Archive | Books RSS feed for this section

Literary Love #7: Gilbert Blythe – Anne of Green Gables

9 May

anne___gil__snub_by_swankkatImage

Gilbert Blythe

(Anne of Green Gables)

I don’t want sunbursts or marble halls,

I just want you.

Gilbert and Anne were my first fictional model of love and as such I tried to force future interactions with men down the path they took. Spunky, dreamer girl–check! Handsome rival–check! Hate each other at first, only to realize they’ve always been in love!

It’s a model we’ve seen again and again and it seemed like The One to me. Once, I dramatically ripped up a school paper of a boy I liked, my early 2000s answer to smashing a chalkboard on his head. I then felt so guilty after I apologized again and again profusely.

Alas, I was not Anne.

I am not Anne.

I see her in me, though, in the way I see my dearest and oldest friends in me. The girls who shaped view of the world, my politics, my personality. The girls I grew up with. Anne is one of them.

I just wasn’t to have her exact love story.

From the book:

For a moment Anne’s heart fluttered queerly and for the first time her eyes faltered under Gilbert’s gaze and a rosy flush stained the paleness of her face. It was as if a veil that had hung before her inner consciousness had been lifted, giving to her view a revelation of unsuspected feelings and realities. Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, perhaps. . . perhaps. . .love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.

(Anne of Avonlea)

PS: Love #1#2#3, #4#5, #6

 

Literary Love #6: Prince Jonathan – The Lioness Quartet

6 May

3557562b072cfa6f01d03195125625ce

Image

(There is truly not enough fan art about this series)

Prince Jonathan IV of Conté

(The Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce)

If you have anything in common with a prince

you make it work

This is surely my most dramatic fan love of all time. I was so distraught that Jonathan and Alanna did not end up marrying each other that a friend and I printed off divorce papers online. Using a quill, we filled them out citing irreconcilable differences, “I was always in love with another man,” we wrote, as Alanna.

Middle school was such a fun time to be me.

The thing was this. Prince Jonathan was Alanna’s best friend during her time where she was pretending to be a boy. He then became her first love. They understood each other, they called each other out, they were equals. And then suddenly, oh wait, she’s in love with the King of Thieves? What?

Tamora Pierce herself ADMITS SHE WROTE IT SO ALANNA AND JON ENDED UP TOGETHER ORIGINALLY.

In the original manuscript (the quartet started out as a single adult novel), Alanna did marry Jon. The problem was that the whole final third of the book then felt awkward and so not-right. When I broke it up into four books for kids, I realized the problem. Alanna did not want to marry Jon. If I wasn’t going to let her have her way, she was going to make the writing a misery. You may have noticed that with Alanna, you do things her way or not at all.

Yes, yes, whatever. You are writing the series, lady. You can’t write four books with us falling in love with them as a pair and then go oh, oops nevermind.

It’s like when JK Rowling just dropped “Hey yeah Hermione and Harry should have been together.” Um, that’s really, really not fair. You wrote seven books proving otherwise, for seven books you made us fall for Hermione and Ron and NOW you want to pull that?

Nope.

I’m not having it.

And I didn’t have it the first time I read The Lioness Quartet, or today, or any day.

Prince Jonathan celebrated Alanna’s originality. He was fun, beautiful, her best friend.

He was her guy. Don’t write 3.5 books telling us he was her guy and then pull that crap.

I’m fine!

Totally fine!

From the book:

“You’re fighting what has to be,” Jonathan said, “and you know it as well as I do.”

“I–I know no such thing,” Alanna stammered. “I promised myself once that I’d never love a man! Maybe I almost broke that promise just now because of moonlight and silliness–”

“Stop it,” he told her sternly. He made her look up at him. “We belong to each other. Is that silliness?”

PS: Love #1#2#3, #4, #5

Literary Love #5: Ender Wiggin

5 May

461a1aef05020644f596a298aa7b4507

Image

Ender Wiggin

(Ender’s Game)

Born to save the world and lose his own soul

 

Ender is different than any other person on this list. For one, he is quite young. I was quite young when I fell for him, but his youth is important. This is no grown Rhett Butler. This is a vulnerable kid who was bred for a military task which ultimately destroyed him and nearly destroyed an entire race. It is a space opera minus the melodramatics and romance. The stakes are life or death. Ender, a smart, compassionate, scared young kid is manipulated by the adults around him.

There are no proposals or great love soliloquies in this one. Ender is not the love interest. There is no real love interest. This is science fiction, a military book. And yet, as a child reading it I fell deeply for Ender. He immediately shot to the top of my Tortured Soul List, a list cradled close to my heart. I and I alone could reach these messed up human beings. I could show them how to love again, or for the first time. I could clean their wounds, day in and day out until they learned to trust humans again. I and I alone could heal their broken selves.

This got me into a lot of trouble years later when I started dating real life men.

From the book:

“I killed them all, didn’t I?” Ender asked.

“All who?” asked Graff. “The buggers? That was the idea…”

“I didn’t want to kill them all. I didn’t want to kill anybody! I’m not a killer! You didn’t want me, you bastards, you wanted Peter, but you made me do it, you tricked me into it!”

“Of course we tricked you into it. That’s the whole point. It had to be a trick or you couldn’t have done it. It’s the bind we were in. We had to have a commander with so much empathy that he would think like the buggers, understand them and anticipate them. So much compassion that he could win the love of his underlings and work with them like a perfect machine, as perfect as the buggers. But somebody with that much compassion could never be the killer we needed. Could never go into battle willing to win at all costs. If you knew, you couldn’t do it. If you were the kind of person who would do it even if you knew, you could never have understood the buggers well enough.”

 

PS: Love #1, #2, #3, #4

Literary Love #4: Laurie – Little Women

4 May

43a6f78fe2e4eebb7d15dfcacb59037fI

Image

Laurie

(Little Women)

He ended up with the wrong March sister

He ended up with the wrong March sister

He ended up with the wrong March sister

 

From the book:

I think I have cried more over Laurie than any fictional character. Every time I reread the book I would wander around the house in a haze, tears streaming down my face. It was all wrong. Jo and the professor were all wrong. He and Amy were all wrong. Full body sobs, uncontrollable emotion.

“Laurie was a young lover, but he was in earnest, and meant to ‘have it out’, if he died in the attempt so he plunged into the subject with characteristic impetuosity, saying in a voice that would get choky now and then, in spite of manful efforts to keep it steady…’I've loved you ever since I’ve known you, Jo, couldn’t help it, you’ve been so good to me. I’ve tried to show it, but you wouldn’t let me. Now I’m going to make you hear, and give me an answer, for I can’t go on any longer.”

The movie does it well when they add this:

Jo_and_Laurie_better-person

Image

I mean, come on! I’m posting a collage here! That’s how strongly I still feel!

tumblr_mf72urUqb71qe0deco1_500

 

Image

 

Excuse me while I go sob.

 

Love #1, #2 and #3

 

 

Literary Love #3: Rhett Butler – Gone with the Wind

2 May

31b3e906e15abc2aadcf8e5ae0310936

Image

Rhett Butler

(Gone with the Wind)

152 times I pined for Rhett Butler

152 times I missed the underlying masculinity complex

 

 

From the book:

Rhett’s proposal to Scarlett is 8 beautiful pages of romance! and drama! I would type out all eight pages, but, I’ll let you read them. I have done a dramatic reading of these pages to most of my close friends at one time or another and wonder if I should go to an open mic and take this show on the road?

Anyway, here’s part of his proposal:

“I always intended having you, Scarlett, since that first day I saw you at Twelve Oaks where you threw that vase and swore and proved that you weren’t a lady. I always intended having you one way or another, but as you and Frank have made a little money, I know you’ll never be driven to me again with any interesting propositions of loans and collateral. So I see I’ll have to marry you.”

“Rhett Butler, is this one of your vile jokes?”

“I bare my soul and you are suspicious! No, Scarlett, this is a bona fide honorable declaration. I admit that it’s not in the best of taste, coming at this time, but i have a very good excuse for my lack of breeding. I’m going away tomorrow for a long time and I fear that if I wait till I return you’ll have married someone else with a little money. So I thought, why not me and my money? Really Scarlett, I can’t go all my life, waiting to catch you between husbands.”

“Come Scarlett, you are no child, no schoolgirl to put me off with foolish excuses about decency and so forth. Say you’ll marry me when I come back or, before God, I won’t go. I’ll stay around here and lay guitar under your window every night and sing t the top of my voice and compromise you, so you’ll have to marry me to save your reputation.”

(Scarlett) “I am fond of you.”

“Fond of me?”

“Well, if I said I was madly in love with you, I’d be lying and what’s more, you know it.”

(Rhett) “No, my dear, I’m not in love with you, no more than you are with me, and if I were, you would be the last person I’d ever tell. God help the man who ever really loves you. You’d break his heart, my darling, cruel destructive little cat who is so careless and confident she doesn’t even trouble to sheathe her claws.”

OOH also when Rhett asks Scarlett to dance when she’s a mourning widow because he knows she wants to be center of attention. One of my favorite chapters in all of literature.

