Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Just about every week, I intend to take part in The Broke & the Bookish's Top 10 Tuesday feature. And quite as regularly, I spend so much time explaining my choices that I completely explain my way out of ever sharing the finished post. Not so this week. There will be caveats -- it seems like it's not in me to completely give myself over to something without at least a small percentage of reserve -- but I'm determined to post my list all the same.
Perhaps the most obvious disclaimer I'd make about a list of authors on an auto-buy list is that I don't automatically buy anything. For starters, there's the money thing; I work part-time and I'm a student -- I have to think about what I purchase. And while I definitely spend a disproportionate amount of my earnings on books, I still have to think about it. Then there's the matter of only wanting to own books that I'll read several times or loan out to lots of people, and my favourite authors don't always write my favourite books, weird as that may seem. Finally, there's this fear of my books banding together like some sort of sentient paper blob, rising up in the night, and swallowing me whole -- all because of the sheer power of their combined volume. So yes, I don't just buy whatever books I want.
Finally, I stuck to children's and YA fiction because, honestly, one has to draw the line somewhere. Enough minutiae. Here, in alphabetical order, are the authors whose books I leap to investigate as soon as they appear:
Paolo Bacigalupi -- this is a new discovery for me, and how can his books be on my list when I've only read two? Yes, it's positively shameful. But it doesn't matter because I am intrigued by Bacigalupi's wordsmithing, and his excellent ability to build compelling worlds in dystopian and science fiction settings. I want to read more!
Suzanne Collins -- if you've read my blog for a while, you know I loved The Hunger Games trilogy, and while they weren't classics in terms of literary richness, they are absolute classics for me in the realm of character development, as well as a mesmerising story arc I just couldn't look away from. Collins' The Underland Chronicles are, I think, better written than The Hunger Games, but they don't have the exposure the Games has. Based on both these series, I am super keen to see what Suzanne Collins comes up with next. There had better be a next, Ms. Collins!
Sarah Dessen -- I randomly picked up a Sarah Dessen book, What Happened to Goodbye, in a little indie bookstore at my sister's house, when I was flying home after the birth of her second little boy. It was a completely spontaneous purchase, something light and happy for the plane ride. I couldn't believe how delightful it was, and over a few months, I read six of her books in quick succession. It was probably overkill, but I loved her 'voice', especially in the teen lit genre that can so often descend into mere fluff. I would be reticent about wholesale recommending her stories, as some of her characters have less-than-savoury lifestyle choices, but I am still very keen to see what Sarah Dessen writes next (a new book is out soon!).
John Green -- ah, John Green! How can I explain my feelings about this guy's work? Green is an incredibly gifted author whose rare voice will stand out as one of the greats of this generation, I believe. He is also a brilliant, kind, thoughtful, and genuine person who is engaged in really healthy, wise discussions about life, culture, faith, and politics. His characters are intriguing, and he has the power to draw out really vivid responses to his work without devolving into sappiness or tacky pathos. However, some of the actions of his (frequently sexually uninhibited) characters -- as well as their vocabulary -- are not ones I would choose as role models for my teen friends. I recognise this sounds incredibly naive and cloistered, since one of the ways we learn is by watching others live their lives. But this is my hesitation with Green's books, and I would not be honest if I didn't share it.
Rosanne Hawke -- Rosanne Hawke is one whose books I do automatically pick up whenever I see them. I was privileged to study under her during my bachelor degree, and was delighted to get to learn from someone who occupies a respected and unique place in Australian young adult literature. Rosanne's work is one that definitely deserves the title of 'literature' -- rich, high quality writing that totally avoids the abyss of trend-focussed YA cliches. Much of Rosanne's work is issues-focussed and delves into the real challenges of young adult life, but it does so in a healthy, thoughtful, discreet way.
Odo Hirsch -- Odo Hirsch! Odo Hirsch! Lovely, happy, quirky characters! Beautiful word choices! Delightful worlds and adventures!
Patrick Ness -- Patrick Ness gets the award as The Writer Most Likely To Take Out Your Soul, Wring It Dry, Then Try To Stick It Back Into The Cavity Inside You. It's hard to express just how this guy manages to do it, but his voice and language are profoundly unique, and the characterisation impeccable. I can't describe what Patrick Ness's books do to me, so I'll just give up trying.
