In Defense of Rory Gilmore

gilmore-girls-netflix-revival-rory

Alexis Bledel as ‘Rory Gilmore’ in “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life”; photo taken from Hypable 

I wrote the following after seeing multiple posts on blogs, Tumblr, and legitimate news sites basically slut shaming Rory Gilmore in “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” for decisions she makes regarding men.  Some of it isn’t actually slut shaming, some of it is simply die-hard fans who, like me, have probably watched the original series many times and have a romanticized idea of what Rory is like and how she should behave; they are disappointed, these fans, that thirty year old Rory isn’t making the same decisions as twenty year old Rory.

I think there are many factors to consider before judging Rory too harshly.

First of all: it’s been ten years.  No one dates exactly the same way they did ten years ago.  She’s in her thirties now, she’s less inhibited, less shy, more open to experiences.  As humans grow, we change, see things differently.  Rory is going to have a different mindset at 32 than she did when she was nineteen.

Secondly: We don’t know what her dating experience has been since leaving college.  Previous relationships have a great affect on how a person treats future romantic partners.  It’s possible she’s had one too many terrible boyfriends since Logan.  Also: Rory’s a bit of a nomad, it’s difficult to maintain exclusive relationships when you’re constantly moving.  Believe me, I know.

Thirdly: As a person ages, she becomes less idealistic.  Young people often have a rigid sense of morality, Rory certainly did.  This is why kids will often (foolishly) write off friends for not meeting a certain moral standard (see Veronica Mars).  But as we age and mature, we realize there’s a lot of gray in the world, and we are not the ultimate voice of right and wrong in the universe.  So we sleep with that guy we met at that party, and we drink the tequila, and drive to NYC to watch an SNL rehearsal and get a hot dog just to turn around and drive home again the same day.

Fourth: People also become less optimistic.  Which seems strange considering people become less cynical (unless you’re Louis C.K., or a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker) as they get older, but when it comes to relationships and dating, single, straight, American women seem to become more pessimistic about relationships.  Consider this Garfunkel and Oates song.

Fifth: We don’t know what sort of relationship Logan has with this French woman.  Maybe it’s an open relationship?  Maybe he has the same deal with her as he has with Rory?  The French are way less puritanical about sex than Americans.

We, especially those of us who grew up alongside Rory, want her to be a sort of moral beacon since she’s just like us only better, but really she’s not.  Rory is just as flaky as we are, she’s just as confused, just as meandering, just as flawed.  She is searching for her place in the world the same way we are.

And, as with all things, the viewer brings his or her own experience to the story.  All my girlfriends who are married, engaged, or in long term relationships had the same reaction: “Rory has had ample time to find someone new, loving, and stable, why is she back with old boyfriends and making these decisions?”  While all my fellow single girlfriends in their early thirties looked at Rory and said: “Yeah, nope, that’s exactly right!”

This post is edited slightly from the original post on Tumblr.

This Holiday Season I am Grateful for: Library Book Club

Or, that time I crashed the Library Book Club Social Hour.

My sister loves reading.  She loves reading in the nicest, purest, most normal way possible.  People of my generation, you, me, lovely book bloggers on the Internet, we love to read in this weird, exhibitionist sort of way: we take pictures of our bookshelves and post them online, we Instagram the books we’re reading, we write essays and post them on our blogs about the books we’ve read, we keep digital lists of the books we’ve read this year, we buy tee shirts with book covers on them, and artistic prints made from the entire text of a beloved novel.  Let’s face it, we are a lovely group of weirdos.  We are over the top in our expression of love for reading, our love for books, storyline, and plot.

My sister, however, is the Unexpected Reader.  Just by looking at her, talking to her, following her social media one wouldn’t think she devours stories, it certainly might surprise some people who know her very well, but she loves books.  And she recently chanced her arm at the public library’s Book Club.  I was flooded with texts about how much fun it was discussing a book with a group of people, how someone told her they were glad she came, that the group needs more “young people”, she saw people there she hasn’t seen in years!  She went back the next month.  I was super proud of her.

