I don’t think I have any Lani news this time around, simply because Book Twitter is so busy with #CockyGate and #ForeverGate at the moment. But I do have a heads up about content this time around. If you’re mentally ill and “crazy” or “insane” as a pejorative bothers you, it’s all over this chapter. No exaggeration. “Crazy” is used seven times in this chapter. “Insane” is used four times. That might not seem like a lot, but in context, it becomes impossible to overlook. It will continue into the next recap.
There is so much in this chapter that I’m splitting it into two parts. It’s not that the chapter is long, necessarily. It’s just the high amount of wrong with it.
We’re also going to get the G-word and a lot of made up, One True Path™ nonsense, too. Enjoy!
This chapter finds us back in the kitchen, where Mac is out of iced tea. His lack of tea is the only thing that saves us from the story of Charles and Dela’s “romance.”
The beautiful way Dela weaved her words and her prowess as a storyteller had Mac listening so intently the whole time that the sudden pause in the story brought him jarringly back to reality.
Again, this is the author complimenting herself on how great she told the story since she’s the one who wrote it. Writing Tip: don’t bother to actually write well. Just tell the reader that you did.
Don’t actually do that. Or your book is going to end up here.
Dela goes to get Mac more tea, giving Mac time to muse over what he’s just heard. Oh, and to insult an entire race and two subcultures of people.
Mac had seen Charles only one way for so long. Mac vaguely know that Charles had toured as a traveling magician when he was young but had never known that he was basically really a carnie and a gypsy in a traveling circus.
Let me just…ugh. Okay, carnies and circus folk aren’t the same thing. And they really aren’t the same thing as Roma. For one, you can’t choose to be a member of a marginalized diaspora as a way of life or career or through affinity or affection for the race or culture (something Lani Sarem refuses to accept despite numerous requests from Romani people). As for carnies vs. circus…it’s right there. It’s in the name. Carnies are a subculture of people (some say a dying subculture) with their own dialects and customs related to running a traveling carnival. Circus performers are part of a subculture of people with their own terminology and customs related to performing in a circus. You can choose to grow up and be in the circus or to become a carnie if you’re drawn to that kind of life. And Mac has opinions on what makes a person a carnie, a circus performer, or a g-word:
He knew other who had experienced that life. Often, people who started off that way did so because they had nothing and no one. That life was a collector of the odd and the misfits. Charles must have also started out with nothing and really had no one to end up there.
If the Roma have nothing and no one, it’s due to racial and cultural discrimination that has ripped their people apart. Carnivals do attract all kinds of people to work in them, but in the past, the majority of carnival companies were owned and run by families, like any family business that hires additional workers. And circus performers? Where the hell else are they going to go to use their skills and training? The bank? Nobody wakes up and accidentally becomes a lion tamer because their life is in shambles. People took the skills they had, got together in groups and set off to make money. We often say people “ran off and joined the circus” but there have always been skilled performers who’ve deliberately set out to hone their talents specifically for circus performing. That’s why there are now prestigious circus schools. Cirque Du Soleil wouldn’t exist if talented performers didn’t want to be in a friggin circus. It’s not necessarily a last resort.
So, Mac is thinking about how hard life is for people in the circus and how unglamorous Charles’s life must have been.
His eyes darted towards Charles, who was off in thought, thinking about the past and the woman sitting next to him.
How can Mac see what Charles is thinking? Also, thanks for clearing up that people lost in thought are thinking. We’re all too stupid to get there ourselves.
Mac’s opinion was rapidly changing and he really was starting to see why Charles had achieved all of his fame and greatness.
Um, when have we ever seen Mac believing anything to the contrary? He’s shown nothing but admiration toward Charles for his work ethic and talent so far in this whole book. And if he didn’t, why would a story about Charles sleeping with a bunch of women indiscriminately make Mac realize how Charles achieved fame and greatness?
