“You are a snob and a half!”

I have been a book snob, I can admit it.  I was never the horrified book snob, nor was I the shocked book snob, and there was no fear that I would try to convince you that you needed to be more like me and start reading books, any books.  I wasn’t going to waste my time trying to find a genre you might actually like.  No, I was the sarcastic judgmental book snob. 

I have been the sort of person who judges you for not being inclined to read fictions, literature, or books of any sort.  I have made disparaging remarks about your person and your intelligence.  You were a non-reader, then you were, basically, a vapid waste of a mind.  You were a person without curiosity or knowledge.  You were boring.  You might have gone to all the cool parties I was never invited to, drank wine coolers and peach schnapps while I was sipping Mountain Dew and coffee, you might have been having sex while I was reading about other people having sex, and you sure as hell thought was the boring one, never knowing I thought you were as useless as tits on a bull.

I was such an asshole.

And a hypocrite.  Because if you did read books, like any good book snob, I judged you based on the books you read.  Only read non-fiction?  Boy have you lost the magic!  Only read Harry Potter?  Did you know there’s a whole diverse world of books available to you?  You thought Romeo Romeo and Juliet was so romantic sneaking into Juliet’s bushes like that?  Coward marries her in secret rather than using his backbone to stand up to their families!  You read Bridget Jones’s Diary but didn’t see the Pride and Prejudice connection?  Hello, his fucking name is Mr. Darcy!

High School.

And I would have loved nothing more than to tell this person:

“Actually, he, Frankenstein, refers to this character as “The Creature”, not the “monster.”  (What a twat!)

But then I went to college, and while I reveled in finding other people who read, other people who (for class) were reading the same things as I, who had also read other books I had read, who encouraged me to read other “good” books, who took my advice when I recommended books, other people who understood what Natasha Rostova, Amy March, Elizabeth Bennet, Hester Prynne, and Nora Helmer have in common, while all this was wonderful and validating and empowering and great, I learned, too, that judging people for not being readers, or reading certain things, was stupid.  

There were two things that didn’t happen for me in high school, well, a lot of things didn’t happen for me in high school, but specifically I didn’t know how smart I was, and I wasn’t challenged.  I did what I had to do to pass my math and science classes (including crying, failing, and taking the “dumb” math classes), but I breezed through my English and Social Studies classes mildly bored and reading the other stories and chapters of the textbooks that we didn’t cover in class.  My boredom and lack of peer understanding led me to pass judgement on my classmates.  Once I had that understanding, once I found my people, I cared less about what other people were reading, or whether they were reading or not.  I had finally found acceptance.

There are many, many posts on the Bookernet about being tolerant of others’ reading choices and I fully believe that anyone can read whatever they want to read.  But there are also an absurd number of posts about Book Snobbery as if being an asshole about reading is acceptable.  This piece on Bustle, which I like because it’s funny (and because it makes book snobs sound like the jerks they are), is also a little tedious.

Although it is a little strange that people who can read choose not to read.  Especially when there are so many people worldwide, including the USA, btdubs,* who either don’t or aren’t allowed to learn how to read.  It seems a little arrogant to not read when there are people (women) who want to read, who wished they could read, so they can better their lives.  I’m not saying people need to read Tolstoy, or Stephen King, or Jane Austen, or Dickens, or Bram Stoker, or Eudora Welty, or Anias Nin, or Joanne Harris, or Shakespeare, or Neil Gaiman, but to say you flat out do not like reading is a mite smug; you are not above the written word.

Today we read more than ever.  We have the Internet, email, text messages, street signs, store names, price tags, and expiration dates.  The ability to read is essential to Western Culture, and there are members of this culture who have fallen through the cracks.  Learning how to read is seen by many as a privilege, when it needs to be a right.  I’m happy people read, and read a lot, and are confused when people who can read don’t.  But what I truly wish is that the people who hate reading because they struggle with it weren’t left behind.  Illiteracy is an issue that doesn’t deserve censure or mockery.  It requires action and compassion.   

