Archives for the month of: May, 2015

What turned me onto this book were recommendations from others. When people found out I was interested in writing On Writing came up. More than once, with glowing enthusiasm, and I’m so glad it did.

It’s not a story. It doesn’t have a plot. It’s not fantasy. All of these things made me hesitant and unsure about how much I would enjoy the read; it sat in a pile in my bedroom for too many weeks before the spine was cracked—and even then, only hesitantly. I always figured it would be worthwhile—it was Stephen King for christ’s sake—and although I’d never read him before, I’d always meant to. But a book about writing, something akin to essay writing, doesn’t have the same sort of pull others do.

I was absurdly wrong.

His writing is hilarious. His intelligence burns behind his words. On Writing’s got a comical autobiographical beginning that is punctured with sass, crass, and childhood accidents. Now that I’ve started reading one of his stories I can see how his life pre-writing-career affects his characters and his stories. His grit is bound up in reality and his own personality.

The latter half of the book is dedicated to language. It’s insightful, it’s vague where it should be (good writing doesn’t play by any One’s rules), it’s clear where it can be, and it’s packed with morsels of gold.

An important note: Stephen King is a prolific writer. He has a multitude of books, each of it’s own importance in literature. He does not write spoiler alert before talking about the process, start to finish, of writing of his stories; including the ends of them. Having never read one of his stories, I can now accurately tell you some endings and pivotal plot points in a certain few of his books. The Stand (currently on my bedside table with a bookmark stuck into the 167th page), and Misery, are two that come immediately to mind. He did so with well intended purpose, and the examples gave life to his points. Nevertheless, if you are a fan, and a fan who has not read all 53 of his other novels, I warn you. He only mentioned a small fraction of them, but he did mention some.

I’m not sure I recommend this to non-writers, or at least people who aren’t interested in the craft on some fundamental level.

If you are, however, this is not a book to disregard or overlook. It’s not a bore. Once I started it, I finished it quickly. It’s well written. It’s to the point. It’s intelligent.

And for the aspirant writer—it’s a must read.

This isn’t a comment on the portrayal of sexual violence in the media. This isn’t about the tact of A Game of Thrones. This is, however, a defense of the character Sansa Stark.

I’m not sure we’ve given her enough credit after last week’s episode, Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken. We being, by and large, the Internet: the fans, the commenter’s, the watchers, (or previous watchers), of the show.

Spoilers ahead.

The ending scene was horrific to watch. It left my stomach in a twist, a feeling that didn’t relax until long after the screen had gone silent. I reiterate: that is not a comment about the integrity of the show. My reaction had nothing to do with that. It had everything to do with the horrific scene. It was brutal. No one has argued that it wasn’t.

Now, let’s rewind. There’s the scene where Sansa is in the tub and Myranda is warning her about Ramsay’s past tendencies. We get a brief view of Sansa’s new and improved character with her line, “And how long have you loved him, Myranda? I’m Sansa Stark of Winterfell. This is my home, and you can’t frighten me.” It’s awesome. I cheered a little when I heard it. She’s so far removed from the little girl who confessed her love for Joffrey and dreamed of having his blonde haired children.

Okay, fast forward to the wedding. Sansa is hesitant, very hesitant, throughout the ceremony. She even takes her time saying the North’s equivalent of “I do.” She doesn’t have to say it. I’m not sure what would have happened if she hadn’t. But Ramsay’s face sure showed he would not have been happy had she declined him. He seemed to think she could have. That makes me think he doesn’t have much power over her. Yet.

Nonetheless, Sansa made a decision. She weighed the information she had. She saw a glimpse of Ramsay’s cruelty towards Theon in the dining room. She was warned. She’s seen the shaking, stuttering, mess Theon has become under Ramsay’s ‘care.’ Sansa knew, to an extent how, awful Ramsay really is. And she made a choice. It was a dreadful decision, but a choice nonetheless.

Remember her hesitation. What was going through her head? Her options, of course.

Okay, fast forward further. At the beginning of that dreadful scene when she starts to tug at her sleeve, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one hoping she was going to pull a knife out of there. The new and improved Sansa Stark would become a murderer, a gruesome choice, but the monster Ramsay Bolton would be stopped from enjoying any more hunts ever again. Yes, it would have been lovely. But then… what? Roose Bolton wouldn’t just let her have Winterfell after she’d killed his son. So, she escapes? How? Could we really expect Theon to just be released from his crippling torment now that Ramsay is gone? That’s a bit ridiculous, don’t you think? Could we expect Bolton to let her run off? No, there’d be hounds, there’d be mounted knights, there’d be a very thorough search sent on her heels. And where would Sansa be able to run to? No, she would have to kill Roose too, and quickly. So she sneaks into his guarded bedroom (Winterfell is full of people who hate the Bolton’s remember) and slits his throat too? Come on. Killing the Bolton’s would never be that easy. That’s part of why we like Game of Thrones isn’t it? It’s realistic because it’s complicated.

Sansa hesitated. She weighed her options. Saying no would severely affect her position at Winterfell, as would killing Ramsay. She was alone, with little help around her. The Starks may still have friends at Winterfell, but that’s hardly a safe bet against the Boltons. So, with her choices in mind, did Sansa run from what little positional power she had?

No, Sansa was playing the game.

I’m not suggesting Sansa chose to be raped. I’m offering that she understood the world she lived in enough to know what she might be putting herself through. And she knew the man she was marrying was not a good one. The marriage night she would undoubtedly have to suffer (though the magnitude of that suffering I think may have come as a shock, Theon bearing witness etc.) was part of the consequences she expected. I think she made a calculated decision. She could have hidden a knife up her sleeve, she probably even thought about it. And I have no doubts that she would have used it. Nope, none at all.

Sansa isn’t just the victim anymore. We just need to give her the time and space to prove it.

Now, if I can step back into the broader plot for a moment. Littlefinger left her in a despicable position. And though I’m sure he didn’t not know the circumstances he left Sansa in, (he is Littlefinger after all) I’m not sure he knew how much it would cost her, and by consequence, what it would cost him.

We all know he’s a creep, most of Westeros does too. I’m not entirely sure Sansa knows it, but whether or not she does, this is surely going to be a serious point of contention. He left her with the Boltons, and with very few options. She needs to get away from Littlefinger, and eventually she will. I think this might be the catalyst to that.

Sansa is becoming an independent thinker, an independent player, and I don’t think Littlefinger realizes it. He might, though, when he comes back and her own planning, her own resources, have had time to take root and his no longer fit in with hers. What’s more, she won’t care.

However it happens, it’s going to be a beautiful moment when she’s an autonomous mastermind of her own. And my point is that it’s coming.

I want to try something different.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been trying to cut television out of my life. For good. For 20 years we’ve been involved in an unhealthy relationship. It’s been intense. It’s been time engulfing. And it’s been lethargic.

Well, I’m finally cutting that fat away. Or at least trying to.

(Note: This comes with one exception. Game of thrones will never, and I do mean never, be a waste of my time. For that reason I will always, and with a happy conscience, watch that show. Even if it’s the tenth time I’ve seen an episode. Even when they receive such profoundly negative flack for their portrayals of sexual violence or other such sensitive subjects. Game of thrones and I have had a great relationship from the start and I’m not sure D&D—and definitely not Martin—could do much to make me break up with it. That isn’t a promise so much as it’s a fact.)

I must admit I haven’t been as cold with my turkey as I planned, or at least hoped. But I’ve been much better. And so I’ve been left with shockingly lengthy days and not much to fill them with. Who knew a day could hold so much time?

I’m on summer vacation. There are jobs to be done, family to visit, and sun to be soaked up. It’s been glorious, though not as busy as I am used to being as a student with a part time job and an extra course load. So, what else is an aspiring writer to do? First, drink more coffee, (though I hardly need the extra caffeine boost these days). Second, read. Read a lot. Then read more. And third, well, write of course. Then rinse and repeat. The three go delectably well together if you ask me.

So I’ve been reading a lot. Big whoop. Except that I’ve decided I want to share what I’ve read. And so this is where you come in. In the past few weeks I’ve read a total of 3 and a half books. Most of which I started at some point over the school year but never had time to finish. Some were better than others. But all (so far) have been worthwhile.

Here, under the category ‘On My Shelf,’ I plan to tell you why; in other words, whether or not I leave this book on the shelf in the living room for people to see, or if it goes into the box bound for the second hand bookstore. You don’t have to read the books after; you don’t have to like my reviews or even agree with them. Heck, you don’t even have to read them. But they’ll be here in case you’re interested. And maybe I can convince a few of you to read the books I enjoyed, or even loved. And I hope you end up loving them too. Either way, you can always leave me a lengthy comment explaining why you don’t.

This, I think, is going to be loads of fun.