Thursday, January 29, 2015

Stroke of Midnight 21

So Merry and company get Hafwyn to heal Galen, and she says she's got one more healing left in her. I guess healing magic is kind of like a tube of toothpaste. Merry asks who else is hurt and one of the prisoners says "The guy who attacked you."

Hey, weren't there cops? And a murder? And a lot of other interesting things?

Merry says "No."

This is rather reasonable, seeing as how he just tried to kill her. However, instead of moving on this gets drawn out over several paragraphs. Apparently we need to know that Merry will NEVER help anyone who has tried to kill her. Which is weird because she's helping Hafwyn, but whatever.

Anyway, it comes out that the prisoners think a pure-blooded Sidhe--which has been established as not existing--is better than a half-blooded Sidhe. Which is, like, all of them.

Cops. Upstairs. Plot. Please.

Merry lectures a random male for not wearing armor. He says armor would have been useless. Yeah, but it could have slowed shit down or deflected it, so yeah, you should have been wearing armor.

Another of the Fae complain about having the forensics teams--he calls them "human spell casters" and I'm totally cool with that--in the fairy mound. Dude, the Cahokia were there first. You don't get to bitch.

Then they point out that they're gonna be fine after attacking Merry because she and the Queen have a long history of letting people get away with shit.

I am now hoping that he will be proven very wrong, and equally terrified that it'll just be more talking, talking, talking before we get back to the murder plot.

Rhys calls and says that he had to physically (and magically) restrain the cops to keep them from coming after Merry, who was screaming.

...I thought the cops were outside the Mound right now? If the cops can hear Merry's screams, where the fuck are Andais's guards?

Anyhoo, Rhys has figured out how the reporter managed to get through all the magic protections that the Fae put around the reporters when they (sigh) brought them into the fairy mounds. He did it via the complex, high-tech, difficult method of...sticking iron thumbtacks in his shoes.

Seriously. Merry says "he really did his research" as if the whole 'FAIRIES ARE HURT BY COLD IRON' thing isn't a part of, like, every fairy story in the history of things. Seriously. The might of the fairy courts have been defeated by thumbtacks in the shoes.

Meanwhile it turns out that Random Man B is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MAN IN THE WORLD and has to wear a naqib to hide his beauty lest he bewitch every man woman and child alive simultaneously. And he's bleeding, but he won't show the healer where because his bare chest might be enough to make Merry jump him.

Merry has screwed about three different males in about as many chapters. I can't decide if this is a reasonable concern or just bullshit. I really want to go with the latter.

AH, but apparently her ability to look upon THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MAN IN THE WORLD will allow her to prove that she IS! NOT! MORTAL! (except that she totally is.)

She offers to kiss one of her wounded soldiers. Because...this is signficant. And one of the other men scoff at her because...this is not like the Sidhe. And Merry argues that they're not Sidhe, they're deities and nature personified and she can kiss who she wants, so there.

I think one of the things that REALLY bugs me about this whole "prejudice" narrative is that Merry isn't flaunting the status quo because it's wrong and stupid and needs to die. She's flaunting it because she has the power to do so. There's nothing much in here about actual change that will mean something to everyone else. Merry is constantly proving that she is More by doing things (that are entirely pointless) so that she can continue to tell the Powers that Be to go fuck themselves...but the only thing that gives her the right to do so is the fact that she's got power. It's exactly the opposite of what I think Laurell is trying to achieve and something.

I don't know what, but it's something. 

Hey, we haven't done iffy consent in a while.

Merry needs to find out why they're targeting Galen.   Apparently the fact that he's green has something to do with it. The Faerie who knows won't talk, but she's straight and female, so Merry has THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MAN IN THE WORLD show her his face. This makes her fall INSTANTLY in lust with him, so much so that she betrays every loyalty oath she's ever taken. It also makes the woman scream bloody murder because she knows exactly what is happening.


Turns out that Galen was a threat to Cel because of a prophesy, so Cel ordered him killed.

Because random prophesy is random, I guess.

Merry promises--AGAIN--to sleep with whoever wants to escape from Cel. And that's the end of the chapter.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Stroke of Midnight--chapter 19-20

One of the first things a professional writer ever told me was roughly, "You're a writer. Don't do indescribable things. Describing them is your job."

Why do I bring this up?