December, there was no book.  Instead the book clubbers had a social gathering scheduled.  Even though I’d never been before, my sister invited me and I’m so glad I went.  The woman who runs the book club brought snacks, coffee, tea, and had a fun (nerdy) activity planned for the book clubbers.  She selected newly acquired books from this year, wrapped them in fun paper and wrote their genre on the paper.  She had us each select a couple of books and we went around the circle unwrapping and sharing the book description.  We got a little silly, well, a reserved silly since we didn’t all know each other, and had fun discussing what we thought of the book based on the description.  We chatted a little bit about the ones we knew more about (I had just read about Welcome to Night Vale and what book did I pull?).  Overall, it was a lot of fun.

My sister checked out the book club book for January and we’re planning on both reading it so we can both attend the January meeting (assuming I’m still in the area then).  I am ever so grateful that a) the library has a book club, b) my sister was brave enough to go on her own, and c) she invited me to the party and got me interested.  I’m always complaining that since I left college I have no one to talk books with, and, yet, every month there’s a group of people gathering across town talking books!

The Buccaneers

The Buccaneers is the unfinished final novel by Edith Wharton that was finished for her after her death by Marion Mainwaring.  I’ve never read it.  Edith Wharton, I have no problem telling you, is not one of my favorite authors.  I struggled with The House of Mirth and had a film adaptation of The Age of Innocence forced upon me by the same college professor who made us read the other one.  There’s just something about Edith Wharton, and her male counterpart Henry James, that makes me heave a sigh and roll my eyes.

I think it’s because no one ever finds happiness in their novels.  Which leaves me to believe the early 1900s in New York society was fucking dreadful.  Everyone was marrying for money, but no one had any, or they didn’t have as much as they were meant to have, and, holy hell, when their spouse finds out it’s all “you lied to me!” when they did no such thing.  And since people are in loveless marriages there’s always a friend or a cousin who comes along and is exciting and worldly and good in the sack.  Marriages fall apart and children are burdened with their parents’ selfishness and foolishness.  The slightest suggestion of impropriety on a woman’s part was enough for her to be ostracized forever.  A man, it seems, might be able to regain some favor with the community after engaging in inappropriate behavior, but only if he behaves himself very well indeed.

The BBC adaptation of The Buccaneers was oddly different from your typical Edith Wharton novel.  Mostly because of the ending.  It had a very E.M. Forster/Jane Austen feel to it.  It was very satisfying.  But surprising and shocking, because it was not Wharton-like.  I looked up the novel once I’d finished the miniseries, that’s when I learned about it being finished by someone else.  All the true and ardent Wharton fans on the Internet were horribly disappointed.  They all seemed to agree that the first three quarters of the novel are delightful, but the last bit is bad.  “Like falling off a cliff”, it was described.  I’m already disinclined to read it since it is a Wharton novel, but those reviews have me questioning many things about it both in favor of reading it and in favor of not reading it.  We shall see.

Fifty Shades of What the Fracking Bull?

What with the upcoming release, I’ve been seeing a lot of commercials lately for  Fifty Shades of Grey.  My question is simple: What the fracking bull?

I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey, or Fifty Shades Darker, or Fifty Shades of Pissed Off Writers Everywhere, or whatever the sequels are called.  “Mommy Porn” that originated as fan fiction of an already terrible series does not interest me.  Learning the notoriously naughty BDSM the story boasts is vanilla at best, and, at worst, secondhand, drove my interest even lower.  I have no issue with YA fiction, romance novels, or erotica, but something about E.L. James’s skyrocket into the “literary world” bothers the shit out of me.  How these books were published is beyond my understanding.

Even worse: they’ve made a movie out of it…

What the fish….

And here’s where American Capitalistic Opportunism wins out over Moral and Creative Integrity.  Not only has a publishing house republished a terrible story with a slight twist, now Hollywood has produced a movie they’ve already made.  Because we should, none of us, forget the fact that Fifty Shades of Grey is Twilight fan fiction.

