2022 Reading Challenge

2022 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 5 books toward her goal of 260 books.
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Life Lessons, ala Fiction (Today’s Courtesy of Joe Hill’s “The Fireman”)

I love love love when an author sneaks some clever little life lesson into a seemingly throw-away bit of dialogue or inner monologue in the midst of a great story… For some reason, these lessons always seem more resonant to me – the way the things your parents told you as a kid seem incredibly profound twenty-five years later. I think it has something to do with the medium and the message – in a sort of backward McLuhan way (see the last question on the left). When the medium is delivering so much on its own, I think these little tidbits can seem like either background noise or one more brick in a wall (random Pink Floyd moment there, sorry, don’t know where that came from) – they sneak up on you and their full impact doesn’t hit right away. It’s like stubbing your toe – it takes a second to kick in but when it does you KNOW something just happened…

That’s how I felt when I stumbled across this little tidbit of profound thought in Joe Hill’s latest, The Fireman

The hens are clucking. Harper thought it would be a toss-up, which term for women she hated more: bitch or hen. A hen was something you kept in a cage, and her sole worth was in her eggs. A bitch, at least, had teeth.

First of all – AMAZING book. I’m maybe half-way through. It’s incredible. In. Cred. Ible. I love him – how can you not, he’s literally the spitting image of his father and writes just as well. I’ve read his horror before – Nos4a2 and Heart Shaped Box – and it’s as fabulous as you’d expect, and full of sneaky little insider references to his father’s books and his own works – a clever construct that I find fabulously fun because I’m quite well versed in both their catalogs, but that I imagine costs you nothing if you miss because you are not (yet)… It’s like the clever little adult references Disney/Pixar sneak into their features – something for adults, to keep them from wanting to set themselves on fire to avoid listening to all those songs ONE MORE TIME, but snuck in such that kids don’t even know they’re there.

But I digress (often and well).

The book is not exactly his usual fare – it’s his Green Mile, a brilliant, thoughtful exegesis, forcing us to face the worse aspects of ourselves through a masterfully crafted and thoroughly enjoyable tale – a tale that, like a Disney movie, can be read uncritically and enjoyed just fine, but that gains something incredible if you catch what’s been snuck in… I don’t do book summaries in my reviews – if you want those, there are literally hundreds of places to find them – but in a nutshell a mutated spore causes people to literally burn up, and the novel is all about the realization that there’s only one way humans deal with things they don’t understand and can’t control or buy their way out of – and that way is exceedingly badly. The quote comes as the heroine is, once again, brutally confronted by said realization. I just loved it because it’s sprinkled in so deftly – it’s an incredibly important message, I think, and thrown out as a random inner monologue tidbit, yet it’s such a significant message – not only in the story, but in life.

You see, I have an almost three-year old daughter, and a sixteen and a half year old step-daughter. And I worry immensely about the world they’re inheriting. And about their place in it. The use of “hen” to refer to women has been common for some time – as has “chick”, the extra toothless version of hen… In some parts of the world, girls’ nights out and bachelorette parties are still called “hen parties”. It’s not generally considered (that) offensive – at least not as compared to words like bitch. But Hill’s seeming throwaway has really stuck in my mind – he’s absolutely, positively right. Upon reflection, hen is worse, in many respects, than bitch – but probably, and tragically, more accurate much of the time. How crappy is that?? How crappy a realization is that for a mother of daughters?? I’m not usually on here to go off on personal politics – and I’m not really going to do so now – but I did think this one warranted mention…

I will no doubt regale you (teehee) with other quotes I find profound or surprising or profoundly surprising – if you’ve seen one worth sharing, throw it into the comments. I don’t want this to turn into a “how awful IS the world?!” rant, but I do enjoy hearing what other people find delightful (or startling or thought-provoking or hateful or wretched or anything) in fiction because books and the words in them are, to me, so powerful – I like knowing what other people find in their stories almost as much as I like sharing what I find in mine…

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