Pumpkin Pictures

As Mr. Pond wasn't able to post last week, and as today is a holiday, we get another week off the blogalectic. And you get pictures of my first pumpkin-carving experience.

But first, Maia and her vanquished enemy (she knocked over the tall pumpkin several times).

Lou, who has some experience with pumpkin-carving, cut into the tall one and cleaned it out for me.

...and I, not being quite confident enough to replicate this sort of thing, drew a simple face on and proceeded.

It didn't turn out half bad, I think.

Also not half bad: the pumpkin spice lattes we made from the cut-out parts.

I'm live-podcasting with The Hog's Head tonight right during trick-or-treating time, so I'm not sure whether I'll manage to dress up or not, but here's Lou and I from last year:

Have a good and safe All Hallows' Eve, and happy All Saints' Day tomorrow!


The Trouble with Water-Obsessed Cats and other stories

Need something to listen to on Halloween night? Tune in to Middle-Earth Radio! There'll be scary stories, music, and The Hog's Head Pubcast, which I've taken to co-hosting lately, will broadcast from 10-11 PM ET. Last week we talked about fear in Harry Potter; the plan for this week hasn't been finalized, but I'm sure it will stay with that theme.

* * *

NaNoWriMo may be out of reach for me this year, but I still intend to write a book before the year ends.

My goal: 1,000 words per day excepting Sundays, beginning Tuesday, November 1, and continuing till the draft is complete. It should take 35-45 days. This will certainly challenge me, but without too much likelihood of making my left eye twitch more than it already does.

Despite my 2009 win and its attendant glory, NaNoWriMo proved so arduous last year that I'm nervous about having a word count goal again. But I'm also excited about telling this little story. I can't wait to see what it grows to be.

* * *

Maia's exploit for the week: dumping a full vase of flowers into the drysink, which happened to contain our wedding pictures.

The little book my parents made for us got the worst of it, though fortunately only the cover and the last couple of pages took what appears to be lasting damage. The expensive album from the photographer survived with only a slightly damp cover, thanks to the heavy cloth case it was wrapped in and the fact that it sat atop the little book. Our marriage license and certificate weren't destroyed outright, but both got well dampened and the colors ran on the latter.

I'd like to blame it all on the cat, but I'm the breathtaking idiot who set the vase in the drysink in the first place. Of course, I intended to move it before Maia could get into it. Never trust a writer's brain.

* * *

Writers' link of the week, forwarded me by both my mom and George: Ellen Finnigan self-publishes with no shame, and champions Amazon.com as she explains why. It's a very interesting and hilarious set of thoughts. Now I want to read her book.

* * *

Music of the week: for Halloween, Kate Bush as the ghost of Cathy Earnshaw.

* * *

Funny of the week: an old clip of Bob Hope and James Cagney, forwarded to me by my blessed father-in-law. It's more dancing than hilarity, but totally wonderful.

* * *

To those of you who celebrate the holiday, Happy Halloween! I'm going to carve my first pumpkin this year, I think. My friend Elizabeth gave me a funny oblong one, which should make a great face.

To everyone: Happy weekend!


Currently Reading: A Swiftly Tilting Planet

A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Time, #3)Gaudior pawed the lush green impatiently. “Not Where; can you not get that through your human skull? When. Until we know more than we know now, we will stay right here in your own Where. There is something to be learned here, and we have to find out what.”

“You don’t know?”

“I am a mere unicorn.” Gaudior dropped his silver lashes modestly. “All I know is that there is something important to the future right here in this place where you watch stars. But whatever it was did not happen until the ancient music of the spheres was distorted. So now you go to a When of people.”

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

Synopsis: When the president calls to tell Mr. Murry that the world is coming to an end, Charles Wallace goes to the rescue with the unicorn Gaudior. Meg joins him by kything as he attempts to right a series of ancient wrongs leading up to the production of a tyrannical dictator with the power to destroy the world.

Notes: As a matter of fact, I have read this book once before. Being quite young, I had a difficult time getting into the story. It’s easy now to see why I might have had trouble as a child; Charles Wallace basically becomes a whole lot of different people throughout the tale, which means getting used to one new character perspective after another. Meanwhile, Meg scarcely moves from her bed, and Gaudior gets a little metaphysical with some of his comments.

This time, though, I had no trouble at all keeping up. After a slow start of perhaps fifty pages, I got hooked and had trouble putting the book down till I’d finished.

I’ve always loved Charles Wallace for his unique combination of innocence, vulnerability and vibrant intelligence. He brought that with him into this story, despite nearly a decade’s advance on his age, and many of the characters he goes Within share in his gentleness. Characters make or break a story for me, so I appreciated seeing the young hero’s nature in the various people he became.

The concept of righting past wrongs was fascinating, and I enjoyed watching it happen. While the requisite chronology jumps made for a rather choppy feel to the flow of the novel, ultimately, it all worked.

I love A Wind in the Door best of the Time books, but this tale’s “in this fateful hour” theme had an especial power of its own. The rune, a psalm of intercession, gave me chills. And the ending made me cry, in a good way.

Recommendation: But of course.


Top Ten Tuesday: Books to Read for Halloween

Of vampires and ghosts, of fluttering veils and things that go bump in the night...

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Do come join the fun...

I had a lot of fun making this list. And yes, it is a hodgepodge of genres and time periods and quality levels. I'm shameless about that.

1. Dracula (Bram Stoker). About the time the vampire is scuttling up and down walls and hovering over sleeping guests and turning into bats and infecting lovely young ladies with his disease, you'll find the hair standing upright on your neck. Terrifying.

2. Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling). Any of the books will work, considering that Harry's parents were murdered on Halloween, but Chamber of Secrets is the creepy-crawliest. Between Aragog, Nearly Headless Nick's deathday party, the basilisk, Riddle's diary, and what happens to Ginny, the book is Gothic nightmare from one end to another.

3. Coraline (Neil Gaiman). Maybe I should say The Graveyard Book, but I haven't read it. Coraline freaked me out, though. Anything by Gaiman would probably work.

4. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte). From childhood superstitions to macabre adult visions, from dark mansions to gloomy moors, from apparitions to a very real madwoman, Jane's story balances unerringly on the threshold between the physical and spiritual realms, with the wind ruffling the veil. Everything you could ever want on All Hallows' Eve.

5. Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen). A spoof on Gothic mystery, with Henry Tilney around to drive the ghosts away. I always liked Henry.

6. The Inferno (Dante). Nothing could be more horrifying than a vividly symbolic portrayal of Hell. (But seriously, don't stop with the brilliant but awful Inferno. Purgatorio is splendid, and Paradiso indescribably sublime.)

7. A Midsummer Night's Dream (Shakespeare). Liminality, fairy pranks, and people in costume. How much more Halloweenish can you get, without pumpkins?

8. New Moon (Stephenie Meyer). In Twilight, teenage Bella meets the supernatural in both its glory and its horror. In New Moon, the glory vanishes, leaving Bella alone with the horrors. It's an incredibly haunting tale, and my favorite of the series.

9. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and sequels (Andrew Peterson). Lots of monsters! But there's a funny side to it all. Hilarity and bone-chilling fright go hand in hand in the Wingfeather Saga.

10. Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier). With its wilting-flower protagonist and the (figurative) specter of her husband's dead wife hovering over everything, this story well qualifies for Gothic romance.

Honorable mention to Anne of Green Gables for the scene in which Anne confronts the Haunted Wood after imagining spooks into it with Diana.

What books would you recommend for Halloween reading?


Everyday Mythologies

A blogalectic with Masha and Mr. Pond.

Saw the ghost of Elvis
On Union Avenue
Followed him up to the gates of Graceland
Then I watched him walk right through
—Marc Cohn, Walking in Memphis

