The Curse Of True Love

By Rose Red (redroseplant-at-yahoo.com)

 

I like Eroica slash stories. Naturally, as Eroica is a small fandom, I know almost every author. And it did not take me long to discover that I definitely prefer Kadorienne's work to most. It is not that I do not like some of the stories by Cynthia, BT, Karen Colohan, Filigree, etc. But usually it is only some of their fics that I would care to reread. And I am not insisting that every one of Kadorienne's Eroica tales reaches my standards. But in a universe of Eroicafic there is a Kadorienne galaxy which I could visit anytime and find my pleasure. And belonging as I do to that unfortunate breed of humans that is unable to simply read and enjoy, I started asking myself: why exactly Kadorienne?

Fandom can give a devoted fan a great rapture - a chance not only read a lot about favorite characters (that is possible for readers of any voluminous novel) - but to read every time completely (or slightly, which sometimes is even better) different interpretations of the same beloved characters, as if another facet of a magnificent gem is turned to one so that one can see it in an unexpected light. Even death is not irrevocable, and there is always a possibility of "happy ever after", so what more could one ask for? But to accomplish this, a fan needs a sort of fanfic s(he) can get on with. I am sure all of us have collided with a terrible story that simply cannot be true! And even though not all of Kadorienne's are my favorite, none of them are in this category (and there are not so many annoying details in her fic either).

So, for what do I like her work? First of all, it is for the lack of some unpleasant (for me) traits. It lacks mysticism (some Eroicafics are full of Celtic stuff - it is not that I mind it, but not in this situation). For me Klaus and Dorian live not in some Twilight Zone, but in a "real world". By the way, they both are atheists, for God's sake! But surely this "real" is not so real. There is not any genuine romanticism in the world of criminals and military intelligence - it is gloomy and shady at best. So it is up to fanwriters to throw a suitably gritty light upon this realm. In Kadorienne's there is an adequate glimpse of it for fanfic. "KlausTorture" seems indispensable at least now and then in Eroicafic, so it is present here (The Truth Shall Set You Free), convincing but not excessive. And even though the nature of Eroicafic does sometimes require very harsh moments, she manages to put it clearly enough but not brutally. From Hell and High Water we can surmise that Dorian was raped while in school, but there are not any repulsive details:

Dorian's sky-colored eyes had become hard. Expressionless, he replied, "Yes. When I was fourteen, a few of my schoolmates beat me up in the showers and took all of my clothes except for my shirt, to which they glued a pink triangle that clashed horribly." He paused, then added in the same even tone, "Three of them are members of Parliament now."

Klaus was stopped. Looking ill, he was silent a moment before saying tentatively, "Dorian, did...."

Before he could continue, Dorian cut in coldly. "Klaus! This may come as a surprise to you, but we perverts do have a code of conduct among ourselves. And one of the unwritten rules of it is that there are certain questions we do not ask each other." He held Klaus' gaze, his blue eyes stony with warning."You're about to ask one of them. Don't."

One gets a strong enough feeling, though. I am aware that now in the USA stories about child abuse and their after-effects are considered to be very chic. And there is something along this line in canon. But trust me, I am fed up with fics so detailed that they might be used as a guide to such offenses!

The same could be said about kinks. One more time, I do not mind these things as such, ugly as they might turn in some others' pieces. But in Kadorienne's they do not. She wields a great skill - a subtlety. Even a death story by her brings not despair, but knowing if sad smiles - oh, these boys! (Parting Shot). In short, her works usually are not overdone. It suits me nicely.

But enough about what she doesn't have. What does she have for me? It might sound strange, but it is the sex. I know, I know - now. I had innocently enjoyed her Eroicaslash up to the time I incautiously read her essay (you see, if one likes the writer one wish to read more of her work, even if it is non-fiction) In Defense of PG-13 Slash. It was a true revelation: What?!!! - I yelled: PG-13? Where? I KNEW her stories were full of beautiful sex scenes! Naturally I rushed to reread and OUCH! - she had been right. Big surprise. Nothing explicit. But how did I get that first impression? Because Kadorienne writes not about acts but about men - loving men, to be more precise. She lets us feel their passion, their tenderness, their fears and their faults. Everybody knows something about male anatomy, but lovemaking is about souls meeting, not just bodies. So everything looks great without "description …about as erotic as the instruction booklet in a box of Tampax". I cannot help putting some of my favorite scenes here:

