Really!?! I will show you how inscrutable I am in plain English…

November 9, 2009

in imho is just a polite way to say I know you don't give a hoot what I think but I'm going to say it anyway

Warning: This post should be filed under “Psychotic Ranting and Anonymous Foaming”, a category available from NaBloPoMo, (Thank you to whoever was wise enough to create this category…) in which I whine about stereotypes that caught me by surprise.  Please feel free to ignore me when I am behaving like a rabid dog.  Come back when I am normal, or normal by my standard.

The thing about reading a fiction is that a good book sucks you in, lures you to identify with the protagonist, even more so if it is from the first person point of view.  Most fictions have an underlying universal theme: family, betrayal, love, hate, loss, reunion, found happiness, redemption,  self-discovery, at least the successful ones do.

I went into the library in search of a good book to read. I do this by browsing the book shelves and see what strikes my fancy. Like many things I do in life, I trust it to chance. Serendipity. I love the sound of it, more so since I learned how to spell it correctly.

I came across a book by one Jonanthan Tropper, This Is Where I Leave You.  The front flap promises a “riotously funny, emotionally raw novel about love, marriage, divorce, family, and the ties that bind — whether we like it or not.”  Wonderful! Besides, this book apparently was being adapted into a feature film from Warner Brothers Studios. Even better! This way I can just read the book and skip the movie: since we all know, as a rule, the original books are infinitely better than the adapted films, right? (Except Marvel heroes movies of course. IMO.)

So imagine me, a universal reader, Everyman (Or, Everyperson if you want to be all PC about it…), following along the storyline. Everyperson, moi, going merrily down the road with the narrator who just lost his father and whose family is not mourning/coping properly, (Ok, so not so merrily after all. Sorry, my bad), I thought, “Dysfunctional family,” yup, we all have one of those.  But wait.  Hmm. The author could have lightened up on some of the cliché phrases and expressions, but that is not a good reason to put down a book once you started it. Or… is it?

Then on Page 11, BOOM! it came. Out of nowhere.  The Chinese showed up.

My landlords are the Lees, an inscrutable, middle-aged Chinese couple who live in a state of perpetual silence.  I have never heard them speak.  He performs acupuncture in the living room; she sweeps the sidewalk thrice daily with a handmade straw broom that looks like a theater prop. I wake up and fall asleep to the whisper of her frantic bristles on the pavement. Beyond that, they don’t seem to exist, and I often wonder why they bothered immigrating. Surely there were plenty of pinched nerves and dust in China.


<I am going to take a breath. In the mean time, please watch “Really with Seth and Amy” on SNL>

I am back. Here are the thoughts that went (are going) through my mushroom-cloud head:

  1. Maybe this book was written in the 1960s before the Civil Rights Movement.  Or maybe it was published in the late 20th century since you know, we were oh so unenlightened back then.  (Nope. It was published August 2009…)
  2. Maybe the narrator is what they call an “unreliable narrator”,  like John Dowell in The Good Soldier, Frederick Clegg in The Collector, and even Humbert Humbert in Lolita.
  3. I can’t really “demand” authors to start censoring themselves on the basis of Political Correctness.
  4. I guess all that “identifying with the narrator” was for naught. I am the “inscrutable” Chinese. Wow. Imagine that!

Anna May Wong in "Daughter of the Dragon"

Well, Mr. Tropper, this is where you left me befuddled and where I leave YOU! On Page 11…

Sax Rohmer published the Fu Manchu novels in 1913. Wasn’t that like, hmm, almost a century ago?

And, really? Just because someone does not talk to you, all of a sudden, they are inscrutable?  Maybe they just don’t like you because you are living in THEIR basement.

Is it because of our eyes?  So small, you can’t see “into our souls”?

Manga Eyes Real Life

Oh, and news flash: The whole inscrutable Chinese thing? MEGA TROPE! Done to death since the 1870’s.

Until you also think the French with their obsession with wine and cheese, the Italian with their obsession with impeccable fashion style even when they are just sitting inside their own house, and the Germans with their inherent love for logics and orders, and all the FOREIGN languages they speak with, are also inscrutable, don’t call ME inscrutable.

And if you are keeping the landlords in the movie, I dare you to make them inscrutable. No, seriously. More jobs for Asian (Asian American) actors.  I support my kind.  I can’t wait to see it.


Robin November 10, 2009 at 8:18 am

Those damn Asian landlords, too damn quiet lol! You should try reading The Gathering, it was so bizarre and I couldn’t finish it.
.-= Robin´s last blog…What I Learned From Cracked =-.