Veronica Roth -- I want to hate Veronica Roth because she is younger than me and she has already written the first two books of a bestselling trilogy which is being turned into a movie. But I can't hate her. I can only be happy that she has achieved this immense success -- and that she thanks God in the acknowledgements of her books. You go, girl.
Lemony Snicket -- Lemony Snicket, aka Daniel Handler, is a man who is obviously in love with words. He's probably best known for his Series of Unfortunate Events books, but his dry, dark sarcasm, his slightly morbid humour, and his delirious and unashamed love of the English language come through in all his stories. It's good stuff.
Jerry Spinelli -- I love Jerry Spinelli's characters because they are rare and beautiful. Spinelli celebrates words and he celebrates special people, and he does both extremely well (the Newbery society or association or whoever they are agrees with me). My favourite thing about Spinelli is his ability to bring the beauty of the outsider into the light. His books are just beautiful.
Bonus round! Top 10 authors who'd be on my auto-buy list if they were still alive and therefore still producing new work:
Louisa May Alcott
Mary Grant Bruce
Elizabeth George Speare
Who's on your list?
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Dear future me*,
I don’t always like to think of you. I mean, I have enough trouble with present me. There’s so much I want to do and still haven’t done. There’s so much I wish for. There are so many ways I could be a better version of myself. And of course there are the grey hairs I keep finding lately (I am too YOUNG for that, I tell you). What I’m probably actually saying — what I’m realising even as I type this, future me — is that I have high hopes for you but I realise not all of them will be fulfilled.
When I was younger, I had a perfect picture of who you’d be, future me. You were going to have long straight locks (of a rich chestnut brown). You would be suave, confident, a sophisticated city-dwelling executive. Also you would wear a canary-yellow power suit with matching heels. Obviously you were gonna be one classy lady.
When I got a bit older, the picture of future me shifted a little. Future me was going to be a hippie type who wore ravelling sweaters in unflattering shades of green and did her hair in two plaits, who never wore makeup, and whose favourite shoes were gumboots. She would paint and draw and write things, and she’d chase hens around the chicken coop.
Present me is less sure of what future me will be, but funnily enough, present me sits fairly smack dab in the middle of my two earlier projections. If this says anything at all (and more likely it says nothing), it suggests that future me will be less about personality and individual style, and more about the series of choices I make between now and then.
So dear future me, I don’t care whether you wear canary yellow heels or gumboots, whether you have a favourite hairdresser or you’re a wash-and-wear kind of woman. I acknowledge that the grey hairs will probably increase rather than decrease (at least in reality, if not appearance; there ARE such things as hair dyes. Please don’t be disgusted, hippie seventeen-year-old self).
I want you to assure me, future self, that there will be a good man to love and children to love on, but I know you can’t make those kinds of promises and so I won’t hold you to them. Instead, future self, I’d just ask that you learn from what’s going on now, so you can be more of a person because of what happens to you. Be braver than current me. Be kinder than current me. And please, always be faithful. Cling to the rock. I’ll keep my end of the bargain.
your fanciful younger self.
*this post was entirely the result of a meme prompt left for me at tumblr by Hayley.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Tomorrow is Valentine's Day.
I don't know. That simple sentence is frought with such an intensity of feeling. There are people in love who know that tomorrow will be merely an overflow of the togetherness they already possess. There are guys freaking out because they have no idea what they're meant to do to make it special. There are people complaining about commercialism and greed and "just another excuse to try and sell greeting cards and chocolates". Then there are the waiting few, the scattered band of soloists who -- whether they regard Valentine's Day as a ridiculous first-world rort to make people spend money, or as a rich celebration of romance -- scuff their toes in the dust and wish for their duet to start.
To these few, these treasured superheroes of going it alone, I want to say something magical and wonderful and perfect. Only there isn't one thing that's magical and wonderful and perfect to be said, because to say it -- to try to say it -- would be to diminish how hard it can be sometimes to eke out life singly in a world that's made for pairs. There are many excellent things about travelling solo, and I hope that you experience all the best of them. But if the balance for you is weighing more heavily to the side of heartbreak than hallelujah, I want to smush you into a big group hug and let you know that you're not alone in being alone. And you're not ignored, either.
So, I wrote a thing. And it's messy and raw because love and lovelessness are messy and raw. But it's for people like you and me who might be waiting for something but don't ever have to wait for grace. SMOOSH.