OUR CLOTHES FELL TO THE EARTH LIKE THE RAIN THAT HAD FORGOTTEN THIS LAND.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. Also...is 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.EAT FIRST, THEN WRITE.
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.
"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.
THESE ARE EIGHT YEAR OLD CHILDREN AND HE IS IN HIS LATE TWENTIES WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK MARY FINLEY WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK.
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.