I should’ve published this review
March 31, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
When the fake book publicist Mike Albee “represented” me, he urged me to pay for a review of Chasing the Last Whale, Volume Two of the Ghosts Trilogy. The reviewer was Clarion. Mike told me this would be a great investment. As it turns out, the reviewer gave Whale three out of five stars. Authors have the option of not allowing Clarion to publish the review. Here’s the e-mail Mike sent me.
Mom had died a month earlier, I was extremely depressed, and Mike said that he’d make up for this review. So I told Clarion to not publish it.
Mike lied. He had no other reviewers lined up, nor did he have a single interview request. He killed both Ghosts and Ballyhoo and Chasing the Last Whale by starving them of publicity. So here’s the Clarion review. Click to enlarge.
Currently the publishing industry is obsessed with preventing men from creating beautiful female characters. It’s just another garden-variety power trip, no different from all the other attempts to force everyone to march in lockstep. Chasing the Last Whale is about impossible choices, war, forgiveness, and overcoming trauma. For the reviewer to concentrate on the beauty of the two female protagonists is inconceivable to me.
Here’s the description of Gary—yes, her name is Gary. That name is important to the plot.
She was truly dazzling. Her skin was a strange, pale gold, almost the same color as her hair, and her eyes were almost as clear as water. I couldn’t tell if they were blue or gray. In our break-room conferences, I missed much of what she said because I’d been studying her eyes…
One Friday morning before the meeting, I found that a coworker had used the wastebasket in my cubicle to dispose of a putrid, half-eaten sandwich. I picked up the wastebasket to take it to the break-room garbage cans, and when I turned around, there was Gary in the hallway with her hands on her hips and an ear-to-ear smile exploding out at me like a supernova. Her teeth were white and straight as a dream, and her eyes were half closed and glistening as if she’d been laughing for hours. I barely recognized her.
“What’s so funny?” I’d asked, my heart suddenly racing.
“You. You been talkin’ to yourself about how much your wastebasket stinks.”
“Yes you have! You talk to yourself a lot. ‘Oh my Gawd, what now? Someone was eatin’ this? Is that even possible?’”
I covered my mouth. “Oh my God.”
“See? It’s really funny. You’re really funny.”
She went off to the conference room. I found it nearly impossible to sit still during the meeting. She was right next to me, only inches away. That smile—I felt its warmth in the pit of my stomach for the rest of the day. There was something else in it, a perplexing relief. I felt relieved too. And afraid.
Here’s the physical description of Margaret.
I wondered how many people in the country could draw the outline of China or name even one province. Everybody on my team would forever after see China as a crowing rooster, and in doing so, we’d instantly think of Margaret. Within an hour of meeting her, she’d stamped herself indelibly on our collective consciousness. I marveled over that; had she planned it? Her appearance was memorable enough—skinny jeans and either T-shirts or tank tops that revealed muscular shoulders, a flat stomach, and that amazing bottom. And brains and a sense of humor too. She made quite a splash.
For three weeks Margaret and I exchanged words only in meetings and the break room. Our contact was strictly professional until the morning she came into my cubicle and sat on my desk. She also sat on my left hand, trapping it between cold hardness below and heavy, blazing-hot springiness above. My hand became super acute; it charted and transmitted the contours and texture of the flesh that weighed it down. Margaret raised her arms and stretched, her fingers interlocked above her head, the hem of her tank top rising past her belly button as she grinned down at me like a blissful cat. A big, warm- bottomed, nipply, blissful cat with a pierced nose.
My mother was a very beautiful woman, well into her fifties.
Mom and I didn’t get along until the last three years of her life. It wasn’t her fault, so I don’t hold it against her. But in those last three years, I became her closest confidant.
“Women are catty,” she’d tell me, her lip curled. “They judge other women primarily by their looks.”
Not being a woman, I don’t know if that’s true. But a certain kind of woman judges men for doing what’s hardwired into us, which is to react favorably to female beauty and sexuality. You can’t change biology, ladies. Sorry. Take it up with Mother Nature.
During my endless argument with the reviewer on Twitter tonight, she accidentally admitted that my assessment of her review was correct. Her complaint was that my female characters were “just beautiful” and nothing else. That’s so off-base that it’s laughable.
One is a Southern Baptist from North Carolina, who carries inside her a secret that has causes her to engage in utterly self-destructive behavior. The other female character is a graphic designer who despises the protagonist for no reason he can determine. She spends all her time torturing him.
What happened was I drew a reviewer who felt she had to punish me for “objectifying women,” and she did so by giving me a lukewarm review. After our debate tonight, there’s no question.
The reviewer also said that in Chasing the Last Whale, the male protagonist’s “turns as a ladies’ man are never wholly believable.” Well, here are some of the women I’ve dated, beginning with “Lola.”
And “Carmen,” the Cardinal Ghost.
Beautiful women actually exist, and sometimes they’re attracted to fat, insecure, troubled, damaged men. If such horrific obscenity takes place in real life, why can’t I put it in my fiction?
There is no answer. Or, as my father liked to say, “Because that’s the way it is.”
Angler fish have always fascinated me. The male is this miniature twerp that bites into the female when they mate.
He gets his nutrients from her bloodstream. Eventually her skin grows over him. It’s called sexual parasitism. He’s just an afterthought whose only purpose is to fertilize her while SHE does all the important things in life.
They make a lovely couple, don’t they?
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