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“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.

5 YA Novels Grown People Ought to Read

A writer called Ruth Graham has recently received a lot of flak for voicing an unpopular opinion in her Slate article ‘Against YA’.  In it Graham argues that Adults ought to be embarrassed to read books intended for children.  The Internet Book Community, a community largely comprised of individuals who believe as long as your reading you are awesome, responded with the expected Outrage.

I would be a lying liar-pants if I said I wasn’t peeved when I read Graham’s piece.  Mostly, however, I was shaking my head at Graham’s Susan Pevensie-inability to see the magic anymore; and I was reminded of C.S. Lewis’s letter to his goddaughter in which he wrote that “some day” she’d be “old enough to start reading fairy tales again”.  I was also struck by Graham’s admission that she wasn’t too keen on stories meant for young people when she was a teen.

After sharing this article with my real-life Avid Reader Friends, I was asked by one of them what YA novels I would recommend Adults read.  While I do sometimes read, and enjoy, YA novels, I, like Graham, as a kid sort of jumped over books meant for teens, bypassing them for Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, and other books that were above my understanding.  I’ve never been anti-books-meant-for-teens, however, and I do admit I primarily read them because they are the books my students are reading.

That being said, if you are a Grown Person who, maybe was too old for these books when they were first published, or unaware of them, here are, in no particular order, five books intended for teens that you ought to read:

  1. The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.  Written as a series of letters from protagonist Charlie to an unnamed peer, this story follows approximately one year of the teenager’s life as he makes new friends and discovers girls, drugs, and sexuality.  In his letters, Charlie gives an honest report of why being a teenager is terrible.  Many Grown People can probably read this and see some of their own adolescence in Charlie and his friends.  The book offers grown readers an opportunity to look back and see how much they have changed, and to consider what they learned from that time in their lives.
  2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  Green is a wildly popular author amongst teens and young adults, and, while I liked An Abundance of Katherines better than TFiOS, I include it instead because, while it also shows why being a teen sucks, it’s also a story of an often unseen demographic: kids with cancer.  A whole lot of people will go their entire lives not knowing a single kid with cancer, but they are out there and dealing with something most of us won’t have to even consider until adulthood.  The story is a little silly at times, but it is also important: Green shows the healthy majority that sick kids are Kids.  They have the same hopes and dreams and anger and excitement and wonder and cynicism and idealism as every other kid out there.
  3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.  I read AWiT as an adult and I did not understand the physics even a little bit.  What I did understand, and probably what most children understand, is Meg’s sense of alienation and ostracism.  Feeling like an outsider is not limited to middle and high school.  It is a feeling that can, and does, crop up well into adulthood.  What Meg Murray learns on her adventure is a lesson we all need to be reminded of throughout our lives.
  4. Coraline by Neil Gaiman.  The Victorians are my heroes.  They had no problem scaring the pants off their children to get them to behave.  Influenced by a Victorian story for “middle readers”, Coraline echoes this tradition.  Evoking the adage ‘the grass is always greener’, Gaiman shows a world that seems wonderful, but once Coraline looks past the surface, she discovers something sinister.  In my experience children are straightforward; it’s adults that are often not what they seem, and this story reminds us of that.
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  Like Green’s novel, TATDoaPTI, shows a ‘hidden’ population.  Unless you live near a reservation, or you seek them out, few non-Indians are exposed to the lives of the American Indians.  Alexie gives us their plight growing up on Reservations and what happens when they try better their circumstances.  This concept is not limited to American Indians, but found with any disenfranchised individual who attempts to change.  Results of which vary from what happens to Junior in the novel, to what happened to Malala Yousafzai in real life.  Nor is what happens to Junior, and what happened to Malala limited to children.  Grown People ought to be aware of these issues and Alexie’s novel is a fun and thoughtful way to learn more about them.