Jamie November 10, 2009 at 11:37 am

I honestly think we’re seeing the least educated generation come up and it’s affecting everything–including publishing. I sound like an old fart, at the ripe old age of 39, but I’m stunned daily by what passes for acceptable.
In the lobby at the animal shelter the other day, a young guy at the counter, bailing out his dog, explained to me that he doesn’t use banks because “they’re too Jewish.” Silence descended, seconds pass. When I could finally speak I asked, “Are you fucking kidding me?” “Sorry,” he said, acting sheepish, and proceeded to explain why you can’t crease checks due to automation, talking into my stony face and crossed arms. He couldn’t have been more than 19 years old, skinny, white, and spotty with a shaved head. A Neo-Skinhead? WTF?

TheKitchenWitch November 10, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Hi! Popped on over from TheycallmeJane’s blog!

Rant away, Miss! I completely agree with you on this one.

Are we going backwards, or something? When my 2nd grade daughter comes home upset because a kid told her not to sit her “camel-ass” next to him, I think we have a problem, don’t you?
.-= TheKitchenWitch´s last blog…Pulling a Jack Bauer… =-.

Absence Alternatives November 11, 2009 at 8:35 am

@ Robin
I realized that he’s considered to be an “established” author, and that just made me even more frustrated. “He should have known better.” And IF that part has anything to do with the plot, I wouldn’t have been so puzzled.

Ellie November 11, 2009 at 8:39 am

Well, at least he showed you his true colors on page 11 — that’s not too deep a commitment.

I’ve really got to learn to be more inscrutable. Just to, you know, mix it up.

Cool blog.

Absence Alternatives November 11, 2009 at 8:41 am

@ Jamie
I NEED TO MEET YOU IN PERSON SO I CAN GIVE YOU A BIG GIANT HUG! Kudos to you for calling him out so directly. Sometimes the young generation just does not know the histories, etc. The interviews done with young people in Europe in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall are alarming to me, if not downright scary. “It has nothing to do with me. I wasn’t even born then.” Many of them said. Where I grew up, it is a mandatory school field trip to the museum where pictures taken in Asia during WWII are on permanent display. Disturbing to the young children? Oh, yes, very. But now I wonder: maybe my ass of a government back home may have been onto something…

Absence Alternatives November 11, 2009 at 8:51 am

@ TheKitchenWitch
Thank you so much! I visited yours and I have been hitting my head on the wall for missing it all this time. (I have been saying that a lot lately. I hope I don’t come out to be insincere, etc.) (The fact that I worry about myself being insincere shows how neurotic I am…) (Yes, I admit! I am a disciple of Woody Allen! Lock me up!) Now change of subject:

What did the little bastard say to your daughter? Oh, I hope the school did something about it. Our school gave the kid that said to a girl, “You are not allowed to play with us because you have dark skin” (This happened in 2008! In a grade school!) a week-long detention. Where did they learn this? From the grown-ups in their house! Ugh. Now change of subject before I explode:

I am sorry for your friend’s loss. I couldn’t stop crying when I scrolled down and saw the picture of the boy. He looked so much like my youngest: brown hair, brown eyes. I don’t know how one recovers from such loss, if ever. Your friend is in my thoughts.

Here is the deal: whenever you feel like you need to rant/vent about something. Just come over. This can be your therapy sessions too! Curse words are not only allowed, but encouraged.

Oh oh oh, another thing. Love love love your post on “Monsters”.

Ever wondering why I can’t keep up on my NaBloPoMo thing? I spent too much time talking to people!!! 😉

Absence Alternatives November 11, 2009 at 8:55 am

@ Ellie
LOL. Thank you so much for visiting here. I rather enjoy your blog. And I envy the friendship between the three of you in real life. You don’t find such bond easily, esp. since people move a lot in this country, and it is so darn big! I know. I wish I were more Inscrutable too. Many people have told (warned?) me that I wear my heart on my sleeves. I wish I were a Dragon Lady then all those men at work would forever kowtowing to my power… Bawhahaha! So here I am: not a Dragon Lady, and not a Lotus Blossom either. I am just a wannabe blogger…

mrsblogalot November 11, 2009 at 10:20 am

Established author …Really?

Thank God you got out when you did! Whew!

Who knows what could have been lurking on page 12!

.-= mrsblogalot´s last blog…The Blogging Kingdom =-.

Absence Alternatives November 11, 2009 at 10:26 am

@ mrsblogalot
LOL. A new good friend reassured me that the landlords are not there because the plot calls for it. I was hoping for Zombies or serial killers (read: Inscrutable) or that the Chinese man turned out to be his father. But no such luck.

Jane November 11, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Ok, I’m going to play devil’s advocate here and hope that paragraph was intentional on the author’s part to show what an idiot his main character was.
.-= Jane´s last blog…Almost Wordless Wednesday =-.

Absence Alternatives November 11, 2009 at 6:59 pm

@ Jane
YES! That was my first thought/wish also. The whole “unreliable narrator” clever bit. But I didn’t think the author has that kind of literary prowess to pull that off, judging by the overabundance of cliches and literary tropes employed from page 1 thru page 10. LOL. Believe me: I so wish I falsely accused him.

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