 

PS: Love #1 and Love #2 

Literary Love #2: Sirius Black – Harry Potter

1 May

tomhardyweb_0

Image of the man who should have played Sirius in the films, I’ll argue this to my death

Sirius Black

(Harry Potter)

A former golden boy turned tortured soul

What more could a good suburban girl want?

 

From Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:

“Harry saw Sirius give James the thumbs-up. Sirius was lounging in his chair at his ease, tilting it back on two legs. He was very good-looking; his dark hair fell into his eyes with a sort of casual elegance neither James’s nor Harry’s could ever have achieved, and a girl sitting behind him was eying him hopefully, though he didn’t seem to have noticed.”

“Sirius stared around at the students milling over the grass, looking rather haughty and bored, but very handsomely so.”

 

PS: Love #1 here.

Literary Love #1: Prince Char – Ella Enchanted

30 Apr

Welcome to my week-long celebration of my literary loves! There have been so many–so many men who shaped what I was looking for, who turned my world upside down before any real life man had ever even stepped into it.

Feel free to join me! I would love to hear your loves.

Inspired in part by this poetry series.

3ef9f49df12d8673f517bc7ff8955828

Image

Prince Char

(Ella Enchanted)

Love, love, love

One word. Three times.

The closing to all my letters

for years, years, years

 

 

From the book:

Dear Ella,

Impatience is not usually my weakness. But your letters torment me. They make me long to saddle my horse and ride to Frell, where I would make you explain yourself. They are playful, interesting, thoughtful, and (occasionally) serious. I’m overjoyed to receive them, yet they bring misery. You say little of your daily life; I have no idea how you occupy yourself. I don’t mind; I enjoy guessing at the mystery. But what I really long to know you do not tell either: what you feel, although I’ve given you hints by the score of my regard.

You like me. You wouldn’t waste time or paper on a being you didn’t like. But I think I’ve loved you since we met at your mother’s funeral. I want to be with you forever and beyond, but you write that you are too young to marry or too old or too short or too hungry — until I crumple your letters up in despair, only to smooth them out again for a twelfth reading, hunting for hidden meanings.

Father asks frequently in his letters whether I fancy any Ayorthian young lady or any in our acquaintance at home. I say no. I suppose I’m confessing another fault: pride. I don’t want him to know that I love if my affections are not returned.

You would charm him, and Mother too. They would be yours completely. As I am.

What a beautiful bride you’ll be, whomever you marry at whatever age. And what a queen if I am the man! Who has your grace? Your expression? Your voice? I could extol your virtues endlessly, but I want you to finish reading and answer me quickly.

Today I cannot write of Ayortha or my doings or anything. I can only post this and wait.

Love (it is such a relief to pen the word!), love, love—

Char

My 2017 Newbery Picks

11 Apr

If I were in charge of picking Newbery Honor books for 2017, I would have chosen the following five books. Look, the ones chosen were nice, but these ones. These ones were a cool breath of air in the midst of a neverending Arizona summer. Stick-your-head-in-the-ice-cream- freezer-at-Ralphs-on-a-120-degree-day kind of refreshing.

I loved them all dearly. Was it a spectacular year for children’s books or what?

1. The Best Man by Richard Peck

the-best-man-hi-res-cover

The children’s librarian in charge of the New York Public Library’s Best Books For Kids List said this was her favorite children’s book in 2016 and she immediately started reading it again after she finished. That was enough recommendation for me, and I, too, found myself mesmerized by this story of family, ultimately. I love when children’s literature writes really loving, supportive, complex, human, wonderful families. So often in middle grade or young adult literature families are absent or dumb, but this family was solid and warm and caring. I need to read it again.

2. Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

91tNFyoPSTL

If you have ever been a teacher, or know someone who is a teacher or wanted to be a teacher you should read this book. If you haven’t ever been a teacher and don’t know someone who is a teacher and have never wanted to be a teacher I still recommend it completely. I guess I recommend all of these completely so that isn’t exactly the best measure.

3. It Ain’t So Awful Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas

It-Aint-so-Awful-Falafel-HI-RES-final

Very…real. I don’t know how else to describe it. It was based on the author’s experiences growing up Iranian in Newport Beach in the 1970s during the Iranian hostage crisis. It’s the universal middle school story of being uncomfortable in your own skin, with the backdrop of political and social turmoil. NYPL named it as one of their most recommended books of last year after I had already come to this conclusion so I felt 1) validated 2) ahead of the times, which are my two best feelings.

4. All Rise For the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor

y648

Perry grew up in a minimum security prison and is removed from this home by a well-meaning member of the community to go into foster care. Heart freaking warming and breaking and feeling. I tweeted this out to Rainbow Rowell as a recommendation, that’s how strongly I felt! (She was not even asking for recommendations!)

