Unbinding

In 1983 almost every woman I knew was reading The Mists of Avalon.  I remember a heavy paperback that made its way around the community, becoming battered over the months.  Every reader wrote her name in the front of the book, and then passed it on.  Of course Marion Zimmer Bradley had male fans, but for my women friends, mostly lesbians, the book spoke to our idealism.  The retelling of a heroic story, bringing women to the foreground, validated a belief in women’s power and magic.  Magic can be a metaphor for the ability to change the world.

This week Marion Zimmer Bradley’s daughter, Moira Greyland, wrote about her physical and sexual abuse as a child, perpetrated by her mother, in an environment where abuse of children was common.  MZB’s husband, Walter Breen, was convicted of child abuse several times, and word is that he abused dozens of others.  At the time of Breen’s conviction, MZB said that she knew of the abuses but kept silent.

I didn’t know about Walter Breen until today.  Maybe if I’d been paying attention, I’d be less stunned by Moira Greyland’s statement.  Other people are less surprised.  The home was almost pedophilic in philosophy and a treacherous environment for children.

Readers have felt betrayed by authors before.  Orson Scott Card’s homophobia broke my heart.  But for me, this goes beyond the question of reading books by people who’ve done bad things.  This harm is deep and to the bone.  Moira Greyland and dozens of other children, now adults, will be healing from this for the rest of their lives.

We carry books in our heads and our hearts.  When authors craft a well-built world, we live there for a while.  With The Mists of Avalon, circles of people spent time in that world, and used it as a jumping-off point for discussions about power and feminism.

Tonight I’m lighting a candle for Moira Greyland and a second for the other children.  And I think I’ll unbind The Mists of Avalon and put it in the recycling.

 

RanaMargie


Marion Zimmer Bradley: It’s Worse Than I Knew

With Moira Greyland’s email and poetry.
Trigger warning.

The Importance of Books and the MZB Timeline
Deirdre Saoirse Moen’s follow-up to the above post.
Quotes and information from the opposite perspective,
in particular the powerful effect of MZM’s work on people’s lives.

Tinned Mystery of the Day

January 6, 2014

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Canned Meat (3)

Interstice and juxtaposition

 ”Life lurks in the interstices of each living cell, and in the interstices of the brain.”  A. N. Whitehead, Process and Reality.

This week I began following the Interstitial Arts Foundation on Facebook, and in my first post I made a language error. I do that a lot, so it’s not earth shattering, but it brought up the interesting difference between interstice and juxtaposition. I’m a collage artist and interested in the power of joining, when two images touch and thus change one another. But while juxtaposition describes the relationship between one thing and another, interstice describes the space in between.

Commenting on the work of performance artist Linda Mary Montano, I said that she’s at the interstice of art and life, but I could have said that she is in the interstice — which is better language-wise (if I understand correctly) but also more suited to her work, which energizes the places between things. She doesn’t juxtapose or contrast art and life, she allows breath and change by navigating and moving within the borders.  (For more about her work, you can look here and here.

According to Brainy Quote an interstice is, “That which intervenes between one thing and another; especially, a space between things closely set, or between the parts which compose a body; a narrow chink; a crack; a crevice; a hole; an interval; as, the interstices of a wall.”

If magic moves in the world, it moves in the interstices of matter. I think of the way water moves through cracks in stone or through the extracellular space in our bodies. Even when it’s not interstitial in format, art can sometimes move within the chinks, cracks and crevices of culture, moving within and bringing both breath and breadth.

This may be a tangent, but here’s a poem by gray-bearded, courage-teaching and sometimes queerly interstitial Walt Whitman.  (Referencing Allen Ginsberg.)

A GLIMPSE, through an interstice caught,

Of a crowd of workmen and drivers in a bar-room, around the stove, late of a winter night—And I unremark’d seated in a corner;
Of a youth who loves me, and whom I love, silently approaching, and seating himself near, that he may hold me by the hand;

A long while, amid the noises of coming and going—of drinking and oath and smutty jest,

There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little, perhaps not a word.

Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass”

Click here to find out about the Interstitial Art Foundation and Interfictions.

Annunciation
Marianne Connolly, Annunciation, mixed paper collage

“The living being is above all a thoroughfare, and . . . the essence of life is in the movement by which life is transmitted.”  Henri Bergson.

Walking Milo

Photocollage

“Walking Milo” is a collage series from 2005-2012.  The collages are pieced from photographs taken during walks with my dog Milo.  Each represents a single roll of film shot during one walk at one time on one day.

Most of these photographs were taken in the area around my home.  I’m drawn to the rapidly changing light during late afternoon in winter and the way it continually challenges my preconceptions.  Snow isn’t white and shadows aren’t black.  The photographs of peachy light and blue refraction always surprise me.

My photographs rarely contain a horizon line.  Milo and I keep our noses to the ground.  He’s gathering scents and I’m watching the textures at my feet.  I think of these photographs as an intimate landscape where the image is close enough to touch and smell.  My old Nikon film camera emphasizes the feeling of physical presence, partly through its solid, tank-like machinery but also because of the fixed and unrepeatable record of light on film.

I’m interested in juxtaposition and the way images, objects or ideas seem to shift when one is juxtaposed with another.  Like dogs and artists, for instance.  The practice of walking, pausing and paying close attention forms this series of work.

Milo, Amethyst Brook
 Milo, 8/5/02 – 3/20/12

Between Things

Power often exists in the space between one thing and another, things like magic and science, politics and sexuality, or belief and skepticism.  J.R.R. Tolkien wrote about suspended disbelief because it’s difficult to enjoy a fairy story if we don’t allow for the possibility of dragons, even if the belief ends when we close the book.

Personally, I believe. I believe in magic as strongly as I believe in science; that’s just how I was raised. My father and I left animal crackers for the fairies at night, and his ancestors emigrated from Ireland because of some dispute with ghosts. That’s the truth – just as true as squirrels and famine.

My grandparents were immigrants – half from Ireland and half from Greece – and I grew up with alternate and opposing cultures.  The differences were deeper than you might expect. My parents’ marriage was called “mixed,” and my Nan accused my Yiayia of worshipping heathen gods.  When I was a young adult learning my family’s stories, the Atlantic Ocean seemed like a boundary between the past and the present, and all the good stuff had been left behind.

I work with both visual art and fiction, and right now I feel like my right brain is tripping over the left. I believe there’s power, if we can find it, in the groove between the brain’s right and left hemispheres.

Along with being bicameral, I’m bisexual. (I dislike the term and am tempted to put an asterisk and a six-line qualifier about my identify. Maybe later.)  I mention it because bisexuality is a between-thing. Queer experience in general can sometimes be a path between poles, and in my life some of those have been isolation and community, and repression and magic.

In The Onion GirlCharles de Lint, one of my favorite fantasy authors, writes about the place of magic.

“Magic lies in between things, between the day and the night, between yellow and blue, between any two things.”

When I first read that line, it felt like an important truth that I’d forgotten, and I was grateful to know it again. There’s a charge of energy in any juxtaposition, and that’s where you can find magic.

Rana is the genus name for frog and I’m a big fan of the wood frog, Rana Sylvatica. Frogs literally live between things, between their guts and the water and the air. Their porous skins don’t provide much protection between outside and their insides. Because of that, they measure the health of our environment, and in some mythologies, living between the elements makes them sacred.

Here’s the final word from Rana Sylvatica.  Just click the link.

RANA SYLVATICA’S CALL

6/27/07, 11:30 am (Pondscape, Village Park)
Marianne Connolly, Photocollage

Quote from The Onion GirlCharles de Lint, 2001.

Billy the Vampire Slayer

“Into every generation a Slayer is born: one girl in all the world, a chosen one.”

