reviewthislife

It's my world – and I'm grading it

Category: literature

The Haunted Vagina

The first question on your lips is going to be: “why?” And I’m afraid that, like many of the decisions I make in life, there is no real answer. People do all kinds of things just to be able to say that they did: eat bugs; swim with sharks; have a threesome. I read a book called “The Haunted Vagina”.

The Haunted Vagina, by Carlton Mellick III, belongs to a genre of fiction known as “bizarro” (a word that I had previously only heard inside a cheesy Sandra Bullock film). And that is exactly what it is: bizarro. I could just leave this there and feel that I had done an accurate job, to be honest… but I wouldn’t be too proud of myself. So we’ll continue, shall we?

But if you are planning on reading this book for yourself, you’d best stop here, because I am going to give the plot away.

Our protagonist, Steve, is quite possibly the most laid-back guy in all of motherfucking history. Like, Moses – he was pretty open-minded, yeah? He goes out one day and sees a bush on fire, it starts talking to him, and instead of wondering whether some funky herb he ate was playing tricks with his mind (or it might be a toomah?) he just accepted that it was God having a natter. Just rolled with it. And told a heap of people about it, all cool-like, and then they all rolled with it too. That’s… yeah, pretty open-minded.

But this guy, Steve, is engaged in a mutually beneficial oral sex act with his girlfriend when he hears a voice coming from her lady-region, continues with the act as her stomach swells so much that he is lifted several inches and, after an exquisitely timed orgasm, watches as a skeletal figure starts clawing its way out of her vagina. He’s such a sweetheart though, he doesn’t run; he instead helps to drag the creature out of her, kills it, covers it with a blanket – and then takes her out for a drink.

Turns out her vagina is a portal to another dimension.

Yep.

And Steve is pretty cool about it.

Long story short: he goes spelunking inside her lady cave, comes out the other side, meets the locals and metamorphoses into one of them, and then lives forevermore inside the secret world that now exists inside the baby she falls pregnant with after having some casual sex (and almost drowning everyone in the process… I’ll let you think on that) because she’s jealous of Steve falling in love with a freaky-deaky rubber girl in… there. In there.

Oh god *facepalm*

I would like to take a page from Steve’s open-minded book, though, so I’m going to try not to rag on the subject matter and plot. To each their own, ja? And it’s because of the subject matter and plot that the book works, and by “works” I mean that you keep turning the pages. Because you simply have to know what the fuck is going to happen next. And it does have some genuine ZOMG moments. Like when Steve places his ear to her vagina and it’s “like listening to the ocean in a hairy flesh seashell.” Or when he is struggling to make his way through her love tunnel and he has to “push the meat ceiling up with the back of [his] head as [he goes].” Or, or, wait, my favourite: when the inhabitants of her inner dimension feel an earthquake and all gather to watch the cliff-face that contains the entrance (ie. her cervix) and “a geyser erupts out of the side of the cliff, a burst of white fluid. Then another burst of white fluid. Then another.”

(and there’s your answer to the question I placed in your mind earlier)

Hey, I just said “ZOMG moments”- I didn’t say in what sense ;)

I have to say, though, in a totally non-snobby way – the writing is pretty bad. Like, ok: “The cries are coming from one of these houses. I can hear them coming out of a window. When I slam open the square metal door, the cries stop. I search the ground floor. It is empty of statues and furniture. There’s nobody here. I take the winding stairs.”

And then I was hungry. I went into the kitchen. I took two pieces of bread and I placed them in the toaster. After they toasted, and I spread them with butter, I ate them. You get my drift?

But you know what? This guy has a market. He has a following. This story fits within a genre, a genre that exists (look, proof!), and this Carlton Mellick III has published something like 40+ pieces, while I sit here bitching about shit on a blog that no one reads.

So I’m going to give The Haunted Vagina, as ridiculous as it is, 4/10. Because I paid $4.99 for it, so fuck it – he wins.

haunted vagina

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Kotsko, Heidegger, Awkwardness, and here’s what I think about your damn social rules

My Decision to Enrol in a Masters Course Full-Time

Less than two months ago, I made the split decision to enrol in a Masters course, and to complete it full-time whilst still working full-time. It has been three weeks since class began, and I would like to review that decision.

Working and studying full-time-at-the-same-time did not seem like a big deal to me, because I actually completed my two Bachelor degrees that way. Studying through Open Universities, I was able to get it done in my “spare time” and still work the full-time job and pay the rent. True, I took a lot of stimulants, and drank many a bottle of red wine – but also true, I really enjoy drinking red wine and staying up until all hours, so… *shrug*

The Masters is different though, it requires actual on-campus attendance, the thought of which really excited me after six years of fleshing out my thoughts with facebook, a mirror and a sullen cat. When I found out that all classes would be held on the one day I ran straight to my boss’s office, presented my hypothetical situation and solution, assured him that if he acceded I would be happy and would not quit, and got my way. I would attend university on Tuesdays, and fit five days worth of working hours into the remaining four.

Brilliant, am I not? Four days in the office, starting an hour earlier than usual and doing 9-10 hours per day, remote access to fit in some extra work from home, one full day at uni, and whatever spare time I have around all that can be spent reading and doing assignments. And, like, writing a 10,000 word creative piece. Oh, and I do muay thai once a week, and have pre-paid for a term of belly dancing.

I did get some practise in with the 8am starts, for a couple of weeks before it officially began, and that went really well. But now we are in the third week of actual classes/work/shebang. Whereas I would usually get to bed somewhere between 12am-1am and get up about 7:30am, I am now getting up at 6:30am – but still getting to sleep at the same time.

I have missed the last two weeks of muay thai.

I have been responding to every single situation arising at work with “fuck”.

I have a packet of cigarettes (despite having “quit” just before classes started).

I have started making an afternoon (on class day) snack of a Mars Bar dipped in coffee, a combination I haven’t indulged in since high school.

I haven’t done my dishes for the last two nights (tonight will make three), not because I’m frantically studying/working, but because I DO NOT WANT to stand at the sink.

Tonight, on my way to belly dancing after work, I went down into the train station, pulled one of these, and went straight back up those escalators and home to stare at the walls.

I decided, for the first time in my life, to try to use good food to fuel my body instead of eating whatever the hell I wanted. I looked into some “good carb + protein” recipes that I might like to try for lunches, to help get me through the long days, and made a conscious decision to cut out white bread, white pasta, and superfluous sugar. Today my mind, in solidarity with my exhausted body, made me eat four jumbo-sized Caramello Koalas from the fundraising box at work.

And I seem to have forgotten to eat dinner tonight.

It has been less than three weeks, and I’m pretty fucking tired.

I am also faced with the fact that I have to write something this year. Something big. And good. About 3/4 of my waking moments (and maybe 1/4 of my sleeping ones) are consumed by the question: What the fuck am I going to write?? I have no idea, I cannot run from it, and by the end of the year I will know, once and for all, whether or not I am a writer – no more hiding.

It has been less than three weeks.

Upon review, I give my decision to enrol in this course an 8/10.

Because fuck you, body.

The Hunger Games – novel*

* term used loosely

Full disclosure: I have a degree in literature. I am currently doing a Master of Arts in creative writing. I also have a copy of Twilight. I am semi-learned, somewhat biased as such, but I am also fair – I believe that every piece of writing has a place in the grander scheme, even if it is to help form the base of a pyramid. Yes, I have referred to my copy of Twilight as “the literary equivalent of a full frontal lobotomy”, but sometimes you need that. I appreciate that. I opened The Hunger Games in the same frame of mind, but alas, I didn’t close it that way. Somewhere along the way (probably when I first decided to read it) something went horribly wrong.

I classify The Hunger Games as “storm fiction”, as in “taken the world by”. Into this genre we can also place Twilight, 50 Shades of GreyThe Da Vinci Code? Yes, I think so. Anyway, so, let’s place this alongside Twilight – how is it that Twilight is so much better than this? When it is in itself a steaming pile of unsophisticated triteness? Well, Twilight is incredibly poor literature, yes; but it’s about vampires. Hot teenage vampires. And the chick, who could have been me when I was a teenage chick, has a giant teenage crush on one of them. So yes, the writing is extremely poor, but at least it takes me somewhere, that somewhere being high school maths and my first massive crush on a boy named Scott. It’s naïve puppy love in word form, and after all the shit that I’ve copped from men during my adult years, I like being reminded of those times. First strike for The Hunger Games: it doesn’t have anything to distract you from its terrible writing.