When Hollywood made the Twilight movies they cast actors who actually, sort of, mostly resembled the images of the characters I had in my head while reading the insipid novels.  Cedric Diggory made a great Sparkly Vampire, and Never-Learned-to-Smile made for an exquisitely boring heroine.  A pretty English boy and a symmetrical American girl made us believe in vampires, if only for the one hundred twenty minutes each movie runs.

Now with Fifty Shades, a story that appears to be primarily porn about kinky sex, the casting director, who had her fucking job cut out for her, failed to deliver.  Or, if it wasn’t that person who dropped the ball, it was the makeup/costuming department that failed.

They took a pretty girl:

Dakota Johnson

and made her incredibly homely:

Anastasia Steele

Which, perhaps, is more true to the character (again: I have not read the books).  But if you’re going to put a book reported to be one big sexy, handcuffed romp on the big screen why not make her attractive?  (Especially when you’ve cast an already attractive woman?)

And the dude (because straight men are not this movie’s target audience):

Jamie Dornan

They cast one of Calvin Klein’s interchangeable parts (who looks way sexy with facial hair), shaved him down to his baby-face and made him look like he’s trying on daddy’s suit for the first time:

Christian Grey

Not attractive.  Not alluring.  Mostly creepy.  If a real, live dude looked and dressed and behaved how they portray Christian Grey in the clips and trailers any curious, sane, crazy, intelligent, or insecure woman would, hopefully, have a voice in her head telling her to run… run fast.  Dude is creepily aggressive half the time, and eerily emotionless the rest.  If he were a vampire his behavior might be acceptable.  As it stands, he’s got “sociopath” written all over him.  No one is going to let their friend date a person like this without either saying something, or at least watching them very, very carefully.

But, as far as I know, no one stops Anastasia from letting this jackwad bind her and assume control over her person in the name of Love.  And the audience is supposed to believe he cares for her more than he wants to control her.  We are supposed to buy into this illusion of romance so much that the fact it’s being released on Valentine’s Day (not February 14th, Valentine’s Day) shouldn’t creep out the American public.

It’s fucking twisted.  The trailer features an amazingly creepy clip of him feeling her up under the table at a dinner party with his voice over telling us that he “doesn’t do romance” leading this American, heterosexual woman to believe the Fifty Shades of Grey movie is not intended to be Romantic in any regard despite the movie’s release date.

I believe there are romantic, loving couples who enjoy a healthy, consensual bondage-based sex life.  And that they should celebrate!  To each, his own, I say!  I’m not about to get in your way or pass judgement.  None of my qualms about this work come from my puritanical beliefs about sex and love, but from my standpoint as a woman and a writer.  The story is about an insecure young woman being entirely enveloped by an aggressive alpha male.  She subsequently disappears entirely into his way of life, rather than growing and developing as her own person.  As a woman that makes me sad.  So many real life women are lost to other, stronger willed people as it is; sometimes it’s a partner, sometimes it’s family or friends.  No matter the situation, it’s unfortunate that women so easily disappear into someone else’s idea of who they should be.

As a writer, I’m pissed Twilight fan fiction is being hailed as anything other than what it is: poorly written porn.  These books, and subsequent movie, are a travesty of American literature.

It has, however, inspired some great sarcastic Internet memes*:

This query from Claire Standish:

As well as this brilliant advice from Ellen:

Ellen Ellen1 Ellen2

And a comic of what the actual story should have been:

*I got most of these from typing “Fifty Shades of Bullshit” into a Google Image search.  Which, it turns out, is a pretty funny anti-Fifty Shades Tumblr: FiftyShadesofBullshit.

Feminism & Marvel Movies

I watched Thor recently for the first time.  Rented it on iTunes, of all fool things.  But the movie got me thinking.  First of all, it explained a bunch of random things from The Avengers (like how Thor knew Erik Selvig, why we give a shit about Natalie Portman, and Coulson’s prototype gun).  Second, it, and a Tumblr post, have me thinking about the Bechdel test and feminism in films.

