Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Will Kill

Twitter will kill Facebook will kill Youtube will kill television will kill the movies will kill radio will kill live theatre will kill fiction will kill the serious novel will kill poetry will kill philosophy will kill actually going outside will kill sleep…

will kill conscious imagination

will kill reason

will kill dogma

will kill politics

will kill independence

will kill unity

will kill the natural order

will kill chaos

will kill nothing.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Loving Cannibals

Because they lived near The Z, there were some customs they couldn’t discard. Leaving their uncle to die would only make him wander into their camp later that night, hungry and distant. Conferring him to the soil would likewise assure his rise, and the buried rose with the strength of the land. His liver was too grave and they simply had had to behead him to prevent the turn, and soon it was impossible not to submit to other customs.

As they ate his feet, they told stories of the walks he took at dusk and where he might have gone, and the times he carried medicine back from the east with nothing but rags tied around his ankles.

As they ate his hands, they recollected the many pots these fingers had spun, and their mother reminisced on how these palms had helped deliver two of them into the world.

When they ate of his ribs, they spoke of his heart and courage, his lungs and broad voice, and of his infinite guts and gall. No one was allowed to remain silent, no mouth empty, and no metaphor unplumbed.

When all from littlest to eldest ached with fullness, they committed what was leftover to their stock of jerky, mixed and unsorted so that no one could avoid consuming his remains, and so no one who ate in the weeks ahead could forget him. To those outside The Z they seemed a mad folk, unwelcome to any but the keenest opportunists. To each other, customs made them family.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Tug on That Cape, Redux

The best part of being a superhero happened Saturday morning. He wished he didn’t feel that way, but it was true.

On Tuesday he caught a train as it was derailing. A couple of people broke their arms. There were no fatalities. He signed more autographs for the stranded commuters than there were bruises.

On Wednesday he airlifted an iceberg to the southern Sahara. The governments assured him this would help irrigation, or at least give the locals clean drinking water for a few weeks.

He spent Thursday and Friday traveling through space to correct the trajectory of two satellites headed out of the solar system. It would have been lifetimes to build and send new ones, but now all that work was saved and new photos were beamed to earth, showing the cosmos from an angle never before seen. He took a minute to look from that angle himself, in person, before heading back to earth.

The best part was Saturday morning and he couldn’t help himself. He woke up and his costume was missing from the clothesline. His wife was still asleep, facedown on her pillow and snoring happily.

He padded to the living room and found his cape stretched over two chairbacks, forming a tent. His one son wore the pants of his costume like giant sleeves, and his one daughter wore the shirt like a flowing dress that ran over her little feet. She was drooling on his insignia. They were both transfixed with morning cartoons.

Maybe, if he were more profound, some other time of the week would have been the best. He wasn’t, though.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: A Chance in Hades

For one day every decade, one person will be admitted per hour into the grand halls of Hades itself. This person must be desperately in romantic love with a citizen of Hades, who must have died in some way before the age of twenty-one. Every contestant will be brought into the heart of the underworld and put face-to-face with their lost lover. They then have the one hour to exit Hades with their lost lover, exiting solely by foot (void where ferryman is necessary), and if the two should reach the mortal world, the lost lover will be restored to life. The only challenge is that once the living contestant comes face-to-face with their alleged lost lover, the two must not break eye contact until they return to the mortal world. If the contestant looks away at any time, at anything but this person he or she claims is so dear that he or she would plunge into the underworld in rescue, then the citizen of Hades will be ripped away and lost to them forever. It’s something of a bet about mortal nature, and perhaps cynical, but it’s a chance.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Most Despicable Antagonists in Fiction

I got over a dozen responses to my open query on the most despicable antagonist in all of fiction. I've listed them in the order they were received. No two voters agreed, though the first two did aim at the same book. Without looking, what book would you have guessed would spawn two nominees for Most Despicable?

It wasn't Shakespeare or Harry Potter, but it was British:

Tony Noland was the first to enter, saying:
The British legal system, in Bleak House. Many lives destroyed by Jarndyce and Jarndyce.

Katherine Hajer was second, also pegging Dickens’s Bleak House:
Any antagonist who does evil in the name of kindness or righteousness. Let's go with Tulkinghorn, then. I don't know about "most", but he's a great example.
Then Larry Kollar asked:
How about Satan in The Book of Job? Ruined his life & health on a bet.

Dave Cornford said:
Nils Bjurman from Larssen's Millennium trilogy. Few to choose from in those books.

Catherine Russell said:
Okay, well in print (but MEANT to be performed) Iago from Othello is the most despicable imo because he ruins lives for no other reason than sheer spite and jealousy.

Helen Howell said:
For me it's Voldemort from Harry Potter, because he's power mad and will try to destroy anyone who stands in his way.

