Monday, 30 June 2008

Still Life by Louise Penny

This is the first in a new Canadian mystery series, and a first novel by the author. She was the winner for the CWA New Blood Dagger (ie new writer) for Crime Fiction 2006. So I was very curious about how good it was, that it got noticed in England. And, this is a satisfying mystery. I love the setting, the fictional Three Pines - set in the Laurentians, a area west of Montreal that is filled with rounded hills and tiny villages hidden in them, and lots of pine trees (among others). I've been there, long ago, and I fell in love with it. It is beautiful rural Quebec. (In Canada, every province is different, so rural PEI where Anne of Green Gables is set is quite different from Quebec, both of which bear no resemblence to rural areas in say, British Columbia or Manitoba. Part of the uniqueness of Canada, I think.) The main detective is Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete de Quebec (the provincial police), and he is one of the best detectives creations I've read in a long time.
'So, what are you telling me,Chief Inspector? From now on you'll only arrest people if you're guaranteed a conviction? You've arrested people before who turned out not to have committed the crime. Just last year, remember the Gagne case? You arrested the uncle, but it turned out the nephew had done it?'
'True, I was wrong. But I believed the uncle had done it. That was a mistake. This is different. This would be deliberately arresting someone I believe did not commit the crime. I can't do it.'
Brebeuf sighed. He'd known from the first minute of this conversation that Gamache wouldn't change his mind. But he had to try. Really, a most annoying m

This is an intelligent mystery, with well-rounded characters and believable motive. It is billed as an Agatha Christie Miss Marple-like mystery 'that perfect village touched by death', as the Toronto Globe and Mail gives in a blurb on the back. I just like the perfect village part, because part of the delight of this mystery is the very Canadianess of it. Three Pines is the quintessential village in the heart of the countryside west of Montreal,made up of old English and old French families that settled long ago in the area. I enjoyed this mystery and Inspector Gamache so much that I was looking for the second book, Dead Cold, but it wasn't in. Very good, highly recommended, especially for those who want a taste of Canada.

I read this for the Canadian Book Challenge, which is set to end tonight. I am halfway through the last book - Piece of my Heart by Peter Robinson - I will get to for the challenge, which means I"m not going to finish the challenge, alas. But I will get Piece of My Heart done! Tonight! This also catches me up on my book reviews, so I think that's Weekly Geeks # 8 or 9 finished, hurrah!!!!

Sunday, 29 June 2008

A Wrinkle in Time and final thoughts on the Banned Book Challenge

I have finally realized that if I have a quiet weekend, that is, do not have anything planned outside the home, then I blog more. I have only done 15 posts this month, which is my lowest total! It was though, a very busy month. Holly-Anne's Spring Fling at her school, Westfest (a district of Ottawa called Westboro holds a music and street festival every year), and Italian week, when the Italian community on Preston St holds their festival, culminating in the Ferrari parade. Tuesday coming is Canada Day, and I will take some pictures of us; for now, this is the second full day at home and I am enjoying not having to go anywhere!!

At last I can catch up on book reviews, and maybe some Weekly Geeks!!

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle: I read this first many years ago, and remembered only that I had liked it. I approached it with eagerness (and dismay that it was on the banned book challenge), and from the opening page, couldn't put it down. Meg and her vanished father, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and Calvin. Yes, I remember being in love with Calvin the first time around! And he was pretty good this time too! What I had forgotten was the sense of evil, how they move through time and space - and it is a fascinating concept of time/space travel - and at the end, the simplest of answers - anger doesn't help Meg, love does. I have to admit I cried at this part of the book.
She knew!
That is what she had that IT did not have.
She had Mrs Whatsit's love, and her father's, and her mother's, and the real Charles Wallace's love, and the twins', and Aunt Beast's.
And she had her love for them..........
.....She could stand there and love Charles Wallace.
Her own Charles Wallace, the real Charles Wallace, the child for whom she had come back to Camazotz, to IT, the baby who was so much more than she was, and who was yet so utterly vulnerable.
She could love Charles Wallace.
Charles. Charles, I love you. My baby brother who always takes care of me. Come back to me, Charles Wallace, come away from IT, come back, come home. I love you, Charles. Oh, Charles Wallace, I love you.
Tears were streaming down her cheeks, but she was unaware of them.

I would recommend this book to everyone to read, if you haven't already. I am going to read the rest in the series, just so I know what else happens. This book is about family, about faith, about being different and accepting it, about love. It's also about the dangers of science without humanity, about the mindlessness of conformity and the danger of letting someone else (say, government) make all our decisions for us about how we want to live. But mostly, it's a book about being fully human and the precious gift it is.

So....why is it banned? Why are any of the five books I read for the Banned Book Challenge, banned?

Pelham Library Banned Book Challenge 2008: done! Hurray, my second Challenge, completed!!! Final thoughts: Fahrenheit 451; Suite Francaise, A Wrinkle in Time, The House of the Spirits, Inkheart. What do they have in common? Why are they banned? I am going to be honest: I do not believe in banning books, period. Ever. Looking at the books I read, three are science fiction/fantasy, two are based on real-life events, fictionalized. What they all have in common is the indomitable human spirit, the will to survive, the desire to live free and not the same as everyone else, and they tell in their own way a truth that we all need to hear. Whether as teenagers (to whom many of banned books are directed) or as adults, I don't think we can ever tire of the message to be who you are, and take delight in it.

Where, and why, and how have we as a society - each of the communities that seeks to ban these books, and any book - become so afraid of freedom of thought and discussion that the solution is to ban the book? Wouldn't it be better to talk about it? Talk about how Fahrenheit 451 and A Wrinkle In Time both show the danger of a world that is controlled by someone else who wants conformity? Wasn't that one of the principle goals of Hitler (Suite Francaise), the world he was trying to create had to conform to his ideals of perfection and beauty? I don't see the logic in banning books because the idea that created them still exists. And this is what gives me hope: that eventually we as a human race will lose our desire to control what other people think and do, because that is what is at the heart of banning books: think like me, be like me. And who is the target of most of the book banned challenges in court (here in North America, anyway)? Young adult books. So it's we as parents who hold most of the responsibility for trying to control our children. Isn't that sad, and frightening? As if teenagers aren't already too aware of everything awful in this world, as well as possibilities for a wonderful life. Wouldn't it be better if we could talk about it with them? I think so.

By the way, L'Engle says in her acceptance speech (included at the end of my copy of A Wrinkle in Time) that "A writer of fantasy, fairy tale or myth must inevitably discover that he is not writing out of his own knowledge or experience, but out of something both deeper and wider. I think that fantasy must possess the author and simply use him. I know this is true of A Wrinkle in Time. I can't possibly tell you how I came to write it. It was simply a book I had to write. I had no choice. And it was only after it was written that I realized what some of it meant." Isn't that a fascinating way to look at books, the best books - that the writer is chosen to write them, maybe because we as a society need those words to be said then. Whether it is the greater intelligence that decides the artist - at the universal level where our deepest myths that we all share come from, the Jung also thought might exist - the place where these great books of art that cross time and space come from - they tell the truth. Banning books is about trying to control the truth.