In order to pass the Bechdel test the work must have at least two women in it who talk to each other about something other than a man.  Two chicks.  Actually speaking to one another.  About something not related to a man.  Sounds easy, yes?  You’d think.  Sometimes it’s more than Hollywood can handle.

Thor passes the Bechdel test.  Thor passes because Jane Foster’s grad student assistant is a woman.  In the first scene she asks if she can turn on the radio and Jane says “No.”  It’s simple, but it passes.  Otherwise Thor isn’t about the women at all.  Sure Jane rocks Thor’s world, or whatever, but it’s not a feminist flick.  It’s a story/movie about boys who don’t play well together and both want to rule the world(s).  But it passes.

You know what movie doesn’t pass the Bechdel test?  The Avengers.

There are three main female characters in The Avengers:

women of the avengers

Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow; Agent Maria Hill, played by Cobie Smulders; and Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson.  These women play key roles in the film: Potts gets Stark to accept the info from Coulson, Hill is a dedicated S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and well trusted by Nick Fury, and Romanoff is a key player in The Avengers team, as well as the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who convinces Dr. Banner to join up.  There are other women in the movie, other agents, Ashley Johnson as the diner waitress who feels she owes her life to Captain America, etc.  And not a single one of these women have a conversation about their own romantic relationship (Potts asks Coulson about his love life).  Not one.  (Unless there really is something between Black Widow and Hawkeye that I’m unaware of.)

Each of these women are badasses in their own way, and they are great feminist icons.  I love everything about these characters.  I want more of all of them in future Marvel movies.  I want them to be who my nieces look to when they need a female role model in their entertainment.  But the reason The Avengers doesn’t pass the Bechdel test despite having such amazing women characters in it is because the women never speak to one another.  Not once.  Even though Hill and Black Widow work for the same agency and are often in the same room.  They never speak to each other.

Despite this odd failing (seriously Joss Whedon?), from a feminist standpoint, I would still take The Avengers over Thor any day.  The women characters in Thor are absolute stereotypes.

women of thor

Jane Foster, the beautiful scientist who changes Thor’s entire mindset by being passionate and capricious and dedicated to her work, as well as kind, and caring, and compassionate; Frigga, Thor and Loki’s mother who has approximately twelve lines of dialogue; Darcy, who serves as Jane’s sidekick the Best Friend character there to make jokes and raunchy comments; and finallly Sif, Thor’s female friend, a raging badass there to fill the role of female-raging-badass.  None of the women have any character development and are only present to push male character development/comic relief.

But remember the story of Thor isn’t about the chicks.  It’s about two brothers.  Despite that, practically every male character has some sort of development no matter how small the role (Erik Selvig has a change of heart, even the Gatekeeper is a dynamic character), but not single woman undergoes any sort of change.

The movie is also directed by Kenneth Branagh, who has historically never given much to his female characters.

Joss Whedon, the poster boy of Male Feminism, co-wrote and directed The Avengers.  It might not pass the Bechdel test, but I’d still rank it higher on the feminist scale than pretty much every other comic book flick out there.

Or: Why We Watch Scary Movies

Juliet O’Hara (Maggie Lawson) and Carlton Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) in “Psych” season 4 episode 16.

The fourth season finale of “Psych”, no matter how many times I watch it, kills me.  By the end of the episode I am a snotty, weepy mess.  Not because of who dies, or because of relationships, but because of the final few seconds Juliet and Lassiter are on the screen.  Her angry/scared/violated breakdown leaves me in pieces.  And Lassiter is there for her, bless him, but her pain is so deep even the loving arms of her partner can’t repair the damage done.  And he knows this, we can see it in his face.  She’s going to have to figure it out for herself.

