The Problem with Locke Lamora

This is not an easy post for me to write. If you’re not into any kind of personal stuff, and just want the usual Anna fare, it’s probably not the post for you. Having written it, I’m willing to admit that even pushing post on this kind of terrifies me, just for fear of the kinds of reactions it might get. At the same time, I’ve been trying to figure my way through this issue for awhile, and typing it up seems to help.

*Deep Breath* So here goes.

To start, many of you know I’ve had some real issues in the last six months or so. I basically stopped blogging, stopped gaming. The few real life friends that read here know that I all but dropped out of SCA. At first, it was pretty easy to blame that all on my job, but that wasn’t entirely true.

The job was, in a way, a catalyst for things that happened later. I started working at the bookstore in September. By November I was in full scale psychological breakdown, as the support structures and mechanisms I’d built into working from home failed completely, followed by a really ugly last-straw sort of situation.

I’d rather not go into personal details, but since then I’ve been diagnosed with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that is co-morbid with (happening at the same time as) severe depression and a form of anxiety disorder that we’ve not pinned down just yet (probably general anxiety, but it really doesn’t matter). I’m in quite a lot of therapy, as well as being on a number of different medications – yet another thing that’s not really all sorted out yet, which is hugely frustrating. Not to mention the fact that I have the attention span of a gnat on crack.

At this point, I’m capable of holding down my job and managing my house most of the time. Some days, that’s all I can do, other days I can do more. And usually do too much, which then sets me up for the next crash. Go figure.

(Segues are for sissies.)

All of my life I have been a voracious reader.

Even now, I surround myself with people who read – the Divas and most of the Wildfire Riders crew and the majority of my twitter feed. Add to that working in a bookstore, and books are a pretty common subject in my life.

And right now? I can’t read them. Or rather, I can’t read the ones that other people suggest and that I want to read. Same goes with movies. The vast majority of stuff that people suggest is “awesome” I only have to read a synopsis of on Wikipedia to know that it’s going to end up screwing with my head for days.

This all leaves me in a bit of a quandary because I don’t want to say “I know this book is one that you think is wonderful, but I can’t handle reading about 42 different kinds of horrible, awful things that happen to the people in it right now.” And EVERY FANTASY BOOK EVER seems to have those kinds of themes, even Mercedes Lackey, in her Arrows series that gets recommended for teenagers.

Marion Zimmer Bradley? Nope – even though I’ve read them before, I know I can’t read them again. George R R Martin? No fucking way. Joe Abercrombie? Probably not. Goodkind? Nope. Charles De Lint? Nope. Read Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent. Great book, more than I could handle. Even Gaiman pushes my limits sometimes, not to mention the stories in video games.

Scott Lynch? Nope.

And thus we have the problem with Locke Lamora.

I want to read that book. I want to love it. The beginning is hugely intriguing and interesting and makes me want to keep reading… and then I get to the part where graphic torture enters the scene, put the book down, and can’t even look at it for months. Some of you might say “that’s nothing, you should see XYZ book…” and frankly, you might be right. There might be a lot worse things I could read in other books. But that doesn’t change the reaction – the actual, physical reaction – I have to this one.

I’m afraid to start books because I know what will happen, so I read stuff that people say is “funny and silly” – which means I either read fluff or nonfiction.

This all sounds pretty simple and, in the greater scheme of things, not that big a deal. So I can’t read some books. Big whoop.

But it’s actually a pretty good example of how my entire world works right now. I’ve never before had to look at things and evaluate whether or not I could handle them. I’ve never had to say “No, I can’t do that right now” to things I want to do.

The rational part of me, the part that knows how this works, that understands the science (or at least attempts to), that knows to “trust the process,” is able to say that this is just where I am right now. It’s early. It took me… *counts on fingers* … almost 15 years to get to this point. It’s not going to take 5 months to undo that level of fucked up.

Unfortunately that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

Before Somebody Lifted the Lorax Away


At the far end of town, where the Grickle-grass grows
and the wind smells slow-and-sour when it blows
and no birds ever sing excepting old crows… is the Street of the Lifted Lorax

Everyone has books they remember as “making a difference”.

Well, ok maybe not everyone, but I’d wish that fate on everyone, so I’ll leave it.

