The Struggles of an Escapist Reader

This blog is dedicated to my Twitter book club.

**WARNING** This blog contains major spoilers or hints of spoilers for: Silver Linings Playbook (movie), The Hunger Games (series and movies), 50 Shades of Grey (series), Vampire Diaries (series), The Lying Game (series), Divergent (series). If you aren’t familiar or planned to read and/or watch these shows and movies, I suggest you come back another time. I’ll ruin everything for you. I mean EVERYTHING.

I’m an avid reader. I’m a lover of anything from classic novels, murder mysteries, political and historical musings to dystopian fiction, trashy romance novels, and graphic novels covering any beloved Marvel or DC character.

There is nothing better to me than immersing myself in a good book. I mean submerged up to my eyeballs in a plot. It’s my own personal version of gambling. I have books I have never and will never finish because I couldn’t get into them and books that I’ll keep forever and read over and over because I feel like the characters and the story belong to me. I have a copy of Charlotte’s Web sitting on my bookshelf that is practically falling apart because I read it so many times growing up. I would melt down if something ever happened to that book. I love my books like other people love their dogs. That book is special to me. It’s priceless.

There are people who read for pleasure and people who read for knowledge. I read for escape.

Escapist readers are special breed. I get them and they get me. I try to talk to my boyfriend about my books and he patiently listens and smiles and nods and tells me he wishes he could get into books the way I do. In the end I have to storm onto Twitter, Tumblr, or text my girlfriends because they will understand how upset I am about how a book ended. They will understand why at the end of a book I threw my Kindle in mock horror and disgust. There are things that nonreaders don’t understand because it’s not just an understanding that my fellow readers and I share. We share empathy.

But try as I may, I’m here to help you understand.

This is the plight of an escapist reader. This is the plight of my people.

1. THE BOOK JUST…ENDED.

Romeo Montague begged of Juliet after their first secret meeting, “O wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?” I feel ya, Romeo. I feel ya. Nothing and I mean NOTHING is worse than an unsatisfactory ending to a book. I’ve had 2 of them in the last month. Books that just end. I don’t know if the author was lazy, lost motivation, or decided that the imagination of the reader was good enough to formulate their own ending, but this behavior is inexcusable.

Sure. I have an active imagination. But swiping back and forth like a mental patient on my Kindle screeching, “No…no…NO! That’s it!??! It’s done??” is the stuff nightmares are made of for an escapist reader. I don’t want to continue the story on my own. I want closure. I NEED closure.

It’s one thing for a book to have an unsatisfactory ending, it’s quite another for it to abruptly stop like the readers met their maker via an unforeseen nuclear attack, never to finish the book. I’m looking at you, Gillian Flynn! I almost broke my Kindle because of Gone Girl. I paid you for a whole book!

As an aside, I cannot tell you how terrible it is to not be able to hurl a book across the room in anger since I’ve moved to electronic reading. The Kindle was tossed to carpeting. A book may have broken something because I would have thrown it a la Pat in Silver Linings Playbook (seen above).

It’s also not fun when a book never ends and just gets dragged out until you don’t give a shit what happens to anyone or anything. Just give me a conclusion so I can be done with you! I don’t even care if it makes sense!

2. I can’t stop.

It is an absolute struggle to get me out of bed most days because I crave the next chapter of a book like a junkie craves a needle in their arm. I need my fix and I can’t stop until I know that the characters are okay and the world had not crashed down around them. I’ve been this way since elementary school. I used to stay up all night reading R.L. Stine Fear Street books because I couldn’t sleep until I knew that everyone didn’t die at the hands of a classmate or some sexy hitch hiker in Florida.

The OCD in me won’t stop until I reach the end of a chapter. But sometimes I can’t even do that. I’ll go and keep going until I get to the last page. It’s an addiction. It truly is. I read all three Hunger Games books in 3 days. I read in every spare moment I could find: on the bus on the way to work, on my lunch break, while my kid was in the bathroom. Any moment I could find, I had to have my eyes on my Kindle, just trying to get to the next chapter.

3. These characters are my family.

I am one of the readers who falls in love with characters as easily as I love the people closest to me. I can imagine the story playing out in my head. I know what the characters and the scene looks like. I know what they sound like. I know how they feel. When they’re happy, I’m happy. When they’re in pain, I’m inconsolable.

