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Archive for the ‘Books are Not for Eating’ Category

After twelve hours at work today, I’m feeling just a smidge arguably mentative.  It’s that time of year.  I might have to wear my horns tomorrow.

Oh, Sibylle.  Why must you vex me so?

I admit, I’m not far into The Mother: Archetypal Image in Fairy Tales.  But does that mean I can’t have an opinion?

Dearest darling Sibylle says:

“The father symbolizes the active, creating principle, the mother the receptive and nourishing one. Although, as we shall see, there is also a spirit mother, the mother principle is primarily on the side of nature in the sense of the instincts, the physical drives” (p. 14).

Okay, she’s a Jungian.  Which does not curdle my cheese nearly as much as if she had been a Freudian.  But upon this night, I say unto thee, I sure is tired of folks jumpin’ on the bandwagon!  So one bloke had a theory.  And he would just Not Shut Up About It.  (We’ve all known guys like that.  They usually end up alone at the bar and no one will talk to them.  But then there are the rare few who get an audience, for whatever reason, perhaps it is their charisma, or their evil mustache, or it’s to annoy your mother… and then John-Bob says, “Oh yeah, I know that guy,” even though he doesn’t, and suddenly it’s A Thing.)

To which I rise up tonight and say, Avoid The Thing!

That’s right!  You heard me!  You’ve got a head on your shoulders; why don’t you use it?

It is simple, dear readers; the head upon said shoulders is rarely used because my generation spent twenty years in classrooms being told that our opinions did not not matter, they were opinions, but when Freud said something, his was not an opinion but fact, and so stop arguing and purporting to have opinions.

I actually do sadly look back at the best minds I collected in my university, the ones who were enthusiastic and creative and Doing, and I watched Every Single One of them deteriorate into a sad pathetic lump that will never again make up primordial soup.  The soup doesn’t want them.  Not in their present states of disillusion.

And all because, like the writers of so many of these treatises of Thought, they jumped on someone elses’ bandwagon, and being on the bandwagon makes you invisible as it forces the entire world into that train of thought and no one gets out their own building blocks to build up a brand new idea.

No one can hear you on the bandwagon, even though you think that’s the best way.

And no one is ever going to listen if you have your own idea.

Because first you need a fan base.  You need an Influencer.  You need someone (other than your mother) who already has a Voice (although may not have anything much to say with it) to say, “Yesssss, people, that there is an Idea and I myself discovered it!  And so, people, you must buy it!”

Okay, enough disparaging poor old Sibylle for forcing the entire world to fit neatly into Jung’s idea.

Because now we get to the grit in my craw.

The male, the father, the man, is the Active one.  And the female, the mother, the woman, is fucking Receptive.

A nice polite way of saying she’s Passive.

Which is true of the rewritten and edited fairy tale versions, particularly of Grimm and Disney, which were mostly gathered by men in the 1800s and used to tell the world (and women) what they the men wanted… which appears to be some sort of necrophilia.  A passive nurturer who will never argue and will go out of her way to care for his every need.

You may say, But Dawn, this is no longer true.  Women are “liberated” and arguing against certain fairy stories nowadays is ridiculous.

But I am looking at four generations of women here. I’m looking at my entire generation in the Midwest.  And I’m seeing it.  All of it.

I see the passive girls.  I see the girls who purposefully get pregnant to trick men into marrying them and “taking care of them” so they don’t miss “that great opportunity” for a husband–at the age of 18.  I see the sexist men who won’t let their grown daughters go to college.  I see the girls who are belittled for having an opinion.  I see the Pink toys that are given to young girls which are nowhere near as complicated as the equivalent toys given to boys their same age and skill level.  I see the parents and grandparents perpetuating this when they call and demand to know if the unicorn comes in more “boy colors” than white.  I hear grandmothers (loving, saintly!) say (word-for-word), “We can’t give THAT to the girl; she ain’t as smart as the boy!”