You see, what happens to Juliet and Abigail in this episode — and Maddie in the previous season — is fucking scary.  These women have all control taken away from them.  They are harassed, forced into situations, physically restrained, threatened, certain they are going to die.  They are completely stripped of their autonomy and Juliet’s breakdown is the most believable reaction of all three women.  She has every right to be a flaming mess and I, for one, salute her for taking the time to freakthefuck out.

Because it doesn’t take being kidnapped by a serial killer to make a person feel unsafe.  All it takes in one incident.  A simple mugging, getting pushed down in the street and having a wallet stolen can make a person reluctant to walk around his or her own neighborhood alone.  As can watching the news, watching too many crime shows, and having an overactive imagination.  We live in a world in which people are awful to one another.  We live in a world with serial killers.  We live in a world where mental disorders go unchecked and undiagnosed.  We live in a world where people kill each other for no reason.  But we also live in a world where we have fathers who look out for us well into adulthood, and friends who have our backs no matter what, and partners who will let us flip out and be the shoulder we cry upon.  The world is Yin and Yang, I suppose: it is as much full of Love as it is full of Awfulness.

I love this “Psych” episode.  It reminds us the world is simultaneously Awful and Love, but that we decide which we are.

Today’s Entry

I am currently working my way through Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking:

So far, it’s very, very worth reading.  Reading about someone else creating, and struggling to create, has me doing creating of my own, and that, alone, makes reading this book a good decision.  But it’s also a good decision for other reasons.  You should read it.

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Today’s Entry

Amanda keeps coming back to this concept: “On a good night, you couldn’t tell who was giving what to whom” (Palmer, 104). She writes it specifically about flowers. Flowers she gives as a thank you for dollars in her hat as the Bride, flowers at Dresden Dolls shows. She’s writing about the back and forth appreciation between artist and patron; and recycling that love: giving the flower to a third party, someone in need of that rose, or petunia, or daisy.

My senior year of college my American Literature professor, an extraordinary Polish woman with whom I am still in awe, invited a writer she knows to come speak at our school, a woman named Suzanne Strempek Shea. As with everything at my college, it was a small gathering. My professor suggested (in the same manner my mother “suggests”) I stick around afterward and speak with her since she is a writer and that’s what I wanted to do.

We had been assigned one of Suzanne’s books the previous semester. I’d read it in the way I “read” many books in college: read the first fifty to one hundred pages, skimmed some, paid close attention during discussions in class (can you believe I have a degree in English?). I felt weird about speaking to an author (one with actual published novels), let alone one for whom I hadn’t had the decency to finish the one book of hers I’d encountered.

But I had won one of her novels in a raffle that afternoon so I could use asking her to sign the damn book as an introduction. I cannot tell you what we talked about. I remember we both had somewhere else to be. She was very gracious in telling me I could email her whenever I wanted. Her email was on her website, she said.

Right. Like I’d ever have the confidence to do that.

About a year later I was working as a teacher in a seasonal outdoor school program. Which meant, amongst other things, that I was unemployed half the year. One of those bouts of unemployment occurred from Thanksgiving to Easter. I spent that first winter out of college drifting around my parents’ house while harrowing, frozen gales wailed without (I don’t like winter). To occupy myself I began writing a modernized version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion set in America with the full expectation it was going to be terrible.

At some point I thought maybe my story could go somewhere and I panicked about some of the concepts and language I was using and, dear gawd, what if my mother read it one day… or my grandmother? Gawd, what then?

That’s when I remembered something Suzanne had said at Caz. She said, as a writer, you can’t let what someone else might think hold you back. You’ve got to write it anyway. It’s your story, your voice, your authenticity. Forget about what would please your mother or your grandmother and just write. I was so overwhelmed remembering that piece of advice that I immediately, at one in the morning, looked up Suzanne’s email and wrote her to tell her my exact epiphany as it had happened.

She’d tossed a flower into the crowd that afternoon in New York, and I was handing the one I’d caught back to her to show my appreciation.

Little did I know just how much.

