Hey y’all (or anybody still keeping an eye on this blog)!
Things have been a little cray, lately. I work in retail, and now that it’s fall/autumn (YAY!!!!) we’re finally closing in on the holiday season (O.O) and I can feel it in the air. Everyone who comes into the shop has that weird, electric, holiday energy radiating from them. If you’re just out and about, living life, this feeling is exciting. If you work in retail… get ready.
Anyhoo, in the midst of the coming onslaught, I’ve come up with a few things to write about here, after which I was immediately distracted by nightmarish thoughts about this coming Christmas. So I’m going to cram all those Writing Wednesday topics into one post, but condensed (lucky you!).
Eimear McBride & The Lesser Bohemians
I recently attended the launch event for Eimear McBride’s second novel The Lesser Bohemians at Foyles. She read, answered questions, and signed books for people. She read her work beautifully, and made a lot of great points that made me think. My favorite was when she talked about how female authors always get the “How has motherhood affected your writing?” question, and how the expectation for women is that they write something somehow based on true events, as though women have a lesser capacity for imagination than men. This was even more interesting considering The Lesser Bohemians is about a young Irish girl who moves to London to attend drama school… like McBride once did. Her point still stands though, and it made me realize that the premises of a few books I’ve read by female authors lately were based on/connected to their personal or family histories. Then again, those were all considered literary, which is typically “more realistic.” I wonder if female authors of sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and crime have different gendered expectations foisted upon them. Hmm….
After the event, I went up to get my book signed. This was the exchange:
E: *signs my book… looks at what she just wrote… looks at me*
E: “Are you Gianni?”
E: “That’s unusual.”
Me: *blinks more… grins nervously*
E: “I like it.”
Me: “I’ve grown to like it, too, over the years.”
Then we both laughed. I hadn’t thought about being a woman with a man’s name in a while. Growing up, I didn’t like that my mom had essentially gotten my name off a shoe box (she named me for one of her favorite designers as a nod to her past and b/c she thought the name was pretty and unique. I hated it.) In America, people had just thought it was an interesting name. Now that Italy is fairly close by, I get more eyebrow raises than I used to, but I love my name. 🙂
The Responsibility of Ethnic Creators
I was listening to the Linoleum Knife podcast from September 12th where they review the film When the Bough Breaks. The guys who do this podcast (Dave White & Alonso Duralde) are two of my favorite film critics. They are also white. This is relevant to what I’m about to say. Now, When the Bough Breaks is one of those Lifetime-esque psychological thrillers. It’s about a relatively well-to-do couple (wife is a chef, husband is a lawyer) who wants to have children but can’t so they find a surrogate. At first she seems like a nice, normal girl (with an abusive boyfriend). Of course, the girl actually turns out to be violent and dangerous, and becomes obsessed with the husband and tries to seduce him into leaving his wife.
The entire main cast of this film is black, but the film isn’t about race. Dave and Alonso reacted to this aspect of the film by saying it was not representative of anybody’s reality in 2016. Because the only thing minorities in America experience is racially-motivated violence and devastation. And of course there are NO black people with good jobs or who live in nice neighborhoods, or who have any. other. problems in life. I’m sure what the guys were getting at was that the lack of inclusion of any aspect of what we now see on the news on a regular basis made the film that much more unrealistic. But here’s the thing: when I or other black people I know hear that there’s a film with a black cast that is not about slavery or being black, there’s generally celebration. Because the slave and the ghetto person on the rise seem to be the only narratives we fit into on a regular basis. But we’re people, people who like to be entertained just like everybody else. Sure, you want what you’re watching or reading to resonate with you, but you also want to be able to forget about the real difficulties plaguing you, even if it’s just for a few hours. I am not entertained by the news that yet another black person was murdered by police (which apparently just happened in Charlotte, NC where my family is). I want to have the option to enter a fantasy world populated by people who look like me. And if in that world there’s no mistreatment of black people, so much the better. It makes me feel normal for a little while.
So my verdict is this: I don’t believe that creators of color (or from any marginalized group) are duty-bound to include the trials and tribulations they have experienced because of their minority status in the art they make. Yes, the world needs to know these things, but the world also needs to know that race (and sexuality and gender) is only ONE part of a person’s identity.
What I’ve Been Reading/Will Read
So the book I’m writing (yes, still) is mostly horror with some sci-fi, gothic (which is slightly different from horror) and other biz mixed in. So I’ve changed tack on the critical part of my dissertation/thesis and will likely end up rewriting the whole thing (just the critical part — HELL no, I’m not throwing out the novel and starting over… I’m almost done with it!) with a focus on horror fiction specifically.
SO, I’ve been reading more horror-focused stuff and have made a list of authors whose work I still need to read asap:
— Clive Barker
— Arthur Machen
— Peter Straub
— Dean Koontz
— Kathe Koja
— Ray Bradbury
— Ursula Le Guin
— Octavia Butler
*The last three are sci-fi/fantasy, not horror
I also want to read the rest of the books shortlisted for the Man Booker this year. I’ve read Eileen. I think my expectations for it were too high (and different according to how the book is advertised. It is NOT a thriller). But I’m interested in checking out the other five!
I’m currently still reading Lesser Bohemians. I only read it at work before our meetings for some reason. On my next day off, I’m gonna try to buckle down and finish it. I really like the book! I just don’t pick it up when I’m at home. No idea why.
So, there you are; all caught up.
Happy Writing Wednesday, everybody!