Friday, January 28, 2005

Affinity [novel]

In short, if you haven't read it, you should. Get it from the library, borrow it - something. You will be amazed, whether you like it or not (this falling into the 'mindfuck' category).

From Wikipedia: Margaret Prior (also called "Peggy" and "Aurora"), an unmarried woman from an upper class family, visits the Millbank Prison in the 1870s Victorian era England. The protagonist is an overall unhappy person, recovering from her father's death and her subsequent failed suicide attempt, and struggling with her lack of power living at home with her overinvolved mother despite being almost 30. She becomes a "Lady Visitor" of the prison, hoping to escape her troubles and be a guiding figure in the lives of the female prisoners. As she peers through a flap in the door, entranced by the sight of a girl with a flower — she is reminded of a Carlo Crivelli painting. Of all her friendships with prisoners, she is most fascinated by this girl, who she learns to be Selina Dawes, medium of spirits.

It is a Sarah Water's book, so you know that there is a woman/woman relationship involved in the character development. This story slowly unfolds, teasing the reader along. The setting is wonderful, you feel like you're going behind the scenes of a Jane Austen story to see what life was REALLY like beneath the frills and pomp - gritty and real.

DO NOT READ THE REST OF THIS POST unless you have read the book. I'm serious - you'd be so spoiled, it wouldn't be worth reading. It'd be like knowing the entire mystery and how it works BEFORE you read the mystery. In other words, there'd be no suspense, no wonderment - it'd be ruined. This means YOU.

Ok. I hope if you are reading this, you have read the book.

Hope, you were, by the way, correct in that I want to stab the author. And hug her at the same time, though, for writing so craftily what she wrote.

I feel so... gullible and tricked. It's so amazing - right at the beginning of the book, we see signs of why Selina Dawes isn't to be trusted. I was hesitant to believe her, but as surely and slowly as Miss Prior fell for her, so did I. It was SO slow and so elegant, the way the reader is drawn in - it takes over half the book before anything huge happens. Very realistic to the end in how we think everything is as it appears to be, right up to the moment the mirror is shattered, the curtains taken away and we see the world for how it really is. And in that split moment, everything seems foriegn - everything we were doing just a moment before seems like it's from another life completely - a life lived in a dream world that never counted for anything. We're left so stunned we don't know what to even THINK. We want to believe in the illusion so badly because what we felt for it was so genuine... What Margaret felt for Selina was so beautiful and true, how could it of been for nothing?

Now I feel like I'm pointing out the obvious - how unbelieveably crafty Selina was. What an actress... It was even hinted at in the beginning, but I chose to believe... like Margaret, with each movement of the spirits, I chose to believe rather than try hunting down an obvious answer. It was too easy.

Even right up to the night Margaret stayed up til dawn waiting for Selina to appear - I was right there with her. I had my inner doubts - maybe she won't come. Maybe Selina was indeed delusional from her stay in the prison. Maybe the spirits simply won't be able to do it and the two will kill themselves rather than be apart. Maybe maybe maybe... But never that maybe Selina would have other plans alltogether. Even once Mrs Jelf arrived at the house and began telling of her part in Selina's escape, I thought maybe the concentration on the spirit was just a way of distracting Margaret from negative thoughts til Selina could arrive and explain everything. Then I thought, as Mrs Jelf was revealing what SHE felt of Selina - that maybe Selina really was in love with JELF and that Selina was going to arrive and there'd be a confrontation and the two would go off together.... But in the end, I really thought that Selina was going to appear and go off with Margaret. So I was just as shocked AS Margaret with each revelation of every piece to the puzzle.

And the whole time it was RUTH VIGERS?!? I couldn't even make a sound, couldn't shake my heads. I wasn't anything yet I was everything all at once, I was so stunned. Because I should of known. Somehow, I should of seen it all along.

And I feel SO gullible. Gullible. I mean, I like to be suprised in stories - books and movies and TV shows. I try NOT to guess at what is going on. Of course, often, TV and movies are easier to guess at than books. And I think, maybe I COULD of remained objective... maybe I wouldn't of fallen for it. But Selina was too good; I was drawn in and I fell for it, too.

Now I don't know what to do with the book itself. Laugh at it, glare at it? Put it on my bookshelf with my collection? I do re-read books, but this... this isn't a story to be re-read, a world to be re-visited. This book WAS an experience. And like most life experiences, things one cannot repeat. Something one cannot go back in time and recapture. It's one of those "first time" things - the first time is always the best, full of wonder and suprise. And once that's over with, even the anticipation of the end result in subsequent experiences cannot capture that naive suprise.

Anyway. Like I said, I'm a book collector - I love my books. But I honestly dont think I'd ever be able to re-read this one. Who to pass it to, then?

I'm serious... I was just BUZZING during the chapters leading up to Selina's escape.... When she got put in the darks... I was just fluttering inside. I HAD to see what happened. I couldn't stop reading. And it built and built and built -- then... It was like jumping into a glacial lake. Solid cold came over me, slowly dripping, coating me, like a giant egg cracked over my head. And all time stopped as I found out the truth to Selina's plans.

In the end, as much as I want to throttle Sarah Waters, I want to praise her as well for such a good job. To write something like that, that can DO this to a reader - that's just amazing. *shakes Sarah's hand and thanks her for holding my heart to the light, warming it, then quickly lacerating it and stomping upon it before handing it back*. I almost feel BAD for appreciating the book - like a dominatrix who suddenly realized she liked being a bottom, liked being abused all a long.

Ok, weird analogy, but it's what came to mind. :P

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Strangers in Paradise

The Official Strangers in Paradise website

The best thing about SiP is that it isn't necessarily a comicbook-readers book. It's the book for people who DON'T read comics.

SiP is about the not-quite average lives of three people (to start with). It's got everything from humour to pages black with blood. Love, angst, drama, fun-times, art, gangs, murders, cops, Texas, lesbians!, snipers, mafia, drugs, and characters we CARE about. Hell, we even want to know more about the antagonists to the point of liking THEM, too.

Terry Moore, the author, used to work in TV as an editor, and he sets up each storyline like a storyboard with text so it reads like you're watching a really great TV show. And of course, if you've never read an independant title, the series HAS an ending we're heading toward. So everything is serving a purpose and WON'T be repeated again the way that regular superhero titles do.

Also, Terry Moore has a beautiful line style (the books are in black and white), very art-nouveau inspired (think Quinton Hoover, if you know who he is). And lastly, it's totally queer/queer friendly. The way it deals with issues, it just makes them part of the story the way if YOU actually stumbled across it in real life. In so many TV shows, they deal with things like, say, AIDS in a one-time episode or story arc and then you never hear about it again. But the way they show it, they're FOCUSING on it which makes it surreal. "She's dying of AIDS... let's show all the minutae of what that's like". There's a time and place for that, but in a larger story it comes off like a lesson rather than part of the story.

Queer themes are like that as well in the story in a lable-defying sort of way. Thus the more main character of the three - Katchoo. "Everyone calls her a lesbian. But she's been with guys. Is she bi? But she HATES men, she prefers women. (But she still says there might be guys out there who are still bad). So she's bi?" - Katchoo doesn't lable herself and refuses to be political about it. I think that'd be the ideal place for our society to be and I know some individuals who ARE like this. So in a way it's kind of refreshing - we don't need to see Katchoo pushing LGBTI issues. Just her being who she is is somehow enough. And no, it's not a half-assed gay-character thing. I've read solidly GAY comics and I just don't like being drowned in my own issues all the time.

It's hard to describe Strangers in Paradise without giving everything away. Every issue is full of suprises and you never know how Terry is going to twist it all with the unveiling of each TPB. You just have to sit there and read and trust that he knows what he's doing since he's already had this thing planned out for years. :D -- go here. This shows the covers of all the trade paperbacks to date. The first volume is only three comics long - Terry did them for fun, not expecting SiP to take off so it FEELS really short and not so permanent. So I highly HIGHLY reccomend you try out SiP somehow (they had them at our library in Portland) -- but get the first two TPB's - volume 1 and 2. ( sells them used, by the way). :D

By far one of my favorite stories of all time in any medium (books, films, anime, graphic novels, etc).

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The House of Sand and Fog [film]

The House of Sand and Fog starrs Jennifer Connelly and Sir Ben Kingsley ("Gandhi"), primarily. I've always kind of tip-toed around Jenniffer Connelly films due to the whole stigma she carries from earlier 80's films. But she was very good in this movie. The entire cast of the five main characters are just phenominal in their acting. The cinematography alone makes it one of the top three most beautifully filmed movies I've seen lately, and the story...

The imagery, the story, the characters are all so filled and entwined in symbolism, nothing is left un-thought of but it feels so natural. Apparently they filmed the whole thing without storyboards and just went with the flow, which is amazing because you'd think just the opposite - but it does feel very natural and organic.

Without giving anything away, it is a drama that kind of rips you open, stomps on you, but doesn't come off as trite at all, definetly not a rehash of anything I've seen before. And after, you don't necessarily feel DOWN. It's definetly more... "down" than, say, Eternal Sunshine... but I felt better about life after watching this film than I did ES. Strange.

And just to give a hint of how good the cinematography was, I've never been so compelled to rip a DVD out of the player and immediately go cap it. ;) Go watch it!

The Well of Lonliness [novel]

I guess a lot of folks disregard The Well of Lonliness because it's the "stereotypical lesbian life ending in tradgedy". But I think they forget that this book was written in the 1920's and was the first of its kind. It hits home in so many ways - I kept writing down page numbers to take notes from but the entire book is just so smart. Once you get past the [older] style of writing and remember the era it reflects, and really look into the metaphors and descriptions, boiling it down this novel is saying the same thing the queer community is saying today.

I want everyone to read it to know how I felt growing up as a kid - not just what I was like, but what I thought, how I felt -- THIS is what this book gets to the heart of. Not WHY we're gay, not why it's such a difficult topic for much of society. It goes beyond the superficial and the arguments and really digs down to personal things I've never been able to put into words. And to SEE everything actually written down, and written WELL. It's stunning. If anything, I think this book is just as valuable today if not more, as I've yet to read another novel that better cuts down to how a lot of us feel deep inside.

I warn you that it isn't a happy novel. I really felt lonely and depressed after reading it (doesn't help that I am single) so be prepared.