The Ropes Have Been Unbound

Month: October, 2014

Sing a Song of Six Deaths, a Girl With Hands Cut off, A Pair of Evil Children, Baked In a Pie

I hope that’s not too morbid a title. Then again, Titus Andronicus is violent and morbid and it’s one of my favorite Shakespeare plays so I’m writing a piece on it anyway.

One of my favorite phrases I’ve ever written is the “protofeministic existence of voyeuristic sadness,” used to describe the image that women like Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, and of course, Lana del Rey portray of explicitly “feminine” unhappiness: passivity, bitterness, emotional enmeshment, resentment and crippling grief. It’s about how the individual nature of a piece of their work, a poem or a song, isn’t what’s important when analyzing their importance on a societal level, since there are so many “problematic” elements in them all and I’m not saying we should ignore those aspects, but the acknowledgment of their characters and psyches in total as valid expressions of humanity and also of intellect is hugely significant.

Sad girls aren’t allowed to be competent, sad girls aren’t allowed to be intellectuals, sad girls aren’t allowed to be more than the Ophelia or the Woman in the Attic, or in the case of Titus Andronicus, the Lavinia, whose narrative importance catapults when she is raped and mutilated and physical silenced by having her tongue cut out. The play is one of Shakespeare’s shortest and most violent, and my last post it note lists the number of deaths in the last scene and ends with “wtf just happened?” Because the thing is, the amount of violence in the play is so extreme that it almost becomes not about the individual acts of violence similarly to how Lana del Rey stops being about seducing old men for money, no matter how much both pieces dwell on those elements.

Titus is just… straight brutality from the very first scene where the protagonist kills his own son and kills his enemy’s son in spite of her pleading to save him. I became desensitized to it in a way because I knew every action that was committed, Tamora encouraging her sons to rape Lavinia, Aaron murdering the nurse out of cold blood, Titus’ final revenge where he murders Tamora’s sons and feeds them to her in the pie, was about something bigger than the perpetrators of the cycle of Senacan violence. It was about the cycle itself, and how the rise and fall of Rome parallels the rise and fall of the Andronici, and how, in the very end, it is a turning of the screw, from Classicism to Shakespeare to the modern era, and if we don’t abandon our inclinations towards bloodlust, our life cycle will be terminated.

There’s validity in Titus as an extremely ironic morality tale, and it includes Tamora and Lavinia who represent the dichotomy of the Madonna Whore Complex women have always been relegated to, and the crux of it is that neither of them are saved by it. In a sense, that’s my take on Titus and Lana and Sylvia and them all: we aren’t in control sometimes, and governed by greater forces and when we refuse to acknowledge our subservience to them and sometimes, just let it go, we doom ourselves.  Anyway, Titus is my second favorite Shakespeare play after Lear, and you should definitely read it. I haven’t even started talking about the importance of all the classical references in the play, with Lavinia as Philomena, Tamora as a highly twisted amped up to 11 version of Dido and Medea and it’s shorter than most other plays, about half the length of “Hamlet,” which makes it all the more jarring. Well obviously, just look at the amount of violence in the first scene.

(And by the way, the Freys being baked into pies by the Northmen and fed to their kinsmen in A Song and Ice and Fire serves as a direct parallel to Titus’ vengeance on Tamora. Not usually my area of interest but that single element always intrigued me.)

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Can You Give Me the Sky?

As a rule, I’m disinclined to trust public opinion on things. I don’t read YouTube comments, I seldom go on tags for Tumblr and Twitter and I avoid Reddit like the plague because to put it simply, I don’t like it when my opinion is disagreed with and it often is. I fully ignore reviews for works of literature apart from those in official publications because it viscerally upsets me to see any piece or character I have an emotional connection to torn apart without restraint. But I made the mistake of checking out the Goodreads reviews for “White Oleander” by Janet Fitch.

It was chosen by Oprah Winfrey for her book club in 1999 and was the subject of a great deal of “coffee table” talk for the next few years for its controversial subject matter as well as the lucidity of its prose. Oleander is a toxic shrub that provides the catalyst for the plot of the novel, which is the coming of age tale of Astrid Magnassun who is shunted through a series of foster homes after her mother Ingrid murders her former lover Barry by smearing the surfaces in his apartment with a combination of Oleander sap and DMSO, an arthiritis drug. In short, the reviews for the novel praised Fitch’s writing style, although a large portion of them didn’t hesitate to label it as visibly “feminine,” (whatever that means) but entirely derided both Astrid and Ingrid as confusing, contradictory, unbelievable, and unlovable.