I think banning books is terrible. And after reading the five I chose, I've come away with a sense of hope about humans, because all of these books represent triumph of love over hate, freedom over conformity. The freedom to choose how to live, who we love. I think these should be on the reading lists for every high school in the world. And if you are like me, when you read those words, you thoughts immediately flew to some country in the world where those books wouldn't be welcomed - and there are too many that both officials ban, as well as individual schools/communities. That to me shows how far we still have to go as a human race.

With every breath I take, I have to fight for the freedom to read what I choose, and support writing and writers. They tell the truth, and our world needs them. We have always needed writers. We always will. They will always tell us what we are doing right, and what we are doing wrong.

I'd like to leave this challenge with the words of Madeleine L'Engle from her acceptance speech of the Newbery Medal, which is included as an appendix in my copy:

Berth Mahony Miller, in her article "Frederic G. Melcher - A Twentieth Century John Newbery", says that "The bookstore's stock trade is.....explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly..." I like here to think of another Fred, the eminent British scientist Fred Hoyle, and his theory of the universe, in which matter is continuously being created, with the universe expanding but not dissipating. As island galaxies rush away from each other into eternity, new clouds of gas are condensing into new galaxies. As old stars die, new stars are being born. Mr Melcher lived in this world of continuous creation and expansion......
A book too, can be a star, "explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly," a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe."

Other reviews: Rebecca Reads
Geranium Cat
Rhinoa's Ramblings on Monday Sept 1 2008

EW's new list of best books

Here is Entertainment Weekly's list of the 100 best books to read from 1983 to now: EW's 100 best books. Neil Gaiman also gives his best monsters, both on film and in books, here. I agree with him on Dr Who's Weeping Angels episode - I have it PVR'd and watch every so often while waiting for the dvd to come out - it's one of my all-time favourite episodes, and it is so scary and so heartbreaking at the same time, and manages to be sweet also. The angels though - you will never look at a statue - especially angel statues - the same way again! I agree also with Neil's choice of The X-files' Eugene Toombs - one of the scariest tv monsters ever. How he creeps through the sewers and unscrews the grate in Scully's bathroom, those eyes, and his horrible, horrible nest - he is gruesome, and yet he is only doing what he has to do to survive. One of the best of the first year's episodes of X-files. (I also like "Ice",from the same season, the take-off of The Thing.) And, finally, Pennywise the Clown from Stephen King's It. The first time I read the book I had problems looking in drains and toilets! would claws come up the drain like they do in the book? Creepy, creepy, and creepy again, among the very best of his books for both characters and settings. I kept seeing balloons out of the corner of my eyes, and little Bobby (George? and why can't I find my copy?) and how he talks to Pennywise through the storm drain and is pulled in *shiver* is a scene that I have never forgotten. I always want to reach into the fiction world and yell "No! don't go sail the boat!" but of course I can' of the best horror books ever (except for the stupid ending. I prefer that Pennywise just be evil incarnate). **I just found my copy. Now I've scared myself reading the opening bit when we meet Pennywise in the storm drain and how he gets George to reach in for the boat, the balloons.....

Will be back tomorrow to discuss EW's list.

I'll let you know if I dream of balloons. And now the thunderstorm finally comes, at 2 am!!!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

The House of the Spirits

I finished reading this book yesterday, and all day today bits of it kept floating into my mind. I was surprised when I thought about my lunch and realised I wouldn't be reading this book. I think I know why so many people love this book. I think I have fallen in love with it too.

It is the ending that convinced me this book is worth being on the 1001 Books to read before you Die List. It is part of my 1% reading challenge. I have to say my inner literary bookworm is so thrilled that I ended up liking this book that she is actually speaking to me (I don't read enough classics for her, this elitist book snob part of me that prefers I read only the best books. My constant argument with her is that these are books chosen by other people, not by me, and they are snobs since they don't consider fantasy or other genre writing to be 'classic' in most cases. This is an ongoing argument with myself, but since I've signed up for the 1% challenge my ILB is happily planning how to convince me to read Proust and is leaving me alone with Charles de Lint for the next year instead making me read Canadian authors I don't like just to please her. I wish I could like Carol Shields, but her early book Swann's Way I couldn't finish, and I can't stand Mordecai Richler's The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. I hate that book!!! So I don't care what the rest of the world says, I'll keep reading LM Montgomery and Charles de Lint instead....yikes, I think my Inner Literary Bookworm just snarled at me!) Sorry for the side comments, you see the struggle I have between wanting to be well-read and actually reading 'classics'.....

So, I opened The House of the Spirits not knowing what to expect, except that I knew a lot of people, both in the blogging world and from my years at the bookstores, who read and loved this book. From the beginning this book swept me up into the story of the Trueba family. Clara, Esteban, Alba, Miguel, Ferula, Nanny, Pedro, Blanca, they were alive in the way that only the best characters are. Clara floated through the novel as she floated in her world, and in the same way she was the heart of the house, and her family, she was the heart of the story. Clara the clairvoyant, who talked with the spirits and dreamed the future; Esteban, who seems to be a loud tyrant, and slowly is revealed to represent the old Chile - he is the voice for the wealthy landowner, conservative MP, who doesn't understand why his serfs want rights and equality. It is fascinating to see how Allende gives voice to all her characters, so we see Esteban proud of what he has accomplished and unaware of how feared he was - yet knowing he had to 'rule his peasants with a firm hand because they are like children'. Clara, who knows the future, but unable to run her household or prevent her dear sister-in-law being thrown out, or stop the future from happening - she just sees it. Blanca, the only one to get her heart's desire in the end. All these characters are the centre of the book, the heart of the family, this proud, dysfunctional family caught up in Chile's tumultous 20th century culminating in the terrible coup d'etat in Sept 1973 that saw President Allende - the uncle of the writer - overthown. The Trueba family is caught up in these events, and to my mind, the most powerful part of the book is the ending, when Alba is taken away in the night to be tortured. I stayed up late Tuesday night to finish the book, and I wept through all the terrible suffering and torture. Isabel Allende takes the story of Chile's change from an agricultural country with the land held by a few to a semi-industrialized nation with the dispossessed workers moving to the city and starving and makes it become real through the position the Trueba family holds and the differing values and beliefs of each of the family members. While this is a common technique in novels, in this book, this brings the struggles to change, the resistance by the rich, leading to the Marxist president and then his eventual overthrow by the army a gripping one that had me on edge, because the characters are intimately involved in different levels of society in that world. Jaime is a doctor, Esteban is a senator and landowner, Blanca loves a revolutionary, as does Alba. Knowing the outcome of the real-life events only gives the novel a deeper edge. One of the most shocking moments for me was when Jaime (one of Esteban and Clara's sons) receives a phone call from the President's Office on the morning of the coup. He goes. It gave me a start because in real life, I had recently watched one of our talk-show hosts on TV Ontario (a public station like PBS in the US) interview Ariel Dorfman, who worked as one of the spokesmen for President Allende. He survived the coup because on the morning of the coup, he didn't receive a phone call. He wondered why later, and found out that someone already at the Presidential Office had crossed his name off the list and offered herself instead, thereby saving Dorfman's life. Dorfman was allowed to flee the country, and eventually ended up in the US, and has just recently made a film about the coup, called "A Promise to the Dead", and what life has been like for him as an exile. I also would like to say that I lived next door to a woman for many years here in Ottawa, who was also an exile from Chile. She and her brother fled after the coup. She only ever talked about being away from Chile and not being able to go back, and what her family did before, a little. She was always so sad, and for her, life was before the coup, and after. So I brought all this with me to the book, and when I read that paragraph: "The day of the coup the sun was shining, a rare event in that timid spring that was just dawning. Jaime had worked practically all night and by seven in the morning his body had had only two hours of sleep. He was awakened by the ring of the telephone. It was a secretary, her voice slightly agitated, who scared his drowsiness away. She was calling from the Presidential Palace to inform him that he should present himself there as soon as possible; no, the President was not ill, no, she was not sure what was happening, she had simply been instructed to call all the President's doctors." I gave a little jump. From now on, it was the recounting of what really happened, in the guise of fiction. And by putting into fiction, by writing about it, Allende has born witness to what happened, and made sure the story is told.

