My Journey with Victoria – The King of the Castle

King of the CastleThe next book I read was The King of the Castle (first published in 1967) and I was immediately intrigued by the Cinderella-like plot and heroine. Dallas Lawson has just lost her father, a famous restorer of paintings, art, and buildings. Having worked as his apprentice for so many years, she has no other skills and decides to answer a letter requesting her father’s assistance in restoring several damaged and priceless paintings at the Comte de la Talle’s Château Gaillard in the wine country of France. She decides to show up in her father’s place and either be given the job or immediately dismissed.

Thus, the reader is introduced to D. Lawson as a bright, modern woman, who has a skill set that she could utilize to make a living for herself if only the Comte will give her a chance to work for him. Like Cinderella, D. Lawson’s true beauty shines through as the novel progresses and she begins to restore not only the paintings, but the family to a place of love for one another. As she cleans the years of grime away from each painting bringing back their former glory, she also becomes interested in the broken lives of the people at the Château Gaillard. oubiletteDallas begins with the neglected, spoiled, and often violently unpredictable Genevieve the Comte’s only daughter who wickedly locks her in the oubliette – which literally means the forgotten place and can be defined as a type of dungeon accessible only by a trap door in its ceiling. Dallas is later rescued by Genevieve’s nurse Nounou, who holds the key to the mystery that surrounds young Genevieve’s unstable behavior.

As she continues her work, she soon learns that the Comte’s first wife died under mysterious circumstances and that most of the villagers, servants, and wine workers surrounding him believe he killed her, and those that don’t, believe his infidelity drove her to commit suicide. Holt allows these two mysteries to surround the reader while at the same time giving enough clues that the two are connected – Genevieve’s behavior is directly related to her mother’s death. Holt allows a romance to grow between Dallas and the Comte who, by his own admission, was a terrible husband in the past: moody, unfaithful, angry, and often unloving.

Holt adds one more mystery to this mix in the search for the Gaillard emeralds given to an ancestor who was once the mistress of King Louis XV and married into the family at his command. Before she left his court, he presented her with an emerald necklace worth a fortune. Her new husband not to be outdone by the King had a matching bracelet, tiara, two rings, a brooch, and a girdle all set with emeralds of equal value. During the Revolution, they were lost or stolen. However, the family believes they were hidden away somewhere in the castle and periodically searches for them. Of course, it is Dallas who solves this and all mysteries by the end of the book.

Dallas finds out that Comte’s father-in-law, Genevieve’s strange, pious grandfather, fell in love and married a ‘mad woman’. Upon this discovery, he vows to keep her confined in an upstairs room where she can’t hurt herself or others and never have children with her. He breaks his vow and they have Genevieve’s mother who later becomes the Comte’s wife. While she herself is not mad, her daughter Genevieve shows all the signs of the same hysterical and unpredictable behavior found in her grandmother. When her mother learns that she is pregnant again, her father warns her of the madness she is ‘breeding’  and in her already unhappy state she takes her own life. Dallas vows to set  the record straight and clear the Comte’s name, but he persuades her to keep silent to spare Genevieve’s already fragile psyche any further trauma.

King of the castle GaillardThus, Holt’s Cinderella story ends with Dallas becoming the Countess of Gaillard married to a flawed Prince with a daughter in need of care. The reader is not left with the traditional and they lived happily ever after statement; instead, the reader assumes that life will be lived with all of its happy and unhappy moments. Dallas ends the book  with a quote that sums up Holt’s twist on a fairy tale ending,  ‘I was never afraid of a challenge’ reminding the reader that life is challenging, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be lived.

My next journey with Victoria will be The Time of the Hunter’s Moon. 

 

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My Journey With Victoria: The Bride of Pendorric

This will be the first of many posts regarding the novels of Victoria Holt. Her novels would be called cozy mysteries today, but she is just as often classified as a writer of romance novels. Not romance in the Harlequin sense, where each passionate kiss and sexual act is at the very least heavily alluded to and at the most vividly described. Instead, Holt follows in the footsteps of Jane Austen when she writes about matters of the heart, such as, love, sex, and marriage. Her works most of which were published in the sixties and seventies, saw a resurgence in popularity in the early nineties and have gone through several re-printings. I myself have been an avid admirer of her novels since the age of twelve. Now, twenty-six years later I have decided to return to her works to see if they stand up to the test of time, age, and maturity.

Bride of PendorricI chose for my first reading The Bride of Pendorric (first published January 1963) because I remember reading it all those years  ago, but the details of the plot and characters I’d quite forgotten. There were many things I enjoyed about Holt’s romantic, light mystery regarding the young Favel Farington and her devilishly handsome husband Roc Pendorric. Including the underlying sense of menace Holt moves the reader feel for the heroine Favel, who is referred to as only The Bride by the strange, secretive, and certainly supernaturally obsessed Pendorric clan. What came as a complete surprise to me, were Holt’s beautifully written setting details that create a true sense of place for her reader. Here are five of my favorite descriptions from The Bride:

  1. And there it lay – the most enchanting little village I had ever seen. There was the church, its ancient tower, about which the ivy clung, clearly of Norman architecture, and it was set in the midst of the graveyard. On one side the stones were dark with age and on the other they were white and new-looking. There was the vicarage, a grey house set in a hollow with its lawn and gardens on an incline. Beyond the church as the row of cottages . . . they had thatched roofs and tiny windows and were all joined together – the whole six of them . . . they were the same period s the church.
  2. There were no dust-sheets here. The huge windows gave me a view of the coast, with Polhorgan rising majestically on the cliff top; but it was not the view I looked at this time., but the room, and I think what struck me most was that it had the look of a room which was being lived in. There was a dais at one end of it and on this was a stand with a piece of music opened on it. Beside the stand, on a chair, was a violin, looking as though it had just been placed there; the case lay open on a nearby table. 
  3. The countryside seemed restful after the rugged coast views, and I was charmed by the greenish-gold of the freshly mown fields and the scarlet of the poppies growing here and there. I particularity noticed the occasional tree, slightly bent by the south-west gales, but taller than those stunted and distorted ones which survived along the coast. I could smell the fragrance of the meadow-sweet growing on the banks mingling with the harebells and scabious.
  4. The sky was a guileless blue, and the sea sparkled so brilliantly that it was almost too dazzling to contemplate. It was like a sheet of silk with scarcely a ripple in it. 
  5. The sun was shining but I could see the spiders’ webs on the bushes, and beautiful as the Michaelmas daisies and chrysanthemum were they did underline the fact winter was on the way. But because this was Cornwall, the roses  were still blooming, and although the hydrangeas did not flower in such profusion, there were still some to brighten the quadrangle.

My next journey with Victoria will be in The King of the Castle. I look forward to more of her cozy murders, Austenesque romance, and vivid descriptions.

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A Response Worth Sharing

Image found on humanitiesunderground.wordpress.com

Image found on humanitiesunderground.wordpress.com

Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things – thoughts, ideas, opinions. – Paulo Coelho

Last year, I was given the unique opportunity to read my essay “Lisa and Lolita, Le Viol de deux” for John King’s The Drunken Odyssey, since working on that project with him we have remained in touch (shameless plug: my reading is included in Episode 107 after Boris Fishman’s; check it out!). After sharing my essay on “Natural Born Killers” with him and our subsequent intriguing discussion on the my essay, the film, its director and Quentin Tarantino he has kindly given his blessing to share his comments on my website. Enjoy!

