Beloved, the Classic I Really Wanted to Love

#7 Beloved – Toni Morrison
Published: 1988
Reasons For Being Banned/Challenged: Challenged at the St. John’s county Schools in St. Augustine, Florida (1995) and by a member of the Madawaska, Maine School Committee (1997) because of the book’s language.
My Rating: The Haunting at 124

You can pretty much tell how invested I am in a book by how quickly I can write a blog post about it.  And Beloved had all the ingredients towards being an awesome read: murder, haunted houses with ghost babies, and … I guess that’s it.  I should also warn you that there are going to be a lot of Supernatural gifs within this post so yeah, get ready for that.

With many of the books on my Challenged List, I had no real knowledge of what the books are about.  After giving up 2% into Ulysses, I thought Beloved would be the jumpstart I needed in my reading.  It sounded interesting enough with its post-slavery setting, mostly female cast, and ghosts(!).  But I was wrong.  It took me a month to read this measly 300-pager.  I was so not interested in this book that in the month I tried to read this, I was able to read four other books while ignoring Sethe, Denver, Paul D, and Beloved’s stories.

So where did I go wrong?  Why was I so dissuaded from this novel?  I will say that Morrison started off strong.  Within the first paragraph, no, the first sentence, I was interested:  “124 was spiteful.  Full of a baby’s venom.”  I was like, “Oh shit, this is going to be so good!”  I was giddy on the train, wiggling in my seat, waiting for some more ghost baby hauntings.

But then things shifted.  We went from ghost baby fingerprints in flour to Sethe crying over the sink, going on about having a tree on her back.  And I was lost.  These timeline jumps in the narratives, combined with the stream of consciousness narration had me so confused, I had to retrace a lot of my steps to figure out where I was supposed to be.

I would be with Sethe, as she talks about how they stole their milk from her (and that was something that took me a long time to understand) and then all of a sudden, we were inside Paul D’s head, as he came around her and cupped her breasts in his hands.  And then we would be twenty years in the past, talking about Sixo’s girlfriend who didn’t have a name, but was called thirty-mile-girl.  And this confusion is all in the first few pages.

Reading Beloved was like watching Memento.  There was the same story being told on two different planes.  The past being the black and white scenes, the present being the colored ones.  But with Beloved, there was no way in telling when you were reading a scene from the past, or  the future until you were a couple paragraphs in and you were thinking, Wait, what were we just talking about three sentences ago?  I said that a lot.

And poor Paul D.  He just wanted what’s best for both Sethe and Denver.  But instead he got Beloved banging on his door, asking for the sex.  And I guess I should clarify what is all happening within this novel.  Sethe is being haunted by the ghost of her two-year-old daughter after she murdered her.  Sethe — as well as many of the other characters — were born and raised into slavery, and eventually fled.  But when Sethe made it to freedom, her slaveowner tracked her down, and tried to bring her back — thanks the to Fugitive Slave Act.  But Sethe believed it was better for her children to be dead than slaves, and attempted to kill all four of them.

But she only succeeded in killing her two-year-old baby, which she called Beloved on her gravestone.  The baby’s ghost then begins haunting the house at 124, causing both of Sethe’s sons to run away.  Which, honestly, I am not surprised to hear.  I would have thrown deuces and peaced out of there a looooong time ago.  Once furniture is thrown at me, and baby giggling sounds are heard in the hallways of my babyless home, I am Audi 5000.

All Sethe has is Denver, her youngest daughter who is at this point eighteen, but completely alone after the town alienates their family.  But after Paul D comes, he gets rid of the ghost spirit by yelling at it, Sethe asks him to stay, Denver becomes jealous, and a random girl lands on their doorstep with clean clothes, no recollection of how she got here, and goes by the name Beloved.  And nobody is like, Wait a minute here, your name is Beloved like my dead daughter/sister?  And you’re, what?  Twenty years old?  The same age my daughter/sister would be now if she was alive?  Something is pretty fishy here.

Nope.  They’re like, Come on in!  Pull up a chair!

Denver seems to be the only one like, “Dude, this is my dead sister.”  Sethe could care less, and Paul D is like, Hell no, get this creep out of here.  And Beloved is obsessed with Sethe.  So she does what is best to get rid of Paul D: she creeps him out and forces him to have sex with her …?  That works…?

But what really gets Paul D out of there is when Stamp Paid, the man who brought Sethe across the river to freedom, tells him the story of Sethe killing her baby.  That makes him run out of there faster than shit from a goose.

With just Beloved, Sethe, and Denver living at 124, things start getting a bit… weird.  Beloved and Sethe become obsessed with each other — Beloved enjoys reminding Sethe how she murdered her, Sethe reminding Beloved how she did it out of love.  Beloved says jump, Sethe asks how high, and Beloved yells at her for not jumping high enough.  Sethe is so dedicated to not leaving Beloved’s side that she lost her job because she just stopped going.

Poor Denver is like, What the hell, guys?  I’m here too!  So she begins leaving her house and talking with others in her black community, asking for work, and getting donations of food from locals.  I’ve gotta hand it to Denver.  She saw how awful things had become with Beloved and Sethe so she decided to change it.  She left her home for the first time since she was eight, and reached out to her community.

And once the town discovers why Denver needs help — i.e., her dead sister’s ghost is parasiting her mother to death — they ban together to exorcize Beloved out of the house.  But Mr. Bodwin, a white man who comes to pick up Denver for a job, comes at the same time.  And when he pulls up at the same time the townswomen come to exorcize Beloved, Sethe and Beloved — who is now naked and fat, maybe even pregnant? — walk out onto the porch.

When Sethe sees a white man coming up to get Denver, she freaks out, and tries to attack him with an ice pick.  But one of the townswomen punched Sethe in the jaw to stop her, and knocked her out cold.  And right then, Beloved was gone.

The novel ends with Sethe sick and wanting to die because Beloved is gone, Denver is a working girl, doing what she can to make some money for herself and her mother, and Paul D comes back to Sethe, telling her that he loves her and wants to be with her.

And everyone in town has forgotten all about Beloved.

By and by all trace is gone, and what is forgotten is not only the footprints but the water too and what it is down there.  The rest is weather.  Not the breath of the disremembered and unaccounted for, but wind in the eaves, or spring ice thawing too quickly.  Just weather.  Certainly no clamor for a kiss.

Beloved.

Want to read along with me?
Check out the Banned Books Challenge page to see my progress!

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Way to go As I Lay Reading!

As I Lay Reading

Starting this blog has been one of the most refreshing things for me, because it is encouraging me to become more involved in the books I read. My book club teases me relentlessly because I always show up with PAGES of notes that I’ve taken about the book–it’s become almost involuntary now.

And not only that, but the discussions I am getting into, here, and on Tumblr, are incredible. The Book Community on Tumblr is unlike anything I’ve ever imagined. Sure, I’ve gotten more recommendations on books to read. That I expected. But I am also quickly gaining friendships–that I didn’t anticipate from a relatively “anonymous” website. Everyone has each other’s back, and everyone (for the most part anyway) keeps an open mind. The goal here is to fuel constant discussion, and that is not something you see anywhere else.

It is also a place for humor and beauty, creativity and…

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(days since), the first 5,000

(346 days since)

 

The thing about grief is that everyone deals with it differently. When going through a bad breakup, you might drive by your ex’s house just to get a glimpse of them; or go on a weeklong bender with your friends. I once saw a TV show where a man dealt with the death of his wife by dressing up every day as a mime. Either way, it all depends on the person. When I was eight, my dad ran over my prized Sky Dancer with the lawn mower. In my grief I collected the pieces and buried them in our backyard. I held a small funeral with my best friend Alyssa, and my dog Chelsea. That was how I grieved over my favorite toy. I did not shed a single tear when my father apologized for the accident, or while Alyssa and I dug the shallow hole. But when I visited the tiny grave alone, I would silently sob. And yet, in a week or two I got over it and started playing with my Skip-It instead. I’m not saying that people are like Sky Dancers or anything, but who am I to tell someone that they’re grieving wrong? That would be like telling someone that they’re breathing wrong.

But when I walk into the kitchen to find the sour smell of weed wafting in the air, I can’t take it anymore.

He is grieving wrong.

Reaching into the cabinet, I grab my favorite worn Tony the Tiger bowl and prepare my usual breakfast. Back when cereal boxes actually gave out prizes I would spend my weekends watching cartoons and demolishing boxes of cereal, hoping to collect enough proofs of purchase to send away for the bigger and better prizes. After two months of weekend binging, and three weeks of waiting, I finally received my classic Kellogg’s cereal bowls. I cherished those bowls—the Tony the Tiger one especially—and wouldn’t allow anyone else to use them. But now, after thousands of cycles in the dishwasher, Tony’s stripes are faded and his face is almost unrecognizable. At first glance, it seems ridiculous to hold on to. But its sentimental value makes it worth keeping. That and the fact that it’s the largest bowl we have, excluding the mixing or salad bowls we keep under the kitchen island. As I pour my bowl of Frosted Flakes, I look at my boring start to the day and decide to liven up my meal by pouring a glass of orange juice.

As I take my first few bites, the garage door swings open and Dad steps into the kitchen with fingertips of smoke trailing behind him through the doorway. His eyes are red and puffy and he begins mumbling under his breath something about being allergic to the dust in there. Over the past year, my dad has gained a significant amount of weight—mostly due to late night McDonald’s runs. He constantly looks bloated, as if someone turned an air compressor on into his clothes and forgot to turn it off. His button ups are at their last stand and with one wrong move they’ll be popping off in every direction. I imagine one landing into my bowl of cereal with a bloop. His light brown hair is always disheveled, and has begun to just stick out at random angles. Since shaving has become a chore for him as well, he leaves the house with a face covered in patchy gruff instead of being the clean-shaven man I grew up idolizing. My morning soundtrack used to play with the sounds of Dad’s razor clinking against the bathroom sink, paired with my mother grinding coffee beans in the kitchen. But all we hear now is silence.

We have our usual awkward small talk: him being high and me being uncomfortable. Since returning home for summer vacation, this has become a new thing for both of us. Instead of his usual weed-addled morning routine with no consequence, he has to find reasons for locking himself in the garage each morning. But I’ve got to hand it to him; his excuses are getting quite impressive. Just last weekend he ran towards the garage exclaiming, “My electric razor fell into the toilet!” sounding more excited than alarmed. “I need a screwdriver to fix it!” Twenty minutes later, when he floated back in from the garage, he’d forgotten all about the screwdriver, and instead returned with a hammer in hand. Everybody knows what he is really doing in there, but no one talks about it.

We are a family specializing in avoidance.

Mornings like these are when I wish for Before It Happened Dad. When weekends sounded like sizzling bacon and smelt of maple syrup. My feet pattering against the wood floors, I would sprint down the stairs, jumping from the second to last step. Dad would be wearing an apron with flour on his face, and pouring Mom a fresh cup of coffee while she completed The New York Times crossword in pen. Waiting for me would be a plate of pancakes that spelled my name, and a canister of whipped cream. If I asked for strawberry milk he already had it ready for me with a spoon in the glass waiting to be stirred, my favorite part. That was what I wanted. But now I was nauseous from the smell of weed and eating far more bowls of cereal than usual.

While shoveling a spoonful of Frosted Flakes into my mouth, I instinctively check my cell phone, even though I know that nobody has tried to reach me. I still haven’t gotten used to the fact that I am alone. I thought your first year of college was supposed to help you make everlasting friendships. That’s what I always saw in movies or on TV shows at least.   But apparently I did something wrong, since my freshman year gave me social leprosy, causing everyone I thought were my friends to run away screaming. I shuffle through my old texts with Rose, trying to pinpoint the exact moment where I should have known she was plotting something against me. But no matter how many times I look, I still can’t find it. I guess I should have known though. As a freshman in college, you tend to become friends with the first person you meet and during that first semester the friendship goes through a trial run.

If by the end of that semester, you are happy with one another, you decide to upgrade to a full friendship subscription. And if you have found other people that you connect with more, you can walk away without question because you weren’t really that close anyway. But even then, I was so sure about Rose. We lived across the hall from one another making us almost destined to become friends. It was during move-in day while I was balancing a crate and trying to unlock my door that hers opened. Rose, wrapped in a pink towel and carrying her shower caddy, stepped out and caught me.

“Do you need help?”

I jumped, dropping my crate and spilling both my entire supply of Easy Mac and book collection everywhere.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” she said. Gently placing her shower caddy on the floor, she bent over to help. Her movements were dainty, refined almost.

“Thanks,” I groaned. I had been in the dorms for less than an hour and was already making a fool of myself in front of my new neighbor. When I first met Rose there, I couldn’t describe her in any other way except perfect. She was tall and slender with long, auburn hair that even when thrown in a ponytail had the right amount of wave without a hint of frizz. Her complexion was pale without looking sickly. Even her face was a perfect circle. The only imperfection I could see was a slight scar below her right eye, and even then it was perfectly placed, drawing you to her green eyes. She radiated confidence. She was in a Target-brand towel and yet, she worked it as if she were ready for a night out.

Handing me my books, she looked at the titles.

The Bell Jar, Mrs. Dalloway, and Live or Die. You’re not going to stick your head in the oven during finals week are you?”