Toddlers and preschoolers are just starting to come into an understanding of their lives and where they fit in our society, and they will do anything to be loved.  Their limited understanding of their positions is based on the stereotypes that adults force down their throats–and in order to “gain our love”, they go out of their way to try to act out those roles.  To “play house” and “princess” like they are “supposed” to.

We are self-perpetuating when we say that we buy pink toys for the girls because they want them.  They ask for what they think WE want them to want.

Finally, “the mother principle is primarily on the side of nature in the sense of the instincts“…

Do you know why this part of the Feminine stands out the most?  For the last thousand, two thousand, three thousand years, most women have been banned from formal learning.  Most were not taught to read nor write.  Most have been discouraged from thinking or stating an opinion to their husband.  Most just hoped to become the Property (which is exactly what marriage legally did to females) of a man who would not beat her, and one who would bring home food.

I look back at the previous two generations, at the “Gee, honey, I hope you buy this new vacuum cleaner for me to show me how much you love me”, at the women who dared not work after marriage, whose worlds were limited by the people their menfolk would drive them to visit, by the limited educations they were “allowed” to have by parents who believed girls should not be educated… and when one of these very Instinctual women tells me how much she wished she was smarter… is always, always telling me how dumb she feels… but who has a finely honed Unconscious, a mind that cannot process deeply learned theories but can look at a small group of people and explain all those interconnections… a woman who Hated so much of life and threw herself into several home arts just to have something to do with her very smart but very under-utilized brain…

I look at these woman, and I fully understand the dark depths of repression.

And here is Sibylle, a learned woman, just perpetuating them more by writing off a woman as receptive and a man as active… because that’s what was allowed… and because she bought a man’s blind theory… and never, not once, thought to argue with it.

Maybe because she thought that, by stroking the ego of all the Jungian Men, that she might just maybe earn their love.

Because preschoolers and toddlers and people with a limited view of social brainwashing (aka: cultural fitting-in-ness) will do Anything to make you love them.

And isn’t that cute?

night,

dawn

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Oh dear, oh deer, oh deee are.

Lin-Lin wanted what I thought was going to be a new friend.  Little did I know.  She did not have the best of intentions.

Who, me? Mais je suis the picture of innocence!

Who, me? Mais je suis the picture of innocence!

Lin-Lin brought me the glue.

She brought me the glass.  She even broke the glass.

I was starting to get suspicious–what is it you want me to do, child?

“Lay out that baby and start gluin’!” was the reply.

I lied to that baby:

I lied to that baby: “Pretend it’s just a day at the beach!”

What can I say; I’m pretty obedient.

Anytime you find yourself gluing shards of glass to a baby, perhaps you should start to question your actions.

I didn’t.

Not until we started getting into more… compromising positions.

One of those compromising positions... I'm not sure this is legal.

One of those compromising positions… I’m not sure this is legal.

Just what was I doing?

Well, honestly, I didn’t know.  When we first started this, ahem, “project” (for want of a better term), I tried hot glue.  (Ouch, ouch, ouch, says the baby!)  But I found that when gluing glass to plastic, hot glue doesn’t cut it.  It didn’t harm either the glass or the plastic, but it wasn’t so very permanent, either.  Not even half-so.  I had glued a large section to the baby, shifted position to hold a dried glued-glass area, and the shards started to shift and come off.  Hot glue: just too malleable.

Lin-Lin brought me the Liquid Fusion, recommended by my very own Vegebrarian (owner of the Etsy shop InciteDelight).  While not as permanent as some goopier items (I was able to later remove a shard or two when the poor baby could not completely lower her arm), this glue is less likely to kill you while you sleep (always a plus!).

What were you doing at 3am?  Um, yeah, I was breaking shards of glass off a baby with needle-nose pliers.

Shhh, don't tell the neighbors

Shhh, don’t tell the neighbors

When I was done with that, and half-done with the gluing, Lin-Lin demanded I learn to make fish scales out of yarn.  Attempt one: failed.  Attempt two: stole bits and bobs from an old hat pattern and commandeered them to make…

Lin-Lin, what AM I making?

