Thursday, May 15, 2014

Why I hate rape jokes

This quote explains exactly what I think when I hear a rape joke. 

"Quite honestly, my objection to rape jokes is not even because I particularly find the jokes personally triggering anymore; I generally just find them pathetic and inexplicable. And while I’m bothered by the fact that the jokes normalize and effectively minimize the severity of rape and thus perpetuate the rape culture, I’m more bothered by the thought of a woman who’s recently been raped, who’s just experienced what may be the worst thing that will ever happen to her, and goes to the site of her favorite webcomic, or turns on the telly, or goes to the cinema, or a comedy club, to have a much-needed laugh—only to see that horrible, life-changing thing used as the butt of a joke. I don’t understand—and I don’t believe I ever will—why anyone wants to be the person who sends that shiver down her spine, who makes her eyes burn hot with tears at an unwanted memory while everyone else laughs and laughs."

Monday, February 10, 2014

La casa gris

Todas las maderas de la casa crujen. Las tablas del piso se encogen con el frío de Agosto y se expanden con el calor de febrero. Originalmente eran marrón rojizo, pero con el paso del tiempo adquirieron un color blancuzco por la sal y humedad del aire que viene de la playa, directo por el malecón. El sonido de las maderas viejas y húmedas se confunde con la presión de los pasos de la familia que se mueve perdida dentro de la casa. A veces parecen el eco de los pasos andados cincuenta años atrás, con mucha más fuerza e ímpetu, cuando la casa todavía tenía un aire alegre, las ventas eran traslúcidas y el jardín no tenía perros enterrados. Siempre parece estar vacía, a pesar del sonido de los pasos o las voces de las jóvenes que en algún momento ocuparon una de las habitaciones del segundo piso. Sin embargo, detrás de ese vacío se percibe algo: una mirada, el eco de recuerdos, el paso de los años y las tragedias de la familia. 

Para los extraños a la casa, la sensación de ser observados es inmediata y espeluznante. No se equivocan, son observados. Nadie que haya muerto en la casa descansará mientras ella siga de pie con ese aire tan triste. Hasta que la casa desaparezca y aun así. La tristeza y el color gris y apagado de las paredes no es característica individual de la casa, sino de la familia que vive atormentada con lo que fue, lo que pudo ser y no fue. Nadie se salva de ese sentimiento de soledad y arrepentimiento. Viven alejados entre sí, porque la vista de unos con otros es el reflejo palpable de lo que quedó atrás, ya no existe y hace tanta falta. La familia murió en gran parte cuando mi abuelo falleció, y cayó por completo en lo grisáceo cuando mi abuela siguió a su amor cincuenta años después. 

Y ahora, cuando por fin la casa que antes era un punto gris de soledad ya no existe, es añorada como el último pilar de unión de la familia, mientras sus miembros y todos aquellos que pasaron por ella intentan ponerle el verdadero color a sus recuerdos y sus vidas. Todos seguimos cargando la casa, la llevamos dentro. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Anne Boleyn

If you follow me on Goodreads you might have noticed that I have been reading a lot about Tudor history, especially everything related to Anne Boleyn. She has become a new obsession to me, for many different reasons. The first and the most obvious is that she is some sort of enigma belonging to one of the most interesting periods of English history. She was the first queen to ever be sentenced to death, she was a reformer, and the mother of the most glorious queen England has ever had: Elizabeth I. 

What also caught my interest is the way she has been described, shown and portrayed throughout the years. She has either been a saint or a whore, depending on the point of view, and the latter has always been the most popular. This polarization bothers me but does not surprise me. Until some time ago (and sometimes even today) women belonged to either one of two categories: the angel or the devil, the saint or the whore, the poor victim or the tyrant, there was nothing in between. Well, human nature is not like that, no one is just one thing or completely one thing. No one is purely evil (maybe except Voldemort) or absolutely good. Humans are a complex combination of personality traits, feelings, contradictions, thoughts, impulses, etc. We have too many layers so labels are just rubbish. Anne Boleyn is not the first woman to have been labeled thus, and she’s certainly not the last. For example, if we look at the other Tudor women, we will see the same thing: poor and saintly Katherine of Aragon, poor Mary, who was horribly treated and bastardized by her father (although she later became Bloody Mary, with no in-between whatsoever), good and obedient Jane Seymour, horrible adulteress Katherine Howard. You see what I mean.