I agree with the Online Book Community that no one ought to be embarrassed to read any book that is available in a library or for purchase in a book shop.  If you are a Grown Person reading books intended for Teens and you are annoyed, or feel uncomfortable about it, remember: you are not the target audience.  But that doesn’t mean a Grown Person cannot enjoy or get something out of a novel meant for younger people.

Teen novels, like Grown People novels, are not always good.  Some, in both categories, are downright bad.  (For example, I’d say you can skip the Pretty Little Liars books and Something Borrowed without a second thought.)  But most popular contemporary literature is not going to stand the test of time anyway.  The ones that do will be revered by future generations and the ones that we enjoy because they’re easy beach reads will be replaced by other, equally vacuous-yet-entertaining tales relevant to the times.

I had a literature lecturer in England who declared he wouldn’t read the Harry Potter books because he is, and I quote, “an adult”, and that’s OK.  Some people are not interested in teen novels.  If you are, I recommend the above listed books, as well as many more.  There are plenty of YA novels I have read that I have not alluded to because I read them once and my life is neither better, nor worse, for having read them.  I might never read them again, I may have read them repeatedly, but the overwhelming feeling is mostly ambivalence*.  The five books I’ve listed, I chose because I have read them and I feel they are Worth Reading.

Also: I deliberately excluded older novels from consideration for this list because any novel older than the 1950s that is still popular could be considered a “classic” at this point.  Anything that is considered a “classic” is, by definition, Worth Reading, no matter your age.  

*For example: The Hunger Games Trilogy.  I’ve read them all at least twice.  My favorite was Catching FIre, but your life will continue as it always has whether you do or do not read it.

 

Mercedes.

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2013-12-03 15.40.42

Two cars, both alike in dignity,
In scuzzy Marlborough, where we lay our scene,
Two machines rolled off the same factory floor,
Hardly different, except in name,
A tweak, here and there,
A white stripe here, a taillight there,
Something internal different from the other.
Minute, yet grand enough to cause those
That care to believe one superior to the other.
While the C280 protests it’s worthiness
To, at least, equal the C300.
A cursory glance tells the passersby the two are but the same:
Black sedan, silver; same decal
Centrally adorned
Only closer inspection, as through the
Cafe window, shows the subtle
Differences.  So subtle, but great enough.
The owner of the right
Tediously argues it’s merits and the
Shortcomings of the left.
While weary hearers heave heavy sighs.
She who arrived on foot finds the conversation
One-sided and boring.  She takes up her
Knitting, begins her audiobook,
Drowns out the empty, mechanical details.
Knit one, purl one, while
Neil Gaiman sonorously tells her tales.

— Rebecca

Now that I’ve read it: I do not like this version of ‘Emma’

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It is with a heavy heart that I announce: I do not like this version of 'Emma'

This is not shocking to most who enjoy the works of Jane Austen and critique the film adaptations, but it must be noted that this version of Emma, with Gweneth Paltrow as the title character and Jeremy Northam as the gallant ‘Mr. Knightley’, was actually my introduction to Jane Austen.  In theaters on the heels of Amy Heckerling’s Clueless, the modernized adaptation of Austen’s novel, both films were a great favorite in our household.  (Never ask my sisters and I if we know any quotations from either movie, rest assured we have both memorized.)  And we relished in the elegance and humor of both movies.

When I was in high school, someone or other, probably my mother, suggested I read Pride and Prejudice.  I loved it.  I’ve read it many times hence.  I sort of enjoy the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth BBC teleplay; and I took arbitrary pleasure at seeing the Kiera Knightly version in theaters whilst actually in Enlgand.  Some time later, I read Mansfield Park in Google Books and was somewhat shocked at the liberties filmmakers had taken in the 1999 Frances O’Connor/Jonny Lee Miller version of said film (Billie Piper and Blake Ritson’s 2007 portrayal on the BBC is so very much better than the former).  Northanger Abbey I read sometime later (and thoroughly enjoyed Felicity Jones and JJ Fields as Catherine and Mr. Tilney); then later still I read Persuasion after seeing an extremely boring TV production starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones.  I could not, in good faith, believe one of Austen’s novels to be as boring as that.  So I read it.  And was correct.

The only, of the six, novel that I actively did not watch a film version of before reading the novel was Sense and Sensibility.  My only knowledge of it was that it is a story of two sisters, in a 1995 attempt on the screen, played by Emma Thompson (whom I have loved ever since I first saw Much Ado About Nothing on Masterpiece Theater) and Kate Winslet (who’s Titanic fame never much warmed her to me).  I was resolved to not let any movie adaptation color my opinion of the story as had happened with Emma and Persuasion.  I have since read Sense and Sensibility, just last winter, in fact, and found it to be supremely charming (actually I hated it for a while, then I started to appreciate it — go here and read all about it).

I have a few times endeavored to read Emma, always assuming since I already am familiar with the story that it would be nothing.  But every time I have been frustrated and found I must put the book down.  Why?  I cannot be sure.  Sunday, December 1st, I was feeling amazingly grumpy about many things.  A chance post on Tumblr of Neil Gaiman reading a short story he wrote about December happened to pull me out of my mood.  Recently I have been enjoying this particular gentleman reading his works from the album “An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer” and desirous of hearing a story, rather than half listening to a movie or TV show, while I cleaned, I searched the Internet for audiobooks.

Free audiobooks are interesting hard to come by on the Internet.

But I landed on LibriVox.  No Neil to be found, as LibriVox only caters to works within Public Domain, but I did find old Classics that I either hold dear, or have been meaning to read.  I was going to put on Melville’s Moby Dick, but I thought better of it and discovered Austen’s Emma.  It took a few tries to find a voice that was not objectionable, but find one I did (I recommend version 5, read by Moira Fogarty).  And now, after two days’ listening, I can reasonably say that I have, indeed, read all of Jane Austen’s novels (although, now I do want to attempt actually reading Emma).

Upon ‘reading’ Emma, I have, now, a much greater understanding and appreciation of Jane Fairfax – why film adaptations gloss over her, as they seem to do, is quite silly – and I feel as though I have a better understanding of Emma herself.  Generally her character is to be captured in adaptations, but I find that neither Gweneth, nor Kate Beckinsale really did her justice (although I’ve heard Ramola Garai is lovely).  I now feel as though I understand the complexities of the story – it is more than your garden variety love story about a man who feels more and a girl who realizes almost too late.  No, no, Emma is much more than that: it is a story about relations.  The relationship between men and women, women and women, friends, neighbors, and family members.  It is very much a delightful commentary on how we treat, and how we ought to treat, our neighbors and our friends.  Also, strangers.  Lest we forget Robert Martin.  Emma shows us how, essentially, to be a good person.

I rewatched the 1996 version of Emma after finishing listening to the audiobook – and it was a letdown.  I hated it.  Most of it, anyway.  Everything from how quick the pace of the story is, to Gweneth’s fake British accent (odd she played so many English women in her career).  The most best parts of the movie remain the scene outside the ball when Emma and Mr. Knightly are talking, and when he’s just returned from London and runs into Emma in the lane.  Because, I think, those two scenes retained the most of the original dialogue and sentiment from the novel.  Mr. Knightly says to Emma things actually written out in the novel, and Jeremy Northam, I think captured Mr. Knightly, if not very well, then mostly (much better than whatshisface opposite the Beckinsale – although he’s supposed to be excellent in other things).  But, my point being, I am saddened that I now find my introduction to Jane Austen so disappointing.  It’s a shame really.  The thing that gave me a taste, a thing so beloved and cherished for so long, is now an afterthought.

It is my own fault, I probably shouldn’t have watched it immediately after finishing the audiobook.  I will, one day, watch it again and find it sweet and feel nostalgic, but not so close to reading the novel, I should think.

Blogs: When we need them, and when we don’t.

