The Frustrating Fifties

The task of transcribing, editing, revising, restructuring, and rewriting Saga II (the Fifties) of Cinnimin will perhaps be even more difficult than that of Saga I. That’s more a matter of taking out the clutter, making sure Cinni is depicted much more consistently and sympathetically, writing some new material, and moving large sections of the 4th, 5th, and 6th Max’s House books into Cinnimin.

The big problem with Saga II is that there’s not much of a plot. It’s not even an old-fashioned episodic story like much of Saga I so much as it is some laughable polemic and, in spots, shameless copying of at least one Shoah memoirist’s writing style. I couldn’t decide what to focus the story on—Cinni’s loony political antics, the early postwar experience of Sparky’s Shoah survivor friends, Cinni’s immature attempts at parenting, her relationship with Levon (which seems so juvenile in spite of their adult age), or desegregation.

Cinni comes across really horribly in regards to the racial climate of the era. She and Gayle are particularly heinous when they take a beach-hopping vacation in Cape May in 1952 and stay next to some unbearable African-American woman and her 5 kids. Couldn’t I have just made the annoying neighbor white? Why inject the desegregation movement if it was just going to bring out such an ugly side of my protagonist?

She definitely has some racist views; in the present day, even Levon is embarrassed for her because she’s so Sinophobic against one of their half-Chinese great-grandddaughters who came out looking like her Chinese dad and not her white mother. And she’s definitely not from a generation that believed whites and Blacks are equal.

But for her to bandy about the N word so much, say such ugly, cruel things, and even physically attack this beach neighbor when she later shows up as her son Robert’s teacher? That’s pretty cold, villainous behavior even for the 1950s and a character who’s got some understandably dated views on the races! Particularly since she styles herself as this enlightened Marxist-Socialist.

Speaking of, Cinni is like a proletarian version of a limousine liberal. She’s certainly got the background to suggest why she’d be drawn to Marxism-Socialism, but there’s never any real exploration given of why she converted so suddenly in sixth grade, and why she gradually, in the Fifties, drifts further and further Left, to the point where she’s even venerating Stalin by the early Sixties. Seriously, by the end of Saga II, she’s praying to pictures of people like Marx and Lenin and teaching her kids to make letters (like M and L) over themselves, like a Christian would cross oneself. Freaking ridiculous.

Hey, the revisions will be a great opportunity to more deeply explore the climate of fear during the McCarthyist witch hunts, and what it was like to be a real Socialist during this era. Not just some bored, spoilt college kid shouting slogans and buzzwords and engaging in silly, potentially dangerous publicity stunts.

Oh, and why does a bus driver ask Cinni and Gayle if they’re lesbians? Who the hell in 1952 would assume two women traveling together were lesbians?

It’s also probably more realistic for Cinni and Levon to be civilly married after Demian’s conception. (Their first two kids are the result of those rare virgin conceptions you hear about, which is a big plot point.) Why would Levon let his girlfriend keep having kids out of wedlock and deny them military benefits? Why would they be allowed to move into a house on the base in 1960 if they’re not married? The big religious wedding will still happen in 1985, but they should be married civilly in 1951.

Let’s not even mention the looniness of having toddlers and even babies under a year old talking in full sentences, often with rather deep, intellectual thoughts!

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2 comments on “The Frustrating Fifties

  1. Yeah, might need to tone down the racism. (Although where I live, I’ve seen it just as vile in the here and now.) And the lesbian part wouldn’t fit at all. Hey, at least you know what needs to be fixed.

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  2. The nice thing with revisions is that you can cut the stuff that confuses the theme and plot of your story. Good luck with them!

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