Is Jackson just a Glamoured Charles? Part Two: Something’s weird between Charles and Zade

Until act 3, Charles makes very few appearances. In this theory, Charles stops actively wanting to bang Zade as soon as he reconciles with Dela, and since there are only a few instances where Charles appears prior to his trip to Tennessee, there aren’t too many moments that show anything inappropriate between Charles and his daughter. But they are there (if you squint). While it’s possible to read all of this as simply a father and daughter reconnecting, that’s certainly not the only way to read it.

A) Charles as “Charlie”:

As mentioned in Part One, we are introduced to Sofia and Charles at the same time in chapter 1. In this instance, it’s clear that Sofia is very insecure in her relationship, as she immediately lets Zade know that she is Charles’ girlfriend.

But that’s not what I’m getting at here.

We know that “Charlie” was Dela’s nickname for Charles, as she calls him this throughout chapters 15-18. While it’s not very creative, Charles allows no one else to call him this—until Zade shows up. In chapter 12, Zade’s use of the name “Charlie” incenses Sofia:

“Would you mind if I asked for you to sing something during the finale? The new illusion that Charlie and I are building, I would love to have-”

“Did you just call Charles, ‘Charlie’?”

I watched Sofia’s eyes bulge and her jaw drop. Her chin jutted forward and her perfect flowing hair with big curls fell ever so slightly towards her face.

“Yeah,” I paused for a moment to think about exactly what I had said, unsure of why I’d gotten such a strong reaction. “Why?”

“I did that once and he bit my head off.” She shrugged and the right side of her lip pulled up slightly as she raised her eyebrows. “And I was on top of him at the time.”

This lends credence to Charles using Zade as a Dela surrogate. Are we supposed to believe that Zade just started calling Charles “Charlie” of her own volition? It’s not as though she’s always heard Dela refer to him this way, and has therefore internalized this; we only ever see her refer to him as “Charles” in her inner monologue. There’s nothing to suggest why Zade started referring to Charles as “Charlie,” but to me, it seems unlikely to have happened organically. If I had to guess, I would imagine it happened at his request. And, to me, asking your daughter who looks exactly like her mother (who is the only woman you ever loved and whom you are still very much hung up on) to call you by the nickname she gave you is a little bit odd. Especially when that daughter is shown time and time again to be irresistible to straight men in general.

B) That time Charles got super weird about Zade and Mac:

When Charles spots Mac and Zade being all cute together during rehearsal, he does not appear to be amused. As soon as Zade leaves the area, Charles asks to talk with Mac alone, in his office. And he gets. . . inquisitive.

“It’s been brought to my attention that you and Zade have developed . . . a more personal relationship.”

“We’re friends, if that’s what you mean.” Mac realized he was wrong about this being about firing someone and now had no idea where he was going with this.

Charles smiled, finding it funny that Mac had tried to say they were just friends. “Maybe a little more, at least from what I’ve seen. If you don’t mind me prying, what are your intentions with her? Are you just having fun, or could this be something. . . serious?” (chapter 13)

The nonbeliever will doubtless explain this by saying that Charles is grilling Mac because Zade wants to use him as her magical anchor for the big illusion, and Charles wants to make sure that this is a safe idea. While that entire plan in itself is a bungled plot point, this explanation makes no sense at all: if Charles is really that concerned about Zade using Mac, why doesn’t he simply put his foot down? This is more theorizing that will have to wait for a different time, but Mac’s love for Zade is irrelevant as to whether he’ll be an effective anchor: there are tons of reasons why Mac may not be able to be present for every performance where Zade needs him that has nothing to do with their relationship: maybe he gets sick, or visits family, or something.

So this conversation must be about something more than if Mac is a suitable anchor. Yes, you could argue that Charles is doing the thing where he vets his daughter’s boyfriend, but by this point, Zade hasn’t decided that Mac is the one for her! Jackson is still very much in the picture, so why doesn’t Charles seem concerned about him? It’s because Charles is Jackson, duh.

C) That weird dinner:

When Charles takes everyone to dinner, Sofia is already sitting with him. When Charles sees Zade and Mac looking for a place to sit, he tells Sofia and Mac to go find another table. This makes both Sofia and Mac cranky.

So Zade takes Sofia’s spot. Mysteriously, Jackson is in the seat next to her, a fact that she hadn’t noticed mere seconds ago. Charles also seems to have not noticed Jackson there until this very moment:

Jackson, who happened to be in the seat that had been next to Sofia, nudged me. I glanced his way and smiled. Jackson had just started to say something when Charles cut him off as he also had just noticed that Jackson was there.

“Oh, good!” Charles said. “Jackson, my bandleader, I wanted you to be with us as well. Zade and I want to discuss intro music.” I shrugged at Jackson; I wasn’t really aware we needed to talk about intro music but, if Charles said so….

The official explanation is that Charles wanted to talk to Jackson about intro music. But Charles announces this request at the dinner table. If this was already established, why would he feel the need to announce it to Jackson, who would already know? Zade also notes that she’s not aware of any discussion about intro music that needs to happen, making this excuse seem even more questionable. And besides, if Charles and Zade are to be discussing music with him, it’s safe to say that the intro music being discussed is for their illusion. But Sofia is singing for this one (as Zade requested in chapter 12, and is shown happening in chapter 15), so since the discussion is about music, wouldn’t it make sense for her to be here too? As we just saw, though, Sofia was specifically sent away. I call bullshit.

My guess is that Jackson is stationed here to make Mac jealous. As we saw, Charles has identified Mac as a threat, and is trying to scare him away.

