"I sighed, looking around at the rest of the class smiling and snickering at me, and got up slowly, looking right at Mister Braun. That’s when one of the boys behind me said, “Why do we even have kids like him in our class, Mister Braun?”
He turned slowly to the boy. “Wait. What did you say, Mister Hill?”
“Kids like him, they aren’t worth anything.”
My eyes widened. My fists clenched almost naturally, and I could feel my pulse in my Adam’s apple. “What?” I whispered."
- Having trouble wording today. Working through it.
- Not trying to push anything by saying this, but I don’t like the idea that the singular elements of fiction are not worth critique. I don’t know, but I find that to be a really flippant way to look at the singular elements of fiction as they come together to be a whole. If a tool isn’t supposed to be one of the judges of a piece of fiction, then you would be able to take it out and it’d be the same book. And if we’re reading books where any singular element can be removed and the book would not have gained or lost value, then we’re saying any good book is just as significant as not having read a story at all. Every piece of a story is a tool. I mean, that’s how we discuss lit - a book is made up of chapters, which are made up of scenes, which are made up of actions, which are made up of characters, which are made up of their motivations; and you inspect each one closely, individually and in concert, to put the whole book back together as a thing. If I’m not supposed to think something about those pieces, then why are they there? If a book is just this thing, this kind of monolith that comes out fully-formed, not of interlocking parts but just one part as a thing, then characters don’t grow, settings don’t change, and conflicts don’t need resolution - they’re all the same. Nothing has to, or really does, change. And I don’t like that. I dunno.
41543. Did I mention I’m bad at wording tonight?
If a house is its bricks upon concrete
upon a space and within space
and with space,
and a home is a house that is filled
with people and hope;
if an LP is plastic bound with tracks,
and a track is a song, and
a song is lyrics and melody,
and a lyric is made of portions
of words, and a melody
staples sound upon a stave;
if a poem is comprised
of words, cut finely into
its lines according to pressure;
then what is a novel
if not bricked by paragraphs,
all of which must have the best sentence
before a wall comes down?
If I can shoot through one brick,
someone can die in that novel.
We cut apart tools
because any tool that can be broken
does a bad job of putting together
the made thing.
Things can only be made up
If I can’t say now that a limb is
broken or a heart corrupted,
then I can’t say how one will
die upon the heap of those
Any part of it
is it, is still something
someone thought made the whole
I’ll look at it.
It hasn’t been covered,
hasn’t been hidden,
and no one will replace that brick.
That means something.
If, after all,
not one sliver of a scene deserves scrutiny,
then what are you getting at when
you make? Are all your characters the same
thing, and all your settings the same time?
I’ll assume no one learns or is
challenged in your work, then,
if that’s fair.
Nothing is worth scrutiny.
Everything is on the same plane,
and you’ll do best
to remember how far the goalposts
shifted all that time
when you could have just admitted
that if someone can put a hole through a house
we’d all be in danger of being stabbed.
international-nerd said: In general agreement with the we should call him on it and let him see he made a mistake but disagree with the bit where you seem to say that the scene is entirely down to characterisation when Green’s been quoted saying that he values that practice.
I don’t mean at all to discount Green’s own words on the matter. It’s still incredibly problematic that he has said he considers something like that valuable. It is on that matter that I say that he made a mistake and deserves to own up to it.
I guess this is where I admit that maybe I’m being tainted by my connection to his work? Or projecting thoughts about my current work-in-progress onto the debate? I dunno. But I feel like the way he phrased it can still be interpreted as what he wanted Hazel to idealize rather than what he personally idealizes, which is part of my concern in particular?
I think the only reason I’m not outright reblogging peachmelbatoast's incredibly astute critique of the Anne Frank House scene in John Green's The Fault In Our Stars (which I found here through my friend international-nerd) is because I still think there are disconnects:
- between a American Christian white cisheterosexual male author making a mistake and the above being set in one’s ways,
- between kids giving themselves noble reasons to be stupid and kids who just want to be stupid,
- and between a novel that glorifies a mistake and a novel that leaves a character’s mistake as is for consumption.
None of which are admonitions of ‘toast, by the way. Just want to be clear about that one thing. ‘toast was 100 on that post, no doubt.
I am not saying, especially in the latter, that the scene is cool or particularly valuable (it informs, to me, very little of the entire novel). I am saying, though, that just because something problematic exists in a work without question still does not mean, at least to me, that they genuinely refuse to acknowledge the worth of these critiques.