I was calm, that breathless, icy calm that is part anger, part terror, part things there are no words for.
Nope. You don't get a pass on this one. I get the emotion she's trying for (personally it's more of a perceptive blankness than anything else. The emotions are there, and they are affecting your decisions, but you aren't experiencing them.) but goddamn it, this is your job. 

 Galen has been shot, if you remember. So now...we are focusing on endless descriptions of what all the men are doing, and how they're standing, and how they look while they're doing all of the above. Goddamn it, plot. Plot is over there. Stop getting destracted by the shiny penises and go pay attention to the dude who is bleeding.

Magic filled the air, crawling over my skin.

 Anyhoo, magic is showing up. That means we're probably going to start making out over her lover's bleeding body. Possibly with.

My eyes were hot and tight with things I did not want to cry away.
Laurel. Your primary method of describing vaginal excitement is "Wet and tight". It's a VERY VERY BAD IDEA to use something this close to describe your main characters eyes. It's calling up an image that I very much did not ever want to have in my head.

So the would be assassins are killed and captured (Knowing this crowd, probably in that order) offscreen, while Merry is pinned under Frost's body. Of course. Then they make Merry give up her gun woman, I guess. She puts it back in the hoster and spends a couple sentences on how she has to hide it so it doesn't ruin the line of her clothes.

By the way? Seventeen people in this world are melodramatic gits.

Habit is what we have when the inside of our head is screaming, and we’re so scared that it sits like dry metal on our tongues.

Sometimes her word choice just fascinates me. It's not just metal, it's dry metal. Why is it dry metal? Are we trying to combine dry mouth and that bitten-tongue coppery taste into one neat little package? Are we trying to draw paralelles between this and the guy's swords and war attitudes? Is Merry eating random pennies?

Somehow I think it's that latter one.

I should have been praying to the Goddess harder than I’d ever prayed before. I’d just been in her presence, so she would have listened. But I didn’t pray to her or any deity I knew. If it was a prayer, it was a prayer to Galen.
While there is an element in here I kind of like...why are we pulling the "prayer without religion/humanist" angle when we just spent several chapters making out with the Divine Whatsis in the world of random baby powder? And if you KNOW your god is real and you KNOW they are taking a personal interest in you and you KNOW there's a good chance they'll do shit...WHY ARE YOU NOT PRAYING? In this series, the closeness of the Faerie and their deities is one of the ways they are superior to humans. Merry has called on the Goddess for everything from cups to guilt free sex, and you expect me to believe that asking for help when her lover is dying is somehow not a reflex?

 Well, Galen is a bloody mess. He's in shock (skin "Cool but not cold" indicating a major medical emergency) and the other sidhe are all "Let's let him bleed to death", and personally I'm with them because it'll thin the herd a little bit.

The attackers severed his femoral artery. LKH says that a human would bleed out from this in twenty minutes. Google-fu says this is completely inaccurate. You have, if you are very lucky, five minutes. It's more like minute, as in one, as in dead before the ambulance gets there. 

When I was about fifteen, my dad stabbed himself in the thigh trying to open a toy for my brother. He sat there for about a minute with the knife in there while my mom ran for towels, thinking, I am about to bleed to death in front of my family. Fortunately for all of us, he missed.

One of the would-be assassins offers to heal Galen. This falls somewhere between "You think I'm stupid" and "FUCK no" but of course, that's what we do.

Meanwhile, LKH reminds us all that her Fae are all white.

Her skin had looked white, but it was gold the way that Galen’s was green, so pale that something had to make you see that other color.
One, I thought that Galen was the color of nice green leaves. Two, there are two Fae males who could be described as brown. One is Nicca, who has just been traded off to Biddy. The other one is Doyle, who started life out as a dog. Literally.

The guard turns out to be a good healer. She's one of Cel's bodyguards because Cel is a sadistic little fuck, and now he'll probably order her tortured and killed for saving one of Merry's men. it sad that I just understood why Merry has that name?

And then Halfwyn, the female healer, explains the rest of her ploy. See, anyone can be a guard for Merry, but they can stay only if they sleep with her. Halfwyn doesn't want to die, so she wants Merry to sleep with her.

Because sex, expecially lesbian sex, has to be justified by bullshit. RIGHT.

