mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Monday Unpleasantry

Now if there hadn't been that huge mudfight recently over at metafandom about the bad manners of harshing someone's squee- which I agree with, of course- and the concomitant notion that you don't walk into strangers' ljs and make uncivil remarks, I would so be responding to matociquala's dismissal of Jane Austen ("I just don't care about her characters") with "I understand that- I feel the same about yours." Which though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I hold it not honesty to have it thus set down, at least not there.

And doubtless I've been reading too much metafandom- which I do on mauvecloud's FL ('I friend metafandom- and metaquotes and kitty macros- so you don't have to.") Because I've been reading Nix's Keys of the Kingdom series lately and got bogged down around the Thursday book for oddly Harry Potterish reasons.

incandescens gave me Mr Monday and Grim Tuesday more years ago than I can recall, and remembering what happened the last time she sent me Nix (desperately ransacking Book City at 10 at night just before they closed trying to find the hardcover copy of Abhorsen, misshelved among New Adult Releases) I prudently put them away until there was enough of the series done that I wouldn't find myself psychically starving for More. (Someone was traumatized by the cliffhanger at the end of The Riddlemaster of Hed, can you tell?)

Volume five just came out so I figured it was safe. And ohh Mr Monday was lovely, and had a lovely manga moment near the end, so I went merrily along into Grim Tuesday, which was umm Grimmer, and Drowned Wednesday, which was no picnic either. At which I wondered why I wasn't enjoying this as much as the first book.

Well clearly, no manga moments, for one. Useless to tell myself- as I do, trust me- that if you want manga moments you should, like, read manga. I know. But it's the same as saying 'If you want m/m you should, like, read gay literature.' Yes but- but what I wanted back in those pre-Japan pre-manga pre-yaoi days was the thrill of finding the m/m *elsewhere*: casually tossed into the Darkover stories, appearing for a moment in Tanith Lee, peeking from the subtext of oh say The Riddlemaster itself. Gay lit has it all front and centre. Whereas slashy lit (because slash is what it is, not yaoi or BL) flickers amid prose that's ostensibly doing something else; is often a case of 'was that there or did I just see it?'; is a much more subtle thing generally. And even when it's not, when it's as front and centre as Mary Renault can make it, the thrill of it still is 'this is Their tropes appearing in My world.'

Is why I like manga moments in my western fantasy, kidslit, whatever. No, I don't expect them. Just happy when they happen, and wish that Nix had done it more. (Lovely manga moment in Abhorsen too, come to that.)

But with the Keys I have a different problem. You know the books will end with Arthur winning against whoever he's up against, so good, I'm guaranteed a happy ending and can read without anxiety. But the beginning of every book starts with everything being terrible and as bad as it can be and Arthur wringing his hands and dragging his feet and not wanting to do what he has to do. And I understand, being thrust into this role is a huge dilemma for him, and the action happens real time within a human week: it's only Thursday of a week when the world went all wrong on Monday and all wrong again on Tuesday and even wronger on Wednesday though Arthur didn't know it yet.

Which is fine. But I'm being reminded of Harry Potter. Who started out in vol 1 as a put-upon victim with a lot to complain about. But who kept on being that poor put-upon character, with the world against him and only his two loyal friends except when he's fighting with Ron, through every book thereafter. There's a point at which one stops thinking Poor poor Harry, and starts wondering why the Boy Who Lived, the big media star and (face it) expert qidditch player, goes on thinking of himself as an oppressed outsider. 'Deal, already,' one mutters. (Those who dislike goyim employing Yiddish constructions, to cite a side-thread in an even bigger metafandom kerfuffle, will have to prise 'already' from my cold, dead and broken fingers. Though I bet they've forgotten that 'already' is a Yiddish-influenced construction.)

People do hang on to outdated notions of themselves, I know, but the effect is depressing, and not a little out of genre. Doesn't help that Harry himself is a mannerless charmless git. Living under the stairs does not teach you social skills or empathy, I *know*, but it feels wrong to apply RL psychology to this kind of (should I say 'school of cruelty'?) British fantasy, where generally, the horrors of the world impinge on the characters about as much as water on a duck's back, and terms like trauma or PTSD seem ludicrously out of place.

So here- every Keys book starts with Arthur- rather a nicer character, if more scattered- flapping his hands and saying 'I won't I can't I don't *want* to', and dealing with crises falling on him like landslides and everything as wrong as it can be. I'm just not finding this a terribly fun read, book after book after book. And I do wonder if the strain of OMG OMG OMG in Arthur and the plot alike doesn't owe something to the fact that OMG OMG OMG was evidently very successful with Harry Potter.

A pity if so. I kind of like my heroes to be heroic, or to have heroic bits in them, not just be ordinary people flailing wildly in impossible circumstances. Somebody somewhere (on incandescens' FL) remarked that what sets genre works apart from mainstream literature these days is that the protagonists of genre are actually *functional*- they deal capably with problems outside themselves. Whereas those in mainstream and certainly high literature are nonfunctional navel-gazers all wrapped up in their own problems. The internal battle is the whole of the story, and at some point one asks Why should I care about these (usually) well-off middle-class intellectual white people who are all about the manufactured problems in their own heads? (Like Austen's heroines, you will say? Not really. They have moral problems, something truly lacking in what late 20C lit I've read.)

That genre/ mainstream dichotomy is no truer than any generalization, which means pretty true. While I don't want the perfect and boring heroes of early SF back, I'd be sorry if kidslit, certainly, went too far in the other direction and gave us a bunch of wibbling introverts as the protagonists of fantasy adventures.

(F-locked to keep this from metafandom's hands. I wish those people would learn to *ask* before they linked posts, speaking of appalling bad manners.) (Also using my 'We are not amused' Goujun icon from _mrowr, which I find myself using a lot these days.)
Tags: reading, reading_07, wank
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