Monday, March 05, 2007

Book Tour

A couple of months ago, I agreed to join a book tour to discuss the novel "Children of Men".  I was (obviously) interested in the topic of infertility and the movie trailers also piqued my interest.  There are 22 questions to choose from and we agreed to pick 5 each.  I am having a hard time with this part of the discussion.  Many of the questions ask about very personal information about my own experience with infertility.  I have a blog, and I do share some information, but there is still an awful lot that I keep private.  I would never want H to come to my site and feel like I betrayed a confidence.  That would do far more harm than help me to 'deal' with my situation.  I am looking forward to the next book, as it is a novel that I have read and enjoyed, but one that has no 'personal' connection.

Please feel free to comment and discuss your own personal views.  Also, check out next months option and join in if you like.

From the organizer:

Intrigued by this book tour and want to read more about Children of Men?  Hop along to more stops on the Barren Bitches Book Tour by visiting the master list at Stirrup Queens (  Want to come along for the next tour?  Sign up begins today for tour #3 ( The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger) and all are welcome to join along.  All you need is a book and blog.

Now on to the questions I feel comfortable answering.  Next month I feel like I will be able to join in to the discussion far more fully, without feeling so guarded.

1. Though there are interesting female characters in the forefront of the novel, the cast of thousands of infertile women in the background are portrayed as crazy, desperate, and delusional. Did you feel P.D. James captured the emotions of infertility or do you think she merely repeated the image presented in the general media--infertile women are desperate and single-minded and obsessed with babies and pregnancy?

It seems to me that the women in the background are broad strokes interpretations of women.  To me it was also as if each background character was one individual emotion or feeling.  The women who was crazy with baby-lust, pushing a doll or kitten around, those women are a view into IF at a specific time and place.  It is like trying to find some sort of replacement for all the love and feeling you hope to shower onto your child but are frustrated with.  The woman who bashes the head of the doll is releasing some of the rage and anger that IF instills you with.  It is like each individual is actually one moment in time during IF.  These are not fleshed out women who are dealing with every aspect of IF.  Instead they are just a snapshot of the experience.

8. What do you think is the significance of the fact that the two people who are finally able to conceive are both considered "flawed?" (Luke had epilepsy and Julian had a deformed hand)

It is like a perfect joke.  Those who feel they are perfect and unflawed undergo every test, every indignity, while those who are less 'perfect' create something without thought or effort.  It was difficult to read about these people with their 'faith' in religion and moral character who could create life without all the anxiety of IF procedures.  These people were flawed in more than just their physical aspects.  They were less than good.  I never truly felt for either the mother or the father.  They both seemed to me to be hypocrites.  He a priest, she a married religious woman.  I never felt the love for her that the narrator feels.  He loves her strength but I feel her weakness makes a mockery of the fact that she is the only woman to carry a child.

I am sure there is much the same feeling when looking at friends and family and there fertility.  It is always such a blow to an IF when there is another pregnancy announcement.  Another horrifying moment when you think, "What is wrong with me?  Why am I being punished?"

14. If you were living in this time period and were given the ability to become pregnant but knew you would be the only person to do so, would you have that child knowing that they would be completely alone in an empty world for the last twenty-odd years of their life?

This is a hard question.  On one hand, I would say yes, with all the work and effort to try to bear a child, I would probably continue.  In my head it would seem that if even one person in one country can have a child, there might be another child in another place.  At some point these children might find each other or not.  Either way, the chance to actually have a child, even a child who might one day be very lonely, would be very powerful. 

IF is such a lonely experience, I think someone who has such a difficult time getting pregnant could explain to a child what they might expect for their future.  They might be lonely but who knows what a person could achieve if there were no responsibilities, no distractions.  Perhaps they would become another Michelangelo or Shakespeare.  Perhaps they would just watch every movie ever made. 

15. Some parts of the book were written in first-person narrator and other parts were written as third-person omniscient. Did this make the book more or less compelling? How did this change in narration style impact your enjoyment and/or understanding of the book?

I found this so distracting as to diminish my enjoyment of this book.  I found it so difficult to get back into the story each time the narration style was changed.  It was like reading two books at the same time (which I have done on WAY more than one occasion), but I didn't enjoy one of the books.  While reading from Theo's perspective I felt compelled to push forward.  To understand his thoughts and feelings, but the 3rd person viewpoint ripped me from that perspective.  I didn't 'like' the 3rd person view, it felt cold and distanced from the plot.  It felt like an attempt to distance the author but instead distanced the reader.  Each transition was harder for me, rather than easier.  I never felt for the characters during the 3rd person, while I felt very intrigued by Theo and Xan's interactions and history.