I’m not claiming that either Astrid or Ingrid are paragons of virtue but to claim that their actions don’t make sense indicates a profound misunderstanding of basic psychology and honestly, a lack of basic empathy. The paradox of human emotion is that sometimes, the rational explanation for an emotion is that there is no rational explanation. On occasion, there is no reason for an individual’s response to trauma, and there is a certain uniqueness in the construction of the human psyche. In this case, I’m responding to the claims that Astrid’s fixation on Ray, the middle aged man who she sleeps with as a 14 year old, is unnatural since she was also shot by Ray’s girlfriend Starr, her foster mother, and was bitten by a dog and had much worse things happen to her. Perhaps a 14 year old girl focuses on the parts of her life she believes she has a modicum of control over (although there is no way a girl that young can give consent to a grown man since she lacks the emotional maturity to be capable of it) instead of the parts that are so far out of her realm of comprehension she suppresses them. And in any case, to believe that children are to blame for the actions of adults (“She seduced him and he had no way to resist”) is disgusting.

Astrid was a hard character, all jagged edges that cut if you get too close to her, but it was a hardness that many teenagers possess and one that she wasn’t allowed to grow out of. Her mantra was survival and it’s admirable but also borderline terrifying the amount she was willing to sacrifice, her innocence, the prospect of love, money, whatever she had. I think I had a harder time connecting with Astrid than with Ingrid because I’m not as strong as Astrid and I’m not as unscrupolous. I have a deep rooted optimism that I can’t eviscerate the way Astrid does at such a young age because I was loved in a way that Astrid wasn’t. I believe in its existence because I still maintain that child’s logic “if my parents could love me this much, and do this much for me, that means I’m lovable and I obviously deserve to be loved romantically as well.” At one point, Astrid gives a boy a blowjob for a gram of weed which was the only place I stopped and put the novel down; it disgusted me so much and made me sad because at the end of the day, it feels like Astrid’s pragmatism regarding the selling of her body for goods is the fate all women are doomed to. Whether it’s the cold hearted near prostitution of Olivia, Astrid’s erstwhile neighbor or the more nuanced manipulations many girls perform on a daily basis, it feels like we’re just bodies and bones, buried at adolescence and never returned unless we dig ourselves out and render ourselves vulnerable to those who would gladly raze us to the ground.

Ingrid on the other hand, Ingrid made me laugh first of all, and I think Ingrid reminded me of what my mother would have been like with Ingrid’s upbringing. Ingrid rejects love the way Astrid hungers for it because when she allows herself to succumb to it, it destroys her to the point she kills a man who didn’t love her back the way she wanted to be loved which is why she was so wary of it in the first place.

“Isn’t it funny. I’m enjoying my hatred so much more than I ever enjoyed love. Love is temperamental. Tiring. It makes demands. Love uses you. Changes its mind.” Her eyes were closed. Beads of water decorated her face, and her hair spread out from her head like jellyfish tendrils. “But hatred, now. That’s something you can use. Sculpt. Wield. It’s hard or soft, however you need it. Love humiliates you, but hatred cradles you. It’s so soothing. I feel infinitely better now.”

“I’m glad,” I said. I was glad she felt happier, but I didn’t like the kind of happiness it was, I didn’t believe in it, I believed it would crack open sooner or later and terrible things would come flying out.”

The prose of this novel is poetic and it’s smooth in a way that renders it still relevant decades after its publication but it’s also sharp when you least expect it such that it made me pause to collect my thoughts. The strange dichotomy between Ingrid’s out loud discourse and the truth behind it which Astrid states in her monologue intrigued me because my instant response to any form of turmoil is to pretend nothing is wrong, almost to Ingrid levels, even if my inner Astrid knows the truth.

And of course, Ingrid wasn’t a good mother, and she wasn’t a good person even if she did love Astrid in her own way. I loathe parents who abandon their children and parents who don’t love their children properly and Ingrid checks off both those boxes but I didn’t hate Ingrid because I understood why she was the way she was. But, my take on parenting is, if you have a child, you are committing to that child. Parents explain the universe to their children and more often than not, the universe has patterns which they’re responsible for teaching them; if there is no consistency in a child’s upbringing, you can’t blame the kid when they lash out because they deserve better.