C1) Wait. How how can Charles be Jackson if they’re in the same room?

Something curious about this scene is that Zeb, who is Charles’ right-hand-man and enjoys company outings, isn’t present at this company dinner.

What I’m getting at is that in this scene, it’s Zeb himself who’s wearing the Jackson suit. Why else would Jackson sit down next to Sofia? In the one scene Jackson has interacted with Sofia, he’s antagonistic towards her, saying that she’s inferior to Zade in every way (chapter 6). He’s friends with his bandmates, but they’re not mentioned being here. He’s friends with Zeb, but again, Zeb isn’t here either.

The only possible answer is that Jackson is an invention of Zeb and Charles who exists purely to win Zade’s affections.

D) Mac’s observations:

The catalyst for Handbook’s climax is when Mac thinks he sees Charles and Zade making out when it’s really nothing but an innocent “kiss on the cheek”:

Mac walked up to the door to Charles’s office and watched Zade and Charles through a slight gap in the open door. He was about to knock when he noticed their long and loving hug. He wasn’t sure that he had ever seen Charles hug anyone and it struck him as being very odd. Instead of knocking, he decided to take a moment to see what was going on with them, since he had been noticing something a bit strange between them ever since he’d found those David Copperfield tickets and thought he might be able to answer his questions this way.

“It’s going to be the most amazing illusion the world has ever seen,” Zade exclaimed happily

.Charles pulled back and looked her right in the eye, his arms still around her. “I’m just being an old man, I guess. I love you more than life itself. It would kill me if something happened to you.”

Zade was smiling as she put her hands on his face. “I love you, too.” She leaned in to kiss him, her face beaming.

Mac was disgusted and devastated. How could Zade betray him like that? After everything they had together? Hadn’t he put up with enough with the whole Jackson situation? Angry and frustrated, he couldn’t bare to watch her kiss him.

Had he only watched just a moment or two longer he would have seen Zade kiss Charles-innocently on the cheek. Mac didn’t see that, though, because he looked away before he saw the truth and therefore in his head he had turned around right before he saw them make out with tongue. Furious and upset, he stormed down the hall. He needed to think before he did anything that he would regret. (chapter 14)

 

Zade’s thoughts about Sofia in chapter 1 (“even I knew that daughters don’t stand like that next to their fathers”) makes it clear that there are non-verbal signals that can communicate the relationship between two people. While Mac is already suspicious about Zade and Charles’ relationship, and this could skew his perception, I think it’s unlikely that he completely hallucinated Zade and Charles’ sexual chemistry. He manages to mistake seeing Zade (a woman with whom he’s done some intense kissing with himself) go to kiss Charles “innocently on the cheek,” but somehow imagines that Zade and Charles are about to exchange serious amounts of DNA. While it could be the case that Mac just imagined suggestive body language, it seems plausible that he was actually picking up on actual physical attraction on Charles’ part, especially once you take into consideration Charles’ history with and feelings toward Dela.

E) Zade and Charles’ Big Illusion:

When Zade and Charles perform their illusion (“Creation”), there is one explicitly incestuous bit.

“Creation” includes a part where a young man materializes from a magical tree. But his appearance was hardly selected at random:

Not many people realized it, but the boy looked just like what Charles had looked like when he was a teenager (chapter 15).

Charles Jr. goes on to chop down the magical tree, which then turns into a wardrobe after being hit by lightning. After a few random tricks, Zade materializes in the wardrobe. When she emerges, Zade takes a bite of an apple, and pretends to faint:

I then playfully took a bite of the apple, and “fainted.” [. . .] The boy caught me as I fell and kissed me, waking me from my “slumber.” I gave the boy my apple, and he took a bite. Suddenly, with a flash of light, he disappeared and the apple fell to the ground (chapter 15).

Charles literally has his younger doppelganger romantically catch his daughter after pretending to faint, and then the doppelganger must kiss her. While the kiss is fun and theatrical, I can think of no reason why the boy has been made to look like a young Charles. It’s not even supposed to be for the audiences’ benefit: Zade tells us outright that it wasn’t something that many people picked up on. While this would still be weird even if there were thematic significance, there is none. The best I can think of is that it’s meant to be a riff on Genesis 1, which has nothing to do with the rest of Handbook (but whatever, Biblical imagery doesn’t necessarily need to mean anything). But if that’s the case, then that means that Charles Jr. and Zade are paralleled with Adam and Eve. And those two sinned so hard that they doomed all of humanity.

So basically, if the act means nothing, then Charles has a young version of himself kiss his daughter for no reason at all. If it does mean something, then it shows Charles Jr. and Zade reenacting Original Sin, an act that represents going against God by giving into the temptation of “forbidden fruit.” So make of that what you will. There is no charitable way to read one.

Oh, and fun fact: Satan was the facilitator of Original Sin by tempting Eve to eat the apple. If we want to get all English Major, this casts Zeb (who Zade literally thought looked “evil” back in chapter 6) in the role of Satan, as he facilitates the unholy union of Charles and Zade by providing means of tempting Zade. Which is by making Charles look like Jackson. Is this reaching? Probably. But, I mean, the novel is set in Sin City. 

F) Charles sure does seem defensive when Mac talks about seeing him kiss Zade.

After Zade’s performance goes horribly wrong, she falls unconscious. Once she wakes up, we’re told that she “reads people’s memories” in order to get every detail of what happened while she was out.

F1) How does memory pulling work?