“Lisa, The most interesting part of your essay is about the couples who re-enact the wedding scene in NBK. While I don’t think there is a generation of NBK, which suggests a generation defined by the movie, seeing why people did like it and identified with it or became obsessed with it does seem like a fascinating subject to explore, and I don’t have to like NBK to find that odd cultural quirk revelatory and exciting. FYI: I was one of those viewers who was told by people who had seen Natural Born Killers that I would love it, as I like the weird and disturbing, apparently, but I deeply hated the movie, for reasons similar to the Rolling Stone critic. I wasn’t able to read this in the spirit you were hoping for, since you seem to be diligently dignifying what seems like a truly bad piece of art to me. Your claims about the film’s longstanding relevance fell a little flat with me. Quentin Tarantino was so horrified by the cheesy liberties Oliver Stone had taken with his screenplay that Tarantino insisted that he NOT be credited as a screenwriter, so the credit reads something like “based on a script by” or “based on the ideas of.” The dramatic context in the way that QT presents violence is so compelling, yet unnerving that we don’t quite cheer for it. For me, the loving way Oliver Stone made violence look cool and slick, often like a rock video, made him totally complicit in the critique he thought he was making against American media. I did like the “I Love Malory” sequence rather a lot; the satire there was effective, the laugh track disturbing (a trick used earlier, if I am not mistaken, in the Jungle Goddess episode of Mystery Science Theater). Some of the parts of NBK were good I thought, but the few good parts were worth far more than the tiresome whole, in my opinion. I found the story so stupid, the satire so gigantically self-unaware, that I wasn’t asking any big questions at the end other than why, oh why, does Oliver Stone have a messianic ego and who keeps green-lighting his films? Don’t even get me started on Baz Luhrmann or Steven Spielberg. With me, OS hits a nerve, apparently. Sigh.

I adore Tarantino, who could do no wrong … until the last act of Django. Pulp Fiction is a masterpiece in so many ways. Not since Sam Peckinpah has someone shown us the violence we crave, and then make us feel uneasy with our cravings. The questioning of race and gender politics is also pretty wonderful. The way he takes the most basic pulp fiction plot tropes and makes them deviously interesting. Oliver Stone was a good writer (Midnight Express, Conan the Barbarian, Scarface) before he became a director, and then he became intolerable, to me at least. Here’s a link to an article I wrote on MST3K.”

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Another Published Essay!

Special thanks to Suzy Hazelwood for publishing my essay “The Never-Ending Journey” in The Writing Garden – Issue 4! It is such an honor to have my piece alongside so many other talented writers and poets. Thanks for the opportunity!

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A Generation of Natural Born Killers

Oliver Stone’s controversial film Natural Born Killers debuted in 1994 to an almost instant cult-following and very mixed reviews. The New York Post called Stone’s obvious satire of an America despoiled by violence and exploitation a ‘dense, unmodulated, exhausting ordeal.’ Contrastingly, Roger Ebert (writing for the Chicago Sun Times) applauded Killer’s over-the-top caricatures, frenzied imaging, and high-toned rhetoric as the only way to get his satirical message across: [Stone] understands that celebrity killers have achieved such a bizarre status in America that it’s almost impossible to satirize the situation – to get beyond real life. But he goes for broke, in scenes of carnage like a prison riot, which is telecast live while the “host” gets caught up in the blood-lust. Diverging sharply from Ebert, Rolling Stone criticized Stone’s refusal to look inward at his own bloody body of work as contributing to the American viewers desire to see more and more violent images on both the small and silver screens. Stone holds up a mirror to a dark world, he’s too chickenshit to hold it up to himself. Its other cameras, not his, that turn us into blood junkies. It’s us, not him. In the end, these critical reviews didn’t change the trajectory of Natural Born Killers; a film destined to achieve a cult status and following.

Killers had everything a film needs to gain a fanatical, and as it turned out, criminal following: an original script by then indie-film sensation (and soon to be academy award nominee) Quentin Tarantino; serious rumors of an NC-17 rating if Oliver Stone didn’t tone down the sex and violence; a wide, but average opening weekend grossing just over $11,000,000; an arrogant Oliver Stone sitting on his throne and hypocritically sniping about his film only showing this level of violence once vs. week after week like his peers; a star-studded cast going for broke with every scripted line, gesture, and action; countless conservative groups calling for a boycott; and of course, the alleged copycat killers who claim Killers inspired them to commit coldblooded murder.

All of these elements combined to make Killers one of THE most watched and controversial films of our time eventually grossing well over $50,000,000. In 2006, Entertainment Weekly listed it as the 8th most controversial film of all time. To date, it can be found listed alongside other screen giants, such as, A Clockwork Orange, Pulp Fiction, Scarface, Reservoir Dogs, American History X, and The Godfather as a ‘must-see’. But, is it? Is Killers in the same league as films like Orange that have critical clout and artistic street-cred? With Netflix’s release of the director’s cut last month, Killers will have the chance to live up to its warped mystique with a whole new generation of viewers.

Over the last twenty years I’ve watched Killers more times than I care to admit and I can say with absolute certainty that Stone’s acid-drenched road film will continue to challenge and confront America’s obsession with the very worst of humankind i.e. serial killers, gangsters, and mass murders for generations to come. The following are a few scenes whose bite has not diminished with time:

I love Mallory ‘I Love Mallory’ – I’ll show her a little tenderness, after I eat.

One of the most talked about scenes in the film comes in the form of a vignette entitled ‘I Love Mallory’. An homage to 1950’s sitcoms the most noticeable being ‘I Love Lucy’. Stone’s choice to reveal the horrors of Mallory’s home life is perhaps the most biting commentary he has to offer. Rodney Dangerfield (Ed Wilson) and Edie McClurg (Mrs. Wilson) play their roles as Mallory’s parents with a raw honesty that assaults the heart. Viewers can’t help but cringe at the realization that Ed Wilson is raping his teenage daughter in the full view of his battered wife. Dangerfield brilliantly captures with frightening overtness the voracious nature of men who take their daughters as lovers and McClurg stuns as the quintessential negligent mother who’s more concerned over her husband’s dinner than her child’s safety. However, it is Stone’s addition of a laugh track and comedic music to these scenes that packs the hardest punch: children are suffering through the very real evils of incest and abuse in seemingly happy homes all around us and we’d rather have a nervous laugh and a blindfold than confront what’s actually going on.

Mickey and Mallory WeddingThe Wedding’ – Ain’t gonna murder anybody on our wedding day.

Deemed the most poetic and artistically poignant scene in Killers, the wedding scene remains one of the most haunting. Stone uses the grainy look of a 1960’s 8 mm video camera for some of the shots and the effect is profoundly disarming. The home movie style shooting of these scenes softens the murderous pair into an earthy Romeo and Juliet. The dark violence assaulting the viewer just a few seconds ago succumbs to the airy, light surrounding Mickey and Mallory as they take their vows on a bridge overlooking the Rio Grande. The image of Mallory’s childlike smiles and long, white veil billowing out over the sharp, green edges of the gorge and the river below make the merciless killing of Mallory’s parents seem distant, far removed from this pair of star-crossed lovers. Mickey and Mallory join hands in a bloody holy palmers’ kiss that captivates and intrigues the viewer; drawing us deeper into their perverted love story. As they seal their unholy union with a kiss, Mallory’s ‘veil’ is lifted by a gust of wind that gently carries it down to the river below graphically symbolizing the ‘free fall’ their love and lives are already in. It’s not difficult to understand why Mickey and Mallory are so drawn to each other—he sees the beauty in her bruises and she sees the strength in his sadness. They are bound by their shared sufferings at the hands of abusive and neglectful parents and those are powerfully destructive ties. The audience knows Mickey and Mallory will come to a ‘bad end’, and yet, we not only admire their love for each other; we envy it. We want what they have on that bridge: a seemingly unbreakable bond. Stone uses this scene to manipulate his audience to feel for his killers in a fairly obvious critique of the American tendency to mythologize violent killers, like Bonnie and Clyde, into intriguing lovers with larger than life personalities. Twenty years later, couples are still traveling to ‘Mickey and Mallory’s bridge’ to stand where they did and emulate the love they have for each other in this scene. Stone, himself, couldn’t have dreamed up a more haunting image or piercing commentary than this.