Charles tells Mac that he hadn’t planned to wear the bulletproof vest as Dela had advised him to:
“I was convinced that what Dela had done that first day was some sort of really good parlor trick. I was a magician who pulled off these impossible feats every day; if folks knew how they were done they would know how easy it is to fool people. I had always believed we were both tricksters, deceiving people in our own ways. The difference––I always thought––was people came to me to be fooled; they wanted me to deceive them, but they came to her for the truth. I finally realized that she didn’t have ‘sleeves’ to hide her kind of cards, though, so I tried to have conversations with Betty to see if I could tell what she was thinking or if she acted odd. It didn’t take long for me to see that Betty was incredibly hard to read––and reading people was usually something I did easily. […]
I love that this section completely reinforces what I said about Sandwich McGillicuty in the last chapter. Here’s Charles going, “I’m a fraud who’s good at reading people,” directly after we heard about how some people are hard for Dela to read. Thanks for the backup, Chuck.
He finishes the giant block paragraph of dialogue by explaining that he figured it wouldn’t hurt to wear the vest as a precaution.
Dela was a good storyteller but Charles was a master.
Because god forbid Chavid Spopperfield: Dream Daddy be bested at any skill. What follows that sentence is a rapturous paragraph describing the volume, pitch, and speed with which Charles speaks, how his facial expressions match what he’s saying, and how impressed Mac is with him.
He looked to Mac and grinned only slightly from the corner of his mouth. His eyes sparkled, making Charles look mischevious and full of secrets, and Mac took the bait.
Then they just start pawing each other’s clothes off in a frenzy and Charles raws Mac right on the fucking table in a pool of iced tea and broken mason jars.
Obviously, that doesn’t really happen. But I’d like to point out that the way that was written, Mac’s eyes were sparkling and that made Charles look mischevious and full of secrets.
As I scanned through Mac’s memories, […]
So, I think this is enough to confirm that the last chapter was, in fact, Zani looking at her parents’ memories of flirting and checking each other out.
Anyway, what she can tell from Mac’s memories is that he’s interested to know what happens next.
He wanted to know what had made his two hosts––who were obviously still madly in love with one another––break up, and then not even allow their daughter to see her own father. Mac had been drawn completely into the story between the two of them. He was more hooked than a housewife watching, Days of Our Lives.
Wow, what a great boyfriend, finding your childhood trauma so super entertaining. And what a great feminist you are, parroting that bored housewife trope! Girl power! Can’t wait for your “female-led” motion picture.
Charles says it was difficult to hide the bulletproof vest from everyone.
That Sunday I wasn’t even sure whether I was hoping for Deal to be right––or whether I should hope that Betty wasn’t really that crazy.
So, here’s the thing: everybody learns about offensive shit at different times and not everybody finds the same stuff offensive. I still refer to events and coincidences as being crazy, even in my fiction writing and not just as an off-the-cuff remark I haven’t broken the habit of. As a mentally ill person, I don’t have a problem with describing a pizza as “crazy good” or saying, “Whoa, people still think the Earth is flat? That’s crazy!” That’s not the case for everyone. I know some mentally ill people who would prefer that the word never be used at all. I’m not gonna sit here and be like, “I, arbiter of all mental health social justice, decree that this word is or isn’t okay to use!” with my mighty staff held aloft. I’m just giving you a read on my barometer where the word “crazy” is concerned.
This? I don’t like.
It would be one thing, I guess if they were describing someone who behaves in a zany way as crazy. You know, like Crazy Dan’s Discount Fireworks Emporium. Because owning a big giant building packed to the rafters with powerful explosives is bananas. But they’re describing this jilted woman (already a stereotype) as “crazy” because she plans to murder someone. And that really contributes to the commonly held misconception that “crazy” people are always violent and that violent people are always “crazy.” It’s not enough for Betty to just be jealous and a shitty person. She has to be “crazy” in a clinical way because it makes her more dangerous and spooky and dramatic, a la Leila or Layla or whoever in Fifty Shades Darker. She couldn’t just be a jealous lover. She had to be a crazy person because then she’s way more threatening and scary!
