Log in

10 March 2009 @ 03:20 am
Sam Llewellyn's Lyonesse: The Well Between the Worlds is a fabulous, fresh Arthurian legend with glowing prose. I can't recommend it more highly. Except, oh glory, the gratuitous fat slams. Every one of them is short, a quick suckerpunch to the gut.

"'I know,' said Harpoon, smoothing his hair with a hand hardened by nets and lines. 'That Ironhorse is a fat fool, and the boy's as bad. You mustn't worry. We'll sort it out.'" (21)

"The Captain's people, in fact. The kind Dad called fat bloodsuckers." (30)

"'Virtue is its own reward,' said Captain Ironhorse, sniffing fatly. 'I have also heard from this person's classmates--' / 'Your fat, lying son!' said Idris, losing his temper." (31)

"And Spingold had lied about him to please Ironhorse, who doted on his pudgy son." (33)

"'Do you know,' he said, 'I can see why that fat fool in Westgate felt he had to drown you.'" (58)

"He lived in the Valley of Apples, capital of Lyonesse, bound to a noble mage, not a fat old Captain." (75-6)

"A Captain came around the corner, rolls of stomach bulging his crimson robe, talking to someone who looked like a scribe. His small, cunning eyes rested briefly on Idris." (159)

"'--if you ask me,' Uther plowed on, 'it is too late now and the land's too low and the Poison Ground is spreading, and the only saving of the land will be if we get more Knights and fewer fat-bottomed Captains....'" (170)

That's not all of them, but it's a fair sample. This equation (fatness = evil/corruption) is cultural shorthand and it's literarily cheap. But more importantly, more dangerously, more damagingly, it causes material harm to a real-life demographic group of humans, wholesale. It would hurt in any type of book, and in a book of such high quality as this one, it pains me on a special level. This must stop. It must stop.
eternally stressed semanticistcqs on March 10th, 2009 08:30 am (UTC)
Write him and complain? Better yet, write him and complain about the following passages:

"That Ironhorse is a black-skinned fool, and the boy's as bad." (21)

"The Captain's people, in fact. The kind Dad called black bloodsuckers." (30)

"'Virtue is its own reward,' said Captain Ironhorse, sniffing blackly. 'I have also heard from this person's classmates--' / 'Your black, lying son!' said Idris, losing his temper." (31)

And so on. I don't know how to sniff blackly, but then, I don't know how to sniff fatly, either. I mean, it is kind of the same thing, isn't it? Didn't "black-skinned" used to be a useful signifier of "villainous"? (For sufficiently present-tense versions of "used to", at least.)
ex_gnomicut on March 10th, 2009 01:51 pm (UTC)

Dicey, when you find the spoon factory, there is an important paper in this: high-quality modern books which thoughtlessly play on character tropes which cause real harm in the modern world. Fantasy is full of them.

Sort of riffing off from where Herbert Kohl stops, focusing on books which have become ideologically dated by the passage of time.

Is this book good enough and problematic enough that it would be worth me reading and considering putting it onto my fall syllabus?
Rebecca Rabinowitz: House You Pass On the Waydiceytillerman on March 11th, 2009 04:14 am (UTC)
I would love to write that paper. Maybe just about fantasy, for that matter.

Syllabus: hmm. Shall ponder. In addiction to the fat issues, there are (more complex and murky) race issues, and a classic-but-no-less-offensive-for-being-classic dwarf characterization.
Rebecca Rabinowitzdiceytillerman on March 11th, 2009 04:11 am (UTC)
For some reason, writing to an author directly had not occured to me. i will have to ponder that idea and how it fits into my field.

Sadly, dark skin is still used as a signifier of evil.
Zen Misanthropyrosewater on March 10th, 2009 04:50 pm (UTC)
Rebecca Rabinowitz: Rodzinadiceytillerman on March 11th, 2009 04:15 am (UTC)
lady_schrapnelllady_schrapnell on March 10th, 2009 10:55 pm (UTC)
That is just dreadful. Is this book newish?

Rebecca Rabinowitz: Orphea Prouddiceytillerman on March 11th, 2009 04:25 am (UTC)
Quite new: February 1, 2009 (on both sides of the pond as far as I can tell).
ex_writingh on March 25th, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC)
"Sniffing fatly"? WHAT THE HELL?
Rebecca Rabinowitz: Bea and Mr. Jonesdiceytillerman on March 25th, 2009 11:50 pm (UTC)
I don't even know what that is supposed to mean! I assume it's meant to carry some type of we-all-know-fatness-is-bad baggage, but what does "fatly" actually mean, in its job as an adverb, about the way the Captain performs the action of sniffing? It doesn't work for me even linguistically, let alone ideologically.