In last week's discussion of mythopoesis, Masha had this to say:
When I think of our myth-makers, I think first of the Boss, whose lyrics make myth out of the mysteries of American life, out of factory work, long drives at night, out of trampled dreams and broken love.
And Mr. Pond had this:
We are not so much interested in events, but the people caught up in them; mythopoeia could arguably be the harmony of person and event, a specific combination which for one reason or another evokes powerful emotion, wonder, eucatastrophe.
This week's word is mythology, which, given the nature of classical education, means I think first of characters like Zeus and Athena and the Furies. Greek mythology. But I didn't come here today to discuss the quibbling, unscrupulous gods and goddesses of the ancient world. Bring out the Oxford!
1 a collection of myths, especially one belonging to a particular religious or cultural tradition:
     Ganesa was the god of wisdom and success in Hindu mythology
     a book discussing Jewish and Christian mythologies
  a set of stories or beliefs about a particular person, institution, or situation, especially when exaggerated or fictitious:
     in popular mythology, truckers are kings of the road

2 the study of myths.
I liked Masha's reference to Bruce Springsteen. His work builds and reinforces popular American mythology (definition 1), and it works so well because it goes in for Mr. Pond's point about the harmony of person and event and the evocation of eucatastrophe. (That word could have its own week for discussion.)

America, of course, is hardly a unified culture with a consistent, shared mythology. We have mythology by all the Oxford's definitions in wild variety—an enormous sampler platter both for use and study, not only of belief systems but of exaggerated tales by which we're all credulous about our neighbors and crazy relatives and Californians and Midwesterners and the Founding Fathers. We have New York and Washington and Hollywood. We have religions and the lack thereof in every imaginable form. We have playful nonsense about Chuck Norris, of whom the dark itself is reputedly afraid. We'll also buy into the most appalling rumors and lies about Barack Obama or Sarah Palin, depending on which side we're on.

Some of us study our myths with the detachment of a scientist, others with the passion of a lover, and still others with the apathy of young boys in their least favorite classes on the day before summer break.

And out of all this, we make art.

I firmly believe that mythology is a good and important thing, but like all good and important things it has dangers. And one of the reasons I love fantasy fiction is that it allows me to detach from the baggage of everyday mythologies, particularly the polarizing political and religious ones, and focus on the aspects I love and believe.

In our own little corners, in our own little chairs, fantasy writers dream of different realms. The exaggerations and fictions that humans believe about each other, that turn us against each other, that make it impossible to have some conversations without an eruption of conflict—these things take a night off existence, and we can take the tough questions one at a time.

We may not come up with magic solutions. Our art may not bring about peace in the Middle East, or heal the breach between Rome and the Reformation, or even convince Democrats and Republicans to stop calling each other evil morons. But it might take two people of impossibly disparate mythologies and stand them side by side for a moment, caught up in shared wonder and eucatastrophe.

And there's a lot to be said for that.


A Failure of Mystique and other stories

So, I didn't get AK'd on Tuesday, and nothing else terrible or tragic happened. I just got so exhausted after several busy weeks that all my internal alarm bells went off. Word to the wise: when getting busy starts to hurt physically, it's time to extricate oneself from everything that can be escaped. Hence, no blog posts on Tuesday or Wednesday.

But it's Friday, it's raining, I got a decent amount of sleep despite one of my books and one of Maeve Binchy's both trying to keep me awake, and here I am.

* * *

Inspiration is never timely.

For a week, I've been trying to pause in drafting one novel so I can give my mind a break before writing another during November and December. It isn't working. Two days ago I finished a chapter and told myself to stop. Yesterday I wrote 1600 words, which for me, for one day, is fantastic. Ah, well. I suppose I can't complain.

* * *

Writers' link of the week: Roni Loren on whether blogging kills author mystique. Quite frankly I think it does, at least if you give out very much about yourself. Unfortunately, you'll notice I can't stop. I like blogging.

On the other hand, as Ms. Loren and some of her commenters point out, blogging can work in your favor, too. It's just wise, I think, to try and avoid getting on people's nerves.

* * *

Music of the week: Have a little Fauré.

* * *

Funny of the week: Sci-fi and fantasy on the Cheezburger Network!! Seriously, all my nerdy friends talk about Dr. Who. All of them. Maybe this'll be me one of these days.

* * *

It really is raining here. But the fall colors have started to brighten, and oh, are they lovely.

Happy weekend!



A blogalectic with Masha and Mr. Pond.