I agree with ‘toast’s appraisal of the scene. When I read it, I had qualms with the idea that this was something someone should do in a somber space (I’m sure it isn’t equally moving, after all, to do this at a funeral).
I still really enjoy the book. It as a novel, and Green as an author, are still top-tier for me. But I don’t excuse those errors.
Which leads to my next observable disconnect:
- between fans of a work that acknowledge its pernicious traits, and people who use the mistakes that privileged people make to justify hatred.
I heard that you passed
near my mother at the dinner table
as if it were part of a flippant list:
"Have you caught up on the latest
episode of Star-Crossed, Brandon?
Can I ask you to wash this
plate for me, Brandon?
Oh, and by the way,
Brandon, I heard your father’s
dead, do you want to
go to the funeral, Brandon?”
I racked my heart
for an hour
to find some sliver of sensation
that sons send forth to fathers,
and my chest is still a desert,
dry bone where tears would be,
I was actually kind of relieved.
I heard even
the saddest sisters of mine
double-dutch to better songs than
I could sing:
love you, love you, love you,
he did, he did, he did;
he stood high above you,
you were just a little kid;
they could say even the shadows
of their truancies
were the best daddy in the
when what I had was a woman
who loved to slap first
because the Mothers’ Union said that was what motherhood was,
and to her side, out of the frame
of the photograph, a looming
gap that I was assumed to fall into.
how it feels
to be a child o’ his
was sharp and shouting,
rude and wondering -
I had names for my first daughter
when I was twelve
because I decided I wasn’t going to be Mister Jones
when I was ten
because I was told I was half of
Mister Jones anyway.
I was what grew
when the farmer that planted me
refused to tend.
I was either a picked plant
or a weed.
My mother said
you never RSVP’d my christening.
I can deal with
not coming to parents’ days - my mother
sat with us every night
and couldn’t even manage that.
I can deal with
missing confirmation - I regret
the thing, and I’d regret more
having to say so to one more person.
I don’t even think you
had to see me emerge from the
well all stupid and happy
like other men do,
life can be busy sometimes,
I can’t assume your days.
But you missed the day
I was cursed with such a middle-of-the-road name as
hill of straw
so fragile that the whistling whims of others
could rock me past
I could have been a Peter
or at least something separate from my brother
if you’d just answer your phone
every once in a while.
a song for me
and I won’t get to tell you to your face
what that means as
triumphantly as I had planned it in my head.
I want to hate you,
but all your teeth and hopelessness
have already faded away
in my chest,
you’re barely an eaten coffin,
you’re barely an ethereal thing,
I may even forget your name one day.
I want to say I miss you.
I want so badly to not come across
as bitter over your dirt,
but I must decline an invitation
to see you disappear.
The walls of my bedroom
have heard me shout you down
so often they know what to ask me next,
who gave you an axe to grind,
who gave you a path to find?
I had sharpened my pencils for
all my youth on the notion
of what I’d have to be to not
be you to my children,
and followed those lead lines to who
I am right now,
fearful and easy to hit.
who gave you a row to hoe,
who gave you your sorrow?
I could have grown
into something lily-white
if you could have at least
tried to meet me halfway,
in my books, in my card games,
in my dreams.
who gave you the break of dawn,
a pleasure just to look upon?
It wasn’t you,
and the person who had isn’t here either,
the past few days have been rainclouds all.
who gave you a barn to build,
and an empty page to fill?
I sleep here,
this white lined linen is my bedsheet,
it’s been here all the nights
you forgot my name.
I’ve already an appointment
for its warmth.
I will not be able to make
I wrote a letter to myself
four years ago saying
I would never be able to live without
another hit of this.
I wrote a letter saying
if ever I found myself in a time
when addiction disconnected
and I was going fine in the future
without the feel of her sting
rushing into blood,
then a part of me would
pull at the loose threads of time
til it came apart
just above the head of the past
so it could tell once-me
that now-me had made some mistake
and only for the sake of one-day-me’s future
we should go back to that dark place
where I found the love I thought I wanted
rushing over my skin like madness;
I wrote a letter to myself
saying that I had no right
to cleanse myself of this
wretched feeling dining on my spirit from within.
Damn the man who wrote it,
damn the life he thought he lived
if he held his breath and thought ‘love, love’
out loud long enough that he’d feel better.
He never felt better.
He still felt ashy and
broken, he knew this high wouldn’t last.
And then the future came.