Friday, February 10, 2012

... Sit and think, down and drink - sing this sad, sad song. You can bring me flowers, baby, when I’m dead and gone ...

I have been lax in posting lately. This is partially due to my laptop journeying to I-refuse-to-turn-on-without-complex-rituals-being-performed-in-my-honor-ville, and partially due to the fact that, as always, my life gets busy. As lives typically do.

This week I buried a friend. I didn’t know her too well, or even for too long. But Amanda and her dog Louie had a major impact on my life. Her suicide took many of her friends by surprise, even if she had come upon hard times. She was compassionate, stubborn, knowledgeable, friendly, giving, and intelligent. She had high standards for herself and others, and never compromised on things that she felt mattered the most. Her service was simple, with bells, biographical notes, and a bible passage. The service was held in a church that embraces tenets of many faiths and welcomes people regardless of their sexual orientation, martial or socioeconomic status, and history. Amanda would’ve liked that. One thing that made the service different from any I’ve experienced was that it also included a surprisingly frank discussion of suicide, which was both welcome and unsettling.

The speaker addressed the elephant in the room, and used the M*A*S*H theme song to start his reflections. He painted Amanda’s choice to take her own life as her final act of courage – her pain was creeping up on her slowly and she saw no solution except to end the pain by ‘pushing the sword in fully’. She apparently saw herself as a burden and didn’t believe in public assistance and saw this as the only way. We were encouraged to respect her choice and to hope for the best for her soul. She had been a good person, so her life would come to a place of wholeness. I found all this very hard to sit through, as did Auntie Joyce. We were told to let our feelings of guilt and anger go, and to remember only the moments of joy in Amanda’s life, instead of the ones where she was troubled, tired, and in pain. He told us to let go. He rang a bell and told us to leave in peace.

I don’t let go easily. It’s a major flaw of mine. I gather my friends around me and sing and gamble and dance and try, for a minute, to forget how fragile things really are.

But I tried. We tried. I kidnapped Joyce to make us both feel better, and drove off to Greenville. We bought books, holed up in my favorite coffee shop, and alternated between happy stories (Auntie apparently smuggled a phone into Columbia once), reading, and people-watching. She left her coffee order up to me, and she got a latte with half a pack of brown sugar. So did I. I read Rushdie and tried to figure out if I had an opinion other then ‘meh’. She read murder mystery short stories. She came to Tuesday swing and watched me dance (“You just sparkle, Sara!”), after I had my house bourbon and she let me order her beer (Purple Haze). She made friends, and fell over trying to dance with a younger (“He was so handsome! Go dance with him!”) man. She also giggled like a schoolgirl when she saw the young couples cuddled close, slow dancing. Somehow, the physical activity coupled with Auntie’s joy at being somewhere new helped the tightness in my heart ease, just a tiny bit. I got her home by Bert’s curfew, and huddled in my bed under layers and layers of blankets. I felt cold and small.

My life also has its effervescent moments of joy – a perfect swing-out, the burn after my bourbon, laughing at Joyce’s crazily perfect stories, perfect advertisements on Craigslist (link below), meeting the most oddly perfect new friends, Sherlock and popcorn and puppies, FarScape and crazy cats, advocacy, dinosaurs and hordes of four-year-olds, Matt Nathanson’s dirty mouth, masquerade balls, and banned books.

My latest taboo joy – The Hunger Games. This gem of YA literature has been on the most challenged list for age appropriateness, violence, and for being sexually explicit.

I’m going to come right out and state that I don’t begin to understand the complaint about the book being sexually explicit. Did I, as a grown-ass woman, miss the sexy-times in the book? I mean, there was some making out, and nudity was mentioned, and teenagers were left alone and unchaperoned… while they were trying to kill each other. So yeah, no real chances of sexy-time. Please tell me if I just missed it somehow. Now, the charges of violence – I agree the book is violent - very violent for a children’s book. You hear a characters screams as they are ripped apart, slowly, by creatures in the woods. A main character murders someone and watches a very tragic death of someone she cares about. The book is bloody – and made me, an adult, cringe a little. I feel that while sad and at times scary, the discussion of killing and murder in YA literature is not inappropriate, and the deaths were dealt with – the seriousness and sadness made evident – this was not some psychopath murdering for the joy of it. The major issue still remains – is this book age appropriate? I say yes. Going by the definition of 14 – 22 (what librarians and publishers generally consider the YA demographic); I can say this book is appropriate and valuable in the stacks.

Valuable? Yes, I call The Hunger Games a valuable book.  First off, let’s look at is as a lesson in civil disobedience. Peeta’s family, as well as families in the land of Panem, do what they can to survive – including bending and breaking the laws of the land, without causing death and pain to others. The importance of personal decision and using your mind to help you escape problematic circumstances are highlighted. The need (hard to see, but there nonetheless) to examine where society is headed and asking if we are going back to the bread-and-circuses with our iPods in hand is clear.  The need to question, verify, challenge, and act with as much integrity as one can are not values in every YA book. I’d hate to see this one banned.

Personally, I could barely put this book down. It was all I could do to not go buy the other two and devour them. A pleasant distraction, a good read, and not some mushy sparkly vampire book for teenagers to moon over. This afternoon I have a coffee date, a book to read, a friend's dog to walk, a bathroom to clean, and Sherlock to watch. Tomorrow I have a dessert to make, a house to tidy, and a party to attend. 

And I sparkle.

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