In the first half of the fifth chapter of Games Wizards Play, Nita and Kit pay a visit to their mentee. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
Make no mistake: I have absolutely zero regrets about living in New York City. It was a goal of mine to move here for many, many years, and the spectacle of this city has not dulled for me. I love it here.
But I left the Bay Area less out of choice and more out of necessity. A long-term relationship I’d invested years in suddenly and unceremoniously ended, and it came on the heels of learning that my apartment was not under rent control, meaning that my monthly rent went up nearly 167% in one month. I was priced out of a place that I had also wanted to live in for a long, long time. I miss Oakland more than San Francisco, but I can’t deny that the city still holds a lot of meaning for me, both as a writer and as a queer man. It was my gay escape in 2002, and the first weekend I ever spent there was so magical for me. I have complicated feelings on the Bay Area these days, namely due to the tech industry’s throttling of so many non-white, queer/LGBT, and artistic communities. Oakland and San Francisco are two of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to, and I do feel a comfort when I visit.
So… yeah, the opening sequence of chapter five gave me FEELINGS. The right hill in San Francisco will give you an unreal view. (I’m a big fan of Corona Heights Park, which gives a 360 degree view of the city that’s unbelievable.) It’s a city built deliberately into its difficult and challenging geology, and, for the moment, most of the homes still have the sort of colorful character Duane references here. (You’ll find an entirely unintended similarity in Games and Anger, since I also talk about the way houses look in the Bay Area.) Duane masterfully invokes the sense of wonder most people have when they travel to San Francisco for the first time. But I love that it’s the lead-in to the uncomfortable interaction with Penn. There’s a contrast here that feels undeniable to me, given that San Francisco is so wonderful and beautiful, and then we’re dropped into Penn’s home, and the magic of San Francisco disappears.
Now, I know that much of what I do here is speculation, and yes, that is HALF THE FUN of Mark Reads. But I’m gonna make a bit of a guess here: I think that Duane is making a commentary on how women are devalued in comparison to men. It’s possible that Penn’s behavior here is due to other reasons. Indeed, he even admits that he has difficulties in crowds, and: HARD SAME. I GET THAT! As soon as I feel that the dynamic of a crowd has pulled control away from me, I panic. It’s why I’m less triggered by panels or readings than one might think. I feel like my physical position in the room allows me to place myself in relative control of the situation. Concerts aren’t as bad, but I have problems with nightclubs and bars, and for some reason, the louder the music, the more overstimulated I become.
So, that might explain why Penn was so rude during the Antarctic reception. It does not, however, explain why, in the comfort of his own home, he is repeatedly dismissive of ONLY Nita. He believes that his wizardry too technical for her, which… look, does he think that only his own branch of wizardry is complex? ALL OF IT IS, OH MY GOD. I also feel like he doesn’t actually know who Nita is at all, because hasn’t she executed some of the most complex wizardries ever???
Nita’s both graceful and petty (THE GOAL, REALLY) in response to Penn’s treatment of her, demonstrating that not only is this wizardry hardly “too technical” for her, but Penn isn’t exactly as flawless as he thinks he says. WHICH IS WHEN HE ASKS HER TO BACKSTOP HIM. LITERALLY DO WORK FOR HIM! Yeah, you can’t excuse this shit with an anxiety disorder or a hatred of crowds. It is, of course, most egregious when Nita leaves the room and Penn drops the worst insult of all:
After a few moments Penn said, “Just one question real fast. You passed her all that stuff, didn’t you? You’re just giving her a boost.”
Oh, HONEY, NO, YOU AREN’T EVEN CLOSE TO THE TRUTH HERE. First of all, if anyone is the more powerful wizard, I’d argue that it’s Nita. NEED I REMIND EVERYONE OF THE EVENTS OF THE WIZARD’S DILEMMA, because HOLY SHIT, look at Nita’s creativity and power! But there’s a far more insidious dynamic here: men are socialized and taught to devalue women. We are told repeatedly that most major “contributions” to society came through our gender, and that women wouldn’t be anywhere without men. It manifests in so many different ways, and I think this is what Duane’s trying to do. Again, I could be wrong, but Penn’s fixation on Nita’s possible inferiority doesn’t feel like an accident, nor does it exist within a vacuum. His views are influenced by the world around him, so he had to pick this up from somewhere.
Whew, PLEASE tell me we’re gonna meet Merhnaz and her family next. I’M SO EXCITED. Also, she’s NICE, and I need nice after this.
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