer wrote the book partly because she wanted to show teens that abstinence was possible and a good thing. If I had a teenage daughter I would rather she was having sex in a consensual loving non abusive relationship than practicing abstinence while in an abusive one.

According to Mslexia in the next book in the series Edward’s lust for his new wife causes her such physical injury that he dare not make love to her again until she becomes a vampire herself. Because clearly men can’t control themselves, they just get caught up in the heat of the moment, and women should give up everything they are so their partners are sexually satisfied. Also who the hell would define damaging someone like that as making love

One of the things that disturbs me most about this though is that it’s a best seller and teenage girls love it! How do we still live in a society that teaches teenage girls, that scary obsessive stalkers are romantic? How do we live in a society that doesn’t teach teenage girls that equality is sexy, that covert threats are still threats, that the phrase “he’s controlling because he loves me” is contradictory.
map_of_the_world: (Default)
I really, really liked this book. The writing wasn't brilliant, in fact not remarkable at all and in places it was quite stodgy but the ideas carried it through. At its baseline its another book about difference and otherness, about how do we treat people who are different from us and how should we treat people who are different from us. the basic premise is that teenagers who die are coming back to life and how they and the larger society deals with that. The author draws parallels with lots of groups of oppressed people but he doesn't do it clumsily or in an overly didactic way.

There were a lot of really interesting almost sidelines wrapped up in the main plot, the ones that stood out to me were that we live in a world that moves really fast and is full of junk chemicals and that maybe changing us physically and so changing what it means to be human,

Also there is an awesome critique of how we live in a society that sees the road to social change is through conspicuous consumerism

But mostly although the main protagonist is not of the group of people in the book being Othered the author really seems to get under the skin of those being othered, and really understands the subtleties and complexities of being part of an oppressed group. There are some really interesting discussions in the book over language and naming, who gets to use what language and weather oppressed groups using language that the oppressor group used against them is a reclamation or a capitualtion. There's also a really interesting dialogue sequence about passing, and the politics of passing and weather the dead teens want to pass and the assumption by alive people that they should want to pass.

While this book could have come off as clumsy and heavy and preachy it didn't because apart from the obvious conceit of the dead coming back to life, the characters and situations are believable and well drawn. All of the characters including the main antagonist are complex and have sympathetic, if not particularly, likable reasons for their actions and prejudices


map_of_the_world: (Default)

October 2010

345 6789


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 21st, 2017 06:51 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios