Monday, March 10, 2008

T really ought to be for Twain

But Twain I have mostly covered already, except for the terrifying dialogue in ‘What is Man?’ which I plan to somehow work in today. And I have, by a shabby trick, already covered Tolkien as well. So where shall I go from here?

Were the Angel of the Lord to appear and say to me: ‘Dr Clam, the wrath of the Lord waxes great against the works of American fantasy authors of the second half of the 20th century, and before a night has passed and a day it is His will that they be destroyed utterly, and expunged from the memory of Mankind, as though they had never been,’ then, perhaps I might say, at first: ‘Bully for You, Lord.’ But then I think I would reconsider, and I would say: ‘Please, might the Marianne books be spared?’ And were the Angel of the Lord, being rational and analytical in manner - as angels are - to ask me to justify my presumption in making such a request, what would I say?

I would then be struck dumb, for I cannot justify my presumption. I cannot justify such a request. I can emote, that is all. I have been sitting here for a few minutes already with ill-formed thoughts cascading through my head trying to figure out what I would say. Perhaps after a few minutes I might be able to say: ‘I am not in love with Marianne, O Angel of the Lord, but I would love to be Marianne. If I could be any character in the works of these fantasy authors of which you speak, Angel of the Lord, how could I chose to be anyone but Marianne, who is so plucky, and so bookish, and so wanting in cant and artifice, and so much the archetype- for I would have had plenty of time to think of big words like ‘archetype’ to throw in- of the Handmaiden of the Lord? Marianne is the type of every hopeful battler on the side of the Culture of Life in a World Gone MadTM, don’t you see, Angel of the Lord? Somehow she is different from all those other fantasy heroines. I can get inside her head. I don’t imagine scenes in books like I used to when I was young, Angel of the Lord, now that I am grown, but I can see so clearly the faces hungry for justice pressed outside the windows of the library, and Buttercup’s room lined with little drawers.’

I am writing this without the Net, so I will be putting in the links to books I can’t remember the titles of later. I am also writing this without a recent memory of the books I am writing about, because I haven’t been able to bring myself to read them for a long time. You see, I discovered that their author was a Gauleiter in the Planned Parenthood organisation, with responsibility for part of their network of murder camps in Colorado or New Mexico or someplace like that. It’s a funny place, this world of ours.

For I don’t reckon there’s a militantly anti-choice author who could have written a more ghastly pro-life image than Tepper has in that book about the flying white creatures with the teeth who rape human women and dismember their children in utero. These creatures are welcomed into human societies by patriarchal oppressors, of course, who make a stupid bargain of their own immortality- in the form of flying white toothy creatures- in return for the lives of their own children. As in our own world the patriarchal oppressors of the Culture of Death wage systematic war against women in the Renegade Mainland Provinces. That book is a forceful and effective pro-life book, despite the fact that the author is still, as far as I know, proud of her anti-life work.

Then there is Beauty. The psychopath misogynist from the overpopulated future world who rapes the narrator, and the hedonist nitwit faerie-folk, there are the two halves of the Culture of Death in a nutshell. No militantly anti-choice author could have done it better. Beauty is one of those books that made me miserable. It was all so bleak and hopeless and awful. The spirit of Marianne is still there in the narrator, seen through a glass darkly, but crushed almost to nothingness by the end. I should quickly mention some of those other books. Brave New World, when I first read it, for the ironclad arguments against everything I believe in that send the Savage over the edge at the end. That dialogue in What is Man? which demolishes morality and free-will. Walking on Glass, by Iain Banks, before I figured out that it actually had a happy ending. Then something called- I think- Lamia, which I borrowed from a girl named Jackie (Morrisey?) in my year 10 home economics class. Gosh, that was a horrible book for making one’s soul feel slimy and acrid.

I never got to the end of ‘Gibbon’s Decline and Fall’. Though at the moment I am reading Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall’, which first got me thinking about Sheri S. Tepper again. I remember thinking that all of the five choices offered by the Goddess to the women of Earth would lead to the extinction of mankind in a very few thousand years.

T is for Tepper because the book is not the author. Your work does not have the meaning (only) that you wish it to have. The work goes on and on, writing itself anew in the mind of each reader, long after the moving finger is still.


Dave said...

I generally find Tepper has some interesting ideas, but nothing that overcomes how shrill and politically all over the place she tends to wander. But I still liked Grass okay.

I have not the slightest idea which book your first bit is about, but it sounds frankly pretty off-putting.

Dr. Clam said...

You don't like Marianne, the M*, and the M*? :(
Or are you talking about Shadow's End? (The link colour seems to have become incredibly subtle... I expect there is probably some way I can fix this).

I liked Grass too. I like it whenever an author uses a word for something in their world (like 'the hunt') that comes with a whole bunch of associations which we implicitly assume because of out culture, and then subverts those associations gradually through the course of the novel.

I am having another go at reading 'Gibbon's Decline and Fall', having checked and found that my assertion about it is bogus. Will let you know how that works out. :)

Dave said...

Strangely enough I'd never even heard of either M&M&M or Shadow's End, though I'm sure I've read at least half a dozen Teppers.

I don't recall minding GD&F either, except that if I recall the Big Surprise is (a) not terribly surprising and (b) a bit silly. The characters are engaging enough though, if I'm remembering them properly.

Dr. Clam said...

GD&F: Not well, is the answer. I have abandoned the attempt and fled back with alacrity to 'Marianne, the Magus and the Manticore'. The latter is just as fine as I remember, full of empathy and common sense.

I should never have the chutzpah to write a novel like GD&F set in the 'real world' in which my ideological opponents were portrayed as such pathologically diabolical cardboard cut-outs. Unless, I guess, I wrote it in first person from the point of view of a fanatical ideologue.

Dave said...

You're right, I was thinking of a different one. GD&F was rather horrible.