Ta Da 2

Ta Da!

Really?  This is what I was making this whole time?

But honestly, when I was done, I was glad Lin-Lin was so task-mastery.

I still fear for this baby’s life, though.  Lin-Lin can’t be trusted.

night,

dawn

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My dear friend Lin-Lin has some… hobbies.  In particular, she likes to change people.  Often from the outside in.  Some things to keep in mind:

Scissors just won’t cut it.

Yous gots to get the right instructions.

Yous gots to get the right instructions.

No matter how careful you are, their innards are going to get all over.

Babies is tougher than I thought!

Babies is tougher than I thought!

Every person is held together with zip ties, which is annoying.

You’re going to need lots of patience–and wire cutters.

What'm I gonna do with this piece?

What’m I gonna do with this piece?

The body you’re dismembering will jerk and twitch and make funny faces just like it’s alive.

All wored out, I gots to take a nap.

All wored out, I gots to take a nap.

Pictures can be used against you in a court of law.

Don’t be tempted to keep souvenirs.

Rock on!

Rock on!

Your accomplice will always betray you.

Phew! Never thoughts I'd finish. But now the clean-up starts.

Phew! Never thoughts I’d finish. But now the clean-up starts.

Rebuilding someone from the leftovers is not art.

Are you really prepared to see what your friends are made of?

~~~~~

You can follow Lin-Lin on Twitter @LinLinAndPedro but I’m just not sure she’s a nice girl.

night,

dawn

**PS: Lin-Lin’s in a book… but if you call her a “dolly” that’s extremely rude, disparaging, and she’ll kick your ass.  Until then, she’s looking for an agent and pretending she’s got a halo.  (Oooh, shiny!)

***PPS: Copyright for photos and text belong to Dawn Wilson and shan’t be used without permission.

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Come, ye dusty book ninjas, let us plow the new furrow of No More Reading Crappy Stuff!  Let us ambush ye wankers who wallow in the muck of Crap and slap them upside their heads to the tune of: Read This, Not That!  We could save many a life.

Save Yourself!

Save Yourself!

 

WHY should we read?  I hear it over and over from people with disdain.  People look at the New York Times Best-Seller list or wherever and they say: But I don’t WANT to read that, or anything like it!  Heck, why do so many people read the NYT best-sellers?  Because… they’re advertised?  Because you look for what you’ve previously heard of (hence why people continue to vote for dead folks if their names aren’t removed from ballots).  It’s not because that arbitrary list is actually the BEST POSSIBLE LITERATURE EVER (oh swoon).  It’s usually, unfortunately, an “easy” read.  Which is something that turns off a lot of folk.  Why bother reading the same formulaic story over and over?

You don’t have to settle for mediocre literature!  In fact, we would get more readers if there was an easy way to sift through the barrage of bilge and find what we actually will like.  But unfortunately, most book search sites are unwieldy at best.

The problem of What to Read is widespread.  When you’re in school, EVERYONE reads the same thing.  If you’re less fortunate, you’ll even end up reading the same book over and over in different classes.  And if this same book, or same type of book, is not your cup of muffins, it’s just going to turn you off reading to read it over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.  Sure, there has to be a “canon” of literature that you at least have a basic understanding of, but if there were different canons, that would be more than lovely!  That could save the adult’s desire to read (R.I.P. Desire to Read).

The number one complaint in book reviews?  “I was forced to read crap like this in school; why should I read it NOW?”

There’s a reason that there are over a hundred channels on television (and still nothing on).  There’s a reason people are turning to services such as Netflix that might offer a broader range of old and new shows.  The problem is, TV pays; publishing… dropped their ball.  The only radio commercial I’ve ever heard for a book was for Danielle Steele (who doesn’t really need much advertising anyway).  And although you’ll find a myriad of posters and ads for books in the UK, you won’t stumble on that much in the US.

So what’s the solution?