This is why writing is important, why books are censored, why writers are feared by dictators, presidents, tyrants, anyone who fears free speech: writers, and the stories and books they tell, show the truth. They tell the stories so people will remember what happened. So all the people who died in Chile, in Rwanda, in the Congo, in World War 2, in the past and in the future, will be remembered. So their voices will be heard.

"they can't do that to someone from my own family, in my own house, because then what the hell is left for everybody else, if people like us can be arrested then nobody is safe, that more than twenty years in Congress aren't worth a damn and all the acquaintances I have, I know everybody in this country, at least everyone important, even General Hurtado, who's my personal friend but in this case hasn't lifted a finger to help me locate my granddaughter, it's not possible she could just disappear as if by magic, that they could take her away in the night and that I should never hear a word of her again...." Every parent is in those words, every person who lost someone in that coup, and in Argentina, and anywhere else where people disappear because of what they stand for.

This book breaks my heart, and puts it back together, and is amazing, beautiful, and haunting. It is a story about love, and death, about idiosyncrasies and human souls and evil and ghosts and it is above all wise and haunting, like Clara, like the ghosts who run up and down the halls of the house of the title.

I will do another post of the banned book Challenge, but as I still have to review A Wrinkle in Time (which I also loved), I will leave it for another day, when it is not so late! It's well past midnight now! I, and my Inner Literary Bookworm, are still mulling through all the ideas and emotions The House of the Spirits brought up. And I haven't even discussed the poetry of the settings, the language, the humour, the life in this novel. If you haven't read it yet, then it's worth it to get it. and if you have, let me know and I'll add your review link to the bottom, and I'll come see what you thought about the book. If I had a book club, this would be one of the books we'd read the first year.

And, in a side note, the coup in Chile occurred Sept 11, 1973. Ariel Dorfman has written a book titled : "Other Septembers, Other Americas". Here is a link to a recent interview with Dorfman on Salon , about his film, and what it was like to go back to Chile and revisit his memories of President Allende and the coup. If we get the film up here I will be going to see it.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Finished! OUT2 and A Midsummer Night's Dream

Hurray! OUT2 is completed!!! I finished A Midsummer's Night Dream just before midnight. Yes, it is now after midnight! I did it, my very first challenge completed! This is such a relief - I do sign up for the challenges intending to read all the books, and I want to read them all! So to finish a challenge means something to me.

It was a fun one too. I enjoyed so much reading fantasy, fantasy, and more fantasy. And not just any fantasy, but fairy tales and novels about fairies, magic, about the quest of the heroic self in literature and myth, and finally ending on sweet William Shakespeare. This is a wonderful challenge and I fully intend to do it again next year.

So, two reviews and I've reviewed everything in the challenge:
The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. I have put off reviewing this book because I don't have the words to describe how powerful it is to read. My copy (which is from 1954 and now falling apart) is bookmarked all the way through. I found so much that was rich with ideas about the myth of the heroic journey that was interesting and powerful. Campbell has taken a great many of the world's religions and myths from different cultures and analyzed them for the source and description of the heroic journey. He has mined fairy tales, folklore, primitive ( how I hate this word! 'first peoples', maybe?) people's myths - Native Indians, polynesians, Australian aborigines, Norse, Celtic, Indian, African, Chinese, Japanese. It is really an amazing book. And out of all these stories of transformation, because that is what is at the heart of the heroic quest (Campbell says), he has found the cycle of the heroic quest. The Call to Adventure begins the journey, Initiation is undergone, then the return to the world. The book takes this basic journey and divides the images it examines into two great cycles into which all fairy tales,myths, folktales and world religions - which he examines for the stories, the heroic quests embedded within the religions, not as a debate or question of the authenticity of the religion itself - but why we respond to it - into two main cycles, the monomyth cycle, which is the society the individual comes from and brings back the key of transformation back to, and the cosmogonic cycle, which the universal story of creation that world religions are created from. Many of the great stories of how the world was created are examined in this section, and it is fascinating to see how different some are to my western perspective, and how similar others are.

This is a fascinating compendium of myths. There are illustrations, poems, dotting the pages, so we have a visual context. It is not a dry book by any means: "But if we are to grasp the full value of the materials, we must note that myths are not exactly comparable to dream. Their figures originate from the same sources - the unconscious wells of fantasy......And their understood function is to serve as a powerful picture language for the communication of traditional wisdom." Or: "The helpful crone and fairy godmother is a familiar feature of European fairy lore.....What such a figure represents is the benign, protecting power of destiny."

This book has so full of myth and symbol that it will take several readings to absorb it all fully. It has helped me to understand myths and the role they play and why we need them, better. And that is the crux of this book: we need myths. We need fairy tales. this book explains why, what we get from them, and the dangers for a society when their myths lose meaning, as he says that our western society has been in for most of the 20th century. I think it explains why we need fantasy books and images now; some of our old myths that were cultural no longer resonate the same way because of cultural changes since the Industrial revolution, so we have to go back to the heroic quest and invent - if we can, or reclaim - myths and stories that come from deep in our souls. We need those stories to be told, or we die as a society.

I think this explains why the best fantasy is popular the world over, and why my fairy tales post (where i asked what everyones favorite fairy tale was) remains the most popular post (or the one with the most answers) so far: fairy tales live inside us, and they resonate long after we think we leave such things behind. Because, of course, we never do. The Hero With a Thousand Faces takes a look at why. I think it is a fascinating book, and i highly recommend it for anyone who wants to understand what makes fairy tales and myths work, and why we need them. So when someone scoffs at a dinner party, "why do you read fantasy?" our inner fantasy bookworm can reply coolly: "Tell me your dreams and I'll tell you where you are on your life's journey." At least after reading this book, you will have a good guess at where they fall on their heroic journey!

Now for A Midsummer's Night Dream. I had forgotten I'd read this for university until I began reading it. It suddenly flooded back to me, though I can't remember anything that we discussed back then, I recalled the story. It was a change to read this and not have to worry about taking notes, thinking about papers to discuss on Shakespeare's use of alliteration, verse, or the various couples, etc! It was so enjoyable to just read the play and let my imagination show me the forest scenes,which are so fun. Here is a quote that has some folklore in it (for the challenge):
Act 2, Scene 1:
line 33: Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite
Call'd Robin Goodfellow. Are you not he
That frights the maidens of the villagery,
Skim milk, and sometimes labor in the quern,
And bootless make the breathless housewife churn,
And sometime make the drink to bear no barm,
MIslead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?
Those that Hobgoblin call you, and sweet Puck,
You do their work, and they shall have good luck."

This is the play that is the source of the immortal line : "The course of true love never did run smooth"(Act 1, scene 1, line 134)

Shakespeare also equates the fight between Tatiana and Oberon (the King and Queen of the fairy court) as the reason the spring has become wet and rainy and is ruining the crops: this links the fairy world with nature, with the countryside, and with the weather. Fairies are part of the world that we don't control, but which we are at the mercy at, and this play shows how easily people succumb to fairies: a little flower dust from certain plants is dusted on eyes, and suddenly characters are falling in love madly when they hated each other before! And the Queen of Fairies loves a man who is playing a donkey and becomes half a real one.....there is alot of sly humour in this play, digs at marriage, fidelity, the court, the law, and of course, true love. All the way through it, though there is Duke in the human world, it is the King and Queen of the fairies who have the real power, and the wisdom to recognize love that the Duke at first does not see.

Fun, and magical, and just the right way to end this challenge on the summer solstice. Happy longest day of the year, everyone! May a little good magic come into your life!

And, thank you, Carl for hosting this challenge.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Goblins - Brian Froud

****June 17 Note: A very kind blogger, Hector Ugalde Uch left a comment with a link to the Brian Froud covers. A very big thank you to him. And, he has an amazing site devoted to pop-up books at that is well worth visiting.******

According to, the only review says: "This is the only pop-up book Brian has ever done and is an absolute family classic and a complete rarity as it was only published in 1983. Contains beautiful, detailed illustrations and amazing pop-up mechanics that literally bring this book alive. Incredible!"

This is the book I found at Holly-Anne's school fair a week ago. It is in pretty good condition, and for the Out of Time 2 Challenge I decided to forgo British Folk Tales by Katherine Briggs, for this one. And, it is as the above quote says, incredible. The illustrations are in colour, and the story is about a little girl named Myrtle who is taken to the woods to see goblins by Edward. She keeps saying she doesn't see any goblins.....but of course, we do! I have not shown this yet to my kids (even though i bought it for them) for fear I won't get it back or it will get ripped. I love it already! The goblins ARE scary, and hidden in trees, behind rocks, in the ground, even the trees have faces. She sees a fairy ring but no goblins even though they fill the entire page and pop out at the reader!! She even finds a stone with a hole through it, but still can't see any goblins. This is a delightful, wonderful book for the whole family to read and enjoy together. Can you find the goblins? How many can you see? you'd say to the children, and try to count how many on each page. The illustrations are rich - not bright colours, but earth colours of brown and green and tan, as befitting goblins, creatures of the earth that they are. While the goblins have threatening expressions, the spirit of the book and the two characters is so much fun that any child couldn't help but laugh even if the goblins scared them! Myrtle is so convinced there aren't any that even when they jump out, she can't see them!

This was a real find, a real treasure. And I guess tomorrow - and on June 20, the summer solstice, a magical time of year! - I will let my kids look at the pictures and maybe pull at the flaps.........Books are meant to be loved, after all, and I want my children to have a sense of wonder and magic and believe that fairies are possible....though after reading the stories in The Fair Folk, I'm not sure I want to meet any!

I will save British Folk Tales for next year. I do want to read it, I'm just not in the mood and am running out of time. Once I saw Goblins, I realized I wanted something fun, since alot of my reading for this challenge has been serious and big books! Since I don't own any books by artists of fantasy or fairies, this is my first picture book with that feeling of Faerie. And of Puck, and Will Shakespeare, who I am reading on Friday night in honour of the solstice, as Carl mentions in his post for the OUT2.

The book ends with the little phrase "Where Thorn-trees abound
There Goblins be found"

I'm counting this book as my folk-tale entry into the Out of Time 2 Challenge.

This was fun!!

One book to go and I'm done OUT2!!!

Hurray! I finished A Princess of Roumania 20 minutes ago, and that leaves one book to read by Friday, and then the play A Midsummer Night's Dream on the 20th - the solstice, midsummer, the best time to read it, and I'm done!!! Yaaay! It is so nice to be close to finishing a challenge!!

Now to review: (and the pile of books i have to review from the past month is staring at me from beside the keyboard. When will you review me? they ask politely. You really liked me. When can I be talked about on your blog? Soon, I say. Soon.)

A Princess of Roumania, by Paul Park. This book is the first in a trilogy, comprising A Princess of Roumania, The Tourmaline, and The White Tyger. As mentioned in my post yesterday, A Princess was nominated for the World Fantasy Award when it came out. Did it deserve it? Yes. I have to warn you, Gentle Reader, that this is a very different kind of fantasy series. It is set in an alternate history of Roumania, but parts of it are in current America. Time shifts in this book, so it takes a little while to figure out where we are - and the alternate Roumania doesn't exist! The characters too are not your standard hero quest figures: Miranda is a typical self-absorbed teen who follows her friend Andromeda slavishly, and Peter is deformed - he is missing one of his hands. Miranda is the Whyte Tiger, the hereditary Princess of an old Roumanian line who is foretold to save her people. I can't say any more without revealing the plot, which I really don't want to do, because this is such a well-thought out and detailed book that it deserves to be more widely read. It is not easy to keep track of the political threads, in which Miranda's family have been caught up and mostly destroyed by. It is a gripping book. And best of all, is there is magic. Both folk magic and superstitions, alchemy, witchcraft, and conjuring. This to my mind lifts the book above any average fantasy. It is also quite dark. Murder and child abandonment, politics, and nasty villains abound. The gift of the author is that he can show how their minds work - the story is told in many differing viewpoints - and while we hate and fear them, as Miranda and everyone working against them do - this lifts the political intrigue to a very real sense of dread and precariousness for Miranda, for Roumania in that world. There are also dreams, and ghosts, and a fantastical rendering of a trip to the land of the dead for Miranda that is extraordinary. This is not a flashy book, instead, the magic and fantasy are worked quietly into the fabric of the story and characters, so that the magic seems like it could be part of our world, and there is the same fear of it that our world has towards anything resembling magic or witchcraft. This is a very interesting fantasy, a fascinating story.

