07 July, 2008

'The Goosle' hits home

D'oh! Why do I have to be away the week I'm Controversy of the Week?

This bloke Truesdale started it all, with a near-hysterical spray to finish up his review of Ellen's Del Rey Book:
I really don't know where to begin in describing "The Goosle" by Margo Lanagan, except to say it is a retelling of the Hansel and Gretel story. Lanagan turns this traditionally gruesome fairy tale into one of child porn (depending on your point of view) and repeated homosexual rape of a child (Hansel).

With several other stories in this collection aimed at juveniles or teenagers (the Ballingrud and the Cadigan), I find this story highly inappropriate. Would you want your young child to be introduced to science fiction or fantasy thinking a story like this represents, as the cover of the book entices, SF's "finest voices"? One rape scene is fairly graphic, and at one point young Hansel thinks he might even like what is being done to him -- over and over.

Given that there are many versions of this grim fairy tale, and gore and violence abound in the original(s), there must be lines drawn somewhere, folks. Depicting child rape, with the author having the child think he might like to be buggered in his "poink hole" (as the story euphemistically calls it) is where I draw my own line. Editor Datlow has co-edited some six collections of retold fairy tales, with tremendous and deserved success. Has the idea well run so dry, and are authors so bereft of true originality in these retellings that they must resort to shock value of the most depraved sort?

Freedom of artistic expression does not trump good common sense, and at least a perceived modicum of morality (whether divinely inspired or by human agreement and consensus), or an innate sense of fundamental ethical awareness. We're talking homosexual child rape for shock value here. If not for its gratuitous shock value, then this reader would like to know what this adds to the fairy tale canon of Hansel and Gretel. Especially in light of the fact that Hansel doesn't make his raper pay for his perverted behavior, for it is the "witch" who eventually devours him, who sets right the moral balance.

There are those in today's society who believe that anything goes, especially in the artistic community, where moral relativism would seem to be the philosophy of choice, and so the mantra goes something like this: Who is anyone to tell an artist what he or she can't "create," be it a work of fiction, a painting, a sculpture, or a song? They shout "censorship!" at the drop of a hat. I don't think censorship is the primary issue here, and neither is the issue of prudishness. If we don't at least question the act of homosexual child rape (where the child questions whether he likes being raped or not) which insertion into the story is for shock value only, then we have serious problems.

Del Rey ought to get a long, loud, wakeup call... and quick. If the author, editor, and publisher can nuance this story, massage it, spin it to where the objectionable inclusion of child rape for shock value alone is acceptable, then there are absolutely no boundaries, for any reason, anywhere -- and we can expect more of the same. This sets a precedent, if not challenged. And again, what audience were the editor and publisher expecting to hit here? Several stories seem written just for a younger crowd, so then what can be the reasoning behind also presenting a fairy tale retelling with repeated instances of child rape for shock value?

... especially because of Margo Lanagan's story, I cannot, in all honesty and fairness to potential buyers, recommend this collection.
Dave Truesdale has also been commenting and message boarding around the place, expanding on these views.

Meanwhile others have leapt to 'The Goosle's' defence, and taken the review apart in all the ways it should be taken apart. I'm still away from home, without the time to sit down and go through either the review or the responses in the detail I'd like to, but you can find responses here and here and here and here and here, as well as extensive comments over at Ellen's livejournal.

Well, I've got my blogwork cut out for me when I get home, but in the meantime let me just say that anyone who thinks 'The Goosle' is child pornography has their child-porn radar set way too high; that anyone who thinks Hanny for a moment enjoys being buggered simply hasn't read the story properly; and anyone who thinks the story was written for shock value or because my 'idea well ran dry' has very little sense of how stories happen, or how many ideas are constantly beating at the doors of any writer's brain. Dave's review says a whole lot more about Dave than it says about 'The Goosle' or about my motivations.

So. Love youse all, and see you in a week.

PS The desert trip was fan-bloody-tastic and I'll chew your ears off about that too soon enough, don't worry. In the meantime, nip over to Into The Blue and book in on the Tarkine trip. You won't regret it! :)


Blogger Gabe said...

As I mentioned on my blog, I only wish that it was possible to have this accompanying information available with the review. SF Site receives an inordinately large number of hits compared to the SFF blogosphere. It's too bad the damage Truesdale has done won't be noticed among the general readers.

07 July, 2008 09:59  
Blogger houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

One might think Truesdale added his screed just for shock value, but his bizarre idea about the anthology being marketed to kids shows the sad truth of a book reviewer without any reading comprehension.

07 July, 2008 22:04  
Blogger Nathan said...

Truesdale's an ass. "The Goosle" is the best story in the book. Beautiful, terrifying work.

08 July, 2008 03:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yayyy Margo. I figured you were away. I've added a link to your post on my blog... By the time you get back you will have plenty to read...there are already 80 comments ;-)

08 July, 2008 08:17  
Blogger Among Amid While said...

Gabe: I'm hoping that Truesdale's readers will at least have their curiosity piqued enough to hunt out 'The Goosle' for themselves and come to their own conclusions. The review is so weird and intemperate, if you hadn't read the story you'd want to know what prompted such a reaction, I reckon.

houseinrlyeh: It does have an element of watch-me-frothing-everybody about it; unfortunately he's become so preoccupied with his own frothing, he's lost sight of what I actually put on the page.

Thanks for the support, Nathan and Ellen! I've read all 80 comments on your livejournal, Ellen, and other people's blogged responses too - as I said, I haven't time to do any detailed dissection of the review or track the responses properly on my blog, but it's great to have people jump up and speak in the story's defence. I'll give it some sustained attention this weekend.

08 July, 2008 09:37  
Blogger Paul Abbamondi said...

Yeah, his radar is set to Scared Shitless of the World or something. That said, I really enjoyed "The Goosle" and it was the first story I read when I got the antho.

08 July, 2008 10:39  
Blogger Billy Martin said...

I like how he keeps harping on "HOMOSEXUAL child rape," as if it is infinitely worse and more shocking than heterosexual child rape.

People who believe writers write anything "for shock value" generally know very little about writers.

10 July, 2008 10:11  
Blogger Wordsmiff said...

Not having read the story in question, I am not really able to comment. However I will observe that there are so-called reviewers out there who simply get their rocks off by deciding they are going to dump shit on something, and back luck if you're the one to get picked on. And let's be honest - how often do we see things succeed that reviewers canned? Answer - a helluva a lot of the time.

29 July, 2008 15:21  

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