helloladies: Horseshoe icon with the words Lady Business underneath. (Default)
[personal profile] helloladies posting in [community profile] ladybusiness
Today we're excited to welcome [tumblr.com profile] justira to Lady Business to talk about Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. Ira is an awesome illustrator, writer, and web developer. You can find more of Ira's work at their tumblr.

lime green cover of Grasshopper Jungle with two lines forming a V to denote the antenna of a grasshopper

I want to say that Grasshopper Jungle did one thing well but—honestly, I can't. I want to like that it has a bisexual protagonist and a love triangle that never collapses but I can't call the love triangle well done when one of its legs is underdeveloped and treated so poorly by the narrative. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Grasshopper Jungle blends pulpy—almost kitschy—Cold War era sci fi, a historical immigration account, and a small-town coming of age story. It's also written by someone who self-admittedly knows nothing about female folks, which is a bit unfortunate seeing as one of the alleged main characters is female. The novel fell flat or me in almost every aspect, with only a few bright notes: sometimes the writing and substance came together to say something interesting about the human impulse towards history-making, and the relationship between the protagonist, Austin, and his best friend, Robby, is well-developed and well-sustained. However, this is all embedded in a narrative that not only features rape apologia and massive fat shaming, but also constantly fails its female characters. And to top off that parade, the apocalyptic premise never manages to quite gel with the beating teenaged heart of the story.

I should be happy that a book with a bisexual protagonist is getting so much attention. But I can't support a book that fails on so many social and technical levels.

The writing has a rhythmic quality that sets up motif after motif. Sometimes this repetition works, setting up cadence and flow that sustains some of the book's ideas very well—it does often serve as a good connecting point between the book's historical segments and the present-day portions. But this same rhythmic quality becomes downright repetitive after a while: actions we already knew about are restated again and again, people whose names we know are referred to by full name repeatedly within the same sentence, key phrases meant to punctuate important moments or revelations are overused. I want to pull out one particular motif that is indicative of the book's focus: horniness.

Austin's libido is a constant hovering presence throughout the narrative. This is not something I object to on principle: I am heavily in favour of exploring teenage sexuality in narrative. But the background I come from is fandom, where any number of authors will deliver explorations of sexuality that are frank, honest, and nuanced. Grasshopper Jungle handles this subject with all the grace of a dancing elephant. The elephant in the room: Austin Szerba's overactive gonads. I don't mention gonads to be juvenile here, but because they are a key feature of the book: three characters name their balls, two characters and one animal lose one or more testicles (we hear much detail about each of these incidents), and the Vice President of the United States's genitalia are discussed at length during several segments. But probably most egregious is the simple use of the word "horny" and its variations. The phrase "it made me horny" felt like it appeared on just about every other page. I went back and counted: the word and its derivatives appear 61 times in the book, averaging more than once every 4 pages. This is not to mention the many other times Austin's libido is mentioned using other words. This is blunt-instrument writing at its least refined.

The theme of Austin's sexuality is one of the backbones of the narrative, and it says something about the book when it's so clumsily handled. But there's a darker edge to this drive. I want to pull out three quotes in quick succession here.
"Coffee." Ollie waved his hand gracefully between a tall paper cup and me, as though he were introducing blind dates at a barn dance.

"Thanks," I said, appreciative of my date's quiet demeanor.

Coffee is a girl who never tells boys no. The idea of such a compliant partner normally would have made me horny, but I was too hungry, still sleepy, and I was also watching Ollie Jungfrau eat a donut the exact moment sexual thoughts involving a quiet girl at an Iowa barn dance occurred to me.

p. 56

There's something chilling about this passage: the idea of the "compliant" partner who never says no. This is nothing more than an object to be used for sex. I didn't like the way Austin's teenage mind framed this: it pointed to someone frustrated with the very idea of consent. A later passage drove the point chillingly home. This passage comes with strong content warnings for rape, victim blaming, and emotional abuse. Bolding is mine.
One night in June, Andrzej Szczerba and Phoebe Hildebrandt went for a walk. Andrzej forced himself sexually onto Phoebe. Phoebe Hildebrandt did not resist his advances.

Phoebe cried. Sexual intercourse was painful. She lay on her back in the dirt, wondering how long it would take him to finish. But she also allowed Andrzej Szczerba to insert his erect penis into her vagina. The act hurt Phoebe Hildebrandt, who was a virgin.