In short, White Oleander deserves to be read, and it deserves to be understood because it speaks to the part of human nature that craves understanding more than love and has come to the realization that they’re not the same thing. The most dangerous thing is to abandon who we are for other people to love us because they still may leave us for simplicity, because they realize the night magic has been consumed. And don’t fall in love with another magician because the magic doesn’t work when you know where it comes from and if your lover can’t give you the sky, then don’t stay, because they can still cause a natural disaster inside of you, eviscerating everything in its path.

Teenage Divorcee Confessions and/or Lana del Rey, How You Get that Way?

The first time I remember referring to myself as a feminist was when I was 13 years old; there was a lot of cringing and more than one person told me that I wasn’t ever going to find love. Our history teacher had married us to other kids in the class so we could learn about the feminist movement in the 1960s and it was a good idea in theory. I was married to a boy who I got divorced from because he didn’t think women should wear revealing clothes, he wouldn’t like it if his wife earned more than him, and he thought women should first be mothers to their children to which I asked “What children?!” I’m not saying my compromise levels were at an all time high at 13, or that they’re significantly better now, but I’ve just become ultimately frustrated at the debates about feminism because I’ve been listening to them for years and it’s just exhausting to put it simply. I can’t understand why people wouldn’t be feminists, because they’re benefiting from feminism even if they don’t realize it, and it’s just so childish to be honest. “I’m not a feminist because I like men;” well I hate to tell you this but men are abusing and assaulting women all over the world whether they’re feminists or not, so liking men doesn’t mean men like you back. And the other issue is that I don’t even agree with a large part of the mainstream feminist movement because it doesn’t feel applicable or relatable to my day to day life. This eternal contradictory frame of mine is why I picked up “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay; I don’t consider myself the epitome of a perfect person or a perfect feminist, but I know that the world’s not fair and I know that we all deserve better.

The reviews say the book reads like a combination of bolstering girl talk, academic literature, and a gospel of sorts because the crux of feminism is that it’s a movement by humans for humans and it’s prone to all the flaws of humanity. For some reason, we hold feminism to a significantly higher standard than we hold other social movements like Christianity and that’s because it comes from the minds of those who have faced long-standing oppression by society and in the true spirit of Capitalism, there’s a misconception that for women to be seen as equal, men have to be seen as less than equal. As I’ve said before, the reason I read so much is because literature validates our humanity, it makes us feel that our thoughts aren’t inherently wrong but just different. Roxane Gay made me feel that I could be a feminist and still be who I wanted to be, the girl who wears sunflower shirts and headbands and wants to be wanted, no matter how flimsy that wanting may be and doesn’t allow people to be treat me like shit for what I want. I’m tired of the constant infighting in the feminist movement, and sometimes it’s extremely valid especially regarding issues of intersectionality, but I don’t want to be constantly defending every choice I make as feminist or antifeminist, to be held up to some pedestal I can’t ever live up to. And Roxane Gay gets it.

Her love of Sweet Valley High and deliberate takedown of Chris Brown spoke to me because despite my devouring of the “The Second Sex” as a 14 year old who wanted to annoy my ex-boyfriend, my feminism is more about Gossip Girl and Sylvia Plath and Lana del Rey than feminist political theory. I’m not claiming that feminism should be depoliticized or that it should be watered down for public consumption but the fact remains: at the very core, feminism is a social and political movement that renders it possible for women and other minorities to live their lives without censure or abuse and that’s not even close to a reality for most of the world. I don’t mean to devalue the issues faced by men, in particular men of color, but the eternal fear of rape and sexual abuse isn’t present; when I’m walking home alone I will cross the street if I see someone walking behind me because that’s what I’ve been conditioned to do. There’s a profound difference between being scared to share feelings and being wary of being assaulted when walking home from the library and if people can’t see that, I don’t know how I’m supposed to make it clear.