Merry agrees to save the fairy girl by sleeping with her, and that is the end of the chapter.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

On Homeschooling: Innoculation

When my mother decided to start homeschooling me (and later, my younger brother) she wanted to do it the "right" way.

This was back in '91, '92. At the time, we did not have the internet (That came in '98) and while we had a television, we didn't have access to a television station (less because religion and more because cable costs money and the local access channels came in via antenna and were mostly illegible). I was enrolled in the local public school for approximately half of first grade. I remember very little of this. Mostly the playground, the Candy Day, and how very much I enjoyed buying lunch from the cafeteria because it was something other than sandwiches. My mother, however, had a rather nasty run-in with my teacher--According to family lore Ms. Satoff started shouting at mom in the hallway because I couldn't do math problems in order--and that was the end of my public school career.

However, she had no clue how to homeschool, just that it was something she needed to do because we couldn't afford the alternative--private (and, naturally, Christian) school. So she went to the local bookstore and began buying whatever she could. Grade appropriate used textbooks that she chose without reguard for religious background. I remember a big workbook that was second and third grade material, all subjects together, and as long as I did two pages of math a day I was allowed to do as much of the rest of the subjects as I wanted (This book was approximately the size of a phone book. The math took an entire year to complete. The rest of the book didn't last very long). She bought new reading text books about once a month. These also did not last very long. She began to understand very quickly that, while information retention wasn't much of a problem for most subjects, math was definitely A Problem (all caps required) and that she probably needed to invent something resembling a lesson plan before I ran through everything else she'd bought in the first month.

This was when she started looking for help. And this was when she started running into what I consider to be a big, big problem.

At the time, all of the homeschooling resources locally were run and dominated by Christian groups. This, in and of itself, was not a problem. 99.999% of the local folks were congenial to a fault, your standard white Southerners who would sooner die than allow someone to feel uncomfortable. But when you have an unusual interest--and in the 90s, Homeschooling felt rather unusual--it becomes very easy for information on that interest to become highly centralized. That, in turn, allows the Powers that Be, so to speak, to control what information is delivered, as well as the tone and method of delivery.

The congenial Christian ladies here were all enamoured of several magazines. One of them was The Sycamore Tree, which I have yet to hear anything bad about and which simply delivered a listing of supplies, curriculum, lesson plans and educational toys. Getting the new magazines every month was like Christmas; I circled the things I wanted (princesses, castles and shiny science sets dominated) and looked forward to getting them. When you are seven, eight, and nine, it's difficult to understand that you're not ordering toys, especially when the workbooks were so much fun.

The other magazine my mother subscribed to was one called Homeschooling Today.

This one was the problem.

Once again, educational products dominated the pages. However, this magazine also reviewed information and offered opinions on how valuable each product was, and the emphasis was not on their educational quality but on their religious value--a judgement that is highly subjective, but that was presented as highly objective. An invisible standard that, in the magazine, at least, is never properly articulated, but to which everything is held.

We absorb most of our information as humans by osmosis. We go to spoken dialogue to confirm our own biases. We form those biases by what goes unspoken. There's a story that Whoopi Goldberg told about seeing Nichole Nichols in Star Trek for the first time, where she ran to her parents shouting "Mama, Mama, there's a black woman on TV and she ain't no maid," and how that moment defined something important for her. It isn't so much what Star Trek did as it is what everything else did. Everything else defined what her role would be by what it didn't let her be. There was a void in her experience that said so much more than any amount of racism ever could: You can't go here because there's no one like you here.

That's how those early homeschooling magazines were. Here's an ideal lesson for boys: Science, math, citizenship. Here's their role models: George Washington, George Patton, Buzz Aldren. Here's an ideal lesson for girls: How to sew. Role models? That's you, mom, so here's some advice on how to raise a good little girl. Boys get knights and castles. Girls get the princess locked in the castle. And there's a gigantic void where the alternative ought to be. I remember looking for girl cowboys, girl soldiers, girl knights. Nothing. There was one small paragraph and one small portrait about Joan of Arc in one history book, and I remember reading it over and over and over. One of my favorite movies as a young teen was Lee Lee Sobeski's Joan of Arc, not because it was a good movie, but because it was a girl commander.

And the magazine repeats it over and over: Here's the role for girls. Here's the role for boys. This is what a boy's book looks like. This is what a girl's story ought to be.

