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Pickle Me This

March 22, 2019

It occurs to me that I’ve written a fantasy novel.

I’m finishing up a new draft of a novel I’ve written about a popular and charismatic politician whose career is derailed due to allegations of sexual misconduct a decade before. The novel’s central character is this man’s sometime-girlfriend, a young woman seventeen-years his junior who had been his employee—but something else has gone askew in their relationship (no spoilers) and they’re now estranged. What makes my novel interesting is ambiguity about the politician’s character, less so than what actually did or did not occur a decade ago. While the allegations against him may well be unfounded, smears in general upon his character are not exactly misplaced—he is indeed a forty year old man who a penchant for women born in the mid-1990s who happen to work for him. While none of that is illegal, it’s not a sign of impeccable character either. There is a small part of him that will concede that he has participated in an abuse of power—and (even if only in private) his mother would attest to that. She knows she’s let him get away with too much. It’s a good book, well plotted, nuanced. It’s been interesting to write the experiences of a 23-year-old woman who has no idea how much she still has to learn, who is refusing to be a victim. But it also occurs to me—thinking about Brett Kavanaugh’s face, and having read the memoir of the former leader of Ontario PC party whose own downfall inspired the premise of my story—that I have actually written a fantasy novel. A novel where a powerful man has a moment of contrition, for a moment questions his entitlement. “The defences of their choices would be vicious,” Megan Gail Coles writes in her incredible novel Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, which is the world we live in, instead of one where a mother might concede that her son could have hurt someone. I’m thinking of the incredible ending to Zoe Whittall’s The Best Kind of People, that devastating final sentence, that strict adherence to the status quo. When I read that book I didn’t really understanding how firmly committed are so many people to that narrative.

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