I was thinking about this this morning—about being a girl—because I pulled a few forum comments about it out last night, and then went off in some other direction in last night’s blog, as I am wont to do. But this morning I was thinking about it as I stared at the cardigan I was planning on wearing, which has a lot of different colours in it*, and deciding which t-shirt—a nice, pretty, girlie t-shirt—would look best under it, the blue? the turquoise? the orange? the yellow?** I settled on the blue, but with the orange coral bead necklace. All of this matters to me, you see. And it matters whether anyone is going to see me but Peter*** and the hellhounds or not; I dress for me. Although dressing for me includes that I waste enough time on articles of clothing, which are frequently as possessed by demons as technology ever is†, so I’m damned if I’m going to tangle with make up too, so I don’t††, and that from the waist down I’m always in jeans or a jeans-equivalent because of the whole hellhounds/gardening/outdoor/messy thing. I love skirts, especially big full swirly ones, but trousers are easier. And All Stars, of course. I’m what you might call a practical girlie girl. Still . . . girlie. This was one of my shattering moments of late, reluctant self-acceptance . . . oh, in my late thirties somewhere. I’M A GIRL! GET USED TO IT!
These are all from Silly Day, Part the First . . . and this first one’s not about girlyness at all, but forgive me for succumbing to the temptation . . .
. . . My favorite Diana Wynne Jones book is probably The Dark Lord of Derkholm
Which is dedicated to MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. Just by the way. Although anyone with the first American ed won’t have it. The British does. I’ve posted a photo of the dedication page of—I think it’s the Finnish—edition, haven’t I? For some reason it amuses me immoderately.
I spent most of my adolescence & early adulthood struggling with ‘femininity.’ I have wider-than usual shoulders & ribcage, so no matter what I weighed, I always felt ‘sturdy’ – more like a football player than a cheerleader. Then add to that a number of ‘masculine’ traits (good at math & science; never wore make-up; independent; read sf & mystery novels; shopping for clothes was a chore) – there were times when I questioned my gender.
I’m certainly with you on the struggle, but my angle, somewhat curiously, has been rather different than most of you who posted about yours. I prided myself on being a tomboy but I was also quite a bit girlier a girl than I was at all happy about. I’ve always loved clothes and jewellery and dressing up—as above—even if I’ve learnt a compromise that allows me to be in gardening-and-hurtling jeans too—and I’ve always loved cooking; I was about eleven when I started spending Saturday mornings making pies while I watched the cartoons. And while I failed on the knitting front the first time, I did an awful lot of embroidery, and enjoyed it too. But I wanted to be a boy. Oh, gods and glory, did I ever want to be a boy. I knew I wasn’t one—this has nothing to do with questions of transgender—I was a girl, that low, despicable, nearly useless thing. I grew up in an old-fashioned military family and I’m telling you, girls were nothing. Girls were less than nothing. And of course—as I’ve written elsewhere—all the best books were about boys having adventures and girls staying at home. (As I’ve written elsewhere: one of the places THE BLUE SWORD comes blazing from is THE SHEIK by EM Hull, where a girl dares to have adventures . . . and is kidnapped by a sheik and raped, which is to say punished and broken until she likes it, because, after all, she’s a girl, and it is not for girls to go out and do things . . . and then it’s okay after all because he’s really a scion of a fine old English family. This is an English novel, you know, with a nice English heroine. INSERT THE EXTREMES OF BAD LANGUAGE HERE. And it was a gigantico-gazilliono-monstero best seller in its day.)
In hindsight I wonder how much my extreme allergy to (most) science and (most) maths was learnt rather than innate; by the time I got to school I already knew that I was a girl and doomed. Peter, by the way, thinks there’s nothing wrong with my maths brains, only with my attitude.
I came to hate the term “feminine” because it always seemed to mean someone else. I have two X chromosomes, never wanted to “be” a boy, but was always drawn to “traditionally” more male interests–outdoors (YES!), active (YES!), science (YES!), etc. I like the colors men are supposed to like (dark or intense colors) rather than pastels most of the time. It took decades to believe that since I am, in fact, female…what I am is female ENOUGH.
Which is interesting, because you’re my age, so I can’t just blame it on my era. But then your mum was a single mum, I think? And an engineer. Mine was a housewife. I was raised to believe that a woman should have a college degree in case her husband died and she had to go to work to support her children. I’m not joking.