People need to understand that there are sooooo many books published in every style, on every topic.  And just because “everyone” (who is Everyone?) is reading something you hate does not mean that you need to start hating on the storytellers of the world.  There’s too many amazing stories being told in beautiful exciting orgiastic ways to lump them all together.  Just because it’s in “print” does not make James Joyce, James Patterson, and Raymond Federman the “same”.  It’s in the same “medium”, yes, but that’s what confuses people.  You flip it open at random and maybe it looks the same… but is it going to make you vomit?  It’s like looking at the inside of your kid sister you just sliced open with your mom’s sheers.  Yeah, she looks EXACTLY like the inside of your little brother that you sliced open with the weed eater.  But the truth is, she’s NOT the same.

***

Read This, Not That!

Okey-dokey, it’s truth time.  I HATED this book.  I finished it.  (Why???)  Because it was about an imaginary friend, which is one of those things that makes me go ooooh and maybe swoon a little.  But let me lament, James Patterson, that this book really sucked.  The characters were tepid and barely thought-out.  It was the same old “I’ve got a problem but I’m a good girl” character flaw.  I was waiting to be blown away by at least a reimagining of the Imaginary Friend literature canon.  But instead?  The plot sucked, the characters sucked, and the writing was… blase.

There are some things that I adore in writing, and one of those is a specific voice, it’s wordplay, it’s using language as God intended.  Make the language sing!  (Okay, there are a LOT of writers who come from the school of thought that language should be a tool, it should remain invisible, and that will make the story itself float to the surface.  Me?  I don’t subscribe to that school.  I usually find the books written by those writers to be fairly boring.)

Will I ever re-read Sundays at Tiffany’s?  Never!

The very first technique employed is the “I’m gonna hook ya, you bloody reader”.  I’ve seen a lot of desperate writers attempt to employ this.  And I blame the agents.  The new agent “Game” is the Five Page Game.  I’m being nice and you have five pages before I throw you out the window, and your little dog, too.  So a lot of writers are turning to this Hook Device.  Which is so far beyond artificial that it’s beyond melodrama.  Melodrama at least has a sense of fun.  The beginning of this book: Oh no, someone’s gonna die!  I won’t say who, but it MIGHT be the main character!  And then, of course, we have to go back in time and tell the actual story, and then lead up to the Climax… which is a Climax for a reason.  But thanks to the Hook Advice, a lot of writers are attempting to start with the Climax and work backwards, just to Hook the reader.  (I have Never seen this work well…)

Device Two, for which I blame several agents (I’ve read the Agent Advice of: always stage your novel in New York City, London, or LA, because no one will be able to understand a regional novel without a flavorful location–to which I blanch and say: that’s one way to alienate a LOT of readers)–half the b0ok was spent extolling the virtues of NYC and how wonderful and how if you don’t live here and can’t go to blah-x place to get ice cream, and can’t stop by Tiffany’s everyday, your life SUCKS and you should probably DIE (save us all the trouble).

Three, totally dropped the ball on the Climax anyway, because, lo and behold, Device Three: There was a misunderstanding.  So everything’s going to be okay.

Regardless, there was not a single thing worth me ever recommending this book to anyone for any reason forevermore the end.  And here I was hopeful… because the Imaginary Friend trope appeared to have pierced the Mainstream Sensibility (which keeps anything “weird” at a distance and only allows it to visit once a year for Christmas).

So let me please oh please oh please remove this book from the entire world and replace it with:

Winkie by Clifford Chase.

Re-readable?  Yuppers!

It’s the story of a teddy bear.  Who miraculously comes to life.  Yet stays a teddy.  (None of this Velveteen Rabbit stuff…  Although, on the plus side, the writer had actually done his homework and made several references back to such tales, so we would all KNOW he did his homework.)  (ASIDE: This is the reason so many professors try to push students to learn a core group of books–the difference is, instead of the misguided philosophy of One Size Fits All, this allows for people to study the books that are written in the style or about a subject they will love, and learn the entire canon of “imaginary” friend literature.  Sure, it’s okay to read great classics, but be openminded about the new classics!)  And.  The teddy bear.  Is charged with.  Terrorism.