Andrzej Szczerba wanted to find something out about himself, which he did. He found out that he thought only about Herman Weinbach while he engaged with sexual intercourse with Phoebe Hildebrandt.

Afterward, Andrzej Szczerba was disgusted with himself, and he was disgusted with Phoebe and her uninteresting personality, too.

But Andrzej Szczerba's semen found its way deep into Phoebe Hildebrandt's body from that unloving sexual act in June of 1934 outside a place called Iowa City, Iowa.

Phoebe Hildebrandt was my great-grandmother.

In 1935, a boy named Felek Szczerba was born. This happened only two months after Andrzej and Phoebe were married.

Andrzej Szczerba never put his penis inside Phoebe Hildebrandt again after that first time beside a dirt road in Iowa City.

p. 141


For the record, Phoebe only appears again in the narrative to have her later-life promiscuity remarked upon.

Meanwhile, Austin Szcerba is someone who thinks of a rape victim as "allowing" a man to rape her. He later outright compares himself to this rapist. This happens after Austin has sex with his girlfriend Shann:
Unlike my great-grandfather, Andrzej Szczerba, I was not testing myself or trying to prove anything.

That was what I told myself, at least.

I was probably wrong.

p. 199

Taken together, these passages paint a much darker picture of Austin's sexuality. Rather than something adolescent and exploratory, it reads to me as something darker, verging on predatory.

Is this how Andrew Smith envisions the male teenage mind? If so, it's a disturbing image.

Perhaps, like much of the book, this is supposed to be frank: this is how boys are. Deal with it. But I find this approach to adolescent male sexuality as insulting and reductive as arguments saying men "naturally" feel the urge to rape and can't be "trained" out of it. This reduces men and boys to animals—worse than animals, as animals can be trained out of bad behaviours.

I am reminded of a post I saw on tumblr that pointed out that things like Lord of the Flies and the Stanford Prison Experiment do not point to universal truths of human nature, but instead to behavioural traits engendered by oppressive capitalism and toxic masculinity. Grasshopper Jungle reeks of a similar preoccupation.

There are less fraught sides to Austin's sexuality—or at least, less fraught in the sense of "am I reading a book about someone who sees women as objects?" Austin's relationship with his gay best friend and love interest Robby is often nuanced and touching. However, it is also constantly placed alongside his feelings for his girlfriend Shann, and the very juxtaposition weakens it. Shann is barely there besides as something for Austn to lust after. He claims to love her, but this alleged depth of feeling is never substantiated the way his feelings for Robby are. The comparison only serves to show each relationship's weak spots. In the relationship with Shann, it is the emotional side and Shann herself, who is largely offscreen and not well developed as a character. In the relationship with Robby, the emotional aspect is fairly strong, but the physical aspect is weak. It's possible that Austin is attracted to Robby strictly romantically, rather than sexually, but this distinction feels like it's beyond the scope of Austin "It Made Me Horny" Szerba, as written. In the end, it's a distinction I don't trust Andrew Smith to make, because I don't trust the way he writes about sexuality.

This extends to his treatment of bisexuality as an identiy. Throughout the book, Austin agonizes over his simultaneous feelings for Robby and Shann. A typical example:
I was confused.

How could be in love with a girl and a boy at the same time?

I was trapped forever.

p. 191

Throughout the book, Austin has the example of his gay best friend, and wonders about possibly being gay himself, frequently retreating from this idea by remembering Shann and his attraction to her. This was a bit frustrating to read about, and I wondered frequently if Austin had ever heard about bisexuality. It turns out, he had. But the one and only time bisexuality directly came up in the book was near the very end:
Robby shrugged. "They have a name for guys like you, you know, Austin?"

"Um. Bisexual?" I guessed. I did not think I was bisexual. I was only guessing.

I was always only guessing.

I was trying to talk to Robby and make him not think about things like me betraying my friends; hurting their feelings. But Robby Brees was too smart for that shit.

"No," Robby said. "The word is selfish. You don't really care about me or Shann."

p. 210

The way bisexual identity is deployed here makes it feel like the punchline of a joke. After all that agonizing, it was so incongruous for Austin to know about bisexuality, even if he didn't claim the identity—it felt like bisexuality itself was only worth bringing up as part of some cute snarky dialogue. It felt, in short, dismissive, after an entire book's worth of buildup on the subject. Possibly Andrew Smith was trying to make a point about bi erasure, but if so, it fell flat.

I'm suspicious, as well, of the asymmetry of the triangle. I've already mentioned that there is inherent asymmetry because of how poorly developed Shann and her relationship with Austin are. But there's something else that I rather side-eye. Despite a book's worth of agonizing over Robby, he and Austin share one kiss and one night where they fall asleep in the same bed. Meanwhile, the heterosexual couple, Austin and Shann, share many instances of making out, even heavy petting leading to ejaculation, as well as one instance of penetrative sex. Bisexual people don't have to be attracted to all genders in the same amounts or the same ways, but I'm a bit suspicious that the heterosexual pairing had so much physicality while the homosexual one played it pretty "safe". It felt like a case of wanting to have your cake and eat it, too. You want a male and a female love interest, but you don't want to write women. Win. You want to get points for portraying a bisexual character, but don't want to make it too controversial. Win.

Having your cake and eating it too seems an apt description for the book overall. Indrapramit Das at Strange Horizons suggests a reading: "The sci-fi horror adventure around the teen dramedy might as well be a gigantic wish-fulfillment fantasy that Austin 'Porcupine' Szerba constructs to escape his own confusion at being bisexual, his heartbreak at having to choose between his two (conventionally attractive and white, of course) crushes/loves, and his helplessness at the absence of his big brother (further exacerbated by his being bullied)." Honestly, it seems plausible and of a piece with how the book operates. Andrew Smith is careful to keep the apocalyptic threat of the giant bugs—Unstoppable Soldiers—at a remove from Austin and those he cares about most. His love interests and their families are safe; Austin himself is safe as long as he sticks near Robby, who is anathema to the Unstoppable Soldiers. Austin's family is far from the initial crisis, and may have survived in Europe after all. It all comes together as a plausible excuse to have sexual access to Shann while continuing to have exciting adventures with Robby.

Sexual access is shown to be much of the sum worth of Shann in the end. Together, she and Austin are starting the next generation, the New Humans. But Shann is not an equal participant in the apocalypse. She is forbidden by the boys from accompanying them on the adventure that ultimately starts the apocalypse. Her one contribution to the plot is accomplished offscreen, and is not even afforded the loving fill-in-the-blank detail Austin gives other events he was not present for. At the end, Shann literally pouts underground in the safehouse called Eden, mothering her child, while Austin and Robby have adventures together on the surface. The other women who survived are similarly shown to be busy breeding or doing domestic things like cooking pancakes and making rules about shower schedules.

In his meticulous tracing of his own history, Austin relentlessly focuses on the men of his line. The women literally appear in the story only to be impregnated, and in one instance raped, and produce the next (male) generation of Szczerbas. It's very convenient that Austin can trace his line back through all men, no? Not a single generation out of six with no sons in it. No interesting sisters or wives worth more than their uterus? He did change things up once and have one of his ancestors be (probably) homosexual, but this felt like yet another excuse to overfocus on the men in the narrative at the cost of the women—in this case, it was the same ancestor who went on to rape and impregnate Phoebe.

Even the primary female antagonist, the Unstoppable Soldier queen who hatched out of a woman named Eileen Pope, gets less to do than her male cohort. She is literally reduced to being impregnated over and over by the males, rarely participating in the chaos and destruction the other Unstoppable Soldiers cause.

This reductivisit, outright sexist approach to women permeates the book, with its strong masculine focus and its privileging of male interests, male activities, and male life in general. But it's not the only point where the book is shamefully mean-spirited. I could say it treats most of the characters who aren't Robby or Austin with equal contempt, but there is something very specifically fatphobic about this passage regarding Ollie, a character consistently commented on for being fat:
At exactly that moment, Ollie Jungfrau was killing aliens in an online space-shooter game. He was sitting up in his bed, in his underwear, with his laptop resting on his thighs. Ollie had eaten a large pizza and drank five cans from a six-pack of Dr Pepper. Tiny speckles of pizza sauce dotted Ollie's swollen breasts. Ollie Jungfrau needed to piss, but he did not want to get up from bed. He tried to calculate whether he could get away with peeing in his empty Dr Pepper cans. Ollie Jungfrau decided trying to do that might cut his penis, which he could not actually see due to the roll of his belly, or it might cause him to piss in his own bed. Ollie had pissed in his bed before, when he was too tired to get up and walk to the toilet.

p. 162

One could say this is merely Austin's ignorant and juvenile point of view colouring the narration. One could say the same of how the book treats women—I find it only too believable that Austin "Girls Who Don't Say No Make Me Horny" Szerba would think of and treat women in general that way.

