Thoughts: Carry the One by Carol Anshaw (Green Carnation Prize Project)

Carry the One by Carol AnshawCarry the One
by Carry Anshaw
Published 2012 by Simon & Schuster
Read December 2012
253 pages

When Jodie contacted me about her idea to have a group of bloggers read the Green Carnation Prize* short-list, I didn’t hesitate before choosing Carol Anshaw’s Carry the One. Mostly because I had attempted to read the novel before, but I ended up setting it aside when I realized it just wasn’t the right time to read the book. The Green Carnation Prize project was a good excuse to give it another chance.

Warning: This post contains discussion of actual events in the novel. Some might call them spoilers. 

The Plot: After Carmen and Matt’s wedding, Olivia, Nick, Maude, Alice, and Jim drive off a little drunk and a little stoned. The car hits and kills a child, and Olivia, who was driving, is sent to jail. The book follows the characters’ lives over the next few decades of their lives.

Some thoughts:

  • Carry the One starts off with an epigram, a quote from a Gillian Welch song, as if to say, “Hello, this book is going to be very gay.”
  • I was struck by how the violence that occurs in the novel was connected to conservative arguments. The little girl is killed because Olivia is high on drugs. Message: drugs are bad. Nick’s nose is broken because “Everyone was tacitly deferring to some universal law that, while his daughter lay in the hospital morgue, a father was allowed to punch out the guy lounging around in the wedding dress” (p 18). Message: variant gender expression is bad. Carmen’s ear is destroyed while volunteering to help women safely access a clinic that performs abortions. Message: abortion is bad. Maybe this wasn’t the author’s intent, but it happened enough that I started to pay attention.
  • Also, by including the tragic car accident right after Alice and Maude have sex, Anshaw continues an unfortunate tradition of tragic car accidents “coincidentally” occurring after same-sex partners have sex. (Including the first YA book with LGBT content, I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip by John Donovan, wherein the main character’s dog is hit by a car after the MC has sex with his male friend.)
  • I’m interested in how Alice is the only character whose intimate moments are detailed for the reader. She is presented as a sexual object in a way that none of the other characters are.
  • I loved the relationship Carmen had with her sister Alice. This quote is probably my favorite in the entire book and definitely makes a top ten list somewhere: Carmen was always a little startled (and titillated) when Alice said things like this. She wasn’t sure if this was her sister’s way of being shocking, or if lesbians all talked this way among themselves. It always tripped her up. She used to imagine love between women as a languid extension of friendship. Something Virginia Woolf-ish involving tea and conversation and sofas and afternoon eliding into evening, a small lamp needing to be turned on, but left unlit. And so she was brought up short by Alice’s exhausting–even just to witness–passion for Maude, her desolation since Maude walked out of her life. (p. 63)
  • Carmen works in a women’s shelter and I was pleasantly surprised that one of the women had been abused by her female partner. Representations of survivors of same-sex violence are so rare, and the inclusion here didn’t seem forced, as if included just to make a point.
  • This is the second novel, after John Green’s fantastic The Fault in Our Stars, I’ve read this year where a character visits the Anne Frank House.
  • Time goes by quickly, with each chapter beginning without a note as to just how much time has passed. Usually this bothers me in books, but I found it easy enough to keep track based on the pop culture references and, more directly, characters’ mentions of time.
  • Alice gets mono–which the text frequently refers to as the KISSING DISEASE. Cause y’all know who she’d be kissing, amiright? It’s telling that in the same chapter, Alice tells Carmen she’s “reading all these cheesy dyke novels from the forties and fifties,” which she loves because “[t]hey’re like Greek tragedies. Everyone gets horribly punished in the end. Or they hang themselves with a belt over the steam pipe” (p. 152). Since Alice, Carmen, and Nick are named after tragic Opera characters…I got kind of nervous about where this was going.
  • And then, oh God, their mother dies right after Alice has sex. Alice, you should never have sex apparently because you KILL PEOPLE WITH YOUR LADY LOVE.

Grade: B-

Recommended: Despite some of the things I’ve said above, Carry the One is an engaging, well-written story that just so happens to use several tropes of LGBT fiction.

Green Carnation Prize Project participants:

*The Green Carnation Prize recognizes the best book of the year by a LGBT-identified author. 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’m Hoping to See Under the Tree

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week we’re sharing ten books we “wouldn’t mind” getting for Christmas. 

You might notice that this list is, um, all non-fiction. I am weird with the books I keep on my bookshelves: favorite novels, non-fiction about politics or biographies, and LGBT/queer books of any kind. When it comes to gifts, though, I’m open to most things, particularly books other people enjoyed that I might not have picked up on my own.

While writing this post, I purchased The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy by David Nasaw, a book that was originally included in this list, from Audible. I couldn’t resist.

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November Round-Up: Writing Be Hard Edition

nov2012

Total Books Read: 7
Audio: 5
Ebook: 0
Print: 2

# of pages read: 463
# of hours listened: 174 hours 30 minutes

Fiction–1

  1. These Things Happen by Richard Kramer: November was a tough month for me and I missed my review deadline for this, but I’m working on it now and hope it publish it this week. 

Non-Fiction–6

  1. The Passage of Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson #4) by Robert A. Caro (audio): So after getting completely sucked in by Caro’s amazing writing style and portrayal of LBJ as Vice President and then eventually president, I found out that if Caro, who is 77, dies before he finishes the last book in this series, IT’S TO REMAIN UNFINISHED AS WRITTEN IN HIS WILL. I can’t even deal.
  2. The Heart Has Its Reasons: Young Adult Literature with Gay/Lesbian/Queer Content, 1969-2004 by Michael Cart and Christine Jenkins: You know what I like more than LGBT young adult books? Analysis of LGBT young adult books. I have a post about The Heart Has Its Reasons in the works and it’s a doozy.
  3. Master of the Senate (The Years of Lyndon Johnson #3) by Robert A. Caro (audio): Reading the books out of order doesn’t matter and ohhh how fantastic they are.
  4. Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court by Jeff Sheshol (audio): A look at FDR’s court-packing plan. Not nearly as action filled as MASTER OF THE SENATE or THE PASSAGE OF POWER.
  5. Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie (audio): So I realized that the only way British folks know how to do an American accent is to speak kind of like George W. Bush if he had gotten dental work a few hours before hand. It’s really disconcerting to hear them read a JFK quote in a GWB accent. (Side note: All presidents should have catchy initials. I’m looking at you, BHO.)
  6. Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America by Rick Perlstein (audio): A re-read because after reading about how much of a jerk LBJ was I lost my amused enjoyment of the crazy paranoia that defined Nixon. Re-reading the fantastic Nixonland didn’t help, but it did make everything written in it a lot more depressing.

I have currently lost my ability to read print, ie I’ve read maybe two pages of three different books in the past two weeks or so and I don’t remember any of it. Sad times.

I really love December and I really, really love Christmas themed things and I don’t mind admitting that.

 

Side note: This post, slim as it may be, is dedicated to Clare because she gives the best pep talks. 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books About Presidents

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Today’s topic was a freebie and I chose books about presidents since it is election day and, you know, I love presidential history. 

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Mini-Review: The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman

The Freedom Maze
by Delia Sherman
Published 2011 by Small Beer Press
Ebook borrowed from the library
Read August 2012
258 pages

My favorite book in fifth grade was Jane Yolen’s The Devil Arithmetic, the story of a young Jewish girl who is transported back in time to a concentration camp. I read The Devil’s Arithmetic the way some people read Pride and Prejudice or Jane Eyre: over and over and over, often sneaking pages under my desk during science lessons, basically eating the book until it was falling apart and the pages no long stayed attached to the binding. So when I heard about The Freedom Maze, a book about a young, Southern white girl in 1960 who goes back in time to live as a slave in 1860, I was unable to resist the muffled cries of my 10 year-old self, pleading with me to give it a chance.

I don’t read a lot of young adult fiction anymore, but what I can say is this: The Freedom Maze would have ended up the way of The Devil’s Arithmetic in my younger self’s hands. (I was pleasantly not-quite-surprised to read Solomon’s thanks to Jane Yolen in the acknowledgements.) In fact, as someone who tends to avoid young adult fiction, I found myself thoroughly charmed and surprised by the risks Sherman took in this novel.

Grade: A

Recommended: When you’re looking for a unique, well-written YA story.

This post includes links that are part of Amazon’s Affiliate program. If you click a link and buy the book, I get a (very) small portion of the profits.

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Lazy Sunday: Presidents In Pop Culture

As you may have heard, Tuesday is Election Day here in the U.S., and while I am engaged and (of course) plan to vote, I haven’t been exerting as much energy this election cycle as I did in 2008. That was the year it was all news, all the time in the Cass household. This time around, I’m getting my election/presidential-nerd kicks by engaging in some Presidential pop culture.

The West Wing

I avoided this show pretty much forever, which is weird for someone with liberal politics and an obsession with presidents. In my defense, after I got super into Aaron Sorkin‘s “Sports Night” thanks to Netflix Instant, I found out that the show was cut short so Sorkin could focus on the more popular West Wing. Boooo.

Nevertheless, a while back Kim was kind enough to send me the DVD set of the first season of The West Wing, and when I realized I’d had them way too long I figured I should probably watch them and send it back as soon as possible. (Sorry and thank you, Kim!) I just finished episode 16 and I am completely addicted. What strikes me the most, though, is that even as President Bartlett is portrayed to be a super liberal president, he’s against same-sex couples adopting (not to mention serving openly in the military and other issues). There’s even a story line about a high school student who is the victim of an anti-gay hate crime and the staff avoids having the parents of the boy talk to the press because the father is mad at the president’s weak stance on gay rights.

In a year when the President of the United States has come out in support of same-sex marriage, it’s a bit of a shock to the system to realize just how far mainstream gay rights ideas have come since the first season of The West Wing (1999-2000).

Of Thee I Sing

I am currently listening to Passage of Power by Robert Caro, the fourth book in his extensive biography of President Lyndon B. Johnson. While discussing the view many folks had of the Vice Presidency in a pre-Dick Cheney world, he mentions a song from the Gershwin musical Of Thee I Sing where no one can remember the Vice President’s name. I tracked down the original Broadway recording of the musical on Spotify and I’ve been giggling over the ridiculous songs all morning. I highly recommend it for light-hearted listening.

Louis As Lincoln

From last night’s SNL episode with host Louis CK:

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In Between: How to Be Gay by David M. Halperin

Just as straight readers have always done with mainstream literature, I could finally read fictional works to see my own life reflected, explored, analyzed and re-imagined  Through gay literature I could come to understand my place in the world. (425)

– from How To Be Gay by David M Halperin

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Queer Library: Thornton Wilder and Samuel Steward

Queer Library is a new feature on Bonjour, Cass! Every Friday I’ll write about a queer book on my shelves, an upcoming book I’m looking forward to reading, a review, or anything else related to LGBTQ books.

There’s a new biography of Thornton Wilder out, written by Penelope Niven and published by Harper. When I went to read the New York Times review of the book I was astonished to read this:

Ms. Niven, the author of books about Carl Sandburg and Edward Steichen, has dug deeply into the copiously documented life of her subject, drawing on access to substantial troves of previously undisclosed family papers. And yet, setting aside the dubious testimony of a single man who claims to have gone to bed with Wilder,“Thornton Wilder: A Life” tells of a life lived without the sexual relationships and romantic attachments that we sometimes falsely assume to be the most momentous passages in an artist’s — or anyone’s — life.

That “dubious testimony” was from Samuel Steward: author, tattoo artist, and friend of Gertrude Stein, who himself was the subject of an award-winning biography by Justin Spring. While Spring acknowledges that it is not 100% provable that Wilder and Steward had an affair, he presents a strong case based on the papers of Steward and letters from Wilder, Stein, and Alice B. Toklas.

What gets me about this whole situation isn’t that the NY Times refuses to acknowledge Steward by name or that Wilder is presented by Niven as a man without “sexual relationships and romantic attachments” (although that bugs me plenty), it’s the implication that acknowledging even the possibility that a beloved historical figure may have had homosexual entanglements will be offensive. Especially given that Wilder wrote “Our Town,”the most New Englandy of all New Englander plays, and a perfect example of the tendency toward repressed emotions of my fellow New Englanders.

If Wilder had written less famous or less popular plays, I don’t think Steward’s “dubious testimony” would be dismissed so easily. There is a major gap between modern society’s willingness to acknowledge the effeminate Oscar Wilde’s homosexuality and our discomfort in assuming the sexual orientation or desires of a less flamboyant, more traditionally masculine artist like Wilder.

Shorter: I really wish you’d read Secret Historian instead.

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October Round-Up

Total books read: 18
Audio: 12
Ebooks: 2
Print: 4

# of pages read: 1785
# of hours listened:
106

Fiction–10

  1. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (audio): I was freaking out at work because I didn’t have an audio book ready and I couldn’t concentrate. This was a free download from an Amazon promotion for their new Whispersync feature (where qualifying ebooks and audio books sync to the same place when you open one after reading the other) so it was easy to decide to listen to. I probably wouldn’t have, uh, maybe ever read this classic otherwise. It’s an endearing portrait of middle-class life in 19th century England–and then I searched in vain for literary criticism of it to get a better idea of the impact it had.
  2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (audio): Another free audio book from Amazon. It’s read by Anne Hathaway, an actress I generally feel meh to yick about, but she does a really good job.
  3. Heart of Darkness by Joesph Conrad (audio): Yet another free Amazon book. Shorter version: WHITE IS GOOD BLACK IS BAD. Yikes. I immediately read Chinua Achebe’s famous response and felt much better for it.
  4. Love, In Theory by E.J. Levy
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (audio): Free amazon audio book, read by Elijiah Wood. I pretended to read this book in high school so I finally gave it a chance. I am not a fan, although Wood narrates it really well.
  6. Seconds Away (Mickey Bolitar, #2) by Harlan Coben: Readathon mystery fun.
  7. You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon (audio): My general response: meh.
  8. Diary by Chuck Palahniuk (audio): Enjoyable fun, performed excellently by Martha Plimpton. Hey did you know Palahniuk is gay? Cool cool cool.
  9. The Grave Tattoo by Val McDermid (audio): My second attempt at a McDermid mystery. I just don’t think she’s the one for me.
  10. Astray by Emma Donoghue (audio): Thanks for reminding me how interesting and fun short stories can be, Ms. Donoghue.

Non-Fiction–8

  1. Dancing In the Streets: A Novel of Collective Joy by Barbara Ehrenreich (audio): You know those books you generally have nothing to say about?
  2. Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris by David King (audio): When your subtitle is more interesting than your actual book, you have a problem.
  3. Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy by Christopher Hayes (audio): Surprisingly fantastic.
  4. Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti (ebook): Birthing children is terrifying.
  5. But I Really Wanted to Be an Anthropologist by Margaux Motin: More readathon fun.
  6. Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin (audio): Shorter: Dickens was nice to prostitutes, not so much to his wife.
  7. Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Life of Bible Belt Gays by Bernadette C. Barton (ebook): Writing reviews of academic works makes me SO nervous, but I really need to try with this one.
  8. How to Be Gay by David M. Halperin: I have never before encountered a 500+ page work of queer theory and thought “I WISH THIS BOOK WAS LONGER!” I could talk about this book forever.

Have you signed up for my LGBTQ Book Blogger Directory yet?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Kick-Ass Heroines

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Top Ten Kick-Ass Heroines

  • Frankie Landau-Banks (The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks): Frankie came immediately to my mind as soon as I saw the topic of the top ten list. She’s ridiculously smart and clever and will probably be president one day.
  • Evie Burrman (Deliver Us from Evie): While the book focuses on Evie’s snooze-fest of a brother who is busy freaking out because Evie’s gay, Evie’s like “pshhhh I got this” and starts dating the prettiest girl in town who may or may not be the mayor or head banker or something like that’s daughter.
  • Beebo Brinker (Beebo Brinker): Oh, Beebo. Although Beebo makes an appearance in most of the books in the aptly named Beebo Brinker Chronicles series, she shines brightest here as a young and determinded butch looking for love in all the wrong places. Oh, Beebo. Stay away from Laura.
  • Thursday Next (The Eyre Affair): Thursday has an outstanding military career in her backgrblahblahblah she can recite Shakespeare and save the plot of books and be witty and awesome AND care for a pet dodo bird. I want to be Thursday.
  • Esperanza Diaz (Myron Bolitar series): So Esperanza is Myron’s best friend who usually gets the best jokes and is really, really good at her job. Also she loves Myron but makes fun of him a lot and that guy super needs it.
  • Dr. Sara Linton (Grant County/Georgia series): SO SMART SHE IS SO SMART. Also whoever narrates the audio versions for these has the best Sara voice and it made me like the character even more.
  • Carrie White  (Carrie): Don’t bully Carrie, Carrie will fuck you up. Power to the bullied.
  • Emma Woodhouse (Emma): Emma tries so hard to help everyone but she doesn’t always see the biggest picture. She’s so endearing and kind-hearted (and also is the only Austen heroine who doesn’t stress me out with her money worries). EMMA’S MY FAVORITE JUDGE ME IF YOU WILL.
  • Cinderella (Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love): Spoiler alert: Cinderella is a spy. An awesome spy who usually uses shoe-shaped devices (like Batman and his bats) of some kind to achieve her mission. I like that Cinderella can enjoy shoes and then go and be awesome at her job and save the world.

I really didn’t like how difficult it was for me to think of 10 examples. Sigh.

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