I felt too female in the wrong ways. I wanted to be more of a tomboy, since that was the nearest I was going to get to being the True Autonomous Power Thing, which was a real boy. Sure I liked the outdoors, but even girls could go for long walks and love horses. In fact loving horses was one of those despised girlie things, which is kind of interesting, since what’s wussyish about horses, for pity’s sake? And I liked colour, full stop. I like dark colours, I like bright colours, I like pastels. I like COLOUR. This is also girlie. So I gathered. Men were allowed to be faintly concerned about the precise crease of their trousers, and to choose the tie with the narrow navy stripe or the muted red plaid. But a preoccupation with colour and pattern and style and so on was . . . girlie. Whichever gender you belonged to. And I still read certain clothing and jewellery catalogues the way romance readers read Mills & Boon.
B_twin said and white_roses responded:
|Yeah, that. Nothing like being told “gee, you have really good swimmer’s shoulders” …. But by then I had been reading about Girls Who Do Things and I knew I wanted to be on the farm. Big shoulders were GOOD I told myself. (Handy for bell ringing too! mwahahaha)|
I understand these feelings very well. Working with horses helped me stop hating my figure: there is nothing in this world to make you grateful for atypical physique like a 17-hand draft stallion who utterly ignores your tugs on the longline.
One of the strikes against me as a functioning human being is that I’m, you know, thin. I look like a . . . girl. Mind you, I’m ex-fat, so I know more than I want to about being fat in a world that despises fatness; but I’ve been thin now for a long time—and am not yielding to frelling menopause’s zero-metabolism without one hell of a struggle—and the problem with being able to pass is that you’re assumed to be what you are superficially presenting as. When you’re really weary of the struggle it’s just so easy to put a dress on and let the guys carry your parcels for you. This phase doesn’t last long with me: I have never patronised well: say that again, mister, and I’ll hand you your head, and possibly some other body parts, on a platter. But the temptation to fold, when you can, can be rough on tired days.
HeiQ responded to Diane in MN:
|You are not alone in this. Do you know Peggy Seeger’s song “I’m Gonna be an Engineer”?|
Nope, I can’t say I ever have. I just read the words, and there were some pretty good lines in there . . . but it was a bit TOO angry for me, and I never actually wanted to be a boy haha… I never felt like I had those sorts of decisions forced on me by anyone I really cared about, so it’s a little hard to relate to the song.
How times change. Although you don’t get the full flavour just reading the words on a page, and she sings it so deliciously; you could dance to the tune. I loved this song; it was my national anthem for years. Too angry? Are you kidding? It wasn’t angry enough. It was only the truth.
And that truth still hasn’t anything like gone away. There’s probably someone who reads this blog who knows it in her own skin right now. I’ve escaped; Diane in MN and E Moon have escaped; apparently you didn’t have to escape. But women are still not getting equal pay for equal work in the first world, never mind the third.
. . . And, on the subject of my girlie liking for things to be pretty, this came from my I-told-you-I-was-knitting post the other night:
Wow! I am impressed!
And not only by the quantity of the knitting . . . but by the quality of the stash bags!
No plastic supermarket bags—slides two such stash bags out of sight under the table—for you, I see. Very classy!
Start a blog. Start needing to dust off and brush up as much as your life as you can bear to flourish in public. You will find it has an electrifying effect on many of the more admissible ways you spend your time (and possibly your money). Although I admit I’ve always had a weakness for tote bags, and I’m delighted to have so clearly perfect a use for that Kew Gardens bag.
. . . She says, rummaging for her square-in-progress. . . .
* * *
* Intarsia, if you want to know^, and I was also staring at it and thinking I like multicoloured yarn that does this for you . . . if perhaps not in quite such fetching patterns.
^ Where all the colours are knitted together as one thing, rather than over each other—for you nonknitters. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intarsia_(knitting) Which article I find pretty confusing, but then I’m only a baby knitter.
** Yes, lots of colours. On a muted khaki background. Mmmm.
*** Whose idea of a happy relationship with his wardrobe is getting dressed in the nearest three garments hanging dry on the washing-line. Occasionally I envy him—when I’ve just emerged, bloody and considerably bowed, from an epic struggle with my wardrobe. Mostly I think he’s missing a gigantic treat. You have to wear clothes—society demands it^—why not have some fun?
^ I am so not built to be a nudist/naturist. No clothing: what a waste. Besides, I would be cold all the time. Or sunburnt.
† Makes me wonder where technology got the idea. . . .
†† Besides, all that getting it off again at night? Uggh.