Anyway, he wears the vest and Betty shoots him and he, unfortunately, survives to spawn the worst heroine this side of Anita Blake. Mac is like, whoa, she shot you?
Even though he was expecting that answer it was still insane in his mind that it happened. “That’s completely crazy. I can’t even fathom…she really shot you!”
“Wow, that’s so crazy someone shot at you, that’s insane,” isn’t necessarily something I personally would take issue with, if it wasn’t followed by Charles finishing the story with:
“So, Betty went to a mental hospital where, I believe, she received help––and I lived to see another day.”
So, yeah. Betty isn’t just out-there crazy. She’s crazy-crazy, and the guy who mistreated her and sent her off on whatever breakdown prompted her to become one of the extremely rare mentally ill people to perpetrate meticulously pre-meditated violence doesn’t even really care if she got help or not because hey, it didn’t affect him.
Really, think about that. Think about how impressive we’re all supposed to find Charles, what an amazing person he is. And we’ve just heard that he so callously disregarded a woman he had employed for years that she became clinically mentally ill and he doesn’t remember if she even got help.
Mac asks Dela what she’d seen at the end of Charles’s reading the night she’d warned him about Betty.
“Well, I saw that if he listened to me about the vest, and survived, we would be together––and we would have Zade. […]
You knew. You knew and you did nothing to stop it from happening.
Now, since Mac asks a question about Dela’s gift of claribullshit and why she couldn’t see the whole thing with Charles and Zade clearly, we need another long passage about mystic woo, burdened under the weight of a thousand similes.
“We all have free will. Now, when you get a reading, you are opening up the possibility of changing what happens based on the information you get and, therefore, you are making a decision at that time. It’s kind of like when you get in a car to go somewhere. The people you ask about in a reading are the people riding in the passenger seat of your car. You, the one getting the reading, are the driver of the car. Your decisions based on the reading determine where everyone who is riding with you goes. If someone else gets a reading they then become the driver of their own car.” She paused, waiting to see if her explanation had sunk in. “I can explain further, […]”
Please don’t. Because none of that made any fucking sense in the first place. All of that basically says that if someone doesn’t get a tarot reading, their lives are hopelessly out of their control and they are bound to the whims of other people in their lives who do peer into their future.
Hey There Delilah asks Mac if he understands.
“Uh…yeah it’s a little hard to follow but I think I get it. But…then…what happened?” Mac asked, realizing that while he was interested in the story––and even more intrigued by the gift that Dela possessed––he was pretty sure that he missed the point as to why this was all relevant in regards to what was wrong with Zade.
There are times in this book where you can just see the editor’s notes. “Um, Lani? This whole part is…there. Good! I mean, it’s good! It’s fascinating. But…why exactly are we getting all this information now? How is this relevant in regards to what’s wrong with Zade?”
And then Sarem just wrote her direct answer to the editor’s note into the manuscript rather than cut her precious parental love story to get back to the immediate action.
“No. Sorry. I mean…Well, that was a great story, but I’m confused, and i think I must have missed something. Why did I need to know this now? What does this have to do with Zade dying? What happened…to Zade?“
Like, this had to be another editor note (if we’re going to operate under the delusion that this thing had editors). “Why hasn’t Mac asked what’s going on with Zade?” Dollars to donuts, someone suggested she should cut the entire Charles/Dela/Betty subplot and, rather than tighten up the book, she chose to leave it and explain in the text that gosh, she’s just such a talented weaver of stories that everyone got caught up.
It’s like some weird meta-upstaging of her own author-insert protagonist. “Yes, yes, I know you’re dying, but everyone who loves you is just so enraptured by my talent as an author that they’ve forgotten all about you and left you off the page for three chapters.”
Dela pursed her lips together
Well, you can’t purse your lips apart, can you?
and, for a moment, looked deep into Mac’s eyes. She hoped she was doing the right thing. She hoped that he could handle the truth about what their family was––and she hoped Zade would be okay with him knowing. She thought about looking into it for a moment with her cards, but the reality was that she knew he was going to have to understand it all to save my life.