And then there’s Katniss…

A first person narrator is a great idea when you want your reader to engage with them, you know? Really get into their head? But if you’re going to give your reader a glimpse into a mind, make sure there’s something in there, seriously. I didn’t think it was possible to create a protagonist dumber than Bella Swan (note that I have not read 50 Shades of Grey – also note that I did not add “yet” to that note), but here we are. Tough, yet soft, loved by many but completely unaware, loved by one in particular but so fucking self-deprecating that she thinks he’s doing it for the ratings… and so on, and clichéd so on. I do not care about anything this stupid character says, does or thinks, and so by extension, I do not care about anyone else in the story. Without empathy there is basically no reason at all for me to be reading the story, beside the fact that I started reading it, and now I want to know what the fuck happens.

I think my annoyance really kicked in, however, when I got to the end and saw that there were two pages of a simple interview with the author. And, stupidly, read them.

How did you come up with the idea?

After flipping between two TV channels showing a reality TV show and actual war footage. Fucking genius, I am so inspired. To research for the story she drew on her father’s knowledge of hunting and foraging, and “read a big stack of wilderness survival books”. Indeed. But the clincher came when she was asked why she chose to write about such a serious topic and then shared her father’s experience with war and his insistence that his family “understood about certain aspects of life”; ie. war is serious business and needs to be discussed.

I am telling you now that this book does not contain a serious treatment of war and its effects. You do not read this book and think “oh wow, war is so bad, we need to work together as a species and stamp it out, provide a better future for our children…” – you read this book and think “that Kat chick is AWESOME”. Admit it. Hell, there isn’t even a fucking war, it’s a game show. If anything, the war-related message contained within is “don’t even think about rising up against inequality and injustice or future generations of your children will die as punishment”.

How about capitalism and economic inequality? Totalitarianism? Rampant consumerism? All of these things are right there, but again, they’ve been glossed over and glorified in the way in which they’re treated. Yeah, life is bad for those living in the poorer sectors, we feel sorry for them and we can see that the system is wrong. But that’s about it.

If the system is so wrong, why isn’t it crumbling? Why isn’t anyone rebelling? Why didn’t the author make it crumble?? After reading the book and beginning to write about it I then ended up watching the movie, and yes, there are the beginnings of a rebellion in that. And apparently that’s what happens in the later books. But I don’t think that counts in this discussion because a) I’m talking about this book, the first one, and will not be reading the others based on my reaction to it. But also b) in the interview that I’ve mentioned it is stated that this wasn’t planned as a trilogy, and the reason it was continued is because “Katniss does something that would never go unpunished in her world. There would definitely be repercussions.” Not because there was something more to be said about the fucked up state of our potential future, but because there was more drama to be written about (and cashed in on).

This author created an opportunity for herself to provide some serious social commentary on issues that are immediately pertinent to us, right now. And she claims to be doing so, when in actual fact all she’s done is written a kickass story about a kickass TV event where a kickass chick kicks some ass, and has a bit of a think about love and life along the way. I find that frustrating, that someone who has managed to grab the attention of a worldwide audience has done so through sheer mediocrity, and essentially squandered the opportunity to engage in some serious discourse. I think that is why I dislike it, not just because it is so badly written, but because there is actually scope there to really challenge the mindsets of the masses it has reached and their blind acceptance of this structure that contains us, scope that has been, quite simply, wasted.

But you know, in saying that – would the book have reached so many if it was written differently? Here’s some food for thought: that The Hunger Games, in both its creation and content, is a metaphor for itself. It is simple, shiny and easily digested, as is the very TV show contained within. It makes entertainment fodder of serious world issues, serious to the point of life and death, as does the very TV show contained within. And just like the TV show, the only reason that poorly written tripe like this can get published is because we have given it an audience.

“What if everyone just stopped watching? … No one watches and they don’t have a game. It’s as simple as that…”

“Won’t happen.”

3/10, because if nothing else, I read the whole thing.

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