The week off has ended. Masha's installment, if you recall, covered myth's "half-hidden truths and beautiful mistakes." And Mr. Pond's last-Friday post directed the blogalectic naturally toward discussion of the word mythopoesis:
"Instead, I’m building on Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson’s suggestion that the essence of mythopoesis, or myth-making, is ultimately relational—partly between the characters within the myth, partly and perhaps mostly the tripartite relationship between the tale, the teller, and the hearers."
Myth is not made alone. It always entails one heart, one soul, one spirit going out to another or others.

As a writer, especially of fantasy fiction, I feel that truth as I go about making myths for imaginary worlds and people. I give my characters ideals, narratives, things to believe in and trust, because I have such things. But I can't claim even that act of creation as a purely individual event. The myths that set the parameters for my stories are formed in communion between me and the myths I love and live with.

The new myths grow with my development of and love for the characters themselves—my soul-and-ink-and-paper children, whose lack of fleshly existence I sometimes have a hard time remembering. It's frightening, sometimes, how dear those people are to me.

Slightly cuckoo writer's asides aside, however—perhaps the above is why, when I'm passing days at my computer with no one but me and the cat in the house, I rarely feel alone.


The Bottom of the Food Chain and other stories

Despite the fact that I still get jealous every time someone else announces they've signed up for NaNoWriMo, I've decided to do something slightly less strenuous this year. Slightly. Details coming later, after I figure out how much of an event I dare make of it.

* * *

The problem with caring for a garden is that you're defending the bottom of the food chain.

Exhibit A: Maia broke five leaves off my peace lily one night this week, and has shredded or chewed the ends of several more. Theoretically, it's supposed to be mildly poisonous, but it has never made her sick and she keeps going after it. I've taken to locking it away at bedtime.

Exhibit B: A sleek and happy squirrel charged into my corn patch the other day, raced up a stalk, and ripped into an ear of corn. With Lou and I standing not an arm's length away. Squirrels will steal corn by the ears, carry the spoil to the picnic table, and party up. Not kidding. I've seen the leftovers.

Exhibit C: I had to pick green worms off every leaf of a bunch of kale a few days ago.

Thanks to that last ordeal, I later dreamed I was eating a bowl of cereal and found a green worm floating in it. I picked the worm out with the spoon and threw it into the sink, but then I found another... and another. Horrified, I dumped the entire bowl into the sink—and it was crawling with green worms, some of them enormous. After thirteen Wheel of Time books, of course, dream-Jenna knew she was headed for Tarmon Gai'don.

It's been a long week.

* * *

Dog caught in misdeed: "Oh no, I'm sorry, I know I was bad. Please don't stop loving me."

Cat caught in misdeed: "Two squirts with the squirt bottle? Well worth it."

* * *

Writers' link of the week: InkPageant. Instant overwhelming by blog posts on the art of writing. H/T Shallee McArthur.

* * *

Music of the week: my favorite old Over the Rhine song. I can't believe I've never featured this band before.

* * *

Funny of the week: Okay, I don't know where YA Highway got this, but... haha.

* * *

House to clean, books to write, dinner to plan, going-away party for my good friend Sarah tonight... *sniff*... I'm off.

Happy weekend, everybody!


Currently Reading: The Black Cauldron (The Chronicles of Prydain, Book 2)

The Black Cauldron (The Chronicles of Prydain, #2)"Doli!" Taran clapped the dwarf on the back. "I never thought I'd see you again. That is, really see you. Not after you gained the power to be invisible."

"Humph!" snorted the leather-jacketed dwarf. "Invisible! I've had all I want of that. Do you realize the effort it takes? Terrible! It makes my ears ring. And that's not the worst of it. Nobody can see you, so you get your toes stepped on, or an elbow jabbed in your eye. No, no, not for me. I can't stand it any more!"

Author: Lloyd Alexander

Synopsis: As long as the Black Cauldron exists, evil Arawn can continue making his army of animated corpses. Taran, Fflewddur Flam, Gurgi, Eilonwy, and a number of local nobles get caught up in Gwydion's plan to steal and destroy the cauldron. Before long, Taran is fighting Huntsmen outside his company and traitors within, taking more of the quest upon himself than he ought, and learning the harder side of what it means to be a man and a hero. For finding and destroying the cauldron will require greater sacrifices than he has ever imagined.

