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a sense of joy and then a panic
a sense of joy and then a panic
more Under The Dome angst 
01.11.10
leather
I think I may have to give up on Under The Dome, 350 pages in.  I liked the first 100 pages well enough.  I thought the set-up, and the snapshots of all the people at the time of the dome's arrival, were great.  But then the "plot" started.  And suddenly the short-order cook isn't just aligned against the bad guys, but he's a war hero, with many medals to his name.  And suddenly the bad guys aren't just incompetent leaders, but meth-dealers who murder at the slightest provocation.  But I should also point out that I've never read The Stand - I just watched the miniseries, and I decided I'd never pick it up because it was too Good vs. Evil - so maybe I'm just not into this kind of thing.  

And now?  Now there was just a paragraph of discussion comparing the book's villains to various figures in Nazism (and when the good guys assess the bad guys, they're always right).  This is kind of a dealbreaker for me.  Especially when there is clearly NO understanding of Nazism (it's one of those, oh-it's-bad-so-it's-a-Nazi type things).  I'm not sure I can take another 650 pages of this patting-each-other-on-the-back bullshit.  The liberal sensibilities of this book remind me of a book I once wrote... at age fifteen.  You know, pre-college.  I can't decide what I'd think about this book as a conservative American - would I respond with fury, or with laughter?  It's Left Behind for leftists. 

The dialogue is okay for most of the characters, but then we'll have random things like a 14-year-old "riot grrl" dramatically saying "What are you saying?" or a block paragraph written in Stephen King's explanatory voice that, I promise, is actually the voice of a mourning housewife.  No, no no.  Then there's the obsession with dogs, because you know dogs are only owned by angelic people, because dogs, especially Golden Retrievers, are themselves Angels.  Note to Stephen King: your beloved Dean Koontz got dibs on this one long ago, bb.

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OTOH, I can thank Under The Dome for making me very aware of the problems that can arise when you're writing a ginormous cast confined to a small area.  Part of the reason I was excited to read the book was that The Novel is set in similar circumstances (no dome, but a confined small town).  I now see how quickly this can all go wrong. 

My mother - who is very lib'ral, read an early proof of The Novel and commented on how much she hated my Reverend character.  I was surprised by this, because I like my Reverend - he's "strong-minded," yes, and a pessimist, but he tries relentlessly to save everybody in town, and never gives up, and he's also one of the smartest, sharpest crayons in the town box.  Or at least, that's how I envisioned him.  What she said made me think that I had not let enough of this come across. 

So now I'm frantically trying to spot Big Jim Rennies lurking in The Novel.  

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Of all the horror movies I saw this weekend, pretty sure Inland Empire fucked me up the most.  I kept waking up in the middle of the night afraid that I would see the horrible distorted face of Laura Dern.  Jesus Christ, man.  I read some reviewer saying that it's one of the most flat-out disturbing visual experiences they've ever had, seeing this face, and I would have to agree.  And I've watched J-Horror, you know!
Comments 
01.12.10 (UTC)
I have not actually ever read Stephen King. I will correct that one day.

It's Left Behind for leftists. Hahahaha! I felt that way about The Handmaid's Tale and feminism. Only wait, no: It's a similar but distinct phenomenon--instead of We Are the Good Guys and Only We Shall Be Saved, it's We Are the Good Guys and Look How Badly the Bad Guys Want to Hurt Us and All the Bad Stuff They'll Do. A kind of masturbatory victimization fantasy.
01.12.10 (UTC)
Stephen King: Either The Shining or Pet Sematary. The Shining is my personal favorite. A real masterpiece of a ghost story. But Pet Sematary is a great meditation on grief, so... Both are fast reads, and both are very spooky. The Shining is a book I had to place face-down (kind of like how Joey put it in the freezer). And I still refuse to stay in any room 217 or 237.

I started reading Handmaid's Tale when I was in middle school and stopped after a couple chapters, but that's probably more because I was 12. I do agree that "masturbatory victimization fantasy" exists as a genre. I wrote something like that when I was 12 myself...
01.12.10 (UTC)
Oh--yes, actually, The Shining is one I really want to read. Cool, I need a fast read. I'm thinking my next for-real read is going to be Until We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis, but I bet I could tag-team read it with The Shining For nonfiction I'm still circling round Krakatoa. Haven't been able to plunge in; was put off in the very first pages by an inaccurate map. Working in publishing, I know that Simon Winchester wasn't responsible for the maps, but still ... it included Hainan island off China but omitted Taiwan. Whut.