5. Ghost by Jason Reynolds

ghost-9781481450157_hr

Jason Reynolds is The Man. He is able to capture characters and experiences so well and Ghost just might be my favorite thing he’s written. It’s the story of a young boy on a track team. There’s more to it, obviously, but it begins there. A young, scared, cocky, kid on a track team.

Hallelujah Anyway

9 Apr

17663726_412918632407203_2423352339474677760_n

Last night I dreamt of Manderley.

Of my own Manderleys, I should say. Last night I dreamt of some of the most painful times of my life. They swirled back and forth, the hurts that live inside me and come alive when my body rests.

I woke up exhausted.

Anne Lamott says of her father’s death,

I’m not positive we ever got over it, in the way that the world assured us we would, and hoped we would, although with these badly broken psychic legs, we learned to dance again, to hike again, with limps and weird orthopedic shoes.

I put on my weird orthopedic shoes and went for a limping walk. That’s the solution to just about everything. Drink some water. Go on a walk.

Remember no feeling is final.

Malibu is bubbling and bursting and blooming these days. I reminded myself of the good things I have. Of this perfect town I live in. Of the man I love–my funny, kind, favorite human. Of flirting flowers and powerful stories and afternoons off. Of a body strong enough to go on walks, of an ocean breeze and a spring sun.

One has to be done with the pretense of being just fine, unscarred, perfectly self-sufficient. No one is.*

I caught up on my podcasts and made myself a meal. A meal with meat and fruit and a side of homemade guacamole. A meal while Dear Sugar played in the background.

I took out my trash.

The ancient Chinese had a practice of embellishing the cracked part of valued possessions with gold leaf, which says: We dishonor it if we pretend that it hadn’t gotten broken. It says: We value this enough to repair it. So it is not denial or a cover-up. It is the opposite, an adornment of the break with gold leaf, which draws the cracks into greater prominence. The gold leaf becomes part of its beauty. Somehow the aesthetic of its having been cracked but still being here, brought back not to baseline but restored, brings increase.

I put on my most comfortable dress and opened up my laptop to finish reading my friend’s book. She has a book deal with HarperCollins, this friend. These words will be published one day. They will be bound and sent to bookstores and libraries everywhere. Her words, her world, her story, once in her head alone—they will enter the world.

I’m mentioned in it.

That is so un-American. Most of the time we throw it out, cover it up with a doily, or patch the crack so we can still sell the item. This other way is to save our valuables with our own hands, to pass on to our children, nieces, and nephews Auntie’s chipped Inuit carving. Uncle Will’s journals. And if they toss Uncle Will’s journals, rich in memories and minutiae of this family’s story? That’s on them. Not our fault, for once. (Reason enough to get out the gold leaf.) We are invited to be part of creation, like planting shade trees for children whose parents were born last week.

As the sun hangs heavy in the sky I yawn and curl up for a nap. It’s my favorite time of day to be still and drift away for the moment.

The sky turns gold around me.

It’s a dreamless sleep.

 

 

*Quotes from Anne Lamott’s newest book Hallelujah Anyway

Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Our Teenage Diaries

25 Feb

I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say. They are not brave, the days when we are twenty-one. They are full of little cowardices, little fears without foundation, and one is so easily bruised, so swiftly wounded, one falls to the first barbed word. To-day, wrapped in the complacent armour of approaching middle age, the infinitesimal pricks of day by day brush one but lightly and are soon forgotten, but then–how a careless word would linger, becoming a fiery stigma, and how a look, a glance over a shoulder, branded themselves as things eternal. A denial heralded the thrice crowing of a cock, and an insincerity was like the kiss of Judas. The adult mind can lie with untroubled conscience and a gay composure, but in those days even a small deception scoured the tongue, lashing one against the stake itself.

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

Princess-Leia-behind-the-scenes-starwars3

 Image

In Carrie Fisher’s final book The Princess Diarist, she includes exercpts from the diary she kept in 1976 while filming Star Wars. It’s almost exclusively about Harrison Ford.

Carrie and Harrison had a three-month affair on set when Carrie was 19.

It was intense.

In many ways these passages are my favorite thing she’s ever written.

Oh sure, Carrie is an excellent writer and everything I’ve read of hers is smart, but it’s also polished. It’s edited. It’s thought-out knowing an audience will read it.

Her diary, on the other hand, is simply the hurt of a teenage girl in way too deep with an emotionally unavailable man. Also known as All Of Our Teenage Diaries. She says, “If anyone reads this when I have passed to the big bad beyond I shall be posthumously embarrassed. I shall spend my entire afterlife blushing.”

And then, forty years later, she chose to publish it.

Here are some of my favorite bits:

One could never call me a quitter

I take something right and see it

Through until it’s wrong

Auctioning myself off to the lowest bidder

Going once, going twice

Gone

Sold to the man for the price of disdain

Some are sold for a song

I don’t rate a refrain

I knew right away that he was a find

He knew that you  had to be cruel to be kind

Given this, he was the kindest man I’d ever met

Back came my sense of worthlessness

And my long lost pangs of regret

I was my old self again, lost and confused

Reunited with that old feeling

Of being misunderstood and misused

Sold to the man for the price of disdain

All of this would be interesting

If it weren’t so mundane.

I was sitting by myself the other night doing the usual things one does when spending time alone with ourselves. You know, making mountains out of molehills, hiking up to the top  of the mountains, having a Hostess Twinkie and then throwing myself off the mountain.

I gave you far more credit than you were actually due

You see I thought I was only seeing half the man

But that was all there was to you

I can’t focus on the good things. There are good things going on all around me, but I don’t trust them, I can’t make use of them, don’t have the time for them; I’m too preoccupied with my precious panic.It seems to be demanding almost all of my attention. My own personal private collection of panic.

I’ve got to stop fooling around with all these human beings and fall in love with a chair. It would have everything that the immediate situation has to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional and intellectual feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience and less response. The less the merrier.

Chairs. They’re always there when you need them and while their staying implies total devotion they still manage to remain aloof, noncommittal and insensitive. Immovable and loyal. Reliable and consoling. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.

It’s very dangerous to have someone like you, because one day he’ll find that you are not the person he thought you were. He’ll end up someday having only one thing in common with you and that’ll be a shared sense of contempt and disgust for you. Of course you knew all along how foolish and worthless you were, you just hoped that if you crouched down behind yourself enough he wouldn’t see it. But one day when your guard is off-duty you see him see. You both catch you at yourself. Catch you behaving. And then you’re lost. No. You were lost all along.

I started with snacking on the inaccessibility of random silent jerks and seem to have arrived at making a full meal of it. Now I’ve had more than enough. I want the check. Waiter?

Call his indifference mystery

Call his arrogance intellect

All you’ve got to lose is your heart

And a little self-respect

I suspect that no matter what happens I will allow it to hurt me. Eat away at my insides, as it were–as it will be. As it always has been. Why am I so accessible? Why do I give myself to people who will always and should always remain strangers? I have always relied on the cruelty of strangers and I must stop it now. I am a fool. I need a vacation from myself. I’m not very good at it lately.

I can’t think about it anymore. It makes my head hurt. My mind works overtime trying to rationalize it, categorize, it, define it until it no longer means anything.Put it into words–you can’t feel words. I think that if I could give a name to what I feel it would go away. Find the word that describes the feeling and say it over and over until it’s merely a sound.

It’s a shame it’s not Mark–it could’ve been. It should’ve been. It might’ve meant something. Maybe not much, but certainly more.

We often assume that when the surface offers so little the depth must be unfathomable. Whatever is inaccessible must be worthwhile.

During the long stretches of silence one can study him, eventually filling him in to suit one’s likes or dislikes. (The satisfaction of one’s fantasy.)  I have filled him in to be unobtainable, disinterested, attractive and bored with my company. My ideal mate. Someone to endure, never to enjoy. I am totally at his mercy. ..I am frightened of the power I have given him over me and how he will almost certainly abuse it, merely by not being fully aware he has it.

I call people sometimes hoping not only that they’ll verify the fact that I’m alive but that they’ll also, however indirectly, convince me that being alive is an appropriate state for me to be in. Because sometimes I don’t think it’s such a bright idea. Is it worth the trouble it takes trying to live life so that someday you get something worthwhile out of it, instead of it almost always taking worthwhile things out of you?

But after all was said and almost done

I was playing for keeps and he was playing for fun

Trying relentlessly to make you love me, but I don’t want the love–I quite prefer the quest for it. The challenge. I am always disappointed with someone who loves me–how perfect can he be if he can’t see through me?

Here I am again

Making the same mistake

Instead of learning my lesson

I just establish a new record to break

I do not want to take part in my life. It can just go on without me; I’m not giving it any help. I don’t want to see it, I don’t want to talk to it, I don’t want it anywhere near me. It takes too much energy. I refuse to be a part of it. If you have a life, even if you get used to it ruining your sleep, spoiling your fun, requiring your somewhat undivided attention, what overwhelming relief one must feel when it finally skips town.

I wish I could go away somewhere but the only problem with that is that I’d have to go, too.