Posts Tagged ‘novel’

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

January 5, 2014

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes is a wonderful, intoxicating read. She takes a murder thriller, and puts a deft spin on it, working in time travel, obsession, and the power of sexuality. Thinking back on the novel, sex plays an increasingly large role in the narrative. All of the victims are sexually strong women, in control of their lives in every way. The one exception is the one woman who no longer “shines,” falling into drug abuse and mediocrity as an artist. She, also, is the least satisfying kill for Harper, the serial killer who jumps around time, killing off women who “shine,” who have a special quality that  lifts them above the rest. They are gifted.

Talking about sex in The Shining Girls, for much of the novel sex and violence are explicitly tied together with the killer. He jerks off to places where he kills his victims, his erections are noted, the release and the energy of the killing passages could be overlaid a bodice ripper, and the songs would be eerily similar. Harper’s violence is tied to his sexuality, taking its place. It’s evidenced further by the only time he considers giving up the serial killer business is when he establishes a physically intimate relationship with a nurse that he considers his equal. What is interesting is that he considers her his equal largely because he sees her as being as cold, deceptive, and manipulative as he is. Their intimacy is less a shared experience than of two experiences running parallel to one another. based on deceit, of the willful playing of expected roles, both seeing the other as being innately false but finding their attraction in this falsehood. It was not surprising when one crossed a line and Harper brutally murdered his lover. though this was also Harper’s most disorganized killing, building towards nothing, no purpose besides reacting against a betrayal he couldn’t abide.  His lover had drugged him and looked into The Room.

The Room is essentially a trophy case that maps out the killings that would make up Harper’s life. It should be noted that Harper’s lover did not react to the room with revulsion. She did not find Harper suddenly terrifying, a monster in human skin. She offered to work with him, to be his accomplice, to be Bonnie to his clyde, holding up the robust futures of young women and taking them for himself.  She was more alike him than he knew, and for a brief moment, before he killed her, it may have been the one frankly honest communication to pass between them.   So why did Harper kill her? Was it the betrayal or was it the loss of power? With his regular killings, power is a key aspect for Harper. Snuffing out these bright lights, taking them for himself, the idea of being in control is  for him quite stimulating. Perhaps this is the true reason he kills her. By drugging him, and slipping into the one room he has forbidden her from, she has done an ultimate act of power taking. The only way for him to regain any of it is to brutally snuff out her light.

It is this loss of power induced rage at the realization that one of his victims, Kirby, has survived that ultimately leads to Harper’s own demise. He gets sloppy. He gets personal. He consistently loses his fights when it gets personal, seemingly unable to deal with anything he can’t detach himself from.

This isn’t to say that sex isn’t intrinsically linked to power for the other characters. For all of the women who shine, sex is powerful for them, as well. however, it is a power they exert over themselves and weave into their lives rather than a power that is forced over others. One woman is a lesbian at a time and place where lesbianism wouldn’t be the most popular life choice. Another forgoes a lesbian relationship because she knows it isn’t what she ultimately interested in. Another woman is keenly aware of the sexual politics played at her work, and is careful in plotting her course and fending off advances – as well as the repercussions of fending off such advances. And Kirby desires sex, but on her terms, turning down suitors who offend her, holding back when she isn’t sure if another has the same desires.  Sex is a part of their lives, in ways prominent parts, but they are only parts, and they have their place.

As always, here’s the Barnes and Noble link to buy the book.

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bad poetry

May 11, 2010

been writing a lot of poetry lately and a lot of it is just plain bad. Not sure why. What I’m writing about is good, but the words I’m using and how I’m using them, well, not so good.

It’s frustrating to have the words come but to have them be all of the wrong words. The wrong form. They may as well not show up at all at that point, just more editing later, but they ring the bell and I open the door and before I know it the damn things are littering the page and I don’t like them hanging around, sitting on my furniture, drinking my beer. It’s mine. I don’t want to share with them. Go. Just go.

On top of that, I haven’t been able to get moving on the novel re-write and the more I work on it the more dissatisfied I am with it anyway. I’m going to want to re-write it a third time.

On the plus side, the landlord finally turned the heat back on as Cleveland has been slammed by another cold snap. So the apartment is comfortable to sit in and not get any work actually accomplished in.

Cel-a-brate good times come on!

August 16, 2009

i finished reading through the novel I’ve been writing today. It’s been read, crossed out, circled, noted and note carded.  so next comes the “fun” part of re-writing the thing. I think the re-write should go relatively quick once I get everything sorted out from the notes and what not. I’ll, essentially, have a checklist of what needs to be fixed and what works, what could be added adn what should be removed.

but that’s for the (near)future. As for now, there’s been a mini-celebration. got the drinks out, had a steak, and enjoyed this moment of triumph.

It just doesn’t feel right

February 9, 2009

I’ve been working on my short story turned too damn long project some more today. In a weird way it is frustrating because it is coming pretty easily so far. It’s strange that this would be frustrating but I had expected it to be a much shorter work, something I could turn out in a few days and then move on from but, instead, the thing is just flying along. I’ve broken the 10k word mark with ease and more of the story is unfolding in my head and making sense and all I wanted was some quick little thing I could send off.

What’s also frustratinng is that it feels so mundane.  That’s a bad thing for a writer to say but it’s true. This isn’t to say the story doesn’t seem interesting or the writing sucks. I like the story and I like what I have written so far. But I can tell it’s not great. I don’t see anything in it that really seperates it from the ton of other stuff that I read that I enjoy but then give to the used book store for credit. I love Haruki Murakami and Richard Brautigan and, occasionally, bits of Pynchon,  and Vonnegutt and a slew of others and they all have this quality that you can tell they are doing something remarkable with the page and the word.

Reading over what I am writing, thinking of where it is going, and it just doesn’t have those qualities. It’s unrealistic to expect them. These are truly great writers who are exceptional at their craft.  And I should be happy if I can just get this project finished and find an agent for it. But there is still a hope that I can do something that would make me feel like I belonged with the heroes of my literary world rather than taking up space at the used book store.

Larry McMurtry:The Book Is Dead

January 22, 2009

Over at the Houston Chronicle they had this short interview with Larry McMurtry that focuses on books and culture. His 29th novel is to hit bookshelves later this year and he’s beginning work on the second book of his biography (the first, Books, was published in 2007 and the third, Hollywood, has yet to be written). He also owns a used and rare bookstore in his home town of Archer City called Booked-Up.

Within the interview McMurtry uses his upcoming speaking engagement at Rice to touch upon the fact that he sees few young people come into his store. Nearly everyone is “over 40” and this has caused him to worry that the our “Book Culture” is in its final stages. Despite an early love with stories, he mentions how kids hit an entertainment blitzkrieg when they get around eleven or twelve years of age. A world of MP3 players, video players, movies, cell phones, the internet, satallite radio, and television come together as a horde of mice attacking the child’s time and attention with each taking away its fair morsel.

Which might be true.

But I also think that it might be overstating it a bit. I don’t see a lot of young people at the used bookstores I frequent, either. But I don’t think this is because there is a severe lack of young people reading, only that there is a severe lack of young people willing to go to a store that isn’t in a shopping mall.

For when I go into Borders, I see plenty of young people. Being a bit of a crotchety old man, I’m often annoyed by the sheer volume of young people taking up space in the book aisles. Though, to be fair, I’m fairly annoyed by anyone in the book aisles taking up space. But the point is that they are there. Granted, there is a larger number of them filtering over to the graphic novel and manga sections, both of which were recently expanded at my local Borders, but I think we are past the point of denigrating the graphic novel as a lesser form of reading.

Also, I think the written word may have a larger place within our society now than nearly ever before. While this may no longer be a golden age of letters, the young are not bashful about picking up their keyboard and putting their thoughts to the page. With the imprint that blogging, instant messaging, chat rooms and message boards leave on the virtual and real worlds, I would wager that there is a greater segment of our society today putting the written word to daily use than ever before.

Whether there is quality riding along with this quantity is debateable but I think that is more of a question of the technology and the forum having existed outside of the social norm until very recently. Instead of embracing these forms of communication and expression, bringing them into the mainstream and incorporating their strengths into legitimizing their forms, we have allowed them to remain on the outside where their influence is still felt but not controlled in any real way. Bloggers are still looked upon with suspicion while the other forms are looked upon as amateurish time wasters.

But kids are reading these things and kids are writing these things. These are places that are engaging, demanding and are beginning to carry formidable weight. So while the internet might take customers away from the bookstore, it isn’t taking people away from the written word. Despite the thunderhead of etnertainment distractions that descend upon the young, they still find time to write and read something they are interested in and which they find accessible.

What I think this really shows is that the literary world needs to change with the world around it. I’ve talked about a couple of e-books in past blogs and the majority of us know of Project Gutenberg but it needs to go further. Literature needs to be created solely for the internet browsing crowd, incorporating HTML, flash, etc. to create the dynamic reading experience that people have come to expect.

This isn’t to say that the conventional printed word is dead or that it doesn’t have a place in society. I can’t realistically see any point within my life time where I will quit wandering into a conventional bookstore and buying a conventional book. This only to say that the world of literature has a new frontier into which to expand. Having these alternate forms emerge is an opportunity to expand the influence of the written word and to stave off the demise McMurtry prophesies.