With Day #1 of NaNoWriMo in the can (5263 words. Thank you, fans), my moist, excited and spongy brain can’t help but keep recalling and drawing upon some of my favorite novel passages, moving song lyrics, and clever turns-of-phrase (or is it turn-of-phrases? I don’t know, I’m still rather brain-fried.)
Marian Keyes is a writing hero of mine. Through her books, she shows how a story can be depressing, heartbreaking and just plain tragic, yet warm, light and hilarious at the same time. Quite a skill. Parts of her novels can sometimes be a beating, but I always laugh, usually cry, without exception discuss it in detail with other MK fans and take careful notes.
Here is a passage I’ve loved for years, and one I share with friends pretty often, because the term “Feathery Stroker” has been part of my vernacular since the first time I read Anybody Out There?
“Jacqui’s Feathery Stroker test is a horribly cruel assessment that she brings to bear on all men. It originated with some man she had slept with years ago. All night long he’d run his hands up and down her body in the lightest, feathery way, up her back, along her thighs, across her stomach….And so the phrase came about. It suggested an effeminate quality which immediately stripped a man of all sex appeal….Far better, in Jacqui’s opinion, to be a drunken wife-beater in a dirty vest than a Feathery Stroker.
Her criteria were wide and merciless—and distressingly random. There was no definitive list but here are some examples. Men who didn’t eat red meat were Feathery Strokers. Men who used post-shave balm instead of slapping stinging aftershave onto their tender skin were Feathery Strokers. Men who noticed your shoes and handbags were Feathery Strokers. Men who said pornography was exploitation of women were Feathery Strokers. (Or liars.) Men who said pornography was exploitation of men as much as women were off the scale. All straight men from San Francisco were Feathery Strokers. All academics with beards were Feathery Strokers. Men who stayed friends with their ex-girlfriends were Feathery Strokers. Especially if they call their ex-girlfriend their “ex-partner.” Men who did Pilates were Feathery Strokers. Men who said, “I have to take care of myself right now” were screaming Feathery Strokers. (Even I’d go along with that.)
The Feathery Strokers rules had complex variations and subsections: men who gave up their seat on the subway were Feathery Strokers—if they smile at you. But if they grunted “Seat,” in a macho, non-eye-contact way, they were in the clear.
Meanwhile, new categories and subsection were being added all the time. She’d once decided that a man—who up until that point had been perfectly acceptable—was a Feathery Strokers for saying the word groceries. And some of her decrees seemed downright unreasonable—men who helped you look for lost things were Feathery Strokers, whereas no one but extreme Feathery Stroker purists could deny that it was a handy quality for a man to have.
Funnily enough, even though Jacqui fancied Luke something ferocious, I suspected he was a Feathery Stroker. He didn’t look like one, he looked like a tough, hard man. But beneath his leather trousers and set jaw he was kind and thoughtful—sensitive, even. And sensitivity is the FS’s defining quality, his core characteristic.”