Some people look at me like I have three heads when I describe a book plot with the same flourish as I would if the strife the characters endure was my own. “You don’t understand! It’s not okay! She is just getting away with murder and no one seems to care! The police aren’t even trying to bust her!” You’d think sometimes I was talking about Casey Anthony or some other horrible person in the news. Nope. I’m talking about a completely made up person who only exists in text format (until the screen play comes to life, as it so often does).

Rose Hathaway from Vampire Academy is my spirit animal. That girl is me in badass, dhampir form. She speaks my language. Six books of me sticking through it because the narcissist in me felt like I was reading something that I was a part of.

When Rue dies in Hunger Games, it was like losing your own little sister. (I can’t discuss Prim, because I’m likely to be committed. I’ll never forgive you, Suzanne Collins! NEVER!!!)

Also, if I have another son some day, his middle name will be Finnick. (First name if I get my way haha!)

4. Fuck these characters!

Nothing is worse than unlikeable characters. I’m not talking about the characters you love to hate- that person that makes you furiously turn pages, just waiting for them to get what is coming to them. I’m talking about flat, static characters that have nothing to them. They are just boring, lame people.

I know that the Mortal Instruments series is big, but I cannot stress enough how boring Clary is. She isn’t likeable to me by any stretch of the imagination. I was waiting for her character to open up and flourish, but I ended up putting down the book almost a year ago and wishing nothing but bad things to happen to her going forward. I don’t even think I made it halfway through the book.

I started reading another dystopian series and had to stop half way through the second book. The first one was a struggle as it was. Once again, flat, boring, characters with no personalities. Blow this universe up because I’m over all of you. (Matched by Ally Condie. Just so blaaaaaaaah!)

I painstakingly worked my way through a series of three books by Marie Lu because I bounced back and forth between loving and hating the characters. I’d be all in and then suddenly I couldn’t stand them any longer. I was all but ready to give up and say, “I’m over you,” but then she ended book two with an unreal cliff hanger that reeled me back in. I had to suffer for months waiting for the third installment. Well, played, Marie.

5. The book was SO much better than the movie!

I’m not sorry. The book was better than the movie. Better than the show. There is a reason we get up and arms about this: because we were emotionally invested and connected with the characters for sometimes years. You have this ideal built up in your head. You know these characters inside and out. When they fall short of your expectations or pivotal information is withheld from movie-goers, it is positively infuriating.

Case in point: The first Hunger Games movie probably had many viewers completely lost on many aspects of the story line. The love triangle was poorly developed, as was the time that Katniss and Peeta spent in the cave together. They were in there for DAYS. Katniss didn’t acquire the mockingjay pin at the black market. The way she acquired it and from whom are all important to the story in later books, especially to Haymitch’s backstory. Catching Fire was far improved for the big screen, absolutely nailing Finnick and Johanna’s characters and helping the audience fall even more deeply in love with Mags, a character who never utters a word throughout the book or film.

Don’t even get me started on the embarrassment that was the film version of Vampire Academy or the first 3 X-Men movies. The completely botched, abomination they passed off for a Dark Phoenix storyline, plus anything having to do with Storm or Rogue…or basically anyone who wasn’t Wolverine (nailed it!) or the Professor was sickening to witness. The personalities were so off. Then there was World War Z, one of the best books I’ve ever read, with a corresponding movie that shares only the title. Literally, that’s it. But I’ll admit the movie was pretty decent. There are worse things in life than staring at Brad Pitt for two hours.

When context is lost and storylines are changed to the point where things don’t make sense or a beloved, fan favorite character is butchered due to poor adaptation, it doesn’t make for an enjoyable movie for readers. We feel both sorry for non-readers who have never known the greatness of the character or story, and envy that they don’t feel the anguish that we do when what we loved was ruined.

6. Ummm how is this better on screen than in print?

Conversely, sometimes the movie or tv version is better. I got hooked on the show The Lying Game. Nothing was more fun than hating Sutton Mercer. What a fucking twat she was! It was glorious watching her evil ways unfold! Unfortunately, ABC Family pulled the plug on the show after about a season and a half. The show ended with a main character/murder suspect being murdered himself. HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME, ABC FAMILY?!?!

