in reading news
: last night i finished reading s. weir mitchell's When All the Woods Are Green
(such a nice title). i couldn't find any substantial synopsis of the book online. only a single sentence: a family in the Canadian woods. then i read the book and realized that's about all the synopsis it deserves.
this book was an appalling 400+ pages. and i finished it. it was an endless prattle from start to finish between some hoighty campers who considered themselves terribly droll. about 150 pages in there was the hint that the story might be about a murder. then, about 300 pages in there was a bear attack and that almost got interesting. fifty pages later a child's gravestone was stolen and wow what a great plot that might have made. but the characters continued to talk about fly fishing and ancient greek poets and i don't even know what ~ witty nonsense, only it wasn't terribly witty, mostly just nonsense. and then in the last twenty pages of the book, the murderer made her move, shot a guy and only wounded him in the shoulder, and the last ten pages were endless denouement about the guy and the girl finally getting together to live happily ever after.
ye gads what a turd of a book. i've never thought mitchell was a "great" writer, but up until now i had at least enjoyed his stories. this was a waste of a good premise (the stolen grave, rolling rich campers for their money, hunting bears), as well as some perfectly good characters (nerdy ned lyndsey, who got almost no book time after the first few chapters and oliver ellet who was adorable but completely pointless), and had the most annoying heroine in the history of literature (whiny, stuck-up rose lyndsey). blarghhhh.in writing news
: i have spent most of the day working on various projects and have settled in to the writing this evening, though with some unease. it's very hard to cope with a protagonist who is a racist. i never used to let this bother me because i used to avoid the presence of scenarios in which the fact would come up. but clearly i can't write an epic about the Civil War and Reconstruction without addressing the issue. so i've been doing a lot of reading and trying to get some perspective on the exact kind
of racist i'm writing about. and it's hard because characters in books are allowed to have flaws, but i have such a low tolerance for racists myself it's hard to permit such a flaw (and especially seeing the degree to which it manifests). and besides, character flaws are usually pc. archie bunker would never fly today. today, it's okay if your character is misanthropic ~ as long as they treat everyone
equally bad. but you can't have a character who hates jews or black people or homosexuals. it's too easy to judge.
and today i was idly shopping around online for some perspectives and wound up watching the first part of Goodbye Uncle Tom
, which is a heinous film. what is it about me that reads a review in which a film is declared shocking and exploitative and i immediately have to see it ~ i did the same thing with Soldier Blue
and i was pretty grossed out about it. i am dead certain i will have nightmares after watching only 40 minutes of Goodbye Uncle Tom
, which is ludicrous and offensive in turns. i don't know quite what to make of it, but much of the truth of what it portrays is revolting enough to make me queasy.
America doesn't like picking at its scabs. boy does it have some doozies.
painting of a Richmond slave auction
by english artist Lefevre James Cranstone (1862).
Richmond sold an average of 10,000 slaves a year
in the 30 years preceding the Civil War
you see pictures like this and everything looks so cheery and clean and colorful! then you take a real hard look at what this business was really about (i mean really look at it), and the suffering and indignity of it all can really overwhelm you. it's hard then, as a writer, trying to find ways of making a character blind enough to the humanity of slaves as some vile, egregious justification for their own lack of empathy. merg.
okay, not so cheery a thought on which to end this post. i hope everyone is having a less gruesome weekend!