Highly recommended.

Mythopoeic Awards

The Mythopoeic nominations for this year's awards have been nominated:

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature

* Theodora Goss, In the Forest of Forgetting (Prime Books)
* Nalo Hopkinson, The New Moon’s Arms (Grand Central Publishing)
* Guy Gavriel Kay, Ysabel (Roc)
* Catherynne M. Valente, Orphan’s Tales, consisting of In the Night Garden (Spectra) and In the Cities of Coin and Spice (Spectra)
* John C. Wright, Chronicles of Chaos, consisting of Orphans of Chaos (Tor); Fugitives of Chaos (Tor), and Titans of Chaos (Tor)

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature

* Holly Black, Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale (Simon & Schuster); Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie (Simon & Schuster); Ironside: A Modern Faery’s Tale (Margaret K. McElderry)
* Derek Landy, Skulduggery Pleasant (HarperCollins)
* J.K. Rowling, The Harry Potter series, consisting of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s [Sorcerer’s] Stone (Bloomsbury); Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Bloomsbury); Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Bloomsbury); Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Bloomsbury); Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Bloomsbury); Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Bloomsbury); and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Bloomsbury)
* Nancy Springer, Dusssie (Walker Books for Young Readers)
* Kate Thompson, The New Policeman (HarperTeen)

You can go here for all details. I am excited to see that I have read one of them! Ysabel, by Canadian fantasy writer Guy Gavriel Kay. And two more are on my list of books to get - Theordora Goss's In the Forest of Forgetting, and Catherynne M. Valente's books. Plus for the children's books nominated, I've read all the Harry Potter, and I've been hearing good things about Kate Thompson's The New Policeman. I know some bloggers have read Holly Black's Tithe.

So, in honour of today, I thought I would announce that I have decided to read all the Mythopoeic Award winners and nominees, from when it first began in 1971. Go here for the award winners list, and here for the lists of all the nominees.

I have read a surprising number of books, and I am counting ones I've read already! This is an open-ended challenge for myself, to be completed whenever. Mostly this is my way of reading some of what has been considered the best in mythic fantasy written since Lord of the Rings was published. I am not making this a general challenge to all you only because I can't figure out how to do one of those darn cool buttoms!!! So if you are interested, just drop me a line and we'll keep in touch. Oh, for those who need some encouragement, Neil Gaiman is well-represented on this list!!!

The same goes for the World Fantasy Awards. Go here for the complete list of past World Fantasy award winners and nominees. I have not read quite so many on this list, but still, I am currently reading a nominee for 2006, Paul Park's A Princess of Roumania, and Jonathan Strange and Dr Norrell by Susanna Clarke is on many of my challenges for this year and it won the previous year. Again, this is open-ended for me, like on-going current challenges in the book blogging world to read all of the the Pulitzer Prize and Booker Prize winners. Only mine is to read all the winners and nominees for the World Fantasy Award.

I am very excited about setting myself these challenges. Some day I may join the ongoing Newbery and Pulitzer Prize winner challenges, but for now, I want to read what I already love to read. Don't be surprised if a few mystery award challenges creep in to my on-going list too! Then, I can see what challenges I can join next year, based in part on these that I've set for myself. The Canadian Book Challenge 2 (set to start in 16 days!!) fits in as Charles de Lint has been nominated on both World Fantasy and the Mythopoeic lists.

So what do you think? Is anyone out there interested in reading the best books in the fantasy world over the space of the next several years?

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Finally, the heat is gone!!

Well, that was a blast of summer. From Friday at 4 pm exactly, until last night, we suffered through heat and humidity that usually comes in July at the height of summer. I have realized that I need a fan by the computer, as evinced by the fact I haven't been on once since the heat wave began! So, I am way behind in book reviews, Weekly Geeks (I don't even know what this week's is yet!), but I am happily catching up with my book reading! Quick review: I finished The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, and so have 2 books left in the Once Upon a Time Challenge (plus the play to be read on June 20). I have 4 books left in the Canadian Challenge, so it's not looking good, but I should be able to get at least two done. And then the Banned Books Challenge, which also ends this month; I have one left to read, and I picked The House of the Spirits by Isabelle Allende as an alternate. So, with 17 days left until these challenges end....wish me luck, and finding a fan in the city!!! At least high humidity (it was near 40 c with the humidity, folks, and from 30 to 32 c just temperature) means I can sit in front of the fan and happily read, and not feel guilty about all the gardening etc needing to be done. So, I'm actually happy we had the humidity for that, but I am so enjoying today, back to normal late spring temperatures and it's not HOT.