"When he and Dorian were alone, he could not keep his hands off the blond man for an instant. Even when others were present, it was all he could do to restrain himself. And in the dark, Dorian's slightest gesture had the power to reduce him to trembling, helpless need, and Iron Klaus would dissolve into a crazed, lust-driven animal who could be drawn into anything his lover desired." A Rose Vine And A Wire Rope

"He wanted a lot of things. He found himself suddenly gripped by a powerful, healthy greed he had not known himself capable of. He wanted to touch this beautiful man, over every inch of his fair skin, and kiss the hollow at the base of his throat and hear the little moan that resulted, and bury his face in all that absurd extravagant hair and inhale the scent of roses. He wanted to feel that slender body arch against his. He wanted to stop thinking about plans and principles for a time, and think only about a touch that was slowly rendering him insane. He wanted his body to build up more and more tension, infinitely more than the constant tension of his normal perilous life, until that tension exploded and left behind a relaxation just as complete.

And so he did." Spring Fever

And this one, of course. Writers should respect their readers' intelligence and imagination enough to write in such a manner:

"Klaus had determined that, no matter what, there were certain things that he was not going to do on this night.

By midnight, he had done most of them.

By dawn, he had done them all." Spring Fever

I have to stop, or it all will turn to collection of lovely quotes - a nice thing, but not my intention exactly. I think this is enough. There is a real love of a real living being (as far as fanfic allows) and not just any, but definitely Klaus's (for me at least).

And now I should make a little digression. In my favorite film Otra historia de amor, characters express their mutual affection (and other feelings) basically via facial impression and hand gestures. And it is sufficient. One simply knows they are in love. I think Kadorienne's slash has the same attractive nature.

Even though I was mistaken about the ratings, I am sure that Klaus is her favorite boytoy. She seems pay him more attention, and a lot of (if not all) her Eroicafic is written from Klaus's POV, so to speak. I have some surmises as to why. First of all, he needs it. He might snarl and brandish that big Magnum of his as he pleases, but he is the more vulnerable one in this couple. He is more uncertain; he has more to lose, more to fear. He must surmount so many hurdles on the way to "his only true love"! He definitely can use some help. (It is not for nothing that in some of her fics his well-wishers are forced to literally conspire just to get him where he belongs - to Dorian's embrace.) In addition it is more intriguing to imagine how such a poor repressed soul could credibly be set free. In Kadorienne's slash there are a lot of apt answers and I am looking forward for more. And all of "her Klauses" have certain things in common - he is stubborn, yes, and rather rough, and not so talkative and whatnot. But he is also serious, loyal, devoted and has a sense of humor (of sorts). Such a Klaus could love and not turn into a man "who could say foppish mushy things" or into "Tinfoil Klaus". With such a Klaus, Dorian is not the only one spellbound. If Dorian loves Klaus as he is, so do we. The author herself is very aware of the jeopardy of fanfic characters which are plain incongruent with the most loose interpretation of the canon. So I trust her to present exactly my brand of Klaus. And he blushes! It is soooo lovely…

"Her Dorian", on the other hand, is more "traditional". Sure, she insists on a character whose visual flippancy and inconstancy are mere masks to an intelligent mind, courageous spirit and loving heart. Or maybe not a "mere mask" - this Dorian is really mischievous and cheeky, and he can be stubborn too. In short, he is a "perfect match" to one grumbling Major. They remain themselves; only their true nature and their real relationship are open now to our ogling. And I know that Dorian could not be as promiscuous as some fanwriters make him, especially while in love with Klaus - and Kadorienne does not disappoint me in this regard either. The Dorian that I need is noble - I would not allow him to have Klaus if he were not.

I have to add that it seems my taste in Eroicafic is not so different from Kadorienne's. In her recommendations there are a lot of my favorite stories too (and I like almost all of her choices as well). I could add some more, but without any doubt her own slash is the winner for me.

However, I do not always agree with her recommendations. Kadorienne ceased to like her own story that I regard as one of her best - The Course Of True Love - and exiled it from her site.* I will try to contend that this fic is worth reading and rereading. I just have done this and it turned out even better than I remembered. There is a happy ending, which is a merit in itself. And it is well written, without loose ends. Even though it is a sequel to Too Good To Be True, there is enough data in this fic alone to penetrate into Klaus' psyche. The introductory scene shows us his nature and habits and at the same time sets up the plot. One sees him as deeply hapless and can only feel pity for him. We are prepared somewhat to understand his really sickening behavior in the course of this story - he is so unhappy, so uneasy, that it is does not bode well either for him or for all his potential acquaintances.