I had an interesting email from Julia* from our forum:
I have a question for you about the blog which I hope you don’t find too impertinent or completely inane. (Or completely insane, either.)
Can you say ‘the pot calling the kettle black’? Barring your trying earnestly to convince me that the moon is made of spaghetti Bolognese I wouldn’t DREAM of calling you or your question insane.**
I’m currently taking a course on Feminist Rhetorical Theory, an area of study which, to my great surprise, I’ve found completely fascinating, especially in terms of academia/ applications therein. . . . This is feminism . . . which is non-confrontational, non-hierarchical . . . Equality and respect, a consciousness of the dignity which is everyone’s due . . . the professor bears out the theory in her teaching methods.
Ooh. I’ll have some of that, please.
But why am I telling you all this? . . . here’s my question:
In class this week, we were discussing an article about the gender gap in Wikipedia contributors (as the significant percentage of those writing on Wikipedia are male, etc), when my professor mentioned blogs. With the internet appeared this new medium which was supposed to be a great equalizer/leveler—but instead so often the problems of print (as she termed it) are reproduced on the screen… the same group of people are creating the same type of text.
And instead of taking advantage of possibilities afforded one by the interactivity that makes the internet so different, my professor continued, blogs often are polemics/polemical, and written in the same sort of one-way expression of thought/specific opinion as they would have been in print, in the same traditional writing style that typifies the academy or the patriarchal system.
But your blog isn’t at all like that. You write informally, conversationally . . . Days In The Life is just that, and your footnotes’ footnotes’ footnotes have footnotes. This is as far from the cumbersome hierarchy and formal academic writing that one can get, just about.
Don’t my footnotes count as satire or parody or something?*** I’m crushed.
. . . I’m also being a little unfair, hanging an email written late at night (as Julia told me in both the postscript and her ‘okay’ that I identify the source) and to a specific point, because of course there are lots of informal blogs out there, including a lot written by SF&F writers.† But I’m interested by her professor’s point (even if her professor clearly needs to read more SF&F and YA blogs) about changing technology changing (or not changing) the people who use it. It’s obvious when you think of it, but I don’t think of it; I’m too busy scrambling for the next thing.†† One of the things I’ve been wondering lately however is where the tipping point of the ability or willingness to change may come—Peter, for example, was bullied into creating his web site, but I think he’d stow away on a spaceship to Epsilon Reticuli††† before you could make him keep a blog. Hey, I was bullied into creating a web site‡ . . . and then it took super-bullying, nay, supreme bullying to harry me into starting this blog,‡‡ although I think that may have to do more with an essentially mule-like nature than inevitable age-related creeping mental paralysis.‡‡‡ I was recently asked for a blog-erview from someone who thinks that most author bloggers are the younger ones—not merely the ones who feel the need to support a young career, but the ones who grew up with and on the web and don’t think twice about a blog being a part of a marketing strategy. Looking at the SF&F blog list I see a fair few names from (more or less) my generation—but yes, I would expect there to be more young ones than old ones because that’s the way the world goes about most young things, and the evolution of the internet and its uses are still relatively young. But is the curve more dramatic when there’s a new technology involved? Is that an obvious question? I suspect that enhanced Zimmer-frame technology is going to have greater uptake among the old and tottery.
It’s also true that I come from an old-fashioned academic background. I only got as far as my BA§ but the BA has blood spots on it. I kept trying to be the hermetic, comma-counting, Northrop-Frye-worshipping§§ scholarly student who would get straight As and be beloved by her teachers . . . and kept getting called down for going off on strange tangents, and having a disturbingly non-standard approach to the creation of and argument toward a thesis. Insipient fantasy-writer-itis, a very bad disease to have in college, majoring in English lit.
I realize that you have said that you write the blog the way you do because it is what you have to write about, that you can’t sit down and write a blog post about the writing process itself, and so on…
Every NIGHT? A blog post about the writing process EVERY NIGHT? Dear gods, goddesses, and other tricky immortal beings, preserve me.
However . . . you have said that you are a feminist. So, I have to ask: was it a conscious decision to write your blog in what is a decidedly feminist mode/model?