The POV catastrophes in this I swear to fucking God. And these people cannot do anything without consulting their cards. Can you imagine going grocery shopping with them? “Hmm, these strawberries are two containers for five dollars but I’m not sure I would eat them both before they went bad…” and then Dela just plops down in the middle of the produce section and lays out a gigantic spread involved all seventy-eight cards.
Dela is sad that Zunk isn’t going to have a chance to tell Mac about her witchiness herself and that he would be more inclined to believe if it were coming from her.
I would have preferred to tell Mac myself and I still wish he didn’t have to find out so soon after we met, but there wasn’t an another option and i wasn’t in the capacity to voice any opinions. I knew she had no other choice.
If I ever meet Lani Sarem in person it will be unfortunate and I will regret every choice I’ve ever made in my life up until that point, but if I do ever meet her I am, for a moment, going to look deep into her eyes and ask, “What the fuck is up with the fucking italics?”
This entire chapter is Zort telling the reader directly what everyone in the room is thinking and feeling and has ever thought and felt. We’re already in her POV, even if she weirdly skews it by referring to herself in the third person in the narration every now and then. There are a bunch of spots where she refers to herself as “I” in the telling of the story. It just happened in a POV skew above. What makes this part so different that it has to be set out stylistically from all those other times?
NOTHING! NO REASON!
“I, and therefore Zade, come from a very long line of tarot readers, but we are more than just that. The one skill actually has nothing to do with the other. They are separate trades. Kind of like welding and carpentry: they are two totally different things, but it can be very helpful if you can do both. There are many that do only one or the other.”
You know what else is very helpful? If you mention what both things are when you’re talking about two things. Even if they’re unrelated.
Mac says he’s confused and it’s like, no fucking wonder. She’s talking about how tarot reading doesn’t have anything to do with this other thing she hasn’t mentioned yet, then she jumps into contractor metaphors.
Before she clears up the confusion, though, we need YET ANOTHER GOD DAMN LECTURE ABOUT TAROT.
“Mac, my daughter and I are tarot readers––but that’s only the side thing we do. Tarot will help to guide you and give you answers to your life’s questions and it points you down your life path to the lessons you need to learn. We all come into the human form to learn lessons and to grow. Tarot helps you to correct the mistakes you’ve made in your life. Tarot, if we go far enough back, actually comes from an ancient form of Judaism, which we can trace back to the kings of old––soothsayers are in the bible, kings would not make moves without consulting one. But Zade and I also come from an even longer line of practicing witches, and even beyond that, magical beings. The real kind––spelled with a ‘k’ at the end––not what Charlie usually does. Not mortal but not immortal either, clearly.
If “real” magic is spelled with a ‘k’, why don’t they come from a long line of magicKal beings?
By the way, the thing about Tarot coming from Judaism is one of those unsupported New Age rumors, as far as I’ve ever been able to tell. The first time I heard the Jewish tarot origin story was in the ’90s when celebrities starting taking an interest in Kabbalah and then a couple of “Tree Of Life Tarot” decks and books came out, presumably to cash in on the trend. All of the “evidence” that it’s somehow connected to Judaism seems to come from numerologists who go, “Well, there are x number of things mentioned in the Old Testament and there are also x numbers of cards in this suit,” etc. If anybody out there has non-numerology based stuff about a connection between bible-times Judaism and tarot, drop a link in the comments. But for now, I’m declaring the claim of tarot in the Old Testament false. Tarot was a popular card game in the middle ages that somewhere down the road became a fortune-telling device in the eighteenth century.
Not everything used in modern-day witchcraft or New Age-ry has to have ancient, mystical origins to be valid. Not even in your fiction.
So, now we know the answer to whether or not our main character is immortal. It’s always good to find that stuff out 83% into the book. That’s like, the perfect place.
Mac is having a hard time grasping this majgikhhall information.
“Like the TV show Charmed, witches?” Mac asked warily.
“Oh, no. That show got to be pretty silly. They did get some things right, like the power of three. We do a lot in threes. Ever seen a movie called Practical Magic with Sandra Bullock?”