The novelty of "TCOTL" lies in Klaus's admitting his homosexuality to himself. Dorian's passes are not revolting for him - more than that, he sees him as the embodied ideal of a lover (mostly regarding the latter's good looks and status). So the question is not the old one: how to force Klaus to acknowledge his longing for the blond, but rather: why he is not responding to Dorian's advances? And Kadorienne's answer seems very convincing - because Klaus is such a paranoid man, he cannot believe that something so good might be true! The introductory scene pictures him as ever vigilant, not only because of his vocation (even though it is a profound note that the life of a spy must have really traumatic consequences for one's psyche). He enters the gay bar as enemy territory, ready to receive a blow and to strike back - and we know that is not a necessarily characteristic gay stance - but it is typical for men of Klaus's kind. Maybe it is not professional risk that made him such a "control freak" - he could just as well have chosen such a path by inclination (and we have some hints in this direction).

The scene of the encounter is very telling. We are getting to know Klaus when he is trying to get some self-deceptive satisfaction with a total stranger. He craves love, but denies it to himself because of "menace" - really, as we can see, he is afraid to relinquish even a tiny bit of control of his life to another person, and without this love is impossible - he wears a virtual chastity belt. And we understand that his is a romantic nature - pure physical relaxation is not enough for him - so he has to build a sand castle of illusion. The sex scene is only a means, as always in Kadorienne's fics, to bare his soul - and this is not the kind of nudity one could be happy with.

And all the time his thoughts are revolving around the solar point of his universe - Dorian. He simply cannot help himself! Dorian is stalking him even when he is not present! He is angry at him because Dorian is "not really what he is pretending to be". But is it really ire or, more probably, an effort to guard his fortifications? He does not believe in Dorian's proclamations of love because it is easier to him to measure others by his own standards. He understands such motivations as revenge, because they are in his modus operandi. So one is willing to pity Klaus. But is he not even to a degree to blame? His personality is twisted not because of some natural disaster - it is a result of his conscious choice (at least partially).

We must prize the author for very clever use of canon. Dorian is perfection - a cliché of a model lover, and in the story this is played with as a cause for more suspicion.

One feels sorry for Dorian too, but not on the same grade. Maybe because he is unhappy, but not entirely by his own making. It is more about the circumstances, not his predisposition.

One can only guess why the author does not like this fic any more. The scene of "interrogation" does picture Klaus in a not so flattering light. But for me it rings true - let's take a look at canon. Before unmasking Dorian tells an oblivious Klaus, "You are truly the sweet one, are you not? I expected you to be a brute." It is the proverbial gun that must be fired in the fifth act if it was present in the first one. Dorian knows all too well what to expect from his only love. So do we. And we are not to be disappointed. This is one more of Klaus's "occupational diseases". He IS a brute! And he is ready to blame his victim for his violent acts. Does it mean that he is unable to face his own nature? Is it shame or guilt? He is not yet a sadist in a clinical sense (Freud writes that if Hamlet were really mad there would not be any tragedy). But if sadism is all about control of others (as Fromm put it), this Klaus is a perfect example of such behavior. Klaus has to be in charge by every means imaginable. Or does he? He is not a saint, of course, but also not a "villain". And in usual Kadorienne style, the scene is not naturalistic. So it is repugnant in a subtler psychological manner - one recoils most not from the beating but from the inner logic of Klaus's actions. He tortures Dorian in cold blood, without visible anger (we can tell it is not an unknown task for him). And he "has fun" of a sort. After that, when he is struggling with self-loathing (one more time - he is not truly sick), he finds a good pretext: "Had there been less at stake, Klaus would have released the idiot and called a halt to the whole fiasco. But... but this was a unique opportunity to learn what he had wanted to know for years: who had sent the bastard to work him over." So it is purely professional, nothing personal stuff. Now IT is really horrible. But "horrible" is an aesthetic category too. We know that Klaus could be "sweet". Why this metamorphosis? I think it is from his weakness. The interrogation of a helpless Dorian is not a display of strength; on the contrary, Klaus is obviously panicking after finding out who "Andre" is. A sadist really is a weakling; he needs control to reassure himself of his mightiness. And sadism is not incompatible with masochism - Klaus torments not only Dorian but himself as well, not letting himself love Dorian by the excuse of his "occupational paranoia". He is a coward here.

