Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Stroke of Midnight chapter 6, Elsie chapter four and five

Next up, Merry calls the fed who investigated her father's murder. And now it's obvious LKH is avoiding plot like it's got plague. Again.

Gillett is the guy's name. Obviously, somebody in the Hamilton house bought a new set of razor blades when she was casting around for monickers.

Everybody's like "OH NO DO YOU THINK THIS IS A GOOD IDEA" so that means we're going to have another goddamn pissing contest. One that is even MORE valid than Anita's because Anita is at least some kind of official cop in her universe, whereas Merry is a PI, and more attuned to divorces than actual court cases.

However, I seem to be wrong; it turns into a pissing match between Doyle and Galen because Doyle didn't know Merry had a fed's private number and Galen did. Look, is there a REASON why no one in this series can have a decent peer to peer relationship?

I looked into Doyle’s face as I held Galen to me. Did Doyle not know that my heart’s list had grown larger, and that his name was on that list? The way he was acting, he seemed jealous, or envious, or angry.
And this is how we know that this is not polyamory, but something like the polygamous relationships in the FLDS. None of these men like being in a relationship with anyone other than Merry. None of them do much more than tolerate each other. Merry is the only one happy because she doesn't have to commit to any of these guys. It's not good and it's not healthy. The guys should not be at each other's throats ALL THE FUCKING TIME if this relationship was actually working.

So she calls her pet fed, talks for about three minutes, realizes that he REALLY wants to investigate and that he won't be controllable, regrets it and tries to hang up. So we go through the positive relationship in about three pages and move on to who has the bigger whatever.

And then Merry has a cathartic moment. Which would be significant if it weren't treated like her very last catharsis before getting over a deep wound.

Guys, sometimes you never get over things. Recovery and healing both indicate a process, and it's one most people, including myself, never stop working on. The attitude that you can be healed--that there comes a point where you don't have this whatever-it-is hanging over your head--and that, by extension, if you haven't fully healed you're being clingy and wrong-headed--is stupid and sick. It's a process, not a race. You're better today than you were yesterday, even if it doesn't feel like it, and you'll be better tomorrow than you are today, even if you don't believe it. Merry is "shoulding" all over herself...and by extension, shitting on other survivors by somehow implying that a single episode of crying and greif can heal a wound.

It's also kind of irritating that the ONLY form of character development LKH can muster up is "getting over old wounds". Not, you know, making new friends and bonds and new careers, and having more experiance to deal with situation X, or making choices that bring a new and bigger perspective into the character's life. Nope, it's only by dwelling on what we've already done that these characters can advance.

This utterly pointless chapter ends with Merry getting a group hug and a very big cry.

On to Elsie.

So last time Elsie got sent to bed without supper because she disobeyed a poorly explained instruction. Today, we get a really interesting exchange. See, Elsie has friends from outside the household over. Lucy and Hubert, specifically. And Lucy asks Elsie what happened last night. Elsie explains about her punishment. It's Lucy's reaction that is interesting:

"Was that all? why my papa wouldn't have punished me for that," said Lucy. "He might have scolded me a little if I had done it on purpose, but if I had told him I had forgotten, he would only have said, 'You must remember better next time.'" ..."He must be very strict indeed; I'm glad he is not my papa," replied Lucy, in a tone of great satisfaction.

You know what? It sounds like Lucy has a very healthy set of parents, AND as if she's doing exactly what children need to do: comparing the behavior of strange adults to safe ones. She's analyzed Elsie's situation, decided that it's not normal, and has decided that this "not normal" is something she NEVER wants to deal with.

Elsie, however, does not have the same healthy frame of reference. Because both the elder Dinsmores and her father have strongly limited her contact with outsiders, she doesn't know how other children behave. She's desperate to retain her father's love, and one of the elements of retaining that love is gratitude. Over and over in the book so far Horace has overheard his daughter defending his bad behavior towards her. This is what motivates most of his warm responses. Isolated people, especially children, are very dependant on the people doing the isolation--be it an abusive spouse, a cult leader, or a bad parent. When a fact comes to light that threatens their isolater/abuser, it threatens the foundations of their security. They have to defend the abuser to maintain what they believe to be their own safety and security. This is one of the primary motives behind isolating a victim (the other being that the victim has no resources to leave on). They'll have someone with the tenacity of a rabid dog as a defender. An abuse victim who has not woken up yet will fight for their abuser to the hilt, not because they care, but because they believe their own well-being is threatened if anything happens to this person. The illusion of security and safety is that valuable to them. In the primary audience for this book--ten to sixteen year old homeschooled girls--this scene re-enforces that outside criticism of the adult figures in the child's life is dangerous and should be regarded as an attack--and that the child is their primary line of defense. Many homeschool children are taught how to lie to CPS--are actually drilled so that they all have the same story no matter what--to protect their parents from repercussions. I remember being deathly afraid to go outside before 2PM because someone might come and take me away from my parents, and my parents didn't do the whole "CPS is evil" thing.

Another example of Horace isolating Elsie is his refusal to let her go on a pleasure trip the Dinsmores had planned. His excuse is that he had planned to go too, but since he couldn't, his daughter won't be going either. Which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, as the kid's lived eight years without him. It's not about her safety--it's about him maintaining control over the girl in every possible aspect. When she sends a servant to town to pick up some candy for herself, Horace intercepts and burns it.

And again: Both Elsie's defense of her father and her father's treatment of her are currently treated as good things.

Elsie sends Lucy to ask Horace for her candy. He sends Lucy back and demands Elsie come herself. He asks her why she sent her friend and she says that she was afraid of him.

Horace then drags out "Abuser tactic number 99995"

 "If I were a drunken brute, in the habit of knocking you about, beating and abusing you, there might be some reason for your fear, Elsie," he said, coloring with anger; "but, as it is, I see no excuse for it at all and I am both hurt and displeased by it."

 Why NO Horace ,you don't beat your kid. You only threaten to do it, as you did over the episode with the snake. You also limit her food and contact with friends, seemingly arbitrarily, criticize everything she does (including crying when your behavior hurts her) demand perfection when an ADULT wouldn't be capable of it, and threaten frequently to take EVERYTHING she values away from her. Now you are holding the first personal pleasure this kid has asked for in several pages. WHY THE FUCK WOULD SHE NOT BE AFRAID OF YOU.

One way an abuser will defuse an accusation of abuse is to say that there are so many worse things they could be doing, how could this thing ever be considered abusive? Beating is bad, but not beating a child, or a lover, does not excuse things like limiting outside contact, food choices and emotional behavior. ABUSE IS WRONG, and even if there are bigger abuses out there, that does not make the abuses any individual experiance smaller. The oppression olympics do not exist, nobody gives out gold medals to the truely suffering and tell the merely miserable that they need to try better next time. Everyone's pain is valid, and being damaged by a parent who limits themselves to emotional abuse is damage, just as if you were physically beaten.

Elsie's response is, as usual, pretty heartbreaking:

"I'm afraid he doesn't love me much," sighed Elsie in low, tearful tones, "for he hardly ever lets me have anything, or go anywhere that I want to."

I said it yesterday, I'll say it again: Children with confidence in their parents' love will practice rejection and defiance with their parents because they feel absolutely safe in doing so. They know that even if they get negative consequences, they will remain loved and safe. This practice, especially in the first ten years of life, enables the adult to reject unwanted lovers, or pressure to go along with an activity they do not want to participate in. They are secure in their self worth. A child so perfectly obedient they won't even cry in public is a possible indicator that the parent/child relationship has been sabotaged, and that the child believes their behavior and compliance dictates their self worth. When a parent teaches their child that behavior=value, they create an easily manipulated adult who believes the only way they have value is to do as they are told--wheither or not the order is healthy, wheither or not they want to.

Which brings me to the next disgusting point in this awful, awful book

But Elsie shook her head sadly, saying with a little sigh, "No, Lucy, you are very kind, but I cannot disobey papa, even if he should never know it, because that would be disobeying God, and He would know it."..."Oh!" she murmured half aloud as she covered her face with her hands, and the tears trickled through her fingers, "how soon I have forgotten the lesson papa taught me this morning, and my promise to trust him without knowing his reasons. I don't deserve that he should love me or be kind and indulgent, when I am so rebellious."

The sabotage of the parent/child relationship also sabotages the child's spirituality. To quote Fight Club:

Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers bailed, what does that tell you about God?
I really cannot express how rivited I was by that scene. It was one of the most shattering moments I think I've ever had, like I was hearing my own brain scream at me. But I probably didn't interpret it the way the author and moviemakers intended. When a child's relationship with their parents is sabotaged, they view every authority figure with the same expectations--that their value is completely determined by their compliance, by what they can do. This is dangerous enough when one is dealing with spouses, lovers and bosses--it becomes lethal when applied to the concept of divinity. First, it means whatever relationship you enter into with your god is already sabotaged. You already have a performance-based relationship and will not seek help and guidance from your form of divinity, rather turning to them only when you feel you have something worth bringing to them. Second, and far more importantly, it leaves you wide open to manipulation via a mediator. Your pastor, leader, priestess, whatever, can very, very easily make obedience to them the same as obedience to God. Having any kind of mediator between yourself and the divine is INCREDIBLY dangerous, but it is increasingly more so for people who had strong performance-based expectations on themselves as a child. (Note: There are good mediators out there, but they are the ones who usually understand how dangerous their role is for their following, and take steps to educate their followers and limit their role in their respective body.)

Things have gotten to the point where Elsie's former tormentors are starting to come to her defense, asking if maybe Horace is going too far. This is presented in the book as an outside attack on Horace.

And so in the middle of all of this, here comes Chloe with bible verses ready to comfort Elsie.

"Darlin'," said Chloe, earnestly, "didn't you read to your ole mammy dis very morning dese bressed words: 'If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,' an' de other: 'If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.' Go to de dear, bressed Lord Jesus, darlin', an' ax Him to forgive you, an' I knows He will."

One: I like how Chloe's accent disappears when she's reciting bible verses. Kind of weird how a woman who can't say "blessed" can say "advocate".


The story drew me right into the life of the main character and I found myself wanting to be just like Elsie - with such a pure heart and such strong faith! I didn't want to stop reading, and when I finished the book, I wanted the next one in the series right away. I even loved the Foreword to the book which is full of fascinating information about the history and the social customs of the 19th century. This modern version is very well-written and much easier to read than the original 1868 text. The characters really come to life! The book inspired me to want a much closer walk with the Lord!--Amazon Review
 This is a wonderful story of a little girl who put God first no matter what the cost. It is a must read!

My 9 year old daughter and I have been reading this series together at bedtime. She loves it and I'm happy to read it to her as it gives the example of a a girl, woman, wife and mother with a Godly Character. I'm hoping my daughter is influenced for the better with this story. I wish more books were written like this in today's world where evil and witchcraft seem to be approved reading & viewing material for our children. My daughter's only wish was this could be created into a movie, but if it was I would want them to stick to the book and not dramatize the story with falsehoods like they do so many others.--another Amazon Review

But goddamn it I'm making it through the rest of this chapter TONIGHT.

 So the next morning she goes downstairs and Horace is treating her with coldness as usual.  Elsie takes Lucy to her father's drawing room to look at something. Arthur follows her, they have an arguement, and he pushes her over. On her way down, she knocks over one of Horace's vases. It breaks. Horace comes in and Arthur tells him Elsie broke it on purpose. He shouts at her, sends her upstairs, and locks the door on the other children. Lucy defends her after a few minutes, and Horace sends her back downstairs.

Explosive anger is very damaging for a child. Children do not understand how upset adults get when something bad happens. They cannot cope. It is up to adults to control themselves around children.
 She was thinking, "Papa says I am naughty sometimes, but oh! how very naughty he would think me if he knew all the wicked feelings I had yesterday."

I hate this book. I hate this book. OH GOOD FUCKING GOD how much I hate this book.

 The next thing that happens is Horace restricts her allowance. He gives her the full amount, but he requires her to account for every cent she spends. So now she'll have to ask herself if her father will approve of any item she buys, thus further restricting what she can and cannot do. And while he phrases it as a responsability, we're not that far off from the Candy incident.

Which Horace brings up almost immediately.

"Candy, half a dollar; remember, Elsie, there is to be no more money disposed of in that way; not as a matter of economy, by any means, but because I consider is very injurious. I am very anxious that you should grow up strong and healthy. I would not for anything have you a miserable dyspeptic."

Horace then explains that he wants to limit the amount of contact Elsie has with Lucy because he overheard some of the things Lucy said about him.

Horace then analyzes what Elsie bought the previous month and then this happens:

"She is a dear, unselfish, generous little thing," he said to himself. "However, I may be mistaken; I must not allow myself to judge from only one month. She seems submissive, too,"—he had overheard what passed between her and Lucy at parting—"but perhaps that was for effect; she probably suspected I could hear her—and she thinks me a tyrant, and obeys from fear, not love." This thought drove away all the tender feeling that had been creeping into his heart; and when he next met his little daughter, his manner was as cold and distant as ever, and Elsie found it impossible to approach him with sufficient freedom to tell him what was in her heart.


End of chapter.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Midnight chapter 5, Elsie chapter four part 2

CALLED MAJOR WALTERS OF THE ST. LOUIS POLICE DEPARTMENT, who had been in charge of our security at the airport the day before. I called from the only land line phone in the Unseelie sithen. The phone was in the queen’s office.
Good, good, we're advancing the plot and bringing in previously mentioned characters. I'd like to know how a land-line phone can, you know, work in an ever-shifting magic place but--

Which always looked to me like a black and silver version of Louis the Fourteenth’s office if he had liked going to Goth dance clubs for the dissipated rich. It was elegant, dark, expensive, and exciting in that chill-up-your-spine way; modern, but with a feel of the antique; nouveau riche done right. It was also a little claustrophobic to me. Too many shades of black and grey in too small a space, as if a Goth curtain salesman had persuaded them to cover every inch of the room with his wares.
Plot? No. Let's firmly establish that THIS IS GOTH. IT'S GOTH. GET IT? IT'S GOTH.

And the sad thing is it's so fucking limited to movie, vampire goth. It made sense with Jean Claude et all because movie vampires, but here? When there are so many other options? And for that matter, why is the immortal old-as-rocks fairy queen fixated on a 90s subculture version of a 1000's era asthetic? Why doesn't the immortal fairy queen get to have her own stuff?

Long-ass infodump about how the cops relate to the fairy, which would be so much more interesting than Vanilla Sex Scene Number 2358.

And then we decide to shoot everything about humans-in-the-fairy-mounds in the foot.

See, a big point of the guards protecting Tyler, Andais's new whipping boy, was that humans in the sithen had to be protected. They were valuable, cherished by all, and well guarded from harm because, you know, kidnapping victims.

One of our noblemen had lured her away centuries ago, but he’d grown tired of her. To stay in faerie she needed to be useful, so she learned shorthand and computer skills. She was probably one of the most technologically savvy people in either court.
Yeah, we forgot all of that.

Also: If she leaves the fairy mounds she ages and dies instantly. So in short, she can't leave the mounds. So somebody--probably the Queen--told her that if she doesn't want to die instantly and horribly she needs to learn how to use technology so far removed from her era that its nearest relation is a weaving loom. The fact that she did it speaks for a pretty incredible mind, but that is probably one of the most terrible situations mentioned in this book so far.

So Merry calls the cops and the very first thing their assigned officer does is chew Merry out for not letting his cops into the fairy mounds for the second press conference.

I like him already. I mean, he's being a bit of a piss-ant right now, but he's the very first character to actively call Merry out on her shit.

And Merry proceeds to manipulate the shit out of him. See, he's got a cushy job once he retires from this one and it's looking bad that he let the princess get shot, so her inviting the cops down into the mounds to investigate a murder will make him look good.

...nevermind that anybody with two brain cells will point out that not having the cops down there in the first place is what got the reporter killed.

Then the cop brings up Merry's dad's murder, and it's a pretty good conversation...that is promptly ruined by Merry being more insiteful about the cop. Because topping all the other characters is more important than, you know, actual human interaction. The chapter ends with Merry thinking about how being nice first is better than being mean because you can always be mean later.

Thirty six people highlighted it. I don't get you people.

Meanwhile, back in Elsie:

I went looking at the amazon reviews for the "Life of Faith" updates by Mission City Press, and I found this...thing. 

It's a bible study based on Elsie Dinsmore. For young girls.

Because this is absolutely what we want little girls to be studying.

So Elsie and Dad are going to Ion, to visit the Travillas. And it's relatively boring, noted only by how absolutely fucking creepy the positive interactions with Elsie and Horace are:

"Dear papa," she murmured, laying her little cheek against his hand, "how good God was to spare your life! If you had been killed I could never have had you for my papa."
 "Perhaps you might have had a much better one, Elsie," he said gravely.
 "Oh! no, papa, I wouldn't want any other," she replied earnestly, pressing his hand to her lips.
Emotional incest is a thing, y'all. And that's what the thing looks like.

One thing that is very, very clear, however, is that Martha Finley does not like the positive interactions. The negative treatment of Elsie is far more interesting than her positive moments. When a writer does not like a scene, they don't put a lot of effort into it. This scene? It's the literary version of mayo.

The gentlemen soon went out together, and Elsie spent the morning in Mrs. Travilla's room, chatting with her and assisting her with some coarse garments she was making for her servants.
Slaves. The word is slaves. These books were written contemporaneously to the civil war. Either during or immediately after. So all these glowing descriptions of happy slaves on beautiful plantations under the merciful hands of their masters? Were written so close to the end of slavery that newly freed slaves themselves could buy a copy and go "WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU".

Also: Who reads a book this tone-deaf and goes "YES THIS IS ABSOLUTELY WHAT I WANT MY CHILDREN TO BE READING."

Oh right. This guy. 

So she gets lots of sympathy from Mrs. Travilla, and then Edward Travilla decides to take Elsie off to the gardens.


While her dad is upstairs in the library.

Nothing happens, but it's creepy too. And again: We're giving young girls these books to study as "life lessons". So if Decon B. decides to take Annie off into the corner alone, he can say "Why, look at Edward Travilla!" and the little girl will just go along with it.

They go through dinner and Elsie goes off by herself to read. Because she's eight and she's bored. Travilla finds her and they have a perfectly lovely exchange. And by lovely I mean WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT

"Oh! please let me have it," she pleaded. "I shall not have much time, for papa will soon be calling me to go home." 
"No, no, he is not to take you away; I have made a bargain with him to let me keep you," said Mr. Travilla, very gravely. "We both think that there are children enough at Roselands without you; and so your papa has given you to me; and you are to be my little girl, and call me papa in future."
Because I don't think we're going to get that far, let me remind you that in a later book, Edward marries Elsie. So the man saying this to a child is her future husband. Who marries her with her father's permission and encouragement. If this is not the picture of grooming I do not know what is.

Elsie, being a neglected eight year old struggling to bond with her only living parent, panics and runs to her dad, and of course the entire exchange is dismissed as a friendly, happy joke and not, you know, completely fucking inapproprete behavior between a child and an adult. 

 And Horace's reaction is...yeah.

"Pooh! nonsense, Elsie! I am ashamed of you! how can you be so very silly as to believe for one moment anything so perfectly absurd as that I should think of giving you away? Why, I would as soon think of parting with my eyes."

Oh Elsie, you abused child who is currently being emotionally abused by fucking everyone, how could you dare be so silly as to believe that the parent who has been cold, emotionally distant and deliberately cruel at the drop of a hat would give you to the best friend he has known longer than you? How silly.


The result of isolating children from others is that it gives them a highly distorted view of reality. They do not get the chance to compare the adults they know to the adults around other children. They don't get to compare their own behavior and treatment to that of their peer group. Normal, to them, is whatever lies at home. If home is safe, well adjusted, and not rife with toxic ideas (racism, homophobia, unhealthy religious mania) then this can work. But if ANYTHING about the home is toxic, the child comes to believe at best that toxic is normal. At worse they come to believe that healthy behaviors--ie dating, dancing, not being beaten--are actually unhealthy and that the only "good" way to live is in the toxic miasma of their family's thought systems and beliefs. The culture shock when they are finally allowed to interact with society only results in a confirmation that outside=bad.

A child secure in her relationship with her parents would understand that her father would never do this. A child secure in her relationship with her father might even play along--rejecting daddy is a safe behavior for young girls, because they know there will be no consequences and that daddy will continue to love them, and it gives them practice for telling romantic partners "no" in the future. Elsie is not a safe, happy little girl. Her relationship with her dad is very insecure, aided by Horace's outright sabotage of their bonds every chance he gets. OF COURSE she's going to assume that dad is rejecting her for real. He rejects her for real every damn day.

So they go home, Elsie gets put to bed by Chloe, and the next morning everything's back to normal.

And the next sequence is just....GOD.

Elsie and two of her aunts go for a walk. The aunts decide they don't want the little kid hanging around them, so they send her home alone, something her dad forbade her. To his credit, once she explains this Horace forgives her--because, you know, inadvertant disobediance needs to be punished the same as everything else, even if it's just a threat of withheld violence--and then Elsie mentions that she cut through a meadow on her way home. Horace reacts...well, pretty much the way he reacts to everything:

"Through the meadow?" said Mr. Dinsmore; "don't you go there again, Elsie, unless I give you express permission."
 "Why, papa?" she asked, looking up at him in some surprise.
 "Because I forbid it," he replied sternly; "that is quite enough for you to know; all you have to do is to obey, and you need never ask me why, when I give you an order."

NO. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. Horace has a damn good reason for keeping Elsie out of that meadow, and if he told her that reason she'd never go. A child asking why when told no isn't usually being defiant. They're trying to understand how the world works. Being suddenly forbidden to go to a place when you've been there a thousand times before is certainly courious. But instead of explaining why, Horace makes it a thing about obediance and loving him, and not what it really is, which is a matter of Elsie's safety.

So a few days later Elsie and her friends are out playing and one of them shoots an arrow into the meadow. Elsie has forgotten all about Daddy's new rule, mostly because he didn't attach it to anything important, it was a one time exchange, and Elsie is out having fun with her friends. So she runs into the meadow to get the arrow, and only remembers that she's not supposed to be there when she gives the arrow over.

So she runs to tell Horace how she disobeyed him.

"That is no excuse, no excuse at all," said he severely; "You must remember my commands; and if your memory is so poor I shall find means to strengthen it."

Again: No connection to any real-world thing. Elsie is just told "Do it or else". It's a matter of Horace's control over Elsie, and nothing else. Elsie is to obey because she loves her father and she's a good girl. Not because there's anything real behind it.

So she gets sent to bed without supper.

And then this happens the next morning:

And leading her forward a few paces, he pointed to a large rattlesnake lying there. "O papa!" she cried, starting back and clinging to him. "It will not hurt you now" he said; "it is dead; the men killed it this morning in the meadow. Do you see now why I forbade you to go there?" 
"O papa!" she murmured, in a low tone of deep feeling, laying her cheek affectionately against his hand, "I might have lost my life by my disobedience. How good God was to take care of me! Oh! I hope I shall never be so naughty again."
This story, or a version of it, appears ALL THE TIME in Christian circles. It was tired and trite when this book was written. The value of ignorant obedience is repeated over and over and over again, and it's something that can get young girls KILLED. Instant, ignorant obediance is utterly worthless. It does not protect the child, it does not develop the child's reasoning skills, and it leaves the child incredibly vulnurable when they are adults, because they will never have learned the thinking skills they need to function. Obeying parents does have value because parents do know more than children.

Needless to say, this is considered one of the positive exchanges between Horace and Elsie.

And while we are still not done with this chapter, we're going to stop there.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Stroke of Midnight and Elsie--chapters 4

 In our last chapter, Merry Gentry finally grew a spine and developed a plot.

It takes about a paragraph for her to lose the former.

Look, I get that Andais is psychotic, sadistic and a very bad leader, and that she'll kill people on a whim. But everything about her is so overwhelmingly negative that we (when we have fucks to give) want Merry to stand up to her, challenge her, and get rid of her. That's part of why the last chapter felt surprisingly energetic--Merry's going to do what we've wanted her to do for several books: Stand up to her Aunt.

Now I swallowed the words because if she planned on blaming me for the deaths, even indirectly, I was sunk. Not only would I not be having the police to help me solve the crime, I would most likely be bleeding before I left this room. There is a saying in the Unseelie Court, “You visit the queen at your peril.” What sense of misguided justice had made me forget that?


And she bows to Andais, thus perfectly encapsulating everything that's wrong with Merry's character: She submits to stupid shit and refuses to stand her ground and follow through when it matters. She's the lesser of two evils, not the bastion of good that LKH wants her to be.

We waste a few minutes establishing that the Queen doesn't know who the fuck Beatrice, the dead fairy, is. 

 I realized that she was trying to pick a fight with me. She’d never done that before.


We then spend another few paragraphs obsessing over Merry's lipstick, and how it's smeared across Frost's face.

THEN the Queen asks how a reporter could go wandering around the Sithen when she's got spells on it.

Uh...because he's a reporter. They do that. It's like trying to herd kittens. It doesn't work and it'll end with claws on your shin.

So FINALLY Merry asks for the cops. Incoherantly, because she's so frightened of her aunt that she gets hysterical.

Consistancy. It does not work that way. Merry makes a big show of having steel only to collapse at the first twitch from her Aunt. It's a good portrayal of an abusive victim but that is NOT how Merry is being played at any given time. When she's not with Andais she's the steel-and-whipcord iron plated Riply-esque Bitch LKH wants her to be...and when she's with Andais she's limp and floppy.

Except when she has to stand up to Andais. You know. Like she did in the last book. When she knocked the Queen down to her knees.

Merry gets the Queen to agree to having both the cops and the press involved in the investigation in VERY short order. Mostly so that we can move on to the Queen obsessing over why Barinthus never tried to make a king out of her son the way he's trying to make one out of Merry.

“I have not liked many things of late. Answer the question, Kingmaker. I know that if my brother, Essus, had been willing, you would have had him kill me and put himself on the throne. But he would not slay his own sister. He would not have that sin on his heart. Still, you thought he would be a better king than I a queen, didn’t you?”
Why would a non-Christian immortal, magical being with active, tangible Gods use "sin" in their every-day vocabulary? The Sidhe, as we are reminded over and over and over again, do not have a human (by which LKH means white anglo saxon protestant) sense of morality. So why would she refer to her own murder as a "sin"? That's a very specific theological concept. These things were not raised WASP the way their author was. They would not immediately think of fratricide as a sin. A crime, treason, a grave wrong, a blood debit, maybe, but not a sin.

It's just really out of place is what I'm saying.

So the Queen keeps asking Barinthus why Cel was ignored in favor of Merry when Cel even asked Barinthus to kill his mom for him. And Barinthus finally says it plain:

Barinthus answered her, blood flowing from his mouth. “You are a better queen than Cel will ever be a king.”

The Queen thinks about this for a second, then drops the punishment:
 The sound came with her words. “Meredith, you will do nothing with Barinthus that will chance you being pregnant by him. Nothing, is that clear?”
And given how Merry obsessed over not getting to give any of her men oral sex in the last book, I'm betting this is the entire reason we had that previous scene. It can't be Merry defying her Aunt and giving anybody she wants a BJ, oh, no. It has to be because the Queen made her do it.

Everybody files out of the room and the chapter ends.

On to Elsie.

And guys? This is about to get disturbing. Character development is a completely foreign concept to this author. The character traits someone has are the character traits they're going to have later. They MIGHT be migitated a little so that they're "better" after they're Saved True Christians, but most of the really nasty shit continues on throughout the series. Most of the dangerous, negative traits displayed by the male characters will continue after they Get Saved, and will be portrayed as positive traits from then on out.

Elsie's dad continues to ignore her for a week over the stage-fright episode. Today, however, he's being nice to her. This is called "intermittent re-enforcement" and it's a very, VERY powerful manipulation tool. It's the principle behind most gambling set-ups, addictive games and abusive relationships. If an individual receives positive outcomes in intermittent cycles, they become more likely to remain in a negative situation. It enforces a belief that if they continue to try hard, things will improve. They'll hit a winning streak. They'll stop being abused.

In this case, Elsie has been punished by a withdrawal of affection. Now, for no reason whatsoever, she's getting it back. Dad is talking to her and being nice. I've been in a couple of abusive relationships where I became afraid of my abuser's kindness. It was a warning sign that they were softening me up and that bad shit would soon go down. I preferred meanness and cruelty, because at least that could be predicted and managed. But Elsie is eight, and she doesn't have the coping skills of a (then) twenty three year old. So she walks into the dining room and sits down next to her daddy, all excited about breakfast.

And then the boom comes down.

"Elsie, will you have some meat?" asked her grandfather. 
"No," said her father, answering for her; "once a day is as often as a child of her age ought to eat meat; she may have it at dinner, but never for breakfast or tea."
..."If you please, papa, I had rather have some of those hot cakes," said Elsie, timidly, as her father laid a slice of bread upon her plate. 
"No," said he decidedly; "I don't approve of hot bread for children; you must eat the cold." Then to a servant who was setting down a cup of coffee beside the little girl's plate, "Take that away, Pomp, and bring Miss Elsie a tumbler of milk. Or would you prefer water, Elsie?" 
"Milk, if you please, papa," she replied with a little sigh; for she was extremely fond of coffee, and it was something of a trial to give it up. Her father put a spoonful of stewed fruit upon her plate, and as Pompey set down a tumbler of rich milk beside it, said, "Now you have your breakfast before you, Elsie. Children in England are not allowed to eat butter until they are ten or eleven years of age, and I think it an excellent plan, to make them grow up rosy and healthy. I have neglected my little girl too long, but I intend to begin to take good care of her now," he added, with a smile, and laying his hand for an instant upon her head.

He's restricting her food, exerting control over one of the few areas of pleasure and choice Elsie gets. Admittedly some of it sounds like good advice (Who the fuck gives a kid coffee?) but it's not being presented to Elsie as a change for the better. It's presented as a control from Dad. And no one else has to follow these rules. It isolates Elsie from her age group yet again. She's singled out for special, perceptively negative treatment, and that makes her a fine target for the other kids.

The next paragraph is absolutely heartbreaking:

The slight caress and the few kind words were quite enough to reconcile Elsie to the rather meagre fare, and she ate it with a happy heart. But the meagre fare became a constant thing, while the caresses and kind words were not; and though she submitted without a murmur, she could not help sometimes looking with longing eyes at the coffee and hot buttered rolls, of which she was very fond. But she tried to be contented, saying to herself, "Papa knows best, and I ought to be satisfied with whatever he gives me."

And that is how intermittent re-enforcement works. She got positive imput the first time she ate the designated breakfast, so she'll continue to eat the designated breakfast in the hope that maybe, someday, her obediance will please her father into loving her again.

Guys, obediance as a method of gaining love and acceptance DOES NOT WORK. If someone is healthy, they'll love and accept you reguardless. Obeying to earn the love of someone overwhelmingly negative towards you simply leaves you open to abuse and GREATLY lessens the odds of you seeking help or leaving the relationship. Abusers will actively work to enforce a culture of instant obediance simply because it makes seeking your own health (IE LEAVING) the ultimate, unthinkable disobedience. If you want to get specific, in the modern target audience--homeschooled Christian girls--it will foster an attitude best expressed in the Stay at Home Daughters Movement. Going to college and getting their own life is presented as the ultimate disobedience and will result in the loss of the only love-source--their fathers--that they know. (There is no emphasis whatsoever on a mother-daughter relationship in these fundamentalist circles) That they can develop other sources of positive input once they leave the home, and that these sources will be far, far healthier, is never, ever presented. Instead, they are told that no one will ever love or accept them out there. Thus you have thirty year old women staying at home under their father's control, running his businesses for him and usually helping to raise the last of their younger siblings. Marrige to an equally controlling male is the only acceptable way to leave the home. And because they've been raised to believe that love is something to be earned through obedience--that only good children get to be truely loved--they will do everything in their own power to follow the rules.

And yes, the other kids--mostly Arthur--tease Elsie about the simple meals. Finally he teases her to the point of tears in her father's hearing. He decides to send for her, excusing her from lessons for the day. She's scared of what Dad will do to her, with very good reason--every encounter with Horace has been overwhelmingly negative for her.

And once again, we start with a positive:

He held out his hand as she entered, saying with a smile, "Come here, daughter."

It was the first time he had called her that, and it sent a thrill of joy to her heart.
And then go directly to the controlling negative, and holy shit is it a doozy:

"You have been crying," he said, in a slightly reproving tone. "I am afraid you do a great deal more of that than is good for you. It is a very babyish habit, and you must try to break yourself of it."
Abusers like to control the outward expressions of emotion of their victims. Unless they're an absolute sadist, and few of them are ever really sadistic, tears or negative emotion from the victim makes them feel incredibly guilty. They react in many different ways--explosions, further punishments, extravagant expressions of remorse and generocity--but it all has the same end: making the negative emotions go away. The other reason is someone is more likely to reject the abuser when they're experiencing negative emotion. It's just like the pain of burning your hand makes you take your hand off the stove, the pain of being with an abuser will make you want to leave them. Repressing the emotions goes a pretty long way towards deadening them.

This repression is bad for an adult. It has horrific consequences in a child. I'm saying "negative emotion" instead of anger or sadness because negative emotion is expressed by feeling anger or feeling sad. You can actively feel neither and still be experiancing powerfully negative emotion. Negative emotion has to be expressed. If it is not allowed to pass through "good" mental channels--ie, anger, crying--then it will create a new channel, which is usually self destructive. ELSIE IS EIGHT YEARS OLD. She's been told over and over by her only sources of positive imput that anger is not a safe way to express negative emotion. Anger on her part gets a lot of negative feedback, so she's repressed it, and turned most of it inward onto herself, something fueled and created by her religious beliefs. She cannot be angry at the adults in her life, but she can be angry at herself for sinning. But she still has one release valve: It's safe for her to cry. Which is why she cries every. single. chapter. She has every right to be angry for this situation. She's abused, neglected, extremely isolated. But anger isn't safe, so she cries helplessly instead. With the negative emotion expressed, the pressure is off and she can go back to being whatever passes for happy in Elsie's world.

But now Dad is saying that she can't cry. The last good, healthy channel for negative emotion has just been blocked off.

I lived for several years in a situation where it was unsafe for me to cry, where any attempts to express negative emotion got immediately ridiculed and lectured. If I tried to leave the room I would be followed. If I went into my room on my own, I would be heard crying and be interrupted. This was when my self-injury issues skyrocketed out of control.

This book is a manual for child abuse, and it's still being marketed today to isolated, sad, emotionally neglected little girls as an example for their own behavior.

Dad then follows this psychological nuke up with another positive--he's taking her to see the Travillas! And we're going to stop there. There's a lot left in this chapter but I think that's enough overwhelmingly disturbing shit for one day.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Yep. We're good to go right at midnight this time. Here's your buy links:

Barnes and Noble

Also, guys? Two years. TWO YEARS. I've managed to keep this up for TWO YEARS. Exiles itself (Well, the story it's leading up to) has been my obsession since 2007. Seven years of writing, and two years of non-stop self-pubbing fun. Thank you guys. It wouldn't have been as cool without you.

Have a good 4th of July, even if you guys aren't in the US, and happy reading.

Ivory Scars, Iron Bars Release: INCOMING

Just a couple more hours, my lovelies. Brace yourselves. :D

Stroke of Midnight chapter 3, Elsie Dinsmore chapter three

Chapter four opens with Merry giving us her philosophy on crime scenes. Because a private eye who can count the number of crime scenes she's been to on one hand is the person to ask about dead bodies.

I’d also learned that all bodies are an it, not he, not she— it. Because if you think of the dead body as a he or a she, they begin to be real for you. They begin to be people, and they aren’t people, not anymore. They’re dead, and outside of very special circumstances they are just inert matter. You can have sympathy for the victim later, but at the crime scene, especially in the first moments , you serve the victim better by not sympathizing . Sympathy steals your ability to think . Empathy will cripple you.

...no. No, and no. I do not know of ANY police officer who has ever talked about how hard it is to not feel things at a crime scene, usually because they are too busy feeling things at crime scenes to care. Maybe if you're too immature to deal with your emotions, you bottle them, but that's just gonna burn you out faster than therapy can fix you.

But that explains an AWFUL FUCKING LOT about both these goddamned series.

That said, this woman is a Seelie court fey who had to transfer to the Unseelie court because she, like Sage, has lost the ability to fly. She's a former demi-fey, like Sage, only they don't know what made her unable to shrink. So I'm gonna guess that Sage is gonna be involved in this, and while it's predictable as fuck things are REALLY looking up because WE ARE STILL DOING PLOT IN A MERRY GENTRY BOOK and we're all the way at chapter four. Admittedly the first chapter could have been dumped in a fire and no one would miss it BUT! CHAPTER FOUR, NO ONE HAS FUCKED, AND WE HAVE A PLOT TO READ.

They analyze the crime scene. Doyle says some stuff about the position of the guy's coat that sounds very Sherlockian and then immediately contradicts it by implying that somebody rummaged through the coat after he fell down. They decide the human body was trying to run away and someone threw a knife into him, after slitting the dead fairy-girl's throat.

So then they...sigh...discuss how to hide the body to avoid the consequences of having DEAD HUMANS in the sithen.

Consequences are part of what makes writing fun. WE NEED TO HAVE CONSEQUENCES GODDAMN IT.

And Merry shoots that idea down and insists they get the cops down here so they can hand the crime scene off to forensics and maybe find out what the fuck happened to the murder weapon.

This is...really weird. I'm actually enjoying this. We've got a dead reporter and a dead fairy under highly suspicious circumstances, with EVERY REPORTER IN EXISTENCE sitting about three doors over. AND the sithen is just CRAWLING with the Sluagh, which the Fae don't talk about--it's kind of like Fight Club, I guess--so it's highly possible more than one person can disappear in a puff of smoke.

Doyle offers to track the blade with magic.

Merry says that he tried that when her father was killed and it did fuck-all for her daddy. Jesus, Merry, when the fuck did you grow a brain AND a backbone, and if I pray really hard will they stick around? Then one of the other men ask her if she really will expose her people to the cops over one dead human and HOLY SHIT SHE GETS AWESOME:

 “Do you think the death of a human is less important than the death of a sidhe?...“Do you think the death of a cook is less important than the death of a nobleman?...“This servant, whose name happens to be Beatrice, showed me more kindness than most of the nobles of either faerie court. Beatrice was my friend,

She's going to ruin it. I know she's going to ruin it. But OH MY GOD. This is the first time in, like, Six Books that LKH has managed to set up a good plot, and HOLY SHIT MERRY IS BEING COOL AND STANDING UP FOR PEOPLE AND SAYING AND DOING THINGS THAT MIGHT ACTUALLY CHANGE SHIT FOR THE BETTER. THIS. HAS. POTENTIAL.

And THEN Merry reminds all of them that when her father died, she helped keep the cops out and his murderer got off scott-free. So now, because she knows fairy criminals can hide from her Aunt's power, she's going to open the sithen wide for an investigation, even if her aunt kills her for it. Mostly because she still feels guilty that her dad is unavenged, but also because Beatrice was her friend.

Seriously, did a pod person get to LKH? It's not particularly original by any means, but it's GOOD. And it's a plot that has nothing to do with sex or fucking or getting pregnant, but rather politics and justice and right and wrong and what it means to be a good leader and what it means to be a good person and I didn't think Laurel could do this anymore.

 Then one of her new guards admits he thinks she's about to get her ass killed, but he'll follow her on anyway because she threw herself between the Queen and her guards last night, and she's earned his loyalty. And then she remembers her father's death, and how after it was all done she slept with his (sheathed) sword for weeks because it still smelled like him.

The chapter ends with Merry swearing that this time she's going to solve the case. With the help of the police.

This is going to hurt so hard when it all falls apart. LKH has done this too many times for me to trust the potential here. BUT STILL! IT'S PLOT AND IT HASN'T RUN AWAY! AND IT'S DEVELOPING CHARACTERS!

On to Elsie.

Chapter three starts a week after Rose Allison left. Elsie gets a letter, reads it, and gets to be a generally happy little girl for about five seconds. Then Adelaide tells her that her father just wrote: he's coming home!

Her reaction?

"Oh!" she asked, with a beating heart, "will he love me? My own papa! will he let me love him? will he take me in his arms and call me his own darling child?"
This is probably the saddest paragraph that has ever been written by a human. This kid is starved for love. The ONLY outcome this could have is dissapointment, even if Horace turns out to be a reasonably good dad. And given the book's description of Horace...

Horace Dinsmore was, like his father, an upright, moral man, who paid an outward respect to the forms of religion, but cared nothing for the vital power of godliness; trusted entirely to his morality, and looked upon Christians as hypocrites and deceivers. He had been told that his little Elsie was one of these, and, though he would not have acknowledged it even to himself, it had prejudiced him against her...And Horace himself had come to look upon his early marriage as a piece of boyish folly, of which he was rather ashamed; and so constantly had Mr. Dinsmore spoken in his letters of Elsie as "old Grayson's grandchild," that he had got into the habit of looking upon her as a kind of disgrace to him; especially as she had always been described to him as a disagreeable, troublesome child.

Yeah. Not gonna happen.

So the book speeds through the time between the letter and Dad's arrival, and when Horace shows up Elsie damn near has a meltdown. And then...this happens.

But a strange voice asked, "And who is this?" and looking up as her grandfather pronounced her name, she saw a stranger standing before her—very handsome, and very youthful-looking, in spite of a heavy dark beard and mustache—who exclaimed hastily, "What! this great girl my child? really it is enough to make a man feel old." Then, taking her hand, he stooped and coldly kissed her lips.
Yes. Different time, different morals. Yeah. But I want to remind you guys again, there are modern parents giving their daughters these books as a model of behavior. And while kissing-on-the-mouth between parents and children MIGHT have been acceptable in the Antebellum south (as was slavery, disenfranchisement of women and smallpox) it sure as fucking shit is not acceptable now. But there is a battalion of parents who hold this father-daughter relationship up as an ideal model today.

Elsie has no idea how to react. Probably because no one has ever shown her this kind of affection, and she's pretty much an emotional wreck from anticipation. Horace decides to interprete this as dislike on her part, and sends her to her room. Cue tears:

"O papa, papa!" she sobbed, "my own papa, you do not love me; me, your own little girl. Oh! my heart will break. O mamma, mamma! if I could only go to you; for there is no one here to love me, and I am so lonely, oh! so lonely and desolate."

Again: She's eight. If an eight year old is suicidal something is deeply, deeply wrong. Which is another fun facet to the brainwashing brigade behind this book's modern revival: it's normalizing suicidal ideation as an every-day reaction to dissapointment.

Personally, I strongly agree that we need more responsible depictions of mental illnesses, because we need to teach people what things like depression, psychosis, schizophrenia and so forth look like, and what treatments are available. If you have a mental illness, and no one around you ever talks about it, not only will you not know that something's wrong with you, you will not have the language necessary to ask for help. That is the value in writing stories about mental illnesses, addictions, and other disorders.

That is not what this is. This is saying that suicidal thoughts in children are normal, come from a moment of hysteria and aren't a big deal. That it's a weakness on the child's part. That it's something they need to outgrow. That it's just a part of being a melodramatic git. Folks, if an eight year old is suicidal, they need to go see a doctor and be kept under a massive amount of supervision because something has gone very, very very wrong inside their brain, and whatever it is, it's going to be very difficult to get it treated (because kids don't react well to most psycotropic medications.) This paragraph, and the many to follow, is a tool that can (and probably has) be used to minimize the emotional turmoil of the children reading it. Elsie survived it. It can't be that bad.

 The Dinsmores have lunch. Elsie stays upstairs because, frankly, she's in no condition to be around people. Her father interprets this as her disliking him and decides that he doesn't much like her either. She doesn't get to see him again for two days...and when she does, this happens:

Elsie stood irresolutely in the middle of the floor, wanting, yet not daring to go to him.
But just at that instant the door opened, and Enna, looking rosy and happy, came running in, and rushing up to her brother, climbed upon his knee, and put her arms around his neck, saying, "Good-morning, brother Horace. I want a kiss."
 "You shall have it, little pet," said he, throwing down his paper. Then, kissing her several times and hugging her in his arms, he said, "You are not afraid of me, are you? nor sorry that I have come home?"
 "No, indeed," said Enna.
 He glanced at Elsie as she stood looking at them, her large soft eyes full of tears. She could not help feeling that Enna had her place, and was receiving the caresses that should have been lavished upon herself. "Jealous," thought her father; "I cannot bear jealous people;" and he gave her a look of displeasure that cut her to the heart, and she turned quickly away and left the room to hide the tears she could no longer keep back.
This is textbook emotional abuse. Withdrawing from one child because she doesn't display the reactions he wants, and then going out of his way to bestow attention on a different child, AND to draw comparisons between that child's behavior and the other's. This is horrible. And the book does, to its credit, treat it like a somewhat shitty thing to do--though not as the all out "Horace Dinsmore Should Never Be A Parent To Anyone Ever Again" clue that it actually is.

And once again, Elsie runs off crying so she can beat herself up about not being perfect.

She scarcely raised her eyes from her plate, and did not know how often a strange gentleman, who sat nearly opposite, fixed his upon her.
Oh fuck. This guy.

This "strange gentleman" is Edward Travilla. He's a very good friend of Horace's and he plays a very big role in Elsie's story. But right now she's eight and he is literally old enough to be her father.

Travilla and Horace go off for a ride. Elsie goes off alone to play the piano and Mr. Travilla finds her there and talks her into playing for him. She plays and sings for a while, and then they have a conversation. Finally they have this exchange:

 "Ah! I see I was mistaken," said he, smiling; "I thought you could hardly care for him at all; but do you think that he loves you?" Elsie dropped her face into her hands, and burst into an agony of tears.
So we have a strange older gentleman having an unsupervised conversation with a severely damaged eight year old about how nobody really loves her.

Just peachy. And it gets better:

Elsie, having been thrown very much upon her own resources for amusement, and having a natural love for books, and constant access to her grandfather's well-stocked library, had read many more, and with much more thought, than most children of her age, so that Mr. Travilla found her a not uninteresting companion, and was often surprised at the intelligence shown by her questions and replies.

This is the picture of the homeschooled child. Naive, technically well read, full of whatever ideas her parents/teachers have stuffed her full of, often without any of the touchstones or experiances any of her peers have, and kept in an enviroment where adult company is much, much more likely than that of other children--which they don't fit in with, anyway. And often desperately, desperately lonely, so very much so that any positive attention will make them latch on to whoever it is offering it. And very, very frequently nobody will bother teaching these kids that certain kinds of positive attention are bad.

So basically this is a character that homeschooled girls will sympathize with IMMEDIATELY. I read this paragraph ten years ago and went "OH MY GOD THIS IS ME THIS IS EXACTLY ME"

Which makes what is to follow so. very. fucking. creepy. Travilla heads over to Horace and they have this exchange:

"Really, Dinsmore," said Mr. Travilla, as they stood together near one of the windows of the drawing-room soon after dinner, "your little girl is remarkably intelligent, as well as remarkably pretty; and I have discovered that she has quite a good deal of musical talent."
 "Indeed! I think it is quite a pity that she does not belong to you, Travilla, instead of me, since you seem to appreciate her so much more highly," replied the father, laughing. 
"I wish she did," said his friend.
What makes all of this intensely creepy is that much later in the series, Edward Travilla marries Elsie. If you keep that in mind, every single one of the Elsie/Edward exchanges makes Edward and Bella look like the poster children for healthy relationships. Travilla goes on to tell Horace how much Elsie seems to love him, which Horace dismisses because of course she doesn't.

 There's another party that throws Elsie and Travilla together, so he takes the little girl over to meet his mother.

The estranged eight year old daughter of his friend that his friend has not seen for her entire life.

After a few minutes Edward asks Elsie to play and sing for him again. She refuses because she's shy. There's too many strangers in the room. Daddy overhears, and then he orders her to do it.

"Stay," said Mr. Travilla kindly, pitying her distress, "I withdraw my request." "But I do not withdraw my command," said her father in the same stern tone; "go at once, Elsie, and do as I bid you." She obeyed instantly, struggling hard to overcome her emotion.

So the theme in this chapter, other than Edward Travilla is a creeper, is that love must be earned through your goodness and obediance. Obeying instantly is very important in fundamentalist Christian circles. Immediately and without thought. Elsie does not get her father's love by existing, which is a fundamental right every single child should have, but rather by proving that she is a good, honest, pretty little girl deserving of that love. First Elsie proves her goodness and then the people around her love her. Which is utter fucking horseshit. In the context of Christianity, it's idiotic because the foundation of it is unconditional love--that we are loved by God reguardless of who and what we are, and loved intensely. And there are several stories in the bible--the Unforgiving Servant being one of the key ones--that make it really clear nothing pisses God off like his children being conditional in their love and acceptance when he's given them unconditional love and unconditional pardon. So for someone to be pounding Christ into the ground the way this book is to make parental love, the most basic, fundamentally unconditional love human beings have, into something that children have to earn is the most insane, rage inducing thing I've ever seen.

And it gets worse when you take theology out of the equation. Once again: These books are being used right now to "guide" girls into proper behavior. Love is a difficult, stressful, overwhelming emotion that demands you put the needs of the beloved over your own. It demands unselfishness and total empathy, and if you're a self-centered asshole it can be very difficult to do it right. Stating that love needs to be earned allows the authority figures to withdraw that love entirely. Now they don't have to be unselfish, they don't have to put the needs of their children over their own. The child, they can argue, has not yet earned the right to unconditional love. But you can't earn love. You don't earn love, you feel love, and placing the responsability for YOUR feelings on someone else's behavior is the single most unhealthy, wrong-headded and sometimes intentionally manipulative thing another person can do. A child CANNOT earn their family's love, and they should never need to.

Under this pressure, Elsie has a breakdown and Horace, who had started to warm up to her, withdraws completely. She's left alone and unhappy. Again.

Meanwhile the book continues to be creepy.

But he seldom noticed her, unless to give a command or administer a rebuke, while he lavished many a caress upon his little sister, Enna. Often Elsie would watch him fondling her, until, unable any longer to control her feelings, she would rush away to her own room to weep and mourn in secret, and pray that her father might some day learn to love her.
I do not remember if that got cleaned up in the reissue, but damn.

 And that is the end of the chapter.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Stroke of Midnight chapter 2, Elsie chapter 1.5-2

You know, it's really nice when authors give us the little details that matter so much.

WE HAD RED LIPSTICK SMEARED OVER BOTH OUR FACES, BUT WE were sidhe, and one of the lesser powers we possessed was glamour. A little concentration , and I simply made my lipstick look perfect, though I could feel it smeared around my mouth. I spilled the small magic across Frost’s face, so that he looked as he had before, and not like he’d laid his face into a pot of red paint and rubbed back and forth.
I mean, in light of assassination attempts and duels to the death, it's so fucking nice that we get to find out about how the fairy hide lipstick stains. I am sure this will matter so very, very much to the plot and will not appear like a WASTE OF FUCKING WORDS AND TIME once I reflect back upon it in twenty chapters.

Aaaaaand then the press throws Merry a curve ball.

  • But isn’t it true that some of the noble sidhe of the Unseelie Court are concerned that you are not sidhe enough to rule them? That even if you gain the throne, they will not acknowledge you as queen?”

No one had briefed me on what to say if the question arose, because no one had dreamt that any sidhe, or lesser fey, would have dared talk to the press, not even to hint.
So basically the Fairy Courts are North Korea. Right.

Guys, if you have to keep so many secrets that your people cannot talk to the press on pain of death, you've pretty much lost the battle and deserve to be overthrown. Merry has a position of power in this universe and, other than covering her own ass, she is not using it. This is a PERFECT chance for her to start driving a wedge between her aunt and the other Faerie, and start playing herself as an alternative Queen with something to offer beyond mortality. Remember, the big issue in the Faerie courts is that they have lost essentially EVERYTHING. They're infertile, they have very little power, and their queen is mentally unstable, and is encouraging an atmosphere of such unrest that nothing will improve anytime soon. In order for a culture to advance in the etherial stuff--science, art, philosophy, basically all the shit you can't eat or wear or live in--the basic needs have to be met. If your basic needs as either an individual or a culture are not being met, you will not have the foundation to DO anything. The Fairy are in constant fear of their lives because their leadership is horrible. There's no stability. of course their culture is dying. Merry, however, is bringing back their magic. All she has to do is create something stable, and she could rip the court out from under Andais...and probably Taranis too.

What does she do?

Make it a racism issue.

“If not racism then what, Mr. O’Connel? They don’t want some mongrel half-breed on their throne.” Now if he pushed it, he’d look like a racist. Reporters from the Chicago Tribune don’t want to look like racists.

Okay, yes. The Fairy don't like Merry because of her mortal blood, and that probably does count as racism. But there's a big forest-for-the-trees thing going on here. The Fairy aren't fighting Merry-as-Queen because they don't like mortals. They're fighting her because they believe she has the power to take away the last remnants of their society and culture. If Merry took three seconds to really look at the situation, she'd be able to play the entire court like a violin if she wanted to. But because she's the one being judged, she's the one taking offense, and she's doing exactly what her political opponants--ie Cel--want her to do. You cannot rule if you don't have the backing from your people. Instead of alienating the fairy courts Merry needs to be romancing them. Otherwise the throne is meaningless.

The press works out that a spell made a cop shoot at Merry, so they keep pushing for confirmation. Doyle, Merry and the press agent distract them into questions about sex, which is the first sign of (near) competence anybody's shown in this cluster fuck.

The fey sleep in big puppy piles. It’s not always about sex; sometimes it’s about safety and comfort.

Yes. they're in this book too. Moving on.

They start asking Rhys what it's like to work as a private detective in L.A. Given that the Gray Detective Agency--which Merry hasn't set foot in for three books--doesn't do divorces, the answer is probably "boring as fuck", but it threatens to get interesting. This is a life Rhys might have outside of Merry. He's even a big film noir buff, so it's an interesting life for him as well as for us. Which makes it too bad that the question gets derailed into sex very, very quickly.

Rhys eventually admits that he, Nicca and Merry all spent a few nights together, and that means we get to describe Nicca's new wings all over again.

It hurts.

They were huge moth wings, as if a half-dozen different kinds of giant silk moths had had sex one dark night with a faerie.

You can't even describe wings without getting squick all over them, can you?

The press conference quickly devolves into Merry's Boasts About Having Sex. And it just. keeps. going. on. And then a demi-fey shows up and Rhys takes off. Hey, that looks like it could be plot. Can we follow that?

“There are two dead bodies in one of the hallways near the kitchen.” “Fey?” I asked. “One, yes,” he said.

It...it still looks like plot. It looks like plot and it's only the second chapter! Am I right? Is there plot? ARE WE SEEING PLOT IN AN LKH BOOK THIS EARLY IN THE GAME?!?

We had a dead reporter in the Unseelie sithen, and a mass of live reporters still on the premises. Disaster didn’t even begin to cover it.


Also, end of chapter, and on to Elsie.

When we last left our heroine, she and a random adult had badly mangled scripture beyond any hope of repair, and the Random Adult--aka Rose Allison--has invited Elsie to come mangle scripture with her every single day. And now it is time to see how the rest of Elsie's family feels about faith. Could they be gentle, areligious people who are carefully tolerant of other people's beliefs?

Do bears shit in commodes?

And then she is forever poring over that little Bible of hers; what she sees so attractive in it I'm sure I cannot tell, for I must say I find it the dullest of dull books."
Oh please don't keep going. Please change the subject Rose. Please do not--you are.

"Do you," said Rose; "how strange! I had rather give up all other books than that one. 'Thy testimonies have I taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart,' 'How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth.'"
Okay. You can stop now. Seriously. We really don't need to keep going.

I am a sinner, Adelaide, lost, ruined, helpless, hopeless, and the Bible brings me the glad news of salvation offered as a free, unmerited gift; it tells me that Jesus died to save sinners—just such sinners as I. I find that I have a heart deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and the blessed Bible tells me how that heart can be renewed, and where I can obtain that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord...Rose spoke these words with deep emotion, then suddenly clasping her hands and raising her eyes, she exclaimed, "'Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!'"

If you do not have much experiance with Christian literature, you ought to realize that somebody Gets Saved in every book. Getting Saved is, sometimes, the highest point of the book (See: The Oath, the Visitation. Everything Else Frank Peretti Has Ever Written). Other times it's the footnote. And rarely, it's the excuse for the main character being an unmigitated asshole (the Left Behind series. ALL OF IT) So seeing this crop up in the book is not a surprise.

...it just usually doesn't show up in the FIRST GODDAMN CHAPTER.

And it keeps on going, with Rose trying to convince Adelaide that she's a horrible person, and Adelaide insisting that Rose Isn't That Bad.

It goes on for pages.

It's the holy roller version of an LKH sex scene.

Chapter two opens with Elsie praying.

When Miss Allison had gone, and Elsie found herself once more quite alone, she rose from her chair, and kneeling down with the open Bible before her, she poured out her story of sins and sorrows, in simple, child-like words, into the ears of the dear Saviour whom she loved so well; confessing that when she had done well and suffered for it, she had not taken it patiently, and earnestly pleading that she might be made like unto the meek and lowly Jesus.
Hey, fun story kids! A lot of progressive Christians think that the whole "turn the other cheek" bit had nothing to do with not fighting back. See, the Roman public would strike lower-class citizens with their left hand--the one they used to wipe themselves with. This hand was "unclean" and thus not to be used against equals. However, when turning the other cheek, you invited the man to hit you with his other hand, his right hand. This would mark you as his equal and would usually shut the asshole down. The same thing goes for the "if you have to carry his cloak for a mile, go two miles" bit. The romans were allowed to force any lower citizen to carry their stuff for one mile. And after that, they had to pay them.

Jesus, in other words, didn't hold with oppressive shit.

Once again, as often before, the little Elsie was made to experience the blessedness of "the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered."
Yeah, this is kind of the Great Theological Debate of the Christian Church, but most Protestant denominations figure that you don't have to keep doing this shit. The problem with continually revisiting your sin in prayer is that it prevents you from progressing as a person. It's like being an artist and only ever drawing straight lines because you can't manage them without a ruler. Only it's more fucked up than that because Theology. In very basic Protestant theology, obsessing over sin constantly is like trying to draw perfectly straight lines on a computer when the program designer knew you'd never be able to do the line and gave you the shift key so you could move on to the rest of art.

The best way to destabalize a personality is to make them constantly second guess themselves and study their faults. As long as they're doing that, they're not going to grow.

Then Elsie does her school work. Ms. Day comes in, inspects it, and insults her again. Elsie tries very hard to take it with a smile this time. This is going to go on for many, many pages.

Ms. Allison comes in to comfort Elsie. They go off to read the Bible together and...this happens.

Then Rose sat down, and drawing the little girl to a seat on her knee, they talked sweetly together of the race they were running, and the prize they hoped to obtain at the end of it; of the battle they were fighting, and the invisible foes with whom they were called to struggle—the armor that had been provided...

...I miss Merry and Anita. And it just keeps on going. It's not enough to say THEY TALKED ABOUT CHRISTIANITY TOGETHER. Nope. Let's break out the flowery words for a while and...oh goddamn it, the Mammy has shown up.

"How do you do, Aunt Chloe? I am very glad to know you, since Elsie tells me you are a servant of the same blessed Master whom I love and try to serve," said Rose, putting her small white hand cordially into Chloe's dusky one.


"'Deed I hope I is, missus," replied Chloe, pressing it fervently in both of hers. "I's only a poor old black sinner, but de good Lord Jesus, He loves me jes de same as if I was white, an' I love Him an' all His chillen with all my heart."
And this, if nothing else, should have made absolutely sure that this series got lost down the back of the Gutenburg Project. Anyone reading this should have gone "well, this is too old and shitty to have any value" and moved on. But nope. All they did when they republished this book is dumb this language down and "fix" the accent. And ONLY the accent. A bunch of straight ,white men took one look at this series and I shit you not, said "THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT WE WANT OUR DAUGHTERS TO BE READING."

And this is also your chance to bail. This is God's warning that this is about to take a freight train right to Shitsville and we need to get off at the next station. Because OH MY GOD it gets so much worse from here.

So they go to bed and the next morning Elsie and Rose Allison get together for yet another bible study. And we cover how Chloe--who again, probably got the "Serve your Masters in Slavery" version of Christianity--and Mrs. Murray, the Scottish Maid and a devout Calvanist (Do. Not. Get. Me. Started.) gave Elsie her education.

If this does not scare you shitless for this little girl, then this book is going to be intensely painful, rather than highly searing.

Then we revisit the Dinsmore family, who Are Not Christian, and it then goes on to detail all their faults as if Not Being Christian explained all of them. Mr. Dinsmore doesn't like Elsie because of his son's impudent marrige. Mrs. Dinsmore doesn't like Elsie because 1. Elsie is prettier than her daughters and is an heiress to a LARGE fortune, thanks to Mom, and 2. Elsie's dad is her step-son, and she reads that as competition for her own children. And the other children have carte blanche to take whatever they want from Elsie, no questions asked. And then the book says this.

It often cost her a struggle, and had she possessed less of the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, her life had been wretched indeed. But in spite of all her trials and vexations, little Elsie was the happiest person in the family; for she had in her heart that peace which the world can neither give nor take away; that joy which the Saviour gives to His own, and no man taketh from them.

Yes. Being meek and never standing up to yourself makes you happy. Ask any battered wife! ...wait.

Elsie spends every day dreaming of when her dad will return home. Her father will, she thinks, fix everything and make her life perfect.

The Dinsmores are going riding, again, and if Elsie does perfect in her schoolwork, she'll get to go this time! And she does do perfectly, but she also notices that Arthur is pretty put out over something. After the ride, she discovers what it is: Arthur needs money. He wants to buy a toy sailboat, and he's spent all of his money. Elsie nearly lends him the money--five dollars. Which was the equivalent of A HUNDRED AND TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS today. Which Elsie still has in her allowance. WHO THE BLOODY FUCK GIVES AN EIGHT YEAR OLD A HUNDRED DOLLAR PLUS ALLOWANCE?

So Elsie refuses to give him the money, and after he curses at her she runs down to the servant's quarters and...sigh.

"Are you going to the city to-night, Pompey?"
 "Yes, Miss Elsie, I'se got some arrants to do for missus an' de family in ginral, an' I ben gwine start in 'bout ten minutes. Little missy wants sumpin', eh?"
Look. I get it. Eighteen sixties. But GOOD FUCKING GOD.

Anyway, she tells...sigh...Pompey to get the boat for Arthur and to keep a little money for himself. Because there's no WAY a slave could get into trouble for having a questionable amount of money on his person, is there?

Anyway, buying the boat for Arthur gets him off her back for a while, and we dwell for a while on how Elsie Doesn't Fit In. Because we have to show how good and holy Elsie is compared to the rest of the horrible Dinsmores.

 Elsie makes a purse for Rose Allison, and apparently it's pretty. So very pretty that Enna, the family baby, decides she wants it. Elsie refuses to give it to her because it's for Ms. Allison. So Enna pitches a tempertantrum right in the middle of Elsie's room, summoning Enna's mom to the room.

"What is the meaning of all this, you good-for-nothing hussy? Why are you always tormenting this poor child? Where is that paltry trifle that all this fuss is about? let me see it this instant..."You can not give it to her, indeed! You will not, you mean; but I say you shall; and I'll see if I'm not mistress in my own house. Give it to the child this instant; I'll not have her crying her eyes out that you may be humored in all your whims.

And she takes it away from Elsie and gives it to Enna, and Elsie takes it with a smile until Mrs. Dinsmore leaves, and then she has a real good cry. Chloe reminds Elsie she was working on another purse for her dad, and they switch projects. Elsie works all night to finish it for Rose's departure the next day. They cry together. Elsie says that now she'll have no one to love her but Chloe, which is...pretty much true. Rose tells Elsie to Be Strong for Jesus, and never bothers to address the emotional neglect of an eight year old. Which is, I remind you, the target age of the repackaged books and doll sets.

She leaves. Elsie continues to cry. End of chapter.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Stroke of Midnight chapter one, Elsie chapter one

So we'll start with Stroke of Midnight, and move on to Elsie Dinsmore. Book the first:

So for once LKH starts the new book right on the heels of the old one. Merry is at a press conference to talk about her assassination attempt. And she hates it. But the Queen decided that letting the associated press into the sithen is a good idea. 

....aaaaaaannnnnnnd we can stop right there. This place is a funhouse of sexual abuse, sadism and cruelty, and it's chock-full of people that Andais has tortured and pissed off. ALL OF IT is pissed at Merry because Plot, and there are so many, MANY press people here the odds of a disgruntled Faerie taking one off into a corner for a secret-sharing session is really, REALLY high. Between the nasty shit Andais does and the large number of rules Merry has been breaking lately, having the press here should be the LAST thing Andais wants.

Even better: The opening descriptions are short, concise, and less flowery than usual. We still have the absurdities like the triple-color irises that can be seen from across a room, but we DON'T have things like "My hair was like garnets spun out into hair" or endless paragraphs about Merry's latest suit.

The press are trying to work out who got shot and who didn't. Merry smiles and answers absolutely nothing she doesn't have to. There's a moment of camera freak-out when they realize that Frost was the dude that got shot. Aaaaaand then this happens:

My guards were lined up along the wall, spilling down the edges of the dais, to curl on either side of the table and floor. They were dressed in everything from designer suits to full-plate body armor to Goth club wear.
There is a reason the secret service wear black suits. It's not because its trendy. Having your guards wear goth club wear, whatever the fuck that is, makes them look not, you know, like guards. I cannot for the life of me understand why ANYONE would do this.

When fey are nervous, any fey, we take comfort from touching one another.
And in the rest of the world, we call that being human. Meanwhile we find out that Frost's iris looks like a snow globe. Not kidding.

Chapter ends with Merry and Frost kissing. Well, it's not naked asses in pool chairs, but it's a start.