Zade is kind enough to explain this for us when she pulls Mac’s Dela’s and Charles’ memories:

They all gave me permission, which is really the only way to do that easily. You can force memories out of someone but it’s a difficult process and some people can even block you so you can’t do it (chapter 20).

This seems to work a lot like a combination of Legilimency/Occlumency and the Pensieve, which are methods of mind-reading/memory sharing/memory blocking from the Harry Potter novels. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, there is a point at which Harry gets a memory from his Potions instructor, Horace Slughorn. However, when he goes to look at the memory, he finds that it’s been tampered with so that it doesn’t depict events as Slughorn actually remembers them.

When Zade downloads people’s memories, she has access to their remembered thoughts and feelings, as well as what they remember happening around them. But because it’s made clear that it’s very hard to see memories that people don’t want you seeing, I think it’s safe to assume that they can also feed you false information about what they remember (as Slughorn did in Harry Potter), especially if their will is strong.

F2) What Zade sees:

When Zade is taken to the hospital after her accident, Mac and Charles go with her. At this point, Mac thinks that Charles and Zade have been playing some tonsil hockey, so when Charles tells Dr. Schmidt that Zade is his daughter, Mac is thrown for a loop.

“I saw you kiss her!” Mac protested. “What are you trying to imply?” Charles said, flabbergasted.

Just a note: by this point, Jackson and Zade have kissed numerous times.

Now, there are two ways to read this:

1) Charles doesn’t think he’s been making out with his daughter

2) Charles knows that he’s kissed Zade while disguised as Jackson, and is terrified that Mac can see through the glamour. And of course, he’s doctored his memory so that Zade won’t discover his secret.

Interpret this as you will. The confusion continues, though, as Mac still thinks he saw Zade and Charles get physical:

“I saw you kiss her, though.”

Charles cocked his head to the side before asking, “You did? Are you sure?” Charles looked directly at Mac with his eyebrow raised. He was trying to figure out for himself what Mac could have seen that looked like they had made out, because he positively had not made out with his daughter. Of that he was certain.

Of course, with the first (and most obvious) interpretation, Charles is genuinely baffled. But really, there’s no reason that Charles should be this confused: he knows that the relationship between himself and Zade is a secret, and he also must know that his favoritism of Zade could potentially come off as being sexual in nature. Zade and Charles are pretty affectionate towards each other, so if I were Charles, I would quickly figure out that Mac must have misinterpreted something. Alternatively, maybe Mac is one of the people who knows that Charles Jr. is modelled on Teenage Charles, and the kiss during the performance is what he’s talking about. Either way, there are explanations.

Charles, though, protests too much. In his memory, the fact that he has never kissed Zade is stressed to the point that it’s almost like he’s trying too hard to make this clear. Almost as though he knew someone would be privy to his most private thoughts.

“Well….” Mac thought through what he had actually seen, sort of thinking out loud. “Well, no. I saw you lean into…what I thought was to… make-out with her, and then I couldn’t bear to watch, so, I turned away. It was when you were in the office earlier, and you both were saying how you loved each other.”

Charles nodded and smiled; he knew exactly the time frame Mac was speaking about.

Charles relaxes once he realizes that the “time frame” Mac is speaking about was when Charles was definitely in Charles-form. He deduced this because Zade and Jackson have never declared love for one another. Charles is relieved that his secret is safe. Notice how he doesn’t even need to edit his memory here.

Fortunately, Dela arrives on the scene in the next chapter, so Zade is safe from Charles’ interest. He and Dela quickly reconcile, and in the space of a single month, the two are engaged, and everyone lives happily ever after. . .OR DO THEY???

And once again, I have written far too much. In the grand finale of Charles = Jackson series, I’ll talk about Jackson himself, his resemblances to Charles, and everything that’s weird there.

10 thoughts on “Is Jackson just a Glamoured Charles? Part Two: Something’s weird between Charles and Zade

  1. Did I mention I love the amount of thought you guys are putting into this? (Although you’re also far too generous; it makes it sound like Lani actually expended any effort thinking about the plot beyond “I want my character to kiss both these hot dudes”, which we all know is a lie.)

    It just goes to prove that the “love triangle” was shoe-horned in so clumsily at the end, Lani forgot about it altogether – I mean, why didn’t Mac see her snogging Jackson and get angry about it? Surely that’s the point of a love triangle? (Or maybe he was meant to but the spell went wrong…)

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  2. And, to me, asking your daughter who looks exactly like her mother (who is the only woman you ever loved and whom you are still very much hung up on) to call you by the nickname she gave you is a little bit odd.

    Yeah, and since she’s the one who slipped up, you’d think it’d be to call him Dad, Daddy, Papa, or Pop. As far as we know, Dela didn’t enchant Zade so she can’t talk about her father. Then again, that off-screen conversation in his office, where he asked her to tell him everything, would’ve been funny if neither of them could mention their relationship and had to clarify with vague inferences.

    But anyway, if he’s really uncomfortable getting that kind of acknowledgment, something less direct… Maybe just Boss or something cheeky about being in command, like Captain or Ringmaster or something. There are other ways to get around it and also have it be something silly that Sofia could say in the middle of screwing Charles. (Man, that sex must be empty and awful btw… No wonder she tried to console herself with some other guys.)