So, I retreated to the books. I had to find out what happened. First of all, we’re not even going to talk about how the show was 100 times more entertaining than the books. The characters burst to life in a way they didn’t on paper. (Or screen, the Kindle reader that I am.) But also, the books had nothing in common with the show outside of character names. Seriously. Nothing else was the same. Spoiler alert: in the books our beloved Ethan is a fucking psychopath and I had to get through 6 books to find out. How dare you, Sara Shepard. How dare you. (Also, I read a few of the Pretty Little Liars books, same deal. I think the show is better. Characters are more likeable or hateable.)

I can only hope that the film version of 50 Shades of Grey is a vast improvement from the horribly written books. Seriously, they have to improve it because E.L. James can’t write worth shit if she isn’t describing blow jobs or Ana taking a good, hard dicking. (Get a thesaurus, Ms. James. Nobody fucking “murmers” all the time, and any girl who says a guy is unleashing her “inner goddess” or says “holy cow” about a man’s penis isn’t getting laid any time this century.)

7. I want it to be REAL.

Sometimes I want a shitty ending…but really I don’t know what I want. When I get my shitty, real life ending, I will spend days mother fucking every character who fucked up the happily ever after because these characters have been through enough! They deserve so much more than the ending they were granted. Ahem, Four in the Divergent series. God, another failed ending to a tremendous series and destroying the life of what many of us considered the perfect guy. Remember what I said about falling in love with characters? Literally. We fall in love with them and no man or woman in real life will compare because our book characters can’t let us down. It’s safe.

This ended up practically a novel as opposed to a blog, but seriously, I could continue. There might be a part 2. There probably has to be.

I hope non-fanatical readers understand a little better how an avid and escapist reader’s brain functions, so you can all be a little kinder to us the next time we gripe about how a movie paled in comparison to a novel or comic book.

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We Need to Whine

For the past two or so weeks,  social media is jammed end to end with videos of people dumping freezing cold water on their heads in the name of charity.

But it’s not just an empty awareness campaign. The Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association has earned $53 MILLION dollars from generous Ice Bucket Challengers all across the country and world because of this campaign. That is absolutely insane. People aren’t just dumping the ice, posting the video, and forgetting about it. They’re dumping the ice, posting the video, and then logging onto ALSA’s website and putting their money where their mouth is (myself and my family members included).

Yet, everyone who isn’t participating has a huge fucking complaint about it.

“I’m so sick of your  videos clogging up my time line!”

“You should be charitable because you want to, not because it’s a fad!”

“All you’re doing is dumping water! You’re not even helping people!”

“Waaaaaaaah! All these people are ruining my Facebook and my Instagram!”

Meanwhile, Ferguson, Missouri is eating itself alive. A terrorist group beheaded an American and put the video on Youtube. The Middle East is a God dammed living catastrophe. But no, let’s complain about how generous your friends and family are.

We are a country full of petulant assholes. Seriously, guys. What a fucking world we live in that we have the time and audacity to COMPLAIN about people giving to charity, because they’re doing in a way that you don’t approve of. Do you even understand how spoiled we are that we are sitting around bitching about Facebook timelines having videos of the Ice Bucket Challenge?

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This complaining is all the while going on from people who use Facebook as a Twitter timeline during Steeler games, compulsively post recipes and Buzzfeed surveys and DIYs, daily photos of your kids sleeping, unlimited selfies, passive aggressive posts to “you know whos”,  and eCards about what a dick everyone else is.

Posting about charity has become an offense as egregious as posting Walking Dead spoilers. I think back to the last Summer Olympics and how pissy I was about day time spoilers. Ya know what? When the Winter Olympics rolled around, this time I just stayed off social media and enjoyed my reward of watching USA hockey spoiler free when I got home from work.

Novel concept.

If you don’t like it, stay off of Facebook.

We truly aren’t happy unless we are bitching and moaning about something, but this one just takes the cake. I’ve complained about a ton of shit in my time, but this is just too much.

Pretty soon, the Ice Bucket Challenge will be gone like a fart in the wind, and everyone can go back to cry-babying over who Taylor Swift is singing about now, what Kardashians are naming their kids, how if you don’t like Obama you’re a racist, and how you’re a homophobe if you eat at Chik-Fil-A.

If you actually watched some of the videos, you’d learn that this disease affects the lives of many people that you know. More people than I realized have lost a loved one to ALS. This does actually mean something to a great deal of people, and you’re verbally beating them down because of a minor annoyance in your life.

Find something to support, or support nothing and no one. That’s your choice. But don’t bitch about something as rare as this and then act like you’re not being completely ridiculous for choosing this as your target. There are people out there affected by this disease whom have never had a voice.  If you’ve never seen what ALS does to a person, consider yourself lucky. Let this cause have its 15 minutes. The disease’s victims and their families deserve at least that much.

Donate here and be sure to check to see if your employer participates in gift matching for this cause and any other charitable foundation that you support!

 

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t in domestic violence

This whole Stephen A. Smith/Ray Rice saga has my wheels turning. It actually goes back to an episode of the Joe Rogan Experience where Bill Burr (one of my favorite comedians) was a guest.

They were talking about domestic violence and how they do not condone it, but they wondered what happened in the car prior to Chris Brown beating down Rihanna and how it is a fair question. Did she ask him what he wanted for dinner or did she tell him that he had a small dick and she just fucked all his friends?

What brings a person to the tipping point?

The problem with this dialogue is that it’s really hard to have without it sounding like you are blaming the victim, even when you are not and explicitly reject the notion that domestic violence of any form is a viable resolution.

Do we have a duty to protect ourselves in these situations? To a point, we do. And I’m looking at this from the human point of view, completely impartial to the sex of victims in all violent situations.

Let me give an example. I used to hang out with a guy who got into fights almost every time we went out. I mean every single time. In one of these altercations, I got in the middle and tried putting an end to the situation, thinking, “If I’m in front of him, no way this guy throws a punch.” I was wrong. He did throw a punch and I’m the one who’s face it landed on.

I don’t know if he meant to hit me or was aiming for my then friend and missed. In retrospect I was just as guilty as my friend that day for what happened. I had no business getting in the middle of that fight and while that guy should not have thrown a punch knowing that a female (or really a human!) was in front of him, I should have known better.

Why? Because you don’t know what someone’s trigger is. You don’t know what the tipping point of their temper is. You don’t know what happened to a person in their life and in their day leading up to the point where they snap and violence becomes their reaction to stimuli.

I mean this as a warning to men and women both. You don’t know how far a person will go, and sometimes the perpetrator themself has not yet come to realize the limits of their anger. Maybe they’re just an inherently violent and horrible person. Maybe life has been kicking them in the balls for weeks or months or years and it is all culminating to this moment when they just lose it on the first person that pushes their buttons, completely indiscriminate to that person’s sex. Maybe they suffer from some sort of mental illness.

So do I think, especially as a survivor of domestic abuse, that people need to be aware during altercations of what they are doing? Yes. They do. Men and women alike in any and all situations. You have to protect yourself and we all have had that moment where something came flying out of our mouth in a fight and we knew immediately that we went to far.

That does NOT mean that a man has a right to lay his hands on a woman. That is NEVER EVER the solution and if you come to that point you’re a piece of shit and you should be locked up. (But instead, we forgive and forget as long as a person is pumping out hit records, throwing touchdowns, or blocking shots on the ice. It’s a disgrace.)

Domestic violence is NOT the victim’s fault, no matter what. You are not the problem. You do not deserve to be beaten by another person. You are not in the wrong.

But that does not mean that we have no responsibility to not escalate situations to where they get out of control because you simply do not know if the other person will fight back with words or with punches. Everyone knows when they are just pushing someone’s hot button relentlessly until the moment they explode.

I reflect very hard on my history as a victim of violence and constantly seek a reason. I look at each individual incident and wonder where it went wrong. What brought another person to lay his hands on me and do unspeakable things? In my particular situation, I didn’t bring it to that point with words. He was truly just that fucked up of a person that shit was completely random and was mostly the product of extreme paranoia and low self-esteem. I was an easy target and the most readily available.

But I think we’ve all seen fights in public where you recognize where something needs to end and the people need to shut up and walk away, but instead someone has to get in the last word and go for the proverbial knock out punch and end up landing themselves a literal punch.

Some people lack self control or just fucking snap. Every single person out there has a responsibility to do what they can to prevent all situations from turning violent. You cannot always prevent this, but you can try by keeping your own composure.

If it turns violent, get help and know that regardless, it is not your fault. But we still need to take the higher road and not escalating situations so that they become worse. I do not find this to be unreasonable.

Ray Rice’s wife is the victim. Plain and simple. He is a piece of shit and should be in jail,  not on the football field. However, Rice’s wife has a duty to protect herself, especially knowing that he will not hestitate to beat her until she is unconscious. That does not mean that she is “asking for it.” It just means that like two strangers in a bar, she has to be smart and do all she can to diffuse situations before they get to the point of no return. She is well aware of who she married and what he is capable of. If she is going to go in for the long hull, she needs to do everything she can to protect her body from harm.

Whether you are a man or a woman, strangers, friends, or in a commited relationship, you are the only person y0u can always count on to protect yourself. Violence is NEVER EVER EVER the answer in ANY situtation, at any time and in any place.

But no person is without responsibility for their personal safety. But that doesn’t mean that we are blaming victims of violence. There is simply a need to always consider your safety in all situations, most especially when you are dealing with someone who has a history of violence. It could mean your life.

If you are the victim of abuse, you do not have to stand for it. Get out. Get help. Stand strong and know that there are others out there who care and understand and will be there for you.

Can I talk to you?

I probably beat to death on this blog how important communication in a relationship is. I’d have to say that honesty, communication, and respect (which really partners with honesty) are the most important tennents of any successful relationship.

So why are there so many people who cannot talk to their significant others? Some of it is can’t, and with others it is won’t. There is a major issue with both. Not being able to because someone just makes themselves completely unavailable emotionally or otherwise is one thing. Flat our refusing because you’re playing games is a whole other sack of cats.

Recently I was talking to a friend about some issues going on in her life. I love her to death. My advice was that she really needs to find a way to be open with her husband because she can’t make it through the things she is going through without him. I don’t feel that is unreasonable. I mean, you have chosen to share your life with this person.

The response I felt was a little hostile. She told me that she and her husband aren’t like my boyfriend and I. They can’t be that open. I was pretty taken aback by this. I mean, I wasn’t throwing anything in her face. I didn’t bring up anything about my current relationship. I just said that they need to find a way to get through this together because they need each other and really it’s his job to be there for her like she should be for him. I mean, I thought that’s what a marriage was about? Always having this person there with you for better or for worse?

And let’s face it. My track record in the communication area is fucking shit at best until recently. It took me more years than necessary to learn my lesson there. I had one guy that flat out ignored me if he wasn’t berating me. Another who just refused to talk back if there was a problem. Like problem solving wasn’t on his agenda. Ignoring me was. And then another who everything with him was non-negotiable. His way or no way. Not open to discussion.

I don’t understand it after living it. How do you just accept that you’re with someone (man or woman) that you cannot confide in? That you can’t go to with your problems, secrets, or even good news? How do you go through life not talking to this person you have specifically chosen to live out your days with?

How did I almost marry one of those people? It’s damn unfathomable to me looking back that I almost chose that.

What’s even worse is that with social media, people are trading talking to their significant others for passive aggressively posting messages to them. I was talking this afternoon with some girls about this phenomenon. It’s disgraceful! How do you get away with that shit? It wouldn’t fly with me at all.

It’s immature at best. Why are you inviting you and your 300 closest friends from kindergarten through your fourth career change into your shit? On top of the fact that only one side of the story is being posted, so your outcry for attention to get all of your friends and family to immediately side with you, you’re resorting to shaming the person you love.

The internet is not your laundry room. Stop using it to air your grievances in place of addressing them head on. We all  have frustrating moments and shit that we post online to vent. Christ, how often have I posted that my kid is driving me up the wall? And sometimes he does. But he’s also aware of it. However, there is a strong difference between a, “My kid is driving me bat shit crazy today” post and one talking about your intimate issues with your spouse or partner of whatever status.

Social media isn’t supposed to be a crutch for getting through life. It’s fun and has almost unlimited benefits, but people ruin it with their attention craving needs. Pay attention to me! I’m too afraid to face my fights with my spouse over something that could be solved with just a little open communication!

And bigger problems- they have no place online. No matter your situation. Cheating and other issues don’t belong on your Facebook timeline. Those are private problems that need to be addressed with your loved ones.

The internet is not your personal therapist, especially when you’re being ridiculous about it and using it as a means to throw shit in your spouse’s face. Asking for advice and posting stupid shit with the full intent of getting under their skin are two different things. It’s dumb as fuck. If you want to live your life like an 8th grader, that’s your business, but in the process you’re making your business the rest of ours.

If you can’t or won’t talk to your spouse or partner, find someone you can rely on… but first you may want to work on your “look at me!” ways.