But in this story (as well as in many others) we see Dorian via Klaus's view. Why does he act the way he acts? He does explain it in some instances, but it remains semi-obscure (and I like it a lot that way). Unlike Klaus he does not lack courage to love (in accordance with canon) and to sacrifice for love's sake. What got him to do such a risky thing? Was it desperation? Was he curious? Did he trust in his luck to bring him through unscathed? Is he just spoiled, vain? Or does he really trust Klaus? Dorian is vulnerable, but nevertheless he is much stronger than Klaus, even though he is not unblemished either. His strength lies in his candor. And his deceit somewhat puts him on Klaus's level. He lies and is "punished" for this; then he returns to his true honest self and wins. But what exactly does he win? He does not see his relationship with Klaus by a winner-loser model. After such a fiasco, on the next mission he attempts to act straight (no pun intended), to have it out with Klaus. He is beyond doubt desperate now, if he is willing to try this. And it is not as hopeless as he must feel. Readers know that now Klaus has to admit to himself that he is ready to take chances if necessary to rescue Dorian (even though he chooses to call it a matter of "duty").

But Dorian is unaware of that development. So after their last unfortunate conversation (great scene - I enjoyed it), he gives up. Really, he flees. And he seeks distraction. It seems only natural. He is scared and he is enraged. He has his limits. And he is not a masochist. When he suffers from Klaus's moral cruelty, he answers in kind. He is not Griselda the Patient. Klaus hurts him one more time because of fear. They are quite capable of tormenting each other precisely because they are not indifferent to each other. Maybe Dorian wanted to correct wrongs he had done to Klaus by his deception. He must feel guilty to a degree. Klaus panicked and provoked his temper - to made their reconciliation impossible. Everything in his reaction is "sound" - in a logical-pathological sense. But it is a social kind of pathology, not clinical.

So our heroes are parted, apparently for good. And Dorian, not unlike Klaus but in his own way, finds himself a substitute love - Fernando Montaya the thief. Evidently it is not pure chance that such an OC suits both the plot and the leading figures very well. I usually prefer stories without OCs, especially if they play central roles. But one has to admit - Fernando is the right man in the right place. And he is introduced by very meaningful words: "'Darling, this is very cruel,' Dorian warned. 'It will ruin you forever….'" Do not mind that he is speaking about some gourmet cheese. And the reaction is worth noting too: "Fernando grinned. 'A risk I am willing to take…'" Here is Fernando - the man who is willing to love and to risk. And he is tuned to the tenor of TCOTL: "Eroica was absolutely perfect. Fernando could not have found a more perfect lover had he designed the man himself." So Klaus's ghost is present from the beginning - and it is not weird at all. Fernando is not only the proxy of Klaus for Dorian - he is necessary for plot because the real Klaus is so clueless. He is the virtual opposite of Klaus - in personal history, occupation and character. Fernando in a sense is "perfect" for Dorian - they have so much in common. We will see if the former and present Dorian's lovers are as totally opposite as they appear. Dorian's new love is not afraid. He might be doomed (even though Kadorienne colors the truth about real thieves' existence a bit, one can still get some taste of underworld in his life story), but he is going to win - and not against Dorian, but Dorian himself. And he actually defeated Klaus, even though he lost his battle. He is stronger then his rival - not mentioning more smart and tender. Klaus has to take a lot of pains to come near him.

There is a very telling point: readers are unaware of Klaus's feelings when he discover Fernando's role in Dorian life.

Now we enter a virtual race of nobleness. All three men behave selflessly. But the funniest side of it - it is really believable. Maybe because they nevertheless act as themselves - with all shortcomings. I like the pictures of Klaus's, Dorian's and Fernando's feelings in decisive moments very much. They are interesting because they are not "white knights". By the way, one problem with positive characters is very difficult to resolve - he has to be of flesh and blood, not of tinsel, and that means some amount of faults. I think Kadorienne manages it almost perfectly.