    It’s interesting that Zade never tried to call him by a fatherly form of address, or if she tried, then he suggested Charlie instead. Even if Dela enchanted him, so that Charles can’t respond to Dad affirmatively, it’s not as if he has to tell Zade to avoid these terms, or as if he has to completely ignore any comments or questions surrounding this form of address. Hell, he could’ve asked her to call him Chuck or some other less common variant, but why bother? And if there’s something keeping Charles from calling Zade something like Sweetie, Honey, or Kiddo, why would he request Charlie? Even if it’s not a subtle sexual cue, it’s clearly in relation to Dela, and that’s the only reason it matters at all (which is kind of dumb anyway, since it’s such a generic nickname.)

    Especially when that daughter is shown time and time again to be irresistible to straight men in general.

    Oh god… I forgot about that part! Is it better or worse if Charles couldn’t control himself? Or rather, was compelled and didn’t resist? Gah. 😱

    Yes, you could argue that Charles is doing the thing where he vets his daughter’s boyfriend, but by this point, Zade hasn’t decided that Mac is the one for her! Jackson is still very much in the picture, so why doesn’t Charles seem concerned about him? It’s because Charles is Jackson, duh.

    Haha, this is where the author’s laziness comes back to bite her in the ass.

    If Mac had simply asked Jackson if he got the same conversation, and they laughed and had a little moment of camaraderie together, and Charles had only come off as overprotective and fatherly, it’d be fine. If Charles had mentioned discussing this with Jackson, and how he’s simply concerned about Zade, since she’s a bit naive or anything else as a rationalizing excuse, it’d work. Yes, we could still claim it’s because Charles is actually Jackson, but since Lani Sarem decided to make the twist involve Mac mistaking Charles for a romantic rival… Well, here we are. This is all her subtext, and it really doesn’t make much sense, given the inclusion of Jackson, unless something is awry with Charles. Mac might be a jerk, but he’s not completely stupid. 😛

    My guess is that Jackson is stationed here to make Mac jealous. As we saw, Charles has identified Mac as a threat, and is trying to scare him away.

    I think we’re supposed to see Charles rooting for Jackson… But if that’s true, we never find out why, nor do we learn why Mac is perturbed, other than being commanded about. And since we have a strong reason to believe that the original script never included Jackson to begin with, it’s probable that Charles used another tactic for shooing them away, which was simply to discuss the illusion at dinner, which would explain getting rid of Sofia too. My guess is that Jackson literally was Zeb in this scene initially, but who really knows?

    It also makes me wonder if the time that Zade gave Jackson a friendly kiss at the bar was originally a Charles moment, re-purposed for Jackson. It wouldn’t surprise me. I think that’s the only time Zade discusses kissing him in front of Mac, but she does it more than once, right?

    He’s friends with Zeb, but again, Zeb isn’t here either.

    Then I suddenly imagined Jackson sitting in Zeb’s lap, because they ran out of chairs and he knew Zeb was the only one who’d be cool with it as a joke while he waited for someone to fetch more. 😁

    While it could be the case that Mac just imagined suggestive body language, it seems plausible that he was actually picking up on actual physical attraction on Charles’ part, especially once you take into consideration Charles’ history with and feelings toward Dela.

    Oh! Also, he can probably tell that Zade means it when she says she loves Charles. While Mac might be projecting his own feelings, when he’s interacting with Zade, Jackson serves as a pretty good measuring post for lust without love or lust with an idolizing crush. And Mac has seen Jackson kissing her at least once, if not more times, right?

    Is this reaching? Probably. But, I mean, the novel is set in Sin City.

    Hey, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas! (I wonder if some magickal witchka peddles love potions there?)

    Also, I’m imagining Zeb as the Genie, Zade as Jasmine, and Charles as Aladdin. “Make me a prince!”

    “You ain’t never had a friend like me!” 😆

    After Zade’s performance goes horribly wrong, she falls unconscious. Once she wakes up, we’re told that she “reads people’s memories” in order to get every detail of what happened while she was out.

    Oh god… This just dawned on me as a possibility. What if Zade only asked for their memories, because she wanted to make sure Charles didn’t take advantage of her oh-so-beautifully-bleeding unconscious body? She wasn’t going to die immediately, so there would’ve been time to rape her.

    Ewwwwwww… 😨🤢

    Suddenly her being super entitled is preferable.

    Of course, with the first (and most obvious) interpretation, Charles is genuinely baffled. But really, there’s no reason that Charles should be this confused: he knows that the relationship between himself and Zade is a secret, and he also must know that his favoritism of Zade could potentially come off as being sexual in nature. Zade and Charles are pretty affectionate towards each other, so if I were Charles, I would quickly figure out that Mac must have misinterpreted something. Alternatively, maybe Mac is one of the people who knows that Charles Jr. is modelled on Teenage Charles, and the kiss during the performance is what he’s talking about. Either way, there are explanations.

    Also, Mac never mentioned making out at that point, right? So, what if Mac saw Charles kissing her on the forehead? If Charles can’t say that she’s his daughter, he can still point out that he isn’t into Zade that way (even if he actually was.) His denial is really pointed and generally unconvincing. He doesn’t have to insist they’re family; he just needs to imply that he feels that way about her, and there are roundabout methods for that too. He could even say she’s like a sister! Sure, it’s a cliche at this point, but what we got was worse, since it sounds like Charles is attempting a Jedi mind trick.

    I’m eager to see the rest. I’m frankly amazed this was big enough to split up into parts. 😃

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  3. Ugh, I hate to do this but I have to defend Lani/Zade on not using any fatherly form of expression with regards to Charles. Zade is 23-25 years old and has evidently never known her father (or maybe she did for a few years before Charles and Dela broke up? I don’t remember and can’t be bothered to go look). From what I can discern, Zade has only been in Vegas for a few months and she didn’t know right away that her boss was also her father. Even if she did some how find out before she even auditioned, he’s still a stranger to her and undeserving of a familial nickname.

