I was talking with a 16-year old girl the other day who lives in a pretty chill suburb. In fact, it’s so chill, so safe, that it’s been named the most boring town in its state. And I asked her to answer this question: If you were going to rate the world on a scale of 1-10, 1 being the most peaceful place imaginable, 10 the most violent, and you had to rate our planet as a whole, what number would you give it? She thought for a moment and said: “Eight. I wouldn’t want to lie to you. It’s definitely an eight.”
Last night, I saw INCEPTION and honestly, I can’t wait to see it again. I’m a movie addict and this one is visual perfection. I love the idea of dreams within dreams. And it’s cool that it conveys a message about confronting our demons. But there’s something else that’s undeniable about this film. Around all the gorgeous visuals and beautiful faces and dream weaving, there’s a whole lot of straight-up violence.
It makes me wonder if we’ve always had this much violence running amok in our subconscious life; if only a full measure of violence leaves us thoroughly entertained; if this is just part of big movie making now; if this is about paying tribute to other films like Blade Runner; if all of the above are true; or if I’m just taking things too seriously again. I do that sometimes.
When I was first working on GIRL IN THE ARENA, I was one of those people who had to turn away from most graphic/violent movie scenes. I’m not like that now. In order to understand the neo-gladiator culture I began to write about, I had to keep my eyes open. I didn’t understand, for a long time, why I was writing about such a violent world. In fact, I kept thinking the whole thing was pretty nuts. Hunger Games didn’t exist then, and I continually asked myself why I was writing this crazed book.
Finally, I just got excited about working in unfamiliar territory, where I was taking a lot of risks. And eventually, I began to understand that I was saying something about the impact of violence on our culture, especially on the way young women relate to, and interact with, a violent world. As I’ve written before, some of this came from the fact that tens of thousands of young American women have gone off to fight in foreign wars in the last decade. And if you add this to the intensity of some of the video games, what we see on the internet, 9/11…
So, after I saw INCEPTION, I began to think about my conversation with the 16-year old. If the world is an 8 to her, it really makes you think in a whole new way about what it’s like for a young woman in Afghanistan or the Gaza Strip or Somalia. I’ve trained myself not to look away like a whole lot of people, and for so many of us, the way to do that is to numb out a little or even a lot. And sometimes, we use that numb feeling when we watch the news, in order to know what’s happening but to not get entirely crushed by it. All of this makes me wonder how you would rate the world on a 1 to 10 violence scale, and exactly where you think we’re headed.
LISE HAINES is the author of three novels, Girl in the Arena, published in the US and the UK (Bloomsbury) and in Turkey (Alfa-Artemis Yayınevi); Small Acts of Sex and Electricity (Unbridled Books), a Book Sense Pick in 2006 and one of ten “Best Book Picks for 2006” by the NPR station in San Diego ; and In My Sister’s Country, (Penguin/Putnam), a finalist for the 2003 Paterson Fiction Prize. Her short stories and essays have appeared in a number of literary journals and she was a finalist for the PEN Nelson Algren Award.
Haines is Writer in Residence at Emerson College. She has been Briggs-Copeland Lecturer at Harvard, and her other teaching credits include UCLA, UCSB, and Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. She grew up in Chicago, lived in Southern California for many years, and now resides in the Boston area. She holds a B.A. from Syracuse University and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars.
Lyn is a neo-gladiator’s daughter, through and through.
…more It’s a fight to the death—on live TV—when a gladiator’s daughter steps into the arenaLyn is a neo-gladiator’s daughter, through and through. Her mother has made a career out of marrying into the high-profile world of televised blood sport, and the rules of the Gladiator Sports Association are second nature to their family. Always lend ineffable confidence to the gladiator. Remind him constantly of his victories. And most importantly: Never leave the stadium when your father is dying. The rules help the family survive, but rules—and the GSA—can also turn against you. When a gifted young fighter kills Lyn’s seventh father, he also captures Lyn’s dowry bracelet, which means she must marry him… For fans of The Hunger Games and Fight Club, Lise Haines’ debut novel is a mesmerizing look at a world addicted to violence—a modern world that’s disturbingly easy to imagine.
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