If Anyone Falls

I absolutely loved the tag line for the marvelous television adaptation of Megan Abbott’s equally brilliant novel Dare Me: “There’s something dangerous about the boredom of teenaged girls.” It’s also incredibly accurate; our teen years often impact and influence who we become and can color the rest of our lives. I loved Dare Me; it was lyrically, hauntingly written, and the story it told, while actually pretty simple, showed how the intricacies of relationships between young girls and authority figures who aren’t much older than they are, can become so complicated and complex; layers of love intermingling with hate and jealousy, the power dynamic shifting and changing as the characters themselves shift, change, and grow from their experiences.

I write, sometimes, books where the main characters are young–teenagers, either in high school or college or having just completed college–and those books are often labeled and marketed as “young adult” fiction, even though I generally just consider them novels about young people. I mean, technically novels about young people are young adult novels, and yet while I am resigned to this marketing label I am never certain if my books truly qualify or not. Perhaps that’s some kind of internalized arrogance and a sense of subconscious superiority to what I consider something lesser; it’s definitely something I should unpack at some point. But I think it is also an interesting starting point for one of my endless essay ideas, and perhaps someday–when I am less scattered, less all-over-the-place mentally and creatively–I’ll be able to sit down and write all those essays I want to write.

Which brings me to John Copenhaver’s second novel, The Savage Kind, which I just finished reading yesterday.

If I tell you the truth about Judy and Philippa, I’m going to lie. Not because I want to, but because to tell the story right, I have to. As girls, they were avid documentarians, each armed with journals and buckets of pens, convinced that future generations would pour over their words. Everything they did was a performance. Everything they wrote assumed an audience. After all, autobiographers are self-serving, aggrandizing. Memoirists embellish. It’s unavoidable. To write down your memories is an act of invention, to arrange them in the best, most compelling order, a bold gesture. Some of the diary entries that follow are verbatim, lifted directly from the source, but others are enhanced and reshaped. I reserve my right to shade in the empty spaces, to color between the lines, to lie.

You may balk, dear reader, but I don’t care. I need to get this right.

I could take different approaches. I could contrast the teenage girls: the black hat and the white, the harpy and the angel, the cunning vamp and the doe-eyed boob. Or I could draw them together, a single unit: Lucy and Ethel, Antony and Cleopatra, Gertrude and Alice, Holmes and Watson, or even, I dare say, Leopold and Loeb. But neither of those angles would work. The complicated facts are inescapable. These girls are both separate and together, but many times, they followed their own paths and even crossed one another. Things are never that simple, never that black and white, that good or evil, or that true or false. I’m not writing this to assign blame, or to ask forgiveness, or to tie it up in a bow for posterity. It’s not that kind of book.After all, an act of violence committed by one may have originated in the heart of the other. That’s to say, this is a story about sisters, and like many of those dusty and gruesome stories from ancient literature, here sisterhood is sealed in blood.

I should know. I was one of them.

Great opening, right?

John’s debut Dodging and Burning won the Macavity Award*, and was quite the impressive debut. II was completely blown away by the book myself–it showed a maturity and sophistication in theme, writing, and characters that one rarely sees in a debut novel. One of the things I thought was very interesting about the book was that while it did focus on a gay story, the main voices in the book were young straight women; I thought that was a risky thing to try to pull off, but he did a really excellent job.

As good as Dodging and Burning was, I wasn’t prepared for how good The Savage Kind would be.

The heart of the book is the friendship/relationship between two damaged young women in the post-war afterglow of the late 1940’s in Washington DC. (Both of John’s novels are set in the post-war period, when the world was trying to go ‘back to normal’ after the massive paradigm alteration of a global war that left most of Europe and significant parts of Asia in ruins; tens of millions dead, billions in property damage, and the world needed to rebuild from the rubble–and normal was also being redefined; the paradigm shift caused by the war made going back to “the way things used to be” practically impossible–which makes it a very interesting time to write about.) Philippa’s mother died giving birth to her and she has a slightly adversarial relationship with her stepmother, Bonnie. Judy was raised in an orphanage and adopted by a wealthy couple who had lost a daughter in a particularly brutal way–Judy was adopted to replaced their raped and murdered daughter, but her adoptive parents are still too scarred and damaged from the lost of their own child to raise and love another, and this history also colors Judy’s personality and who she is. The two girls find each other and become very close friends; so close that their love for each other might go even deeper than the Platonic ideal of friendship–their teenaged hormones raging out of control, are romantic/sexual feelings also developing between the two of them?

