…other artists speak for me.
…show me the glint of light on Daenerys Stormborn’s hair.
There’s this saying in writing–show, don’t tell, and that’s what was wrong with the last couple of all-important episodes of Game Of Thrones.
It’s all over the internet today, how Weiss/Benioff demolished a whole lot of character arcs in their rush to the finish. Maybe they went overboard making sure EVERY fan prediction for the characters didn’t happen. Maybe they are just that clueless. Bottom line, they told us things rather than showed us, and that’s just unacceptable.
The writers, whichever were at the helm for each particular episode, have been dragging along the Targaryen family curse from day one. They tapped it every now and again, but Daenerys has been the champion of the oppressed, the savior of the innocent, blah, blah, blah all along. Right up through the Battle for Winterfell, she has held that role. Two episodes later, she’s burning every man, woman and child–including her own soldiers!–in King’s Landing while her true enemy (Cersei) watches from the Red Keep, untouched. She’s in the god-damned window! For now, you see, Dany is mad. Gasp.
Driven mad by the fact Jon has more of a claim to the throne, by virtue of his noble penis. Driven mad by learning she’s her lover’s aunt, which is no-nevermind to a Targaryen, but is a no-go for a Stark. Driven mad by the fact that while he’s beloved all over Westeros, she will never be. Driven mad by the quick betrayal of one of her staunchest supporters, the loss of her most devoted and beloved Ser Jorah, the death of both her dragonchildren. She’s a woman, you see, and her emotions have gotten the better of her. Oy. Sure, all that could drive most people mad–but in two episodes? Really, not even two, because it was set up in the largely non-eventful episode #4.
There was time to make that all happen and, while I’d have hated it for reasons I’ll expand upon in a moment, I’d have lived with the disappointment, maybe even have found reason to be okay with it. But considering the writers TOLD us–through other characters, mind you–all about Dany’s descent into madness but never showed it to us (outside of a few well-acted moments on Emilia Clark’s part, so kudos to her) and then stripped her of her entire character arc, I just can’t accept it.
And now for at least as big an issue as the writing itself–It’s not just Dany. ALL the women in the story are stripped of everything they are. Everything.
This story evolved from “a clash of kings” to “a clash of queens.” Two women, brutal, ambitious, determined, strong, decisive even when it hurts women, battled for the Iron Throne. One gets a soap-opera ending (? I’m not convinced Cersei is dead) while the other is stripped of everything she was. And then there was Sansa, to a lesser degree, as she fought for Winterfell. Setting aside the, “Without the insert horrific abuse here, I’d still be a little bird,” line (which I obviously have not), in the actual battle, where was she? In the crypt, accepting the fact that, “The bravest thing we can do is be honest.” Bullshit. But ok. I’ll accept that as part of her arc. She’s not a warrior in that respect. But then she swears to her brother (Jon gets to be all kinds of stupid and naïve without ever losing his power, mind you) that she won’t tell his secret, and five seconds later, she’s telling Tyrion.
And then there’s Brienne. Freaking Brienne of Tarth, after her huge, beautiful moment of becoming Ser Brienne of Tarth, gets reduced to a weeping wreck, wrapped in a Stark-style robe, begging Jaime not to leave her. What the actual fuck? One romp in the furs with the magical dick of gold and she’s no longer who she was? LOVE DOES NOT, SHOULD NOT DO THAT TO ANY WOMAN, least of all Brienne. And certainly not in the span of moments! It was ridiculous.
In today’s social and political climate, the women of the story losing the throne, losing their minds, losing their dignity, LOSING EVERYTHING THEY FOUGHT AND SACRIFICED FOR so that the Dude Who Doesn’t Really Want It can have it all stings so hard. And make no mistake, with the burning of King’s Landing, Dany will NEVER sit the Iron Throne. Never. So when she unleashed dragonfire down upon the city, we all knew it was the end for her. A couple of weeks ago, when the women saved Winterfell, we were given a token. As usual. What the men giveth, the men can taketh away. And it’s total bullshit.
Cersei, Dany, Sansa, Brienne, Arya–they all fought as hard, harder, than any man in the show. For their loved ones. For power. For their birthrights. For their honor. And now, with a pale bit of writing, they’re reduced to the same ineffectual female characters too often found in fantasy fiction.
