Monday, March 11, 2002

Glass Houses

Ciaran Llachlan Leavitt
Renaissance Alliance Publishing

Glass Houses had the potential to create a new level of Xena uber. It's "uber uber," if you will, depicting the making of a motion picture adaptation of the novel, Tropical Storm by the fictionalized Holly Wulfenden. -- Tropical Storm really is a Xena uber novel by Melissa Good, arguably the best known and most successful of the Xena Fan fiction writers. Along with her uber novels, Good wrote scripts for some of the XWP TV show's episodes. -- Taking the uber element one more step removed from its reflection of the show, provided Leavitt the opportunity to explore the archetypal elements these characters represent in a slightly different way. It's six degrees removed, if you will. Regretfully, Leavitt does not entirely succeed.

The artistically acclaimed, hard working young director, J.A.E. Cavanaugh (known to most as Jae) is facing a career making opportunity. The chance to turn the novel, Tropical Storm into a well made, Hollywood motion picture. The first third of Glass Houses, focuses primarily on Jae and her struggle to balance her love of and drive for the creative work of film making against her relationships with people. Leavitt's characterization of the honorable and ethical workaholic Jae is nicely developed. All of this young bard's energy goes into her work, yet her life is missing love with its potential redemption for Jae and possibly for others. This portion of the story is engrossing, amusing and engaging. Jae's character is vivacious and witty and this reader often found herself rooting for Jae's success.

However, the further along into the story Leavitt takes us, the more references to Tropical Storm require the reader to know Good's book to understand the scenes being filmed and the changes being made to the script. This becomes distracting to the reader. Leavitt's understanding of the motion picture creative process is quite interesting although some elements could be better explained.

The enigmatic actor Reed Lewis is set to play the cutthroat corporate executive, Dar in the movie. Despite being more than a little homophobic, Reed is bound by contract to portray this strong confident lesbian character. Nicknamed the "Amazon Ice Queen" Reed is hoping that she can make this film and "get out of Dodge" as she has more than a few secrets and personal demons that she must shoulder.

The last third of the book focuses more on Reed. Leavitt does not seem to have decided exactly what issues Reed must face. The supposedly Xena-esque Reed does not really fulfill the uber requirement. No vengeful warlord, corporate or otherwise, she does not need redemption so much as a few years with a good therapist! Despite Reed's reputation as a cold-hearted, spiteful prima donna, she is actually hiding her own victimization with her abrasive demeanor. The layers of "secrets" turn out to be more traumatic than necessary.

Reed was misused as a young actress by a manipulative director and continues to struggle with the consequences of those years. Furthermore, she lives with the loss of her parents at 14 and survivor's guilt for having escaped the fatal fire. Yet there are still more tragic secrets hiding in Reed's poor damaged psyche! Too much for Reed to be able to deal reasonably without some professional assistance.

Glass Houses is fast, easy reading and contains many charming moments in it's 481 pages. The plot, however, seems to wander. Poor handling of the issue of child sexual abuse is very annoying and allows for the perpetuation of negative homophobic stereotypes. Glass Houses has a good premise with some well developed characters, however, it is badly in need of editing. Also troublesome is the extensive use of many contemporary song lyrics, apparently without permission, at least according to the copyright page. Glass Houses is Leavitt's first novel and shows many promising qualities. This reader sincerely hopes that she will write more and that Leavitt finds better editorial assistance in future efforts.

-MJ Lowe

No comments: