Sunday, September 17, 2006

Say No to Mainstream Values

Apparently, 'Muslims should have mainstream values'.

Mainstream values aren't something to aspire to.

There were two other things that bothered me, reading yesterday's paper, and I was thinking I'd write a snappy little current-affairs post a la Pavlov's Cat and many other of the blogs I admire. Now of course - early Sunday morning, Lovergirl still slumbering, heavy clouds over the hills, birds noisy as all get-out - I completely forget what it was that had me mumbling into my beard.

I went to the opening of the Brisbane Writer's Festival this week, and heard Lionel Shriver, author of We Need to Talk About Kevin, who gave a prickly, provocative talk on censorship and self censorship in the context of increasing anxiety about terrorism. She's a tiny slip of a thing, with long honey brown hair and a determined (one would say 'hard' if one didn't like her) set to her face. On this evening she was dressed in a flippy black mini skirt and glittery halterneck top, which seemed odd combined with her growling, scathing delivery. I wondered if it was deliberate - 'I know I'm tiny and cute, but just you wait...' She pulled apart the journalist who had written about her in the Australian's new 'Australian Literary Review' last week.

I bought her book, Double Fault, which has just been re-released - she wrote it before Kevin - and read it on the bus on the way home to the North Coast. It suffered a bit from being read at the same time as the Vivisector - came off a bit fluffy in comparison, and the sex scenes made my stomach churn. But it's an interesting premise, on the whole well done - about a professional tennis couple and what happens to their relationship when one of them becomes more successful than the other. She chooses characters who don't do what they are supposed to - love their sons, cheer on their partners' successes. Her novels magnify the small unworthy thoughts that I never reveal and ask what would happen if someone was like this all the time - if these unworthy thoughts drove them?

Her characters, I would say, don't have mainstream values.

The Australian has been running a story about foster caring all week (i have to insert an apology in here - in Brisbane, I can either read the Australian or the Courier Mail. That's why it's remarkable that there are any Queenslanders who vote for Peter Beattie at all). So of course I don't know what they are not saying about the foster care system, but the journalist is digging up all sorts of foster carers who have had their charges taken off them for seemingly spurious reasons - one indigenous couple was told they had 'too high expectations' of their Aboriginal foster child (they said she might like to go to uni or work in their art gallery) while another was told they wanted their child to have a 'caviar lifestyle' when all the child was capable of was vegemite.

Of course there must be more to the story that meets the eye, and the department has put out a statement saying 'We can't give you any details but these stories are absolutely incorrect'. The series has struck me because of my earlier conversation with Diane about fostering and also because as time goes on and I remain childless, I become increasingly aware of the expectation I have that there is some divine wisdom to who gets to bring up children. It's the most convincing argument so far that God does not exist. (Small pause to wait for lightning bolt). It sounds ridiculous when I write it down - in fact one of Albert Ellis's Ten Irrational Beliefs is that 'The world is fair and just'. And okay, the world doesn't have to spin widdershins just to arrange giving me a child, but it's just rubbing my nose in it to give so many fuckwits children, and then - apart from the biological luck of the draw - put the decision making power of who should look after the remaining children desperate for homes into the hands of more fuckwits.

And they announced this week that management of overseas adoptions is moving from state to federal jurisdictions - so that's no longer an option, I presume. Because the mainstream view is that I'm not fit to be a parent.


Susoz said...

I've read a few articles by Lionel Shriver in The Guardian, including one that was very provocative about childlessness, but I haven't read any of her novels - I think I'll have to.
Yes it is very unfair that so many dud people get to effortlessly reproduce.

Mikhela said...

We Need to Talk about Kevin is worth reading - the narrator is annoying but it really made me think about nature vs nurture - are some people just born evil, or antisocial, or do they get made that way? & also assumptions about the automatic-ness of mother love. I don't think it's great literature but they are fascinating ideas.

genevieve said...

Ellis is one cool dude (but it is rough all the same)- I think my fave of all those beliefs is the first one, "It is terrible, nearly the end of the world, when things are not the way I want them to be..." I hear this in my head often, it's a great salutory reminder of what not to think innit.
Good on you for going to hear Shriver out anyhow - I thought she got a bit of a rough deal from young Nike B. too. It is tiresome to read pieces that suggest that an author IS her fiction and not actually a person in her own right.There's an extensive report on what she said in today's Inquirer (Aust. again).

Mikhela said...

I think my favourite Ellis is something like, 'people have to like me ALL the time...' I'm going to have to dig them out again. I'll track down that article on my friend Lionel - I couldn't decide whether I agreed with her or not - what is the responsibility of the artist in creating characters and scenarios that are inflammatory? To say 'people will make up their own minds' is disingenuous - I think art is more powerful than that.

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