Maybe I liked this book so much because I feel a closeness with Roxane Gay that I also feel with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie when reading “Americanah” and listening to her TED Talk. By consuming their work, I felt as if a giant weight had been lifted off my chest because I often feel like I can’t ever live up to some blurry “ideal” of my existence; I’m not a good enough Indian or a good enough feminist or a good enough person and the self-haranguing never ends. Am I not a feminist because I’ve listened to “Every Man Gets His Wish” by Lana del Rey 725 times in the last three months, am I not a feminist because I get gel nails for my boyfriend since he hates acrylics, am I not a feminist because I like to wear dresses and skirts and have long hair? I think Adichie said it best; one of the most tragic aspects of the patriarchy is that we raise girls to perform pretense as an art form. We encourage a borderline Kafka esque tendency in women to exist as a set of contradictions, beautiful and untouched, experienced yet innocent, competent but not frighteningly intelligent, sexy but decidedly not sexual. It’s something that the best of us have taken to such an extreme level we’ve lost ourselves; we don’t know who we are except for what we’re supposed to be. We spin on this axis of extreme anxiety that we must meet every single item on this metaphorical checklist to being a woman because otherwise we’ll lose everything we’ve worked so hard to achieve.

People have said I don’t give many fucks and to be quite honest, I really don’t, at least not about the things most people care about. I don’t wear makeup on a daily basis because it’s not my problem if my tiredness offends you, I twirl when I walk, I’ve stopped regarding it as an inherent error in my creation if a boy doesn’t love me, and that doesn’t mean I’m exempt from this conditioning. I’ve been living with an imaginary turntable of things to do in my mind for so long that caring has become second nature to me; I care about school, I care about my loved ones, I care about my hair, and the rest of it will come together because I’m capable of dealing with so much more than whatever I’m going through at the moment. Roxane Gay stated this phenomenon in the following way:

“I don’t believe in safety. I wish I did. I am not brave. I simply know what to be scared of; I know to be scared of everything. There is freedom in that fear. That freedom makes it easier to appear fearless- to say and do what I ant. I have been broken so I am prepared should that happen again. I have, at times, put myself in dangerous situations. I have thought, You have no idea what I can take. This idea of unknown depths of endurance is a refrain in most of my writing. Human endurance fascinates me, probably too much because more often than not, I think of life in terms of enduring instead of living.”

None of us are strong, it’s merely that we’ve become so capable of pulling ourselves together at short notice because of far too much practice, and just because I find so much to criticize and think about, doesn’t mean I’m not hopeful for a better future.

This diverged from my thesis at hand but basically, I loved this book because we’re all “Bad Feminists.” None of us are perfect because we’re human beings, and the idolization of anybody, even ourselves, is the “Do not Pass Go, Do not Collect $200” path to self-ruin. One of my favorite pieces of writing is Maya Angelou’s “Letter to my Daughter” and whenever I feel incapable of existence or otherwise out of control, I read the copy I have saved in my phone, specifically this part:

“I have made many mistakes and no doubt will make many more before I die. When I have seen pain, when I have found my ineptness has caused displeasure, I have learned to accept my responsibility and to forgive myself first, then to apologize to anybody injured by my misreckoning. Since I cannot unlive history and my repentance is all I can offer God, I have hopes that my sincere apologies were accepted.”

In other words, self-acceptance and self-improvement aren’t mutually exclusive elements and moreover, we have one lifetime on this earth in our bodies, and it’s our moral imperative to make the best of it, to love as much as possible and to live more ethically than the world around us currently is.

The Dense Nothingness of Death

I’ve been in the process of reading “Deathless” for almost a month now and today I just speed read the remaining 200 pages I had left during my break because it wasn’t going to get any better no matter how long I left it and I really wanted to get this review done because it’s been dwelling in my mind for almost as long. I’ve read bits and pieces of Catheryne M. Valente’s work, namely her poetry, and I like her style, probably in large part because it’s more than a little reminiscent of my own, extraordinarily dense and giving off a semblance of deep emotion but with spurts of lightness interspersed to prevent readers from abandoning it. That being said, I don’t think I’ve felt as disturbed by a novel until I read Deathless and granted, it was more from the response to it than the novel itself. I’ve reached a point in my existence as a media consumer where I’ve started to take the response to a work as two part: first, as influenced by the consumer’s own prejudices and second, as what the creator herself is accountable for, because you reach a point where the portrayals of characters are filled with so much ingrained bias that it has to be criticized on an objective as well as a thematic level.