No. Not even close. As you’ve already said—and as I’ve said before here—I write what I write in the blog because this is the blog that’s in me to write. I couldn’t write polemic if I tried, and I’d also splutter to a halt sooner or later if there weren’t some proof that there are people out there reading what I am writing.§§§ At the same time . . . I’m a feminist, as I understand feminism, the way I’m alive and breathing. Feminism to me only means that women and men are of equal worth.# It does not mean that we manifest our equal worth in identical ways—which of course is where a lot of the trouble sneaks in—and yes [CONTROVERSIAL OPINION ALERT] I think there are some differences in aggregate, even if you’re going to find some boys falling on the girly side and some girls falling on the boyy side. And my controversial opinion is that the chatty, engaged, interested-in-her-readers## Pollyanna-heeding### blogger is more likely to be a woman than a man.~
If it is accurate to claim that with each new medium, written expression seems to proceed to a certain point, and then, with the emergence of a newer form or technology, start back at the beginning again within that new medium, then it makes me wonder about the application of this cyclical thing when it comes to feminist writing.
Well, I like it. Usually ‘what goes around comes around’ is used as proof that if you pass crap on you’ll get a faceful of it later. But sometimes it means human nature is human nature and we’re all connected and yaay etc. I think this is one of the latter examples. We may be yielding to the web but the web is also yielding to us.
Authorship (authority) for women at the time of Fanny Burney, for instance, was tied to a very specific form of writing—novels were written in letters, diary-style, because that was the only forum or medium available to women. Women could gain agency, some measure of control over their lives, through the letters they wrote. And thus, we get epistolary novels like Evelina. Hooray!
I cannot share your enthusiasm for Evelina, which I found interminable, but I take your point.
You know all of this, I’m sure… and I am rather tired and I fear that I’m not explaining this as clearly as I ought to, anyway.
Well, neither am I. I’m usually short of sleep on Sundays.
But the personal journal or letter, where women would write their lives, modifying reality as they chose… A conversation, a letter, something conflating the public and private (to a certain extent)…
Sounds very much like the blog.
Yes it does. Especially the modifying reality part. Which is worth a blog or a master’s thesis in itself.
But not tonight.~~
* * *
* Yes I asked first if I could identify her.
** The moon can’t be made of spaghetti Bolognese, all indications to the contrary notwithstanding, because the Gflytch have a base on the far side, and they don’t like spaghetti Bolognese, especially not in 17% gravity.
*** As well as the indisputable sign of a terminally disorganised mind.
†† My butterfly mind. —I have to sing tonight, I have a voice lesson tomorrow. At the moment I’m trying not to be preoccupied with the thought that I don’t have a good reason to go early and stop at the yarn shop. Curses. There must be something.
††† It has at least one planet. Wiki says so.
‡ Well, our noble and generous friend Vonda N. McIntyre did the actual creation part. And when mine started looking like being way too much work for fun, I swapped over to Sainted Blogmom. Vonda still minds Peter’s.
‡‡ Merrilee is still recuperating—how many years later? I believe she gets through a lot of champagne and chocolate for strictly therapeutic reasons.
‡‡‡ ‘When I was your age I walked five miles through the snow to get to school. Barefoot. And I had to cut my own papyrus and screwing the press down gave me blisters.^’ And I only bought my first computer when my office-machine shop could no longer get parts for my IBM Selectric I typewriter. I’m sure Gutenberg’s dad kept telling him to stick to goldsmithing, this movable type thing wasn’t going anywhere.
^ When the elder generations are busy having had it worse than the current soft, lazy young ones, they rarely let little things like climatic consistency trouble them. Although maybe this one was a military brat. First few years in Wisconsin. Then the family moved to . . . er . . . ancient Egypt. Okay, sorry, I’ve let the pterodactyl out of the bag: yes, the military prototype Time Machine is functional.
§ I have told you that my Phi Beta Kappa key hangs from a zipper on my original Harley-Davidson motorcycle jacket, haven’t I?
§§ Shudder. But hey, I write despicable genre twaddle, what do I know?
§§§ Why you’re reading it . . . I prefer not to think about too closely. But I like forum comments about your lives. And emails I can cannibalise for blog posts.
# Which ineluctably includes equal pay for equal work.
## Aside from questions of how many of her books they’re buying.
### Although I’m still thinking about the Why Pollyanna: Revisited blog I haven’t written yet.
~ And—ahem—one of the highest accolades I can give to a male friend is that he Talks Like a Girl.
~~ Although you’d be welcome to write a guest blog about any of this.
I’m gruesomely tired again. Sigh. I was so buzzed last night that it took me forever to get to sleep . . . and then the phone rang again this morning . . . blerg . . . not at an hour that anyone but a madwoman* who turned her light out well past mmph o’clock would consider early. Peter needed a ride to the osteo. He’d managed to get an appointment because Rajan had had a cancellation—and it’s a good thing that Peter asked me because he is, if anything, worse today, probably because he overdid it yesterday, but it still meant I was Dali’s-clocking out of bed and trying to find clothing to put on** earlier than planned.