The thing about victimization fantasies is that there are plenty of *believable* ones you could write without turning to the unbelievable ones. Like, if you wanted a story of victimization about a poor illegal immigrant woman, fine: that would be easy, and depressingly believable. But a dystopia based on the notion that you're going to round up all the fertile women and make them sex slaves? Sorry, nope, not buying it. Plus: cf our other conversation about the iron vice of "evil" societies... it wouldn't be just the handmaids who were looking for outs...
01.12.10 (UTC)
FYI, could not get into Krakatoa. I just started feeling really mad at Winchester as I was reading it.

Good point. I suspect it's cuz everyone's looking for a persecution complex to fester, even people who realistically have nothing to worry about. Books like The Turner Diaries are hilarious in that way.
01.12.10 (UTC)
Tell me now: is Winchester anti-Islam? Because I just don't want to even try if that's the case.
01.12.10 (UTC)
I didn't get that vibe. It was just that the whole thing was told from the perspective of the Europeans there (I'm guessing most if not all of whom survived), and he wrote about the explosion with such nerdy glee, you know, like check out this totally awesome volcano dudes, and I just wasn't feeling it. But I'm pretty sensitive to this sort of thing. My mother liked Krakatoa, for instance.
01.12.10 (UTC)
*nods* I think I get it. If, for whatever reason, you feel the loss and pain of some horrific event personally, then you're not going to feel the glee. One time (not just this recent entry; it was one last year or the year before) I wrote with kind of morbid delight about freezing to death, and one of the people reading the journal got really upset. As I recall, she had either known someone who died that way or knew someone who knew someone--that sort of thing. I'm kind of fascinated by life-and-death borders, but it's totally different when personal grief is involved. I felt bad: I'm not going to change what I write about, but I don't want to cause people personal pain, either. I guess that is, precisely, when, as a reader, you have to pass on by--not read the journal entry (or the whole journal, if someone's content often bothers you), or the book.

Sounds like, too, it wasn't just empathy, it was also frustration at the "colonialist gaze" element that was maybe bothering you?

I don't know how I'll feel. I'll keep trying a bit more--maybe. It's going to be due back at the library soon.
01.12.10 (UTC)
Yeah. There are some movies that I don't watch, or some scenes I step out of the room for (Meet Joe Black, I'm lookin' at you). And you're right, as a reader you just have to move on. And the colonialist gaze did for sure bother me. It was also the scientist-poking-at-the-bugs gaze that bothered me.

But, I'm sure there are things I write about that hit raw nerves with other people too.
02.05.10 (UTC)
hell, i know a lot of liberals who treat themselves as victims for no good reason just in ordinary conversation. like, "Well, that's just what I believe," as if somehow dealing with questions of right and wrong is itself attacking them.
01.12.10 (UTC)
I'm 80 pages in, but it sounds like the future for me isn't promising.

If you wanna read a book that uses the small isolated town with a totally different POV (2nd person), and features a stong-minded preacher character as well, you have to read Stewart O'Nan's A Prayer for the Dying. It's one of the most devastating/disturbing books I've ever read.

Go. read it!
01.12.10 (UTC)
I have enough to read! Ok, ok... actually that looks really cool.
01.12.10 (UTC)
It's short. Under 200 pages. And I offer a money back guarantee (void in Nebraska).
01.12.10 (UTC)
Psh!
02.05.10 (UTC)
just wanted to say...do you think your mother's hatred of your Reverend character is that big of a problem? I mean, I know a book must be written to communicate something to the reader, but sometimes people's reactions are so diverse and based on their own interpretations and prejudices that it's hard--well, impossible--to control that. Maybe I'm stating the obvious here, but I guess I wouldn't want your readers' reactions to have undue influence on what you write.
02.05.10 (UTC)
Yeah, I hear you. But I guess when I looked it over I felt like I was giving him a one-sided portrayal, like the character on-page wasn't the character I imagined in my head, if that makes any sense.
02.06.10 (UTC)
Ok, well, I'll trust your judgment.
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