Storied Formation: Tender Morsels

Friday, August 19, 2011

I know I didn't tell you the book in the last post.  But then again, I am a contrarian doxy and did this purposely so the handful of you would come back to hear the rest of the story midst my mental meanderings.

Have you ever wondered what two friends doing their PhD's email about?  Here is Maija:
(oh, we memory detectives sally forth under the tutelage of tsw... pointing out everyone's storied formation and its meaning. shit, there's a detective novel there dawn... let's write one!)
Which elucidated this from me:
I laughed at your idea of us writing a Storied Formation detective novel. With an audience of Zero.
And then we began furiously emailing about Singularity and my stance that: "I don't know that we can create thinking machines, or tolerate them existing.  As such this is why virtual reality and special effects do nothing to move me. It is not real, despite what it wishes.  It simply re-mediates reality. 

But were it to happen? Then yes. Machines would move far faster that humans, for we are bound by culture. We can not move faster than culture and it is bound by humans. "

I know, right? Hold off on that flood of dinner party invitations for the sparkling wits, Maija and Dawn and their ever so interesting to others conversations on things Not related to their dissertations

But I digress. 

The Book that crushed me? Blasted and etched itself into my most heavily fortified spaces?

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan.

As a child, I particularly loved the Lang Fairy Books. At first I was annoyed when I would notice story elements repeat over tales from different cultures.  Later it became a tool I would use to relate one story - one culture - to another. It was in those books that I began to understand the inextricable quality of story to culture and that culture is more similar than dissimilar despite where the culture is geographically situated.

The story - and I am by no means intending to write a "review" of the book - combines two fairy tales in my mind- East of the Sun, West of the Moon and Snow White and Rose Red.  (The real one, people. No prettied up shit here)

The objections that got this book booted from the list are spurious, at best. There is rape. There is incest. There is abortion. However, to quantify the essence of a story by the objectionable events located within the pages is so ridiculous as to be grotesque. I can think of one in particular (cough cough) which is held up to justify all sorts of immoral shit that exists between it's own pages - some pretty heinous buggery going down there.

I won't offer you story synopsis as you can get that on other sites written by people far better skilled than I. But bear with me as I deconstruct and attempt to articulate what moved me to dissolve in tears.

This has proved uncommonly thornish for me to express.  Which is, of itself, a perplexion - for I am rarely without words to describe.  I can only surmise that this is still  fresh, so close to my bone that I must cleave the words from a place particularly safeguarded and so I feel an uncustomary reticence.

Bear with me, I beg you.

There were two distinct messages that I received from Tender Morsels. In one, I cried as a Mother. In the other, I cried as a Woman.

Mother First:

The mother in this story goes to extraordinary lengths to keep her daughters from the pain of how they were conceived ( through incest, and then a gang rape). Far more than the societal shame ( although she fears that too), the mother seeks to raise her girls in a world without emotional discomfort.

Why did this make me cry?

Partly it is the understanding of the desire to keep from your child, your daughter, the terrors of the world.  The lengths to which you will go to protect, the careful manipulation of the world so that they see no ugliness, no gangs of boys, no fathers who molest. You do not want them to worry about walking home at night, or how their clothes may be interpreted in ways that could make them vulnerable to rape.

You want them to believe that they are strong and capable and will be given fair opportunities in life, work and relationships.You want them to know that their beauty does not come from some external measure of pretty. That the people they love will love them and never hurt them with forethought and malice.

Would I give up my life to protect Emily from pain?

There is a recurring nightmare I used to have when she was a toddler. In it, masked assailants would break into our house and I would bargain with them to not hurt her - to take me, rape me instead of her. I would tell her to run.  I wanted to bear it all in place of her.

It is much, much more than an issue of life as animation of flesh, a beating heart and synapses firing. In fact, the issue of life as physical animal seems inconsequential.

It is more an issue of standing still, locking your brakes into place and holding - gritting your teeth and holding, even as your brakes wear down and the smoke coming off them chokes you.

Would I stand still in my life to protect her - holding everything in a 1998 pattern to provide her with a sanctum? Even at the expense of Me?

What do you think? Would you? Have you? Have I? How many of us do just this - hang onto our illusion of security and normalcy far beyond it's usefulness, and further beyond natural endings?

The author wasn't done with me, I fear. No. She was pulling back her hammer for the next blow.


I confess that in my past year, as I rended and gnashed and poured ashes on my hair, I'd retained an idea that I deserved happiness. That I - of anyone I knew, More than anyone I knew - Deserved Happiness.  In every regard.  I guarded that idea like a virulent envy. Even as I had my body deconstructed and knit back together, even as my Wendy stitched my shadow back onto my self, I held onto this. I deserve to be happy.

Then I read this:

You may never be entirely happy; few people are. You may never achieve your heart's desire in this world, for people seldom do. Sit by enough deathbeds, Branza, and you will hear your fill of stories of missed chances, and wrong turnings and spurned opportunities for love. It is required of you only to be here, not be happy."

and like a thump in the gut, I disintegrated.


I read it again.  And cried.

The truth that fills that last sentence is so monumental that it still takes my breath away.  As ridiculous as it sounds, I made that sentence my screen saver so I can see it over and over: a scrolling mantra.

My happiness is not required. It is not obligated. I deserve no more than any other person living, and some may say that for my privilege of race and education that I deserve less.

It is a truth I have always peripherally known, but lost along the way while listening to whisper promises. My serpent promising me the apple.

The deed of which I am supremely liable is in not being Here.  Of removing myself to my own hearts desire in my head for too long and too often over this past year.

I failed myself in allowing me to linger in that other place. Perhaps it was a necessary part of healing. I can't be sure.

What I do know is that the rubble over which  I have lingered, turning over rocks and crooning my songs of loss, is being cleared. The patterns of treading water, of locking my burning brakes is done.

It is my time to re-build.

3 Baleful Regards:

Sharlene said...

Good luck to you. I hope that you find peace, for you and your family.

Kate Dino said...

Profound and true, esp re the HERE. I struggle with being HERE and accepting the here over mourning the what-should-have-been.

Dawn said...

Thank you Sharlene - but I think it is not as important for me to have peace, per se. I

What I am doing is hard - fucking hard. Detangling, setting to rights, scrubbing down. It is the least peaceful I have felt in years, but it doesn't feel onerous ( which the peace of my hearts-desire place became)

While I am not setting fire to my ship before I get to shore, I am acknowledging that the journey is coming to an end. And planning for the next step.

@Kate - Yes. The what-should-have-been, the what-could-have-been. Dragged me down quite the rabbit hole.

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