It’s been a beautiful day—hellhounds and I all went kind of limp and floppy under the always-surprising unhingingness of spring. What is it about gorgeous spring days that your bones turn to vanilla custard***? We had a glorious walk with the skylarks singing like Orfeo† to Eurydice, and I had two excellent hours in the garden this afternoon going, Aaaugh! It’s alive! And, aaaugh! It’s dead!††, and starting the slamming-hastily-into-pots of the March-April mail-order-delivery rush.†††
But I’m worried about Peter and . . . while this is undoubtedly absurd and presumptuous and possibly offensive . . . I’m taking what’s happening in Japan personally, as if it were my land and my people. There have been way too many ‘natural’ disasters in the last few years—whatever happens now at Fukushima—and the first shock of the news is always like a blow to your own chest: it’s hard to breathe, and your eyes go funny. But I’m in England, which has been spared so far, and I’m sitting comfortably with my computer in a warm room with a good light source and plenty of food in the refrigerator. I lived in Japan for five years forty five years ago and I’ve never been back—and I was an American military brat who never spoke the language properly forty-five years ago and doesn’t speak it at all now. It’s not like I ever was assimilated. But none of that matters. I feel like the prodigal daughter who left it too late and can’t go home again. Can’t do anything but grieve for the people whose losses are all too real.
So I’m not in the best mood‡. And Jodi, in an email conversation we were having about books,‡‡ made reference to the recent flare-up about the YA mafia, and I said, the what?, and she sent me some links. Here’s maybe the best sum-up, or it was a day ago and I’m not going to go looking for more: http://www.yahighway.com/2011/03/field-trip-friday-special-edition-ya.html You can follow her links and then those links till your hair turns white and you’ve worn your ‘enter’-pressing finger to blisters. The combustible idea seems to be that there may be a group of best-selling YA authors who all live in each other’s pockets, blurb each other’s books extravagantly . . . and if you piss one of them off you’ll never work in this town again. And that pissing them off may happen by running unflattering reviews on your book blog.
Um. No. Wrong.
Now, granted, I am not a best-selling author, and I stay home and ring bells and sing and plant roses and am hurtled by hellhounds‡‡‡ and don’t keep up with my corner of the publishing world and am an evil cow of a reader who finds reasons to dislike even those above reproach,§ so if there were a cabal I wouldn’t be in it.
But there isn’t a cabal. For reasons that other people have covered admirably elsewhere, which pretty much come down to: #1 no one has that kind of power, except maybe Stephenie Meyer and JK Rowling, both of whom are by almost universal accord decent human beings, and wouldn’t have any use for a cabal if someone came rushing up to one of them and offered to make her Empress. And #2 publishing is a business, and a cabal doesn’t have a chance against 1,000,000,000,000,000 editors, agents, booksellers and CEOs looking for the next big thing.
But what I wanted to say is about people. One of the things that several of the commentators on this latest outbreak of a very old familiar complaint—that of those not where they want to be (published) looking at those who are (and famous with it) and wondering if there’s an invidious reason why the situation is the way it is—have said is that the ferocity of some of it (and some of it is pretty ferocious) is down to the whole anonymity-of-the-internet thing. It’s so easy to rip a strip off from the comfort of your own office/sitting room and safe behind your user name of Dances with Flamethrowers. Well, it is undoubtedly easier to do it that way . . . but this behaviour has been around, I assume, as long as there have been people, and I can vouch for its having been around long before the internet happened. One of the reasons I stopped going to cons is because I’m lousy at confrontation and don’t think well on my feet, and I don’t like people getting in my face and telling me what is wrong with me, my books, and the horse I rode in on,§§ . . . and in a few extreme cases telling me that I stole their ideas, that they know that I’m the reason publisher x turned them down and they hate me forever. Yeeeeeep.
