January 18th, 2009

reading

Ruh-roh, Ranny! Run!

When I was little--and we're talking about preschool age here--I was terrified of Scooby-Doo. While this is startling to people who have seen even one complete episode, that's sort of the point: I didn't watch complete episodes. I watched the early bit where there was a monster going after people, and then I got scared and went away and didn't watch the rest, so I didn't see the bit where it was demonstrated, over and over again, that the monster was really a disgruntled neighbor in a costume. (Let us leave aside my assessment, once I had seen a few of those episodes and was older, like 6, whether it was actually rational to be less afraid of someone whose idea of navigating consensus reality within the social contract was, "Hey, I know! I'll dress up as a Swamp Thing and attack people to get my way!" Yah, those people are totally ones you'll want to trust in a dark alley. At least you could consider bribing a Swamp Thing with fresh frogs. But I was going to leave that aside.)

I'm having a very similar reaction to Anthony Trollope's Framley Parsonage. I strongly suspect that the convention of the oeuvre is that the horrible things threatening the sympathetic characters will not come to pass. I strongly suspect that it will be the equivalent of Scooby-Doo in that there will be a happy ending and all specters of debt and penury will be dispelled as simply Mr. Sowerby in glow-in-the-dark paint. So to speak. But in the meantime, this book is freaking me out.

Pop quiz: how many of your friends are, to the best of your knowledge, in immediate danger of having their planet blown up by hostile aliens? How many of your friends are--again, so far as you have been made aware--in immediate danger of having their throats ripped out by werewolves? their blood sucked and their soul removed by sparkly vampires? Now: how many of your friends are in danger of serious money problems? How many of your friends already have serious money problems?

By 20th and 21st century standards, Framley Parsonage is a very graphic and explicit book when it comes to income and debt. When we see Mark Robarts sign notes accepting debt, we know what his income is to the shilling, and we know what the debts are to the shilling, so...ackackACKACKACK!!! Noooooo! When reading Trollope, I am like the woman who stands up in the movie theater and shouts, "DON'T YOU GO BEHIND THAT STAIRCASE, HONEY! HE'S GONNA GET YOU WITH THE AXE! TAKE THOSE CHILDREN AND GET OUT OF THERE!"

So I'm going to finish this thing because of my experience with Scooby-Doo. But I liked it much better when people were just under threat of being eaten. Not so worrisome. Much calmer.
Wait -- what?

Household definitions, part N in a series: radiation mopping

Radiation mopping, n. The element in an otherwise forgettable piece of fiction (written or filmed) that provokes reference thereafter. From Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, wherein the title character is cleansed of any potential radiation poisoning from being at Ground Zero for a nuclear explosion by being scrubbed down with large and apparently magical mops.