I should be out jogging right now – I’m even dressed for it – but no, here I sit, eating chocolate, drinking tea and blogging…which I haven’t done in quite awhile. The blogging, I mean.
I find it an interesting thing, the blogging thing. I have bursts of energy and routine where I blog every week. And then nothing comes to mind or I become embedded in other things and can’t extract myself long enough to think to the end of the next sentence. Until something happens and then – here I am.
So, apart from having an all but complete stranger comment on one of my posts and worrying what he might think of my slackness re blogging, I’ve also just read a book that has made me a bit angry. Well, actually, if I’m being truthful, it made me very angry. I don’t like reading books that make me angry – unless the anger is connected to something about me (lack of knowledge, ignorance, assumptions etc) that I can think through and change after having read the anger-inducing book. Challenging and questioning books are terrific – in the end.
But this book, The End of Everything by Megan Abbott, left me decidely uneasy and angry. The book is out in Australia next month and I read it because I reviewed it for the Readings Monthly. The story is of Evie, a missing 13 year old girl and is told by Lizzie, her best friend and next door neighbour. It will be sold as The Virgin Suicides meets The Lovely Bones and Abbott is certainly canvassing the same world of teenage sexuality, sexual vulnerability and paedophilia that those books worked into bestsellers.
The thing about Abbott’s book I didn’t like is that at the end of the novel I was left with an unease and a sense of distaste that I don’t often acquire from fiction. Perhaps I just don’t choose to read those crime novels that always centre on females being routinely sexually abused, and you may think that that cuts out most of the literary, and non-literary, crime books in the market but I don’t find it does.
For me, its about the authorial voice and where the author makes me look and what I am told to see while I am looking, that makes a successful book. So, with crime novels, I need to know I am in safe hands if I am going to be forced to look at random acts of violence against women, or in the case of The End of Everything, against children. This is why so many crime novels have a police person in charge – an authority, even flawed – provides a perspective on or access to the story being told that feels safe for the reader.
And it isn’t that Lizzie in The End of Everything is an unreliable narrator in any way. It’s just that in the end, Abbott’s manipulative gaze, where she takes me as a reader, is to a place where all female/male relationships can be seen as potentially abusive, but in particular, where father/daughter relationships are inevitably latently sexualised. This is my unease. This is what Abbott leaves me with and I don’t think it’s enough to justify the writing of the book. In a potentially complex story of burgeoning sexuality, I don’t just want to be shown how a paedophile (or indeed the father) looks at 13 year old girls. I really don’t. And I don’t see the point in writing a book that only makes me see them in this way. I really don’t.
But, disappointingly, this genre sells. And sells truckloads. And it will probably be turned into a film as well. I think I have to go jogging now. Or finish the chocolate.