There are undoubtedly gross injustices that happen everywhere, including in publishing. (This also is scrupulously explicated in some of the links above.) There are famous people (including authors) who behave like assholes—including pretending to a power they haven’t got (like that they can stop someone getting published). And some of the furious unfamous people have good reason to be furious. But . . . there’s so awfully much fury and a fair bit of it is not justified. And that makes me sad and kind of depressed. We’ve all got stuff in our lives that isn’t working. I have ME and a frail elderly husband. There’s other stuff I’m not going to talk about in public. Even Stephenie Meyer and JK Rowling have problems, even if you and I don’t know what they are. Problems tend to cause internal pressure, and ones that don’t seem to have any answers (like perhaps ME and old age) may bleed their own safety valves by blowing about something irrelevant to the real source of misery. I’m feeling more like 116 than fifty-eight tonight, so maybe I’m just tired. If I were less tired I’d probably come up with a better finish line. But here’s the one that I keep thinking. You know those standard dopey interview questions like, if someone gave you a gazillion pounds/dollars/euros/rubles/yuan/yen, what would you buy first, or what would your superpower be, or if you could have one wish for the world what would you wish? Okay. My wimpy old answer, tonight, when I’m tired and depressed, for that last one is: that when people are in a situation they don’t like, when they’re angry or hurt or frustrated or confused and looking for someone to blame, that they assume the best rather than the worst about the people around them. And go from there.
Yeah. Wimpy. I said.
And maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you why an evil cow adopted Pollyanna and why the whole savage-review thing doesn’t appeal to me much—even when it’s not only not one of my books being pilloried, but I even agree that the subject being torched is not a good book.
* * *
* or hellgoddess
** I know I have 1,000,000 t shirts around here somewhere
*** Not chocolate. Chocolate is much denser.
† I think Gluck^ like I think Verdi.^^ Ask me how I pronounce Desdemona.
†† And then I came indoors and had an hour and twenty minutes on the phone with Hannah and knitted. Ow. I have got to get either a shoulder holster or a speakerphone before I cripple myself.
††† I do hope we are not going to get any more late frosts. It was only luck that the busy lizzies were in the kitchen sink [sic] at the cottage the night before last, when I went out to Wolfgang at the mews at my usual going-home o’clock and discovered him under a thick enough coating of frost I had to get the scraper out to see through the windscreen. Most of the tender bulbs are still in boxes on the Winter Table—which is the weight-bearing object that stands over the hellhound crate in the cottage kitchen which I would like to take down, but I can’t till I can be fairly certain I won’t need it for a tender-plant hostel again. I’ve got a few short queues of the recently-potted-up outdoors that I’m going to have to schlep indoors again if the temperature drops. This happens every year: your tender plants start arriving and you have to do something with them. It’s when my always-too-many dahlia cuttings show up that the situation becomes critical. And it’s no use looking superior and saying that if I had any sense I’d wait and buy the tender stuff at a garden centre—garden centres only ever carry about half a dozen of this year’s top fashions in plants, and the two that you might have wanted will have sold out early.
‡ And just by the way, if this roller-coaster of good and bad days doesn’t roll to a halt and let me the hell off soon, I’m going to go to bed and stay there.^
^ Faint dissenting murmur from hellhound bed: Nooooooooooooo, wrooooooooong
‡‡ Fancy! Talking about books!
‡‡‡ And worry about my husband
§ Shakespeare. Feh.
§§ I wish.
Jodi sent me this:
Gayle Forman about spoiling the first book by talking about the second book.
So I read it. Yes.
And if you’re scratching your head and thinking, Gayle Forman, I know I know that name, here’s one place you may have seen it: http://robinmckinleysblog.com/2010/08/14/friday-the-13th-or-ya-is-not-a-dirty-word/
She had just written an excellent blog on the Gosh! Adults read YA! Imagine that! phenomenon (and she was a lot politer about it at length than I was able to be even briefly*) . . . and she is also the author of the (note: YA) novel IF I STAY, which is wonderful and brilliant and a major tear-jerker**, and which Jodi and I both had trouble figuring out how to review because it’s another one where pretty much everything about it is a spoiler. (There are gazillions of rave reviews about it out there, and all of us had to choose our own little tap dance about this.) Jodi was much more virtuous about merely saying ‘it will make you cry but read it anyway’ than I was; I gave you (and am giving you again) the set up which is that Mia’s parents are killed in a car accident that leaves her and her little brother dangerously near death in hospital. The title refers to the choice she has to make: is she going to struggle back from her coma and re-enter the land of the living, with the almost unbearable struggle with her absolute loss and her severe physical injuries that would entail . . . or is she going to let this world go, and follow her parents?
NOTE THAT WHAT FOLLOWS MAY COUNT AS SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IF I STAY YET, STOP READING THIS BLOG AND GO SHAMPOO THE CAT, OR ENTER THE DETAILS OF YOUR STASH ON RAVELRY, OR PRUNE THE GZUMBLEBERRY TREES. Or, of course, fish IF I STAY out of your TBR pile, and start reading.
