Monday, November 19, 2007

Virgin Suicides

I re-read The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides partly as research for my slowly progressing NaNoWriMo novel, party just because I haven't read it for a while. It's been quite a few years since I read it the first time, and since then I've seen the movie (dir. by Sophia Coppola) and also read Eugenides's Middlesex and realized what a genius he is. And, it was interesting rereading it after those events because I realized The Virgin Suicides is also rather genius in itself, and although I really like the movie, it doesn't have much to do with the book. The book is told from the perspective of these nameless men that used to live across the street from a family of 5 girls and two parents. As boys they fantasizes and spied on the girls as much as possible, and as adults they continued to obsess about the girls and their suicides, trying to piece together a history for the sisters, and meanings for their deaths. Eugenides has crafted a really disturbing story, not allowing the girls any voice at all (outside of a few sentences here and there), and only telling the story through the voice of the collective "we", the "us" of the unknown boys, and their fetishization of objects they've gathered in a lame attempt to solve the "mystery" of the mass suicides. The obsessive chronicling of the girls by these man/boys, even while they can hardly tell one from the other, exemplifies how little control the girls had over their own lives and representation in the world. In death they are given various meanings and morals, but the truth is (as in real life) there are no easy answers after someone commits suicide.

I've got my own theories about why the girls commit suicide, but (I don't think I'm ruining it for you by saying that) Eugenides makes it clear that there are no easy answers. One of the best lines (in the book and the movie) is spoken by the youngest girl, who's first suicide attempt fails. A doctor asks her why she would want to harm herself with her whole life ahead of her, and she says, "Clearly, Doctor, you have never been a 13 year old girl."

Eugenides perfectly describes how disastrous the affects of over-sexualizing and under-estimating the teenage girl can be, and it's a pretty damning critique of the isolation of our society.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Quantity, not Quality

Due to a small glitch, I was previously under the impression that I needed only to write 1000 words per day (WPD) for my NaNoWriMo novel. Somewhere along the line, however, my brain became aware that the end product was supposed to be 50,000 words. A few days later, it occurred to me that my math was wrong. Ok. No big deal, so, I started writing more WPD.

The NaNoPePo will tell you that the second week is the hardest. I neatly avoided that by hardly writing at all in this second week. Thinking to myself, that I could easily write 5000 words in one day if need be. Today I wrote 3901, and my brain nearly cracked in two. Over the weekend while I was stressing out about this, I had to remind myself that there's no shame in not finishing this thing (is there?) and that I'm doing it for FUN, not to torture myself. But I do want to finish. How're everyone else's novels coming along?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

NaNoWriMo Starts Today!

Just finished my first 2000 words (2162, to be exact!) after much suffering, rending of garments and anguished cries that I may be in way over my head. I'm kind of a slow writer, and I like to go back and rewrite things many many times, so I realized pretty quick I'd better follow some of the NaNoWriMo guidelines and not edit myself. I also remembered what a friend of mine said about her own experience, which was "Why use one word, when you can use two?" I've decided to post my first chapter here, just for the hell of it, and possibly for some (nice!) criticism. Here it is:

