The Look of Love

Saturday morning. I was incorrect about the department meeting; it’s later this month (when I’ll be in Bethesda, actually) so I went to the health fair, was told I should increase my exercise (duh, since I do none now) and other than that, I appear to be perfectly healthy–or at least per my vitals and blood work, at any rate.

How fortunate they weren’t testing for mental stability, eh?

But it was a lovely day to work-at-home. It was still cold overnight, but the high yesterday hovered in the high seventies, topping out at a solid, spring-like eighty degrees at one point in the afternoon, which was also nice. I filed and cleaned when taking breaks from work; laundered the bed linens, finished off the dishes, and straightened the rugs as well as sweeping and vacuuming. We got caught up on Yellowjackets and The Mandalorian, and while I was waiting for Paul to come home from the gym, I rewatched this week’s Ted Lasso with the captions on so I could catch things I missed on first viewing (something I do with every episode, as I did with Schitt’s Creek), and I have to say I enjoyed it a lot more on the second viewing than I did on the first. I am very curious to see where the show is going and how it’s going to end–but unlike everyone else, I’ve decided to not theorize about it or jump to conclusions predicated on my interpretation of what I’ve seen; instead I just want to enjoy the ride and trust the writers to do their jobs, which they’ve done superbly on every step of the journey thus far.

I slept really well last night and feel very rested this morning. I have to get the mail today and I should make a small grocery run while I am out, but ugh, how I hate the grocery store lately. It saps my strength and will and makes me want to curl up with Scooter and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist anymore out there. There’s not much we really need, to be completely honest; but I need to know what I want to make for dinner this weekend and what I am going to be taking for lunch next week. Decisions, decisions–but it feels good to be rested and clear-headed this morning. I don’t know that I feel particularly inspired this morning, but that’s okay. Once I finish this, I am taking my coffee and repairing to my easy chair to read Scorched Grace, which I hope to finish this weekend.

Anne Perry, a very successful author, died this week. She had an unfortunate past, having committed the crime that Peter Jackson’s film Beautiful Creatures was based on (also known as the film that gave us Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey) as a teenager, and served her time. I didn’t know Ms. Perry, nor have I ever read any of her work. This wasn’t out of any sense of oh I can’t possible be supportive of her! She killed someone! but more because they weren’t the kind of stories I particularly enjoy. I did ride in an elevator with her once at a Bouchercon, and she was polite, reservedly friendly (understandable), and seemed kind. I’ve been thinking lately that I’d like to read more historical crime fiction, particularly around the first World War (looking at you, Charles Todd!), but that TBR stack is already way too deep and tall and wide. However, Ms. Perry’s death has, of course, brought all that about her teenaged crime back into the news and onto social media to be rehashed and discussed and, well, frankly beaten into the ground. Ms. Perry’s situation also is key to a broader discussion about criminal justice, and our criminal justice system and how it operates. (Ms. Perry’s crime was committed in Australia, I believe.) I see a lot of people talking about how they don’t believe in redemption, and how they could never bring themselves to support someone who’d done something so terrible, etc. etc. etc. And it’s very true; we as a society tend to look askance at people who’ve served time in prison–and tend to judge them harshly.

How can you believe in a criminal justice system if you don’t believe in the potential of human redemption? I’m not an expert on any of this stuff, let me make that very clear at this point. I am merely examining this from a layman’s perspective and coming from a logical place to try to dissect all of this with nuance and rationality; what can I say, I took Geometry in high school and was on the debate team. I don’t think you can believe in our criminal justice system if you don’t believe in redemption, which seems kind of Old Testament to me; once a criminal always a criminal is what that boils down to, and if there is never even the slightest possibility that someone can be redeemed, what is the point of jailing them? Punishment? That seems kind of draconian and not very humanist, frankly. The odds are stacked against convicts as it is when they are released; as most of us will always keep an eye at them in askance, just waiting for them to commit another crime to prove that they belong in jail and should never be released. I understand the sex-offender registry–women and children are vulnerable and should be aware someone who may be a predator is living in their area now–but at the same time, it feels….punitive. Sex crimes are horrible, to be sure, but if they are so horrible and the offender is statistically going to commit the same kind of crime again–why let them out in the first place? Getting one of those flyers back when we lived on Camp Street is what inspired me to write my short story “Neighborhood Alert,” which is one of my favorite stories that I’ve done, and tried to use the story to illustrate the potential consequences that can come from such alerts.

I also think it’s interesting that people are so unforgiving in real life while they will read–and root for–characters like Tom Ripley or Hannibal Lector or Dexter. But that’s fiction, they say in response, to which I say so you would be repulsed by them if they were real, but you root for them in fiction? Make it make sense to me.

Ultimately, she did her time for her crime, and then spent the rest of her life writing crime novels successfully. Enough people either didn’t know about her past, or didn’t care enough to make them give up the pleasure of reading her work. As I said, I’ve not read her work but it’s not out of any sense of moral outrage or superiority, but because they aren’t the kind of books I ordinarily read–although now I kind of want to read one, to see how good she was. If you don’t want to read her, or didn’t, because of her past that’s your choice and your decision. But please don’t think for one moment you have the right to tell me what I can or cannot read, or what I can or cannot enjoy–because then you are no better than right-wingers trying to ban books and close libraries, and that is something I will not, do not, and cannot, support on any level.

I also kind of believe that redemption is possible, but not unless there is atonement and a desire to change. If I didn’t believe that, well, I don’t know how I could live with myself. This is a question I explored in my nasty little story “This Thing of Darkness”–can you atone for something terrible you did as a teenager? Especially if you are never punished for the crime itself? How do you live with yourself with such a thing on your conscience? (This is also the theme for one of my favorite books of all times, Thomas Thompson’s Celebrity)

And on that note, I am making another cup of coffee and heading to the chair with Margot Douaily. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I’ll be back here again tomorrow, as always.

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