There’s a sequel to IF I STAY. It’s called WHERE SHE WENT. Hmm.
Because of course, the very existence of WHERE SHE WENT is basically a spoiler. Though I tried to fudge it for a while, by saying it was a book that takes place three years later and is from Adam’s point of view (I figured that vagueness, plus title, could mean Mia decided to depart this fair world), now there are ARCs and jacket copy floating about. It is pretty darn clear that the book is about Mia and Adam. Not the ghost of Mia and the human Adam, though Adam does spend a fair amount of time battling ghosts. Not an angel Mia. A flesh-and-blood Mia.
Forman also says that when IF I STAY first came out, she tried not to tell anyone anything—that ideally a reader would sit down with this unknown book and be blown away by what happens—like poor Mia herself is. You should be shocked by the accident. Yes, you should. But . . .
. . . I think you will be whether you know it’s coming or not. I agree that you want to plonk, plonk, plonk <deconstruction alert> plonk, plonk, plonk spoil as little of a story as possible when you’re recommending it.*** This is really my argument against (plonk, plonk etc) what happens to books in way too many literature-study classrooms: taking the poor things apart like pickled frogs in biology lab, and labelling all the bits. You’re not going to be able to put it back together again. Most books won’t stand that kind of vivisection—I think.
But at the same time . . . the story’s the thing. Not the plot—again, I think. The story, which is to say the telling. The kind of spoilers that show up in book reviews—including blogs, chat rooms and publishers’ advertising—won’t wreck that. They may muddy its hems a little (and I have a whole rant about plot-summary flap copy). Have I spoiled LOTR for anyone by telling you how THE TWO TOWERS ends?† I doubt it. It’s the long, long, long weary exciting life-or-death thing that gets you (or doesn’t), not so much the individual adventures along the way.†† I’m also someone who doesn’t think there are any really new stories—just retellings of old ones, juggled around and jigsawed a little differently. It’s how you retell your chosen old hoary tale that matters.†††
I admit I’m a little startled that Forman has (apparently) given quite so much of WHERE SHE WENT away.‡ I’m sure she and her publisher went round and round about this and they decided the buzz was going to be worth the spoiler. And she’s such a good writer I’m sure they’re right.
I of course think daily‡‡ about the first book-second book thing, and how much (or not) you can say about the second without massively spoiling the first.‡‡‡ It annoys me a lot that I can’t occasionally whiffle a few intriguing snippets of PEG II at you here§, but for reasons plain to anyone who has read the first one, this is not a good idea. Which is to say that that my searchanddestroybots are still programmed to hunt down and pitilessly seize anyone caught giving the ending of PEGASUS away to anyone who hasn’t read it yet§§ . . . but a good story survives givings-away. Or why would anyone reread anything?
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* But then I’m twenty years older than she is and my patience has worn thinner.
** It’s an interesting phrase, ‘tear jerker’. I have an apocalyptic vision of gremlins with burning tweezers.
*** Whereas if you’re saying ‘don’t bother’ I am very grateful for every detail. Especially how it ends. Is the prom queen swallowed by the giant boa constrictor? Does the alligator from the wrong side of the swamp marry the prince?
† No. Because everyone reading this blog has either already read it, or can’t deal with Tolkien and isn’t going to.
†† There are stories that are pretty dependent on their plot twists. Anybody not know the secret of, say, THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD? You’ll probably want to go back and reread it when you find out. Well, I did. But then I read stories as naïvely as I possibly can. If I can see the ending coming—especially in mysteries—I grow cranky, because I feel the author isn’t doing her job. In fact I had to give up reading Christie because I got so I always did know who the murderer was. And there isn’t much to Christie except the plot.
††† Some more overtly retold than others (says the woman who has retold Beauty and the Beast several times).
‡ I didn’t watch the video. Either video. I’m okay with the existence of WHERE SHE WENT, but I don’t want to know any more before I read it.
‡‡ Hourly. Minutely. Secondly. Aaaaaugh.
‡‡‡ Although the end of PEGASUS is a bit like IF I STAY ending a page or a chapter before Mia decides. Where PEGASUS ends is clearly still the middle of the story. I don’t think Forman had to write the next one—except, of course, that she did, because the story came to her and said Write Me. I’m Talking to You.
And while nobody dies in PEGASUS I make no promises about PEG II. As I keep saying, it isn’t up to me.
