Friday, October 14, 2016

A Literal Gorilla, Literally Eats Poop (and other thoughts).

I chaperoned a first grade field trip to the zoo today, and at one point we watched a mother gorilla take a shit, wipe her ass with her hand, then clean her hand in a pile of grass she then decided to eat.

It sounds like I'm commenting on the election, but it really happened, I swear. The kids loved it.

Not pictured: the poop
But damn, it does sound like the perfect metaphor for this election. I know this is a crime fiction blog, and I've tried to keep my thoughts on the election to a minimum on my social media - and haven't talked about it here at all - it's a catch 22. I'm so tired of thinking about it, talking about it, reading about it - but it's all I can think about.

I've said many times, to many people, that as dark and sometimes disgusting as crime fiction can be, crime fiction writers are the nicest, friendliest bunch of people you would ever hope to meet. It's like we get all our darkness out on the page and it allows us to be a bunch of jovial motherfuckers who like to have a good time. The last week or so, I've wondered if seeing the dark and disgusting play out on a national stage - and having it flood our social media, media, and conversations is draining me. It's less fun to write about criminals and madmen when we're watching criminals and madmen gaslight us on television every night.

I've put a moratorium on the news. I don't normally watch TV news anyway, but my other half likes to watch. Even he, used to the sensationalism and fear mongering, has had enough. I'd like to think we're going to wake up November 9th and the madness will have ended,  but I don't believe that.

I've talked to a lot of my favorite crime writers about how crime fiction is really an exercise in empathy - writing or reading it. To write it, you have to empathize with the criminals you're putting on the page. When done well, it requires the reader to go places and spend time with people we'd often rather ignore. But what do you do when you feel like your body is a big, raw nerve, and the world is just poking it? How do you exercise that necessary empathy, then?

I don't have a solution or a suggestion - this week's blog is more an exploration of what's been draining me and poking my raw nerves. The big elephant in every room, whether you're sitting with likeminded people, people you can't relate to, or even just alone by yourself. Maybe the biggest problem is, regardless of your political leanings/opinions/experiences, there is a lot to be angry about. There's a lot to drain you of empathy, a lot to make you fall back on numbness or anger.

Is the answer to escape into reading and writing? I'd like to think so. Maybe for readers & writers that's the best bet. A trip to the zoo with a bunch of happy kids doesn't hurt, either.

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