I raised an eyebrow and smiled. Of course she was pretty and well read. “Well, if you picked up these books,” I held up The Beautiful and the Damned, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and A Farewell to Arms, “You’d think I was a raging alcoholic.”

She giggled. “I wouldn’t know. I only know those first titles. Half of your book collection just covered every book I’ve ever read—and only because it was assigned in school.”

I looked at her, trying to figure her out. So she wasn’t that well read?

“What kind of progressive, new-age high school did you go to that the only books you read were written by female writers who eventually offed themselves?”

“An all-girl boarding school in Connecticut,” she giggled. “I’m Rose,” she said extending her hand. “Rose Greenleaf.”

“Really?” I said, taking her hand.

Rose rolled her eyes. “Yeah, really.”

“I’m sorry,” I laughed. “But you’re like an accidental hippie.”

Rose giggled again, “My older sister’s name is Dahlia.”

“That’s rough,” I said, “I’m Addy Tate.”

“Addy? That’s unusual.”

“It’s short for Adelaide. It was my grandmother’s name.”

“Oh, that’s sweet.”

“Adelaide!” My mother’s voice echoed. I looked up and she was heading our way, dragging my suitcase of winter hats and scarves behind her. When she met us, she put down the suitcase and began playing with my hair. I knocked her hand away. “Oh, honey,” she gushed, ignoring my physical warnings, brushing her hand on my shoulder now. “This is such a big step for you.” Rose looked over at me. I pushed my mom’s hand away again and rolled my eyes.

“Yeah, sure. Anyway, Mom,” I said, trying to distract her, “This is Rose. She’s my neighbor.”

“Rose! It’s so nice to meet you!” All of a sudden my tiny mother lunged at Rose, wrapping her in a large embrace, rocking her back and forth. “You need to promise me you’ll look after my Adelaide,” she mock-whispered into her ear. I became mortified and actually smacked my hand against my forehead in embarrassment. Over her shoulder, I saw that Rose was more shocked than annoyed by my mother’s actions. I mouthed an apology to her and she nodded back in acceptance. “I’m Adelaide’s mother,” Mom continued, “Isn’t this exciting?”

Rose smiled. “It sure is Mrs. Tate.”

“Oh, please! Call me Pilar.” She went back to playing with my hair, tucking my curly locks behind my ear.

“Mom!” I interjected, taking a step away from her. “Rose needs to go take a shower now.”

“How silly of me,” she said. “It was so nice to meet you, Rose.”

“You too, Pilar.” She picked up her shower caddy and walked down the opposite end of the hallway my mother had come from, towards the showers. “See you around, Adelaide.”

“Bye,” I said.

When she was out of earshot my mom looked at me, wrapping her arm around my waist. “Well she seems sweet.”

“Yeah,” I said. “She does, doesn’t she?”

 

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You Like Me, Right Now, You Like Me: The Liebster Award

I really like what the Liebster Award sets out to do.  Smaller blogs get some recognition for entertaining whatever size their audience is — and I’m about to go all philosophical Dr. Seuss on all y’all — because a person’s a person, no matter how small (or blog, in this instance).  And nominators, as well as nominees, get to talk a little more about themselves outside of the blogosphere.  So it’s time for me to take off my receptionist skirt and put on my Barbara Streisand in The Prince of Tides ass-masking therapist pantsuit (or comfy, ass-enhancing blogging sweatpants, in my case).

liebster-award-300x300The Official Liebster Award Rules:

  1. Thank the blogger that nominated you and link back to their blog.
  2. Display the award somewhere on your blog.
  3. List 11 facts about yourself.
  4. Answer 11 questions chosen by the blogger who nominated you.
  5. Come up with 11 new questions to ask your nominees.
  6. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you think deserve the award and who have less than 1,000 followers.  (You many nominate blogs that have already received the award, but you cannot renominate the blog that nominated you.)
  7. Go to their blog and inform them that they’ve been nominated.

I would like to thank the Academy and my parents for always believing in me and allowing me to chase my silly, silly dreams.  But most importantly, I have to thank Rick @ Another Book Blog for nominating me for this little award.  And just for you, as well as everyone else out there, I made this little video to help anyone who hasn’t googled how to pronounce the name of my blog yet:

And as rule two states, I now have a nice little display of my award at the top of my page. Okay so now for the juicy bits.

11 Facts About Myself:

  1. I seriously feel as if Tina Belcher from Bob’s Burgers is me.  You know that famous quote from Wuthering Heights?  The whole, “I am Heathcliff,” jibber jab?  I feel the same way with Tina Belcher — except for you know, the whole “I’m crazy and going to make him miserable by marrying his enemy” mentality.  I don’t think I ever grew out of my utter awkwardness, yet complete obsession with boys.  And their butts.
  2. I have two different thumbs.  The joke in our family is that when I was a baby, I didn’t have a left thumb so they took a big toe and made it my thumb.  I have even had people ask me if I slammed my thumb in a door or got in an accident.  No, I was just born this way.  With one “normal thumb,” and one “toe thumb.”  And the PC term is “spoon thumb,” just an fyi.
  3. I hate politics.  As soon as someone begins an in-depth conversation about politics, my eyes glaze over and I mentally count how many of the original 151 Pokemon I can name. I can almost name ‘em all.
  4. The soundtrack for Now and Then was my go-to album when I was nine.  That song Sugar, Sugar was my favorite song in the entire world.  And I was obsessed with the movie.  Mostly because Brendan Fraser was the man of my dreams at that point in my life. 
  5. I got in a rap battle with a drunk old guy in a pub rapping the 14-minute-long song, Rapper’s Delight.  I won.  Obviously.
  6. I am afraid of sewer grates.  Every time I have to walk over one while holding my keys, I clench them in my hand because I always picture myself dropping them, and watching them fall inside the abyss of the sewer system with nobody but TMNT to save them.
  7. I really like reading/watching shows about serial killers.  Real or fake.  Whenever I stay at home, I DVR documentaries about them and it freaks out my parents.  They think I am insane.  But it’s just so fascinating!
  8. I hate it when men have ponytails.  It’s my personal fedora dilemma.  Every time I see a man with one, I want to walk up to him, cut it off, and say, “You’re welcome,” while handing the bit back to him.  They just gross me out.
  9. The song A-Punk by Vampire Weekend always makes me want nachos because of the opening scene in Step Brothers.
  10. I wish there was a way to instill GIFs in everyday life.  I know some people hate them, and others find them to be stupid, but sometimes I just want life to be like Tumblr because I always have the perfect reaction GIF.
  11. I have walked into a plate glass window in public surrounded by strangers twice in my life.  And once while I was running to work because I was late, I tripped over my own feet and faceplanted on the sidewalk.  I decided to just lie there and contemplate my life for a moment.  My clumsiness is considered a hazard to society.

11 Questions From Rick:

  1. Why are you a book blogger? What is it you truly want to get out of this?
    I started blogging about books because it was what I was passionate about.  And I thought that if I wanted to become an author, I had to get used to publishing my works for all of the world to see.  My blog was like my training for it.
  2. Rank these in order of preference: reading, listening to music, watching TV & movies.
    I don’t know!  I love them all equally…  But that’s such a cop-out answer.  I always have to have music with me at all times, and I do usually have a book with me, so I would have to say it’s listening to music, reading, and then watching television/films.
  3. What’s your favourite genre of book? Why do you think that’s the case?
    I really love anything that is mystical/magical/ folklore/mythology.  I used to read a lot of Young Adult fiction that had any supernatural element involved.  But I think what I like most are those books where an everyday girl (or guy) discovers that s/he is magical.  I think I’m drawn to these types of books because I grew up in such a blah atmosphere (catholic school in Connecticut) that I would have died if something extraordinary did happen to me. (insert “yer a wizard, ‘arry” here.)
  4. If you had to lose one of these senses, which would it be and why: sight, taste, hearing, speech.
    Taste.  Easily.  Because then I could eat veggies no problem and not eat crap foods simply because I liked the taste.  But the fat kid in me would probably still eat doughnuts knowing what they used to taste like.
  5. What qualities do you typically look for in a book?
    I like a strong female protagonist.  And I can go all ranty on this subject, because I wrote my MA dissertation on the evolution of the female protagonist in YA literature, but it’s important!  Girls need to know that they can be the one who does the ass-kicking instead of being the damsel in distress.
  6. What qualities do you typically look for in a friend?
    Humor.  I have a really weird sense of humor, so if they can keep up with me, or laugh along, we are golden.  I also really appreciate people who speak up when they have something to say.  And loyalty.  I would do anything for my friends, and knowing that they would too makes me know that I chose wisely.
  7. If you had the time (and energy) to write a blog about any other thing, what would it be and why?
    It would probably be about television.  And it would be a vlog where my friend and I drink a bottle of wine and critique the recent episode of The Mindy Project or Broad City.
  8. What’s the worst book you’ve read in the last two years?
    Oh Jesus, how much time do you got?  It’s actually a tie.  If anyone regularly follows my blog, they understand my utter hatred for Lauren Weisberger and her Prada books.  I tried to read Revenge Wears Prada and just threw it in the corner of my room and forgot about it.  But I also just read The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty because everyone told me it was amazing.  It was terrible.  I have never read a book with three different female protagonists and ended up hating each one at the end.  They were terrible people!
  9. If you suddenly had 50 million dollars, do you think you’d read more or less?
    More.  Because I could not work and just spend my time Scrooge McDucking it, and swimming in money while reading anything and everything I’ve ever thought about reading.
  10. How much practical use have you gotten from your college degree? (if you have one)
    Umm, I would say 45% of my BA is used and 60% of my MA.  When I first graduated, I got an internship with Yale University Press, so that was like “Oh my god, my major is working!”  But then I came home, lived with my parents for a year, and worked as a receptionist.  But now, I do quite a bit of editing and copywriting.  And I get to play with Twitter, giving my Creative Writing MA some work.
  11. If you had to go back to college, with the condition that you could only take a different major, what would it be?
    I would stay with my original major, Psychology, but go to a different university that works on behavioral analysis.  I would have really liked to become someone who helps track down serial killers based on their behavior (again with the damn serial killers).

