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Old 06-17-2020, 02:53 PM   #16
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I thought this scene was distressing to read too, as an implied method of assault and humiliation. I think it served both purposes, a convenient plot move for Emily to need a place to stay and historical context. After that scene, I did my own research on the three-article rule and how it was used by police.
I did too, as I had never heard of it. As you say, it was humiliating, dehumanizing, and a licence to assault people. It made me think about how cross-dressing would have been quite a courageous form of political resistance; something I’d never considered before.
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Old 06-18-2020, 09:49 AM   #17
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I did too, as I had never heard of it. As you say, it was humiliating, dehumanizing, and a licence to assault people. It made me think about how cross-dressing would have been quite a courageous form of political resistance; something I’d never considered before.
Apparently the three piece rule wasn't enacted in law anywhere, but the term was widely used. You can read more about it here: How Dressing in Drag Was Labeled a Crime in the 20th Century. A quote from that article:
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Mitchell also noticed an additional wrinkle: gay men and transgender women who mention the three-article rule were usually being arrested in bar raids. Lesbians and trans men, on the other hand, were being accosted in bars and on the streets.

“Police were using this to check their underwear,” Mitchell says, using the law as an excuse for street-level sexual assault and sexual humiliation.
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Old 06-18-2020, 10:07 AM   #18
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I really enjoyed the historical portrait aspect as well.[...]
I think one of the things that made the book stand out for me was the use of San Francisco. Between my own researches concerning the city, and finding its distinctive character used in this and other stories*, the place feels quite real to me. I'd love to learn how the reality matches my imagination.


* I really like Christopher Moore's Love Story vampire trilogy, and these first led me to learn of Emperor Norton - a secondary character referred to as Emperor of San Francisco in these books. Apparently the character is also in Moore's Grim Reaper series, but I haven't read those yet.

Last edited by gmw; 06-18-2020 at 10:31 AM. Reason: typos
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Old 06-18-2020, 01:12 PM   #19
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I thought this scene was distressing to read too, as an implied method of assault and humiliation. I think it served both purposes, a convenient plot move for Emily to need a place to stay and historical context. After that scene, I did my own research on the three-article rule and how it was used by police.
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I did too, as I had never heard of it. As you say, it was humiliating, dehumanizing, and a licence to assault people(emphasis mine). It made me think about how cross-dressing would have been quite a courageous form of political resistance; something I’d never considered before.
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Apparently the three piece rule wasn't enacted in law anywhere, but the term was widely used. You can read more about it here: How Dressing in Drag Was Labeled a Crime in the 20th Century. A quote from that article:
It was a yet another reminder, if we needed one, that the police have never been the champions of minority populations, and have used their power to abuse, assault, degrade and, as we've seen of late, kill minority populations. With, until now, impunity. (I'd go on, but we'd end up in P&R, so I'll leave it there.)
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Old 06-18-2020, 01:28 PM   #20
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I think one of the things that made the book stand out for me was the use of San Francisco. Between my own researches concerning the city, and finding its distinctive character used in this and other stories*, the place feels quite real to me. I'd love to learn how the reality matches my imagination.
I lived for nearly 20 years in the San Francisco Bay area, but always in the East Bay. It's astonishing to me how little I know of SF, and yet what I know is vastly interesting, both historically and in it's current form. One book definitely worth a read is Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. Might be an interesting book for us to read one of these months. Certainly, it had a powerful effect on the community far beyond San Francisco.
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Old 06-18-2020, 01:37 PM   #21
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Jack being roughed up and taken in by police was the most realistic thing to me, and even that didn't sit well. There was little acknowledgment of the horror that would most certainly have been inflicted on her by male guards when she was sentenced to 6 months. It seemed to be a scene for the sake of itself that did not give it the seriousness it deserved, but rather served to make Emily homeless and in need of Haskel's apartment.
Here, we disagree a bit. While I absolutely agree that what Jack faced was going to be a horror beyond that scene, the scene itself was quite successful, at least for me. As some others have pointed out here, it was quite distressing. And I thought it necessary to set the context for just how vulnerable they all were.
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Old 06-18-2020, 04:26 PM   #22
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I think one of the things that made the book stand out for me was the use of San Francisco. Between my own researches concerning the city, and finding its distinctive character used in this and other stories*, the place feels quite real to me. I'd love to learn how the reality matches my imagination.
I have never been to San Francisco, but it’s high on my list of places to visit in my lifetime. It is the kind of city that can be a starring character in a book or movie. You posted links earlier about Mona’s. I was researching last night about the Black Cat Bar also mentioned in the book, which has its own fascinating history.
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Old 06-18-2020, 07:03 PM   #23
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An interesting perspective, astrangerhere.

