Leni Riefenstahl, Eminem and Kate Breslin

Today I was made aware of a controversy raging in the world of romance. The gist of the storm centers on a debut novel by Kate Breslin titled For Such a Time. Released in 2014, the story focuses on a rather unusual couple, a Jewish woman placed in a concentration camp and the commandant of said camp. Not every reader’s cup of tea. The outrage spun into a tornado when the book was nominated for the RITA, a prestigious award given by the Romance Writers of America.

Most reviews agree that it is well written. And many of them believe it to be the story of a captive who develops Stockholm syndrome and falls for her abusive captor, who is the hero of the story. They feel the development of the story is problematic and it should have never been published as it is offensive and racist.

I read many of the comments and reviews about the story and its controversy. Doing so reminded me of something I have found to be true about both art and artists: artists come with an agenda. All of them. Let me explain it with a couple of examples.

In a film class I took in college we discussed the work of Leni Riefenstahl. She pioneered certain film techniques and had a blossoming career. Then she became Hitler’s propaganda machine. Over the years of WWII she made films promoting the Nazi party, a choice for which she paid dearly after the war. The fact remains that she was a creative and talented filmmaker. She was good at what she did.

I was introduced to the music of Eminem by a co-worker. I found his music brutal, honest and engaging. Many people found his music misogynistic and racist. But he was and is a talented, creative musician. He was good at what he did.

From the reviews I read, Ms. Breslin is a talented writer, capable of excellent visual imagery. Her writing talent does not appear to be in question. One of the strongest complaints against the novel is the fact that at the end of the book, the heroine converts from Judaism to Christianity and this is what “saves” her. Kate Breslin is a writer of Christian fiction. That’s her agenda. From what I’ve read it sounds as if she wanted to show that no one is beyond God’s love and the teachings of Jesus can bring hope and salvation to anyone, even a Nazi.

Honestly, I doubt she looked beyond that agenda when writing this story. One of the other complaints about the story is they felt she worked so hard to make this “romance” work that it actually didn’t. In spite of her struggle to be as historically accurate as possible, she bent her own rules by forcing her hero to be a Nazi. She ignored the fact that no one who achieved a high enough status as to be in charge of one of the death camps would be anything less than a completely committed follower of Hitler. Her story needed him to have some qualms, so she gave him some. Doing so fit her agenda.

With her focus on accomplishing her goal with her story, the idea that many would find her work offensive likely never occurred to her. As I said, I believe every writer, every artist has an agenda. There’s a reason every woman in Nora Roberts’ books ends up empowered, and usually in business for themselves. Female empowerment is her agenda and the romance is part of that. When I pick up a book by Sherilyn Kenyon I know going in that the hero, and probably the heroine will have suffered a painful and abusive childhood. Her agenda is to demonstrate that can be overcome through love.

And that is the big question to me. How important is our own agenda when we write? Do we recognize what our agenda is? And do we recognize it in the work of others? There were a number of people who commented that this novel should never have been published, that it was so insensitive and so offensive it should have been rejected. But we need to remember that the publisher and the author share a common agenda: to spread the word of Christ. Simply because we may not share that agenda doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to have it.

Rather than censoring the work, it might be better if we understood and evaluated that work in terms of the agenda behind it. There are always going to be things out there which grate on the edges of our nerves, or stir intense and disturbing feelings in us. Even better, they make us stand up and say this is wrong, this is bad, this is hurtful. The more we practice standing up for what we believe, the more chance we stand of changing other people’s agendas.

Advertisements

darkroom

Know what this is? Neither do I. But I’m hoping it’s the door of opportunity opening (I’m also hoping I don’t trip over something in the dark in my rush to get to the door, but that’s another set of issues altogether).

I’ve been asking for an opportunity and the answer up till now has felt like standing in a dark room. I haven’t known what the hell to do to get where I want to be so I stood still. Not the smartest move I can make. Now the light is peeking in and it’s time for me to move toward it. So here’s hoping the old theatre adage to “break a leg” isn’t figurative. Wish me luck.