My Nominations:

Although some of these might seem a bit random, I really want to hear more from these bloggers.

  1. Haley – As I Lay Reading (my new interwebs friend!)
  2. Matt and Ariel – Bad Books, Good Times (I hope they mean legit following, and not email alert following… If not, then you can both do one for your individual blogs! Solutions!)
  3. Lily – Lily’s Book Blog (some great YA recommendations)
  4. Sarah Clare – A Bit Behind on Books (everyone gets caught up in reading.)
  5. Cait – The Hopeful Heroine (it’s all so silly and brilliant.  I love it.)

My 11 Questions:

  1. Do you listen to music when reading, or do you prefer silence?
  2. What book did you not like when you first read it, but liked the second time (or vice versa)?
  3. What is your favorite book to movie adaptation?
  4. What is your least favorite?
  5. Would you rather die unexpectedly and sudden, or from a long-term illness?
  6. Bang, marry, kill: Jane Austen, John Green, George RR Martin?
  7. Other than books, is there anything else that you geek out about?
  8. What high school book did you not really read, but say that you did?
  9. Which fictional character would you want to be best friends with and why?
  10. Which childhood-actor-to-disaster-area was most tragic for you to watch?
  11. What are your thoughts about cheese?

I guess I already angered someone on the interwebs.

This is an Open Letter, because some people like to parade their ignorance, small-mindedness, and egomaniac attitudes for the world to see.

Someone on Tumblr reblogged my James Joyce letter and then added this comment with it.  Looking at their site, I found out that they are really into James Joyce.  First thing’s first: I did not mean to upset anyone.  The thing about literature is that everyone can interpret it differently.  And because I do not share the same opinions about the first 62 pages of a certain book, I am small-minded and ignorant.

I guess before anyone else reads anything else I write, I should state that this blog is a work of satire.  Do I really want to throw this book out the window?  No.  At this moment, I say I do, but I would never actually do that to a book, whether I like it or not.  And, I am going to finish it.  Just not any time soon.

I kind of feel special for writing something that angered someone enough to be harsh about my literary opinions, but at the same time I am sad for them.  Because they are making a snap judgement on me as a person because of a 700 word comedic blog post.

 

 

An Open Letter to James Joyce

Dear James Joyce,

I don’t really know how I would start this letter because I am neither that big a fan of your work, nor that interested in how you are these days — mostly because you are very much so dead.  So I guess the best way to do this is to just dive right in.

I’ve been attempting to read your “legendary” novel, Ulysses, for the past month and let me tell you something: it isn’t going well.  Now, I consider myself to be a very capable reader.  I can understand and break down themes, hidden metaphors, and unreliable narrators.  I have read my fair share of classic literary works and I usually only have a few bad things to say about them.

I have even read Homer’s The Odyssey, the work you based this door-stopper of a novel, a couple of times.  When I was in college, my Greek Literature professor even told the guys in our class not to sell their copies of it back to bookstores because nothing makes a man look sexy and smart than having The Odyssey on their bookshelves.  And I decided to keep my copy too.  Not to help me pick up men, but because if I was going to drudge through the 10-year struggle of Odysseus getting back to his wife, I was going to keep the evidence and brag about it when possible.

