Monday, March 14, 2011

The Elfish Gene - A Second look.

Alright, I'll admit it, I don't lie when I say that this blog is full of Melodrama and Hyperbole. I've never lied about that. I'm very apt to shoot off a post and then have to walk it back. This is one of those situations. I allowed my anger at the forward of the book to colour my opinion of the entire book. And since the author was nice enough to stop by and address some of the problems I'd had with his book, I felt the least I could do was to sit down and re-read it once I'd calmed down.

I did so.

I'm still not a fan.

This time, I ignored the forward, it improved the work as a whole. I didn't find the rest of the book nearly as insulting. I also kept it in mind that this was just one man's story and was in fact, based on a true story. Where as at first, my imagination ran wild and I couldn't think of it as anything but characters. I found his descriptions of Coventry especially well done, likening the whole place to a half empty car park. That was sort of my opinion of every one of those miserable 50's "Urban center" cities I've every visited in the UK. I find them endlessly depressing in a way that I find quaint villages and ruins inspiring and uplifting. When I imagine the world that Winston Smith lived in, it looks a lot like Harlow. So this brings me to the next topic.

I can say, without doubt, even with all of Young Mark's problems. I'd have loved to have had some one like that to play D&D with. Most of the people I've managed to play with either view it with such an eye towards Irony they are constantly cracking jokes.. or are so bored they keep wandering away from the table. That being said I also feel he was pretty shabbily treated just because he was enthusiastic about something. I can identify with that situation. It's something I've dealt with a lot. Maybe that was also part of my anger at the book. It cut too close to home.

The present Mark's semi vilification of past Mark is rather odd. I regret having done or not having done lots of stuff, and granted I'm only 26, I've had less time to regret them than the Author. But I don't feel bad about having missed out on being promiscuous in school, I don't regret having stayed out of trouble by sitting at home and reading a novel instead of out shooting at stop signs with a shotgun or wasting my Friday evenings sitting on the back of a pickup truck in the parking lot of McDonald's. As you can plainly see, The author's environment was very different from mine.

The concept of Loitering, Vandalism, and promiscuity is basically synonymous with having a social life in my neck of the woods. It's either do that, or you aren't being social. I chose not to be, because the alternative offended my morals. The Author had a some what greater availability of past times to take part in, and chose one of the few that wasn't acceptable.

I'm sorry Young Mark, that you missed out on that liverpuddlian liplocking during your trip to Wales. I'll admit I'd have done the same thing, so I won't be bothering any arm chair psychoanalysis. I'd have likely been so busy doing rubbings of bronzes to ever pay any attention a mere girl anyway. Of course, I once had a girl straight up proposition me for sex in the bathroom at work, and turned her down cause I'd "Already been on my break". I don't have a famous track record with women in other words. It's something I can sympathize with, but that I also don't really care about enough to worry about. To others, missing an opportunity like that might be the closest thing to an 8th deadly sin as they can imagine.

The lines are very clearly drawn in my world, I see myself as having been a natural ally of Young Mark, in his choices of wearing a cape and listening to Heavy metal (I don't understand whats bad about Heavy metal though?) I don't really have any use for Punk, I get angry at people for making stupid choices, I don't get angry at amorphous concepts such as "Society"... Maybe its the inherit irony of the genre. You are in a band which writes songs vilifying society, all the while taking advantage of the safety and security you are afforded by living in a society in the first place.. I guess I just don't get it. I can't fathom taping over Bowie though.. So I still find myself agreeing with quite a few of the "characters" which Young Mark left behind him as his likes and dislikes changed.

I also was left very curious by the number of his acquaintances who considered themselves fascists or Nazis. That's probably cultural here.. where I come from those sorts attend cross-Lightings (burnings) on Friday nights and don't spend much time reading (unless its the turner diaries) let alone playing Dungeons and Dragons. I'll admit to being a rather conservative person myself, I don't like it when power lines get the right of way over 150 year old Oak Trees. I dislike it when one of the many small granite homes in the area is demolished to put in another shopping mall. I dislike when History and tradition is thrown away in the name of "Progress". I dislike it when stuff changes. I can't remember the last time I ever re-arranged furniture in my house.

I still feel there are quite a few bits peppered throughout the book which seem mainly to denigrate, I realize though that these maybe I took out of context looking for something to be angry about. The author is not alone in this however. The Irrational part of me gets mad at Bill Bryson on occasion when I read about him going into yet another Curry Shop or Spaghetti restaurant in "Notes from a Small Island" in lieu of a Chippy or something more quintessentially British*. Something he didn't do in "Neither Here nor there", "A Sunburned Country", "The Lost Continent", or "I'm a Stranger Here Myself". But the Rational Part realizes that it's just because he lives in a country I find endlessly fascinating and want to experience more deeply. To me, it's traditional, to him it's mundane.

So, while I'm not nearly as angry about the book as I was. I still cannot say I'm really a fan of this particular work. I may have to change my position on his Fiction. I've not made up my mind yet.

So, What do you think, Did I give it a fair enough shake? Did I tone down the Vitriol and hatred enough to get a better grasp on the book?

I'm going to go and read Legacy of the Drow now.

*I realize that Chicken Tikka Masala was voted the #1 food in Britain some years back, I can respect that, It's delicious, But its not and never will be British cuisine as far as I'm concerned. I'll take that opinion to the grave with me.


Brian Murphy said...

It sounds like you gave it a very fair review to me. I have not read The Elfish Gene yet, but seeing as its about D&D (a pastime I still partake in, and enjoy), I probably will.

I will be disappointed if he disparages D&D too much, or blames it for social/societal ills. Our group is comprised of five successful men with good jobs, including four who are married with children, as well as the wife and son of our DM. Granted you do run into odd gaming sorts at conventions and game stores and such, but it doesn't sound like my experiences with the game mirror the author's.

Lagomorph Rex said...

Well as the author himself expressed to me, He dosen't blame the game for Societies Ills, only for his own. It's something I didn't really grasp the first time through, but did see more of on my second attempt. He actually seemed to have had a great time with the game, and apparently still enjoys it though less so than he did as a child. He was simply what I would have termed "over enthusiastic".. but I tend to think thats far less harmful than the dread Rules Lawyer who is just a prick.

I still have difficulties seeing what was wrong with Young Mark, and likely would have enjoyed spending time with him.