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Streams and streams of consciousness August 7, 2008

Posted by dolorosa12 in books, childhood, fangirl, memories.
Tags: , , , ,

‘People who read are always like you. You can’t just tell them, you have to tell them why.’ – Catherine Jinks, Pagan’s Crusade

‘Tell them stories.’ – Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass

This post was inspired by a few things, but mainly the debates I’ve been having with people on Obernet and the ‘Pub about The Dark Knight, and a subsequent IRC conversation with Di about the bizarre, incoherent criteria that determine which texts I like and which texts I loathe. “How can you hate Dickens for being too melodramatic but love Love, Actually? How can you dislike Paris, Je T’aime but read vampire romances?” she asked. Our conversation swung around to postmodernism, postcolonialism, poststructuralism, and just what kind of ‘-ist’ I am. But I’m no ‘-ist’. The only word that describes my reading and viewing preferences is ‘fangirl’. The texts I love, I love passionately; the texts I loathe, I loathe violently.

But why do I love particular texts?

For the simplest reason: They speak to me and for me and about me. Or at least they spoke to me and for me and about me at some point in my life. Here, I list the texts that make or have made my life worth living. Expect gushing. Expect incoherence. Do not expect me to follow the rules of grammar. Who can hope to contain a fangirl in full hyperbolic flight?

There is no way that I wouldn’t begin with His Dark Materials. This wondrous trilogy came into my life when I was a curious 12-year-old and it articulated things I didn’t even know I’d been thinking. The books’ publication spanned my early adolescence, so they reflected my own journey from childhood to adulthood. So far they remain the only books over which I’ve cried non-stop for three days. I do not exaggerate.

If Philip Pullman came along and reflected the thoughts of my early adolescence, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles summed up my personal philosophy at the age of 21. As I said over on LJ, ‘Rice’s novels provided just the rich, philosophical feast, the melancholy musings on life, literature and mortality (and their connections), the sense of the deadening, sterilising weight of history, that I felt and yet could not articulate at the time.’ It’s the beautiful language, saying things that I’ve felt so strongly for years: ‘ “Don’t you see? I’m not the spirit of any age. I’m at odds with everything. I always have been.” “But Louis, that is the very spirit of your age. Your fall from grace, has been the fall of a century.” ‘ MY GOD, THIS IS ADULTHOOD! (And Lestat, Louis and co pwn Edward Cullen. What kind of vampire sparkles in the sun, for Joss’ sake?)

BUFFY. Raphael lists this as his religion on Facebook, and sometimes I feel the same way. What it is to be a teenager, to be a woman, MY GOD, JOSS WHEDON GETS IT. This show sums up what life means.

Sara Douglass’ Troy Game series really resonates with me. The sense that life is a series of terrible coincidences and we all need more than one lifetime to work through them is one that pretty much sums up my current world view.

And Jo Walton’s Tir Tanagiri Saga gets me from the first page. ‘What it is to be old is to remember things that nobody else alive can remember. I always say that when people ask me about my remarkable long life. Now they can hear me when I say it. Now, when I am ninety-three and remember so many things that are to them nothing but bright legends long ago and far away. I do not tell them that I said that first when I was seventeen, and felt it too…So I have been old by my own terms since I was seventeen.’ This…this is just…me talking!

Victor Kelleher, MY GOD, The Beast of Heaven is just the story of humanity, I felt like I’d been hit by a train when I read it.

Catherine Jinks’ Pagan series. All I can do is swoooooooooon. The first literary character I’ve ever fallen head over heels in love with (setting me up for a lifetime of falling hopelessly in love with sarcastic, arrogant nerdboys).

Cirque du Soleil…those acrobats, doing what they do, are what I would be if I could, they are what I am inside (and “Banquine” is just AMAZING).

In the musical department, Massive Attack, Calexico and The Pogues and all those other clever-lyric’d musicians who sing the words right out of my mouth…they make the world a lovely, beautiful place.

John Marsden, whose Tomorrow series is a cri de coeur for Australian teenagers.

A Little Princess – as a child, its heroine’s ability to escape the horrors of her life through ‘supposing’ was the most powerful and profoundly meaningful message for me.

xkcd is modern-day poetry. Enough said.

Scott Westerfeld – currently vying with Joss as pop-culturally cool writer who is really a teenage girl.

Why are so many of the books that speak to me are young-adult books, or fantasy novels? Sara Douglass says it so much better than I do. Sophie Masson makes a similar point in many of her YA novels, which are often about the interplay between the fairy Otherworlds and the ‘real’ world, how each needs the other to survive. The Otherworld is a metaphor for the world of the imagination. Books (and movies, and music) are otherworlds. They are essential to our souls. They feed us, they sustain us, then lift us up, they entrance and enrapture. Their worlds sing to us.

Years and years ago, in one of my ‘paper’ diaries, I wrote this about books. Books (and the occasional movie or TV series, but for the most part books) taught me how to be brave, how to be compassionate, how people interact and act towards one another, WHY people behave as they do, how to be a friend, a daughter, a mother, a sister, a lover, how to feel and WHY to feel, how to justify my existence, how to reconcile the evil in me with a yearning to do good, what to be afraid of, what to hate, how to speak and write and read, what to love and what to want to love, how to be good and how to be bad, what true cruelty is, what true compassion and courage and sacrifice are, when to be strong and when to yield, what it is to be a child and a teenager and an adult and how these three are connected, how to grow old, how to accept death, how to comprehend suffering and injustice. In short, they taught me how to be a human being.

I love books that do these things. I NEED them to do these things. Because, ultimately, all I want, all I need, in a book, is to look into that Otherworldly mirror and see myself reflected back in all my myriad possibilities.



1. sexyjones - August 7, 2008

I read this and made my religion on Facebook Buffy too. Whedon is a genius and I’m excited about his new show with Eliza Dushku on FOX.

2. dolorosa12 - August 7, 2008

Yeah, definitely, although judging by past experience, Dollhouse might not manage to stay on air that long. 😦

3. sexyjones - August 7, 2008

Yea, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be great. Hell, when she was on Tru Calling they didn’t even finish the second season…five episodes in then nothing and I liked that show too.

4. jess - August 8, 2008

Whedon says he’s working with an entirely different set of execs/producers who he describes as much brighter people than those he dealt with for Firefly. I hope I’m around for the next time there’s chat about postmodernism, postcolonialism, and poststructuralism (really, I need the last one explained for me). I think fangirl is perfect.

5. dolorosa12 - August 9, 2008

Yes, the whole time we were talking I thought ‘Jess would probably be really interested in this,’ so it’s a shame you missed it…

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