All hail the power of the penis mightier (than the sword–get it? I stole it from Saturday Night Live. Jeopardy parody. Hey, it’s appropriate, in this context.) Maybe Arya (who rode out of Kings Landing on a white horse, no less) will be the one to save the day. Maybe she’ll sit the Iron Throne. Maybe Sansa will come down from Winterfell and do it. Maybe Cersei isn’t dead after all, will rise out of the rubble and reclaim Westeros. Anything is better, at this point, than Jon. (A character I’ve actually liked all along.)
And, to be honest, had all the stripping and demolishing of characters not happened, I’d have been ok with Jon on the Iron Throne. It’s where HIS arc has been going all along. And that’s the thing–all the male arcs have been built, remained consistent, and have–thus far–been believable. Yes, terrible things happen to the men too, so don’t even go there. Seriously, don’t. I remember Theon/Reek.
The old woman’s prophecy said Dany would attain the throne, and turn away from it. But the old gypsy said Cersei would die at the hand of her younger brother (another tidbit that got bandied about for apparently no reason) and that didn’t pan out, so prophecies come to pass as apparently randomly as they do in real life. Red herrings to throw us off the one Arya got from Melissandre, about her closing brown eyes (Walder Frey), blue eyes (Night King,) and green eyes (Dany? Cersei?) being real? Who knows? At this point, a lot has to happen in the final episode, but nothing is going to take the sting out of the way things have gone down these last two weeks.
Being the brutal optimist, I’m still crossing my fingers that a satisfactory ending is in hand, that the writers aren’t flubbing it completely, and have us all up in arms to make that BIG ENDING all the better.
We shall see.
(Thank you, Jen McConnell)
Spoon Theory: A disability metaphor and neologism used to explain the reduced amount of energy available for activities of living and productive tasks that may result from disability or chronic illness.
I typically have an abundance of spoons. Even through the worst of the worst in my life, I’ve always had spoons to spare, spoons to hand out to others. It’s just who I am. But once in a while, my subconscious tells me when I’m running low, that maybe I should just stop. Rest. Be kind to myself. I’m not always savvy enough to heed, and then my subconscious gets serious.
Those of you who know me have probably guessed that when my spoons are running low, I go quiet. I pull away from here, from friends, even from family. It’s not necessarily that I don’t want to worry anyone (though there is a bit of that in there) and more that I just can’t deal with “it” (whatever “it” is) taking up any more of my energy. But going quiet is the opposite of who I am, and it only works for so long.
We’ve been dealing with a lot here, chez DeFino. Frank’s consulting gig ended, and we are once again on that precipice. My uterus tried to kill me again. Let me tell you, losing that much blood over the course of four weeks takes its toll on body and mind.
And it was Christofer’s 29th birthday last week.
“Everything’s fine.” My stock phrase. I know, logically, that just because others have it worse than I do, suffered more, have less, struggle with issues far beyond my white, middle class world, doesn’t mean my experience isn’t valid. It doesn’t mean I have to smile through it all and thank my lucky stars. Here, my friends, there be dragons. And not the fun kind.
Everything is fine. Until it’s not fine.
I had a dream last week. Kind of. It was a memory, tossed out and clear as the moment it happened in striking, horrible detail. One that has blared through my brain, danced behind my eyes ever since. I suppose it’s my own form of PTSD, this flashback. It’s one that comes to me when I’m at my lowest in the spoon department, because it takes a whole fuck-ton of spoons to keep this demon at bay.
Eleven o’clock, and Chris still isn’t up. We have an appointment with the guy who makes the braces for his leg. I finish up an email and go to his door.
Knock, knock. “Hey, buddy, we have to go soon.”
No answer. He usually at least groans.
Knock, knock. “Hey, you alive in there?”
I take the “key” we keep over his door (he’s slept with it locked since he was a little kid, to keep the monsters and night-time robbers from getting him) and pop the lock.
The light is the first thing I see. That god-damn-fucking light. My heart bucks. He’s on his back, feet on the floor. There’s a needle on the bed beside him.
No. No, no, no, no, no.
I detach from myself. He’s cold. There is foam on his lips. The smell…sulphury. His skin feels greasy. I’m screaming. I don’t hear the screams. They’re out there, someplace, still echoing off those walls. I’m alone. Just me and my dead son.
I call 911. I’m still screaming. Into the phone. My son is dead! My son is dead!