    That’s just my personal opinion of course. My dad split when I was little and I always consider my mom to be both parents. If he rolled up on me now, when I’m grown, I would be more inclined to call him by his first name than by “dad”. I’m sure it is a case by case basis but I just think it makes sense that she calls him Charles.

    Squicked out by the “Charlie” thing though.

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  4. Like I said, I am positive the arguably incestuous vibe is wholly unintentional. And I fully admit that I’m cherry-picking and reading everything as non-charitably as possible.

    But 1) if Zade actually thinks about Charles as “Charlie”, why doesn’t she refer to him this way in her narration as “Charlie”? This makes me think she didn’t just start calling him that on her own. I see nothing weird about her not calling him “dad.’ But “Charles” seemed to be working just fine for her, so…

    2) Zade definitely knows that Charles is her dad prior to arriving in Vegas: In chapter 0, Dela freaks out about Zade going to work in “that” show specifically, and Charles tells Mac in (I think?) chapter 16 (or 18?) that Zade came to Vegas because of him.

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  5. That’s just my personal opinion of course. My dad split when I was little and I always consider my mom to be both parents. If he rolled up on me now, when I’m grown, I would be more inclined to call him by his first name than by “dad”. I’m sure it is a case by case basis but I just think it makes sense that she calls him Charles.

    Squicked out by the “Charlie” thing though.

    Yeah, Zade calling him Charles, and thinking of him as Charles, is fine. She has no immediately personal connection to him, and she’s getting to know him after she arrives in Las Vegas (even though we never see it in person.) I agree that there would be some distance in how she regards him, even though she did call him about auditioning for his magic show. They’re strangers.

    My issue is that the whole point of this Charlie exchange is so that Sofia can be shocked by it, because Charles gets offended by that nickname. The entire purpose of it is to innocently imply that Zade could be dating him, or some other revelation.

    But since Charlie is such a common nickname for Charles, this scene feels really forced. Also, this happens when Zade inadvertently does this, meaning it reads as an unconscious and completely innocent slip-up; something new that she’s trying out for the first few days. In that situation, I think it’d make more sense if Charles had finally asked Zade to call him by a paternal nickname, and since those can also be used in bed in a kinky way, it’d make more sense for Sofia to be astonished and a little worried.

    Plus, we never really see Sofia do anything else about the idea that Zade will steal Charles from her, after this scene. Sofia becomes friendlier, and saunters out of the plot as fast as she can. That makes a lot more sense, from Sofia’s POV, if she thought Zade could be his daughter. Instead, Sofia’s fear is confirmed by this vague, but supposedly loving nickname, and she just sort of gives up? I guess I can buy it, but the real question is why did LS associate this incident with lust at all? We didn’t need the further implication of sex. It would’ve worked just as well if Sofia had simply said he freaked out the one time that she said that, and left it alone. That could happen if Sofia tried calling him “Dad” during sexual role-play, or if she tried calling him some wacky name like “Magic Touch.”

    I mean, does Charles freak out if the barista writes Charlie on his Starbucks paper cup? This is the sort of nickname that a lot of other people might call him, so does he chew them out as well, or is this reaction exclusively reserved for the hot young ladies that he sleeps around with and spits back out?

    For that matter, this scene with Sofia could’ve been cut out entirely, since it shows how Charles was meant to be a pseudo-arm on the love triangle originally, even though Jackson is supposed to take over that slot. Like Mac reacting to an imaginary french kiss, it’s just too forced, and it’s kind of weird overall. I’d assume Dela and the ending weren’t even in the screenplay, except that it’s the best written and most developed third person section of the whole book. From that alone, I’m guessing it was always meant to be a twist, the likes of which M. Night Shyamalan would love.

    God, why didn’t Lani Sarem shop her script around to him? What’s he done lately? He mangled Avatar: the Last Airbender… might as well work with this drek and show her how it’s done! Or he could pull a 180 and make the script better than it is (which isn’t that hard.) 🤔

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  6. Oh, I absolutely agree that Zade calling him Charlie is weird and whilst the incestuous implications may be wholly accidental, I don’t see how anyone can be so blind/dumb to not realize how gross it is for the daughter to use the nickname that only her mother ever used, especially given the “here to show that Zade is special and Sofia is inadequate” scene regarding the nickname.

    OT but what is with the obsession with names? I giggled at Lani’s need to inform the reader that Dely, Chuckles’ nickname for his ex-wife, was pronounced like ‘deli’ and then, to make sure we didn’t forget, forced in that joke about sandwiches. But we have Zade with her cumbersome explanation for pronouncing her name, Chuck’s super special nickname, and then the overly explained pronunciation of Dely. Of all the things to follow you around your entire life to the point that it features largely in your self-insert screenplay/novel, frustration at how people mispronounce your name seems pretty weak.

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  7. Oh, I absolutely agree that Zade calling him Charlie is weird and whilst the incestuous implications may be wholly accidental, I don’t see how anyone can be so blind/dumb to not realize how gross it is for the daughter to use the nickname that only her mother ever used, especially given the “here to show that Zade is special and Sofia is inadequate” scene regarding the nickname.

