Friday, September 11, 2015

Microreview [book]: Bent Twig by Joe R. Lansdale (Rogues #4)

Fourth installment in the Rogues anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

I’ll start by saying that of the 4 stories I’ve read so far from Rogues, this is the second to feature female prostitution. So, here’s our obligatory reminder that women can be interesting in ways that don’t involve sex.

Bent Twig is a Hap and Leonard story, starring two of Lansdale’s most popular characters. Hap’s girlfriend Brett’s daughter has gone missing, which isn’t really surprising to Hap because she’s a known drug addict and prostitute and he doesn’t really care for her and he would rather leave her to her own devices but he decided to go try and rescue her for Brett’s sake. There is an off put comment about trailer park living which is offensive frankly and perpetuates the stereotype about people who live in mobile homes. Sorry Hap, but not everyone who lives in a trailer is a prostitute and a drug addict. Moving on. They arrive at Tillie (Brett’s daughter)’s boyfriend/pimp’s residence and do some poking around in a manner that is (no pun intended) full of plot holes. For example, after finding a dead body (not Tillie’s) Hap goes back in the house claiming to touch nothing but the doorknob, since there will be an investigation. However, they’ve already been in the house and presumably touched everything and further announce that Tillie is not under the bed or in the closet, in which case they would have had to touch things to find this out (the closet bit at least). Anyway, law enforcement shows up which, in fitting with the small town stereotype, consists of a green and squirrely young deputy and a disgruntled old sheriff. Sheriff gets out of the car and blatantly checks out Haps girlfriend. Naturally, Hap is okay with this because she’s hot and he doesn’t blame him for looking at her. The sheriff tells Hap, unofficially, that since his small town department is pretty much incompetent he should go look for Tillie himself and gives Hap a lead to go on.

All this while Hap is trying to contact his partner Leonard, who eventually shows up just in the nick of time to save Hap after he gets himself caught by the bad guys. Leonard is black, and gay, which is made evident as busts through the door yelling “Queer n****r, coming through” because, that’s necessary. Leonard’s sexually has NOTHING to do with the story (except to put in to context his exclamation at the end of the story that he is an "expert on dicks") and his race was already made clear by Hap seeing his shiny black head go by the window. I mean, it’s not like in Hap’s first appearance he walked into the kitchen announcing “straight white guy in the house.” I shouldn't really say that though because Lansdale doesn't bother to inform us of anyone else's skin color, so for all I know, Hap could be purple. This othering is further propagated by Leonard’s barbaric, violent nature, and our mighty whitey (or purpley) Hap not approving of it.

So, more stereotypes about Texan making racist comments, and an action scene full of plot holes again, and then, to top it all off, the story ends with Hap and Leonard 'rescuing' (read: busting in on) a catatonic Tillie being ganged raped. Sorry, spoiler alert.

I had a professor once who lamented that he could no longer read for pleasure because every book he picked up was seen through a critical eye. Yes, this is true for me to some extent. But I believe that you know a book (or movie, or song, etc.) is good because you can just enjoy them. The critical eye has nothing screaming at it. Anyway, I’m saying this because I feel like I’m CONSTANTLY writing about this kind of stuff, sexism especially, and I want you all to know I don’t go in trying to peel discrimination and stereotypes out of the things I read and review. In fact, I go in excited and looking for entertainment. But if the shoe fits…

And maybe I’m missing something here with Bent Twig since I haven’t read the other Hap and Leonard stories. But if that’s the case, then this one just can’t stand alone.

The Math

Bonuses: nothing
Penalties: everything

Sorry, I’m just too whatever to even attempt to rate this. Remember what I said before about how one of the joys of the short story is that it isn't long enough to piss you off? I was wrong.

Bitchy WOP, signing off.

Previously: Inn of the Seven Blessings by Matthew Hughes

Up Next: Tawny Petticoats by Michael Swanwick

Posted by: Tia