I hate “terrorism” novels.

I love Winkie.  The greatest thing is that Clifford Chase not only starts out writing a satire, he is able to end by writing a satire.  There are far too many authors who start out writing one type of story, then fear that someone won’t take them seriously, and so then they break the Pact With the Reader, and suddenly decide to turn a book into something else.  But Chase manages to start with a certain tone and he never broke my pact.  I really appreciate that.

There are some reviewers of this book who thought it over the top that the government decided to charge a teddy bear with terrorism.  But that’s the point!  It’s farce!  It’s high farce!  And!  The Trial of the Teddy just gets better as they bring in the line of witnesses (no spoiler, as it’s too gooey as is).  See, when you write a comedy (even a serious comedy), the problem is that there are way too many people who don’t have a sense of humor, or don’t realize that a sense of humor is too distinct.  That’s why so few comedies are published, in comparison with “serious” or “mainstream” fiction.  With serious fiction, you know where you stand.  You must frown and say, Oh, too bad, that’s awful.  But with a comedy, too many people don’t know where they stand, and when they’re uncertain, they simply rail against it as an art.  Oh that’s not funny!  (You’re not funny!)

It’s soooo hard to pull off over-the-top farce, and I give Chase kudos for not only doing so, but then finding a mainstream publisher.  (That’s some sort of miracle!)

***

Unto you all, I say: Read Winkie, NOT Sundays at Tiffany’s.  It may save your life.  Or keep you from indigestion.

night,

dawn

 

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So you say there are no good books coming out nowadays, it’s all dried up like that sack of worms you left on the porch last fall?

Try this: The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones written by Jack Wolf.

So you think all literary writing has to be needlessly dull and artlessly depressing?

You think literary writing can’t be dark, sinister, and still touch the deep issues?

Well, you would be wrong, chump!

Read this or Raw Head will come for you in your sleep.

Read this or Raw Head will come for you in your sleep.

 

The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones is part fairy tale, part sinister probing into the dark recesses of the human condition, part historical portrayal of the early years of modern medicine.

One thing I appreciated about the tale is that it never felt inevitable.  The character actually underwent the changes in psyche while we were there with him.  (And the moments of non-lucidity were grand fun, to boot!)  But I never felt like, Oh, yes, of course that’s what’s going to happen.  Also, the mix of a magical fairy realm overlapping the stark reality was both fun to read and added an extra element of suspense.  There was something for every type of reader to hold onto, be it psychological suspense, a glimpse into the medical side of early psychiatry, a treatise on the use of criminal bodies for autopsy so medical schools would not have to resort to body snatching (a major crime that popped up back in that era!), or the magical flitters we couldn’t quite grasp because they were at once real and not quite.

Also, for you writers out there who think “it can’t be done, publishing is all dried up and not open to the weird, bizarre, or otherwise non-mainstream”, I can tell you that Jack Wolf was one of the writers on my course in Bath.  The debut writer really does exist!  (gasp!)  Stay the course.  Maybe it will take five years of editing, but isn’t it worth it, to read this and shudder?

Re-readability: It’s 500 pages, but yes, I do think it would be worth a second read.  The scope covered over two decades of fancy and intrigue deserve a second look to see just what was real, and how the author wove together this twisted little tale.

Would I burrow through the floor and hit someone with it?  Sure!  It’s 500 pages, and it’s going to hurt, so y’all’d best be watching when you hear a little scritch-scritch coming from the carpet.  DISCLAIMER: It’s not for everyone.  Mumsy-dearest would be horrified and try to get me exorcised.  Anyone easily offended… should probably stick to running the school carpool and screaming at children from the sidelines of the soccer field anyway.  Although, easily offended people, how do they procreate?

