21 March, 2014

Review: Facts In The Case Of The Departure Of Miss Finch by Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli

Sometimes I wonder why I stopped reading Neil Gaiman. Surely, I think to myself, it can't all be carryover from his wife? Luckily, I had the opportunity to read Facts In The Case Of The Departure Of Miss Finch. It's not just the wife. Gaiman and I, we broke up for me. Finch neatly encapsulates so many things I dislike. I can't even say "We'll always have Sandman" because I hear he's started writing it again. In keeping with tradition, because I loathed Facts In The Case Of the Departure Of Miss Finch and it's an older release, spoilers will fly.

J'accuse: Self Importance

Exhibit One: Gaiman has cast this tale with himself, Jonathan Ross and Ross's wife Jane Goldman as the main characters. As a narrator, Gaiman is so important that he must hide himself in a hotel room in England so he can finish his film script. If people knew where he was they'd call. Of course, Ross finds out and therefore invites him out, proving him oh-so-correct!

Exhibit Two: Ross and Goldman want Gaiman to add some pleasure to their evening. They are stuck with, saddled with, insert your choice of adolescent eye rolling here, the person of Miss Finch. they find her skin crawlingly boring and want Gaiman to help them endure her company. This depersonalizes Finch and sets her up as a joke. Miss Finch does not enjoy what they enjoy (sushi) and therefore is a unbearable. They get her title wrong repeatedly and dismiss her expertise in her field of study. Miss Finch is less than them, but they endure. Oh, how they endure.

Exhibit Three: Why does Miss Finch accompany them? What charm does she find in the company of those who disparage her and snigger behind her back? The reader doesn't know. Who wouldn't want an evening with Gaiman, Ross and Goldman? Isn't the answer evident? Isn't Miss Finch lucky to be taken up by such? Why would the reader care about how she sees events? She's a stodgy bore, she is.

J'accuse: Elitism, Gatekeeping 

Exhibit Four: Our party has decided to take Miss Finch to an underground theater presentation. They clearly consider themselves to be slumming, having a laugh at the artistic pretensions of the troupe. Ross suggests perhaps one script borrows from Gaiman's work, Gaiman suggests no, perhaps Rocky Horror Picture Show? Ross wonders if the sideshow performer was once on Ross's television show. Who can recall? There must have been so, so, many forgettable faces in the other chair.

Exhibit Five: Our party is fairly bored with everything they see. Oh, a trick knife to slit her throat. Yawn. Chopping off a fake hand. Hmm. Planting your partner in the audience to gull the rest. What a chore. Moving from one tired room to another, jaded. Until they aren't. Even then they wonder how one could achieve the same results with proper lighting and a larger budget.

J'accuse: Sexism, Objectification

Exhibit Six: We've established that Miss Finch is a killjoy. In fact, Miss Finch is not her name. It's a name Gaiman has chosen to apply to her, because to give her a real name would somehow make her a real person and she is not a real person, she is a fictional character in a fictional book. That Gaiman the character feels free to take this woman's name from her is treated as a natural event - her name isn't important, Gaiman's story is.

Exhibit Seven: When Gaiman gets her alone and bothers to really listen to Miss Finch she becomes softer, more attractive in his eyes. Less pinched, less tedious. As a reader, we are supposed to care about this. How our fictional Gaiman views Miss Finch must be of importance to us. He doesn't realize he's been a complete tool toward her, of course.

Exhibit Eight: The magical realism kicks in and Miss Finch is unwillingly granted what is stated to be her secret desire. This manifests as a member of the acting troupe grabbing her without permission and taking her into the set piece while Gaiman and Ross and Goldman not only do absolutely nothing, they move into a different room. Let's stop for a second. a protesting member of their party has been taken by persons unknown to them and their reaction is to shrug and seek further entertainment.

Exhibit Nine: Miss Finch returns without her clothes. She is now a sexual fantasy instead of a person. She's topless, her conservative clothing discarded for a scant loincloth. Her hair is unbound, her demeanor sexual and wild where it has been pinched and disapproving. Her glasses are no longer needed, her body is muscular and fetishized. She has been recreated as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, with her saber-toothed pets.

J'accuse: First Against The Wall

Exhibit Ten: Miss Finch concerns the party not at all. Gaiman imagines that Finch looks at them consideringly before leaving into the mist. The party moves to an empty room and sits, awaiting the actors. The actors fail to arrive, their cash box untouched, the hall seemingly deserted. They leave. Let's say that again, THEY LEAVE. Gaiman gives himself a moment by asking the others if maybe, possibly, they should wait for Miss Finch? The others say no. After all, why bother?

Exhibit Eleven: The book opened with them sitting around a table of sushi (of which Miss Finch, being versed in parasites and disease disapproved) considering how they've not talked of this for years because who would believe them? That's what is important. Not Miss Finch. Not her fate. Who would believe them? A troupe of actors who fetishized blood abducted their companion and appeared to recreate her as a highly sexualized fantasy and the concern is who would believe it. Right. It's really weighed on them, it has.

Exhibit Twelve: They've never been questioned in her disappearance. Miss Finch was a woman with no one to mourn her, no one to miss her. Whatever purpose she had in England was of so little matter that the last people to see her alive are free to eat sushi and ruminate on that crazy, crazy night. No police. No loved ones. No employers. Whoever put her in their path long forgotten. A woman was entrusted to them and abandoned and they ease their minds by telling you about her, as they perceived her, without even the courtesy of leaving her with her name.

Right. That's why I stopped reading Gaiman. His art became about the status quo and how to uphold it.

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