Notes: Lloyd Alexander's cast of quirky characters returned in full form for this second Prydain adventure. Faced with the enemy of his own pride, among other foes, Taran goes through some rather striking character development; his friends provide support, tonguelashing and comic relief.

The humor and Taran's character progression really make the book. Though a lot of the quirky personalities run dangerously close to gimmickry, the tale is short and fast-moving enough that it doesn't matter. I never quite got tired of Gurgi's whackings and smackings and moilings and spoilings, nor the twang of Fflewddur's harp strings. Best of all in my opinion, though, is Eilonwy, whose ice-pick honesty sometimes includes startling compliments mixed right in with the verbal whipping. Now that's good character portrayal.

The plot of this book moves more quickly and comfortably than I seem to remember from the first one, and I wound up liking it better overall. I read it in a couple of (comparatively) short sittings, and though certain plot threads were more predictable for an adult than they would be for the usual middle-grade audience, the story still engaged my sympathy and interest.

And, oddly, I could never quite dislike Ellidyr.

Recommendation: Read it on a crisp Sunday afternoon, with hot chocolate and dreams of heroism.


Further Notes and Top Ten Tuesday... sort of

Note #1: If you have not yet bought Harry Potter for Nerds: Essays for Fans, Academics, and Lit Geeks, please wait a little while! Travis and I discovered this week that over half my essay never made it into the book. We're still not sure how it happened, and I do wish the publisher had gotten me a review copy before now, but so it goes. The book will be re-released with the full text soon.

If you've already bought it, stay tuned. We're looking into ways to remedy the situation for you.

Note #2: Internet Explorer versions 8 and 9 currently aren't speaking to Blogger's embedded comment form. I have tried to change my comment form, but without success. If you have IE and have been trying to comment, I apologize. Hopefully Blogger will have this fixed soon.

In the meantime, this is just one more reason why I recommend Chrome or Firefox or Safari... anything but IE. :)

And that's enough notes! Mercy... it's only Tuesday. I think I need coffee. Now, onto the fun stuff:

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish I Could Read Again for the First Time

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Do come join the fun...

The only problem with this topic, for me, is that I'm a re-reader. I usually make my first trip through a book at top speed, and if there's much suspense, the first read can even be painful. As far as I can recall, I've never preferred a first reading to the second. Sometimes not to the twelfth.

I can only think of one book that I wish I could read again for the first time, not knowing what would happen in the end:

1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling). The first time I read this, I knew what Narcissa wanted of Snape. I knew what Draco was plotting, and what Snape would do in the end. It killed most of the impact of the story.

That's what I get, though, for reading spoiler sections in reviews when I haven't planned on reading the book. Shame on me for both those things.

What about you? Do you have a list of books that you wish you could enjoy for the first time again?



Briefly: I apologize for anyone who is having trouble commenting on my blog. Something seems to be wrong between Blogger and Internet Explorer, and I haven't quite figured out what. I'm looking into it, though.

Last week proved a little hard on both my fellow blogalecticians, thanks to the 'weather' that everyone's under this time of year. Masha got up a sweet post on myth as imaginative reality, a day late. Mr. Pond requested, and was granted, the week off, which means that Masha and I now get a break likewise. Look for Mr. Pond's post later this week.

If you want something to read, though, Eric recently forwarded me Philip Yancey's article on The Writer as Artist, which I've loved and considered one of the best available short works on writing since I read it in First Things. If I'd known it could be found on the internet, I'd have linked it before now.
"There is a time for goads, and a time for nails; there is also a time to recognize that artists are scribbling in the sand, filling the interstices of life, knowing that their creation will be stepped on, and washed away by raindrops. 
In full awareness of its limited role, though, I am convinced that we need... now more than ever the kind of art that humbly fills spaces in our lives."


Not Quite Shakespeare and other stories

*assumes striking Hamlet posture, raises hand dramatically*

"To NaNo or not to NaNo? That is the question."

