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May 2, 2011

>On Saturday night I got a plaque that says “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”  That’s exactly how it felt to pull off a high school musical in only five and a half weeks of rehearsal.

It went well.  Now it’s over.  I feel like I’ve been a little mauled by the experience, or maybe that’s just because of the title of the YA novel I was reading in very small bits during the last week of rehearsals and performance–Maul, by Tricia Sullivan.

As a novel, I didn’t like it.  It begins with a scene designed to shock its readers, progresses to a story they don’t realize is parallel to the first one for a few chapters, and then starts weaving some details of the story together so readers think there’s going to be a satisfying ending for both, and then just…stops.  We’re told “the game’s over now” and that’s it.  Humph.  Not a game I would have let myself get interested in if I’d been able to see that the ending didn’t succeed in making sense of the plethora of detail given earlier.  Even if you’re someone who likes to read the ending first, though, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell.  There’s some video-game-world-echoing-the-real-world stuff going on here.

Despite the fact that I don’t think it’s well structured, there are some parts that are absolutely amazing, many of them in terms of how well they describe adolescent emotion:
‘Did you ever feel so much of something that you just couldn’t control it? And you’ve tried shit like going to the basketball game and screaming your head off for hours and you had the orgasm or six or seven and you drank the SuperSize Chocolate Shake from 7-Eleven but in the end you didn’t feel as empty as you hoped to feel. Did you ever feel something so strong you thought it was a physical hunger but it couldn’t be satisfied that way, it was thicker than physical, it stuffed your axons, it was a pregnant idea begging to be born and it was using you for that shit, but you just didn’t know what it LOOKED LIKE or WHO inseminated you or how to get it OUT.
Did you ever feel that? It feels like being slapped upside the head about 20,000 times a day and you’ll do anything to escape it but you CAN’T.
Subversive behaviour. What a fucking world. It’s like everyone’s flowing along and the only ones stopping are the ones who can’t hack it, they are the worldly possessions it hurts YOU ARE ALL SO FUCKING DELUDED & HELPLESS and I’m reduced to paying $18.99 for a CD to express this for me because you won’t let me do anything REAL until after I’ve been indoctrinated broken down and seduced into submitting to the same CIVILIZING WILL that’s sitting on your face.”

Even the little throwaway lines, the random thoughts, are fabulously provocative:
‘Then I saw a live picture of myself in one of the TVs. I stuck out my tongue just to be sure. It’s a well-known fact that TV is more real than real life so when people say get a life what they really mean is, get on TV. Because either you’re watching TV or you’re on it, and if you’re doing neither it’s a little like Schrodinger’s cat, neither alive nor dead till observed. So when I saw myself on the video screen I was pretty happy because it meant I was alive.”

There’s some interesting commentary on gender politics, ending with a logical absurdity about where we could end up if we go on as we have been.  This passage is from along that road:
“There they are with their uniforms and their discipline, an abstract and codified representation of all the construction workers who ever whistled at you and there you were, too polite to pee in their toolboxes in retaliation, too polite to challenge them, walking away red-faced because the worst part of it is that you were wondering whether they were really whistling like they’d whistle at Caprice or if they were just being sarcastic and were even now laughing at you with your short skinny legs and flat ass. Besides, you’re not supposed to let it get to you. You’re supposed to have a sense of humour: they do. See them waving their cocks at each other and farting? You aren’t allowed to break the rules of their society which say that you are a cold uptight lesbian bitch if you don’t like their hohoho aggressive male ways so just hold your head high from your position of moral superiority and go home and tell your boyfriend (if you have one, which I don’t) who if you’re lucky will offer to go beat them up knowng you won’t take him up on it because you know perfectly well he’d probably get his ass kicked, most of the boys you know are highly ass-kickable because they’ve been brought up nicely. They were brought up in the luxury of knowing the money power of the military-industrial complex would protect them from the dirt and grime of uneducated testosterone.”

There are also wonderful moments in the Maul (Mall), like when the heroine finds a clothing store with items that help her feel what she needs to feel right then in order to survive, and a bookstore where the books become exactly what she needs to read.

Lots of flashes of brilliance, but no final explosion, no settling of the dust so readers can glimpse the new world that has been created.  It’s the end of the game just when you’ve figured out a few of the rules.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. May 3, 2011 1:02 am

    >Congratulations on the end of the high school musical! You are the champion of all the musical directors in the world!

  2. May 3, 2011 1:08 am

    >Jenny, I actually learned a lot. I think I was too tired to make my tie to the novel explicit, but it seemed like it was over just as I was learning the rules of the game!

  3. May 4, 2011 11:51 pm

    >Congrats on surviving the musical! and Maul does sound provocative…too bad it didn't quite hang together. But reading those quotes, either I have forgotten what it was like to be a teen or I was just a more nerdy well-adjusted goodie goodie teen.

  4. May 5, 2011 12:26 pm

    >Jenners, it's true that the characters in Maul are not what you and I would call well-adjusted. And it's true that what I remember about being a teenager is colored daily by what I see my own teenagers going through. But still, the construction worker passage really captures something of what I used to feel about being in that situation.

  5. May 6, 2011 9:31 pm

    >Noble task, heroically completed!I had many of the same feelings about Maul, I really enjoyed your review.I was disappointed with the future women. Even thought they were played for laughs, but I *couldn't* believe the qualities discussed be the qualities of celebrity studs. Some of those scenes felt to me (in a way I now can't describe since it's been so long since reading the book) as if they were unconsciously supporting some of the traditionally sexist ideas they were meant to be absurdly commenting upon.

  6. May 7, 2011 5:21 pm

    >Trapunto, yes, I agree; some of the gender stuff was unsettlingly along the lines of "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

  7. May 7, 2011 5:23 pm

    >Trapunto, also–that reminds me of the Ben Barnes/Colin Firth Dorian Gray movie we just watched, because the musical was a combination of Oliver Twist and Dorian Gray–we call it Dorian Gray Gets Some Tail.

  8. May 9, 2011 4:43 pm

    >Lord, I just watched that movie a few weeks ago! Do you mean you called the musical Dorian Gray Gets Some Tail, or the movie with Ben Barnes?–because that is a perfect name for the movie!The pain was too much for my husband after about 10 minutes (he had just read the book), but I watched the whole thing then stayed up until 1 in the morning trawling the internet for the pleasure of an eviscerating review. (I was hoping for one by A.O. Scott, but it appears the film was beneath the Times' notice–probably just as well for Mr. Barnes' career.)Describing the fringed and tasseled Victorian orgies and randomly inserted Edwardian action sequence and crude psychoanalytic and romantic subplots to Der Mann the next day was a lot more fun than actually sitting through them. I wish I could have seen it with you and your bunch!

  9. May 9, 2011 5:58 pm

    >Yes, I meant that we called the Ben Barnes movie "Dorian Gray Gets Some Tail"! It was pretty funny, but we enjoyed the heck out of it; my daughter and I can gaze at a screen with Ben Barnes on it until our jaws go slack…so yeah, maybe about ten minutes. The musical was called Olivia Twist, and Eleanor played a character named "Doriana Fagin" to show what a mash-up it was.

  10. May 10, 2011 12:41 pm

    >also, Trapunto, since you watched the movie, Eleanor would like to say that the "biting some jam" scene is her favorite!

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