And then came the religious suggestions. Study this part. Study this story, because it's edifying. Study this. Make sure you address this part. Define your faith this way because it's the right way. Read this book, it's good. Read this one. Read this.

It's an attempt to develop a world in monotones by delivering only one color. Here's blue. Here's blue. Here's blue. Red, Green, Yellow, these are never even mentioned. It's hard to explain the massive vacuum where an alternative ought to be. It's not that it was railed against. It's that it wasn't even there. The words you'd need to identify the concept aren't permitted. Maybe subjects would be mentioned in hushed tones, a sort of hint at pearl clutching. This is a book with no hint of evolution. No sex education in this health book. This material is edifying for girls. But it never went so far as to actually define what was being avoided.

I am still relatively lukewarm about Harry Potter, but there was one aspect that I fell in love with immediately: the idea that avoiding a subject gives that subject power. Calling Voldemort He-who-must-not-be-named gave him power, made him so much more evil than simply saying the word ever could. That was how the homeschooling magazines worked. They inculcated a horror--not just a desire to avoid, but a horror of subjects--in the hearts of parents who didn't know any better simply by avoiding a topic.

I can't blame the parents at all, because my parents were there. Desperate. Ignorant. Frightened of doing wrong, of ruining their children, and facing an overwhelming opposition. Because oh, those magazines were so careful to validate the choice to homeschool, to educate on particulars, to soothe fears. And there was a great deal of good information in those magazines. Just enough truth to make you swallow the rest.

The result was that my mother worshipped this magazine. If she needed validation, there it was. If she needed information, she could likely find it. And she bought everything they said. To question any part of it was to call the entire thing into doubt.

I believe that my mother made the right choice by homeschooling us, but I also believe that Homeschooling Today, and the materials it advertised, were a poison pill coated in sugar. The best aspects of my education came, not from the magazines or the religious sources, but from secular resources and from my mother. The religious education I value wasn't some workbook or bible study, it was my mother having us create Fruit-of-the-Spirit baskets (Patience was grapes. I have no idea why) or having us act out the ten commandments and the crowning of King David (in which both myself and my brother were crowned. We had tie-dye robes and crowns made of oatmeal cannisters and tinfoil.) When my brother had even more trouble with math than I did, my mother created "Video-game math", in which a hand-drawn Megaman fought his way through stages involving multiplication tables and long division.

Many of the things that I regret came from the suggested materials. Books I hated were the ones recommended. The suggested religious studies left me believing that fantasy books were evil, and that I was committing a mortal sin by writing my own (I spent most of my earliest attempts at writing firmly convinced that they were damning me to Hell.) The gender education is something I am still working through.

Homeschooling is, and likely will continue to be, tied to religious inclinations. Having moral outrage for some aspect of a curriculum is generally the reason parents pull their kids from school, with underlying issues like abnormal learning styles or disabilities being the "reason beneath the reason", so to speak. Mom knew I was struggling with some subjects and was bored to tears in others. The shouting match with the teacher was just the final straw.

But a great number of people have hijacked homeschooling for their own reasons: To indoctrinate a generation into ideas and concepts that are so out-dated and (yes, kids) outrageous by the standards of the religion they claim to advocate. For several decades this movement chose to call themselves Christian Patriarchy. That name has only recently fallen out of favor, and it's not because their attitudes have changed.

And the path into it? It's not chosen by parents who want to live a life that limited. It's chosen by people--scared, frightened people with children, in over their heads and desperate--who aren't aware that the help being offered is, likely as not, rotten to the core.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Stroke of Midnight--chapter 18, Yet more Elsie Dinsmore

We are still having sex. With very mixed metaphores:

WE ROLLED OURSELVES IN IT UNTIL WE LOOKED LIKE GREY ghosts. The shine of our magic was dimmed by it like Christmas lights shining through snow.
Are you ghosts or is it Christmas? And why would you want to do this? I have it on pretty good authority that sex on the beach hurts like hell, why would you want to get fine black powder all over everything?

...and what kind of mud are you making right now?

He pressed his hardness against the front of my body and the back of me.
How the fuck is that anatomically possible? I'm it wrapping around her torso? Has he impaled her on his dick? Oh, wait, I get it now. It's a penis Portal gun. Is he using the orange or the blue portal for entry?

