Top Ten Tuesday Freestyle: Give me more and give me less

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Wow, coming up with your own top ten list is harder than I thought, so here’s to the folks at The Broke and the Bookish who do it on a regular basis. You can write your very own top ten list and join in here. I got very excited at first when I saw this topic, thinking, great, now I can do a top ten on whatever I want and coming up with ten things will be a piece of cake. Wrong! The best I could do was a half and half….five things I wish people would write about less and five things I wish people would write about more.

Things I wish people would write about less:

1. Falling in love. Okay, yeh, it’s classic, isn’t it? Romeo and Juliet, Radha and Krishna, whatever your particular version is. But it gets old, and is often done kind of badly. Why do these two people fall in love? Because they’re inhabiting the same general space in the universe? It’s often unclear, and as you’ll see below, falling in love and getting together is really only the smallest part of the story.

2. Slavery. Didn’t see that coming, did you? Lately, I pick up a book in the bookstore and see it’s about slavery and think to myself, “Not another one!” Now, keep in mind, I’m someone who thinks that as a country, we still bear the psychological, economic and social scars of this institution. I hate it when people pull out the, “Slavery happened so long ago! What does it matter now?” argument. It does matter now. I would argue that the institution of slavery in the United States gave birth to racism in its modern form, and that racism hasn’t gone anywhere. So slavery’s an important institution historically. But, I wonder at our literary obsession with race and racism in a specifically historical context. Where are the books about racism in its contemporary forms? For example, Angela Davis argues that the prison system is like the new slavery, disenfranchising thousands of African-Americans in a way that keeps them conveniently out of sight and out of mind. Where are the novels about that? This was part of what I didn’t like about The Help. It felt like a cop-out to write about African-American maids during the Civil Rights era as opposed to writing about the maids who had raised Kathryn Stockett, the author, during her own lifetime. Historicizing racism allows folks to put some distance between it and themselves…that happened “back then” and has nothing to do with now. As William Faulkner would say, “That past is never dead. It’s not even past.” So maybe this is really about wanting to see more stories about racism in a contemporary context, which would balance out all the books about slavery.

3. Action movie scripts disguised as books. The action sequence to me seems to be something especially well-suited to the big screen. I know there’s a long tradition of action in literature, going back to The Illiad and The Mahabbarata. But for me personally, if action scenes are what you want to write, write a film script.

4. Zombies. Enough said, except my friend is fixing to loan me a zombie book which she says is amazing. We’ll see.

5. Vampires. I love a good vampire story as much as the next person, though they all pale in comparison to Buffy. But enough is enough. There’s an essay out there, and perhaps someone’s already written it, that would help explain when and why a culture becomes obsessed with vampires. What it tells us about the particular zeitgeist of the times. I don’t know exactly what that essay would say, and welcome anyone whose willing to write it.

Things I wish people would write more about:

1. What happens after the couple rides off into the sunset. See #1 above. This is where it gets interesting, folks. Falling in love is aided by gravity and phermones. What happens when those go away? It’s living with someone and loving them day after day that I think is what’s really interesting, and we do everyone a disservice by not writing about it more. I think it’s fair to say that we spend more of our lives in committed relationships than we do falling in love, so, what’s that all about?

2. What parenting is really like. And preferably, from the perspective of parents. #1 and #2 are two of the reasons I like Nick Hornby so much. He writes about these things, in an honest voice, and it sounds real. And I think this is another area where we do ourselves a disservice. Parenting is hard, and sometimes we have ugly thoughts as parents. I remember when a friend told me that no one made her angrier than her children do and it was such a relief to hear that from someone else. I want some honest depictions of the ups and downs of parenting.

3. Families that aren’t nuclear. As in, blended families, step-families, whatever you want to call them. Dad, mom and two kids is no longer the normal family in the United States. Why does literature (and the movies, and a lot of television) seem to want to pretend it still is? You may have your own opinions on whether it’s a good or bad thing, but it’s reality. Let’s hear some stories about it.

4. Getting old. I think this is changing some. Maybe it’s a boomer thing. I loved Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and Emily, Alone, both really spectacular books about older folks. I want more. Getting old is a really interesting thing (or at least, I’m finding it so, though I don’t know if I’m officially there yet or not). I want to hear more writers exploring what it means to age.

5. Menstruation. Yeh, this is a weird one, isn’t it? It goes back to my women’s studies days in college. But women menstruate. It’s a fact of life. Maybe no big deal for some women, but sometimes, an unholy pain in the ass. I don’t think I’ve read anything about menstruation since, Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret. Seriously? I don’t need a whole book on the subject, but why do we pretend that female characters don’t have periods? Male characters have hard-on’s and nocturnal emissions. People throw up and pee and poop. They bleed in lots of other ways. But no one menstruates. What does that say about what we still think and feel, in the 21st century, about women and their bodies?

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Comments

  1. I think this is an excellent idea for a writing prompt. And I agree with you about all of your suggestions. I especially would love to see more books written about what happens after the happily ever after.

  2. Robyn, this is a great list! I wish you'd composed it for the week it was originally selected because I *totally* would have stolen some of those for my own posting. Most of your lists were more specific than mine, but I agree with yours, especially the ones you want more of. (And you know that I also loved those two books that feature older characters!)

  3. Have you read Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions? It saved my sanity during my son's first year.

    As for the elderly, I'm reading a really intriguing novel right now: Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante. It's told first person POV from a 64-year-old woman with dementia.

  4. I have a wonderful short story for you to read about menstruation that will only take you ten or fifteen minutes to get through.

  5. You're right about the Judy Blume – the only one I can think of.

  6. Great list. I agree about parenting. Nothing preachy though … just a good solid novel that feels like a real family. Menstration! Many times I wonder how it's handled. I only remember seeing it addressed in The Handmaid's Tale and, recently, in Ashfall.

  7. You might like Remnants of Glory by Theresa Miller if you enjoy the perspective from later in life. It's been a while since I read it, but I remember enjoying the writing and the story–it's told in flashbacks kind of, but really shows a great inner picture of being in an older body. 🙂

  8. Robyn, I love the way your mind works! I want to print out this list and post it over my writing desk. There is a brilliant story by Alice Munro about menstruation-you need to read it. I'm too lazy to look it up and check the spelling, but the story is “Meneseteung”.

  9. I really love the second half of the list in particular, especially number three. That is something I would really like to see more of as well.

    Come check ot my list for this week

  10. lol. It is hard for us to come up with them too and we have like 10 people thinking!

    I loved this list. So many good points. The one book that I can think of when you say Menstrating is The Red Tent. It's about that but also women in biblical times. I really enjoyed it.

    Julia @ Broke and Bookish

  11. oooh, I loooved your answers! Really smart and provocative, and I'm with you times a hundred.

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