I get a lot of shit from my parents about my room. They're always like, clean up your room! And I'm all, God! I mean, it's so ridiculous. Really, who cares if dirty clothes are on the floor? They're dirty, anyway. So, it takes five seconds and I just gather them up and throw them in the hamper in the corner. But, my school work is a problem because I don't have a desk so I do my homework on my bed and then I put my books on the floor and, I have to admit, things get kind of jumbled down there. But it's totally not my fault. What's really lame is that I told my parents like a hundred times that I had a DESK with DRAWERS and a LOCK then I could organize my stuff, but they're all, You have to PROVE to us that you're ready for the responsibility of owning a lock or some shit and then, I mean, seriously – like, it's just like, how am I supposed to show them that if I don't have a desk in the first place? They also won't let me have a door with a lock, and they're always bursting into my room and I'm like, HELLO! Don't you KNOCK? But, they don't knock. I don't know what they think they're going to find in here. I mean, they throw open the door and they come barging in and their eyes are all moving back and forth all shifty-like, like they're going to find me in here smoking pot or having sex or cutting my arms up like that crazy girl at school, but, seriously, I couldn't even do that stuff if I wanted to, on accounta, like I said, I don't even HAVE a friggin' lock on my door. Sometimes when they come in I'm changing my clothes and my dad has seen my boobs more times than I care to say because those two don't give me any privacy, and then, I have to tell you, I go totally nuts, and there's a lot of screaming and shouting, and me trying to explain that I need some privacy, and how they don't trust me, even though they totally don't have any reason not to, and then, basically they tell me how I'm their little girl and they want to protect me and it's all for my own good and all this shit that's like total bullshit because really it has nothing to do with keeping my dad from bursting into my room when I'm changing my clothes and seeing my boobs AND what's really not cool is when later on he'll say something like Why aren't you wearing a bra? And then he and my mom will have this huge conversation about the size of my boobs and whether or not I should be wearing a bra. Oh my God. It's SO embarrassing.

So, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the situation, and what I've really come to understand, as a kind of revelation, which is this event that usually leads to greater understanding, as I learned in my fifth period English class, the one where, by the way, I have to sit next to that batshit girl that slices up her arms in the 2nd floor girls' room in the last stall, so you really have to be careful, I mean, when you go the bathroom, you have to remember, don't go into that stall, because the girl's so crazy, she doesn't even lock the door, you might just walk in on her and see her bent over herself, slowly pressing this tiny little knife into the skin on her forearm, and then she just looks up with this wacky look in her eye like, so accusatory, like I'm doing something wrong, and then I'm like, God! Lock the door! Freak! I mean, it's like she wants someone to see her in there doing that. Anyway, the revelation is that my parents don't really acknowledge me as a person. Because I've thought about this a lot, and what I came up with is that if they really thought of me as a, you know, complete entity, they'd have to admit that I'm entitled all the things they say they need too, like privacy. And what's hilarious is that they don't even let me go into their room, I mean, I have to knock on their door and even then I'm not allowed to come in unless they say Come in, like they're the king and the queen of the house or something. And they make me stand in the doorway and ask for a ride to practice or whatever and beg for it like their minion or something. Which is really stupid, because they don't even have anything in their room to hide, anyway. I know because on the rare occasion when they leave me alone in the house I like to go in there and go through their stuff. All they have is really gross old things, like my mom has a box of boring letters in the back of her sock drawer and my dad has some old high school things in this wooden box on the top shelf in the back of the closet. Just like a ring from when he was in boy scouts as a kid and his class ring from high school and a couple of old watches. Big deal, so he's ashamed of his old jewelry or something. A lot of my friends tell these gross stories of how their dads have piles and piles of dirty magazines stuffed under the bed. They act like every dad has them, but, I mean, I've searched my parent's room with a fine tooth comb and I can tell you, there's no interesting magazines in there. Not that I would LOOK at them, but I'm kind of curious to see what they're like. It sucks feeling left out at school, because you're the only one who hasn't seen a dirty magazine, or maybe because your boobs are smaller than everyone else's.

Having a revelation, like, in a story, is supposed to make the main character maybe be spurred into action, like in Catcher in the Rye, when the catcher quits school and takes off on that night in New York because he realizes school isn't for him, and then of course later on he has another revelation that he'd like to be a Catcher, which is really too bad for him because that's really not a job, not like, really something he can do with his life. Too bad he didn't think of maybe becoming a nurse or a doctor or something, because that's something where he could really help people and make a difference and everything. I feel sorry for that guy, I really do, because he seems like this really smart guy, somebody I'd like to know, because he isn't all fake and pretending like high school is the best thing that ever happened to him and he's having the time of his life, because, the truth is, high school is really lame, and I'd like to quit too.