The Lorax was one of those books for me.  I can remember reading it for the first time, and thinking “This isn’t like I expected it to be.  It doesn’t have a happy ending.  Dr. Seuss books are supposed to have happy endings.”  Maybe that’s why it mattered, as a 9 year old (or 11 year old, or whatever. I don’t know exactly when I first read it).  Maybe it mattered because I’ve loved trees since I was very small, thanks either to some innate tree-hugger gene or because my father also loves trees and caring for them, or both.  But I can remember coming away from this book with a better perspective on the world.

A powerful thing, that.

This week is Banned Books Week.  Many of the books on the list are ones that I am a more well-rounded human for having read.  To Kill a Mockingbird. On the Road. The Sound and the Fury. Brave New World. The Lord of the Rings. The Lorax.

Many of those books I read at home – some of them probably younger than my Conservative WASP School District would’ve liked.  But my parents knew their child – and knew what I could and couldn’t handle.  When I read The Lord of the Rings with my dad, he used it to talk to me about evil, and about how the world is sometimes not a nice place.  In short, he used it as a way to both connect to his kid, and to help her grow up. I had similar conversations with my mom, when reading Of Mice and Men as a freshman in High School.

And I know, I was lucky.   I have amazing parents, and they did a good job.  But teachers can do this too (I got lucky in that front as well, having had some tremendous literature teachers throughout my schooling).

A lot of times, book banning is done to “PROTECT THE CHILDREN”.


Should a 5 year old be reading The Sound and the Fury?  Probably not.  Would a 5 year old understand it?  Uh… probably not.

Books are some of the best teaching tools for helping people expand their minds, for presenting something outside of what they normally experience.  Reading To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer present racism /clearly/ as a bad thing.  I’m quite sure that nobody wants their children to be confronted with racism in their every day existence – but if they can learn about it from Scout and Tom and Huck, and see those negative effects in what is, essentially, a safe environment, isn’t that a good thing?

And sure, books that present difficult subjects should be presented to kids who are ready to start tackling those subjects – but banning them only serves to make those conversations more difficult.  Sheltering children doesn’t make the bad things in the world less bad – and without these kinds of discussions, how can we expect kids to magically come to the “good” conclusions?  Books present the “bad things” in a way that is relateable, and a way that is controllable.

Now don’t get me wrong – I think parents need to have the final say in what their kids are or aren’t reading.  Who knows a kid better than his or her parents?  Sometimes kids aren’t ready for certain conversations – and that’s 100% ok.

But /banning/ the book says that it presents nothing good, that it can serve no purpose. Reading To Kill a Mockingbird isn’t going to turn kids into racists (and 90% chance says they’ve heard a racial slur before in their life, whether on TV or on the playground) – but banning books is a good way to take away those conversations, and make them impossible for kids who ARE ready.   It’s fine to stop your own kids from reading something; that’s called responsible parenting. But to tell everyone else’s kids what they can and can’t read takes that decision away from other responsible parents.

Ignorance doesn’t solve anything.

Responsibility, however, does.

*Writing this post was hard, because this is a very emotionally charged subject for me.  I struggle to refrain from nerdraging about people banning The Lorax and other books I have loved and learned from.  I need to thank Falconesse for helping me turn this into a productive post.  She is wise, you know!

How many have you read?

The Big Read is an NEA program designed to encourage community reading initiatives and of their top 100 books, they estimate the average adult has read only six. According to another blogger, they encourage us to:

*Look at the list and bold those we have read.
*Italicize those we intend to read.
*Underline the books we LOVE

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo (abriged)

I figure 38/100 isn’t bad!

New Books!

Three books arrived in the mail today! Yay! Especially for a day that started out with cat barf at 5am.

Things I Learned from Knitting (whether I wanted to or not) – Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (also known as The Yarn Harlot). I’ve finished reading this one (a quick read) and am just as thrilled with this as I have been with the other Harlot books in the past. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite from among her books; she never fails to make me laugh at myself and my knitting, even if I”m not the most proficient or prolific knitter out there.

Spinning in the Old Way – Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts – I’ve not really looked through this book yet, but a preliminary glance says it’ll be a fantastic spindling resource, especially as I start really working on some of these top rovings that I don’t want to goob up with my lousy spinning.

Start Spinning – Maggie Casey – A book about spinning in general – both hand and wheel – that I’m a little ways into and really enjoying. It’s also full of gorgeous pictures. Not that I’d go straight for those or anything…

Anyway – since I’ve gotten most of what I need to get done today finished (except tackling Mt. Washmore), I think I’m going to go curl up and read some. And maybe finish that baby surprise jacket – I’m on the button band, so it shouldn’t take too much longer.