22. The Omegas are portrayed as cruel, self-obsessed and cold. Do you suppose that's a function of the way they were raised (as the last generation of children) or something inherent in them? Do you think that infertility has an effect on parenting?

This was another aspect of the book I had trouble with.  I know that many of the people I know (by no means all) who have had no IF issues or concerns have raised their children differently than those who either had difficulty having a child or chose to have only one for age or other personal reasons.  To me I actually see the opposite effect. 

Parents who worked harder to have a child are often more caring and considerate to their children and the people around them.  They seem to instill a larger consideration and kindness into their children than those who have never thought about what parenting means.  The children who I see that are cold, self-obsessed and just not very nice, come from homes where they are not valued as children but as objects.  Just another item to show off to those around you.  The children that come from homes where there are no rules and no courtesy are not usually those that have experienced IF. 

(Please, this question is the most personal one I answered and I tried to be truthful without being hurtful.  Please take this in the spirit it was written, not as a judgment, just an observation from a very small data set.)


Inglewood said...

Like your comment on the first question, you gave me another perspective. I didn't really relate my experience with IF to that in the book which may explain why I didn't see it your way. I was quite angry with the portrayal of women.

As for the difference between children who are raised by those who have gone through IF it all comes down to appreciation. People tend to appreciate more what they have had to work hard for. Now everyone can send their nasty comments my way!

Ann said...

Very interesting and thoughtful answers. I too really appreciated your answer to the first question. It really made me look at those scenes a bit differently to consider those women as being various reactions to infertility.

Strangely, I had the opposite reaction to the two different narrative styles. I found the 3rd person parts to be the most compelling for me.

sharah said...

I love your answer to the first question. The portrayal of the masses of women in the book really bothered me, but I couldn't put my finger on why. Viewing them each as a snapshot instead of a full person makes a lot more sense now-- thank you!

spyderkl said...

Great, great answers!

I especially liked your response to the question about why the "flawed" couple was able to conceive. I absolutely felt that way when everybody else around us was getting pregnant - and we were still going to the clinic. Especially when my brother-in-law's wife was pregnant the first time; she doesn't care much for children, and had said many times before that she didn't want them. But all she had to do was snap her fingers...

You and Inglewood are absolutely right; being a parent means more when things aren't so easy. Sometimes we tend to be "helicopter parents", but we don't take our kids for granted either.

Tina said...

I liked your answer to your last question - answered very much like I would have answered.

However, there are exceptions to every situation - I know parents who never had a difficult time conceiving who raise their children with love and respect, and I know parents who had a hell of a time getting PG let their children walk all over them. But, as a whole, I do think we appreciate more when we struggle to get it.

The Town Criers said...

This is such a great point: It is like each individual is actually one moment in time during IF.

It's so true. It's as if you pieced a real person together based on their individual days. I think I would have loved to see a single character with that complexity :-)

Drowned Girl said...

I didn't like any of the characters or really identify, so I agree with you there!

Jessica said...

I, too liked your answer to #1. I never thought of it that way!

Anonymous said...

Your comment on the first question is very insightful. I can definately see what you are saying.

Jaileer said...

thanks for the spelling lesson. How mortifying. wait: m-o-r-t-i...yep, i'm good.

Ms.Once said...

I'm interested by your note about the portrayal of women: "To me it was also as if each background character was one individual emotion or feeling" related to IF, and I liked how you thought about it in these terms.
For me, it was interesting that in many ways, the ways James presents it, many of these women might indeed BE "fertile"--that it's the sperm that are the problem societally, but that the concentration is on the women's desperate measures. It's been fertile women, not women who have struggled with infertility or loss, who've been the ones who clap their hands when they hear I'm having a girl and say, "Oooh. You can dress her like a little doll!" It's been women who haven't had trouble conceiving that in my experience I've found to have stranger, more "lustful" responses to babies. I think you're onto something, about how these individual responses of the women display different "snapshots" of the IF experience, but I also think that those are more often than not hidden responses--the anger that happens inside of us, the loneliness we keep to ourselves, the way we learn to smile, cheerily, at a mother and new baby when your body wants nothing more than to cry.