So there's this thing that happens when you write - unless you're the type of writer who has everything planned out so thoroughly before you start typing, I suppose, but I suspect it still jumps up at people who write that way, just less often.
Steven Brust describes it here
: in essence, it goes like this. You're typing, thinking you know where at least this scene or paragraph is going, then you type a sentence that follows on what was said before it...
... and you stop and stare at the sentence a while. Because while it says exactly what you thought it was saying, it also says something else. I had that happen late in part three of Raising the Storm; Gaitann asks Carl a question he's wanted to ask from practically the start, gets his answer... and Carl says four words, which were supposed to be minor backstory, a quick explanation.
Then I stared at the words and I thought, "It's not that easy. He's wrong. He believes he's telling the truth, but that's not what happened." (Of course, that could just about be a summary of the entirety of Carl.)
It was kind of exhilarating, actually, because that happened on a rewrite, when I thought I knew the story I was choosing to tell, and I thought I knew all the changes I was going to make.
Let's just say it isn't so much a good thing when you do it while you're talking about yourself. I'm all for self knowledge, but it's not always comfortable.
Decided to start Charles de Lint's Spirits in the Wires yesterday; the Dragon Waiting is still beign read, but I'm finding some parts of it so heartbreaking or so wrenching that it's ahrd to read more than one section at a time -- and other times, it's so puzzling how it all fits together that I have to stop to figure out all the implications of what I just read. Then in the next section, some of those things I thought I got get flipped again anyhow.
The Dragon Waiting is *really* good. But it will never be an easy read.
Charles de Lint got picked over some others because it's the opposite, to me, a light read. Easy going; I don't tend to find I have to think. Almost the opposite, I sometimes have to shut off my critical faculties and just go with it.
I used to think Charles De Lint was a nuanced writer, and he opened up vistas... er, not so much anymore. Some of his stories I still think highly of, but... I have to take a while between his books, especially the Newford books.
I thought it was the supersaturation of magic. But someone commented on his artists, and how they're all special
... and that clicked for me rather too well.
Here's the thing. Charles de Lint writes about street people because he feels they're too often ignored and marginalized. Fair enough; a good thing, you'd think. He writes about artists just barely making their way but doing what they love to get by (Or at worst having a waitressing job).
Except. All his street people are animal people, or unicorns in disguise. Or people down on their luck for just a little while; he makes passing mentions of alcoholism, but it's rarely seen in all its nastiness. And they all seem to be able to see the magic in the world. It's a good thing not to paint every street person as a nobody, but he's tipped it too far the other way. It's a good thing to try and signal to someone caught on the street that yes, you're somebody and somebody worthwhile, yes you can get out. Yes, there are people who will help you. You can get back to normal.
Except that he paints normal as the most unappealing thing to be. His normal? A small studio apartment, a part time bookstore job. Staying connected to the street. Growing your artistic career.
And yet nobody seems to have it so bad. Okay, not nobody; he does have his share of child abuse tragedies, and a very small handful even don't come out the other side. But compared to the reality, it's a minuscule proportion. He's this close to glorifying being broke and starving, or addicted. Few of his street people die of overdose or freeze to death or get stupidly killed without some *other* explanation, some secret magic involved.
Everyone in a Charles de Lint book does art, and not for a hobby. And all of them live the bohemian artist lifestyle. Not the lifestyle of the poseurs - he has those too, and they're always bad people who don't like the real artists - but the hand-to-mouth existance of people who refuse to take a job that's more than part time or entry level, and never outside of the food industry or the small craft store.
What does this say to a street person, really? If you can't play guitar or paint or put words together, you have nowhere to go?
What it does actually is turn the world backwards, and not in a healthy way. There's an aboslute disdain for anyone and everyone who isn't living this borderline life. People who aren't artists, support for artists (independant bookstore owners or the like), street folk, or otherwise outre never see magic.
Nobody in a Charles de Lint book has a desk job. None of his writers or painters or editors of small magazines ever decide to do data entry or tech support to get by. Nobody owns a house unless it's a house so out of the ordinary it goes right back to being a home for struggling artists. Nobody decides to take the job slicing bread for $8 an hour for 40 hours a week. Nobody who writes or paints takes years to make a sale, or has years between sales. Nobody opts for the accounting degree or goes into civil service.
Nobody's artistic side is expressed in a handful of sewing projects or needlepoint, or cooking inventive things for your spouse and kids (Does anyone in any of the books have a spouse, or kids they haven't adopted off the street, preferably while a street person themselves?). Or writing only in a private journal for yourself. Nope, if you have talent, you must use it to make a living. Otherwise you aren't interesting or wortwhile.
Otherwise, you're invisible.
He's not just elevated the artist and the street person to centre stage. That would be a good read. he's made them special. And then, to make it worse, he's *eliminated* everyone else. We aren't just not important to the story, or on the margins of it. We're not there. Nobody that isn't like is special main characters even exists.
And this is reverse discrimination. This is going too far the other way. This is beyond reminding people of the human face behind the struggling hand-to-mouth existance. This is glorifying the poor and writing off everyone else as unworthy. *We're* not real people. We'll never see magic. We'll always be uncomfortable around his special people, the ones born in the internet by magic or who tell *real* fortunes.
I'm a writer and an occasional artist, so why do I count myself as part of the excluded? Because I also worked 9 to 5 in offices, and talked to people who, so far as I could tell, had more interest in Brangelina or hockey pools. Because my mother is a physiotherapist, my dad a developer, my stepmother an interior decorator. My husband works doing IT, and his artistic endeavours got channelled into graphic design. I write, i'm surrounded by people with creative talents. But I'm not part of Charles de Lint's poor but artistic elite, and I don't want to be. They seem like cool people, and I don't mind reading about them at all. I could find plenty to talk about with most of them. But I still feel as if they'd always consider me a bit of an outsider. An alien. Not quite as real as they are.