The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland

GirlwhoCircumnavigatedFairylandCoverHave you ever known someone who you should be best friends with? As in, on the surface, this person has everything in common with you? They like the same things, they read the same books, they listen to the same music. But for some reason, you just don’t mesh well together. Why is this? Because this seems to be the case with me and Catherynne Valente.

I began hearing about Valente sometime last year because of her book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Well, Fairyland! I thought. That sounds interesting. And eventually I read her book Deathless. It was good, but not great, and it made me wonder if I would actually like Fairyland. So I finally got the book from the library to read and I’m now wondering why it is so popular.

There is so much about this book that I should love. September is a twelve year old girl living in Nebraska who is taken into Fairyland. Once there, she is left on her own and begins a series of adventures that ultimately lead her into direct conflict with the current ruler of Fairyland. Along the way she makes friends with a wyvern (like a dragon but not quite) and a marid, as well as getting help from fairies, spriggans, panthers and various other sentient creatures. The story owes an obvious debt to old Victorian morality and fairy tales but has a healthy dose of modernness to it.

So why don’t I love this book? I really can’t say. It’s not the first time this has happened- I never could get into the Inkheart books by Cornelia Funke. Valente’s tone bothers me a bit, as it did with Deathless. She seems to patronize a bit and whether that’s intentional or not, I can’t tell. And everything seems so…precious. I don’t really know any other way to explain it. Half the time I’m trying to enjoy the story I just end up rolling my eyes. I also have a hard time connecting or caring about many of the characters.

There is a sequel recently published, also saddled with a horribly cumbersome title: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. Will I read it? Probably. But I fear I’m just setting myself up for another disappointingly flat tale.

ParaNorman

I heard how good ParaNorman was when it first came out. It got a little overshadowed by Frankenweenie I think but it still ended up winning a lot of awards and getting a lot of buzz. The other night I was browsing Netflix for something to watch and ParaNorman jumped out at me. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of zombies so I was a little reluctant but Netflix isn’t really big on movies anymore and I wasn’t particularly interested in watching another TV episode. And it’s October! Time to start scaring myself silly.

Norman Babcock is an unusual little boy. He can talk to the dead. His family thinks he’s weird and the rest of the town thinks he’s a freak. He has no friends until Neil, another bullied school mate, obstinately decides to be Norman’s friend. Things get a little out of hand when Norman finds out he’s the only one that can prevent a town curse cast by a witch burned at the stake by the Puritan town founders.

This was a really sweet movie and I enjoyed it far more than I thought. But considering that ParaNorman was made by the same people who did Coraline, that should not have been a surprise. There were plenty of nods to other horror movies but it was funny enough to keep me from cowering under the couch in terror. And that turned out to be a good thing because the ending was surprisingly scary. So if you’re looking to ease your way into the scary movie season, this would be an excellent movie to start with.

Liebster Award!

My first blog award! How exciting. Awarded to me by the wonderful Jubilare, this “prestigiously obscure” blog award is meant to draw attention to blogs with under 200 followers. The rules/requirements/gentle suggestions for the awardee:

1) Expose my readers to the randomness of my soul.

2) Supply my nominator with answers to her queries.

3) Impose this honor and task upon others deemed worthy.

4) Notify said worthies.

5) Demand said worthies to expose the randomness of their souls.

6) Give thanks.

Well, 1, 2, and 6 are ok. But I’m going to have to bow out of passing along the award. While I follow several blogs that certainly deserve a much wider audience, they have either won the award already or else have too many followers. Forgive me jubilare? Hopefully my answers to the questions will delight and appease.

And so, the questions!

1. If you could walk into a book and make a home there, where would that home be, what would it be like, and what sort of people/creatures would you try to befriend? Specifics would be fun and you can give more than one answer if you like.

Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings. I suppose I would ultimately want to settle in Ithilien (post- Ring destruction naturally) where Eowyn and Faramir would rule. But first I would want to travel to the Shire, to Gondor, perhaps to Rivendell and Lothlorien if I was allowed, and a healthy amount of time in Rohan. And perhaps to see the Glittering Caves of Aglarond and maybe even to see the dwarven cities? Basically I would want to see it all and meet as many of the inhabitants as possible- hobbits, dwarves, elves and men. And oliphaunts.

To a lesser extent, I would love to jump into a Jane Austen novel. I love the Regency era with the beautiful dresses and frequent dances and in an Austen novel, there would be plenty of lively conversation and enough scandal and drama to keep things interesting.

2. Name a food you have read about, but never eaten, that you have since wanted to try. It doesn’t have to actually exist. What, in the reading, piqued your interest?

From Perelandra by C. S. Lewis:

Now he had come to a part of the wood where great globes of yellow fruit hung from the trees — clustered as toy-balloons are clustered on the back of the balloon-man and about the same size. He picked one of them and turned it over and over. The rind was smooth and firm and seemed impossible to tear open. Then by accident one of his fingers punctured it and went through into coldness. After a moment’s hesitation he put the little aperture to his lips. He had meant to extract the smallest, experimental sip, but the first taste put his caution all to flight. It was, of course, a taste, just as his thirst and hunger had been thirst and hunger. But then it was so different from every other taste that it seemed mere pedantry to call it a taste at all. It was like the discovery of a totally new genus of pleasures, something unheard of among men, out of all reckoning, beyond all covenant. For one draught of this on earth wars would be fought and nations betrayed. It could not be classified. He could never tell us, when he came back to the world of men, whether it was sharp or sweet, savoury or voluptuous, creamy or piercing. “Not like that” was all he could ever say to such inquiries.

The fruit of an Eden! No rot, insects, weather, etc. to destroy the purity. How could anybody refuse such a delicacy?

Also, open any book in The Game of Thrones series by George R. R. Martin to one of the numerous feasting/private dinners/camp meals and tell me you’re not suddenly desiring a hot meat pie, roasted swan, or crisp loaf of freshly baked bread. The man loves his feed and so do I.

3. Do you have a favorite plant? If so, what is it and why do you like it so much?

I have a favorite tree- a weeping cherry.

weeping cherry

Combining the fragile loveliness of a cherry blossom with the twisted beauty of a willow, I’m not sure a more perfect tree could exist. It is one of my favorite sights in spring.

I’m also partial to wildflowers and any sort of flowering weed including, but not limited to, dandelions, honeysuckle, morning glories, and wisteria.

4. What fictional character is your favorite hero (male or female), and what villain really scares you and why?

I have three favorite heroines:

1) Eowyn (of course) from The Lord of the Rings. She’s strong and courageous while being feminine and graceful. She has a realistic personality and her love story with Faramir is one of the most beautiful I have ever read.

2) Elinor Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility. I know everyone loves Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice with her beauty and her lively wit, but Elinor has always been the Austen heroine I’ve related to most. She’s plain yet entirely sensible and manages to keep her rather emotional mother and sister in check. Her quiet strength appeals to me far more than any of Austen’s more vivacious ladies.

3) