Reading Toronto

I read Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson a few weeks ago. I don’t know how to recommend it without sounding silly. It’s really good. It has so much action in it. About a quarter of the way in, I wondered why the author had gotten to the climax so early in the story, but then it just kept building. Every time I thought things would start to settle down and end, more action happened. And then more happened. I felt disappointed when I ran into someone I knew on the bus or the train on the way to work because it meant I couldn’t read. And the ending felt cathartic and open. Nothing got wrapped up too tidily. No cheesy epilogue explained how well (or how poorly) everything turned out. It ended with tragedy, but also with hope. And the prologue probably has the best description of Toronto I’ve ever read:

Imagine a cartwheel half-mired in muddy water, its hub just clearing the surface. The spokes are the satellite cities that form Metropolitan Toronto: Etobicoke and York to the west; North York in the north; Scarborough and East York to the east. The Toronto city core is the hub. The mud itself is vast Lake Ontario, which cuts Toronto off at its southern border.

That’s my city. A wheel sticking out of a murky puddle.

When I heard the Book City in the Annex was closing this spring, I got really sad. I won’t make it back there before it’s gone. I feel bad, because I prefer reading off my e-reader, and I buy a lot of my e-books through a major corporation that I don’t like supporting. I still like the feel of actual books, and I’ll miss going into Book City to pick them up, feel their covers, their pages, their weight. I used to buy books there all the time. I liked it better than the large Chapters (or Indigo or whatever) because I could see everything there at once. I liked it better than used bookstores for almost the same reason. I could find things in that Book City. And if I couldn’t find something, I could find a person to ask really easily, and I’d get a straight answer right away. If I could buy e-books at Book City I would, especially if it meant I got to go inside, walk around, and feel the physical copies first.

My city’s changing and I can’t see it. It might not turn into the dystopian version from Brown Girl in the Ring, but it’s still changing.


Why Angel Doesn’t Work

I really like this piece on vampires as privilege. It reminds me of something I meant to write last summer but didn’t. It might be something that everyone has already figured out, but I haven’t read it anywhere, so I’m gonna write it.

Some Buffy and Angel spoilers below.

I watched a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel last summer. I had already seen most of Buffy, but I caught up on some of the episodes I hadn’t seen, and I watched in order story arcs that I’d seen before in bits and pieces. It was good. Buffy generally is. I mean, it isn’t close to perfect – it’s super racist, to start off with – but has some good messages about gender and it nicely critiques the helpless damsel trope that used to be so prevalent in horror movies. (Has that trope actually gone away some or do I just not watch enough movies to notice it?) I hadn’t watched as much Angel before. I knew the overall storyline, and I wanted to know how those events actually happened. I figured I would enjoy it the way I always enjoy watching Buffy. Instead, I decided that Angel just doesn’t work the way Buffy does, and there’s a very good reason for that.

If Buffy (the character) is the shallow, helpless, blonde cheerleader who finally learns to protect herself, Angel (also the character) represents white, straight, cis, male privilege, and its resulting guilt. He spends about 150 years living as a metaphor for sexual violence, and then when a pissed off family curses him with a soul, he feels guilty about all of the horrible things he has done. I think he works as a character on Buffy. It makes sense to me that they would fall in love with each other (a teenage girl who grows up too fast in a way that no one else can relate to and a guilt-ridden man who hasn’t really grown up yet sort of fit well together, if not in the most healthy way). On Buffy, Angel tries to fix the problem he used to be a part of by working with the Slayer. The minute he experiences true happiness, he loses his soul. This also makes sense. When people with privilege forget about their privilege, they become part of the problem. On Buffy, Angel is an ally, but most people don’t fully trust him, and Buffy makes the decisions.

On Angel, Angel’s the boss. He briefly puts Wesley in charge in the second season, but the show still revolves around him and he generally ends up being the hero. The audience is supposed to identify and sympathize with Angel, the guy who is one moment of pure happiness away from switching sides. I think Joss Whedon forgot, or maybe never realized, that this isn’t Angel’s fight. It’s Buffy’s fight. It’s the Slayers’ fight. It’s the humans’ fight. It’s the fight of the people that actually suffered as a result of the things that Angel, and others like him, did. Angel can help, but he can’t be the solution when he caused so much of the problem.

(Also, the show just doesn’t deliver on the same critiques of gender in fantasy and horror movies that Buffy does. They have, like, a zillion mystical pregnancies and don’t handle any of them particularly well, and I then I just stopped watching when I got to the episode in the third season where Angel fully prohibits Darla from terminating the pregnancy she doesn’t want to have. Awful awful awful.)


Ugh.

I really try to avoid writing clichés. I don’t like it when people roll their eyes at me and I don’t think I should say things that other people have said over and over again (unless it’s something really important that I think I need to repeat, but those aren’t really clichés). However, right now I need to write something that I see as a cliché in personal blogs.

This really sucks. I have to work myself up to actually say it.

I need to post more.

Ugh. It just sounds so disingenuous. If I actually thought I needed to post more, I would post more, right? Apparently not. I don’t know if posting that I need to post more will actually make me post more. It might just make me feel worse when I don’t follow through. But this is my second post in less than a week, so I should at least get part marks.

The worst is that I sometimes have an idea of something that I want to post, but then I just don’t do it. I don’t write it, and eventually enough time passes that I feel silly thinking about writing it. I have a post that I started writing a few days ago. I better post it soon before it gets stale. I’d do it now, but I wrote it up in a notebook and I can’t get at the notebook because I have a kitty on my lap. I can’t disturb this!

This is my excuse for not doing a lot of things.

I’m stuck.

Anyway, I’m gonna aim for at least one thing a week. Maybe more. We’ll see if I get anywhere close.