They are also playing girl detectives, trying to get to the bottom of a mystery that they don’t know has anything to do with them beyond the idle curiosity (and their dangerous boredom) but as they look further into the mystery revolving around a classmate, a favorite teacher, and that classmate’s family–as well as their own–they become more and more deeply enmeshed in danger and cling even tighter to each other.

As if that juggling act isn’t tough enough, Copenhaver makes all of these characters realized, fully developed and realistic in their emotions, their feelings, and their reactions. He also tells the story in alternating points of view between the two girls while they are experiencing the events, as well as a narrator voice from the future, telling the story in retrospect as well as talking directly to the reader. This is hard to pull off, particularly the omniscient future narrator–the last time I saw this used so effectvely and memorably was in Thomas Tryon’s The Other (at least, this is the book that popped into my head as I was reading, and it’s a favorite of mine).

The Savage Kind was nominated for a Lefty Award, and it very deservedly won the Lambda for Best Mystery recently. I highly recommend it!

*I may be wrong here, but I think he might be the first openly gay author of a book with gay characters and themes to win the Macavity Award; I know I was nominated once for a short story–but my characters and themes weren’t queer.

This Masquerade

 Yes, I am now beginning a glorious four-day weekend, during which I plan to read and clean and write and rest and watch movies and just have a glorious time relaxing and trying to catch up on things. I started cleaning, for example, out my jump drive yesterday–there’s an absolutely absurd amount of duplicates, old pictures from a million years ago, old files, etc on it–and I am probably going to try to spend some time trying to do that; get better organized with my computer files and so forth. I also intend to spend some time on a deep clean of the apartment–we’ll see how that goes, but my windows are filthy and I really do need to move things and clean beneath them; and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to clean and organize all the cabinets and drawers, either.

Ambition. We’ll see how that works out, won’t we?

But I slept fantastically last night, waking up this morning feeling wonderfully rested. My burnt lips are healing (you have no idea how fun it is to test people for syphilis while warning them of the dangers of the disease while your lips have enormous looking blister/wounds on them) and hopefully by the time I return to work on Tuesday morning, they will have healed completely and I will no longer have to worry about their syphilitic appearance any more. *whew*

So, here I am, just before nine in the morning with four glorious days off stretching out in front of me. I am going to write a little this morning–probably finishing the revision of “The Snow Globe,” and then hopefully revising the latest chapter of the WIP–while cleaning. I am going to try to do a deep dive clean, one that is sorely overdue here in the Lost Apartment–baseboards, floors, windows, window sills and frames, etc–which can, of course, be incredibly tedious, but it also needs to be done. It’s also launder the bed linen day, and so I have that to do as well. I also want to curl up with Rachel Howzell Hall’s They All Fall Down, which I’ve not had the chance to get back to this week, and after that, I’d like to read either John Copenhaver’s Dodging and Burning or Joseph Olshan’s Black Diamond Fall, which are both Lambda finalists (John is also a Strand and Anthony Award finalist). And then I am not sure what I’ll read after that; I got a stack of fabulous books this week to add to the TBR pile, including Owen Laukkanen’s Deception Cove and the new Michael Koryta…and there’s already so many wonderful treasures waiting for me in the the pile already.

An embarrassment of riches, as it were.

We also watched the new Wanda Sykes comedy special on Netflix last night, and she’s just as funny and pointed as ever, which is lovely as I am a big fan.