To quickly summarize the novel, it’s the retelling of the Russian fairytale of Marya Morevna Ivan Tsarevitch, and Koschei the Deathless, a demon of sorts who specializes in the kidnapping of young women. Unlike the original, Valente’s retelling casts Marya as the main character instead of Ivan, makes Marya’s sisters participate in the plot, and details the original relationship between Marya and Koschei and her subsequent defeat of him which the original narrative exclude. Valente’s account of it is like I previously stated, beautiful, intricate, and dense, full of historical references to the real Russian Revolution and the fallout from it as well as fairy tales and the tropes that accompany them. Most prominently, “Deathless” features the Rule of Three, three of Marya’s sisters that marry birds who turn into men, three tasks Marya must complete for Baba Yaga to marry Koschei, three chyerti friends who help Marya with her tasks and so on. Moreover, the featuring of Baba Yaga is notable in that she represents the archetype of the witch, a long-standing fixture in fairy tales the world round, and who’s the only person who comprehends the depth of the story they’re all in.

But. Deathless left a sour taste in my mouth, like I was eating one of those beautiful French hors d’oeuvres which taste like something gone rotten but are presented as elite so anyone who dislikes it is automatically seen as in the wrong. To put it bluntly, I thought Marya was a stagnant glorified bad teen fiction heroine who’s immersed in this madcap struggle for survival and yet, has time for a love triangle. I don’t really care about Ivan because he’s not important in this retelling of the story, and even in the original, he’s the archetype for a hero more than an individualized construction of one. But as for Koschei and Marya, my opinion is a combination of disgust and abject horror at the number of people that romanticize it.

Let’s get this straight: it’s not okay to romanticize the relationship between a 15-16 year old girl who has zero agency even if she manages to achieve it later and manipulates and defeats her captor. It’s not romantic and dark, it’s abusive, and honestly, it’s an entry in the long line of narratives in which teenage girls are clothed in pretentions of adulthood so that their adult male abusers are seen in better lights. I find complicated and toxic romantic relationships fascinating on a literary level, but the key element is that the relationship is of equals; one party is not abjectly more powerful than the other, and this definitely includes the relationship between adults and children. Koschei may appear young, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s ageless, has numerous ex-wives (all named Yelena because that’s not remotely disturbing at all) and oh yeah, is the personification of Death which isn’t a positive trait in a potential romantic partner in case you thought otherwise.

Perhaps Valente is attempting to meta-textually comment on these issues but I’m disinclined to believe that just based on the lucidity of the language used in describing it.

“Oh, I will be cruel to you, Marya Morevna. It will stop your breath, how cruel I can be. But you understand, don’t you? You are clever enough. I am a demanding creature. I am selfish and cruel and extremely unreasonable. But I am your servant. When you starve I will feed you; when you are sick I will tend you. I crawl at your feet; for before your love, your kisses, I am debased. For you alone I will be weak.”

I’ve having a hard time articulating my discomfort with this dynamic but in short, it just screams of the manipulation and systematic emotional disfiguration of a young girl and I’m not a proponent of that at all. A man who’s cruel doesn’t have his cruelty invalidated by momentary spurts of kindness, the logic of a man who’s selfish and debased who tells his partner he’s on his knees for her is inherently flawed because his power is based on his dominion over her. Not to mention, that sort of language doesn’t imply true humility or respect, it reeks of emotional abuse with an underlying ambiguous threat of violence if she doesn’t meet his “demands.” And the fact Marya eventually defeats him doesn’t invalidate his initial actions and the fact that Koschei is seen by the narrative and by readers as a Byronic Hero or an anti-villain far more than the depraved rapist he is is disturbing. I know that “love is like having your throat cut” but there’s a profound difference between love cutting your throat and your lover cutting your throat, and with regards to Koschei, I’m inclined to believe in the latter.

I think that my major distaste for the book also has to do with the responses to it that I’ve read, because there’s this very strong argument for it being a majorly feminist work and “empowering” to women. Personally, no matter how pretty the language was, there remained this underlying element of oversimplification to me; something always felt unreal and not in a good way. To put it bluntly, I don’t agree with all the metas which claim Marya Morevna as some form of “strong” female character because to me she’s not even a character, she’s an archetype and the unfortunate part is that Valente doesn’t seem to develop her beyond the external visage of her even if on some level, I think that was her intent.

“Koschei, Koschei,” she whispered. “What would I have been if I had never seen the birds? I am no one; I am nothing. I am a blank paper on which you and your magic wrote a girl. Just the kind of girl you wanted, all hungry and hurt and needing. A machine for loving you. Nothing in me was not made by you.”

I wish that lack of characterization in Marya was acknowledged more when discussing the novel because that’s how I felt about her to be quite honest. She was just this creature made for the male gaze, to be the warrior queen who had all this power but was still unbearably appealing to men even Death himself was susceptible to her charms, and personally that really bothers me in a character because it’s another construction of femininity that really doesn’t strike me as remotely feminist.