Reasons to:
  • The communal aspect and pressure to succeed helps get the job done like nothing else.
  • I like having finished drafts. A lot.
  • NaNoWriMo comes but once a year. Actually, that's not entirely true anymore. But November is when the spirit wakes fully.
  • I have an idea that I think I could write quickly, and it might be nice to have a break from A.D.'s universe.
Reasons not to:
  • After months of drafting, the thought of writing nearly two thousand words a day actually hurts right now.
  • I'm not entirely confident that my idea ought to stretch to 50,000 words.
Amount of time remaining to make up my indecisive mind, as of this writing:


* * *

A day in the life of Maia:

7:30 Wake people by meowing and jumping on them if they don't get up right when the alarm goes off.
7:40 Run as fast as possible around the house, at least ten times.
7:45 Find a toy and wrestle it into the ground.
7:50 Make sure people fill food dish properly.
8:00 Follow people around, throw self on floor and demand attention.
8:30 Watch world go by, nap in window.
12:00 Burrow under covers for six hours of beauty sleep.
6:00 Wake up, follow people around, throw self on floor and demand attention.
7:00 Make sure people clean litter box properly.
7:30 Get people to find a toy and throw it over and over again.
8:30 Knead red blanket and cuddle down on couch with people and computers.
11:00 Run as fast as possible around the house a few more times, investigate kitchen counters, try to get into cabinets.
12:00 Make further excavations in potted plants.
1:00 Search house for new toys to play with and throw around.
2:00 Commence top-secret operations that people shouldn't know about. When bored, get some more beauty sleep.

* * *

For those who wish to read about it: further thoughts on Pottermore Sorting from Travis, Mr. Pond, George, and yours truly are now available on The Hog's Head! Enjoy. Oh, and:

Yes, that's a badger chewing on a snake. To all my fellow Hufflepuffs: you're welcome.

* * *

Writers' link of the week: Jocelyn K. Glei collects 25 Insights on Becoming a Better Writer. From Kurt Vonnegut to Neil Gaiman, Jennifer Egan to Annie Dillard, a variety of helpful thoughts. My only suggested addition: Pick the ones that work for you.

* * *

Music of the week: I love finding great new girl bands on YouTube.

* * *

Funny of the week: Mr. Pond wrote a fairy tale and got it into the magazine Enchanted Conversation, and I laughed so hard at it that I thought you might, too. Here's "Royal Ball? Get Home Before Midnight or Magic Happens."

* * *

And now I have a house to clean and a couple of errands to run and novels to write and only 24 days, 12 hours, 34 minutes and 19 seconds to make up my mind about NaNoWriMo. I'd better be off.

Happy weekend!


Currently Reading: Austenland

AustenlandJane turned her gaping mouth into a smile. "So, you can tell the worth, the merit, the nobility of a person at a glance?"

"And you cannot?" His expression held a mild challenge. "Can you tell me that within the first few moments of knowing each person in this room, you had not formed firm judgments of their character, which up to this very moment you have not questioned?"

She smiled ever so slightly. "You are correct, sir. However, I do hope that, in at least one regard, my first impression will eventually prove not to be completely accurate."

Author: Shannon Hale

Synopsis: After thirteen failed relationships and a hidden obsession with Mr. Darcy, Jane Hayes receives a gift from a wealthy relative: three weeks at Pembrook Park, a land where rich women can imagine themselves into an Austen story. Jane goes, hoping to kick the desire for her own Darcy for good, but it's just too easy to develop feelings for someone. Even when that someone isn't real.

Notes: I did a lot of laughing during this read. Shannon Hale is, as always, hilarious.

Oddly, the library copy of the book smelled like almond extract, the flavoring used in tea cookies. I'm pretty sure that wasn't part of the printing process, but it did enhance the reading experience.

As for the tale itself: I've never quite understood the concept of a Mr. Darcy obsession. Yes, I love Pride and Prejudice, and yes, Mr. Darcy is a superb hero, but what I loved most about P&P was Elizabeth and the work of her spirits and humor against the odds. And, of course, the happy ending.

But the idea of obsessing so much about Mr. Darcy and Austen's work that you'd compare all men to the former and try to fake an experience of the latter... I honestly had a bit of trouble believing it. Fortunately for the story, Hale's Jane proves too humorous and intelligent, even in her soul-searching, to fully succumb to the romantic fantasy.

The Regency dress-up and etiquette, just for itself, sounded like a blast. I'd absolutely enjoy that for a few days. Especially if it came with horse rides and a little time to practice the pianoforte.

The quests for something real and something permanent—which quests often battled each other throughout the story—won my sympathy entirely. I also loved Hale's Austenian banter, which brought up the pleasure of the novel decidedly. Chick lit isn't usually my thing, but there were times when I lifted my eyes from the page and thought that only Shannon Hale could so nearly pull off Austen's bright moods.

As for the ending, I read it so fast that the first time I had trouble buying into it. Upon a re-run, however, I rather enjoyed the way things worked out. Except for one thing, which I can't reveal because it would mean spoilers. Suffice it to say that it is grossly improper and awkward to ____ in an ____. That crazy little thing called decorum? There are good reasons for its existence.

Stephenie Meyer is making this book into a movie. I have every intention of seeing it. And taking my mom with me.

Recommendation: Read it for fun. With tea cookies.


Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Jaw-Dropping Endings

This week's topic is a tough one for me, as I tend to prefer books with reasonably predictable endings. Make of that what you will.
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Do come join the fun...

Here's my best shot at remembering the few really shocking endings I've come across. It's spoiler-free. I promise.

1. Every book but the last in a series, like the Wheel of Time (Robert Jordan). The authorial practice of ending volumes of an unfinished story with sudden cruel cliffhangers is annoying, but effective.

2. The Host (Stephenie Meyer). Actually, the real ending was perfect and fitting; it was the fake-out ending that left me muttering and crying and furious for a night. But I did drop my jaw when I discovered the real ending. And then sobbed in relief. It was a little pathetic of me, yes.

3. And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie). All the way through that book, I was utterly terrified and confused. And I never would have figured out the truth on my own.

4. Pretty much every other mystery novel I've ever read, too. My grandmother liked Phyllis Whitney's books, so I read a few of those, and was usually completely shocked upon learning who the psychopath really was. Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries always take me by surprise. Mary Higgins Clark novels take me by surprise. Heck, most of the Harry Potter books took me by surprise. Mysteries just do that to me. :)

What book endings have taken you by surprise?


Beautiful Disaster

A blogalectic with Masha and Mr. Pond.

As Masha pointed out Wednesday, the blogalectic is taking a bit of a new direction and considering myth. Before I get into that, however, let me remind you to read Masha's lovely piece on the relation of the fairy tale to beauty, and Mr. Pond's short and humorous fairy tale about fairy tales.

The word myth has multiple definitions, so our best hope of starting this discussion on the same page is to get some help from a dictionary. Quoth the Oxford:
1 a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.
The shades of definition two are more commonly thought of nowadays, leaving most people with the general idea that myth is the opposite of fact. After all, no one really believes the Greek and Roman myths anymore. But myth, by definition one, doesn't necessarily imply falsehood. Be that as it may, the three of us intend to deal with this concept of traditional stories, tales that—whether true or false in the details they relate—bring something to bear upon our reality.

For this week, our focus is primarily upon the word itself, and what it calls to mind. I think, among other things, of magic. And oddly, I find myself chanting an old Kelly Clarkson song:

He's magic and myth
As strong as what I believe...
Yeah, he's so beautiful
Such a beautiful disaster

The song doesn't have anything to do with myth, not really. It's just a pop tune about a girl in love with a charismatic guy who's too messed up to make a good match. I like the words beautiful disaster, though. Myth is full of that paradox. Examples from the Greeks: Zeus having a little fling—Zeus was always having little flings—by raining down on Danaë in a shower of gold. Artistically appealing, at least if you don't think too hard about it; morally and sensibly disastrous. The sirens, singing music so lovely that Odysseus had to have himself lashed to the mast of his ship to keep himself from sailing toward them, where they would have brought certain ruin.

Of course, the beauty and the disaster aren't always one and the same. Sometimes the loveliness is a reward reached only by avoiding the dangers on every side. But myth always seems to contain both peril and paradise.

How myth affects us, how it fills our lives and stories, and why it matters, are topics strictly reserved for future weeks. For now, it's enough to know that it informs our imagination, becoming the life and breath of our art.