§ Authors are supposed to have blogs because they’re marketing tools. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. I’m sure reading about bells, roses, knitting, hellhounds, music and the rest has enormous (positive) effect on my book sales. Blergh.
§§ Those captured will be relentlessly locked in small dark rooms with no chocolate, yarn or books.
I am awash with Sticky Toffee Pudding. It rises to the brain worse than champagne.* Tilda and Peter and I went out for dinner tonight at our best local foodie pub, the Questing Beast, and I am now staring at a (nearly) blank computer screen and trying to figure out what to do with it. Uh. Put words on it. Uh. . . . **
Blog. Yes. Blog post.
I think Oisin has had altogether too good a time reading the Harass Oisin thread. This wasn’t really the idea. I wanted him to tremble and be abashed. I should have known better. However he does claim that he will not only write a blog post, but that some of the—er—more straightforward suggestions, as opposed to the threats of whackings and noise, have given him scope for several.*** Tilda has just been saying that she’d like to see the computer-organ set up, and I have said to her as I have said to other people that I don’t think that there’s any way to photograph the present manifestation. Oisin’s music studio is not large to begin with, it contains a pretty complete standard computer desk-and-associated-accoutrements and a medium-sized baby grand piano as well as the organ and all its computer bits, plus the makeshift keyboard shelves and bench and . . . and Oisin makes me look tidy, organised and Spartan.† I’m not sure I could scramble far enough away from the fugacious organ console to get it all in a photo, and even if I could there’d be nowhere to stand.†† So we’ll wait till the new keyboards arrive and he’s figured out how he’s going to build them all in and . . . †††
Meanwhile, the moment you have all been waiting for. The contest winners. Because this thread has afforded me almost as much pleasure as it has Oisin (if perhaps for different reasons) I decided to give away three posters. Then I decided to have one further supernumerary random drawing, but from the pool of my private selection of the posts that made me laugh the longest. This last, fourth winner gets to choose their prize: you may certainly have a poster, but if you’d rather have a book, either PEGASUS or anything from my backlist that I happen to have a spare copy of, you may go for that instead. Thus the reward of virtue. Or of a teeming imagination and an irresponsible attitude toward the rest of your life.
And so I give you the first three winners:
And the Immoderate Hilarity prize goes to:
Jennifer, cmarschner and s2slinde need to send me street addresses and what if any name you’d like me to write on the poster other than mine. Use the email address on the web site‡. And if any of you are among those that don’t want the poster and merely want a guest blog from Oisin, please email me that and I’ll do another drawing for the poster.‡‡ Nycteris, I need your street address and whether you want a poster or a book (and any inscribed name, etc).
Congratulations, live long and prosper, blah blah blah. And thanks to all of you for the gallant way you rose to this somewhat unusual challenge. . . .‡‡‡
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* I’m used to the effects of champagne. Ahem.
** My mind keeps reverting to the Sticky Toffee Pudding.
*** I will believe this when I see it/them. Mind you, I would be very happy to see it/them.^ Guest posts are one of my favourite things. Right up there with Sticky Toffee Pudding. And Green & Black’s, of course.
^ Although if he tries to answer any of those questions about what the hellgoddess’ singing voice is like or what it’s like to (try to) teach her music, he is going to be in more trouble than he has ever imagined.
† About the only thing there isn’t in Oisin’s music room is yarn.^ Hmmmmmm.
^ Yo, Nycteris! Be careful!
††Although the height the piles of sheet music would provide might yield an interesting perspective.
††† And then I’ll volunteer to help shift some of the sheet music, and . . . ^
^ And then he’ll say, You want to do WHAT? You think you want to do WHAT??? And then I’ll blanch and remind myself that not everybody, by the simple effect of running a blog for a few years, is accustomed to the idea of pinning photographic evidence of their lives on line.
‡ http://www.robinmckinley.com/contact.php You know the one. That one with the banner IMMEDIATELY ABOVE it that says PEGASUS II COMING IN 2012! And which people nonetheless manage to sail right over to write me frantic emails about whether there’s a sequel to PEGASUS. Sometimes they add that they’re extra-frantic since I say I never write sequels. So, they’ve paid enough attention—somewhere, some time—to be aware that I specialise in one-offs . . . but they can’t read a line of italicised print adjacent to the email address they’re looking for. Singleness of purpose is a wonderful thing. Not necessarily in a good way.
‡‡ And if you ask nicely you can have a splinter when Oisin breaks up the interim organ bench.
‡‡‡ Fantasy writers. You never know what they might get up to. Of course fantasy readers. . . .