“I’m so sorry,” she says. “I went through the same thing last year. I’m so sorry.”
These are the first words I remember. I must have given her the address, because the police officers are already at the door.
Since “dreaming” this last week, when my spoons were so low and I was still giving them out to others, this demon has come back to me and back to me. When I’m cooking. When I’m in the car. When I’m in the movie theater. Just creeps up on me, smacks me in the head and dances off. It leaves me shaky and teary, and I’ve been pushing it down and pushing it down. I don’t want anyone to see me cry. I don’t want anyone to know. Frank has it hard enough, right now. I don’t want my kids to worry, to know this demon lives in my head. Even now, as I write this, I’ve already texted them all to say, “Don’t read today’s blog post.” But they will.
So here it is. I don’t write this here so you’ll feel bad for me, or to make you cry. My demons are masochistic, and require a stage before they’ll leave me the fuck alone. I acknowledge this, because this is the consequence of going silent. I should know this by now. Maybe next time I’ll remember before my spoons run out.
Churning, something’s churning. Is that you,
Future, come to call? Knocking
at my door? Tickling
the glass? Let me in, let
me in. I’ve no hair on my chinny, chin, chin to
deny you entrance. You frighten me.
You’ve brought good, and
not so good. Horrendous, really.
That churning feels excited. It promises
something new, something
grand. But you’ve tricked me before,
fool me twice, and all that jazz.
You’ll get in, one way or another. I can
open the door, welcoming, give you
a plate of pasta, or some broccoli rabe.
I could try to bar the way, kick you and beat you back
but you’ll get in. You will, and then you’ll be vexed.
Are you set in stone? Or do I have some power
over you? A question Ages old, unanswerable. And yet–
There is only Future. Present already
has one foot in the grave the moment
it comes to be, and there it goes,
Already gone, that present at the start of this page. In
the Past, past, always the past. Memorable, not
relivable. Gone. Out of reach. So, come on at me
I open the door. Welcome! Welcome!
Have some pasta!
Give it all you got. Maybe we’ll even be friends. And
if we’re not, it’s on you; I tried.
I even made you broccoli rabe.
Grace visited over Christmas, and she brought her little one-eyed kitty, Pippin, with her. They were here for almost a week. When it was time for her to go back to Brooklyn, we were all sad to see them go, especially Toulouse, our five-year-old tabby.
He and Gyro play, but Gyro is a stately gentleman now, and isn’t much given to frolicking. Toulouse and Pippin played and played. When we got home from taking Grace and her kitty back to Brooklyn, our boy looked for his pal. And looked for him. It was really sad.
Frank and I started looking for a playmate for him, preferably around his age. We really didn’t want a kitten. Kittens always get adopted. Better to give an adult cat a home. So we looked. And looked. And worried about our ancient Roxie with any cat that came in as a stray, or from a hoarding situation. She is sixteen, and hasn’t had shots in a really long time. Not only is she impossible to catch, but–being as old and skinny as she is–she can’t really have shots safely anymore. As our cats are all indoor beasties, she’s fine.
We found a cat that had been in a home, and her owner died. Good compromise. We went to see her. She was not a good fit. She wouldn’t have been a pal for Toulouse, and that was our biggest reason for wanting another cat. (Though my kids will tell you it’s just my excuse…and they could be a little bit right, but not entirely.)
While we were at the AWS shelter in New Milford, we saw so many good kitties. So many. None of them, though, seemed like the right fit. I did want a cat, but only the RIGHT cat. Our balance is a good one, and I didn’t want to tip it.
And then we saw this little girl…
It’s not just that Coraline (yes, named for the Neil Gaiman character–she was born Halloween, so we needed something appropriate) is adorable, she just FIT. Sweet disposition, passed all her vet exams, had all her shots, not old enough to have picked up something that would harm ancient Roxie. AND–this was the clincher–the people who were supposed to take her had JUST THAT MOMENT decided not to. Black cats really do have a hard time getting adopted, and isn’t that just the silliest thing you’ve ever heard?
But a KITTEN??? I haven’t had a kitten this young in about thirty years. I’ve had four month old kittens, but not ten week old kittens. Not since beloved Sassafras, kitty of wonder, have I had one this small.
