May 12, 2010

Bluebell Wood

 

 To my considerable bemusement I’ve had two or three requests for bluebell photos.*  Maybe the photos look better if you’re not surrounded by the real thing.  Although it’s a funny thing about bluebells:  even though they’re almost overwhelmingly magical in person, even I feel the Must.  Go.  There.  of bluebell photos.  Even these not-very-satisfactory photos, because bluebell photos are never satisfactory, do have that effect—well, on me anyway, and at least two or three of my blog readers, I guess.  You know that that world is enchanted—the world with flowering bluebells in it—and in the photos it’s the whole world.  When you’re walking through a bluebell wood you’re sadly aware that you’re going to have to come back out again into the world of internal combustion engines and aggressive off lead dogs and hung parliaments**.  A photo of a bluebell wood is a little window to Middle earth. 

Bluebells also smell, however, and it’s somehow a wild smell, much wilder than, say, wild hedgerow roses, and it stays wild even when you have bluebells trying to take over your garden, which is what bluebells do in a garden, they’re the flowering bulb version of blackbirds.  But the fragrance is some recompense for the inevitable reentry of/to engines, nasty dogs and parliaments.   

 

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 * Remember:  askrobin@robinmckinleysblog.com  It’ll go up permanently on the opening page soon, but until then I’ll keep reminding you.^ 

^ And while I’m hanging around at askrobin, let’s answer another question.

 Was it your intent for the Queen from ‘Spindle’s End’ to seem like she came from Ossin’s country in ‘Deerskin’ in what seems to be direct lineage to Deerskin’s friend Lilac (if she isn’t Deerskin’s friend Lilac) or possibly even Deerskin herself.

 Yes.  No. Yes, Rosie’s mum in Spindle’s End is from Ossin’s country, but no she’s not directly related to Lissar or Lilac.

 In your defense of Pollyanna, [ http://robinmckinleysblog.com/2010/05/03/in-defense-of-pollyanna/ ] you mentioned, that you strongly disliked a book, that it did not work for you. What are your personal criteria for dismissing a book as trash? Bad prose? Weak female characters? Can a book be written with one or the other and still be considered a success ­or at least worth reading? 

First I want to differentiate between good trash and bad trash.  Good trash is fun enjoyable stuff that doesn’t shake you out of your comfort zone, or maybe only a little, in a tingly, giddy sort of way.  Am I being insulting?  I hope not.  I love good trash.  Georgette Heyer wrote the epitome of superb trash.  She’s not the only one, but she’s safely dead so I don’t have to worry about insulting her.

            Bad trash . . . bad trash is junk food for the mind and the heart.  You may think it tastes good on the way down—and if you’re on a steady diet of it you won’t notice the icky chemical aftertaste—but it’ll fur up your arteries and make you stupid. 

            In this particular case it was another of these frelling supernatural romances.  I was reading it because it’s one of the ones that come up when people are discussing the post-TWILIGHT boom of YA supernatural romance.  It features another wet, useless heroine, another hundreds-of-years-old supernatural boyfriend+ who Loves Only Her for No Discernable Reason, an almost total lack of plot, a short list of tics and mannerisms instead of a writing style and endless bulldiddly about whether to Go All the Way or not.  

            Bad prose is unfortunate, and generally speaking, there being so many books out there and I am such a slow reader, I won’t bother with a book that isn’t written with story-specific grace and aplomb—Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time are both written with great story-specific grace and aplomb, for example, even if it’s not what Jane Austen or Jorge Luis Borges would use.  And if I threw out every book with weak female characters I’d have to throw out pretty well all of, for example, Charles Dickens and Raymond Chandler, both of whom I cherish.  But both of them had other virtues—style to burn, for example, especially in Chandler’s case, and an imagination so vivid it pretty well boils off the page at you in Dickens’. 

            They were also humans, which is to say men, of their times.++  I’m really not going to put up with wet, useless heroines in books written today, and the post-TWILIGHT+++ frenzy for boyfriends who totally take care of you so you can go on being wet and useless MAKES ME CRAAAAAZY.  And so does the coy crap about sex.  Arrrgh.

 P.S.: I was wondering something else: Where does the name ‚Pollyanna come from? It’s definitely a character in a book I should have read ­ but which book and by whom? 

Ahem.  Google and Wikipedia are your friends.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollyanna

 + I adore Buffy, and with every other gloppy fanatic one of my favourite eps is the one where Angel shows up at the prom, but she is the Slayer, which a lot of the rippers-off who have come after seem to forget.

 ++ And Dickens had quite a scintillating line in tortured anti-heroines.  He just couldn’t do good women without plunging hip-deep into sentimental tosh.

 +++ And yes, TWILIGHT is pretty much the only current book I’ve been willing to say I don’t like—and I mean seriously don’t like—and that Bella and Edward’s relationship is psychotic.   TWILIGHT is trying to chain feminism in the cellar again, with a gag in her mouth and a bag over her head.   No.  I won’t go.

 ** Gah.  Get on with it, guys, we do need a government.

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