GoT Update…Still Reading, Sort-of

Here’s a continuation of our ongoing GoT discussion!

We last left the conversation off here.

Holly’s review of Game of Thrones can be found here.

Amanda: I think I hate this book – in part because of the hype. I thought I’d love it right away.

Holly: Do you just think everyone is the worst? Because they sort of are.

Amanda: Yeah I think I hate everyone except Bran and Jon Snow. Maybe Ned. I don’t hate Ned.

Holly: Oh, Ned.

Amanda: Also, why is this mf’er so LONG?

Holly: It doesn’t get any shorter.

Amanda: Catelyn just called out Tyrion. This might have just gotten more interesting.

<interlude for more reading>

Amanda: I hate this book because nearly no one except Neddie and the kids (so far) is who they’re supposed to be.  It’s getting tiresome.  Maybe Dany, but she’s so minor right now I just don’t know if I care – 45% in.

Holly: I think that’s true, but it’s not necessarily a problem for me. The whole story is really about the Starks: Starks v. Lannisters, and Starks v. the whole f’ed up kingdom. I hated that the men were complex characters while the women and girls were all one dimensional…but that seems to change. Or else I am developing immunity.

from http://glockgal.tumblr.com/image/19440986541

How awesome is this picture? from http://glockgal.tumblr.com/image/19440986541

Amanda: Hmmmm.

Holly: Hmmm like I am profound?

<interlude while Amanda considers my profundity. Or continues to hate-read.>

Amanda: Yes, Holly I always find you to be profound!

I admit I’ve given up at this point.  I will go back because I am afraid of you.  Just a little.  Since that one time you punched me.  Or I’m mostly just afraid that if I don’t finish you won’t read anything else I might try to make you read.  And since your life will not be complete if you don’t read Quintana of Charyn, I’ll finish this monstrosity.

But I’ve realized a new issue that I have due to all the hype around this book – Rape Anxiety.  I just don’t want to read about it. And due to all the facebook posts and tweets about the show and the books, I know it’s coming and I just could do without reading about rape.

I know I’m a total nut for Seanan McGuire, but she wrote a great blog piece about why sexual violence doesn’t have to happen in her books and I love her even more for it.  I think we hear enough about situations in real life in which women have their power taken away from them due to sexual violence. and I don’t need it in my fiction too. I’m not saying I don’t read books where rape happens or that I put down books because of it, because I don’t. But when its an issue enough that people who don’t read the books or watch the show Game of Thrones are talking all about the rapes, I think it crosses a line for me.

Holly: Don’t worry sister! As I was waxing poetic about the library , I searched to see if they had Quintana yet, and they do. So, that should be waiting for me to pick up soon.

However, now I sort of feel between a rock and a hard place – because I do want you to read GoT, but I also can’t really defend against the rape aspect. Obviously, I wrote a whole post about how I felt George R.R. Martin hates women, and at least 45% of the statements that come out of my mouth can be directly linked to a feminist-worldview, and well, the other 55% are probably less than 6 degrees away.

So I get it. And I shall respond very very carefully. 

What bothers me in GoT, and in any book, is when rape is used as a characterization – like, we are supposed to understand something about the Dothraki culture based on the preponderance of rape among Dothrakis. And among the wildings. And even among the brothers of the Night’s Watch, which is an escape outlet for rapers.

Not cool, George.

On the other hand, sometimes terrible things happen to the people in the GoT world, rape included. Daenerys’s sexual experiences are integral to the story, and to her development as a character. And the way her story is written seems…realistic, for lack of a better word, for a 13 year old married to a warrior several times her age. For a non-GoT example, think about Lisbeth Salander in the Millenium Trilogy – there is a really really awful rape scene in that book, which plays a pivotal role in Lisbeth’s life. Fun to read? No, obviously. But I don’t think that negates the rest of the story. And, I’ll add that it is possible to write about rape in a way that neither normalizes or excuses it – see Froi of the Exiles…which you demanded I read, no?

For what it’s worth, the storylines in the books really run the gamut in the s-e-x department: consensual sex, sex with prostitutes, young love & young lust, (unexpected) protection against rape, and women using their sexuality as a weapon.

And well, if all else fails, just take your tips from this brilliant piece of satire. You know, turn off that feminist consciousness for a minute, kick back, and read: http://www.theonion.com/articles/woman-takes-short-halfhour-break-from-being-femini,35026/

Also, oh dear. Did you just tell the internet that I punched you one time? For the record, I think I was 6. I have since learned healthier ways to deal with anger. I swear!

Amanda:  You are the funniest person I know over the age of 3.  Back to reading I go.  Heavy sigh.

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GoT Update

When we last mentioned Game of Thrones, I (Holly) had mixed feelings about the first book in the Song of Fire and Ice series – mixed because, while I was into the story, I was not at all down with how all of the women in the story were presented. There was a bit too much gratuitous T&A and a lot too much raping, thankyouverymuch. However, I have continued the series, in part because of the people who urged me to continue, but mostly because J has been reading them and talking about them (minimally, since I won’t let him tell me any spoilers).

Since then, I’ve watched the first season of the TV show, finished book #2, and I’m 45% into book #3. And, Amanda is working on reading #1, A Game of Thrones, RIGHT NOW. So, we’ve decided to chat about what we’re thinking so far – mostly for our own entertainment, but hopefully for yours too!

So, here’s what’s been going on via text since Amanda started reading (perhaps edited a bit for clarity…and so we don’t sound like total weirdos)

Amanda: How in God’s name am I supposed to keep all these names straight?

