Thursday Three #40

  1. I found the coolest thing: 4thewords. It’s a combined video game and writing tool. Basically, you write your project on their website, and the number of words you write allows you to create weapons and battle monsters. The only issue with it is that it’s only free for the 30-day trial. If you want to keep using the program, it’s $4 a month, which isn’t too bad. The idea is so cool that I’m actually considering it as a motivational tool.
  2. I’m reading Money: A Suicide Note by Martin Amis because I had heard good things about his writing (and because I got the book dirt cheap at a book sale). The genre is black humor, which often tends to go over my head, but I have been getting a few chuckles out of it. It’s about a man called John Self* who is (obviously) obsessed with money and (obviously) self-indulgence. The book seems like it’s a critique of the consumerist culture of the 1980s, and its lessons are still relevant (maybe even more so) today. I’d recommend it if you can stand some pretty X-rated sex scenes.
  3. I’ve resurrected an old project because I can’t not write fiction. (Come on, everyone needs a hobby, right?) Lest I jinx myself, I hesitate to say anything more about it, only that I’m really excited about it and hope to one day share it with you on here.

Hope everyone’s projects are going well, and that you’re reading some good books! 🙂

*The really weird thing is that John Self reminds me very much of Harvey Weinstein. It’s kind of creepy.

Not So Perfect

CAUTION: This post may contain spoilers!

I recently finished Julie Metz’s Perfection, which is a memoir about the author’s husband’s untimely death and its aftermath. While Metz was in the process of dealing with her husband’s death and parenting her little girl by herself, she learned the devastating fact that he had multiple affairs during their marriage.

At first, I liked and sympathized with the author; she reminded me of myself: an introverted writer whose roots are in both upstate New York and Manhattan. I loved how she tore into one of the women her husband had an affair with—a woman who had previously been one of her best friends. That must have taken some guts.

Metz has a wonderful writing style. She crafted the memoir so it read like a novel; the tiny details she chose to highlight added to the bigger picture of the book’s symbolism. Life really can be cinematic sometimes.

However, I was a little bothered by how blind Metz was to her husband’s infidelity and lack of confidence. How could she really believe that all of his flirtations with women were innocent? I also found it hard to believe because she herself had an affair with a married man before she married her husband. Perhaps that was sort of like a “karma” thing, but I don’t believe anyone deserves to be cheated on.

Much of the book chronicled Metz’s search for love after her husband’s death, and this mostly seemed to lead to a bunch of guys she slept with but to whom she had no commitment. I suppose that’s how one searches for the right person in the modern age, but I don’t see how sleeping with someone without having any intention of commitment is a good dating strategy, and I think Metz admitted as such in the book. Perhaps it was just an odd way of grieving.

By the end of the book, she did end up with another man who loved and respected her and, more importantly, was interested in and good at helping her raise her young daughter.

I found Perfection to be an entertaining read, but I didn’t particularly have admiration for the author or her choices by the end of it. She seemed to have learned and grown a lot from her experience, so maybe she published her memoir to warn other women about the ways of men. On the other hand, I imagine it would be difficult to advise another person not to date someone who will cheat on you, as you never know if or when that might happen, and there is little one can do to prevent it.

Metz’s husband was in fact diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, which essentially means his self-esteem was so low that he had constructed a falsely confident image of himself. He never liked to be left alone and always surrounded himself with people who would flatter him—notably women. Knowing that he had a bonafide disorder made me feel sorry for the guy but also made me wonder if Metz would have stayed with him and had sympathy for him had he still been alive when she found out about his affairs. She had said multiple times throughout the book that she wouldn’t have, but it still raised an interesting question for me: Can infidelity really be attributed to a personality disorder? Can it then be cured or possibly rehabilitated with cognitive behavioral therapy?

Even the woman Metz’s husband cheated on her with supposedly had borderline personality disorder, which caused her to be extremely clingy, emotionally volatile, and attention-seeking. By the end of the book, Metz hadn’t forgiven her and definitely hadn’t extended the hand of friendship again. I suppose it would be easier to forgive someone your husband slept with if you knew they had a legitimate problem, rather than if they cheated simply out of spite or because they just wanted to get in your husband’s pants because they were having a midlife crisis.

I’d read Perfection if you wanted a real-life soap opera to get involved in and wanted to ponder the intricacies of human relationships. But if you were looking for advice on relationships, I’d look elsewhere.

Harry Potter and “Diversity”

I used to be a pretty big Harry Potter fan until the books really started getting popular.* Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the books and movies, and the books did inspire some of my writing, but I never got as involved in the fandom as many others in my age group.

What bothers me most about the Harry Potter fandom is the push for “diversity” among the characters, or the laments by some fans about the lack of “diversity” in the characters or situations. A few years ago, J.K. Rowling announced that Albus Dumbledore was gay. My reaction was, “So what? Who cares? Why are we talking about this now, after the books have been published?” Albus Dumbledore’s sexuality doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the series at all. In a similar vein, we heard that Hermione Granger could have been black, because she was described in the book as having frizzy hair. Her skin color was never mentioned. Also, J.K. Rowling has said that Hogwarts was home to Jewish and LGBTQ students, although there’s not much (if any) mention of them in the books.

Honestly, I’m not sure why all this diversity stuff matters, especially in a book series that’s already been published and read by millions. I paid no attention it when I read the books when I was in middle and high school. I doubt it would have mattered to me if Hermione was black or if there were LGBTQ students. I wouldn’t have thought any differently about the series. So why is J.K. Rowling trying to go back and insert “diversity”? Can we not just enjoy the series for a spectacular plot and well-developed characters, not to mention that it got a whole generation of reluctant readers to actually pick up a book, rather than pick it apart because it’s all of a sudden not “diverse” enough?

I hate reading J.K. Rowling’s Twitter account because I strongly disagree with most of her social and political views, and it bothers me that those views have such importance and hold such weight in the minds of some of her fans. But that doesn’t make me dislike her books. Same with Stephen King—I love his books and always will, but his Twitter account and political views infuriate me and make me want to wring his neck. Sometimes his views and opinions influence his books, and sometimes they don’t. A good author can write from perspectives other than his own and pull it off well. It seems to me that Rowling and King do this… so what is the problem?

It is hard to avoid progressivism and “diversity” in the New York City publishing world, but I fail to see the point of picking apart already-published books just to make sure that they are conforming to the trend of the day, which is to make sure everybody and everything is “included,” lest we “offend” someone. New books with “diverse” characters are being published every day, especially those geared toward young adult audiences. Maybe someday in the near future, we will have another wildly popular series like Harry Potter but much more representative of all kinds of people. Until then, let’s wait patiently and not overanalyze a beloved series.

*I’m kind of weird because I tend to dislike things that are extremely popular (for no real reason other than that they are popular), so the more popular Harry Potter got, the more apathetic about it I became.