End of the week and I still feel just, well, flayed and tied to a hillside, left for the ants.
I keep feeling like the pile of things to write is growing and growing and I’m just standing at the bottom of it going *meep*
I have two things in my head today: a short story about Prester John and a poem involving The Seven Swans. But I also want to read: that was my goal for this week, to just exult in reading again, something I have far too little time to do since becoming a full-time writer. The little ironies of life, I know. But the Kleeveland Kidz took me to Half-Price Books the other day, a store Cat should never be allowed in, and I just went all to puddles. Books! Books!
Of course, very little of the wonderful experimental stuff my friends and co-workers write was there. But I got the complete poems of Milosz, and a book of Louise Gluck’s poetry, and some ancient Arabic epic poetry, and The World According to Garp, Bee Season, Death in Venice, The English Patient (loving re-read), and Winter Pollen. Add to that Lempriere’s Dictionary, Cold Calls, and The Romance of Silence from Amazon. Would I rather that list include Shriek: An Afterword, Magic for Beginners, In the Forest of Forgetting, Vellum, Move Under Ground? Yes, I really, really would. But I have to be happy with the bookstore smell and a pile of nicely-worn secondhand copies for now. I really prefer secondhand, they feel sort of alive, as if being run-down is the key element in alive-ness.
What am I actually reading right now, though? Years of Rice and Salt, which I bought three months ago for Sam, and as much of Silence as I can stand before barfing. More on that in a minute.
So far this week I’ve read Into the Forest, a loaner from thesibylqueen which I took far too long to get around to. In short: it pissed me off. I guess I was friends with a certain kind of person growing up. The kind of person who spent a not-insubstantial amount of time talking about what they would do if the apocalypse came and we had to survive. It takes a person of a certain mindset to dicuss that at 14, to read How to Stay Alive in the Woods for fun, and I was of that mindset. So when I realized that this was post-apocalyptica, and that the girls in question were abandoned in a fully-stocked cottage on the edge of the Northern California wilderness I thought: “Phew! They’ll be safe!” Because this was what we long ago determined to be the best of all possible circumstances for survival. Apparently not if you are too stupid to live. Seriously, these girls deserved to be Darwinned a hundred times over. From sitting around not growing food in the fully-functional garden and orchard they have to waiting almost a full year to bag the apparently plentiful wild pig of the forest for some goddamn protein, and then having a big ole “da cute widdle piggie!” weep-fest about it, to never, ever taking any measures to protect themselves from outsiders even after one of the girls is raped and they have a gun (with seemingly unlimited video-game ammunition) and an axe. The girl who was raped had the axe in her hand while said rape was happening. It apparently vanished instead of ending up in the rapist’s head where it belonged. Bad editor, no biscuit.
Anyway, this book was a particular kind of uber-feminine fantasy where women create their own world in the wilderness, closer to nature, you see, and men show up only to briefly to rape (and not, you know, loot, even though it’s the end of the world and the rape supposedly happened because the girl wouldn’t give him her spare gas, but he didn’t then steal the gas, so, no idea) so that pregnancy can result (big shock the author wrote a fluffy book on celebrating pregnancy before sashaying into fiction), so that the mere presence of a male footprint in the newfound woman’s world causes total irrational terror and bizarre behavior, and there is this weird utopia with quality lesbian sex (which goes totally smoothly despite neither woman having done it before and is never repeated, because that would mean they were OMGTEHGAY instead of just traumatized) and spontaneous lactation. Except that the equivalent stories of survival involving men are inevitably about massively competent males and their triumph over nature, (except for that guy in Alaska, but the book still presented him as the coolest dude EVAR and that Alaskan wilderness was a TOTAL MEANIE for pwning him) whereas this one is about two women who lucked out and did not end up dead of stupid like they should have. *tears hair* The amount of time it took this girl to figure out that you could eat acorns is shameful for someone who grew up in California, which is one big oak forest, and guess what the frigging Pomo ate? Oh, that’s right! And we were all taught that in all of 1st grade.
I should not be reading survivalist literature and going “Bitch, please, I can survive better than you on any given Tuesday WHEN I HAVE THE RICKETS AND A BROKEN ARM AND AM PREGNANT WITH TWINS.” Ugh.
That said, the first chapters were really nicely written and interesting before I realized that these two girls are the last people I would ever want on my planet should peak oil turn us all into Mad Maxes. And it has supplied me with two days of ranting, so, bonus.
The Romance of Silence is turning out to be a huge disappointment, too. I’d like to say it’s the translation, but my French isn’t too terrible and the edition is bilingual, so I’m gonna go with: the reason no one has heard of this medieval poem is that despite totally awesome transvestite feminist subject matter, it actually sucks.
Direct quote: Wait till you hear the amazing thing that happened next!/ A great big dragon came!
*brainpalm* This is seriously medieval lit on internet. I can just see the OH NOES and O RLYs between the lines. The poetry, if it can be called that, is so leaden and simplistic I want to put my eyes out, and we haven’t even gotten to the transvestism yet. There is beautiful imagery in Gawain and the Green Knight, and Pearl, and the whole frigging Canterbury Tales, and Chretien isn’t all that shabby, so what the hell is going on here? A great big dragon came? A GREAT BIG DRAGON CAME??!!!
I need an icon of that, which would be used for posts that express disbelief that a piece of writing could suck so hard and not literally burn through the paper leaving great gobs of green acid in the spine in a feeble attempt to get away from itself.
Master Heldris, you’re fired.
So, yeah, I might read today, I might write, I can’t decide. This article is depressing me, though.