Today I read… The Slip

Image result for the slip mark sampsonToday I read The Slip by Mark Sampson.

It wasn’t that bad, was it? What I said. I mean, I got a little carried away, but everyone is making such a big deal out of it. My wife and my students and the university and the media, they’re all blowing things way out of proportion. I mean, it’s an extreme view, and I realize I was wrong to say it, but if you put it in the proper context of Western philosophical thought…wait, that’s what everyone is angry about? Shit, did I really say that?

********************************

This was another ARC I got at the last OLA Super Conference. My backlog of both to-read and to-review is, well, let’s say those categories are separate bookcases. Not shelves. This was definitely an interesting read, especially in light of our current culture of public apologies and shaming for misbehaviour. The protagonist, Dr. Philip Sharpe, is a politically centrist philosophy professor with a specialty in ethics. While appearing on a tv spot, he says something in a heated moment about a company that recently crumbled, that he thinks everyone is angry with him about. He genuinely thinks that everyone is badly overreacting, and he ignores all online comments and attempts by the people in his life to discuss what he said. It’s not until over 200 pages and six days later when his teenage stepdaughter sits him down, plays him the video, and forces him to face what he actually said. People are not angry with him because of an abstract legal and ethical point. They are angry because what he said sounded like a rape threat against the woman he was arguing with. He didn’t mean it that way, his opponent didn’t interpret it that way, but a lot of the public did hear it that way. Philip is a very defined character- 50’s, highly educated, white, technophobic, high-functioning alcoholic, and liberal but not at all woke. He’s a little racist and a lot sexist. His 14 years younger wife is a stay-at-home mom and a writer, with a monthly column and a few failed children’s books. He is very resentful of her not working and contributing financially to the household, while he doesn’t recognize or value the work she does do in the home. Everything she does to take care of their two daughters he refers to as “motherwork,” which is a particularly irritating term, especially when she’s doing something like tending to their 3 year old who just scalded herself on a broken faucet she has asked Philip to have fixed.

This isn’t my usual style, but I did enjoy it. Well, perhaps not enjoy, but I found it very interesting. I found Philip to be dislikeable on a personal level but understandable. He has basically never had a functioning relationship of any kind with a woman in his entire life- even his mother left when he was very small- and while he’s a sexist jerk, to a degree he really doesn’t know any better. Of course, I’m also reading this from a perspective of a woman several years his junior, which is definitely not a perspective he would have ever considered. Philip is a representation of a lot of middle-aged white men who say something horrific in public who need to have it explained to them exactly what they said and why it was wrong before they understand. It depends on your own perspective if he is just stupid for not knowing, or ignorant and in need of education. One is willful, and the other is something that can be corrected with effort. Philip, being conveniently fictional, is properly aghast and genuinely remorseful when he finally understands what he said, and the reader can hope that he will be a little more aware of his words and actions and his relationships with his family and friends in the future. Shame real life isn’t always so tidy.

It is a thoughtful book that could encourage a lot of discussion. This could be a great choice for a book club that enjoys debate.

And the thing that every Canadian will be able to relate to, no matter your age, gender, or political viewpoint, is Philip’s vain attempts to keep his poppy from getting lost multiple times. The struggle is real.

Advertisements

Can’t read anything when your nose is pointed straight up

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/03/28/the-power-of-young-adult-fiction/adults-should-read-adult-books

This article came out a few weeks ago, and after careful consideration of all sides of the story–I’m still mad.

Really? You’ve never read these books, you don’t intend to read these books, you have no idea what they’re about, but you know for an absolute fact that they’re not worth your time and have nothing worthwhile in them that could possibly amuse you or make you think? After all, as an adult, you know everything, right? Oh, they’re good enough for kids, since of course kids are incapable of understanding or appreciating “the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults.” But not for [sticks nose in the air and assumes a haughty and mildly constipated expression] adults.

Now, not all YA/children’s books are good. I hate Twilight- I couldn’t get past chapter 3 before I wanted to kill Bella just to stop the whining. And that was before she met Mr.Sparkly Pants- I have massive issues with that highly abusive relationship storyline and Bella’s complete lack of characterization or development over the entire series. However, despite not being able to finish the book (and I read Harlequins and made it through all 3 seasons of Veronica Mars), I still know what it’s about, what happens, themes, etc. I have reasons for calling it Twicrap.

That said, I did love Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, the other two highly popular series the writer mentioned. The Harry Potter books aren’t the greatest and most original works of art ever created, but they’re a very solid story told well. The characters develop, explore their world, learn and grow and make the reader think alongside them. The Hunger Games is a reimagining of Greek mythology blended with Roman history-Theseus and the Athenian sacrifices to the Bull of Crete presented as Roman gladitorial games to entertain and control the masses. Gosh, those stories go back about 3,000 years and they were written for adults, weren’t they?

A good story is a good story. And if it is truly good, then it will stand the test of time. I started reading Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series about 20 years ago, and I’ve reread it at least once a year since. Every time I read it, I find something new to think about, because I have grown and changed and I have a different perspective on what the characters go through. The fifth book,The Wizard’s Dilemma,argued that if you have sworn to respect and defend all life, then that includes life you don’t like, such as the cancer that was killing the main female character’s mother. Cancer cells do what they are meant to do-they grow and live and multiply. You can’t really blame them for that. When I first read this, I had sympathy for Nina, but I thought the book had a point. I felt much differently when my grandmother died of pneumonia. It’s a disease, it’s alive, but I didn’t feel much respect for its life at the time.

I’m not even getting into the argument for parents, teachers, child psychologists, social workers, or anyone else who interacts with children or young adults on a regular basis to know what their children are reading and learning. Or writers, editors, publishers, booksellers, or librarians (hi!) for whom reading YA books is their job, an argument which Joel Stein also forgets about.

So to conclude this rant, mind your own business Joel and quit reading over my shoulder, because the sniffing is distracting me from Alanna of Trebond learning to deal with bullies and Cimorene of Linderwall refusing to marry someone she doesn’t like and Hermione is trying to study.

Also (I lied, little bit more rant), many of the comments on this article mentioned C.S. Lewis’ fantastic quote on adulthood, which is completely spot-on, so I’m going to add it in here. /endrant

“Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”  ―    C.S. Lewis