Some time later Suzanne’s book Sunday’s In America came out. I’d known of the project. Either she had mentioned it at my school, or else I’d read about it on her website (or both), I knew the book was out and that she was doing readings in the area. My sister, K, had heard NPR’s interview with Suzanne about the book. I mentioned to K wanting to figure out if I could get myself to one of the readings.

Excited, K was on board.

The only one we could both attend before I had to return to my teaching job in the woods was in an area of south central Massachusetts where no one goes unless they live there. In reality, it was probably only a little over an hour’s drive. It felt like K and I were driving forever. We eventually found the combination library/town clerk’s office/auxiliary firehouse/town municipal building, parked, and filtered into the library.

There were, maybe, twenty people there. Thirty, tops. K and I were clearly outsiders. All the (mostly older) ladies seemed to know each other. Many seemed to know Suzanne. But, as she grew up in the next town over and still lived there, it wasn’t surprising.

I don’t remember any of the reading.

Afterward, we were invited out into the hallway that ran the center of the municipal building where we could meet Suzanne, buy her book, and have it signed. When it was our turn, which was almost immediate — I think the nice town ladies were being polite giving the out-of-towners the chance to go first — I, very nervously, reminded Suzanne that we had met before, that her friend was my professor, that I had emailed her a few months back.

That’s when she said: “Rebecca?”

She stood and came around the table. I remember her being very tall. I don’t know how tall she is, but she felt tall; and I felt young. Very young. And insignificant. There was no reason for a locally known, published author to remember a recent college graduate/aspiring writer with severely limited Life Experience who was, at that moment, on a day trip with her Big Sister.

“I’ve been meaning to thank you for your email.”

What the fish?

She went on to tell me, when she received my email, she’d been struggling with the exact same thing. She was working on Sundays In America and was having trouble. She’d gotten stuck worrying what Other People would think of what she was writing. Then she read my email that parroted back the words I’d heard from her only a year previous.

“I printed out your email. It’s taped up over my writing desk. I look at it whenever I start to doubt myself.”1

At this point I was completely speechless.

Suzanne hugged me, repeated her thanks. I left amazed that my small, seemingly insignificant action, one done impulsively and spontaneously, had a very large, very real impact. My email, in part, gave a woman back the state of mind she needed to finish working on her book.

The one we were there to purchase and hear her read.

The flower was back in my hands.

That summer I finished my story. Not awesome. But finished. For me, that alone, was cause for celebration. And while that particular story has gone nowhere (it’s been on a bottom shelf for six years), the lesson I learned while writing it made the act itself worthwhile: The smallest act (poking a child’s nose, mailing a card, handing a stranger a flower) can do volumes of good.

It was a good night.

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1My recollection of her words are approximate, but I am confident they capture the spirit of what she said to me that day.

“Sentimentality” in Literature

What’s Wrong With Sentimentality? | Katy Waldman | Slate Magazine

A very interesting, and solid, article by Katy Waldman about reader/viewer response to “sentimentality” from Slate Magazine on 16 July 2014.

I started to get really in depth into responding to what I read here, when suddenly it felt too overwhelming.  Instead I’m going to share my overall impressions of this article and the subject at hand.

1. It’s a really well developed and written article.

2. “Sentimentality” is a key factor in novels/popular fiction since the time of Jane Austen and earlier.  Hawthorne got real fed up with the women who wrote (and sold) sentimental fiction, but that didn’t stop people like Louisa May Alcott from writing them.

3. Teens and Young Adults like black-and-white stories because their emotions and hormones are such a mess and they don’t know how to handle it.  According to neuroscientists a person’s limbic system doesn’t finish forming until the mid-twenties, meaning people under the age of 25 are more guided by their emotions than by rational thought.  Because their an emotional mess, a simple story is going to be appealing.  It’s easy, it’s straightforward (unlike the world).  Adults, starting in the their late-twenties, are more rational and can see the murkiness, messiness, complexity of real life and, as implied by Waldman, want their literature to be as murky and complex, too.