And that’s exactly why. Considering my Roxie is 16, Gyro is 9 and Toulouse is 5, and considering Frank and I are 68 and 54 respectively, this is in all likelihood our last shot at having a kitten. We’re committing to ten (if we’re not so lucky) to twenty years. If not now, when?
It’s only been a little more than 24 hours, but already she’s part of the pride. Toulouse LOVES her. They play and play, but he’s so gentle. Gyro is a bit of a grumpy grandpa, but he went nose to nose with her (and she licked his nose!) and he didn’t even hiss. He lets her know what he’ll tolerate and what he won’t, while Toulouse lets her do whatever the hell she wants. It’s adorable. Big daddy. He’s so sweet.
As for Roxie, well, of course, we’ve not seen a little grey whisker of her, but that’s not really news. We rarely do. I don’t think she’s happy about the kitten, but she’s generally not happy about much. Darling girl. I do love my Roxie-cat. She’ll come around.
So, here we go. A new adventure to go with all the other new adventures the last months have seen. Fingers crossed it’s yet another good one.
Their worlds and words are a part
of my days and my nights and my
in-betweens. They talk to me while
drive, and sleep. They give me
scenes and dialog and dilemmas; joy and sorrow and
horror. They give me
the impossible, and task me to make it plausible. At least
There’s Aggie and her mason jar, and
Rosemary’s wish, the one she won’t
take back. Then there’s
the woman who runs over the not-quite-a-man, in a town
on the edge
of forever. And crusty Queenie, who
never did much right, who
never thought it quite necessary, who
might manage to do some good.
There’s Yvonne and Jacob, back in 1949,
Bonnie-Jane and Hannelore, in 1985. And still,
in stories written and always calling, Nell and Ledanora,
Mabel and Frankie and Tracy. Back and back, to
Ethen and Zihariel, Linhare and Wait. There are
warriors and queens who knock on my skull–Remember us?
I do. I do. How can I forget? You were once
my everything. The foundation of
my everything. The beginning of
If not another book gets published, I will
write and write and write. There will be
mutiny, otherwise. Inside my head. In
dreams and waking. I’ll walk about like a character
from Wonderland, quite mad and rather glad to be so. Better
than the knowing, the abandoning, the void of a well
left to dry.
I prefer the parade never end, a continuous loop, of
characters and places already known, and those
slipping the red-ropes to join in, unannounced but
always welcome, to dance their dances and sing their songs, to
tell their tales and ask for my assistance in
ditching the parade for
I’ve been quiet here, lately. Not because of a lack of things to say, but quiet. I’ve started several posts, and abandoned them all. They’d burn hot, and burn out.
So many feels.
I miss my sons. All three of them. It’s not just because it’s the holiday season; I miss them always. It’s more keenly felt when getting together with family, when my brothers have all their kids and grandkids gathered ’round. It makes my missing boys all the more missing, you know? Two of them I can call. I’ll even see them on Facetime or in person at some point. Life happens. Lives are lived. I don’t begrudge them a single iota. In fact, it’s what I want most for all my kids–happy lives being lived on their own terms. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss them.
And then there’s the one I won’t see, but in dreams. I won’t hear his voice on the other end of a phone. I see dean’s list darlings on friends’ social media, and I get angry. My son was one of those, too. And then–poof–he was gone. I don’t begrudge my friends their happiness, their pride. I can’t help that it makes me equal parts sad.
Those are the reasons I’ve been quiet here. Happiness makes me sad. There you have it. But I have SO MUCH, too. I love my new home, my book is doing well, and I have the most adorable monster-grands, IMO, in the world. And I have my Frankie D who loves television Christmas movies, wears a Santa hat to work, and commutes five hours a day, three days a week to keep a roof over our heads. Thirty years with this man, and I love him more every day.
I have awesome brothers, and the sweetest sister ever. I still have both my parents, going strong. My kitties keep me entertained, and rife with cuddles. I get to write. Every day. I don’t even have to wear pants if I don’t want to–which means never.
I have a son in Portland, Oregon; he makes me so proud. He calls often. He misses us. But he’s happy. I know he is. And he has the perfect girlfriend. As much as I miss him, I’m glad he went across the country to figure out who he is, what he wants, far away from all the things that broke him, once.
I have a son (never a stepson, even if he’s not much younger than I am) living his best life. Two amazing daughters that keep him constantly moving (band!) I’m so proud of him, of the man he is. I wish I got to see him more, but when I do, it’s like no time has passed.
