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I have always written stories. Ever since I learned to string letters together. And when I was not doing that I was narrating everything in my head. (I did it out loud in a sort of whisper as a kid, until people made me stop, at school. I imagine it was irritating. It made the words stick better until I could sort them out and write them down. I was vastly unpopular at school of course.)

The received wisdom is that if you want to be serious you must write every single day. I fail there. Sometimes I need to stop and take things in for a while.

Stories come at us these days in more forms than ever. We have more books than ever since the world began. We have fan-fic, wild, expicit, silly, sad and fun. It is driving up the quality of all writing. We have tv, some of it is great. Even video games tell us stories. Imagine if the ancient Greeks had had video game tech. Wouldn't you like to play as Odysseus?

Stories can be well or poorly told. They can be well or poorly written. But stories cannot be debased in form.

This week I have been binge-watching Grey's Anatomy on Netflix. As far as medical realism it is ridiculous. It depicts doctors performing surgery while wearing dangling hoop earrings that stick out of their caps, Everyone is improbably good looking, they run around in flattering scrubs, performing complicated life saving surgery in between bouts of angsty fornication. Patients die constantly, doctors die some too. Other doctors weep and it makes them better looking.

But it does not matter if the story is silly. I think of it as sort of a medical AU where these things are normal. The emotional underpinnings of the story feel real and right. And the writers never let the story rest. No sooner has the doctor cleared up the misunderstanding and had a reconciliation with her hot doctor boyfriend, than there is a school-bus crash. She has to cut someones leg off, and he is missing. What will happen next? The story drags us forward.

I can learn from that. I can learn to make my characters uncomfortable, confused, endangered, miserable. It is hard sometimes. I love them, I want them to stay indoors, eating soup in safety. But a little soup goes a long way.

I have been reading 'Voices from the Workhouse.' It is just what it sounds like. It is written transcripts of those who went through the workhouse system, from the end of the 1600s through about 1930. It includes mostly England, but some interviews from Wales.

Very interesting. Most of the people talked about being separated from family and spouse, of having clothing taken, of poor food and mistreatment. All this is properly Dickensian, and no surprise. But the book also included interviews and records of the administrators of the workhouses. You can see that some of them tried. They had to contend with overcrowding, embezzlement by hired workers, disease, and poor sanitation. These concerns feel very modern and vital to me. How do we help those that need help without destroying human dignity in the process?

No, the workhouse was not the way to go. And you can see that the people then were hung up about class. They were sidetracked by the idea that the poor could be divided into the deserving and the debased. It is easy to sneer at such foolishness. But I do see the same arguments being made now, here. Remember Reagan's welfare queen? She never existed, but the idea persists. We don't want to see the poor, but if we must look We want them to be humble and grateful. Even better if they are old or sick, or kids and cute.

So I have been thinking about all that.

And as a complete palette cleanser I am starting Chuck Wendig's Invasive. He is reliably good. His stories make you forget the world, you surface from his books and you have to take a moment to remember who and where you are. This one is about giant killer ants.

In other news-- we did not get hurricane Hermine. Just as well. Even so we have had to have the beaches closed to swimming. There are rips. It is cooler now, the storm chased the summer away. There may be warm days yet, but the leaves are changing. There is that back to school excitement in the air. I feel it, even here at my desk.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 5th, 2016 09:19 pm (UTC)
One of the first movies I saw (that was not a cowboy flick) was THEM, about giant ants. SCARY!!

Workhouses always reminds me of Dickens' Scrooge. "Are there no workhouses?"

Interesting reading, also, is about the "Mill Girls" in early New England, especially Lowell and Lawrence.
Sep. 6th, 2016 04:45 am (UTC)

Yes. That passage is as relevant now as ever. Christmas Carol is worth returning to over and over i find.

There are parts that make me cry, the part with the old woman taking his bed-curtain rings, and the two naked children, ignorance and want.

I am not a big fan of Dickens but I love Christmas Carol.

I have been to Lowell of course.  And Fall river. Hard to believe that there was a hopping textile industry once. All gone now.

Sep. 6th, 2016 01:24 pm (UTC)
We watched Christmas Carol every year on Christmas Day, after a full day of presents and family visits. After 'one last gift from Santa*' at my aunt's house, we kids took a plate of food upstairs to watch Scrooge while the adults had a nice meal and maybe a drink or two.

*Santa showed up in person, and you had to sing, or recite a poem, or play your guitar,etc. before Santa gave you your gift.WONDERFUL memories!
Sep. 6th, 2016 07:45 am (UTC)
It has long been a problem, the deserving and the undeserving poor, and reminds me that we have sometimes difficulty accepting that unpleasant people can be innocent in a legal sense, which was the underlying theme of the Steven Avery case. I don't know if he is innocent, I do know that he is an unpleasant character...however that is not a reason to lock him up, or there would be a lot of people locked up including the President of the Philippines and Donald Trump!
We have this devastating situation with the refugees in Calais, and the arguments about whether they "deserve" to be accepted into Europe, which breaks my heart. There is room, there is enough to share...but we have a government that just wants to slam the door. :(
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )