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. 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. 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.


  1. I was raised agnostic. This is...rather staggering, to be honest.

    1. Sorry if it's an overload. It's a culture that I was kind of sort of raised in. In that I was not this far out there (I did not meet Elsie until I was eighteen, for example, and I was allowed free reign with my reading) but I knew that this far out there existed, and I had to deal with Christians who WERE out there. Most of my socialization as a kid was with other homeschoolers, my mom did work with a guy who made Jack Chick look sane...yeah.

      If necessary I can break these books into seperate posts. I'm just...a little too burnt out on Merry to make them very interesting without backup.