I have a son too far beyond my own realm of existence to see or touch or hear, but while I could, we spent a lifetime of time together, as if something knew it was all we were getting, so it squooshed it all into a shorter time-span. I’m so grateful for all that time, even if it wasn’t spent under the best of circumstances. Doctors and hospitals, therapy and lonely days–I treasure all those long conversations, some of which I’ll never understand. I don’t miss the bad times, but there were plenty of good in between, and I’m especially grateful for those.
And I have my girls. My amazing daughters. My best friends. Strong, resilient, caring, accomplished women. They work so hard. I am so proud of them. I get to see them both often, and talk to them nearly every day.
I tend not to write about my (living) kids much on these pages. They read this blog, and I don’t want to make them uncomfortable. Their lives are theirs, not mine to wax poetic over. But it’s the holiday season, and I’m feeling melancholy and hopeful and happy. And sad. I want them to know, though their brother always screamed loudest, though it might seem otherwise, he’s not always utmost on my mind. Quite the contrary, in fact. They’re my everything.
So, here’s to the happy times, to the sad times, to being able to do what you love, with the people you love most. Here’s to good friends, good times, and another year spent on this blue marble floating in space. And here’s to my kids–all five of them–and love so far beyond measure, it makes me dizzy to contemplate.
It happened just yesterday, in
a box store, I
whisked through the aisles, wanting
to be out of there quickly, and
slipped into a time pocket.
It only lasted a moment, long
enough to steal my breath, to
make my eyes water, to
send me back in time. Smoked salmon,
of all things. I’d
buy it for him, even though it was
he’d eat it all in one sitting, because…
just because. I
slipped into that time pocket, I
reached for it, my
hand snagged on a thread that
pulled me back, out of the pocket, to
the now where he’s not here to
eat the whole package
in one sitting, while
I watch indulgently on.
I got to be the guest of honor at another Senior Book Club yesterday, out in Stratford, CT. I love these groups. The insight, the wisdom, the open and genuine comments, questions, and understandings. They make me know I did a good job writing people their age in The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses). I get them! And they get me.
One thing that has cropped up time and again is a certain character’s uncanny cleverness, her ability to think and act quickly, her calculation. It doesn’t seem believable, or even feasible that a woman of her age and experience could come up with the plans she does, in the time she does it in.
I find this infinitely interesting, and slightly disheartening.
When I create a character or situation–unless it’s fantasy–I make sure there’s at least one instance I know of to give credence to a character trait, or a circumstance. There’s an adage that goes something like, “No matter what you can think up, there’s been weirder/sadder/horrific…er.” In the case of this character, I’ve known young women as clever, as calculated, and as quick as my character. They exist, most certainly, and outside of literature and movies.
We have no issue believing in Hermione Granger’s brillaince, but she’s from a fantasy world. Lisbeth Salander (Dragon Tattoo), but she’s a psycho. How about Young Sherlock Holmes? Hmmm…why is it so hard to believe? Is it because she’s female? Beautiful? Young? Too otherwise ordinary? All of the above?
I painted my character (Tressa) as a sheltered southern belle who looked and acted–outwardly–as one would expect. But I showed her doing things outside of that facade. In her background, she went to college when women of her place in society typically did so only as a “husband major.” She not only got accepted into college, but into a major largely reserved for men. She went out in search of her brother the moment she came into her inheritance at twenty-one, against her family’s wishes–something she’d been planning and working towards since she was little more than a child. Before she ever stepped foot on the page, she manipulated her circumstances, and the people she was supposedly obedient to, without anyone being the wiser. By these things alone, her cleverness should have been evident. When she does all she does in the body of the book, it comes off–to some–as unbelievable that a young woman her age could not only think it all up, but pull it off.
There are other questions that always come up–What actually happened to Enzo? is a big one. The question of my clever, cunning Tressa is one, I suppose, that strikes me as a surprising thing to question at all.
It makes me wonder how many others thought the same thing, and why. To be clear, I never have an issue with any nits or picks a reader has–all opinions are valid, whether or not I agree. It’s their take on things, from their perspectives. When I get a question, or read a review that gives me better understanding into minds that don’t think the way mine does, I’m truly grateful. It’s all fodder folks! All fodder.