Here’s the thing about writing a “feminist” work: you have to write characters that have a valid existence beyond the text, whether they’re virgin lady knights or evil queens who use their bodies to fulfill their ambitions. There’s no such thing as succeeding and failing as a woman even if there is definitely such a thing as being a good or bad person. The thing about Valente’s writing (and George R.R. Martin’s and so many other writers of sci-fi/fantasy/any other genre besides romance which is female driven to an excessive level) is that it prizes not being conventionally feminine to an excessive level, or rather being capable in traditionally masculine mediums but still being beautiful and worthy of the male gaze, and in my opinion, that’s just wrong. And yes, I’m talking about Tamora Pierce with Alanna who was still attractive enough to be in a love triangle with both George the funny thief and Jon the crown prince, and George R.R. Martin with Lyanna Stark who’s the greatest because she was wildly beautiful and had Rhaegar Targaryen and Robert Baratheon going for her hand in marriage even if she was more interested in sword fighting and dressing up like a boy and Arya who looks like Lyanna and is always right even as a 9 year old. A woman doesn’t have to be worthy of male affection to be valid, and no matter what people may say about how the term Mary Sue is gendered (which it is to a degree), I’m not a proponent of the concept of the “ideal woman” who’s worthy of male affection and any other woman who isn’t just by virtue of not being her.

Also, I read this article that states that Deathless is feminist because it shuts down the concept of weaponized femininity, which is supposedly racist and classist etc. Okay short story: that analysis of weaponized femininity is more or less bullshit for a few reasons. I’m not claiming that designating femininity to be represented by thin white women is fair because it’s not, but at the same time, there needs to be the acknowledgement that the United States isn’t the baseline by which we make judgments on the nature of feminism because there are billions of women outside of it. The fact is, the hetero-patriarchal white supremacy hegemony is still prevalent outside the United States but people of color are not the “other” in the same manner as the United States. The same topical divisions of women, mothers, maidens, princesses, whores etc. exist in places like India, China or Africa where there aren’t a high percentage of white people, and if you’re going to spew statements like “women of color are always seen as monsters,” expect to be called out because that’s extremely U.S. centric and reeks of internalized racism. How do I know this? I was raised in India and abroad and I’m not saying it’s perfect, but there wasn’t as much pressure to be white; I didn’t see myself as anybody but myself until high school, I wasn’t Indian, I was just me. And I never saw myself as automatically ugly or monstrous for not being white, and now you’re telling me that I am? Well then.

But returning to my point at hand, I don’t think claiming “Deathless” rejects weaponized femininity is remotely valid because as I said, a great deal of Marya’s power comes from the faxt she’s appealing to both Koschei and Ivan as a romantic and sexual conquest. And to be honest, anti-femininity, which is hugely prevalent in radical feminism, is also misogynistic. Attractiveness as a woman is a double edged sword; if a woman isn’t attractive, then she hasn’t lived up to her task as a woman, to be sexually appealing to men, and if she is attractive to men, she’s responsible for living up to that privilege and being open to be picked and prodded and ogled and if she wants to be in control of her own image and sexuality, that’s a sin to be punished with cat calling and shaming and whatever other punishments we thrust upon women. And Valente herself has this passage:

“The old order, it is good for the old. A farmer wants his son to be afraid of beautiful women, so that he will not leave home too soon, so he tells a story about how one drowned his brother’s cousin’s friend in a lake, not because he was a pig who deserved to be drowned, but because beautiful women are bad, and also witches. And it doesn’t matter that she didn’t ask to be beautiful, or to be born in a lake, or to live forever, or to not know how men breathe until they stop doing it.”

It’s almost as if beauty is a sin even if it’s not in our hands and the way to overcome is to reject our femininity, but the text doesn’t fully support that either except to state that being feminine won’t save you but nobody ever said it did; it’s just that being conventionally feminine is just as valid a manner of self expression as is wielding swords and liking football.

But that’s my take on Deathless (over 2000 words of it wow) and I hope you enjoyed it or at least, gained a new perspective on the novel. Again, the novel is beautifully worded and hugely evocative of a rich period in Russian History but personally speaking, my issues with it far outweighed my appreciation for those aspects of the novel, and I leave my readers to form their own opinions.