Meanwhile, I did pick up some treasures at my daughter's school - they had their annual fund-raiser, called the 'Spring Fling', on Friday evening, which was our first time attending. A pony ride, police cruiser - for the lights and siren! my son adored it! - , some jumping and slides (the kind rented from fairs, all rubber), some skills contests, all for the kids to try (we adults paid for it, thus the 'fundraiser' part). And, best of all, a BOOK sale! By the time I got to the gymnasium, it was near the end of the fling, so while I was looking around, suddenly it was announced that you could fill a box for $3!! Well, that was fun! Here is what I found (mind you, the gym by this time was so hot that I was perspiring just standing looking at books, so this tells you how much I love books that I stayed there long enough to fill a box!) -
-Ulysses - James Joyce - what can I say? FINALLY!!!
- Goblins - Brian Froud - a pop-up book! Of actual goblins by Froud! cool, eh? (supposedly for the kids, but really for moi)
- War For the Oaks - Emma Bull - with the original cover that I first read it in, 20 years ago!!
- Chernevog - C.J.Cherryh - thanks to Nymeth for her reviews of these books, I was looking for this one and Rusalka. they're out of print, so this was a real find.
- Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azar Nafisi - Before they announced we could fill a box, it was $2 or $3 a book. This was one I saw several copies of, and thought ok, on to my TBR pile.
- The Once and Future King - T.H. White - again, another book out of print! I was so thrilled what I saw this one! One I've been meaning to read for years and years, and now I now my question is: do I join the Arthurian Challenge?? Already on the 1% challenge....
- Letters Home - Sylvia Plath ed by Aurelia Plath. I owned this book years ago, when I was in my Plath phase. Also, I wanted this book because she writes about her creative struggles, worries, and thoughts, and I wanted to compare how I find her thoughts now, versus when I was in my 20's reading this book. Plus, I've been writing over the years -and struggling, with being a mother and being creative - so I'm curious how much more I will understand/agree - or not- with Plath. It's a hard road, to be creative and find time to parent. Again, another author I had everything by, once, and gave away. I am learning so much these past few years on how much I will come back to books and authors I love, to reread again. So I still stand behind the meme I did (last post from last week), because I do go in circles. I might find new books/authors/genres to read, but books i love I will always come back to. And that's something I think really only age can teach. At least for me! Anyway, now I'm wondering where i can fit this book in one of my many on-going challenges. Maybe the Non-fiction five?
- Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card. Again, I'd read this and loved it, and then it got lost/given away over the years. time to reread! I so look forward to seeing if I love it as much this time round, especially as so many of you, Gentle Readers, have been reading it recently and have loved it.
- The Iron Daughter's Daughter - Michael Swanwick - I've been meaning to read this since it came out, and could not find a copy. It's also a World Fantasy nominee, so counts in the Awards Challenge (which I am choosing my categories to, still.) I am so excited! Oh, I wish there would be another fantasy challenge going on!
- One Writer's Beginnings - Eudora Welty - I read this about 15 years ago, and loved it. I had borrowed it from the library, and never got my own copy. So I was delighted to find this at the book sale! I love how she writes about her family, and about her writer's beginnings. (ok, so now, I have enough books for the Southern, must not, cannot, will not finish any challenges if I keep doing this!!) A real treasure for me.
- Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny - one I'd read from the library again, but never had my own copy. I remember I really liked the story, though it is strange. I was really glad to get this.
-Tomorrow Midnight - Ray Bradbury - 'illustrated in comic book form' is what it says on the cover. But in paperback! I have never seen this one, so I was curious and opened it up. Lo and behold - 6 stories by him, told in comic book form! the six stories are written by him, and put into comic form by Albert Feldstein. Wow. And I love what Ray writes in his introduction to this volume: "One of the reasons we go into Space is to lose ourselves again, know magic, plumb mystery, ride high, be glorious, and have the heck frightened out of us. And we will be frightened not only by other worlds and creatures on those worlds, but by ourselves. We are still the greatest mystery and we shall spend several million more years trying to figure ourselves out." Who could resist picking this book up?
And that was my haul at Woodroffe Elementary Public School on Friday. For $3.

I have to go make strawberries and fresh whipped cream for my daughter before her bedtime. Strawberries and cream and books! I love summer!!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Have your book-tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker and more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romance?

Hmm. I saw this week's Booking Through Thursday meme on John's site, and started a reply to him. Then I got started thinking, 'have my book-tastes changed over the years?' Have they really? And the answer is, no. I read more of what I like, and less of what I don't - in fact, I refuse to read what I'm not interested in, now. I am trying to read more of what matters to me now, more of what I enjoy, and expand in areas I am interested in. These are still the same areas I was interested in 20 years ago: fantasy, mystery, poetry, history, some fiction, some biographies, gardening, cooking. Now, John took the example of Stephen King, and said that his approach to King has changed. Me, I find I want to reread Stephen King's work and see if I enjoy it as much as a 40-something reader, as I did when I was in my late teens and early twenties! My approach to horror books has changed though, from devouring everything, to backing off in the 1990s (splatterpunk, anyone?), to realizing lately that there are some really good scary books again, so more horror is creeping in now.

And as I thought that, I realized that this is what I do: I go in concentric circles - I read heavily in one area, then I back off for a while, then I come back to it again years later. What I am learning is to not give away books in that area because I will come back to it, eventually! See Charles de lint below - once I read everything by him, then I backed off for a while, and now I'm keen to read all his books again. I want to see what I can discover this time around. Since this is a theme that keeps coming up in my posts, it is obviously something that interests me. Maybe we should do a meme on what we find when we reread a favourite author, are we disappointed or in love again?

At the same time, I don't just want to reread favourite authors, I want to read new books and find new favourite authors. Neil Gaiman, anyone? Jasper Fforde? I know by now that chances are they will be mystery or fantasy writers, or poets (or Arsenal supports, like *Nick Hornby*). So, the answer is no, not really. My reading tastes are pretty much the same. Now I don't know if this is good or bad! Aren't we supposed to change as we get older? What about our life-long loves and passions? I have been reading mysteries since day one. And when they get too dark or violent, I switch to fantasy, my second great love. And when that gets silly or unrealistic, I go back to mystery. I need them both. All my other books fit in around these two areas. Ghost stories/horror novels would be third.....
ghost stories/horror
good fiction (L.M. Montgomery to Jane Austen line of good writing!)

I do have to admit to reading tons of (gulp) romances in my teens! Thankfully that has dropped off quickly after I left home, never to reappear (I hope). Oh well, we all have our bad book pasts, and I'm not counting this for this meme!

What do you think? Are you like John, or me? Have your reading tastes changed over the years?

The Second Canadian Book Challenge, eh?

The rules are up! John at The Book Mine Set has the rules up for The Second Canadian Book Challenge, eh? This time around, there are 13 different ways to select books for the challenge:

Last time the most popular method of completing the challenge was to pick a book from each province and territory (hence 13 books). That's fine, and it's the way I plan on completing it again, but it's not the only way. Here's a list of ways to theme your books:

1. From Sea To Sea To Sea- Books from each province and territory

2. The Prize Pack- Books that have won awards (Gillers, Governor General, Stephen Leacock, etc)

3. New Canadians- Many of our best authors weren't born here (Carol Shields, Michael Ondaatje, etc). Why not celebrate with 13 books they've added to the great Canadian library?

4. The Lesser Knowns- Want to introduce people to authors who haven't gotten the recognition they deserve? This approach would aim to pick 13 books published by small firms or even self-published.

5. Missed Books- Check out the list of books read for the 1st edition of this Challenge. Try to pick 13 books that no one read the first time around.

6. The Double Double- Pick 13 books that also fit the criteria for another book Challenge that you've signed up for.

7. The McClung- How about 13 Canadian books written by women?

8. The Individuals- Many of our authors have been quite prolific, having written 13 or more books. Want to devote the challenge entirely to Lucy Maud Montgomery? Margaret Atwood? Robert Munsch? It's 13 books by a single author.

9. The Provincial/Territorial- Host a sub-challenge if you like! 13 Albertan books, for example, would still fit the mandate for the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge.

10. The Genres- 13 poetry books? 13 picture books? Non-fiction? Sci-fi? If you can find 13 books and define a genre, you can do this approach.