But that is cheap. No. I'm holding Andrew Smith accountable on this one. Why choose a point of view like one and leave it unexamined? Austin's framing of women is never questioned by the narrative. His mean-spirited commentary about his neighbours is never examined—in fact, it's given a near God-like omniscience that is never successfully explained by the narrative. Assumedly, Austin, as a self-proclaimed historian, fills in the blanks, and the way he does so is very telling. It's a narrative choice, and I am tired of authors picking "unexamined sexist male" when it comes time to choose. I am even more tired of institutions rewarding it.

"All good books are about everything, abbreviated," says Grasshopper Jungle before transitioning, tongue in cheek, to one of the many side stories (p.206). This smug self-congratulation, repeated earlier in the text, demonstrates neatly the lack of self-awareness in the book. It tries to be about everything, abbreviated, but mysteriously the "everything" is an unending parade of white men while the "abbreviated" is everything else—including the women, the apocalypse, and, in the end, the emotional depth of the story.

Grasshopper Jungle fails to come together, and the ways in which it fails are deeply problematic. For all that it has a bisexual protagonist and an unresolved love triangle hinting at a polyamorous relationship, I cannot in any sense recommend it. There are better bisexual protagonists out there, better treatments of sexuality, and better incorporations of goofy Cold War science science into everyday life.

Supplementary Material

Read Jodie's review of Grasshopper Jungle.

Other Reviews:
Strange Horizons, The Book Smugglers, Books and Sensibility, yours?

Date: 2015-04-29 09:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theliteraryomnivore.wordpress.com
Why choose a point of view like one and leave it unexamined?

WORD. WORD! Leaving it unexamined is essentially the same as perpetuating it. I remember this getting a lot of positive press when it came out while I was working in a book store, and it's infuriating to see that this is how the book actually is. Ugh.

Date: 2015-05-01 01:31 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] justira
Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

I was really frustrating with how unexamined the point of view was. I can accept that Austin is like this, but what about the author? The reader? Ugh!

Date: 2015-05-01 03:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] readingtheend.pip.verisignlabs.com
Wow, yikes. This sounds -- like it excludes the possibility of girls as a reading audience. Which is a huge bummer to me, because I bet girls still do read this book, and it sucks that they get (yet another) portrayal of themselves as objects of sexual desire and nothing else. :/

Date: 2015-05-03 02:27 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] justira
I'm not sure what's more disturbing -- that girls are or aren't part of the envisioned audience. Even if he mostly intended a male audience, the kind of toxic nonsense this book reinforces is a terrible message for young male viewers, too. Basically there's no win here, audience-wise =\

That said, thank you so much for reading and commenting!

I thought it was kinda good tbh

Date: 2016-05-12 09:27 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Ok fam, hold up. I don't have an account on this website so I have to make this anonymous, and this is going to be a long read. I read this book last year and I thought it was spectacular. Yes, it was a mess, but Austin was a mess. I'm very gay myself and I found his struggle with sexuality to be very honest. His refusal to take the 'bisexual' title is probably something that bisexuals can very much relate to. If they were looking for a character that was set in his bisexuality, they should look elsewhere; Austin puts the Q in LGBTQ+.

And lets not stop there, I would go as far as to say that I thought it was admirable how the other characters didn't allow Austin to use his questioning as an excuse for his poor handling of the situation. Hell, I know I've dealt with enough questioning girls who felt that because they were 'confused' it didn't matter that they were hurting me.

Yes, Austin's hyper-sexuality was somewhat overkill but for a person who is confused sexually and may be subconsciously repressing a lot of sexual feelings towards men, it is understandable that those feelings would be released in other areas. (I had this experience when I was growing up, dating many guys and genuinely believing I had feelings for them at the time. I've found many other lesbians who also found themselves "boy-crazy" in their adolescent years, completely unaware of their true feelings.)

