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[personal profile] gogollescent
So today I went with my mother to the town of Fiesole, which overlooks Florence from the north side and is generally a cool place to drop things off of, if you're in the mood for that. It was lovely! My favorite part of the visit was the local monastery, apparently the one-time haunt of Saint Bernardino of Siena--looking him up now, he preached against "gambling, witchcraft, sodomy, and usury," so I'm not sure how many interests we have in common, but his cell was interesting. My mom and I went in and took a picture of ourselves standing in front of the horrible plank bed and I called it a CELLfie. And she said she would lock me in there, which was very cruel.

...okay, I'm severely out of practice with macroblogging, but let me try on a transition. The other thing about Fiesole is that, because it is very high up and you can see all the way down to the city, it reminded me of a favorite book I had not read in a very long time--Dr. Seuss's esteemed The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. Which as you literati will know begins with a description of a view from a considerable summit. Not the point! The point is, after being reminded of that, I began to reflect on the mystery that is my enormous affection for Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, not only as a feat of revisionism and prose styling, but as an object to drag around rereading constantly. I mean, I don't exactly have high standards for that category! I will reread anything. I have made countless treks through David Clement-Davies' masterwork of Christian wolf iconography, The Sight. But still, Wolf Hall is probably the one I've come back to most of recent reads, and it's definite comfort food at this point, I just find it soothing to nestle down into its luxurious descriptions of taxes and death. And today I also realized that it is basically a retelling of The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins! Where the hats are "skillsets mastered in Italy," or "feelings of despair and a desire for vengeance against the cardinal's murderers," or "possible women for Henry to speed-date." You know?

I kind of like the last one because it captures the end-game love interest swap that occurs between Cromwell and Henry and Jane. The mental images, though, are a little precarious. (Bring Up The Bodies, subtitled: Bartholomew and the Adultery.)

WAIT. DON'T LEAVE. I have so many more absurd comparisons to get through. No, actually, the last thing I told myself I would talk about in this embarrassingly premeditated blog post, as I strolled down the Tuscan mountainside... well, it is a set of absurd comparisons. Specifically, I've been thinking about this issue in fiction of Tradition Vs. Progress, or fate and free will.

Not that those are equivalent binaries in real life; but in narrative, where character autonomy is more like auTHORnomy is at best automation, you don't defy fate so much as you trade it in for a sexier option. Right? So not unlike the rhetorical chicanery surrounding change and conservatism in that sense. I have gone on about this long enough to very unlucky listeners, but a partial failure to admit that basic truth was my primary problem with Princess Tutu. To me, a story about how you have to fight stories is incoherent, just by its nature, unless it's more specific in defining which structures are untenable and which could be redeemed by a good copyeditor. Which Tutu makes gestures towards doing, but... it's not quite enough for me. And I have related issues with the comically-compressed toy Enlightenment that takes place over the course of the Discworld series, where cool devices come to be thanks to the sleeting grains of inspiration, and not, e.g., decades of tinkering and research, or our entire history of tinkering and research. Basically, new things just happen, arrived in time to burn away an ancient wrong: while the narration in both the Discworld books and Tutu is intermittently capable of acknowledging some hazy relationship between the missteps of the past and tomorrow's rosebuds, it is always ready to skim over that tie's exact implications, when a more combative form of commentary becomes available. FIGHT THE STORY. DANCE YOUR HEART OUT. DOWN WITH THE DEEP-DOWN DWARVES.

What most frustrates me about this kind of--sly push, towards pretending that any innovation is pure--is that it's lazy. It's a trick that (ironically enough) works because it has entertainment value, not because it's an accurate representation of reality. Like the additive inverse of Times articles about The Me Generation. And it's unnecessary: surely we can acknowledge that all reform arises out of, and in reaction to, the loathsome detritus of history, without impugning its necessity? blah blah blah pretending otherwise is shooting yourself in the foot with LIES. Or something.

Anyway, that's one reason I've been kind of charmed by recent updates in the Attack on Titan manga! /drops pretense of objectivity on foot. This is probably a sign that I should read more post-apocalyptic fiction? But it's nice to see the loss of history be mentioned in the same breath as the suppression of engineering advances, and to get this overwhelming sense that the barrenness of the world we're presented with is not just the result of, like, fearful stagnation, hidebound human hermit crabs retreating to what they know, but actually a constructed and difficult-to-sustain sterility, quite at odds with the impulses of the people it holds prisoner. And part of the way you control those impulses is by forcing their owners to reinvent the wheel over and over, rather than giving them access to whatever came before. At least until subtly-named Historia takes the throne, ha ha. Oh god I'm so excited for Historia to take the throne. I feel like--you know something, I have endless sullen complaints about recent Historia meta in regards to chapters 55 and 56, I am discontented with everything: the idea that any deviation from the 12-step program towards selfish enlightenment Ymir gave her can somehow make less meaningful or hopeful her and Ymir's arc up to this point; the idea that she has been stripped of selfhood by Levi, rather than, er, you know--her selfhood has been ignored! run rough-shod over! And yet placed center stage, narratively, as the continuing subject of evolution and complication, as one of the series' apparent sticking points. I mean, I'm not here to congratulate Isayama for any of this: one of the gallows-humorous things about SNK's recent concern with censorship and progress is that it's written by someone laboring under such hideous misapprehensions about his own national history, and, in the same vein, SNK is hardly feminist gold. But... even leaving aside my questions about what kind of story-driving conflict it would be acceptable for Historia to face, if she can't wrestle with kingship or an ultimatum-dangling superior officer, I have to wonder how she's supposed to attain happiness and self-knowledge without getting resolution on her horrifying childhood/the circumstances that led to it. And surely, to do that, she'll have to utilize her inheritance? Building on her history, just like the rest of them.

god one day I will be something other than a repository of gripes. I WAS GOING TO HAVE A BIT HERE TO WRAP EVERYTHING UP, ABOUT HOW THIS IS SOMETHING THAT WOLF HALL WALKS AN INTERESTING MIDDLE ROAD ON, AND DOES SO BEAUTIFULLY, MUCH LIKE ME BALANCING ON THE MONKS' GARDEN WALL TODAY, FEELING THE WEIGHT OF ... but then it got late. I'm going. I'm going. thank you and goodbye.

Date: 2014-04-16 11:51 am (UTC)
hedda62: my cat asleep (Default)
From: [personal profile] hedda62
I love your Wolf Hall/Bartholomew Cubbins equivalence; it's beautiful and perfect. Except for the ending to the trilogy, of course, but Dr. Seuss didn't write that one.

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