Welcome back to our reading of Tanish Lee’s The Silver Metal Lover. For part one of this read, click here.
Jane falls asleep in her bath, and Egyptia calling wakes her. The Theatra Concordacis has accepted her, and she’s paid her dues. To celebrate, she’s throwing a party. Uncharacteristically, Jane asks to come and lies about her motives, to see Egyptia happy. Jane goes to the party, an affair of lights and smoke and drink and music and dancing. In other words, it’s not Jane’s sort of gathering. But one of the theatre group, Lord, notices her and takes her into the party, gets her champagne, and kisses her. As usual, Jane feels nothing but an uncomfortable itch when a man kisses her. In the midst of the party, S.I.L.V.E.R. plays as a hired musician. Egyptia, in theatrical delight, throws herself at his feet and demands a love song and a kiss. S.I.L.V.E.R. obliges her, and Jane is shaken and tries not to scream. S.I.L.V.E.R. plays a version of Greensleeves and looks right at Jane in her green dress on the last note.
Reader Comments: A vivid, theatrical debauchery, reminding me of a futuristic The Great Gatsby but told through the eyes of a character far more personally involved and, in my opinion, more sympathetic, than Nick Carraway.
Writer Comments: Lee uses so many little things to indicate that Jane does not truly belong in the world in which she places herself: Her lack of enjoyment of a man’s kiss, her awkwardness in the company she keeps, her need to cling to something comforting amidst people who constantly put on facades, and her opposite reactions of everyone around her. This places a nice contrast of her against her world and sets up an undercurrent of conflict on every turn of the page.
The moment at which S.I.L.V.E.R. looks up at the end of his song and straight into Jane’s eyes while playing Greensleeves suggests so much. It indicates or alludes to the idea that he is more than machinery and programming, an idea I’m certain Lee intended.
After her upsetting second encounter with S.I.L.V.E.R., Jane finds herself dragged off to a secluded corner and at the mercies of Lord’s libido. She squirms out of sleeping with him by claiming that she hasn’t gotten her contraceptive shot that month and that she’s feeling sick. Lord rushes off in fear of being vomited on, and in his absence, Jane glimpses S.I.L.V.E.R. leaving. Spurred on by the sight of him, she races after him through the city streets and catches up to apologize for her rude behavior. S.I.L.V.E.R. gently informs her that she is mistaken, for she attributes human emotions to him. Jane learns that he is on his way to spend the night with Egyptia, and on impulse, tentatively requests a kiss. S.I.L.V.E.R. kisses her and everything becomes clear. She’s in love with a robot, and though her mother expects her to share her emotional troubles the next day, she can’t. She can’t say any of it to anyone.
Reader Comments: This section is the first section where I felt less attached. While I found the whole episode of Jane racing after S.I.L.V.E.R. to apologize both bizarre and redeeming, I could not understand why she did it. Though, at the same time, it felt right for her character to apologize for being rude, as if it were the first time in the story that she was really herself.
Yet I also felt badly for her when S.I.L.V.E.R. rejects her emotionally, and while I know the tale involves some sort of love story between them, I can’t imagine how Lee will pull it off. Her saying after the kiss that she realized she was in love didn’t quite hit me either. It seemed correct for her, but I didn’t quite feel it.
Writer Comments: The reason I didn’t feel these transition of emotion is because Lee didn’t give them. Jane just started running. Then she was just in love. Yes, Lee described S.I.L.V.E.R. in romantic and sensual detail, but she neglected to describe Jane’s internal shifts. This, I think, is necessary for the emotional changes to fully impact a reader.
This summarizes Jane’s usual approaches to life, running to her mother, Clovis, or her castle in the clouds when things get rough. But now, who can she run to with the fact that she’s in love with a robot? No one.
Reader Comments: Short and direct, this section carries a sardonic, bitter feel that I suspect will carry into the next chapter.
Writer Comments: This section is less than ten lines long. Remember, evoking emotion and mood is all about placing a few carefully chosen words.
Jane records an alternate tape for her mother, claiming that Clovis’s séance and the way he plays with people upset her. Egyptia calls and gushes over how wonderfully Silver made love, and Jane spends the rest of the day in agony over it. When her mother calls to talk to her further about the tape and remind Jane that she’ll be gone for three days, Jane can no longer keep it all in. She bursts into tears, her mother comes in, and Jane informs her that she’s in love—with Clovis.
Reader Comments: Jane spends a number of points in this chapter going over whether or not Silver is “alive” or just a robot. It’s woven into the other narrative, but the question arises in one form or another fairly often. She even asks, what does Silver feel when he makes love? I’ve quite curious how Lee will explore this throughout the book.
Writer Comments: Lee uses names to hint at how Jane perceives people. In the first chapter, Silver was S.I.L.V.E.R., but now, since she’s realized her feelings for him, he’s Silver. Her mother is Mother through most of this part, but at the very end, when she lies and claims she’s fallen in love with Clovis, she refers to her as Demeta.
Join me next Monday for the next part of The Silver Metal Lover and Wednesday and Friday for further journeys into the speculative.