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The Week in Books VI

June 15, 2007

I should really start writing up notes on books when I read them, because by the end of the week, I’m really in a different place and can barely remember anything from 7 days before. However, I do know that I read In Your Face and Seaside, the other two Lily Pascale mysteries by Scarlett Thomas. I remember that I liked In Your Face better than Seaside, but Seaside has the best premise: twins, identical, one dead, both claim to be the same girl (one in a suicide note). Unfortunately, that led to Lily asking the same question over and over again in every chapter for quite a while. Ah well. They were really enjoyable books and good mysteries too. I would recommend them to any mystery fan.

Then I got sidetracked by some guests (reason one of two why I didn’t read a lot this week) and slowly made my way through Slap Your Sides by M.E. Kerr. I remember back in the ’90s when Kerr wrote Young Adult books about AIDS when kids like me had no idea what AIDS really was. This time she broaches another touchy subject: war. Setting the book during World War II, she forces the reader to think beyond “I support/don’t support the war in Iraq.” In our Politically Correct world, it’s easy to be appalled by the way that Bud is treated for being a conscientious objector–after all, he’s a Quaker and the America of Today seems to only flat-out hate one religion. However, it’s also easy to side against Bud because after all, in retrospect, World War II is the only war that everyone seems to agree was worth it, had the worst of all enemies, etc. How can you say you couldn’t kill anyone when millions were being killed? This book was fascinating, and it had that slow ’30s/’40s pacing that some people will find too dry but others like me, who loved it in The Blind Assassin, will just find it authentic. This is a good book for YAs and adults too, to help examine their true feelings on war.

Ah, reason number two: Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire.

Let me explain to you my position on fanfiction: It can bite me. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying “What if…?” or maybe even writing it down. I had an idea for an episode of Buffy that would make a good book, although it could not be canon at this point. (At the time, it could’ve.) I did not write it down. I did not “publish” it on the internet. I did not beg strangers to tell me how good it was. Instead, I turned my attentions elsewhere and wrote the first draft of a novel I keep forgetting to edit. Why? Because it wasn’t my world. It was imagination and lack of imagination tied up together, and I prefer imagination.

I read Scarlett when I was a teenager and it was hard not to take it seriously because Ripley wanted so desperately for it to be a faithful sequel. It was easy not to take Wicked seriously, because, for God’s sake, it was turned into a musical. I went in expecting something I could share with my child, like Just Ella. No such luck. Wicked is a huge book with lots of ideas, and for some reason uses Munchinland to express them. It reminded me of PopCo in its infodump and speechifying, but again, against a backdrop of someone else’s ideas, I can’t quite bring myself to care. It took me days to read this–and as I’ve been told, I don’t usually spend days on any one book. I think I would’ve been highly interested in the story had it not been Oz-related, but for some reason, that’s what Maguire wanted to do and that’s what Maguire did. This is NOT a kids’ book, there is a lot of witchsex and the like–why are we raping our childhoods? Why is it suddenly okay to have a Scooby Gangbang? Nevermind. This is a rant that could go on for weeks, and I’ve yet to talk about my box of books.

A friend sent me a box of books in the mail, including four yaoi manga. It was almost all manga–except for something about the care and feeding of books–and I told him I’d get through it next. ‘Cept then I didn’t know it was all guy-on-guy action. Despite the fact that yaoi seems to be the latest female fad, I have yet to succumb, so I thought it’d be extra-interesting for me–reader of much lesbian fiction–to check these books out. Not all in a row, though, because I’d rather switch off with books that interest me more.

So I began with Loveless, which is not yaoi but shonen-ai, because I’m a fan of My Bloody Valentine, and the name of the book and its cover scheme made me hope against hope for something awesome. Well…it isn’t. It was interesting, but it was a bit difficult for me to figure out what’s going on at first. It’s the story of Ritsuka and some weird guy who keeps saying he loves him, and some sort of spell battles with words. And an annoying girl who refers to herself in the third person, which has always bothered me. Okay, so it’s not something I’d keep reading, although by the end, I suppose I was a little invested in the characters.

This is where the yaoi comes in. Having read one non-yaoi, I moved on to Love Mode, which sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. A straight teenager is mistaken for an “escort” and ends up…getting raped, and then finds himself confused about his feelings for his rapist. I swear, that’s what happens. Okay, I just ruined the beginning for you, but I was rather shocked at this, having never read yaoi before. Takamiya, the adult in this situation, at first comes off as a predator but I swear this ends up as a rather heart-warming love story with somewhat explicit sex scenes. The back reads: “In Love Mode, it’s not about who you love…it’s about how.” I sort of believe this. Izumi, the main character, has never thought of himself as gay, not once, and is in fact resistant to the whole thing, but his feelings for Takamiya grow such that he finds himself challenging everything, including his sexuality, to figure out what love means to him. Considering that this is the theme for one of my favorite books, I can’t fault Love Mode for any of it, except maybe the idea of a rape turning into a romance. Then again, I’ve been reading too many feminist blogs lately.

So, to finish up the week, I switched from yaoi to cyberpunk (ish) and reread the first Clover volume. Clover may have been one of the first manga series I ever read, and I was not used to the style of storytelling. The art is minimalistic and that, too, confused me. (I have, since then, come down on the side too little over too much, as my daughter reads manga that is so cluttered I can’t ever figure out what’s going on.) Clover, though, is quite beautiful. It’s the story of…oh, well, there’s this girl and she has wings…and…there’s this guy who has to transport her…and they both know the singer on the radio…it’s all very confusing, actually. I wish he’d sent all four books so that I could see how much clearer it is the second time around, as the first book made perfect sense to me THIS TIME. But to sum up not much of anything at all, Clover is lovely and the first book, at least, is very good. Can’t remember the others.

Okay, so next week: lots of manga and whatever else I STILL have lying around. I really need to stop going to all these libraries…

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