You guys may recall that I used to read critical essays for
fun school credit and profit not looking stupid in class. In those days, I spent a lot of time being like, Derrida I will punch you in the mouth, but now I kind of miss it.
So I crack this open to the first title and I’m like, Awwwww, Literature Reference And/Or Pun, Colon, What the Essay is Actually About! Nostalgia! And then the first essay sucked. And here I was, all excited that we have critical thinking on pop culture phenomena, and it’s TERRIBLE. And if you are constructing a collection of essays, you put your strongest essay first and your second-strongest last (or vice-versa), so I’m like, Byerrrrgh, this is going to be awful.
Ha ha, way to subvert my expectations, essay collection. Because after this not entirely convincing essay which makes the argument that the books are capital-R Romantic (or have Romanticism in them? I mean, I guess? But show me a work of fiction today that doesn’t have a byronic hero in it, them suckers are so de rigeur), we’re given a fascinating and compelling essay on the use of sexual conduct to discern morality in a society where slaying people is kind of a social asset. Like, how can you tell if Sir Stabby over there is honest or stinky? Ah yes, he raped them womens. (Or put them in a binder! Hey-O, two-day-old political jokes! Whatever, take this e-card instead.)
Ok so what else is in here. Ooh, an interesting but appallingly-written essay on PTSD in Ice and Fire in which the author uses the word ‘enfranchise’ a lot, as well as that cautious, over-defensive speech of the non-professional talking about a sensitive subject. I get that you’re trying really hard not to imply that PTSD is awesome, you don’t have to sandwich every ‘But Arya rises above it and becomes enfranchised’ between ‘Now PTSD is clearly terrible’ and ‘Though she is no less traumatized.’ You can’t use both hands to make your argument if one of them is covering your ass all the time.
Oooh, or this essay on the particular challenges of rendering SoIaF into graphic novel form! And not just the usual How do we retain the soul of the piece while changing its structure (which I GET is a legitimate struggle, but it’s the most obvious translation difficulty I can think of), but, like, how do we not get into legal trouble by portraying a 13-year-old Danaerys BEING VERY SEXXED by a horse lord? Because even drawing what is essentially kiddie porn is legally prohibited, but then Danerys’ youth and sexual exploitation/discovery of her sexual powers is kind of her entire character arc, (that PLUS ALSO DRAGONS).As always with essays, the more specific ones are the more compelling (‘Petyr Baelish as a psychopath’ is a better topic than ‘Magic, amirite guys?’). The quality of writing varies wildly, as does the distribution of people who believe their arguments strongly enough to stand behind them, and people who ‘seems’ and ‘perhaps’ all the juice out.
On the whole, though, this pleases me greatly. Moar of this nerdery, world. Agreed?