My revelation hasn't really spurred me into action, though. It's mostly just made me mad because every time my parents do something stupid, I'm like, Oh, great! This is just one more example of my parents not acknowledging me as a person! To them I'm just a daughter, which to them is like a half person, like a possession or an object, like a doll. And they get all mad when I don't look they way they want or dress they way they like, and they get all embarrassed if I come out with an opinion of my own. Like, last week they dragged me to church, like they always do, and I got dressed in even a dress, but when I came into the kitchen my mom started acting like she was having a coronary and shouting, Oh, no, young lady! And pointing at my room and then, of course, my dad came running and doing the shifty thing with his eyes, and he looks at my mom and then he looks at me and starts laughing and saying Is that what think you're wearing to church? To God's house? Oh yeah, right, like God seriously lives in a brick building with painted-on stained glass windows and folding chairs on Davis Street in my crapass town. Then my mom follows me back to my room and starts digging around in my closet, making all these comments about how my room's a mess and if I took better care of my things they'd buy me nicer things. Then she pulls out this dress from last year all pink and ruffly and gets this dopey, dewy look in her eyes and tells me how angelic I look in it, and how happy she'd be if I wore it, so I'm like, Fine! And I spend the whole morning looking like a total clown. I've also lately come to realize that not only do my parents not like to acknowledge my, you know, personhood, they also don't want to see that I'm growing up. But too bad for them, right? Because I'm getting older every day. There's no stopping it. But what's really ironic – another word I picked up in English class – is that they're always telling me to grow up and act my age and be mature and all that shit, but the truth, the irony, is that they really just want me to be a little baby and do everything they say and dress up in stupid ruffly outfits and not have any opinions and stuff.

But, as I was saying, my revelation has just been really lame, because there's nothing I can do about it anyway, so all I do is sulk around in a black mood. One day I was feeling particularly down so I went to the store and bought some black dye and tried to smash as many of the cutsie pink clothes my mom buys me all the time into the washer with the dye. My parents, as you might imagine, went completely ballistic and acted like their brains were going to explode and stood around shouting at me, in my room, of course, about how irresponsible I was and how I'd ruined all my clothes, and then they ripped down my poster of this castle in Germany and took a couple of my cds and then my mom started crying and my dad gave me this look like I'd just shot my own mother in the heart, and then they walked out, holding each other as if the world had just come to an end. Also it was a big drag because the dye kind of got on my clothes all unevenly and now half my clothes look really splotchy and stupid, but my parents haven't let me get any new clothes since then as some kind of punishment, and also whenever I wear one of the dyed shirts, they don't say anything, but they look at me like I've got a steaming pile of dog poo smeared all over my chest.

Now my room looks really stupid because I don't have anything on the walls, and I try to keep things pretty neat so they won't go crazy any more, so my room just looks like a hospital ward, with white walls and no decoration and a pile of books next to my bed. It's pretty depressing. One day I went to the poster shop to buy something for the wall, but everything was so... I don't know... like, definitive. It seemed like right there, in the poster shop, I was supposed to choose what kind of person I was, and hang a poster in my room that would proclaim it to everyone. Like I like chocolate, or I like to shop, or I like cars, or I like this band, or puppies or flowers or unicorns. And I just couldn't find one that I... resonated with. God, my English class has had a real effect on me, you know? Everyone's all, oooooh, you're such a show off with your big vocabulary! Miss Dictionary, speak English!

I miss that poster of that castle, because I used to lie in bed and look at it, and imagine what it would be like to live there, what rooms where behind the windows and what kind of person I could be there, especially if I were all alone. I had it all worked out where I would sleep, and where I would read, and where I would take a nap. I don't know why my parents ripped it down, I guess they thought maybe it was too Goth or something, or maybe they just wanted to tear something. I can relate to that.