End of chapter. Yeah, I can tell this one's gonna be a real pot-boiler. /sarcasm.

Meanwhile, in Chapter One of Elsie Dinsmore...

Our story begins at Roselands, a plantation in the deep south owned by Mr. Horace Dinsmore Senior. We're in a classroom overseen by a governess named Ms. Day. And we don't make it three paragraphs in before we start dissing the characters who aren't Elsie.

She was giving a lesson to Enna, the youngest, the spoiled darling of the family, the pet and plaything of both father and mother. It was always a trying task to both teacher and scholar, for Enna was very wilful, and her teacher's patience by no means inexhaustible.
Yes. Because Spoiled Children are Bad. Do not expect great subtilty with this series, my darlings, because it's less morality play and more morality steamroller.

So we get a quick run-down of the family. Enna is the spoiled little kid. Arthur is the spoiled older kid.  Two kids go unnamed. Louise and Laura are...um, there. And then Ms. Day finally speaks to Elsie, our main character:

"...Elsie," to a little girl of eight, sitting alone at a desk near one of the windows, and bending over a slate with an appearance of great industry, "every figure of that example must be correct, your geography lesson recited perfectly, and a page in your copybook written without a blot."
 "Yes, ma'am," said the child meekly, raising a pair of large soft eyes of the darkest hazel for an instant to her teacher's face, and then dropping them again upon her slate.

And thus begins the book's most common theme: Elsie Gets Abused And Takes It With A Smile. I mean for fuck's sake, this kid is eight and she's writing with a goddamn dip pen. It's not gonna be perfect. But where none of the other kids are expected to be perfect--because they're Mr. Dinsmore's kids--Elsie gets punished if she makes the slightest mistake. See, she's actually Mr. Dinsmore's granddaughter. His oldest son, Horace Junior, had an impudent marrige to Elsie's mom, who died tragically in childbirth. So being a responsible human being, Horace took off for England, leaving his baby daughter in the hands of her scottish maid and her Mammy.

Yes. That kind of mammy. It's the antebellum south.

Then, for some reason, they decided to drag Elsie away from the scottish maid and send her to her grandfather's place, with the mammy, where she gets treated like a second class citizen. Everybody in the family knows they can do whatever shit they want to Elsie and not only will no one come to her defense, she'll do her best to cover for them because (drumroll please) it's the Christian Thing to Do.

As soon as the teacher leaves, Arthur starts tormenting Elsie. Elsie complains--loudly--that she can't do her homework if he keeps bothering her. Not, mind, that she doesn't like what he's doing. It's that she can't obey her teacher if he doesn't knock it off. Elsie's actual desires exist nowhere in this book. One of the older girls suggests that Elsie head off to the veranda so she can finish her homework in peace. Elsie's reply?

"Oh! no, Louise, I cannot do that, because it would be disobedience," replied Elsie, taking out her writing materials.
Arthur then jiggles her elbow so that she drops ink on the page. Elsie realizes she won't get a ride that was promised the other children. Arthur offers to rip out the page and let her start over, but she refuses because "that would be lying". 

"Elsie," exclaimed Louise, "I have no patience with you! such ridiculous scruples as you are always raising.
 Elsie just blows Louise off and waits for the teacher to come back and punish her. And she does, telling Elsie that she won't get the ride. One of the other girls tells the teacher what Arthur did, so Arthur has to stay home too. He pitches a fit. Meanwhile...

 In the meantime the little Elsie sat at her desk, striving to conquer the feelings of anger and indignation that were swelling in her breast; for Elsie, though she possessed much of "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit," was not yet perfect, and often had a fierce contest with her naturally quick temper. Yet it was seldom, very seldom that word or tone or look betrayed the existence of such feelings; and it was a common remark in the family that Elsie had no spirit.

....that's because she doesn't have any. She's a neglected little girl who is being emotionally abused by all her aunts and uncles, and she has such a poor sense of self-esteem she doesn't stand up for herself at all, ever. But this is being praised as a good thing here.

Mrs. Dinsmore then arrives and Ms. Day tells her that Elsie and Arthur are to stay home. Mrs. Dinsmore tells Arthur he can go anyway, but when it comes to Elsie...

"Elsie is not my child, and I have nothing to say about it. Miss Day, who knows all the circumstances, is much better able than I to judge whether or no she is deserving of punishment," replied Mrs. Dinsmore, sailing out of the room.

But, you know, it's not like this little girl is being physically abused. I mean--

 "Did I not order you to learn that lesson over?" said the governess, "and why are you sitting here idling?" .... "Why do you not speak?" she exclaimed, seizing Elsie by the arm and shaking her violently. "Answer me this instant. Why have you been idling all the morning?"
 "I have not," replied the child hastily, stung to the quick by her unjust violence. "I have tried hard to do my duty, and you are punishing me when I don't deserve it at all." 
"How dare you? there! take that for your impertinence," said Miss Day, giving her a box on the ear.

....And there we go. Meanwhile, a horrific caricature of a black man tells the other students that the carrige is here for the ride, and Mrs. Day leaves Elsie alone in the classroom for a moment. And then this happens.

She laid down the geography, and opening her desk, took out a small pocket Bible, which bore the marks of frequent use.
Oh no. Oh God. This is going to be utterly ghastly, isn't it?

"For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow His steps."
Oh. My. Fucking. God. OH MY GOD. NO. NO THEY DID NOT. THEY ARE NOT COMPARING THE SUFFERINGS AND ENDURANCE OF CHRIST AND MARTYRS TO MOTHERFUCKING CHILD ABUSE. They did. They actually did. Martha Finley is actually implying that you should take abuse "patiently" because it makes you more Christ-like.

And to make it even better:

"Oh! I have not done it. I did not take it patiently. I am afraid I am not following in His steps," she cried, bursting into an agony of tears and sobs.
We have an abused eight year old comparing herself to Christ and judging herself as wanting because she can't take physical abuse without crying and feeling indignant. Oh. My. God.

And that doesn't begin to approach the massive error in interpretation the kid is making here. She's something called biblically illiterate. Biblical Illiteracy is what happens when you can technically read the bible, but you're unable to actively understand what's being written. When you can't understand the words on the page, you require an intermediary--ie, a pastor--to interpret the words for you. Which is where a lot of bullshit comes into play, because these guys can twist the scripture to say whatever they want. The KJV english was out of date when this book was written, let alone now. Someone said that if you can't read Shakespere for fun, without cliffnotes and a thesaurus to understand it, you've got no business using the 1611 KJV as your primary scripture.

There is no way in fuck an eight-year-old is at that reading level. And she's interpreting everything very, very, very literally, without the social or historical context. And speaking of context, there is none for those verses. Context is very important, especially if you are trying to regulate the behavior of an eight year old. So it's time for bible shit, my darlings!

This is 1st Peter 2: 19-21. It's a letter written from one early Christian leader (we assume it was the Apostle Peter) to an early Christian church in an era when "Christian" evoked the same reaction that "Satanist" does today, only with more killing. First Peter 2 is about living a respectable life, not because it's a commandment of God (there are several places in both Peter's writings and the Paulene letters that state Christians are no longer under biblical law) but because it gives the public--many of whom were using every excuse they could to kill Christians--less to latch onto. Peter here is saying that yeah, if you live a clean life you're probably going to get persecuted anyway, but it'll give praise to God and it'll make your enemies look bad.

Oh, but there's another fun wrinkle to this passage. See, Finley only quoted verses 19-21. Why did she leave out verse 18?

Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.
Yes. Let's have an eight year old PLANTATION LANDOWNER use instructions for ROMAN-ERA SLAVES to judge herself for not submitting patiently to CHILD ABUSE.

 So while Elsie is beating herself up for not enduring abuse with a patient smile, one of her few friends comes in the room. Rose Allison. Elise quickly tells Rose that the worst part is not missing the treat from unfair punishment, oh, no. It's that she's failed to be like Jesus. 


Well, maybe Ms. Allison will do the right thing and straighten her out. I mean, the woman's also a Christian, so--

"Well, Elsie, let me read you another verse from this blessed book. Here it is: 'The blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.' And here again: 'If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father Jesus Christ the righteous.' Dear Elsie, 'if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.'"
...So we're telling the abused eight year old that not accepting her abuse cheerfully is a failing on her part, but it's okay because Jesus has forgiven her.


"Yes, dear child, we must grieve for our sins when we remember that they helped to slay the Lord.

Dear fucking God, this child is eight. She's eight fucking years old. Who the hell talks to an eight year old like this? AND CAN THIS GET WORSE

yes. Yes it can.

"Will you love me? Oh! how glad I am," exclaimed the child joyfully; "I have nobody to love me but poor old mammy."
 "And who is mammy?" asked the lady.
 "My dear old nurse, who has always taken care of me. Have you not seen her, ma'am?"
 "Perhaps I may. I have seen a number of nice old colored women about here since I came.
Elsie owns slaves. The Dinsmores all own slaves. The horrible caricature of a black man I mentioned earlier? He was one of them.

And it turns out that "Mammy" is the one responsible for most of Elsie's religious education, and that's the first thing that's made goddamn sense in this entire theological fuck-storm. "Mammy" would have been spoon-fed the "control the slaves" version of Christianity, where you do whatever the masters tell you because your suffering is like Christ's. It was a disgusting form of theology and it has yet to die the horrible death it deserves, and OF COURSE it would have fucked this little girl up about as hard as it did an entire generation of black people.

Ms. Allison prays with Elsie for a few minutes and then heads off to do whatever it is adults do in this hell hole.

And while the chapter isn't done, I'm going to stop there and take this back up tomorrow.

Yeah, this is gonna be a fun trip all around.