But you, sir.  I am seriously contemplating throwing this novel out the nearest window, and watching passing cars drive over it repeatedly while I sport a shit-eating grin.  You have taken all of the amazingness of Homer’s epic poem and shit on it.  Even more so, you like to talk about your characters shitting.  I don’t understand much of what it is you are trying to say in Ulysses, but when I do, it’s about defecation.  So I’ve at least got that going for me.  I now know the gastrointestinal tract of one of your main characters.

Although I have been reading your classic for a month, I have only gotten 62 pages into your 700+ page work.  And I am not one to give up on novels, unless they are complete trash (are you listening, Lauren Wisberger?).  But I cannot wrap my head around your work.  And I know you intentionally did this, being the cheeky bugger that you are.

If I gave it all up immediately, I’d lose my immortality. I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.

I can easily picture you sitting at your writing desk laughing maniacally as you write your three well-thought-out sentences a day, that have nothing to do with the story, but can be interpreted a hundred different ways.  “Oh they will never get this!” you say, as you chuckle to yourself.  This is unacceptable.  Why would you want to write a novel that nobody understands anyway?  I guess you are right, it does make it immortal.  But it also makes it painful.  With every sentence I read, I feel bits of my soul slowly breaking away.  Your last words when you died were, “Does nobody understand?”  You must have been talking about Ulysses and then began kicking yourself in the dying head for not making it clearer.

But I will not give up.  I am frustrated to hell and don’t want anything to do with you now.  But you and I, James, are just going to go on a small break.  I am going to see other people — Toni Morrison for instance; she is next on my to-do list. — and you will remain sad and lonely until I decide to give you another chance.

Mr. Joyce, what you’ve written is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Sincerely yours,

allex

P.S.

I have read your steamy love letters to your wife, however, and maybe you should have given erotica a shot.  You would definitely be giving E.L. James a run for her money.  And she, at least, doesn’t deserve to be immortalized in literary fame.

Well, There Goes My Body Image

Everything, now.  Recently I have been watching Ryan Murphy’s Nip/Tuck while simultaneously reading Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series.  Although one is a contemporary television show and the other is a dystopic sci-fi trilogy (turned tetrology), they both have an underlying theme: body image and plastic surgery.  I may also be about 10 years behind on both of these, but they still hit hard.

In case anyone else has been living under a rock,  Nip/Tuck is about two plastic surgeons who live in Miami, Florida.  And like any good series, both surgeons are in the business for two different reasons.  Christian Troy is the sexy one, who sleeps with insecure thirty- (or forty- or whatever- really) somethings to bring in business while Sean McNamara is the do-gooder family man who only wants to help people be the best they know they can.

Now I never watched this show when it was on because of what it was about.  Two male plastic surgeons red-penning mostly women’s skin, pointing out each and every one of their imperfections.  Even worse, they have scenes dedicated to the surgeries.  I don’t do well with fake blood, and Ryan Murphy does not embellish or leave anything out.  Unfortunately for me, the first time I watched, I was eating some cheese pizza.  So while I am enjoying my meal, scenes of cutting up people’s faces, breaking nose bones with hammers, and sucking fat from stomaches blotched my computer screen causing me to immediately lose my appetite.  Well, not lose my appetite, but did make my pizza a bit less desirable.

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Half of the surgeries they do are for young, already beautiful women who don’t need any work done.  As for most of the men who want surgery, it’s nine times out of ten so they can get laid (e.g. third nipple removal, moob removal, circumcision, penis enlargement…).  Although they do do some pro bono work, most of their cases are for unrealistic wants, showing how crazy some people can be in going under the knife.  One episode, they did a breast reduction for a woman who had Dissociative Identity Disorder (or split personality disorder) and one of her personalities was an eight-year-old girl who was the gatekeeper 2014-04-08 08_23_44 pmto the 20+ other identities she had and wanted them reduced so she wouldn’t be picked on. And if she didn’t get it done, she would unleash the floodgates of crazytown upon Miami.

I know that these are supposed to be unrealistic to keep the show interesting, but come on.  And when a serial rapist starts cutting up models and beautiful people, the wonderful doctors at McNamara/Troy decide to fix the beautiful people’s faces pro bono! But when a severely depressed and overweight woman asks to get The Swan treatment done before her high school reunion, they tell her she’s too unstable and refuse her the surgeries.  Although it did end with her killing herself, I feel like giving her some kind of surgery — even if it was something small — could have helped her with her dilapidating  self image.

And seeing all of these people cut themselves up for a straighter nose, bigger boobs, or facelift really gets me thinking.  But more importantly, watching what is actually done to a person when they get a facelift or liposuction really makes me never want to do any of those things ever.  And the fact that they start almost every episode with them asking their client what they don’t like about themselves really can be damaging to one’s self-esteem.

Moving on to Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy, we meet fifteen-year-old Tally.  Tally is ugly in her society’s eyes.  But like all boys and girls before her, she can’t wait until she turns sixteen.  Because that is when she gets to be pretty.  In Westerfeld’s series, when you are born, you are a Littlie until you are twelve.  Once you’re twelve, you are taken away from your parents and move into Uglyville with all the other Uglies.  But when you turn sixteen, you are allowed plastic surgery to turn you pretty.  And then you get to move into New Pretty Town — which is basically a giant party at Pleasuretown.  But when Tally meets Shay, a girl who doesn’t want to turn pretty, her world changes.  And when Shay runs away and Tally is threatened with never turning pretty if she doesn’t help find her, what is she to do?  Betray her new friend or risk never being what she has waited her entire life for?

I think Scott Westerfeld suffers from writing brilliant works too soon for their time.  Uglies, as well as his series Peeps, just misses other literary trends.  He missed the dystopic boat by about three years with The Hunger Games and Divergent trilogies; Peeps, a novel about humans contracting a virus that turns them into cannibals — like vampires — although published the same year as the Twilight phenomenon was glossed over.  But Uglies has real-life issues buried underneath the sci-fi world that still rings true.  Our society now has their ideas on what is beautiful.  Just open any magazine or watch any television program.  These ideals are subliminally flashed upon us like a scene from A Clockwork Orange almost daily.  The fact that it makes news when companies such as Dove and Aerie have ad campaigns using real women without photoshop says something about what our society pressures are.  And Uglies has a fifteen-year-old protagonist who at first wants nothing more than to get plastic surgery.  Girls shouldn’t have these body-conscious insecurities at such a young age.  And since I believe young readers usually read novels that have older protagonists, twelve-year-olds were subjected to these ideals.

But where Westerfeld diverts from social norms is when Tally learns about what being pretty really does to you.  Being pretty doesn’t only change the way you look outside, but your personality as well.  The surgery makes you easily manipulated and controllable.  You become vapid, lazy, and entitled.  Which in a way, isn’t it kind of like that now?  Hasn’t Dr. Drew Baird and The Bubble from 30 Rock taught us anything?  How many pretty faces have to call a tennis racquet a fart and a woman who correctly plays tennis a bitch until society stops being lenient on pretty faces?  Even now with the most recent “hot” James Franco hitting on a seventeen-year-old girl incident.  How nonchalantly society forgave him because he’s attractive.  When coincidentally, just a year ago my old high school teacher was arrested — and sentenced 10 years — for having sexual relations with a student who was at the time a minor.

As usual, I digress, but in the Uglies series, once Tally discovers what becoming beautiful means, she does everything in her power to stop it.  Although I am only halfway through the series now, it was tough for me to read the first book.  Tally does make a complete 180 in her ideas on body image and self-worth, but in the beginning it was heartbreaking to read.  Listening to how Tally’s society functioned — giving Uglies nicknames pointing out their imperfections such as Nose, Skinny, or Squints — was too much.  The idea of a good time for Tally as an Ugly was taking selfies and scanning them into her computer so she could play with her face, and see what kind of changes she could get with her surgery.  I just felt that it was so close to accurate for today.

While watching Nip/Tuck and reading Uglies, I couldn’t help but think about myself.  Now anyone who knows me knows that I am no supermodel.  To quote Mindy Lahiri, the second half of my Liz Lemon/Mindy Lahiri spirit animal, I fluctuate between chubby and curvy.  And growing up in this fluctuation was difficult.  Constantly being reminded of my size by media, peers, and even family didn’t help my self-esteem.  For years I coped with food, which only made it worse. Now I accept my love for food, and try to use portion control instead of comfort eating.

Besides, I like who I am.  Sure, I could lose a couple pounds, but that’s doable.  With controlled diet and exercise — as well as a complete brain switch for that matter — I can do it.  I have done it.  But my big butt and bump in my nose makes me who I am.  My spoon thumb and stubby legs are not ideal, but they’re mine.  Because I love myself, I love my imperfections. And what makes them imperfections anyway?  They all come together and combined with who I am on the inside, make me who I am.  So by my standards, there is never anything wrong with that.