Funny Face

Monday, Monday. Can’t trust that day, you know?

Saturday night I watched a documentary about college football on ESPN, Football is US: The College Game. It was interesting–I didn’t know who Walter Camp was, but I’d heard the name before. I also knew who Amos Alonzo Stagg was–there’s a high school in Chicago named for him, and I also knew that the University of Chicago was an early power in college football, until they disbanded their team and stopped playing. It lightly touched on how college football parity helped desegregate the Southern universities–their football teams were mediocre, once other schools started recruiting, and playing, black players–but there was one line, when talking about the civil rights struggles in the 1960’s, and how Southern people, especially those in Alabama, focused on football as a source of pride for their state, that was particularly true and honest, and I wished they would have followed up on it some more: they didn’t like the way their state was being portrayed on the news, and felt like these representations of Southern states as hotbeds of racism was unfair.

Yes, indeed. It was incredibly unfair how the national news depicted Southern racism as how it actually existed in the real world. This resentment of how they are viewed by outsiders is keenly felt down here, and that sense of resentment is very key to understanding their behavior.

I reread the final few chapters of Bury Me in Shadows yesterday, and then planned out the final three, so I have a good shot at making my deadline of finishing the first draft by September 1. I also revised both “Moist Money” and “This Thing of Darkness” yesterday, so it was a fairly productive day for me on the writing front. Both stories need to be gone over again before sending them out into the world–both are rather dark stories; I sometimes shock myself with how dark I can go if I set my mind to it. (Fully cognizant of the notion that other people’s opinion of what dark is can vary wildly.)

We are still watching the third season of Thirteen Reasons Why, and I have to say, the show is both ridiculous and over the top–last night I said to Paul, “you know, this high school is completely fucked up–I can’t imagine anyone I went to high school with being murdered, let alone that almost everyone I was friends with would have a motive for killing another classmate”–but the show’s true appeal lies in the cast, how good they are in their roles, and the chemistry they have with each other. And let’s be honest–it hasn’t come remotely  close to Riverdale when it comes to plots going over the top. While watching last night, it occurred to me that the show is really kind of an Edge of Night type serial, only set in high school; every season’s plot has had something to do with death and crime. There has been at least one suicide, one suicide attempt, an almost-school shooting, several rapes–one particularly brutal one involving a young man and a broom handle–and so I can see why teenagers who’ve been through a trauma of some sort would find the show hard to watch.

I also watched Roll Red Roll, a horrifying documentary of the Steubenville rape case–which also is an exploration of rape culture in small towns–and that case was what initially inspired my own in-progress manuscript about the same thing; rape culture in a small town. Watching the documentary, and remembering how awful the story was as it unfolded–several other cases broke around the same time; there was another in Marysville, Missouri, and another in southern California, which were the subjects of another documentary–also made me see, again, what are the many problems and holes in the plot of the book I wrote on the subject, and what needs to be fixed about it.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me.

Happy Monday, everyone.

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Welcome to the Room…Sara

Christmas Eve, a lovely Saturday morning. It’s supposed to reach a high of seventy-seven degrees today; maybe if I get as much work done as I want to I can take the time out to clean the windows, which are, as always, filthy. I didn’t get as much done yesterday as I wanted–I’m not sure why, but every word yesterday was a struggle and a fight, like drawing blood, but I really have to get moving on this today. I think I’ll be able to get pretty far along today, and another productive day tomorrow can get me back on schedule to finish. I really don’t know why this has been such a struggle, frankly. But if I could learn why I struggle so hard to do something I love, I could rule the world.

I finished watching Season 2 of The Man in the High Castle last night (enjoyed it) and the first season of Eyewitness, which I felt was really high quality and good right up until the last two episodes, when it went off the rails and became completely unbelievable (but I applaud it for its clever plot and for making a pair of gay teens the center of the story, and showing them actually being intimate–kissing and so forth; I also think their sexuality was handled sensitively and honestly; which was really nice. Too too bad about the last two episodes, though). I also finished reading Exit Pursued by a Bear last night.

“I swear to God, Leo, if you throw one more sock, I am going to throw you in the lake myself!” I shout, knees sticking to the vinyl as I turn to face the back of the bus. The boys have claimed the back when we boarded, and since it smelled weird (well, more weird) we were happy to let them have it. I hadn’t expected a constant barrage of hosiery, though.

“Like you could, Winters,” he shouts back. The other boys hoot in laughter.

“I may be small,” I reply, “but I’m crafty.”

“Don’t I know it,” Leo leers, and the hooting devolves into outright catcalls.

I fire back with a wadded sock, barely missing Leo but managing to nail Clarence, who looks properly chastened. I glare at the rest and then turn sharply to face the front, but by the time I’m in my seat again, I’m smiling. The other girls lean in towards me, ribboned braids dropping over shoulders like the least-threatening snake pile in the world. Of course, that’s what the snakes probably want you to think.

E. K. Johnston is a phenomenally successful Canadian young adult writer–her The Story of Owen series looks quite clever (and I am adding it to my list)–and Exit Pursued by a Bear is a very good book, and not only a very good read but a thought-provoking one. The story is told from the point of view of cheerleading co-captain Hermione Winters, and she is telling the story of her senior year, beginning with the trip to cheerleading camp with her team. Unfortunately, at a camp dance one night Hermione is roofied, and she is found the next morning half-naked in the lake. The water has pretty much ruined any chance of forensic evidence, and she herself has little or no memory of what happened to her–the last thing she remembers is trying to find the recycling bin to throw away her empty cup as things start to get foggy.

The book is very well-written and compelling; Hermione’s struggle to deal with being ‘the girl who was raped’ and trying to get her life back together is hard to put down; the way people now react to her and how that makes her feel is painful and sad–how do you deal with people when you’ve been through something horrible and they are sympathetic but don’t know what to do, what to say, to you? But Hermione is a strong young woman with a very great support system which enables her to put her life back together, and that’s the primary focus of the book. And that’s an important story to tell.

If I had a quibble with the book, though, it would be that; Hermione has so much love and support as she puts her life back together, and she doesn’t remember anything that happened to her that night–as she says, “it feels like it happened to someone I know instead of to me”–and she avoids social media so she can’t see what people are posting and saying about her, and for the most part, her friends and the other cheerleaders gather around her to create a protective shell…which kind of seemed a bit too good to be true to me, if that makes sense? I just felt that–don’t get me wrong, I liked the book a lot and recommend it–she should have had to face some of what most girls in her position have to in the real world.

Rape culture is a very real thing, no matter how much some people may want to pretend that it isn’t. I, like so many others, was horrified by the two primary cases illustrating this sort of thing–the Steubenville and Marysville cases a few years back–and of course, the ones detailed in Jon Krakauer’s Missoula. I recently watched the heartbreaking documentary Audrie and Daisy (Daisy is the girl from Marysville) on Netflix (I urge everyone to watch it, especially if you have daughters–and watch it with your daughters), so after seeing how these kinds of stories actually play out in the real world made the written-for-young-adult-audience sense of this one seem almost like a cop-out.

But that doesn’t lessen the impact of this book by any means. It’s also heartbreaking, even if to a lesser degree than the true stories, which I suspect motivated Johnston to write the book in the first place.

Although I would love to see what Megan Abbott could do with the same kind of story.

And now, back to the spice mines.