Holly: That sounds like an excellent way to start our post!

Amanda: 10% in. Right where I gave up before. Meh.

Holly: Stick it out a little further! LIke 12 more hours if you’re me. So maybe 45 minutes?

Amanda: I lied. I read more last time. I do like Tyrion I think.

Holly: Tyrion is cool! And there are a fuckton of names. You won’t need them all…sometimes I use the search function on my Kindle.

Amanda: Ah – search function – genius!

Dragon Wedding pic via - tinyurl.com/d43y4yg

Dragon Wedding pic via – tinyurl.com/d43y4yg

Amanda: I far preferred my wedding to the dragon princess’s.

Holly: Yeah, the dragon wedding is about where George started to lose me. There are a lot of rapers.

Amanda: Exactly. I really lose a desire to read a book when it’s about rapers.

Holly: J pointed out that George maybe doesn’t like the men too much either, as evidenced by the army of eunuchs that comes up later (#3).

Amanda: And since he kills characters rampantly?

Holly: Funny on that…since I keep hearing that, I basically am reading every page waiting for someone else to die. So I’m actually more surprised at who is still alive.

Amanda: Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! I just realized I left my kindle at home! This is what I get for having alternating morning and evening commute reading right? I was just thinking I might get into this book now, despite the rapers.  And despite really really really not liking the Queen one bit.

Well, we’d post more, but clearly we both have to forge on through our reading. What are your thoughts on the series? Keep ‘em spoiler free, please!

 

Review: A Game of Thrones

Title: A Game of Thrones

Series: A Song of Ice and Fire #1

Author: George R.R. Martin

Image

Holly

We’re a day late on posting, but that’s because Amanda and I, plus one (grand)mother and one toddler, were running around Chicago yesterday being ladies who shop and lunch. It was amazing. And now, A Game of Thrones.

I’m struggling to articulate how I feel about A Game of Thrones. I liked the story, and the characters, and the world created – and in fact, I hardly moved from the couch for several days while finishing it. At the same time, there was one glaring thread throughout the book that made me intensely intensely dislike it.

That thread is this – the entire time I was reading the book, I just kept asking myself, does George R.R. Martin hate women, or what?

(Disclaimer #1: There may be a few slight spoilers ahead, but let’s be real – this book was published in 2005 and the TV show has been on for 3 seasons, so I don’t think I’m giving anything away here. Disclaimer #2: I really haven’t read anything about George R.R. Martin’s life or how he feels about women. He may very well be a stand-up guy, but I hated how he portrayed most all the womenfolk in this book.)

Allow me to elaborate – the very first page of the book establishes how women are treated throughout – as a sum of their various body parts, rather than as complete beings. “Never believe anything you hear at woman’s tit…” quips a minor character. 800+ pages later, the book ends with a very, er, unusual breastfeeding scene. I’m pretty sure that it’s no accident that the book starts and finishes with boobs.

In between, women are unnecessarily naked, like when a message arrives when Ned and Catelyn are, um, preoccupied. Ned “slipped on a heavy robe,” but Catelyn wraps herself up in blankets, until “the furs dropped away from her nakedness, forgotten” – in front of the messenger, because that’s not weird, right George? Women are raped all.the.time. Seriously George? There is a lot of raping in this book, notably at the wedding of Danyrs and Khal Drogo. There’s a lot of public gang-raping among the Dothraki, but also a lot of “rapers” exiled to protect the Wall. With notable exceptions, throughout the story, the women are whores or nuisances or pawns for the men.

Perhaps I’m not being fair – after all, several of the main characters are strong female characters, right? But what bugged me so much is that for those characters, their femaleness was their number one characteristic, with their strength or smarts as secondary. It’s like this – Ned, he is honorable and integritous (to a fault, it turns out). Catelyn, she is fiercely protective of her family, but she has the glaring hangup of knowing that her husband fathered a bastard (also, everyone is obsessed with bastards in this book. I laughed out loud when the term “grandbastards” was introduced). So, she just can’t *quite* be on the same level of decency as her husband, because she can’t bring herself to accept Jon Snow. (Ned can’t keep it in his pants, and she ends up with this cross to bear? That hardly seems just.)

Arya, their daughter, is a kick-ass female character, but only because she doesn’t act like a girl at all. And, she is balanced by her airheaded sister Sansa, who clearly represents what girls are actually like. Cersei Lannister is a cold and calculating woman – but she’s also got a father, brother(s), and a son to pull strings behind the scenes. She’s not calling the shots.

The men – and boys – in the story are not necessarily better or more likeable, but their flaws are part of their characters, rather than in inherent quality of their gender. It seemed like over and over in the book the women are used, abused, or manipulated while the men are the ones who truly act.

After all that, I have to admit that I finished the book, and I am intrigued enough to read the next one. For comparison though, I feel like I need to cleanse my reading palate with a fantasy novel which really does have real and whole female character. Any suggestions? (Note: Amanda read my draft and then tweeted that I was looking for a “real and whole female.” I’m pretty sure it sounded like I needed a mail-order bride. I do not.)

Parting words: This sums up how women are perceived (ostensibly among the Dothraki, but I would say throughout the book): “The heart of a stallion would make her son strong and swift and fearless, or so the Dothraki believed, but only if the mother could eat it all. If she choked on the book or retched up the flesh, the omens were less favorable: the child might be stillborn, or come forth weak, deformed, or female.”

Rating: Three Stars