11. Publishers Choice- Pick 13 books all by a single publisher.

12. Titles- 13 books with Canada (or some version of) in the title (ex. Eve Wiseman's Kanada, Will Ferguson's Why I Hate Canadians, or Douglas Coupland's Souvenir of Canada)

13. The Free Spirit- Just pick 13 Canadian books and have fun!

I have decided to got with The Individual. I'm picking Charles de Lint. This is kind of cool. I get to read 13 books by him in the coming year! I can catch up on the books I've missed, and reread some favourites! I'm really happy. So far, from my shelves I've picked:

1.Dreams Underfoot (reread)
2 The Riddle of the Wren (reread)
3. The Dreaming Place
4. Memory and Dream
5. Wolf Moon - DONE
6. Moonlight and Vines (reread)
7. Forests of the Heart

I owned most of his books before I moved to England, and while I happily gave them to a friend who was reading his books, I now find I am replacing all his books. Some are out of print now, and some have been reprinted, so what I am hoping to find are:

8. Yarrow (reread, one of my all-time favourites by him)
9. Moonheart (reread, again one of the best fantasies, period)
10. Jack of Kinrowan (might be a reread)
11. Waifs and Strays
12. Promises to Keep
13. Spirits in the Wires

I just read Widdershins earlier this year, a sequel to The Onion Girl, which I loved, so they are not on the list (read too recently to reread just yet). If I can find Mulengro, this is a must!

Some books by him that I haven't read are: Triskell Tales (op), Dingo, Little (Grrl) Lost, The Blue Girl, The Wild Wood, The Ivory and the Horn, plus all the ones I have read but need to buy so I have a complete collection (my ultimate aim!) - Spiritwalk, The Little Country, Svaha, Someplace To Be Flying, Greenmantle, Trader many books to choose from! Depending what I can find in the next few months, some of the titles in my challenge list might change. So many good books to read! I'll let you know as I find them.

So I hope, if you haven't, you'll pop over to John's blog and join in on the fun. It is fun being, Canadian, eh!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

The Fair Folk - ed Marvin Kaye

I approached The Fair Folk knowing nothing about it except it was an anthology of fairy stories, and that it won the World Fantasy Award. Nothing prepared me for how wonderful, delightful, exciting and good these stories were.

The anthology contains 6 stories:
"The Kelpie" by Patricia McKillip - this was one of the more magical stories, as one would expect from McKillip. She sets it in Bohemian London in an enclave of artists. What happens when they go up North, will leave an indelible impression on your mind of the north of England and the old stories of what lives under the waves.

"Except the Queen" by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder. Wow. I want more of this story! They packed what could have been a whole novel into this novella. I want to know more about their world - the Fairy Queen is as cold as you would expect, except....except she is the queen, and what she does is amazing and powerful. And the two sisters and what happens to them - and the little touches of homey magics and herbs and spells, how they find their way in our world - this was a story of Faerie that is stunning.

"UOUS" by Tanith Lee - funny, and twisted in the way only Tanith Lee can pull off. Beware of wishes.....of speaking when you think you are alone. this was the most bittersweet story in the collection, which is much how humans feel after fairies reach over and touch us....

"Grace Notes" by Megan Lindholm - sweet, very sweet. I thought I didn't like the main character at first, but she makes him into a very unlikely modern man hero. This story is what would probably happen to us if we did have a brownie in our home!! I really liked the characters and story here.

"The Gypsies in The Wood" by Kim Newman - Wow. I am still thinking over this story, the ending, the characters. I feel like I stepped into a book, reading this - the characters are so well-developed, and the story is a thrilling, magical re-working of what happens when your children play in the tiniest of woodlots by themselves. Eery, haunting, and scary in places - faeries aren't fun, they have their own lives and this along with "Except the Queen" really give us the sense of danger that comes with fairies. This story has a knock-out ending, and I can't get it out of my head, it was that good. Brilliant.

And last, but not least, Craig Shaw Gardner's "An Embarrassment of Elves" - sheer delight. I laughed out loud in places, and am now wondering if I should pick up one of his novels because I enjoyed this one so much. There are six books in the Ebenezum the Wizard stories, and this is a new short story in that world using all the characters from the novels - Wuntvor is apprentice is hilarious, as are all the companions. And what the elves do with their magic - well, the results are funny, and fun.

This was one of my favourite reads of the year so far. If you haven't read it yet, and are part of the Once Uon a time Challenge, then try to get a copy of this. And if you're not part of the challenge and like fairy stories, I really think you will find something to enjoy in this book. It won the World Fantasy Award for a very good reason - really good fairy stories. And it's not just the fairy aspect, this all were well-written - the stories were complete, characters well-rounded and interesting, and I never knew exactly where the plot was going, so each was a surprise and pulled me in and kept me there.

This one comes highly recommended, Gentle Readers. I will be keeping this one and re-reading it over the years, I think. An instant classic, or it should be!!!

Monday, 2 June 2008

The Classic Fairy Tales - Iona and Peter Opie

I have been reading fairy tales and myths for the past few weeks, to catch up on my Once Upon a Time Challenge. 18 days I am very relieved to have finally finished another one!
The Classic Fairy Tales by Iona and Peter Opie was published in 1974. I picked this book up long ago, knowing I would want to read it one day. And I am so glad I finally read this book! It is better than I hoped it would be. Not only are the original publications of the fairy tales in English presented in this book, but the history of the fairy tale, other languages it may have come from, and where in the world it is found, is also presented. Best of all, are the illustrations. These are presented from varying fairy tale editions published from the late 16th century right up to about 1930. So Arthur Rackham is here, as well as colour illustrations from as far back as 1804 from Tabart's Popular Stories for the Nursery, which was the first collection of fairy tales to have colour illustations. Every story is accompanied by several illustrations, and an introduction explaining when it was first published and by whom, any other fairy tale versions existing, and how far back similar tales to it go. Some tales go far back in time, some tales are wide-spread over the world (Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs), and others are found in a local area only (Twelve Dancing Princesses, Central European).

All of the fairy tales we would have grown up are represented here. This is a treasure trove of fairy tales. It is a collector's dream to own, for those who are collecting fairy tales, both for the history presented and for the incredible index at the back for other sources of fairy tales. These are the original tellings of the fairy tales in English, and it is interesting to see what has changed since they were first presented in English. For example, originally Goldilocks was an old lady! And that is the version we are given in the book. My favourites, the Frog Prince, and Beauty and the Beast, are here. Everything from Rumpelstiltskin to The Swineherd to Diamond and Toads, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella are here.

