Recently finished my first novel by Sebastian Faulks, On Green Dolphin Street. Not a word of criticism for the style of writing or the obvious knowledge and skill that went into it, but I've realized that beyond my old genre biases, I have another handicap when it comes to enjoying an excellent book: I can't sympathize with a fictional case of adultery. I'm sure that's partially due to my holier-than-thou distaste for cheating in real life, an offense on par with bank robbing, or being mean to Fluttershy. But I also see it as a logical fallacy. The characters will always justify it, accept that it can't be justified, meditate on the marriage being a mistake, or point to the new love as the greater good, but ultimately everything comes across as puppeteering. She can't help the way she feels, he needs to see her again, we must keep this a secret. They never kiss because they want to; they kiss because they have no choice.
So naturally that got me thinking about shipping. Why do so many of us look down our noses at stories of predestined love, when so few of us react to characters being pushed around by their own emotions? If he really has no choice but to give in to his wild impulse and lay his lips on her equally helpless ones, how is that any more dramatic than being set up by supernatural forces? The same scene could happen after he weighed his options and decided that the pleasure of kissing her was worth the risk of hurting his wife and ruining his marriage, but then I bet I won't be the only one who can't sympathize. Culpability, apparently, puts a damper on romance. There's always some measure of guilt, sometimes massive guilt, but that never works for me either. If you feel so badly about what you're doing, why do you keep doing it?
Next book I picked up was We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. All I had heard about this one was that it's brutal, it's terrifying, it's torturous. It's all of those things. I absolutely adored it. I'm not sure what it says about me that a depressing book doesn't depress me, but I tore through that sucker with that same kind of "when I finish my responsibilities I can go back to it!" fervor that a teenager has for a video game, and if anything, I was happy because I was reading a good book. Obligatory warning labels should go here for anyone sensitive to violence or child abuse (not that simple, but spoilers could wreck this one), but if you want to be forced to confront some incredibly painful questions and not get any answers for them, this is your ticket. It's also written with extraordinarily vivid language, and the narrator is one of the most fully realized, complex, believable female characters I've ever found in a novel.
Apparently there's a movie! Looks like it kept pretty close to the source material so I'm curious, but on the other hand, the movie I saw last night has renewed my frustration at adaptations, so let's move onto that.
However you choose to approach it, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is brilliant. Read it when you're young and it sticks with you your entire life, whether you're into the sci-fi setting, the war games, the psychology, the characterization, the twist, the moral ambiguity, or just because, like me above, you like reading a good book. When you've loved a story for 15+ years and it's finally turned into a movie, it's inevitable that seeing it on the screen is a little bit magical and always kinda worth it even if you won't say so, and also inevitable that a lot is going to disappoint you. Well, just about everything in this one disappointed me. Everything that set the book apart from your standard space thriller was removed. The kids weren't bad actors, but they weren't recognizable. I concede that the movie was crippled because it couldn't show the years of Ender's life going by as the battle school shaped him, but there were ample opportunities to give a scene real depth and those weren't taken. Instead of Valentine and Peter forging an uneasy alliance to create Locke and Demosthenes, we got a sappy big sister and a one-dimensional bully. Instead of Ender quietly discovering that he's history's first xenocide, we got a petulant speech about how mean Harrison Ford is and the discovery of a dying bug.
If there's anyone else here with a long-time love affair with the book, I could use some geek solidarity. I was the only one in the theater guffawing when the classic line defining Ender's military genius, "The enemy's gate is down," was watered down into Bean offering "Maybe the enemy's gate is down!" while bouncing around the battle room, and I'd like to rant/chuckle about that without launching into a detailed explanation (cuz you know I will).
Finished as much of Being Human as is currently available on Netflix. Satisfied with it, not sure where they're going to go for the final season, looking forward to it but not impatiently. Next I might knock Bones out of the way; I could go for some brainless fun. It's got to be at least a little bit fun, right?