Dark Horse Comics, the publisher of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, announced the introduction of a new character to the Buffyverse. The aspiring Slayer is named Billy — and he’s a boy. He’s a bullied gay kid, and he’s courageous, but he’s a boy entering a realm where only girls have the power to slay.

In the last season of the Buffy television show, Buffy’s status as the “chosen one” is shared with others and they create an army of Slayers. They’re all young, supernaturally powered and all…girls.

At first glance, I thought it was blasphemous — and maybe even trendy — to share that power with a boy. He’s gay, yes, but he’s a guy. And Buffy has always been a rare, ironic, and smart look at gender and female heroes.

I read an article in The Mary Sue, followed by a longer piece in Out, describing Billy’s role and his emulation of female heroism, but my feelings are mixed.

At the end of the day, a boy becomes a man who makes a full dollar to my seventy-seven cents. And more importantly, let’s be honest, a boy can be Batman — toys and all — but girls have to be Wonder Woman — cleavage and all.

As a kid in the 60′s, I didn’t have a superhero to emulate, or at least one I wanted to emulate. Batman was the closest, but I didn’t want to be a man. I was a girl and I wanted to be a girl with power. I wanted a narrative that could actually happen. To me. In one fantasy I was Bruce Wayne’s orphaned ward, younger, smaller and smarter than Robin. That was okay, but if I’d known enough to imagine, I’d imagine the Slayer asking me, “Are you ready to be strong?”

Billy is excluded from slayerhood because of gender, and though my inner child isn’t very sympathetic, Billy has chosen to follow a girls’ path. That’s strong. And he’ll have to fight for his place.

There’s a popular but sometimes exhausting trope about women who fight nonstop, using bravery and bitchiness, to prove themselves as good as the guys. In some stories, both excellent and not, their path as heroes is to storm the gender gate over and over again. Unfortunately, that might be Billy’s fight.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer toys with tropes. Buffy is a small, blond teenager wandering down a dark alley — and she stakes her stalker. She doesn’t fight for her power as much as she fights with her power. She doesn’t storm the gates or use magical tricks because she’s the Slayer. She was born that way.

Billy is another flip of the trope. He’s a gay kid who emulates girls. Not in the way we often stereotype femininity, but he aspires to the toughness and heroism of the girl Slayers. His own skills aren’t innate and he has to work hard to develop them.

Jane Espenson, a creator in the Buffyverse, said in the Out article, “Batman doesn’t have super powers. He wasn’t gifted with an exotic foreign birth. So we take the Batman route; Billy is earning the Slayer mantle.”

In an interesting statement about homophobia and misogyny, Drew Greenberg, one of the comic’s collaborators, said in the Out article:

“I have no problem telling a story about a boy who’s always felt more comfortable identifying with what society tells him is more of a feminine role. So much crap gets heaped upon us as gay men  … about how it’s important to be masculine in this world … And those attitudes are a reflection of not just our own internalized homophobia, but of our misogyny, too, and that’s something I’ve never understood. So if this is a story that causes people to examine traditional gender roles and think of them as something more fluid, I’m thrilled.”

There aren’t many stories about a boy who wants to be like the girls because they’re smart, kick-ass warriors. A nice turn of the trope, folks.

I’m an old 70′s feminist and I continue to have mixed feelings about a boy Slayer. This last quote is what Buffy said when she transformed Slayer tradition and shared her power. I’m not advocating girl-separatism, and Billy’s already a traitor to his gender (in a good way) and a warrior against vampires and misogyny, but this quote describes the team he’ll be joining.

In every generation, one Slayer is born, because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men. This woman is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power, should be *our* power. …  From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?

                     Buffy Summers
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 7, Episode 22, 2003

 284px-BS914B

Dark Horse Comics, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Nine, #14

And more about tropes from “TV Tropes.”

And one more about Billy.

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