Tuesday, July 31, 2018

"Psychic Spiral, "by Amie Gibbons and Country Music

Good day to you, friends and family out there in Internet Land!

I'm gonna give you links to a couple of Hank Williams, Senior, songs to listen to, in order to give you some background for certain parts of this post, and one Stephen Stills song, which I heard coming straight out of CS&N. I think David Crosby and Graham Nash are actually singing on this version, but I'm pretty sure it's off the "Stephen Stills" album.
Please note: every one of these songs was chosen because they present such a distorted view of human romantic/sexual intimacy that they would be LETHAL if they were selected as a life theme!
I'm working HARD to keep my Amazon book reviews short and relevant today (and hopefully in the future), and using the blog to make my philosophical points. I had started the Amazon review, and discovered I had wandered into Meaningful Dialogue Mode, and shifted gears. I whacked all of the good stuff out of the review, but it's included here. This has (almost) all of the review content, but read and vote 'helpful' on the review anyway, okay? And the link to the review is NOT included here, because Amazon is dragging it's heels in posting the review, and I have First Day At School paperwork waiting on me for Kenneth and Alicia.

Here's my one sentence summary:

This book is about the dangers of time travel, and George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' is about livestock.

It is absolutely true that there is a Bad Problem that must be resolved, and Ariana Ryder and her traveling band of Vampires, Lovers, Dimwits, and Familiars must devote all of their efforts to save each other and the universe. That's the framework that permits the painfully insightful  lesson in the human condition to be provided to the audience as a story. In addition, there are LOTS of cute scenes of Ariana's pet flying carpet, Pyro, zooming about, making coffee and scrambling eggs. We haven't had nearly enough words about Pyro in the previous volumes in the series, so these are very welcome.


....one reviewer flipped out, calling the material 'filthy.' By that, I am sure they mean pornography, and passed that verdict because of the explicit sex scenes included in the narrative. I believe they missed the point of what is actually an exposition of the consequences of unrestrained behavior.

I want to be very clear about this: I am not a fan of sexually explicit movies and books, or strip clubs, comedy routines, etc. For me, sex is a participatory sport only, to be engaged in with complete abandon, IN PRIVACY, and the allure of substitutions of words on paper or images on a screen is completely lost on me.  A couple of years ago, I discovered that some literary genres DEMAND the inclusion of at least one explicit scene, or the audience feels cheated. I just skip that part, and let the rest of the story determine whether it's a book I can recommend, or not.

In previous books, Ariana, the psychic lawyer FBI agent, has fantasized about sex with some characters, and fulfilled those fantasies with others. When I see what is going on, I accept that this is a necessary part of character development, and skip pages, to resume the story when the throbbing whatever has moved away from center stage.

However, in THIS book, the explicit sexual scenes are actually the EXACT opposite of pornography. The are not designed to titillate, but to provide the essential setting to bring home (rather brutally) the destructive consequences of irresponsible sexual behavior.

In my Papa Pat Rambles blog post of 7/6/18,   I discuss that group of interactions that we approximate with the term 'love,' drawing the distinction between emotion and commitment.  Here, Gibbons makes the point PAINFULLY clear that basing our actions strictly on our EMOTIONAL condition will bring disaster, if not tempered with rational thought and informed commitment.

She uses (at least) three characters to make this point. One, Annabeth, or AB, is a physician who has had a disastrous series of interactions with a partner who has consistently failed to regard her welfare in the relationship. AB feels torn by the conflicting EMOTIONS that she feels, but is unable to put  them in the proper perspective; her feelings are real, but nothing to build a future with.

This is the easiest problem for the observer to identify, and the reader may be tempted to reach into the book and intervene on her behalf. It's a pattern that results in people remaining in physically abusive relationships for years, murmuring "but I LOVE him/her" and "he/she will change THIS time, I know they will!"

The idea that emotions belong in the driver's seat is an utterly bogus notion, and yet it sells a LOT of records, movies, books, as well as toothpaste and tacos. Actually, as I was writing the previous sentence, I was also listening to Hank Williams, Sr, singing "I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love With You." Well, baloney. You sure as can help your BEHAVIOR, it if you do, your emotional fixation will change, and you can go on with the business of running your life the way you want to..

The second character to make the point that King Feelings is a monster is the MC, Ariana. In the past, she has allowed her physical and emotional attraction to her boss and the Old Vampire Carvi to dominate much of her thought life. She has made progress in this area, but even though she is in a committed relationship with Young Vampire Quill, she allows her thought life to wander where it will. In the crisis scene, she even permits/encourages some sexual play (part physical, part psychic) with multiple partners. 

I had to skip a LOT of pages during this interaction, and IF THE SCENE STOPPED RIGHT THERE, it WOULD have qualified as porn. However, that scene ONLY serves as a set-up to what follows, which is an intense feeling of self-loathing and regret, and NONE of those involved think it was the right choice to make.  It is as explicit about the potentially lethal consequences of unrestrained submission to an emotional fixation as anything I have seen in literature, and it accurately describes the sense of self-betrayal that follows indulgence. It's actually more dangerous than a hangover from over-indulging in alcohol, because usually the hangover doesn't make you want to immediately get drunk again, whereas the feelings of guilt and shame over an emotionally-driven behavior binge is precisely what drives people into seeking chemical relief or oblivion.

The third example is that of the  Old Vampire. Here, for once, we see that it IS possible for rational thought and commitment to prevail over emotion. Without completely writing a spoiler, I can't go further, though, so you are gonna have to read the book.

I think Gibbons has been exceedingly brave in writing this installment in the series, and that's why I gave the book five stars on my Amazon review. She has described with near-perfect accuracy the excruciating consequences of involvement with a narcissistic person, completely detailing the turmoil in which the victim is left.
She has also taken the playful, girlish infatuation of the MC demonstrated in the first of the series, and showed precisely where the failure to rein in those impulses can go. In doing so, she has made it impossible (I believe) for the heroine to continue ignore her own responsibility in the way her life is unfolding.
I applaud her for doing so; at the same time, I'm wondering: "How in the heck is she going to write her way out of THIS?"

Peace be upon your household.

1 comment:

  1. Amazon just posted my review. Go read it (it's shorter, with no music) and then vote 'helpful.'