She-Rain, Snooki, And Literary Criticism Fit For Lady Gaga

Amid the abundant praise flowing to the novel, She-Rain has drawn a critic or two who find its prose a bit gilded for their taste. 

To this I first say the narrator can’t help himself.  He’s an aged man who rose from Southern coves of ignorance and inelegant speech.   He leans, with passion and a touch of hell-raising, into his love of the language and the kind of learning boys of his origins rarely acquired.  The man would laugh at a reality show like Jersey Shore, but then catch his breath and cuss the media enthronement of its blinding banality.   Your She-Rain narrator would look at Snooki and her new book deal and predict they’ll become best-selling record-breakers for the use of such words as “awesome,”  “juicer,” and “gym-tan-laundry.”  He would raise some amusing hell about this, too.

I offer here a few lines from late in the narrative, just to spark a conversation about the sound of the She-Rain language.   Whether you think it’s music or discord, I welcome your thoughts, eagerly.  I work in television, so there’s no need for worry about touching any tender little nerves.  With some candid dialogue, we’re all bound to learn something about each other and build relationships.   Writers tend to retreat into catacombs of the self —  haunted there by the yin and yang of wild ego and desperate self-loathing.  Writers tend to have few friends.  I, on the other hand, will never have too many — even among those who would encourage me to write while sitting in front of a moving train.  Welcome, everyone, with your opinions more naked than Lady Gaga at a Grammy after-party.  Don’t clothe your thoughts on my account!!  Let them go commando.

This little passage comes from page 181 and a boy in hiding, eavesdropping on a cussing old preacher and a pretty girl who are talking on the porch, just beyond the open window above him. 

“The damp early August breeze swelled the thin curtains around my now-aching crouch by the window, but I dared not move, fearing any motion might inform them of me in this newfound quiet.  Both legs were solid with cramps, but the silence gave me pause enough to take in the richness of the room.   Walls and even the ceiling papered in more flourish than I had imagined — every space filled with design fine enough to wear the words “legal tender.”  The furnishings all buttoned and soft and plumb with celery color soothing to the eyes.   The rug wore a much deeper green, almost black.  It felt softer than the bed I had left at home.  And all around were portrait paintings, containers of shined brass, three clocks ticking in odd concert, two on tables of dark red, the other on a heavy blonde mantle.  I could touch the piano from my crouch.  Doing so made me wonder how so hard and heavy a thing could feel as creamy as human flesh under fingertips.   At my position, the sheers began to stick where the late-summer heat had soaked my face.  I remember thinking Mr. Proctor never expected anyone who broke a sweat in his mill would do likewise in his fanciful sitting room.”


5 Responses to “She-Rain, Snooki, And Literary Criticism Fit For Lady Gaga”

  1. lol . . . always a pleasure to read your witty repartee . . . love, B

  2. Michael, I believe most of us writers are very sensitive and sometimes get our feelings hurt when receiving negative comments about our work. Yet it is good to remember our writings are not going to be liked by everyone. I don’t expect everyone to like my writing, for whatever reason. I am grateful for those who are touched by what I write.

    As for your writing…I think it is a lot wordier (? is there such a word? :-), than I prefer.
    However, I do like the story and I like the voice, the sound I hear when reading.


    • Ann, thank you. Again, it’s not me, it’s the narrator working off his place, circumstance and time. It’s his voice. Some have said the same about Toni Morrison’s work. She replies, “That, my dear, is reading!”

      On being sensitive, it’s our nature — one of our frailties. Working in television has taught me about the myriad reasons people trash one another. We work — and live — best when we learn from our trashings, without wearing the trash.

      Here’s to taking criticizm without being sullied by it. And to standing strong when we know it’s the work of those who like to hate us just for grins!! Here’s to loving them all!

      Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in the end we’ll remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends. May we never hesitate to speak a word of kindness, especially to a stranger with whom we disagree on any point — artistic or otherwise. In so doing we weave garments of peace.

      Best of times, all,

  3. So true Michael. And it is the silence of my friends and family which really hurts. Yet, as I mentioned to another friend of mine tonight, I try to apply similar philosophy as I wrote about in my piece “Friends”… I have learned to allow friends to come in and out of my life as they choose, with peace and joy.


  4. Deb Alexander Says:

    Michael, having read She-rain, this passage does indeed speak in the narrators regular voice I have met many southern men (and women)of whom I can say use wordiness to express themselves when they came from illiterate families or were raised on millhill and made it to a better life. It is the pride of having gotten that education they desperately longed for. Mom (Kathy Burrell) and I are both re-reading She-
    rain and I expect we will get more out of the second reading. We will probably read it several times. I will probably have more comments to
    make about what I like or what might make for better reading in your next book. I would REALLY love some more excerpts of Honeysuckle when you have time. All the best, Deb

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