“For, what, two years I wrote an essay about nearly every book I read and I posted it on my Tumblr: Literary Bex. I loved everything about writing those essays. They ranged from pure reader/response pieces to analytical. I ranted about books I read, and I raved; I poured my heart out, and I remained incredibly reserved. Sometimes I had a bone to pick with the writer over nit-picky things like character development or more basic writing skills like grammar. In 2013 I’ve written two essays. I’ve read more than two books this year, but I only felt like I needed to write two essays, and they were back in February when life was amazingly, and stupidly, and unnecessarily rough. But the rest of the year I haven’t needed this blog the way I have in the past.”

This is how I started my first essay for Literary Bex, the Tumblr, in nine months (it’ll be posted Friday 11/22 at 12 pm Eastern).  I wrote a grand total of two essays back in February and then I stopped.  On the one hand it may have been because I started working in March and didn’t stop until August.  Even then I was only taking a three week break between jobs, during which I traveled and slept on a beach.  I started working in September and only last week stopped again.  Because I lead the life of a seasonal worker.

This is the cold truth, is it not?  I only seem to blog with any seriousness when I am not employed.  As if these blogs are filling the time I, the rest of the year, spend running around with my students and campers teaching them stuff.  I work amazingly long days when I’m employed and have minimal time and energy to spend reading.  Even less energy to write anything about them.  On my days off this summer (weekends) I spent most of my time reading, watching Netflix, and making bracelets.  I wasn’t interested in writing about what I had read: I was reading to keep my mind from turning to mush as I spent most of my time trekking about the Connecticut woods with eight to twelve year-olds (the rest of my time was spent dispensing words of wisdom – gleaned from all my years of living – to my 18 to 22 year old coworkers).  Reading something not about sex-lives or bugs was a mental necessity.

I didn’t need the blogs.  I didn’t need to sit down and write about the things I was thinking.  I needed to relish in the delight of reading this year.  I didn’t need to analyze what I was reading.  I didn’t need others to read about what I think about what I’ve read.  I didn’t need the internet.

And, it was nice.  It was nice to read without feeling like I needed to think about it.

I started Literary Bex, the Tumblr, because I needed it at the time.  I needed occupation.  I was unemployed, living with my sister’s family outside Boston, and I was reading… a lot.  I read so many books that winter it was ridiculous.  I had so many thoughts and I missed writing essays about what I was reading.  So I started writing essays about what I was reading.  I wrote essays about books, plays, novellas, graphic novels, short stories, comic strips, TV shows… I wrote essays about so many forms of storytelling; every kind of story I was absorbing, I was writing about it.  I needed it.

This year I didn’t.

I might, and I probably will, again need to write these essays with the same regularity, but for now I am all set.  I’m still happy to discuss, answer questions, engage in discourse about books I have read; but the need to analyze is minimal at the moment.  Please, if you want to discuss books, I am here.  Otherwise, happy reading.

Xxx Bex

Writing.

I have this need to be funny.  I’ve had it all my life.  The first time I can remember amusing a room full of people was when my brother was in college.  I was about five years old, maybe six.  He had some friends over.  Wanting attention, any little bit of it, I skipped into his room and immediately (I was a damn cute kid) had the attention of three or four nineteen or twenty year olds.  The conversation went like this:

Me: Hi.

Bro: Hi?

Me: Whatchoo doin’?

Bro: [Tells me what they’re doing.]

Me: Ok.  Bye!

And out I skipped.  I was Mindy from that Animaniacs sketch before Animaniacs existed.

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“Ok, I love you! Bye, bye!”

And as I skipped away I heard my brother’s friend say:

“Dude, your little sister is cool.”

Thus began my affection for men of a certain age.  Wink, wink.

No, but really, that may be the moment I realized that by being my weird self I could amuse others and gain their love and affection.

Since then I have, on occasion, gone out of my way to be weird or dramatic or over-the-top when under-the-radar would suffice and sometimes it has backfired (although, in my defense, that Saliga girl wasn’t going to like me not matter what I did or said).  But most of the time it has brought wonderful and lovely people into my life.