I didn't feel that the quote about coffee was referring to rape or any questionable consent? I think what Austin meant by "compliant" was less on the "complaisant" side, not so much a "this girl will let me have sex with her even when she doesn't want to," and more on the consenting side. So kind of like "this girl constantly wants to have sex with me." He isn't stating that he would be angry if that were not the case, or that he feels he deserves a girl like that, he is simply stating that that thought would generally make him horny.

As for the rape of his great-grandmother, I thought that was more complicated than you have pointed out. I believe that Phoebe was raped, for sure, but the point the author is trying to get across is that she was dealing with being in love with a homosexual man. She wanted to have sex with him. I don't believe she wanted it to be like this, I don't believe she wanted to be raped. Again, I believe this was rape. But the POINT; she wanted him to want (key word: want, NOT rape) her and he did not, but she very sadly accepted that this rape would be the only way he would ever want her. She did not enjoy it, obviously, but she was so desperate and sad that she accepted it. The author is portraying two people going through shitty situations, his horrific way of dealing with it and her desperation. He hated Phoebe after because he saw in her his failure, not because she was a rape victim or deflowered or something like that, and he was disgusted with himself too.

It's hard to make a point here because rape is a sensitive issue but it isn't black and white, so to speak. It is a fact that is presented that Phoebe did allow herself to be raped, because she wanted the man to want to have sex with her. It is not the man saying "no it wasn't rape because I know she wanted it!!!" It is not victim blaming. It is still rape, it is still shitty, she still did not enjoy it. If she had fought the rape, the narrative of the story wouldn't have fit. I hope this is coming across how I intend it to, not blaming her or saying it was okay but explaining the intentions of the narrative and why Phoebe didn't fight the rape aaaand why the fact that she didn't needed to be explicitly mentioned in the novel.

So, Austin does compare himself to this guy. He is saying that he didn't have sex with Shann to prove anything to himself, but because he loved her (which he says is probably not actually true). He is not comparing the rape aspect. Austin did not choose to handle the situation in the same way that his great grandfather did. Both him and his great grandfather were confused and thought sex with a woman would help, boom, comparison over. Rape guy decided to rape someone, Austin did not. Thus, I didn't find your point relevant.

I think you were harsh to condemn Austin's lack of sexual acts with his gay best friend. I am starting to wonder if we read the same book, or perhaps if you have been through a journey of confusion and self-hatred and repression to do with sexuality. He is dating the female, yes he is going to have more interactions with her. Interactions with Robbie were cheating. Not good. If he hadn't been dating Shann, I may understand your point. The homosexual aspect was evident in his thoughts, and he couldn't properly act on those thoughts, but basically the whole book focuses on his feelings for Robbie. Shann got all the sex stuff because that was his only outlet and he also believed he was in love with her too. Their relationship was questionable, for sure, she certainly lacked depth in her character, but Austin was a young boy and was clueless. I thought it was done well.

The only reason I found this blog post is because a friend of mine who happens to be questioning (she believes she is "probably bi" but I know she is far from accepting herself completely. Don't mind me, somewhat of a "mama lesbian" to my questioning friends.) knew I had read and loved the book and decided to read it. She related a lot to Austin in his confusion and failure to handle the situation well, so perhaps for a bisexual this would not be an ideal read and they'll need to look (more like hunt or forage) for their representation elsewhere. For a questioning person, absolutely ideal, without a doubt. When I read the book last, I had probably been 'out' (only to myself) for about 9 months and the struggle was still a very fresh memory, so I was satisfied too.

As for the fat guy, yeah, that sucks, I'll give you that. Personally I think his laziness was supposed to be the target here, and his severe lack of self-respect, which manifested in MANY more ways than just his weight. All his actions (peeing the bed, playing a lot of video games and, if I remember correctly, excessive consumption of pornography, etc) and thoughts were at play here too. I understand that his harshness may be very unpleasant to read if one was overweight, and they might feel targeted, which would not be good. In terms of the narrative though, the key would be his laziness.

Yeah, Austin wasn't a great person overall. An underlying aspect was that he was narcissistic. He managed to portray himself through his thoughts as being an okay guy, but when you get a glimpse of how the other characters are feeling (Robbie's "you're not bi, you're selfish" comment, pretty much Shann's general existence) it opens him up to criticism. You have to be smart when reading the book and don't get sucked in too hard into Austin's point of view. Overall, I absolutely loved it.

You have been screened!