I Read, Therefore I Judge

I’ve been reading the comments sections of posts. Perhaps a bit too much:

trollThe black cloud of negativity, who says things like:

“George R.R. Martin is the most overrated writer in the history of fantasy/sci-fi. His books read like a contract and substitute shock value for originality and talented story telling.”

“You want fluff, read a Dragonlance novel or that shite Gabaldon series.”

And I won’t even go into the comments on the #AskELJames fiasco on Twitter.

For the most part, those in many professions don’t get critiqued by total strangers online. Artists have become, for some unfathomable reason, the target for a kind of criticism that goes beyond taste. It isn’t enough these days to say a particular work isn’t the type you enjoy. It must be slammed into the ground, the artist portrayed as stupid, untalented, etc.

“I don’t like it” isn’t acceptable anymore. The very fact of dislike now impugns not only that work but everything an artist does and even who they are.

I wonder if those who do this have ever considered that wiping out the confidence and the desire of those who make art may leave them without anyone to criticize at all. How many artists give up under the weight of uninformed and untrue insults their work receives? And how many careers are damaged by the platforms so easily available to those whose only talent is to criticize?

I am reminded of an old adage: those who can, do. The twist these days comes in the second part of the saying: those who can’t, criticize.

Why I Have A History Degree

I get a lot of polite smiles when I tell people I have a BA in History. Even my dad shook his head and told me how much he hated history classes, how boring they were. I get it, I really do. The feeling isn’t the same for me, but I understand why people’s eyes glaze over sometimes when they read history books. Too many of them are written by people who act as if they’re still doing it for a grade.

My story is pretty simple. I have a degree in History because of Math. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a passion for history. What I have is much less passion for Math. In fact, I don’t have any passion for Math. Nor any real aptitude for it. It’s a truly loveless relationship.

It isn’t that I didn’t try. I made it a week and a half in the math class I took at the local community college (the remedial one that failing the automated test puts you into so you can learn enough to take the lowest level of real math). I understood more of what was going on in the French class I took.

When I left to complete my BA at a university, I worried about the obstacle of another math class. Then I perused the requirements of the History department. The classes sounded great and there wasn’t a single math class listed. It was made for me.

I studied medieval and reformation Europe, the history of Africa and Germany along with a class on the fall of the Soviet Union. It was awesome. Don’t ever let anyone tell you college doesn’t have a place for everyone. Even History geeks can survive.

Definitions

Beautiful.

ineffablemrjones

 

 

Motivation.
Desire.
The need to want to…
The want to need…

Time steps on my neck,
A bully with eternal weight.

Thoughts are ethereal in the confines of loneliness.

Words are constructs, fences for the imaginative.
There must be a translation for perspectives.
Like Analog to Digital.

Generations seem defined by their accomplishment.
Mine, is lack thereof…

Motivation.
Desire.
The want to be…
The acknowledgment of need…

The need to be understood.
The want of meaning.
What word means both, a want and a need?

Words make living harder to achieve.

View original post

Sometimes…

Sometimes I believe there is always a way…sometimes I wish the door would close forever. Life is a complication of choices, death a clear-cut selection.

Sometimes I think now is as good a time as any…sometimes I think yesterday was easier, it held more promise, perhaps more delusion. The truth lives more in today, taking hope in its own direction.

Sometimes there are no answers…sometimes there are no questions, simply facts. I am responsible for me, no one else, even if no one recognizes me anymore.

At this point in my life, no one seeks my heart with the intensity of a lover. Many are in my heart, but they arrived there by default or have been there so long they don’t notice its walls surrounds them anymore.

I realize day by day my heart has become a city that others inhabit but no one owns…or wants to own, at least not more than a small piece of it.

Yes, That Is A Giant Penis

prideparade1

(A rainbow-colored, glittery one at that)

I love parades. Apparently so do lots of others. Like the folks here watching the parade I went to on Saturday. I like to get out from behind my computer every once in a while, to see the “real” world so I can create realistic, “normal” characters. Just a good writing skill I’ve learned.