So why does Klaus commit self-sacrifice? Because he is sure he has lost: "I'll never see him again. I've burned my bridges there. Blew them to smithereens." It corresponds with his pessimism, as did his previous suspicions. Or might it be his usual fear-born reaction? Such behavior is customary for him, one more shade of his "suicide moves". And he resorts to threats - it is so Klaus-like. But Fernando agrees to his demands not because of terror - Klaus still has much to learn, after all. Klaus makes way for Fernando (so to speak) for Dorian's sake, for sake of his ruined love. It is a sign of his "recovery". He elevates himself "de profundes" and proves that he is worthy of love. And he is rewarded. Klaus in this story is compared to a soul in hell. But loving Dorian was his purgatory. (Catholics believe in purgatory.) Dorian is an angel delivering him from the sin of despair.

Fernando's self-sacrifice is a matter of "reasonable egoism", as Tchernyshevski put it. He knows that Dorian loves Klaus, so it is useless to deceive his lover. His heart is broken, but at least he does not lose Dorian's respect and friendship. Of course, it does not do Fernando much good. He is ready to do anything for his lover's happiness - and that is a sure indication of true love for me (but again according to Tchernyshevski). He does not surrender without a struggle - both inner and outer. He hopes up to the end. But when he read the signs - he does it. He is not eager to play a righteous role, but he simply cannot help himself.

And Dorian is guilty here, even though unconsciously. He hoped that Fernando would be a remedy for his "incurable case of Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach". So he uses Fernando, so to speak. He likes him, he is grateful to him, but it is not love. A scene where he is meeting with old friends pictures him as struggling to convince himself. And it is shown very clearly through the observation of others.

Why does Dorian do it? Why does he flee from his love? Sure, there is rage, wounded pride, resentment, even fear. He is scared of himself - of what is prepared to do because of his affection. So at the auction he acts arrogant, shields himself with his title (that is a trait very unlike him), and desires to conceal his own weakness. He stings Klaus with words - now it is Klaus who is helpless and "bound". Is it revenge? But Dorian suffers too. We are not told anything about their feelings in this instance - only words and gestures. It is very impressing. And there is a little discrepancy: "Dorian broke off and stood." But he was not sitting: he "was standing in front of some stupid old painting".** But such a final step accentuates his longing to get rid of both Klaus and his feelings for him. However, it is obvious to him that Klaus is deeply unhappy. So Dorian cannot be happy either. And the same impression compels Fernando to do his part in this drama.

One more time I would like to note a highly believable chain of events - almost every accident has a very solid base. Of course Klaus by chance meets Dorian on the auction - but it is clear that in fact he has been looking for him in such events. And Klaus was wounded not by pure chance, even though he could not plan it. And he finds out by chance about Fernando being arrested, but surely he has been searching for data about the person "occupying the bed of the man of Klaus's dreams".

And Fernando was trapped not by chance but because he was not himself either - and from the same cause. So there is symmetry again. It has to be their fate in the final meeting in jail - but fate of a psychological sort. Character is destiny. Their conversation is highly moving - and the story is told from Fernando's POV. It adds to the impression. They act almost Corneille -like. But we are well aware who they really are. Fernando is upset because "something was wrong with Dorian", but what would he anticipate as warnings? "Unexplained absences", "flimsy excuses". And Klaus asks Fernando: "Have you ever hit him?" So they remain themselves - and judge others by their own standards.

And finally comes the end of the story - and a happy one. In a reversal of the beginning, Klaus enters some bar "feeling disappointed in advance". But unlike the first "date" it turns out as everything Eroicaslash fans could wish for! And Dorian, being Kadorienne's Dorian, is first of all (almost) pleading on behalf of Fernando. It is so nice and in the same time aids the plot. So Klaus gets his absolution, but not unconditionally. He has to change. Yes, he already has changed, but there is much more to go (note as he asks Dorian after latter's demands: "Do you want to hit me?" Although it is put in this fashion: "Klaus heard his own voice asking"). So one is left wondering - is it really an ending? Happy ever after? Let us remember the epigraph to the story - there is not much optimism…

Lesser masters of Eroicafic would resolve everything after, let us say, the auction revelations. But what I like best in this author - she does not pamper her characters - they are grown men, for God's sake!

Now I am obliged to say what I do not like in this story, lest I appear completely biased. I think Klaus not recognizing Dorian is a bit too stretched. Although there is Shakespeare's Measure For Measure or All's Well That Ends Well. So it might be explained as following the Bard's footsteps. Or maybe Dorian is simply excellent in the art of disguise. Or Klaus's subconsciousness plays tricks on him. Later he discovered that there had not been that much camouflage.

But I have a graver carp. On the mission Dorian is risking his life for Klaus's sake - he enters the building in the middle of gunfire to get some secret papers from a safe (a standard Eroica task). But the building is in Hamburg, in FDR! After beginning of shooting there is not any secrecy anymore, so why not call for reinforcements and cease all activities inside? Why do Klaus and his alphabets have to retreat in haste and disarray? It is cleanly not very plausible. I know it is useful for the plot, and one anyway does not ask for too much from Eroica slash plots, but nevertheless, it is a bit unsatisfactory.

However I prefer this sequel of TGTBT to the second one - The Truth Shall Set You Free. It is not bad at all. There are some "realistic" pictures of free world intelligence (and the name is also the CIA motto). But the characters are not very psychologically intriguing. Klaus is nicer and stauncher, but that is all, and Dorian is plain boring. Firstly, he is too stupid to realize that the manner in which he is shouting his love from the rooftops is only an obstacle to the fulfillment of his dreams. Secondly, his chagrin is comical - he wants to join MI5 and such - but it is not funny and does not go well with the glum mood of the story. There are some fascinating incidents - meeting at the restaurant after Klaus's demotion, Klaus bickering with his superiors, Klaus in captivity, the final scene - but not so many. For her credit, the author characteristically spares us a detailed description of Klaus's ordeal, and nevertheless this part is one of the most powerful in the whole story.

I have to admit that I do not think the Ruritania plot is appealing. Such matter in reality is too hurtful to use only as a backdrop for Eroicafic. Maybe not for Americans, but I am from Eastern Europe. Slash can be "political" and remain good, but it has to be treated with more seriousness in such cases. The canonical political plots are mere fun: a weapon scientist turned pacifist and sending top-secret documents to the Pope. This manga is humorous as such, and Kadorienne's slash is mostly serious. I do not want to say that she is unable to joke - she is, and in a very nice way (for example,this snippet.

It would take too much time to tell in detail which stories of Kadorienne I am fond of and why. So I will instead list what I do not like very much - it will be a good deal shorter.

White Rose Blooming - it is a long one and as a rule I appreciate such stuff. But there is too much about the Illuminati and other stuff that for me is dull and only hogs the place that truly belongs to the relationship between Klaus and Dorian. There is a lot of this too, and some nice details about the teenaged Klaus, but first one has to thread through half the story. So I usually reread only the second half.

Cage of Many Rooms - it is pure and simple - there is not any Dorian in sight! And please, by the way, could somebody kindly explain to me why Americans are so sure that Russians have high cheekbones? It always was a mystery of the American soul for me…

The Picture of Dorian Red is not so bad, but not as excellent as I got used to. I am afraid that Kadorienne has spoiled me rotten. And I am not sure that this boring Amanda suits the story well enough.

Die Walküre is an exceptional case. It is well written, even though I do think that the solution with a helping hand from the same Amanda is a bit unjustified. I nevertheless have some other doubts. The characters apparently are sure that "The world would be a better place if women were women! And men were women too". So it would be a perfect world without any men? But I am not sure that it is such a good idea. Even though I am completely for equity between males and females, in such a world I would have to manage without male slash! And for me that would be a horrible prospect.

Because when I am reading about love (it does not matter whose), I am remembering my only love and I am happy. So I am very much obliged to slash writers, and unsurprisingly I am grateful to Kadorienne in particular.

***

Kadorienne's note: I told Rose Red a little about why "The Truth Shall Set You Free" was my favorite of my two sequels to "Too Good To Be True" and she reread it and wrote the addendum below.

Kadorienne, I have to admit that I have not paid The Truth enough attention. Now I know it is very important to you, so I should try to atone for my offhandedness.

So let us begin et ovo.

Canon is a very interesting term. In Russian it means the rules of religious art as well (icons and such). It is also a very formal kind of music as far as I know. So canon is a limit. If one wants to write Eroicafic one has to obey. So Dorian cannot be shy in his love declarations or even discreet. It could be a handicap for a writer. But historically canons were not only restraints - we can remember sonnets or great classic plays. So it could be an inspiration. Greek literature is build on canonical myths. As a result, writers had to interpret them. So your task is difficult, but no more than was Aeschylus'.