    But that’s my point. I think the incest implication was part of the original twist build-up, except it wasn’t necessary, nor did this actually work as intended, once Jackson was shoe-horned into the book. It’s basically a shitty leftover, so the easiest fix would be if Sofia never implied sex, or if Zade chose something more innocent, but implied a fatherly relationship, because Charlie is too common without the former lover angle (or whatever.) Even then, had we not known Sarem is obsessed with nicknames and pronunciation, we’d assume it was genuinely strange for him to respond this way… Eh. It just feels like an edit was needed in some way, shape, or form. I mean, Chuck would’ve worked better, for that matter. Mr. Chuck-wagon, indeed! Mr. Chuckhole?

    That’s the only reason I decided to clarify what I’m complaining about. This could’ve been a really important piece of character development, connecting to Zade’s growing attachment to Charles, since it crops up much later in the filler and we don’t actually get to see her father-daughter relationship at all. It’s also as good a place as any for Zade to accidentally drop hints to the rest of the crew that she’s related to Charles, and perhaps Mac could’ve talked to Sofia and heard about the awkward nickname revelation during that supper of musical chairs, giving this scene a call-back with some impact. Instead, it’s utterly meaningless and the twist is mangled.

    Of all the things to follow you around your entire life to the point that it features largely in your self-insert screenplay/novel, frustration at how people mispronounce your name seems pretty weak.

    Almost everyone does that in this book, and then LS fucks up Sofia’s name repeatedly. 😊

    I think:

    1) Lani Sarem is angry that her dumb, twangy pronunciation of L’Annie sounds ugly as shit, but she insists on keeping it, instead of the more majestic and sensible Law-knee. This translates into every other goddamn thing needing better mouthfeel. Okay, I confess it doesn’t seem that bad, from a Southerner perspective, but for real, I’m with Lani the reviewer on this. The typical one is better.

    2) LS can’t write engaging characterization or backstories, but she has no idea why, so she focuses on a character’s poorly thought up nickname, and she keeps them as short as possible, so she doesn’t have to type as much later on. It’s why we learn nothing of importance about Lil(y), even though she supposedly bears her heart and soul to Zade during her intro. I think it’s also why we learn the surnames of people who don’t need surnames, before LS realized that she could ignore that mostly.

    3) LS genuinely believes most names aren’t worth remembering, yet she thinks we need strong introductions to random people, who aren’t important to the plot, because she lovingly crafted their names, and that’s all those characters really are; their names. It’s why she doesn’t even bother to hide her other celebrity cameos (or maybe she thought the Plain White T-Shirts would like to appear in her movie as well. Who knows?) And also why she picked a name like Jackson, when we could’ve had a guy named Jak.

    4) LS is so narcissistic, that she’s deeply offended when people forget her, or get her name wrong, and she can’t get over this, so it’s a grave insult in her modern fantasy universe.

    5) LS is too lazy to fix any of her mistakes, but she’ll hold everyone else accountable for theirs.

    The last two are my only guess as to why she can’t keep poor Sofia/Sofie straight. Unless LS doesn’t know about the Search and Replace feature, the Sofia/Sofie debacle is intentional (especially since at one point, I think she spelled it Sophia!) Either it’s vengeance or LS is incompetent. Possibly both, since she can’t keep the inconsistency within the speech bubbles!

    I’m pretty relaxed about nicknames and being forgotten. Then again, I have a really terrible memory, so I understand the dilemma. I only get irked when this causes unnecessary steps to resolve, because someone didn’t intend to pull me away from my work, or the name is nothing like my actual given name, so I’m basically being confused/conflated with another person. Nevertheless, I don’t focus on it that much, outside of trying to clarify things, which surname initials can help with.

    Then there was that one time a guy thought my name was Hennifer, with an H. I still remember that because it was unusual, and I have no idea where he got the idea from. He explained that it wasn’t a sloppy mouth issue; he honestly thought that was my name for a short time. I wasn’t really offended, hell I wouldn’t have noticed if he hadn’t said something, so I was merely perplexed. But that story about a name is more interesting than anything found in this novel, sadly. The only thing that comes close is Charlie, because we get to imagine all sorts of sex! 😛

    And since every character has this trait, it shows Sarem’s hand, which gets really old, really fast. If Zade had simply decided on some nicknames, or only learned their nicknames in the beginning, this could be overlooked. With some context, her quirk could be character-building, but it’s simply a feature of L’Annie’s reality, as proven by that horrible forward.

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  8. With all due respect, I think you are giving LS WAY too much credit if you think the incest implications were ever intentional. I honestly don’t think LS would ever have thought of such a thing and believe it just ended up happening when she decided, later in the “book” to make the Charles Zade’s father after originally intending to make him part of the love triangle. Had she cleaned the Charles-Zade dynamic up, maybe the ACTUAL love triangle between Zade, Mac, and Jackson would have had some actual bite to it. Even if Good Lani is correct and Charles=Jackson, this is still the most underwhelming love triangles of all time.

    Regarding names, I absolutely hate my legal name for me (as in: I guess I don’t hate the name in and of itself but I have never liked it for me and used to ask my mom if she could just call me Jessica or something when I was really little). My legal name is way more common now but when I was growing up, no one else ever had it and people always thought it was short for something. My first and last names are also hella phonetic but people mispronounce them all the time, which is weird and can be annoying.

    I semi randomly started going by Cat 10 years ago and I’m really particular about people NOT calling me my legal name if they deal with me on the reg (doctors/professionals/family aside). Because of this, I try to be really careful and respectful of how others prefer to be addressed. That’s what bothers me about the Sofia/Sofie thing. Zade has a big song and dance about how her name is pronounced and some dude introduces himself with far too many sentences about how to just call him Trig or whatev, and then the star of the show is reduced to a diminutive form of her name that was not part of her introduction. But I suppose that goes with the rest of the misogyny of this book. Because, as we know, the beautiful Sofia with her gorgeous voice is a terrible, terrible person who acts out with pouts when she feels hurt. A truly good girl would cause a lemonade machine to explode, pouring juice and broken glass on a perceived threat or cause someone to flip over their handlebars and potentially cause true harm.

    Or shove them 50 feet off a platform into an above ground pool.

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  9. With all due respect, I think you are giving LS WAY too much credit if you think the incest implications were ever intentional. I honestly don’t think LS would ever have thought of such a thing and believe it just ended up happening when she decided, later in the “book” to make the Charles Zade’s father after originally intending to make him part of the love triangle. Had she cleaned the Charles-Zade dynamic up, maybe the ACTUAL love triangle between Zade, Mac, and Jackson would have had some actual bite to it. Even if Good Lani is correct and Charles=Jackson, this is still the most underwhelming love triangles of all time.

    Well, let me explain what I meant. The Charlie reveal has to be from the original screenplay, because otherwise it doesn’t make any sense. So, all along Lani Sarem was trying to show that Charles was dating Zade, while implying the hidden truth that Charles is actually her father and she’s just getting closer to him in a familial way. There’s a subtext that is intentional, even though the author intended for it to be completely innocent all along. I do agree that it’s a leftover and should’ve been cleaned up, because the whole “is she dating her boss?!” thing was supposed to end up on the cutting room floor when Jackson appeared, but LS was lazy.

    It’s possible LS originally planned on making Charles an actual portion of the love triangle in the screenplay itself, and then later decided to put in the twist where he’s Zade’s father, but I don’t believe it was a sudden decision with regard to the book. LS is explicitly trying to handwave the squick. If you’re squicked and I’m squicked, then she was squicked, but she doesn’t have any tension without the love triangle, which is why she tried to sneak Jackson into the novel. The only reason that Zade almost dies, an integral part of getting her parents back together, is because Mac thinks she’s cheating on him, meaning that entire premise was built into the ending. There’s no way to untangle it, except to place Jackson in the role of Charles, but Lani Sarem would have to edit Mac’s memory reveals, and since that would’ve given her more work, I find it extremely likely that she wrote Charles into the triangle in the screenplay and was too lazy to change that in the book.

    There’s no reason to believe that Lani Sarem intended actual incest to ever take place, but she wanted to imply a fake love triangle with Charles while innocently keeping him separate, which is what leads us back to the scene with Sofia and Zade discussing Charlie. It’s meaningless once Jackson enters the picture, so it has to be from a prior source. The same goes for the innocent kiss remembered as tonsil hockey. LS is awful at subtlety. I have a feeling that most of the original scenes where Jackson appears, if they weren’t added in later entirely, were meant to be pseudo-dates between Charles and Zade, having some poorly written but innocent bonding time together. Because Jackson is meant to be an explicit love interest, and LS is too lazy to edit anything significantly (or at all), I firmly believe he was described as an empty shell, because she simply deleted chunks of the screenplay and slapped in some lazy paragraphs that are so generically romantic they’re outright cliche. Maybe LS put in more effort when she first wrote the screenplay. Since it’s a lot shorter, I’d buy that argument, but I don’t buy that there was never implied incest, because she’s trying to skirt around it and keep it from actually happening whenever it gets directly addressed. That’s why Mac misreads sexual chemistry into a platonic cuddle. She wants to have it both ways, but that doesn’t work unless the author is great at subtlety, which Lani Sarem is terrible at, except by accident.

    If you’re suggesting that this means the incest was accidental, then I guess we’re arguing semantics. I consider the incest intentional, because it was the author’s intent to imply a romantic relationship up until the reveal. Her lazy execution of Jackson proves that she’d never go to that kind of effort to fix the original ending of the screenplay, which is why he’s barely mentioned in it.

    Zade accidentally brings up Charlie as foreshadowing for Dela, and Sofia comments on the sexual nature, because it’s actually about Dela. But there’s no way for LS to get this in there, unless she has Zade do it for some random reason. Ergot, Charles asked her to call him Charlie or Zade had a faint memory of her father being referred in that manner and he never corrected her. That Sofia never responds with jealousy is due to the turning point where Dela has won, and Zade is embarrassed, because she’s squicked by the thought of her father having sex with Sofia and perhaps the implication that he only regards Charlie favorably in relation to her mother, even though it’s not explicitly stated. If LS wanted to get rid of all traces of the previous triangle fake-out, then she would’ve removed the implication of sex, but she didn’t do that. It could’ve been sheer laziness, but I personally think LS liked the idea of having sex with a powerful father figure, while understanding that incest is okay in porn, but a hard sell in other fiction. The only reason Charles is titillating is by his powerful father figure status, and the only reason the whole Charles=Jackson theory works is due to Lani Sarem’s laziness. Jackson isn’t even compelling in any way, except for this strange theory, because she couldn’t imagine a sincere replacement for Charles. I think that’s why we don’t see the bonding between Zade and Charles either. She can’t imagine it as being completely innocent, or at least can’t make it interesting to herself in an innocent way, so it vanishes entirely.

    The Charles/Zade/Mac love triangle is more interesting, and Lani Sarem knew that it was, so she mostly left it alone. At the same time, it had to be in the original screenplay: how else would Mac become upset? If Charles simply told Mac that he couldn’t date Zade, because they’re coworkers, then Mac might get mad, but not at Zade, and he probably wouldn’t leave the building, so her focal point wouldn’t plummet out of 4G range. Mac has to believe that she cheated on him for drama.

    Regarding names, I absolutely hate my legal name for me (as in: I guess I don’t hate the name in and of itself but I have never liked it for me and used to ask my mom if she could just call me Jessica or something when I was really little). My legal name is way more common now but when I was growing up, no one else ever had it and people always thought it was short for something. My first and last names are also hella phonetic but people mispronounce them all the time, which is weird and can be annoying.

    I semi randomly started going by Cat 10 years ago and I’m really particular about people NOT calling me my legal name if they deal with me on the reg (doctors/professionals/family aside). Because of this, I try to be really careful and respectful of how others prefer to be addressed. That’s what bothers me about the Sofia/Sofie thing. Zade has a big song and dance about how her name is pronounced and some dude introduces himself with far too many sentences about how to just call him Trig or whatev, and then the star of the show is reduced to a diminutive form of her name that was not part of her introduction. But I suppose that goes with the rest of the misogyny of this book.

    Yeah! The story about your name is far more interesting than anything in The Handbook for Mortals, because it actually means something to you. It’s the impact on the person that matters.

    Most of the nicknames in the novel are superfluous, making them all sound and fury, with no actual significance. Even Zade’s obsession with Zayde/Zod is pretty empty, and is only remotely memorable, because we’d have Zod dating Superman. If it was the simple annoyance of an easy name being mispronounced repeatedly, we don’t ever see random characters getting Zade’s name wrong! It’s only ever Sofia’s name, which could be a soft slurring at the end by accident, but given the attention to Dela/Deli, instead it reads as a frequent typo, or no one bothering to get it right.

    Because, as we know, the beautiful Sofia with her gorgeous voice is a terrible, terrible person who acts out with pouts when she feels hurt. A truly good girl would cause a lemonade machine to explode, pouring juice and broken glass on a perceived threat or cause someone to flip over their handlebars and potentially cause true harm.

    Or shove them 50 feet off a platform into an above ground pool.

    lol How will we know who our hero is if she doesn’t indulge in a little magickal asskicking?

    Sofia’s only crime was making Zade uncomfortable once with a hug, but Zade never pushed her away then, and the guys abandoned her to Sof and Mel, so clearly she was never in real danger. Also, I don’t think Mel would’ve agreed if it was an excuse for a shiv. Not to mention, Sofia trying to deter Zade from Mac gets even weirder when we consider that there was at some point a fake angle between Zade and Charles, yet Sofia never mentions avoiding Charles. Maybe Sofia just wanted to swap boyfriends? The whole thing is kind of mind-boggling from any direction, other than allowing Zade to show that she’s better than them, or Sofia trying to warn Zade that Mac is bad news. Ooooh, what if Sofia was using reverse psychology to try and get the new girl to leave Charles alone and attempt to hook-up with Mac? I… shit. That actually makes a lot more sense. Sofia was just trying to bolster her insecure relationship with Charles, while Zade was trying to suggest that Sofia was a slut who didn’t deserve him, because she flirted with Riley (supposedly) and Mac (because she was lonely or their relationship is empty.) Then again, we never see Sofia succeed, so maybe she actually picks men who won’t reciprocate on purpose? Maybe she wants to reassure herself that she’s still worthy of love without cheating, but then it’s a self-defeating coping mechanism.

    It makes me wonder if the line where Jackson is cold to her was actually Charles being cold, since that would leave more impact, by virtue of him dating Sofia, no matter what his visible relationship with Zade was (plus it’d be signs for him getting back together with Dela while implying that he might feel loving towards Zade.) I mean, we don’t know if the camping trip is pure filler, but since it creates mild tension for her and Mac, I’d say it’s in the screenplay. Jackson is used in a way that Zade is too innocent to understand why it would piss Mac off, because he was originally Charles. Probably all of his parts in that scene originally went to Charles, since it’s a slightly more nuanced portrayal. This would explain why Jackson didn’t bring his guitar for another poignant solo by Zade, and why he knows Zeb well enough to vouch for him, after the brief glimpse of evil (maybe Zeb was acknowledging her lazy tent construction.) And in the movie, LS could have some filler be scenes of Zade doing some actual scuba diving in the lake! She just… only mentioned swimming very vaguely in the novel, for some reason.

    … Yeah, I’m pretty sure the camping scene was in the original screenplay. It explains too much. Otherwise, she actually wrote it for Charles in the novel, and then edited it later for Jackson… Either way, if she edited it beyond a simple name change, then she could’ve had Jackson hand his guitar to Zade for more lyrics (unless she couldn’t get the rights to print those lyrics in her book,)

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  10. I had a tiny epiphany: proof that Jackson was originally Zeb in the musical chairs dinner scene. Charles would still probably confer with Zeb for the planning of his illusions, and I think that’s what the scenes where Zeb implies something must come from. Otherwise, there’d be no way to make it ambiguous. He’s either mentioning the illusions or actual magic; nothing else would make sense. So instead of Jackson with music, the original excuse that Charles used was discussing the new magic act with Zade and Zeb, which Sofia and Mac know is top secret. It’s the only reason they wouldn’t argue for staying where they were or pulling up an extra chair. After all, the music can’t reveal the secrets, only what it’s supposed to look like.

    I’m sure that’s why you already assumed as much; it just dawned on me that must’ve been the original scene. I wonder if Zeb even smiled originally? Perhaps it was a scowl if he realized Charles was just trying to find a way to make Mac go away.

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