I would argue that Haskel's unhappy childhood was offered as an explanation for her art rather than her sexuality, the text seems fairly explicit in this regard. I can understand how offering this sort of plot device can be harmful, but I think there is more context here.

For any author researching plausible backgrounds there is any amount of misery to be found in artist backgrounds. [Omitted various real life examples, I doubt we need them.] That art attracts those with unhappy backgrounds (or foregrounds, for that matter), is a pretty common trope in itself, of course. But my point is that the setting is as much an art and entertainment one as anything else, and so the tropes blur into one another.

Perhaps perhaps arguing that it's an arts trope rather than a lesbian relationship trope isn't all that helpful as regards the book's use of stereotypes, but it's how I read it and it didn't stand out as a problem.

For the rest, I don't read enough LGBT literature to offer comment on what tropes are common. Yes, the sexual involvement seemed overly rushed perhaps, but the book never gave me the sense that either woman was promiscuous (quite the opposite).
gmw, I like your statement about blurring of tropes. I had read the artist painting from a source of pain as a typical art trope. Haskel provides the example of Frida Kahlo, and I had read Haskel’s musings as also making those applicable to herself so the direct comparison made me think of art tropes.

Thank you for your post, astrangerhere. It does seem that the author put many stereotypes into this book. Your post was insightful and helpful to me in highlighting several issues. I thought some of them were awkwardly inserted into the book text and character conversations. That’s why I enjoy our book club discussions because other people’s views and life experiences can improve your understanding and reading of a text.

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Old 06-20-2020, 11:45 AM   #24
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What one person gets out of a book, someone else can get someone completely different. I do like when we get into a discussion that has differing opinions.
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Old 06-20-2020, 12:00 PM   #25
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Leaving all my lived experiences, etc., out of this, I wanted this book to be about the cartography. I am sure I am not the only person who saw the folded maps as a throwback to Dune's notion of folding space. That is the story I would have preferred to read!
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Old 06-20-2020, 07:08 PM   #26
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I would have found that interesting as well, astrangerhere. Not as the whole point of the story, but at least more detail about why it was limited to only short distances, what the costs (to the practitioner) were, etc.
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Old 06-20-2020, 09:30 PM   #27
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I had wondered if my reaction the first time around might be close: that the author had trouble settling on exactly what sort of story it was. From what I've seen so far, Klages has written mostly shorter works and may have shied away from the tome it would have required to cover everything touched on in this story in greater detail. Or, as we saw with Neil Gaiman in The Graveyard Book (and you can find in some other books by Gaiman), perhaps Klages simply prefers to just draw out the reader's own imagination. In support of this latter theory...

Another novella that I've mentioned here before is Wakulla Springs by Ellen Klages and Andy Duncan. It is another odd story that is part historical fiction, part mystery, part romance (a lesser part than this), with mere hints of fantasy, but no LGBT theme. I found it an intriguing read.
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Old 06-20-2020, 09:51 PM   #28
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I agree there was just too much genre clash going on. I almost gave up on the book at 50%. The author has received awards for her historical fiction, and I think that explains why the history part was so interesting. I thought the first 25% in the modern world was well-written, setting up an interesting mystery to be resolved. Then the next 25% was a mess. The folded maps was the only magic. There wasn’t much mystery, and it seemed the book was pivoting to a romance. Not to mention all the tropes/stereotypes piled on top.

I also agree with some of the earlier comments that the story was too on the surface. I would have preferred a more focused story with fewer characters with deeper development. I would have enjoyed more magic. I thought the folded maps concept was interesting.

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Old 06-20-2020, 11:06 PM   #29
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What was the map magic even doing in the book? Why introduce that and use it only minimally (and unnecessarily), and then come up with a whole different magic for the finale?

Why include Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, for gosh sakes?

Why include the three-garment rule (which, yes, was certainly interesting) and then not make use of it?

Why include so many indistinct characters: Franny, Babs, Polly--why were they there? What did they add to the story?

Why the Cole Porter songs (which, yes, I liked because I like Cole Porter)? But how do they fit the story?

All this stuff--it was generally interesting as local color, but it wasn't well integrated into a novella. In a 500-page book, fine--I like detail and subplots and tangents. But in a novella, I expect everything to serve the story, and here that didn't happen. What little story there was couldn't bear the weight of all these extraneous details.

I'm overgeneralizing, I'm sure. But a week after reading, this is how I remember the book.
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Old 06-21-2020, 12:12 AM   #30
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The map thing threw me a little the first time around, but by the end it became obvious (I thought) that it was introduced so the reader would be ready for the "magic" at the end of the story. As a concept, the map thing seemed both unlikely for a "witch" and a bit common-place for science (if you read enough sci-fi some variation of folded space crops pretty regularly), so I'm not surprised she didn't expand on it.
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