Among all of these women, Anne has been perhaps the most slandered and the most polarized by the public, historians, writers and filmmakers.  Let us briefly look at the facts to plainly see why there is more than what we see on the surface of the story of this unforgettable Queen:
She was accused of having slept with several different men, including her own brother and of having slandered the King by making offensive comments about his virility and such. Most historians now agree that the accusations have no evidence, are based simply on hearsay from people who didn’t like her. The dates and places do not correspond. If you look at the three years she was married to King Henry, she was either pregnant, had just given birth to Elizabeth or was recovering from miscarriages. When had she so much time (and strength) to have all these love affairs?

If Anne is guilty of something is that she was very proud. One of the things she wanted most was to be truly recognized as a Queen, to be respected as one. Do you think a woman like that would have lowered herself by having an affair with Mark Smeaton (the only one to confess to having an affair with Anne), a servant? His confession was obtained after spending some time with Thomas Cromwell and he was probably tortured.
But I will leave the history facts to the experts.

I have come to admire her because she was an outstanding woman in her context. In a time where women were supposed to be docile and obedient, she was outspoken and demanding; in a time where the ideal of beauty were blonde women with blue eyes, she was a dark beauty with expressive dark eyes. She had a mind of her own, was very independent, considering her context of course, and very much ahead of her time. She was not a puppet the King could rule so easily. This was perhaps the reason why he became obsessed with her and also, the reason he got tired of her.  I don’t think she was the saintly, helpless victim the Protestant historians described, nor the monstrous whore, the "scandal of Christendom", the Catholics (and then the public opinion and tradition) described: she definitely knew how to play the game, how to get what she wanted, how to move ahead, and she did it quite successfully for a long time, but that was ultimately her own demise because the time was not ready for a woman like her. She had many flaws but she was not the great whore, the seductive temptress, the reason for Henry’s tyranny. This is the Adam and Eve story all over again. This is how the world wants Anne to be, not how she necessarily was.

There’s so much we don’t know about her, so many voids, so many grey areas. That is part of what feeds my obsession, of wanting to discover more about her, even a little piece that allows me to see her more clearly. 

I want to think (and this is my romantic and idealistic part) that Elizabeth’s success and golden age had a lot to do with the personality traits she inherited from her mother and what she knew about her. She was a strong-minded, stubborn woman who led her country to glory. Elizabeth never married; she famously said “I will have but one mistress and no master”. I think (I want to think) that she learned that from her mother’s tragedy.

These are the non-fiction / history books I have read about the Tudors:
- Tudors (History of England Vol. 2) - Peter Ackroyd
- The Wives of Henry the Eighth and the parts they played in History - Martin Andrew Sharp Hume
- The History of England Volume I - David Hume
- Life in a Tudor Palace - Christopher Gidlow
- The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England's Most Notorious Queen - Susan Bordo
- The Reign of Mary Tudor - J.A. Froude (currently reading)
- The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn - Eric Ives (currently reading)
- The Love Letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn with Notes

Fiction books I have read based on the Tudors:
- Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
- Bring Up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I finally started

Hello everybody! I just wanted to let you know that things are going to change a little here. I have finally started focusing seriously on writing my first novel (in Spanish, of course). I'll keep posting from time to time about the last books I've read and the ones I liked the most, and I will definitely continue reading Shakespeare and posting about it, but that will be a little less frequent (not that it was frequent anyway). I'll probably start writing more about the writing itself, as means to solve my own questions and doubts as I move forward with the book. I'm going to use this blog as a tool to keep me going and maybe receive some answers to my frustrations, which I will certainly have because, come on, it's part of the package.

The whole point of this blog (when I started it) was to make myself write, to be able to conquer the blank page, and I think I have finally managed to do that. I realized I needed a method, an outline, something to organize my brain and make it work. At first I thought the problem was that I had no ideas, and then suddenly I realized I had plenty of ideas (even way too many, I had trouble deciding on one and that still might change as I outline my novel), the problem was I had no idea how to start or develop it. I think I have finally managed that and I have to take advantage of the momentum and the inspiration. 

So this is a new phase for me and for the blog. I'll keep writing reviews because I love to do that, but I'll probably write more about my everyday struggles, questions and progress with the craft and art of writing a novel.

Wish me luck!