Killers Ending‘The End’ – I’ve been thinkin’ about motherhood. So, I think me and Mickey are gonna get started on that, as quickly as possible.

Natural Born Killers may contain elements of a Shakespearean tragedy, and by Stone’s own admission, the entire film can be viewed as an homage to the 1967 road film Bonnie and Clyde with one major difference: the criminal lovers don’t die in a hail of bullets. Here, Stone deviates from the traditional formula of forbidden love ending in death and allows his killers to go on living and loving beyond the reach of the law. Mickey and Mallory Knox don’t ‘pay for their crimes’; instead, they get away with them. This ending isn’t all that ground breaking; after all people get away with murder every day. That said, the mere idea that Mickey and Mallory are ‘good’ parents raising healthy, happy children is pure fantasy to say the least. Both of them were horrifically abused by their parents. Mickey witnessed his father’s suicide and endured his mother’s constant abuse. Mallory was sexually abused and repeatedly raped by her father while enduring her mother’s blind eyes and neglect. In reality, it would take years and years of intense therapy for either of them to become emotionally healthy, and even if they came to terms with their violent childhoods, no doctor in the world would recommend parenthood for either of them. They are killers. Natural born killers. The pathologies both of them present do not diminish with time or even unconditional love and these facts are what makes this final scene so heart wrenching. Their children will suffer, not from parental abuse, but from the knowledge that their birthright is violence. Like their parents, they will be forced to wander the countryside never staying in one place for too long. They won’t go to school, make friends, or even have a place to call ‘home’ and this will have a lasting and destructive effect on their emerging psyches. The genius of Killers’ ending lies in Stone’s use of subtle misdirection. He shows us a happy family traveling down the road together, but is that what we’re meant to see? Stone leaves the question of their happiness open to interpretation. The audience is left to reflect on whether or not Mickey and Mallory have truly changed into healthy parental figures; or if lurking underneath that familial veneer lies the demons they never have and never will conquer.

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The Nabokov Affair

One doesn’t take journeys with Nabokov, one has affairs – Lisa Korthals

Last year, I spent five months reading, studying, and thinking about Vladimir Nabokov. I wrote several smaller pieces of creative non-fiction and one large compilation during my journey, or should I say affair, with his writings. I had no idea when I began this affair that my lover would lead me to my very first publication and podcast with Lisa and Lolita, Le Viol De Deux. Today, I’m posting the final piece I did on Nabokov (under My Non-fiction); written at the end of our time together. I’m certain we will return to one another, but for now I’m content to, not only be free of him, but share him with others.

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Poetic Addition

SignatureMany of you visiting my blog have expressed interest in my creative non-fiction and I wanted to thank you for all of the encouraging and supportive comments. I’ve decided to start sharing some of my poetry under a new page ‘A Spot of Poetry’. Enjoy!

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2nd Essay Published!

I am pleased to announce that another of my essays has just been published! Marathon Literary Review has published ‘Let There Be Healing in Defense of Confessional Literature” in Issue 7 (Feb. 2015). This piece discusses the need for stories that offer ‘cathartic suffering’ as a part of the healing process. I want to thank Marathon and Arcadia University for this opportunity to share my work!

Link to Essay: http://marathonlitreview.com/

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Lisa & Lolita, Le viol des deux

I have published my first essay! I am very excited to announce that Dark Matter, A Journal of Speculative Literature has published the essay I wrote on “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov entitled “Lisa and Lolita, Le viol de deux”. I want to thank Brad Hoge and the staff of Dark Matter for this opportunity!

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June 20, 2014 · 4:15 pm

In Defense of Confessional Literature an Essay by Lisa Korthals

This essay was written as a response/imitation of William Giraldi’s ‘In Defense of Darkness’

LISA KORTHALS

LET THERE BE HEALING

IN DEFENSE OF CONFESSIONAL LITERATURE

 

I. CATHARTIC SUFFERING

The only work that will ultimately bring any good to any of us is the work of contributing to the healing of the world.” – Marianne Williamson

 In the summer of 1989, my final summer before junior high school, I was voraciously reading anything I could get my hands on. My favorite books always had dark themes involving young women in extreme situations. Teenage girls fighting to survive sexual abuse, prostitution, drug use, or even being institutionalized were always on my radar. A few of these books stand out in my memory: Lisa, Bright and Dark by John Neufeld; Born Innocent by Bernhardt J. Hurwood; I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Hannah Green; Randy by Jack W. Thomas; Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov; Phoebe by Patricia Dizenzo; Cindy by John Benton; Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews; Lovey by Mary MacCracken; Daddy’s Girl by Charlotte Vale Allen; Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber; and One Child by Torey L. Hayden. All of these books portray neglected and abused children living through traumatizing and sometimes horrifying situations.  I would cry my way through all of the horrors experienced by these troubled, abused, and above all, neglected young girls feeling everything I imagined they felt i.e. fear, pain, hopelessness, and heart break. It was safer to let my heart break over the pain of these fictional girls, because by the end of their books they would be rescued by a friend, teacher, social worker, or some other Good Samaritan. I could weep over their suffering, because it would end; even if mine wouldn’t.

Even though I felt shaken, disturbed, and sick-to-my-stomach drained during these readings, this was, I believed, cathartic suffering. There was a camaraderie and outlook these characters and I possessively shared. Setting aside my personal connection to their circumstances, I knew I was learning something valuable about human depravity, abject hope, and chosen survival. This was not the kind of teenage angst portrayed in serial books like Sweet Valley High, The Babysitter’s Club, or even The Nancy Drew Files; this was true misery penned by people who understood what it meant to be victimized and lived to tell the story. This was something I needed in my life, if only I could find a way to move the hope I found on the printed page to my own flesh and blood heart.

My parents cringed at my strong identification with the anguish of these fictional characters. If asked, they would patently deny any personal connections to the subjects of: incest, verbal/emotional abuse, and childhood trauma. My father believes (and has always believed) that I am an overly sensitive, emotional woman who cries more than she works; and that is a cardinal sin for him – crying. For him, crying over one’s emotional pain is unacceptable, because it is not physical pain. Therefore, it can and should be controlled.  

My father is an admirer of silence. I secretly suspect that he hated my youthful love of these books because the authors’ were shouting openly their personal struggles. From his point-of-view the protagonists in these confessional novels should have just shut-up and dealt with life: Phoebe should just have told her parents she was pregnant and dealt with her situation; Lisa should have kept her mouth shut about her schizophrenia; the teachers in Lovey and One Child should have minded their own business; Sybil should have kept her delusional, attention-seeking lies to herself; and the author of Daddy’s Girl had no right to share family secrets with others. If I had my choice my father would have been teaching a special education class in an urban area, filled with troubled boys and girls in need of help, talking them through their personal traumas, giving himself wholly to the nurturing of others, stopping only to raise his own children with love and compassion. Unfortunately, there are other ways to be a parent.