Joshuo Londero said:
In The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B the main character meets a little boy at boarding school of the same name. He goes by the nick-name Beefy. They become life-long friends, but Beefy has a way of turning everything to shit. He is one of the most vile, despicable and endearing characters I have ever met.

Beverly Fox said:
Baby Kochamma from The God of Small Things because she destroys lives using the most age-old weapons available: religion and manipulation.

Cynthia Schuerr said:
Jane Hudson in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? She was frightful. It's very old and not many may remember the horrible things she did to her sister. But she was truly despicable. She kept her sister locked up and tormented her physically and emotionally.

Chuck Allen said:
I vote Mrs. Coulter from Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy because crimes against children seem especially evil to me.

Eric Krause said:
I'd say Pennywise the Clown from Stephen King's It has to be up there. Just the way he gets Georgie at the very beginning would put him on the list, and he's just getting started there.

Jemma Mayer said:
For despicability, I nominate the Patriarch Rostov from Jacqueline Carey's book Naamah's Curse. Over the months of her captivity, he forces the main character to tell him about sleeping with the multiple people she's fallen in love with, one of whom is now dead, and tells her it's a sin, sullying her memories of her loved ones and her opinion of herself. He's sadistic too, of course, but I hate that he tries to turn her own thoughts and feelings against her.

And just before midnight on the deadline, Randall Nichols wrote in:
Darcy Parker from Strangers in Paradise - alive, she was little more than your average, mustache twisting villainess, sporting all the cliches of manhating, weaponized sex, incest, pimping, and organized crime. But the way the specter of her and her actions hovers over Katchoo's life after she's already died, sucking in David, Casey, and even the the seemingly unshakable amazon Tambi [the woman who killed her] is her true evil - by having a hand in bringing almost of all of Katchoo's loved ones into her life, she poisons almost ever relationship a damaged woman has.

If you have your own opinion, feel free to drop it in a tweet or in the Comments below and I'll add you in. Now that we've come to the end, you may ask: "What's our host's opinion?"

Well, I do have one, and I'm unsurprised no one picked it. I kept it down to an honest Tweet-length.

I said:
The kid from Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. After everything else, he even takes the tree’s pathos.

Monday, July 23, 2012

True Story of John: YA Fiction Versus Real Young Adults

I didn’t have much of a YA phase when I was an actual young adult. By my teens I wanted Stephen King and Noam Chomsky and whatever else people my age weren’t supposed to be able to handle, just as I craved R-rated movies and staying up past midnight. I wanted meatier fiction with more robust characters and plots, and for authors to do more with their prose. It’s only in recent years that I’ve tried to acquire a taste, or at least a respect for YA.

Among titles about teens, few excited me as much as Among Others. It stormed the early 2012 awards, and as soon as it was available at my library I seized the peach-colored paperback. I found a folding chair and carried the book down to the lake, away from phones and computer and human distractions. After slathering my Irish self with sun tan lotion, I sat back to read of Jo Walton’s faerie-loving bookworm. “Morwenna,” what an exotic name, and she was so reserved, so sympathetically introverted and brave and well-read and well-meaning and timid and enchanting and wise within her inexperience. She was the archetype of a child, and I could think of no adolescent trait she lacked.

A few dozen pages and a stiff wake shaking the dock later, I looked up from the paperback. Behind me in the woods there was a girl screaming at her wrinkled grandmother. The girl could have been the age I imagined Walton’s protagonist to be, though she behaved nothing like what I’d been imagining as she wriggled in her grandmother’s grip. I also hadn’t imagined Morwenna in a pink bathing suit.

Most of what she screamed was raw noise, not words, since protest is often the chief weapon of children. There were stray phrases about how unfair she was, and how she was mean and she wished she were dead. The grandmother was less audible over the shrieking, but I made out that the girl had been swimming for an hour and they’d be late for something if they didn’t leave now. “But I’m sorry,” I heard as they trekked towards a car in a hail of juvenile wailing.

For several moments afterward it was difficult to look at Among Others, not unlike the difficulty of meeting someone in the eyes after a humiliation. I clucked my tongue at this portrait of a fictional girl and the display of a real one in stereo.

“Realism,” I said. I had to laugh to myself. Fiction is harder to get into when you’re hit with the reasons people mistake it for lies. 

It's since come to my attention that Jo Walton does not consider her novel to be YA.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Set your hair on fire

So set your hair on fire. It’s the easiest way to do things; nobody questions a burning man, and it’ll all grow back after you drink them. Douse a little lighter fluid on your scalp as you walk up to their door, and howl as loud as you can. If they don’t open immediately, pound on their windows. They always come out for that, and when you beg them for water or to dunk your head in a toilet, they always invite you in. Once you’re in, do whatever you want. I only drink enough to make it through the night, since personally, I feel bad about draining good Samaritans dry.
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