night,

dawn

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Adults are like children, my people!  Children do not readily take naps.  They do not eat their vegetables.

Adults do take naps and eat their vegetables… ahem.

But children read and adults just plain don’t!  So the problem is, how to get them to sit down for five minutes instead of cultivating their adult-onset ADHD?

ATTAAACKKK!

Lie in their bushes, swing from their trees, ambush them on their porch swings!

“But,” says the tremoring little voice, “but how d’you know what’s good to read?  Reading’s all boring.  It’s all James Joyce.  It’s hard!”

Untrue, my little lemmings!

For today, I attack you upside the head with: Ella Minnow Pea!  Written by Mark Dunn.

Read this, damn you!

Read this, damn you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A clever little allegory, fairy tale, whatever you want to call it, using the constrictures of Oulipo.  Have you ever tried to write a story or an essay?  Have you ever stayed up nights pulling out your few too many hairs trying to get it to say just what you want it to say?  Now, imagine writing that school paper without using half the letters in the alphabet!

Mwuhahahaha!  (Your English teacher just died from enjoying a little too much evil.)

Ella Minnow Pea is about a quaint little island off the coast of the US where everyone reveres the language and worships a man named Nollop, who had the delight in his lifetime to create that old typing-teacher’s friend, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.”  Unless you still type with one finger on the keyboard and the other up your nose, you’ve probably heard of it.

The great thing about the little country of Nollop is that people do still read, and they do write letters to each other, and the arts are encouraged, not disparaged.  It’s a little tiny Utopia.  But as with any Utopia, you get a few nuts in a political seat of power, and things are going to make your stomach churn.  See, “The quick brown fox” saying was immortalized in little tiles over a hundred years ago using some funky glue… and as the glue starts to fail and the letters fall, the island council declares those letters dead to the human language.  Outlawed.  By pain of beatings, exile, or even DEATH.

Most of us haven’t had to deal, outright, with a Monster of our own creating… or with real censorship (especially not by pain of death).  But the thing is, as the story is told using written letters (epistolary novel, y’all), as the alphabetical letters go away, the posted mail is searched for outlaws flaunting the laws.  Sure, it’s all written with humor and light, but the underlying horror of censorship and unfair laws that benefit only the island council hits home on a deeper level.  It’s a little like the feeling you get when you’re reading Anne Frank, except without the need to throw the book across the room at the end, because you know there are some injustices you CAN fight.

Re-readable?  Indeed.

Recommended?  Absolutely.  It’s delightful.

Would I attack a little old lady in a parking lot and force her to read the book while I sit on her back?  You bet I would!

night,

dawn

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Welcome back to the Kamikaze Adult Literacy Campaign!

Please wear a flack jacket.

That’s to deal with all the people who give you flack for opening a book and sticking your nose in it…

My own mother used to ask me WHY I was reading and if it was a BAD book I was reading, so I’ve heard it all.  I’ve hidden in the garage… in the bathtub… in a tree…  You know, the places where you’ll get RUN OVER or DROWN or FALL TO YOUR DEATH if you’re not paying attention.  I mean, come on, that’s commitment!

So do I expect anything less of the rest of the world?

I expect you all to HIDE in your garages and behind the shower curtains and up in trees–and when your friends and neighbors walk by, when your spouse comes to take a shower, well, jump out and slap them upside the head with a GOOD BOOK!

Papercutsssss!  Noooo!  I got a papercut on my eyyyyeeee!

What wusses thy neighbors be.  Give it to em good.  Hit em harder!  Whappow!  That thar’s a book, and yes, the pages are sharp.  See how much fun reading can be?  It’s DANGEROUS.

night,

dawn

It's Ski-Shooting Now! How to make reading FUN, by gun-toting Yokels

It’s Ski-Shooting Now! How to make reading FUN, by gun-toting Yokels

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