My hand found that a second pulse lay in his groin, beating against the palm of my hand.

Amatheon, the dude I couldn't remember last post, refuses to have sex with Merry.

For someone who writes 75% sex, LKH sure seems to hate actually writing about screwing.

But LKH hasn't actively failed with consent for a while.

“I am no longer certain what I mean. I think I would say almost anything, do almost anything, in this moment, if it would make you say yes.”
AAAAANNNNNNNDDDDD there we go. It's not exactly rapy--consensual sex is what they're in the middle of--but there's a very fucked up dynamic here that I'm not sure I want to touch. I'm purposefully not identifying which one of these idiots said it because I don't think the gender involved matters.

This is not romantic. It's not necessarily abusive but I really don't like it. And speaking of shit out of context:

He used his grip on my wrists to swing me around. He flung me to the ground. I barely caught myself with my hands in the dirt, barely kept my face above the ground. I drew breath to protest, but his weight was suddenly on top of me, pressing me to the ground. He jerked me up on my knees , so that I was on all fours. He shoved himself against my body, I think he meant to shove inside me, but the angle wasn’t quite right. and he had to use his hands to move my hips ever so slightly. Again I started to say something, but he had his angle, and he shoved himself inside me, as hard and fast as he could. He shoved himself in until his balls smacked against my ass. I screamed, because he was too hard, and the angle was sharp,
This is still supposed to be consensual sex. This does not read like consensual sex. This doesn't read like anything that should be in the same room as consensual sex.

If you want to write rough consensual sex, break that shit up. Merry could gasp with pleasure or moan or think "WOW this really ought to hurt but I love every second of it" or do something to indicate that she's not being raped by one of her guards. The reason she is not is, once again, LKH cannot stand the idea of women enjoying sex because how the fuck should I know. It's the only thing that is consistant through all her writing. Depections of female pleasure are to be avoided at all cost. And when they do show up, they're short, to the point, and less "female pleasure" and more "This is the noise women make when they're happy, right?"

How the fuck a woman can write this shit, I have yet to understand.

And then Merry asks for a different position because the description up there hurts too fucking much.

You know, this IS your book. You CAN write fantasy sex that doesn't feel like you've just rammed a soda-pop bottle up your vajayjay.

Merry rides him. For a paragraph. Where every sentence starts with the words "I rode".

And then we go from screaming orgasms to assassination attempts? The HELL?

No, no, if this is a real plot thing I'm not protesting. GOD I AM NOT PROTESTING LET US STOP WITH THE PAINFULLY STUPID SEX AND GO ON TO THE PLOT.

Frost and the other Random Assorted Penii drag Merry down the hallway. Amatheon vanished from the astral sex so I'm gonna bet we're about to turn around and find him dead.

And then I'd lose, because it's Galen all bloody and nasty on the floor. Merry cries out his name and that is the end of the chapter.

The next book in this series opens with Elsie being unhappy that her father is being courted by Miss Stephens.

Assuming that there was a good chunk of time between the publishing of this book and the last...why are we just diving in? I mean...usually we get SOMETHING like a buffer. If it weren't for the big-ass Chapter One I wouldn't even realize we've switched shit.

And of course Horace, being the wonderful asshole that he is, asks Elsie why she didn't go to him with her problem, and instead went straight to bed. GOD FORBID THE KID SHOW ANY SIGNS OF BEING INDEPENDANT AND/OR CAPABLE OF SELF-SOOTHING.

"Not half so angry as if you refuse to give me your confidence. I would be glad to know that my little daughter had not a single thought or feeling concealed from me."
The truely terrifying thing is that Martha Finley intended Horace to be an ideal father. This controling piece of shit. An ideal father.


Horace buys Elsie better books than the one Miss Stevens gave her. Note: We never find out what the "trashy" book was, or what these books are. We just know that Horace Disapproves.

Then Elsie refuses to go to a children's party because Horace won't be there...but she heads off to play with the other girls because it gives us a chance to shit on Enna for a while. There aren't many characters in this disgusting series that get shit on as roundly as Enna, so we'd better get used to that.

And then Horace gives Elsie a lecture because she gave a friend a lock of hair as a Christmas present before he told her she couldn't give her own hair away. Giving hair was actually a really well honored tradition back then, and the work they'd make from it was INCREDIBLE.