What is the canon in question? A comic book for girls. It is humorous (at least partially). So Klaus is a laughing stock too sometimes. His awed reaction to Dorian's proclamations is comical. And I think that such behavior on Dorian's part has to assure readers that he is not going to catch Klaus - how could it be possible to picture "happy ever after" in such circumstances? It has its own rules (canon) too.

Thus here we are. We have such a Dorian, who cannot be prudent. But in your Too Good To Be True, Klaus is suspiciousness embodied. If a too perfect male proposed to him in a sensible way, he would be alarmed before you can say gun! Am I not right there? Dorian thinks that this was the sole obstacle, but we know better. After his outing, Klaus is apprehensive of Dorian's possible advances - "Probably assumed that now, with one little push Klaus would be in Dorian's bed rattling off state secrets like a back fence gossip." But Klaus has already understood that he is useless for such tasks now: "If Klaus had ever yielded to his advances, his secret would have been out years ago, and he would have lost years of service to his country." And yet Klaus does not tell him about his suspicions either in their encounter in Ruritania (he did not fully believe him then), nor in the happy end. It comes in very handy that Dorian saves him from such confessions with his "Let's not argue over whose fault it was."

Klaus has to realize that his lifestyle renders him an inevitable victim of disclosure. There are hints about it in your fic. For example: "If Klaus had been willing to play the game, to get married and toady to those in high places, his indiscretion would probably have been overlooked, just as the Chief's were. But his nature did not permit that. If he had to debauch himself, he would do so honestly. And take the consequences on the chin." So his choice between his work (as something reliable) and love (only possible) is not a choice at all. He is damned either way. There is a common motif in many Russian fairy tales: a hero warrior ("bogatyr") at a crossroads. On the stone his alternatives are written: to the right you go and you will be killed, to the left - you will lose your horse. But choosing the left usually does not help much. For Klaus, such circumstances are plainly a no-win position.

Of course I am not saying that characters are not permitted to act foolishly. They definitely are and not only because of mind-blinding passions, but also because their reasons could be unreasonable (as Hegel might put it). But the author has to know better! So one is obliged to provide readers with explanations of senseless behavior (preferably by depicting a sufficient cause).

Klaus in The Truth is much more taking than in The Course. He provokes mostly not pity, but respect and even admiration. He is pictured as stoical and brave, enduring terrible mental tortures of his infamy (even before physical ones) just because he is not willing to capitulate (he submits to his superiors only of his own will, they could not force him). And after nearly dying he one more time demonstrates his character, being able to contemplate rebellion not merely against exterior authorities, but against his own habit of obedience as well. So he chooses to be free and it is a choice not like his previous ones and it might be right.

But Dorian is this fic is a no-character. I simply cannot see him. He might be light-minded, that is okay and it is in canon, but it is insufficient for me. He acts like a spoiled child but all of a sudden he is sensible and thoughtful and what not. So his portrait is not keen enough for me.

There are some small slips as well. How Klaus could possibly kiss Dorian on the open street after ygiving him the microfilm? He is endangering not only his love but his mission as well! The "Russian" surname - there is no such name as Brassilhov, cross my heart!*** And as far as I know viruses are not curable by antibiotics (so it is not wise to take them while suffering from flu).

Surely there are plenty of great scenes in The Truth. For example: with the senior Eberbach, even though we are not permitted to actually watch it. And I like the irony: Klaus is afraid of being outed as a result of a liaison with Dorian, but is caught with a total stranger. Indeed, he is exposed because of his extreme caution - he could not afford to vet his casual bedmates.

So, there are a lot of brilliant details but the whole I cannot see as a success. And Klaus's Ruritanian feat is a kind of struggle with something external - too external - it is good enough as a plot, but not for such a valid and ambitious plan as yours. I have read some terrible fics with terrific ideas.

Why I am so carping to you? Because I value your writings a great deal. Maybe not as much as Jane Austen's, but at least as much as Dashiell Hammett's. So I expect from you the best possible results.

12.30.2003

 

* I have since restored this fic to my site, entirely because of this essay. ~Kadorienne

** Thanks to Rose Red, I fixed this error. ~Kadorienne

*** I told Rose Red that I got the name "Brassilhov" from one of Chekhov's plays, "The Sneeze", and she explained that often Chekhov made up fake names for his stories. ~Kadorienne

 

 

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