Date: 2016-05-12 04:16 pm (UTC)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
This comment has been screened because you didn't take the five seconds required to read our comment policy before making assumptions about my co-editor's personal life and sexuality, which was 100% inappropriate. Try again after reading our policy and without personal speculation and insinuations that my colleague is stupid.

Re: You have been screened!

Date: 2016-05-13 02:58 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
come on, my guy! alright, I apologize, I admit to not reading the comment policy, I got a bit excited to type my comment. I just read it, I see the problem was that I insulted the person. I shouldn't have done that, I think her arguments were well informed and she didn't outright lie or anything, but I don't think it was that inappropriate to question her experiences. Writing about a book about bisexuality, surely we can engage in a conversation about sexuality. It was rude of me to say we may have read a different book, but it was some light banter, rather than a malicious attack on her personality or whatnot. I was commenting too strongly on how different our opinions were on the topic. I see now that this is not allowed. But I was interested in her response, I did come for a discussion and not to start an argument, even though it may appear differently. I did not intend my comment to be a personal attack on the writer of the article.

Also, I did read the comment guide, I promise, but I still don't know how to get a name. I don't think it matters much because I am the anonymous person, you know it's me. Not blaming the comment guide though. Comment guide: very useful. Recommended read, for sure.

Re: You have been screened!

Date: 2016-05-13 03:05 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Fuck, sorry, pronouns. Genuine mistake, really takes away from my point. Editing my comment is not a thing I can do, so I have replied.

Date: 2016-05-13 03:12 am (UTC)
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
From: [personal profile] renay
Thanks. :)

To talk with us anonymously, you don't need an account. Just chose a name (it can be a handle you use elsewhere or something new) to use consistently wherever you're speaking with us in the comments. Sign all your comments with whatever you choose, like so: - Name. This way we know (and anyone reading knows) we're continuing a discussion with the same person.

I'll let Ira decide if they want to come unscreen and discuss your previous comment at all, since it's their review. Thanks for understanding!

Re: You have been screened!

Date: 2016-05-14 12:48 am (UTC)
justira: A purple, gender-ambiguous unicorn pony in the style of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. (lady business)
From: [personal profile] justira
All right, I'm unscreening this even though it went against our comment policy on several counts, because I want the whole discussion to be visible.

The thing about my negative reading of this book is that I don't trust the author. He outright said he doesn't understand women and compared them to an alien species. This is not a guy I trust to write about gender and sexuality with any nuance. I'm glad that some queer and/or questioning people (and I'm not sure if by "the Q in LGBTQ+" you mean "queer" or "questioning") found meaning in the book, but there are books with queer protags that don't have this heavy overlay of sexist male focus over everything. Austin's point of view is pretty toxic (as in "toxic masculinity"), and as I said in the review, I'm tired of authors choosing (white) sexist male as a POV when it comes time to decide how to present their story.

Perhaps it's a relatively accurate portrayal of teenaged boyhood. I wouldn't know. I asked my partner, a cis man, and he disagreed pretty vehemently with this account. So we have anecdata from all points of the spectrum. I do like that, as you said, the people around Austin call him out on his shit. That's a nice thing about the book, and something I didn't point out when it comes to the bisexual/selfish quote.

But speaking of anecdata, I am hella queer myself, and have no issues with confusion or self-hatred or repression. As [personal profile] renay pointed out, that was pretty inappropriate to comment on. But for the record, I'm genderqueer, pansexual, and polyamorous, and have been out as such for, well, fuck, I lost count, over a decade?

That said, this book did not speak to my experience. The one thing I can kind of relate to is the polyamorous angle, as Austin strikes me as poly and just doesn't seem to have the vocabulary or experience to identify it as such. He wants to be in relationships with two people at the same time, and he's confused about it. But same as with the bisexuality questioning, the constant repetition of this (as with the constant repetition of many things in the book) got to me. It was not enjoyable to read, in the end, and that's about all I can say about the book. I'm pretty sure I'm plenty smart to get it; I just did not like it.

And because I can't let this fly: I'm just gonna put out there that saying something like "she allowed herself to be raped" is going to come off as victim-blaming no matter how much you disclaim and explain. There's a long history of using that exact language to discredit rape victims, and you're playing right into that discourse here.

Re: You have been screened!

Date: 2016-05-15 06:28 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Thanks for responding! Please accept my apologies for how my initial comment came across/how I chose to come across. I don't like to enter a discussion unless I am willing to change my perspective. For the most part, you've convinced me.