“Yeah, I think so.” Mac nodded.
“Much more like that. Actually, I am almost sure a real praciticing witch either wrote that or helped write that, though a real witch probably wrote Charmed, too.”
Alice Hoffman, author of Practical Magic, is Jewish. The people who wrote Charmed aren’t witches. A better reference to pull here would have been The Craft, as they actually consulted with witches throughout development and filming. And one of the stars of the movie, Fairuza Balk, is Wiccan and apparently owns a New Age store. And another of the stars, Rachel True, is a professional tarot reader who has her own book and deck coming out soon.
There is a funny story, though, about the witch consultant on the Practical Magic film, if you ever want to look it up and have a laugh. I mean, it’s probably not funny to the people she cursed, but it’s funny to me.
Charles chimed in to help explain what Mac was stumbling over.
But Charles isn’t magicK…
Oh my god.
He’s going to MagicKsplain.
“What I do––what every magician does––is the art of deception, we are very good at being con artists. What Zade and Dela do is real magick––yes, with a ‘k’––not grand parlor tricks.”
This book feels like it was written specifically for me to make fun of it.
“So, do you worship the devil?” he speculated. He wasn’t a “go to church on Sunday” kind of guy, but he did believe in God.
Hey, remember that chapter where Lemur probably paralyzed the guy on the bicycle? And Mac was furious that she read tarot cards because believing in stuff is stupid and he uses reason and logic? Now he suddenly has a spiritual side?
Dela scoffed at his question while shaking her head. “Hardly. No, just like everything beautiful, magick comes from God. Prayer is a form of magick. He gives us all the ability. Some are just afraid of it. Of course, just like any other skill some are better at it than others. You may play basketball well. I do magick well.” She raised her eyebrow and smirked slightly.
BEHOLD! Every fifteen-year-old who’s just bought a Silver Ravenwolf book!
Seriously, the “All spiritual beliefs are my (real and correct) spiritual beliefs in disguise” One Twu Way™ bullshit grates on me so badly. I think pretty much anyone who wasn’t raised in some kind of pagan religion has gone through the phase of smugly telling their Christian friends that when they’re praying they’re actually casting spells. Some people never get through that phase and walk around talking about how all modern religion is really based on Celtic magjickh or some shit. If this applies to you, knock it the fuck off, you’re embarrassing the rest of us.
Also something to stop doing when talking about any paganism or witchcraft or magic, k-type or not?
She was satisfied that she had given him enough to begin to question what he had been taught growing up––or at least enough information to doubt what he had believed all along.
And you know what? Everyfuckingbody else quit doing this, too. It’s not your job to “fix” anyone who doesn’t share your faith. “But Jenny, what about religions where it’s okay to have child brides?” Fucking try to convince them that having child brides is like, illegal and wrong, not that they’re supposed to believe in this/these Gods or magical forces. “What if their church is homophobic?” Again, them not thinking your belief system is superior is not the issue in that particular situation. Converting them to your faith shouldn’t be prioritized over mitigating the harm they’re doing to other people. Plus, many religions teach from a very early age that anyone asking you questions in an effort to make you doubt your faith is the reason you should cling to that faith tighter. In other words, trying to change someone’s mind will only make it up even more. Live your life, don’t hide your beliefs, and if they want to convert from whatever their faith is, they will and it’s not your business.
This book is starting to feel like pagan recruitment material.
Charles and Dela explain how she became his assistant after Betty, and how she secretly used magic to make his illusions better.
So, basically, she used magic on him without telling him or asking for permission. How romantic. Ha ha, just kidding. That’s abusive as hell.
It was evident by looking at the two of them that true love never dies––nor does it know time and distance. When you love someone it’s a force that exists despite what walls you put up to hide how you feel. Their eyes couldn’t lie about how much they loved each other.
Hopefully, their eyes aren’t in as fucked up and toxic a relationship as their whole bodies are.
Next recap, we’ll find out how it’s All Mac’s Fault™ that Zade did something stupid and abusive, too!