II. THE BIG FESTIVAL OF ABUSE

         “Most of the pain we feel is nothing more than a story that needs telling.” ― Ashly Lorenzana        

Many literary agents, editors and publishers refuse to invest in confessional stories and novels on the subjects of abuse and mental illness because they are considered white noise. Sadly, this leaves a vast number of countless abused men and women without a voice, while insulting those who have chosen to pen their tales in the process. The notion that readers have grown bored with stories of survival or do not consider the issue of abuse in its many forms important is contemptuous. If that were the case, Sylvia Plath would never have published The Bell Jar; Ken Kesey would have thrown One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in the fire; much of Nabokov’s work would never have made it out of Russia; Dave Pelzer’s stories would be collecting dust on a book shelf; and Hayden’s lost children would have slipped through cracks vanishing into oblivion. And these are just a few examples from more recent literature. If you add in stories and novels now considered classics—it’s one big festival of abuse.

Readers in search of healing, however, do not set the market standard, many as they may be, since they are far outnumbered by the sexual-seeking and lascivious fans of E.L. James. Popular culture has always set the publishing standard and Americans have begun turning an apathetic eye to any writer who does not offer sex, violence, and a happy ending. Stories of survival and healing, pale in a publisher’s eyes when compared to the top-selling seedy worlds of teenage angst-ridden vampires or contract toting sadomasochists. Thus, the space for confessional realistic fiction is shrinking a little more each year.

When the average reader does manage to tear themselves away from the sci-fi/fantasy and erotica landscapes so prevalently published, they are not likely to focus their attention on anything or anyone other than themselves. When I was in seminary, a fellow cohort expressed utter frustration and contempt for women who shared their stories of abuse and healing. This female student wondered why victims of abuse had to bring it up at all; she believed it was her job to ask someone sharing their story of healing why they chose to do so in the first place. She concluded this rant by asserting that people who share these things most likely did it for attention; attention she did not feel they deserved. She was not alone in her feelings; the majority of the class agreed with her. Talk about indifference.

III. A REMAINDER OF HEALING

“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” – Hippocrates

When Neufeld published Lisa, Bright and Dark in 1969 it was immediately noticed by critics and readers alike, and it has remained a best seller for over forty years. Some considered it no more than a cheesy, after-school special waiting to happen, while others saw it as a raw, honest look at mental illness among the suburban classes. Neufeld’s own thoughts on his now internationally acclaimed novel reflect these two viewpoints:

What I wanted to do was write a short book, full of emotion and detail and excitement, for readers of all ages. I didn’t know that Edgar Allan would be regarded as a children’s book. It was. And when it was, everything fell into place. The minute Edgar Allan was launched successfully; I sat down to write Lisa, Bright and Dark. It, too, was a success so there was no turning back.

Neufeld’s novel and others like it are the presentation of humanity, the presentation of a human choice: we can choose suicide or healing. Many experiencing the reality of the themes present in confessional literature will choose suicide; only a small remainder will choose healing. The presence of confessional literature does not determine whether or not an individual will choose suicide, but many who experience cathartic suffering through this genre of fiction find an opportunity for healing.

My father would say that these books offer nothing more than blame. He laments the fact that many survivors of childhood abuse have begun to tell their stories laying blame at their parents feet. This opinion has been forged in the scars left from his own traumatic childhood: he was beaten, sexually abused, and abandoned through indifference and death by those he loved. First by his mother whose departure caused him to hate, and second, by his grandmother whose death killed any love that had begun to grow within him. To this day, he sees no need to discuss, let alone, write about things that he has already survived; things that cannot be changed. My own experiences have shown me that healing is possible through knowledge and identification. The knowledge gained through reading confessional literature is that no one is alone and healing can begin through one’s identification with the fictional characters that make up these novels. This is not my father’s way, but it is mine.

All healing is internal, and due to this, the various characters, plots, and themes found in confessional literature are as diverse as pain itself. If the story is realistic, filled with suffering and chastened hope, best to allow it to be what it is: an opportunity. Like the characters that fill the pages of these books that I have come to treasure, we feel we can’t go on, but we find a way. Our fathers will carry on in their way, our friends will support or leave us, we will be schooled by contempt in our communities and then, against all statistical logic, we will survive and remain to tell a healing tale.

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