After I was screened, I read over my original comment. In your response, you said "I'm tired of authors choosing (white) sexist male as a POV when it comes time to decide how to present their story." You also said you don't trust the author. So. If the plot is an outlined drawing and the words are the colour, it seems I believed the author was just colouring in a picture that was handed to him by the Great Book God. I neglected the fact that he also drew the outline. I only really commented on the way the story was told, rather than the choice made by the author to create that story. Considering this important fact more carefully has shifted my perspectives on a number of points.

When I said "you have to be smart to get the book", please know that I genuinely did not mean "the reason you didn't like the book is because u r too DARN stupit". Obviously I can see that it looks like that's what I meant. I did not feel that anything you said was stupid or ill-informed. It was more of a general statement, and one which my response could have done without. It was a continuation of my point that in being granted with the power of narration, Austin comes across as a pretty fun guy, and very few times does he grace us with the opinions and thoughts of the other characters. If one is foolish enough to completely buy into Austin's views, they would miss these occasions, which were key, in my opinion. That is what I meant by being smart. You have clearly not bought into Austin's views at all, I think this is very evident in your response. I hope I cleared that up a little bit.

I see what you mean about the victim blaming. I feel like you understood my point but still disagreed. I guess it comes down to the fact that the wounds of society wrongly using this as an excuse are too fresh for it to be taken any other way. Because it is probably still being used as an excuse. This is what I assume you mean and I agree and see how that is inappropriate for Big Man Andy to use in his narrative, thus taking away any relevance from my initial point about why this was in the book.

To go back to my colouring book/drawing analogy, I think we can agree the outline of the book was questionable on a number of counts. You didn't like the colouring, whereas I did. It's probably something to do with immaturity if I'm being honest, but the simple nature of the book appealed to me. It reminded me of my favourite book ever, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Considering that book was originally in French, the simple wording and apparent bluntness of it is probably mostly due to the fact that it has been translated. And it's for children, so... Anyway, I always thought this style was quite comfortable and easy to read, the repetition making everything seem to come in a friendly bundle. That was what I thought, I see you found it not enjoyable to read. That's fine obviously, my opinion (enjoying the book) seems to have fallen on the problematic side of the opinions. Grasshopper Jungle is my new problematic fave, I guess.

Thanks for being open to discuss even though my initial comment was kinda impetuous. I'm only 18 and very impulsive. I'm still learning what's cool and what's uncool.

PS. These captchas are wild.

Re: You have been screened!

Date: 2016-05-15 06:47 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
oh, the name thing. I feel weird about it now. It's me again. My name is Emma, so, yeah.
- Emma

Date: 2017-09-09 09:43 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
just saying, I'm p sure Austen's sexuality doesn't really matter that much and I'm p sure he wants to have a polyamorous relationship with both Robbie and Shann and that's what confuses him the most


Lady Business welcome badge

Pitch Us!
Review Policy
Comment Policy
Writers We Like!
Contact Us

tumblr icon twitter icon syndication icon

image asking viewer to support Lady Business on Patreon

Who We Are

Ira is an illustrator and gamer who decided that disagreeing with everyone would be a good way to spend their time on the internet. more? » twitter icon tumblr icon AO3 icon

By day Jodie is currently living the dream as a bookseller for a major British chain of book shops. She has no desire to go back to working in the real world. more? » tumblr icon last.fm icon

KJ KJ is an underemployed librarian, lifelong reader, and more recently an avid gamer. more? » twitter icon tumblr icon AO3 icon

Renay writes for Lady Business and co-hosts Fangirl Happy Hour, a pop culture media show that includes a lot yelling about the love lives of fictional characters. Enjoys puns. more? » twitter icon pinboard icon tumblr icon

Susan is a library assistant who uses her insider access to keep her shelves and to-read list permanently over-flowing. more? » twitter icon pinboard icon AO3 icon


Book Review Index
Film Review Index
Television Review Index
Game Review Index
Non-Review Index
We Want It!
Fanwork Recs
all content by tags

Our Projects

hugo award recs

Criticism & Debate

Indeed, we do have a comment policy.

What's with your subtitle?

It's a riff off an extremely obscure meme only Tom Hardy and Myspace fans will appreciate.

hugo award winner
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios