Showing posts from June, 2011

Akata Witch

I wouldn't describe this as a relaxing summer, although I'm able to physically relax more than in the school year.  It's a juggling summer of 4 papers (14 months to tenure dossier deadline!), 2 new classes, files to clean out in two offices, volunteer work for GSLIS, a bathroom remodel, and a small host of random Things that Must Be Done.  Still.  I'm enjoying the juggling. And I'm not even counting as work the new reading I'm doing for the fantasy class.  I love it, but I do feel like I'm holding auditions when I read these novels.  Fortunately, they won't get their feelings hurt if I don't pick them.  This year, I've changed the rules a little.  I used to have a firm only-in-print-paperbacks rule to keep textbook costs down.  But I'm bending that rule now, assigning about 5 books that are so new they are only out in hardback, with the expectation that, since it's a LEEP course, many folks will get them from libraries.  That's a re

Ruins of Gorlan

Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan is the first of the Ranger's Apprentice series.  I came to this one by local library colleagues, who I asked for some of the best and most popular new-ish middle-grade fantasy.  I can see why this one is a winner.  Among the castle wards, it has come time to choose a path in life, and Will thinks he wants to go to Battleschool even though the bully Horace is going there as well.  But, in fact, when the choosing comes, a letter arrives about Will but its contents are not revealed to him.  Will climbs to the tower where the letter was last seen, and there he is surprised by Halt, one of the Rangers, and discovers that he has in fact been chosen to serve as one of the mysterious Rangers.  Once he is used to the idea, Will thrives under Halt's exacting guidance.  But a war is brewing, and the evil Morgarath has loosed two monstrous creatures on the land, killing some of the kingdom's most brilliant warriors in secrecy.  Halt and the Rangers disc

Half a Life, contrasted with the stridency of positive thinking

"All the things get done and you regret them and then you accept them because there's nothing else to do.  Regret doesn't budge things; it seems crazy that the force of all that human want can't amend a moment, can't even stir a pebble." (p. 194)    --Half a Life  by Darin Strauss Today I met a woman who believes.  Angel cards, affirmations, being positive, visualizing the exact number of the weight/wealth/world you want and making it so by sticking it to something, anything, where you can see it.  I was polite, but I mentioned that I'd seen those ideas used as weapons to blame others for their shortcomings.  Privately, I was thinking my usual thoughts about religious dogmatism that pushes for stridency and obliterates nuance.  Her response was a perfect example of what lies beneath "positive thinking," and that was to trash-talk her sister who has a chronic illness and "bad luck."  "Do you wake up thinking something bad wi

City of Bones

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare was first of interest to me because Clare's career started as a Harry Potter fan fic writer.  See here for a brief list of the various scandals (proving that there is always someone staying up too late because someone is wrong , plagarizing, or being mean on the internet).   I've had longstanding criticisms of the Harry Potter series, beginning with the extreme length of book four (Goblet of Fire) and the fact that 100 pages pass before we actually see Harry.  I had similar problems with the rest of the series, and this is relevant here because Clare really is writing in a similar vein.  Clare's City of Bones is plot-driven bestseller fantasy, which frankly is perfectly enjoyable as it is.  But great works of children's and young adult fantasy, in my opinion, are those that received the extensive editing that both Rowling's later works and this book by Clare lack. City of Bones follows the extraordinary revelations that follow

Into the Closet, part 1

Victoria Flanagan's book Into the Closet: Cross-Dressing and the Gendered Body in Children's Literature and Film has been on my to-read list for awhile.  This post will only cover up to the end of chapter 2; I'll write about the rest of the book in a different post. What I'm noticing, having read Flanagan's other work, is that she has solidified some interesting ideas here, especially in chapter two, about three models of cross-dressing.  I'm currently only interested in two of them:  female-to-male (FTM) cross dressing and transgendered cross dressing.  The FTM model is specific to children's literature, which Flanagan points out has relatively little sexual content.  Remarkably, these sorts of books show females cross dressing quite easily, "passing" as male immediately and without fanfare.  "The majority of children's texts that feature a female cross-dressing theme spend little or no time describing the newly adopted attire of the cr