My affinity for the bizarre, the ridiculous, and the weird has also leeched into my writing.  In college I wrote a short story that was a lovely piece about two sisters burying the hatchet and making piece with one another.  But the story starts out with one of the twins shopping in a consignment shop with a friend.  Our protagonist says to her friend: “You know what’s weird?” and the friend responds “My brother’s lazy eye.”  I thought that response was a mite out there, a little distracting, potentially inappropriate, but my best college friend read it and couldn’t stop laughing.  She fucking loved it!  I was attempting to curb my weirdness, but she was calling for more!  More!  More!

Somehow my weirdness is generally well received.  I wrote something stupid and bizarre where the protagonist/narrator is chasing a woman in a red cape through a crowded subway station full of faceless people until the woman falls onto the tracks and the protagonist/narrator sees her face as she stares cold and dead at the ceiling and it is her own face.  A pal read that (a pal who I think always just tells me he likes my stuff regardless of what he might really think) and said he enjoyed it.  This was the eleventh grade.

I have always had a strange attraction to skulls, witches, death, death rituals (funerals, etc), unexplainable events, ESP, premonitions, etc… typical middle class suburban girl stuff (remember that movie Now and Then when they have the seance in the graveyard?).  Probably explains why I am so drawn to H.P. Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman, Edgar Allan Poe, Koji Suzuki, Lois Duncan, Agatha Christie… murder mysteries and anything with an occult element (despite not “believing” in “spirits”).  I like original fairy tales and folk tales for the same reason.  There’s a magical element generally and even though I don’t believe in “magic” I believe there is magic in the world and that it’s important to remember that.

I suppose “believing in the weirdness” goes along with that.  If people will believe in my bizarre Ursula K. LeGuin/Diana Wynne Jones/Neil Gaiman sorts of worlds then they might just remember that there is magic in the world and that we must create it every day.

A List (And Links) to “Reviews” of the Books I’ve Read This Year

Cannery Row
Pieces Of Eight
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk
Photograph 51
Shortpacked!
Out of the Silent Planet
The Help
The Little Prince
The Phantom Tollbooth
The Phantom of the Opera
Me Talk Pretty One Day
The Marriage Plot
Anansi Boys
Isn’t It Pretty To Think So? 
The Surgeon
The Apprentice
The Sinner

Bel Canto

I think I need to stop “Following” some Tumblr book blogs.*

Maybe because I’m currently a little grouchy, maybe because many of the writers I read are already dead, maybe because I’m years older than some of these bloggers: I’m getting a little tired of the sentiment of wanting to be best friends with beloved authors.

In this age of global communication, we can read author’s blogs, we can follow their activities on Facebook, we can send them tweets (twats? twits?) given they are on Twitter, and they have the option to respond to us.  If the author does respond, the person is likely to remember this event for years to come, but the author?  Unlikely.  (This gives the semblance of communication.)

When I read a book, a novel, a poem, and it moves me beyond words, I don’t hero worship the person who wrote it (unless its Agatha Christie); I don’t want this person to be my best friend.  We might be in agreement; their words might validate my own sentiments, beliefs, or feelings; they may have taught me something new about the world and myself, but I’m not going to talk about the author as something he or she isn’t.

And it’s weird and wearisome to read what these girls write about their lurve for J.K. Rowling and John Green and how they all seem to want Neil Gaiman to be their surrogate father.**  That being said: I think its wonderful to interact with authors, I think it’s great that Neil Gaiman takes time to respond to some of the questions he gets asked on Tumblr, but the over-the-top adoration is a mite trying to read so often.

And I’ve been tongue tied when speaking with an author; I’ve been to readings; I would love to have tea with David Sedaris, or a stiff drink with Chelsea Handler; and I think John Green and I could have some delightfully sarcastic conversations about things we both love or hate.***  And I don’t want to begrudge these readers their love for these authors, I just don’t want to read about their lurve for these authors quite so often.

*Sorry if this is bitchy.

**I have the utmost respect for everyone mentioned in this post.

***I would love to create a world with Neil Gaiman one day.