Best of all, was the delight I found in re-reading these tales once again. After reading The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter in May, which are written for adults, it was really fun to go back to the original fairy tales and compare them to Carter's versions, and to Neil Gaiman's poems "Locks", which I found running through my mind as I read Goldilocks tonight, and "Instructions", which would do for a general introduction to every fairy tale book published from now on! Both poems come off rather well in my mind; I really think they will be classics as time goes on. But I have to finish Fragile Things to do a proper review then! (It's sitting by my bedside and I have about a quarter of the book to go). Carters hold up well, but still are much darker in tone and mood. I do like her retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Actually, I came to the conclusion tonight that it would be hard to ruin Beauty and the Beast - I remember an old comic book I had, that had the story of the beast who lived in the Swamp ( I believe he was called Swamp Thing!). A blind girl wandered in, and they met and fell in love. since she couldn't see him, she could only hear his voice, he didn't frighten her. Unlike Beauty and the Beast, however, this tale didn't end happily - for some reason she is running through the swamp (I think she is being chased by baddies?) and falls into quicksand. He manages to rescue her, but falls in and dies. I cried buckets of tears, and it was one of my favourite comics of the few my mother allowed in the house. I think the girl's name was Melody. And it's been 33 years since I last saw it! But that's the power of fairy tales - they stay in our hearts and minds, they roam through our souls shaping how we see stories in our lives and in the world around us, all through our lives.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Weekly Geeks 5 - Second Favourite Form of Storytelling

So I'm a little slow. I actually wrote a whole post on this topic, and then didn't post it because i didn't like what I wrote. This was last Wednesday or so. Since then I've been giving it alot of thought. Do I write about all my tv shows? Movies? Favourites? How do I go about showing why this is my second favourite form of storytelling? And, as usual I am too late to make Dewey's wrap-up post...but who cares! I finally know what I want to say:

This past week's Weekly Geek was to post about our second form of favourite form of story-telling. Mine is tv shows. I kept trying to make it movies, because I do enjoy them, but the ones I get caught up in, and argue and discuss about, are tv shows, for the most part. By the way, I have to give a big thanks to Bride of the Book God, because she wrote about tv shows as her 2nd favourite form, and some of what she says crystallized what I had been trying to say last Wednesday in the unposted post. So thank, Bride! And you can go here to check out her post. TV are one of the things my family and I sit down to together to do. Over the years, my eldest son and I have watched Babylon 5, the old Star Trek (he still thinks it's cool that I can name the episode within seconds of the opening scene/music!), Lost, and Heroes: he, my daughter and I watch Smallville, the new Battlestar Galactica, my husband and I watch House (our tv show!), Life on Mars, Vicar of Dibley and host of shows from England (mostly on DVD now) and our whole family watches the new Dr Who from Britain. So, after watching the final episodes of Season One of Dr Who this weekend at my daughter's request, I realized that I want to talk about this episode as it encapsulates everything good about tv and visual storytelling.

"The Parting of the Ways" is an episode that even after viewing at least 4 times, still makes me cry. In fact, there were very few episodes that I didn't find myself moved by, because the new Dr Who is exploring who we are by going into the past - both Earth past and other worlds - and the future, again sometimes ours, sometimes ahead in the universe somewhere. The best of the episodes involve something personal, and Parting of the Ways is as personal as it gets: the Doctor sends Rose back to Earth to save her, and he and Captain Jack face annihilation, as well as the entire Earth, from the Dr's old foes the Daleks, and she does the unthinkable to save him and Jack. The power of this episode, and in this series as whole, is in its exploration of love. The Doctor, we learn in this episode, when faced with the dilemma of being a coward or a killer, chooses coward. He can't - he won't - kill to wipe out the Daleks, even though he is dooming the human race to painful extermination. He can't because at the bottom of his being is the hope that some way out can be found. The will to live, to survive, even when all hope is lost - that is the Doctor's secret. And in this episode, for the first time, we see what the Tardis is really formed of, for Rose, the Doctor's companion, looks into it, in order to save her Doctor from that annihilation at the Daleks. The picture as she emerges from the Tardis with the light pouring from her eyes and face, the light that is Wisdom incarnate, what the Goddess Sophia (who is Wisdom in Christian mythology) would look like if She walked the Earth - and what Rose says about time, is haunting and beautiful. She is beautiful, and how she destroys the Daleks and restores Jack, before the Doctor stops her, is magnificent. That is a perfect scene that understands the power of Spirit made bodily, and it is so beautiful that I am moved to tears - because Spirit - nor all of time, can't be contained in our bodies. We simply can't hold all that much power, and the Doctor tells her that; even he can't hold it. He can only touch it as a Time Lord, and because it powers his ship. It destroys his current body, and we all meet the new Doctor at the very end. Rose has no memory of what she has done, which is also fitting, because if she remembered, everything else that happened in her life would not mean anything in comparison to that moment she was All and saw all Time.
This episode is about saving the ones you love, if you can, and also about letting them go. When the Doctor sends her back to earth the first time, he tells her, "Have a good life. Have a fantastic life." So I started thinking about what is a good life? Do I live a good life? And Rose says to her mother (who doesn't understand Rose's need to try to get back and save the Doctor), "The Doctor showed me a better way of living my life. You don't give up, you don't stand around, you do something about it." And I thought, that's the recipe for a good life, both in tv land and in the real world. And that's part of why I love Dr Who so much - he goes into time that needs fixing or correcting, he acts. He can't stop time, he can't restore dead people - see the episode when Rose goes back to see her Dad, and what happens! Which Rose refers to in this episode, and how Jackie (her mother) reacts when she finds out - this show is all about love and the things we do for the ones we love, and how the impossible becomes possible if you do something about it. For a main theme of a tv show, that's not too bad! This episode contains all of the season's themes within it. Science fiction is a vehicle for showing us to our selves. What would we be like through other's eyes? What is the best of us? The worst of us? Dr Who shows us all this, with great storytelling and superb acting. I especially love long-arcing storylines, and most of my favourite tv shows (with a few exceptions) have had this as part of the writing. I love to see how one story impacts later on, how one character's actions come into play later. Because that is how our life works, even though we don't always slow down enough to see it. Stories, written and visual, allow us to see that causal effect.
This particular episode also featured the words "Bad Wolf", which were encountered in earlier episodes as well. We finally get an answer to what those words mean, and I thought about it later and I am intrigued by how two little words could catch our attention. And like almost nothing else - except other fairy tale words - do. "Bad Wolf", no matter what context we see it in, immediately grabs our attention because it recalls the fairy tales with the big bad wolf. We know these words mean something. And even as they are a signpost for us to pay attention, so do the Doctor and Rose pay attention, and follow them to the source. So once again I find fairy tales turning up at the most unexpected, least likeliest places!!
And it's one more reason for me to love Dr. Who and this episode!
And, by the way, my daughter has said that if the doctor came by in his blue phone box, she would hop in and travel around the universe with him. She's 5. That Doctor, he appeals to females of all ages!!!!