4. Enjoying YA Fiction is shameful for Adults because of point #3.  Adults shouldn’t be thinking like a teen anymore, is the implication, you should be thinking like an adult.  “When I was a child I thought like a child…”, etc.  She seems to be implying (not necessarily Waldman, but those who condemn sentimentality in literature) that to enjoy YA Fiction shows a lack of maturity.

5. “Why,” she asks, “in this age of irony and antiheroes, do we assume the “truer” choice is always the more ambiguous one?”  Why, indeed?  Adults are obsessed with not offending anyone (some, anyhow).  There are multiple rights and wrongs, goods and bads.   Morality is sometimes immoral, and you should “do what’s right for you”.  Life is ambiguous.  A book, being a representation of life, ought to follow suit.

Maybe it’s my interpretation, but a lot of that sounds like someone being afraid to take a stand, made a declarative statement.  A book can be about something.  It can make a moral judgement.  I’m also not sure I understand this point entirely, because I can’t think of a single book that doesn’t make a declarative statement whether it’s this guy is the murderer, or those cops are corrupt, or love conquers all, or Harry is the Chosen One, or Alice was dreaming.

6. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “sentimentality” in literature.  Most readers want to connect with the characters in the books they’re reading.  Otherwise, who cares?  If we can’t empathize with the plight of the hostages AND the rebels in Bel Canto by Ann Patchett we’re not going to get anything out of it.  If we don’t put ourselves in the shoes of Neil Gaiman’s protagonist in The Ocean at the End of the Lane, we won’t understand why he visits with Lettie’s grandmother*.  Having an emotional response to literature cannot be a bad thing, can it?  People love the emotional roller coaster of movies and TV shows.  Our heartbeats quicken as the music swells; tears fall from our eyes when the universally beloved character kicks it, or the guy finally gets the girl; we shout out when we see an injustice played out on the screen (ask me sometime about when I saw He’s Just Not That Into You).  If this is the case, why can’t we have sentimentality in our novels?

7. Waldman speaks to many psychologists studying how people respond to sentimentality in books and programs.  Which sorts of people react more viscerally than others and why.  The one thing I think we can draw from all their research and, based on what they told Waldman and what she shared with her readers, is that each readers brings their own, unique life experience to each work.  No one is going to have exactly the same reaction as another reader, but you can probably hypothesize that an individual will have the same reaction to the same type of work, for the most part.

This entire conversation is silly.  It’s silly, because everyone has their own interests and experiences that affect their reading.  I have a sister who will never read Harry Potter (unless her kid reads them one day), but she’ll devour a book on the history of cod.  I have another sister who would find the fish book supremely boring, and has seen Harry and the Potters perform the weekend of an HP book release.  I love Jane Austen; a friend of mine, who has a lot in common with myself, once described Austen novels as “a really long walk”; she has no interest in these novels, because they always seem to be taking long walks and nothing happens.

I like Waldman’s article.  I like her presentation of the material.  I like that she talked to literature and psychology professors from across the country.  I like the subtle snarkiness that leads me to believe she doesn’t disapprove of sentimentality in literature.  I like that she, instead of approaching the conversation with outrage, tried to explain why people enjoy this sort of literature.  It is very informative and interesting.

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*I chose both the Patchett and the Gaiman novels because I cried when I read them… as an adult.

The Books I Considered While Making the Previous List of YA Fiction

“Contemporary” (1950-present)

  • Holes
  • Harry Potter Series
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • The Giver
  • His Dark Materials (The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass)
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • An Abundance of Katherines
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
  • Tuck Everlasting
  • The House on Mango Street
  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Coraline
  • The Westing Game
  • The Graveyard Book
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond
  • Harriet the Spy
  • Freaky Friday
  • The Fault in our Stars
  • The Hunger Games Trilogy
  • Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series
  • Stargirl

“Classics” (Time Immemorial-1950)

  • Little Women
  • The Hobbit
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • Treasure Island
  • The Secret Garden
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • Peter Pan
  • Little House on the Prairie
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • Through the Looking-Glass