After reading, and loving, four of Julie Bozza's most recent books, I had been checking this one out, but the reviews and the fact I'm not a fan of pro-wrestling made me wary of buying it.
However, I am a big admirer of Julie’s writing and her recent post into why she wrote the book made me curious: http://juliebozza.com/?p=1077
And I'm so glad I succumbed to temptation, as her story actually deals with the aspects that turn me off: the fakery, the frenetic fanfares, the fans themselves.
If you’re expecting a traditional m/m romance, this isn’t the book for you, but if you’re looking for an amusing, heart-warming, thought-provoking book this is.
While Patrick, her narrator, is awed by the romance that blossoms between his dour, idealistic, intelligent boss and his hero, a flamboyant pro-wrestler, he also explores the true nature of pro-wrestling and discovers the potentially deal-breaking fact that the fights and characters are all scripted. Note, I didn’t say “fake” and the difference is very much at the heart of the book.
Sure, the guys are excellent stunt men and the sport is potentially dangerous, however, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone should bet on the outcome of pro-wrestling matches, relying purely on technique or form. For if you did, you would be laying odds on whether you knew which way the soap opera unfolded. It would be like betting on what happened next in “Lost” or in the lives of Posh and Beck - a real life couple who carefully script what the public knows about their lives.
While the book doesn't deal with these sort of things I was reminded of many other instances that are manipulatively scripted while ostensibly being "real". For example, it’s becoming more obvious that shows like "Big Brother" are scripted. At least as far as what the producers care to show and what they don’t. Even the morning radio shows that revolve around the witty banter between two radio jocks is scripted to an extent. Just check out the comedy writers who are sometimes given credit. And another form of “script” is done in “real-life” diary blogs which sometimes even use made-up characters and include content based on comments from previous blogs all in an effort to gain maximum interest and patronage.
Because that’s what it all comes down to in the end. Bums on seats.
The pro-wrestlers' situations and storylines are manipulated to gain the most impact, whether shocking or affectionate. The viewers are also being manipulated. We love to hate just as much as we love to love.
In a way, pro-wrestling is the grown up version of clown routines at the circus. It is soap opera for men. There was even one section where the author told about how they’d performed live to differently aged groups of kids with cancer. The storyline/action changed appropriately.
Does this make it fake?
Should we care that it’s not “real”?
These are the sorts of questions that are covered in the book.
But the most telling conflict at the centre of the book is the way being a gay professional wrestler was seen as a mockery at first and then later brought out a lot of homophobic reactions from the red-neck crowds and fellow participants. This raised the question should this have been allowed to continue?
There was one brilliant quote in the book that summed up the author’s take on the situation. It came from Patrick after his eyes have been “opened”
”it occurs to me that the crowds are free to enjoy Butch and Sundance and their gay antics, because they are now beginning to know or at least guess that it’s all scripted. They don’t have to be uncomfortable about it, they can just cheer or (preferably, in this case) boo to their hearts’ content……because the mob just might find themselves enjoying all this queerness, and that might just painlessly widen out to an acceptance of real queerness before anyone notices.”
The writing style is worthy of comment as well. As a writer, I tried to picture other ways the subject could have been handled. For current day scenes, it even starts out in past tense and switches to present tense. We are given part of the story as reconstructed dialogue between two people and the narrator wasn’t present at the time. Patrick addresses the reader, yet fails to give insight into his own personal life at the time. Yet what happens to him is also ultimately affected by the pro-wrestling scene. These sorts of things might turn off some readers, but I loved the sheer audacity of it. Much like people either do or don’t like the flamboyance of pro-wrestling.
The themes of “Good versus Bad” and “Us versus Them” also formed a thread in the book.
None of these themes are “told” to us. We have to pay attention and see them ourselves, although the way Julie (or should I say the owner of WWW, Jack Dynes) switched to The Fallen vs The Righteous was an interesting twist. As Patrick says:
It’s all heat, whether it’s cheering or jeering, and heat’s a good thing. Heat is what they want.”
In the end, this is what the story is all about. Giving people what they want. Not necessarily what they need. Or it is, if what they need is a bit of passion in their lives. A bit of excitement.
I really enjoyed the book both on a visceral and intellectual level. Those only looking for the former might be frustrated that we aren’t given the story in traditional format, but I doubt the theme could have been explored so effectively if we were. At times, I was reminded of Jane Davitt’s [b:Hourglass|10137440|Hourglass|Jane Davitt|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1347518982s/10137440.jpg|14879844] which deals with two men who appear in a TV show together.
Julie ends off with a statement:
”Wrestling’s more than just violence or a soap opera or a parody. It’s a postmodern phemomenon.
It is definitely worth thinking about this while reading it. See how many times we, as viewers or readers, are manipulated into reacting a certain way. With the instant feedback of TV ratings, being able to measure Youtube and Facebook “likes” and website “hits” those who manipulate or write the “scripts” can tweak them to gain maximum effect.
These sorts of stories deserve to be read more. Thank you, Julie for writing it.
Edited to add: I asked Julie about the tense changes and she said: Yes, the tense changes were indeed deliberate. Partly they were due to Patrick not being a ‘proper’ writer himself. Also, my hope was that they’d make those particular scenes more dynamic, more ‘happening right now’, and therefore were part of my solution to how to present pro wrestling on the written page.