The clasp says "Lizzy". Apparently, this was Lizzy's hair.
There were two reasons for this. One was because making hair jewelry was a fun hobby. The other was so that if your friend died, you had a part of them forever. They didn't have photographs back then (And when they me, whenever you see a photo of a victorian kid "sleeping"? Yeah, they're not asleep. They're dead.), and hiring a painter was sometimes too expensive. But getting your best friend to lop off a couple curls from the back would give you something pretty you could wear just in case your best friend dies of smallpox/measles/chollera/TB/fire/horse accident/pnumonia/the common cold.

So basically this is Horace saying "No, you can't make a friendship bracelet."

God, he's such a prick.

Elsie stays home from a party to write a letter to her friend.

Horace spends the entire evening correcting her.

"There, you have spelled a word wrong, and I see you have one or two capitals where there should be a small letter; and that last sentence is not perfectly grammatical," he said. "You must let me correct it when you are done, and then you must copy it off more carefully."
Arthur tries to borrow money from Elsie, saying that she could tell her father she bought Christmas presents for the servants.

Oh, yeah, have we forgotten that this family owns slaves? Yeah.

The kids ask Elsie if she will play "Jackstones" with them. She asks Horace, who had told her no several weeks ago, so he makes her go lock herself up in a closet as punishment. She has to sit there for several hours because he forgets all about her.

And of course he chews her out for asking if she can play. Because Horace being nice would probably mean a heart attack or something.

Then she asks him why she can't play.

"Then you had no right to think so. That was one reason, but not the only one. I have heard it said that that play enlarges the knuckles, and I don't choose to have these little hands of mine robbed of their beauty," he added, playfully raising them to his lips.

Yep. GOD FORBID a girl do something that might make her less of a sex object for a man.

ALSO: YES. YES LET US BLAME A DEBILITATING DISEASE ON FUCKING GAMES THAT WILL FIX EVERYTHING. Arthritus runs in my family. My grandmother's got it, my mom's getting it, and the other day I had somebody ask me if it's in the family because my knuckles are getting "that look". It's a hereditary disease that has nothing to do with popping knuckles or overworking your hands and EVERYTHING to do with immune systems and genetics.

The chapter ends with Elsie being stressed to the point of tears.

This book. This fucking book.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Stroke of Midnight chapter 17, Elsie chapters 14-15

I don't understand how I can have read so much of this woman's writing and still forget how much it sucks.

It actually reminds me an awful, awful lot of L. Ron Hubbard's writing style: Lots and lots and lots of words that say absolutely fucking nothing. Everything is jewels and color--over and over and over again, as if the longer we describe something the longer we can put off advancing anything.

 I wondered what he would do if I touched less neutral places.
Penis. Dong. Love stick. Joy stick. Bird. Loins. Dick.You are a grown fucking polyamourous woman. Use your fucking words. 

Merry makes Penis #9949 glow like a neon sign, then she starts playing with his penis. No, of course she doesn't say penis. What'd you think this was, actual erotica?

Then we borrow from fucking John Norman's playbook:

“Oh, don’t, don’t do that, Merry-girl, or I won’t last.” “So hard,” I said, and my voice sounded breathy and hoarse. “I know,” he whispered, “too hard. I will not last.” “Then don’t last,” I said. He frowned at me, eyes still wild. “What?”“Then don’t last, for this first time, meet your need. You can prove your stamina next time.”
Yep, we're down to Put me in the Zoo levels of literature again. it just me or are we sexualizing premature ejaculation?

So the dude--I've forgotten his name, sue me--tells her that if he fucks up (heh) this time he'll never get sex again and Merry is all like "I give everybody a chance to practice" and somehow this concept of having sex twice with the same dude is a revelation and wonderful.

And then we are reminded that we're having sex on the astral plane in a desert, only LKH forgets that "Desert" and "Dessert" are not the same thing:

His back was covered in the dry, powdery dirt . I expected it to be rough, but it wasn’t. It was smooth and fine like the softest talcum powder. It did not distract from the warm smoothness of his skin but seemed to add texture like icing spread over warm, rich cake.

They decide to get the soft, wonderful dirt everywhere because it's not going to hurt, right? And that is the end of the chapter.

Meanwhile, back over at Elsie...

The prose is somewhat better, but I'm immediately struck by the "Daddy knows best" attitude. Elsie needs to eat before taking walks because Daddy says so. Also:

"You are very careful of me, dear papa," she said, laying her head on his breast, "and oh! it is so nice to have a papa to love me and take care of me." "And it is so nice to have a dear little daughter to love and to take care of," he answered, pressing her closer to him.
Why is the relationship so very squicky? I get that it was a different time and all, but let me remind you once more: This shit got reproduced for modern girls to read as a good role model. As in it's a good idea to have exactly this relationship with your dad.

Pretty much the same cycle happens. Elsie wants something, Dad says no. Elsie says okay and does things that the author probably thought were cute. And I have to say, when Elsie is happy the book gets booooooring. There's no secondary plot. At all. The nearest we get is "Non-Christian People are Bad." Horace is not SAVED (tm) yet so he gets to be bad once in a while. Elsie's non Christian friends are bad because...Horace. And their suggestions that Horace is a child-abusing dick (spoiler alert: Horace is a child abusing dick). We also get long soliloquies on the bible--inaccurate, unbiblical, and fairly heretical soliloquies that have about as much to do with the actual book as the Twilight novels do with Dracula.  

It's Christmas. Elsie buys everyone presents. We get descriptions of all the presents. Horace is extravagant and gives Elsie a twenty-dollar gold piece, which is about six hundred fucking dollars today. DAMN. Elsie shows everything off and gets tired. Horace tells her she can't sleep until she's recorded every single cent spent in her book because Horace is an asshole.

This happens:

"Dear papa, I love you so much!" she replied, twining her arms around his neck, "I love you all the better for never letting me have my own way, but always making me obey and keep to rules." 
"I don't doubt it, daughter," he said, "for I have often noticed that spoiled, petted children, usually have very little love for their parents, or indeed for any one but themselves. But I must put you in your bed, or you will be in danger of taking cold."

 Translation: Any self-love is bad and we have to beat it out of you. SERIOUSLY THIS IS WHAT PEOPLE USE AS JUSTIFICATION.

In chapter fourteen, Elsie and her friends play. Elsie gives one of them her favorite doll because her cousin is being greedy with her blocks. Horace orders Elsie upstairs and everybody goes on and on and on about how Horace is awful and strict and probably shouldn't be allowed near children.

(Spoiler alert: Horace is awful and strict and probably shouldn't be allowed near children)

This punishment--being made to sit upstairs all alone--is because Elsie was sitting on the floor with her friends, and several months ago Horace told Elsie not to sit on the floor.

Elsie goes back downstairs and defends Horace to everybody, refusing to even explain what he was punishing her for.

This is another massive aspect of child abuse, and one that is constantly drilled into kids in these enviroments: you have to defend your parents. Child Protective Services are evil (Seriously, I remember running from cars because somebody would call CPS and take us away from Mom.) and your parents are the only good thing in your life. I was very, VERY fortunate that physical abuse in my household was minimal because holy fucking shit is this a textbook tactic.

And then a woman starts flirting with Horace by flattering Elsie. Her name is Miss Stephens and she is the Designated Worldy Woman for this little episode. Elsie counters her flattery with bible verses that have absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand and basically give the impression that thinking you are pretty is wrong.

Everybody opens presents. Elsie gives Horace a small picture of herself (AKA a miniature) and Horace gives his daughter--who is still fucking eight--a diamond ring. Because this is not at all creepy or inappropriate.

Elsie gets candy. Horace takes the candy away.

Miss Stephens gives Elsie a book. Horace takes the book away.

 And then Edward Travilla shows up, and randomly picks up and kisses Elsie because this is not at all creepy and inapproprete either. He occupies her attention for the rest of the afternoon, because this is totally not grooming an eight year old.

(Spoiler alert: Edward Travilla is totally grooming an eight year old)

They had a very merry time, for Mr. Travilla quite laid himself out for their entertainment, and no one knew better than he how to amuse ladies of their age.


Elsie gets very upset that Miss Stephens is flirting with her father and goes to bed early. Horace overreacts...and that's the end of the first book.

Seriously. The first book in the Elsie Dinsmore series ends with Horace overreacting to Elsie's reasonable assumption that he's gonna get hitched again.

The next book, my lovelies, will make everything we've read so far look like an episode of The Osborne Family.