Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Libba Bray’s newest novel opens at a 1920s New York City party that, despite the presence of illicit booze, is not going well. The hostess, in an effort to liven things up, pulls out a Ouija board, which begins spewing terrifying messages: “I stand at the door and knock. I am the beast.” With that, Bray effectively sets a mood of terrifying foreboding that creeps around the edges of her character’s bright jazz age lives, occasionally rushing in to plunge them all into darkness.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Literary Inspiration: Dare Me: A Novel by Megan Abbott

“...a senior boy and freshman girl doing furtive nastiness in some far-flung corner, his arm jammed up her shirt, over her baby-fat girl belly, her eyes wide with panic and excitement, already, in her head, practicing the telling of the moment even as the moment slips from her.”

-Megan Abbot, Dare Me: A Novel (2012. Reagan Arthur Books: New York. page 73)

Lady Athletes: A Filmic Celebration

I’m a little bit of a sucker when it comes to stories about girls who play sports. Just to give you an example, at the end of the film Higher Learning, when SPOILER ALERT (although, it came out in 1995, so do I really need to?) Michael Rappaport the neo-nazi in the clock tower takes aim with his sniper rifle and shoots Tyra Banks the track star, I bawled like a crazy person. At the end of the credits, when I was still shaking our row of chairs with my sobs, my mom was very concerned because she thought we were on the same page about the movie being crap, and why was I so sad about it?

I was partly sad because Omar Epps and Tyra Banks loved each other, dammit, and now their love would never be. But mostly I was sad because Tyra was a promising young athlete who had worked very hard to get to college and now she would never go the Olympics and set world track records. She would have to be a model instead. So sad.

But seriously, I think it’s because in movies where the lady lead is an athlete, she is necessarily shown coming up against brutal physical and emotional barricades and doggedly bursting through them. She is allowed to be tough in a way that women rarely are in movies but often are in real life. Watching lady athletes in movies inspires me to be just as tough as they are (even if I’m just being tough about jogging for 20 minutes instead of sitting on my couch). Here is a list of movies about ladies doing sports that are much better than Higher Learning and made me cry even harder.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Literary Inspiration: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

Like its forebear, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is a complete delight, chock full of some of the most delicious language I have ever read. For example:

"Iago yawned so wide his eyes bulged and his white teeth shoed sharp. He licked his dark muzzle. “Cats don’t have dark sides. That’s all a shadow is—and though you might be prejudiced against the dark, you ought to remember that that’s where stars live, and the moon and raccoons and owls and fireflies and mushrooms and cats and enchantments and a rather lot of good, necessary things. Thieving, too, and conspiracies, sneaking, secrets, and desire so strong you might faint dead away with the punch of it. But your light side isn’t a perfectly pretty picture, either, I promise you. You couldn’t dream without the dark. You couldn’t rest. You couldn’t even meet a lover on a balcony by moonlight. And what would the world be worth without that?"
-Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (2012. Feiwell and Friends: New York. p. 202)

Mmmmm. Scrumptious. And there are gems like that on every page. Practically every sentence. It’s a book so dripping with beauty and imagination that it should be read only in small chunks, nibbled on and savored like the fanciest dark chocolate. This is literature designed to stimulate and grown the spirit, to nourish as well as to entertain. 

The Kairos Mechanism by Kate Milford

I believe I have made it clear that I love Natalie from Kate Milford’s The Boneshaker. So when I discovered that Milford had written The Kairos Mechanism, a companion novella to The Boneshaker, I knew that above all, this meant one important thing: I would get to spend more time with Natalie.

The Kairos Mechanism finds Natalie struggling to understand the things she learned in The Boneshaker about her town, her mother’s role in the town, and her mother’s illness. But before she gets a chance to do much wondering, trouble arrives in the form of two soldiers returning the dead body of the town saloon-keeper’s younger brother. His younger brother who died in the Civil War several decades previous. His younger brother whose perfectly preserved body is that of a young man.

As Natalie tries to help these soldiers and to once again save her town from dark forces, she displays all the bravery, ingenuity, and intelligence that made me fall in love with her in The Boneshaker. But The Kairos Mechanism is not just a chance to spend more time with a beloved fictional friend, it is also a twisty thrilling adventure in its own right, simultaneously entertaining and deepening the mythology of Natalie’s town, Arcane, Missouri. Here’s hoping there is more to come from this fascinating town and stupendous character.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Literary Inspiration: The Diviners by Libba Bray

"...they talked, too, of their futures, as if they could shape the glittering course of their destinies with secret confessions offered like prayers to the room's benevolent hush. They talked until their words grew sparse with their drowsiness."

-Libba Bray, The Diviners (2012. Little, Brown and Company: New York. page 125)