I’m probably going to watch the finale of Game of Thrones again at some point over this weekend, as well–I have found, this season particularly, that it helps to rewatch the episodes after having some time to digest them; I find that it helps me appreciate the show more; the first time I watch I am so busy watching to see what happens that I miss subtleties I am able to catch on a reviewing. I know a lot of fans hated this final season of the show–some going as far as to hate the last two seasons–but I enjoyed it; I enjoyed it as spectacle, and I enjoyed it even despite holes in the plot and subplots that went nowhere and so on and so forth; primarily because it did the unexpected, and it did from the very beginning. Game of Thrones never gave us what we were expecting because it didn’t follow traditional story-telling arcs–for example, once Jon Snow was identified as the true Targaryen heir to the Iron Throne, I was a little disappointed (despite the thrill); because I thought, ho-hum, here we go, it’s just another telling of the King Arthur legend–but as it turned out, it wasn’t that at all.

And I think that may be why so many fans were so disappointed–they were expecting the traditional story arcs, and Game of Thrones went the other way and rejected those.

Then again, what do I know? The Last Jedi is one of my favorite Star Wars movies, which also apparently renders me suspect as a forty-year Star Wars fan.

And on that note, it’s time to start cleaning and writing which means closing the web browsers.

Hello, spice mines!

23faffb9b8455b8f8468d75c128b9908

Against the Wind

Yesterday I only managed to revise one chapter, but I am chalking that up as a win. I figured if I do one chapter a day it’ll be done by the end of the month, and there will be days when I’ll revise more than one, which will put me further ahead of schedule. This weekend I managed to get caught up–I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked, but what I did get done caught me up again, and that’s really what I needed to have happen. And it did. So, that’s a win.

I don’t know why I am so hard on myself.

Seriously.

I’ve not decided what to read next. I checked Caleb Roehrig’s White Rabbit, a queer y/a, out from the library, but I kind of also want to read either Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett or Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things, which is a vampire novel set in Mexico City and comes highly recommended by my horror peeps. I’ve got an entire pile of diverse books, including John Copenhaver’s Dodging and Burning, Kristen Lepionka’s The Last Place You Look,  Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths, Chester Himes’ If He Hollers Let Him Go and Cotton Comes to Harlem, Frankie Bailey’s The Red Queen Dies…so many wonderful diverse books–and there’s even more than that. I know I have a Rachel Howzell Hall book on the shelves somewhere, and it might not, actually, be a bad idea to dive into some New Orleans/Louisiana history…decisions, decisions.

There are, frankly, worse things in life, to be honest, then being unable to decide which book you want to read next.

I think my sleep schedule is finally stabilizing. I slept very well on Sunday evening and as such, wasn’t tired even after a twelve hour shift yesterday when I got home. We’ll see how tired I am tonight when I get home from work after day two of twelve hour shift; but instead of working straight through, I have a doctor’s appointment in between testing shifts so I’ll be doing that instead…and since I’ll be over in that part of time, am going to treat myself to Five Guys for lunch. Huzzah for Five Guys!

One can never go wrong with a delicious burger. And Cajun fries to go with it. YUM.

Ever since the Great Data Disaster of 2018, I’ve felt disconnected in some ways to all the projects I was brainstorming before it happened…which is why I think reading some local history might just do the trick of reenergizing me with the Monsters of New Orleans project. My life is so defined by said Data Disaster that I can hardly remember what was going on before it happened, and I’ve felt, as I have said numerous times, disconnected, and not just from Monsters of New Orleans, but from everything, and when I try to get everything back on track, it just seems like all those things are adrift in fog and I can’t quite get my hands on them again.

Which, obviously, sucks. But it’s life.

I had all kinds of plans for the future before a little disruption called Hurricane Katrina came along, too. And the time before the evacuation seems like it was a million years ago, and I can barely remember the time evacuated or the time after I returned, or that first year back in the carriage house. My memory is a sieve–and I used to have the most insane memory! I could remember all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys titles in order, and could even tell you the plots. I used to be able to remember details about every book I’d read, including plot and characters and scenes. I used to be amazing at Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit. Not so much anymore, sadly. I like to think I am forgetting things now because there’s so much more to remember, and some things are getting crowded out by new memories…but I think it’s more a symptom of being older than anything else.

Sigh.

And now back to the spice mines.

21617483_10213003032367101_1921444307605781546_n