This week we're discussing part one, Blank Page, and I confess that I read part one about a month ago and neglected to take notes, so let me just turn to the dog-eared pages and see what I can come up with. Already on line one, page one, I'm stopped in my tracks. Her brother is named Lupin? What? Is this a case of all roads leading to Harry Potter, or are little boys *actually* named Lupin in England? Ridiculous.
Um. We arrive at the first moment where the main character and I diverge in a wood and I definitely take the one less traveled. This teenage narrator is talking about masturbation. In a rather open and matter of fact manner. Um, I'm still pretty shy about saying the word out loud, but when I was a teenager, I don't think I ever even thought about it. It was the rural South and a different time and Southern Baptists were ready to run you on a rail out of town for any little transgression. There's a whole lot of wanking in this book, and I mean, bully for her and all that, though it's a little strange that she mentions she's sharing a bed with her little brother at the time. And while I'm on the subject, maybe my usage is off on this one, but I thought "wanking" was a decidedly, erm, male form of activity. That gerund just sounds like it's describing a particular hand gesture, and that gesture is not one that I associate with the female anatomy.
|Yup, that's the one.|
What I think is actually sweet about Johanna is the utter lack of embarrassment she seems to feel for her family, particularly for her parents. I mean, when her dad roars home drunk from the pub and puts on his agonizing music show for the dude, Johanna isn't all *cringe* and *eye-roll*. She's more, like, aw, Dadda's at it again. As someone who was pretty much perpetually embarrassed of my own parents for no particular reason, I find that rather sweet. She's so earnest, she even likes his music, though it's clearly awful.
And then when the nurse arrives and confuses Johanna with her postpartum mum, my heart just kinda aches for her when she launches into this:
This is all because I am fat. If you're going to be a fat teenage girl, it becomes hard for people to guess how old you are. By the time you're in a 38DD bra, people are just going to presume you're sexually active, having rough, regular procreative sex with alpha males on some wasteland. Chance would be a fine thing. I haven't even been kissed yet. I want to be kissed so much. I am angry I haven't been kissed. I think I would be really good at it. When I start kissing, the world is going to know about it. My kissing is going to change everything. I'm going to be the Beatles of kissing (20-21).Or where she's launching into what she wants in her life:
There isn't a word for what I want to be yet. There isn't a thing I can gun for. The thing I want to be hasn't been invented. Obviously, I know some of what I want to be: primarily I want to move to London, and be hot...I want everyone -- men, women, Minotaurs; I read a lot of Greek mythology, and I'm out for whatever I can get -- to want to have absolute, total sex with me, right in my sex places, in the most sexual way possible. Sexually. This is my most urgent mission (28).
|I'm not judging.|
So angry and flippant, yet earnest and full of yearning for what she has yet to experience. That's adolescence right there, kiddo.
In between Johanna's adolescent diatribes, I also love how she sneaks in wry political commentary, like the industrialization, and then the failed promise of that industrialization, of Wolverhampton: "the city died on their watch, and there is a communal sense of misplaced culpability about it. This is what dying industrial cities smell of: guilt and fear. The older people silently apologizing to their children (22)."
And then, the buildup for her television appearance...I thought any number of disasters were going to happen. That she might forget her poem at home. That she might clam up in front of the cameras. I thought Johanna was home free when she quipped to the tv host that it would be inappropriate for them to go on a date. BUT WHO COULD HAVE PREDICTED THE SCOOBY DOO BITS?
|Scooby always pops out of nowhere|
True story: on an only tangentially-related note, there is a persistent idea in pop culture that the five main characters in Scooby-Doo (my favorite childhood cartoon) are based on the five colleges in my area: Smith (Velma), Mount Holyoke (Daphne), Hampshire (Scooby), Amherst (Fred), and the University of Massachusetts (Shaggy).
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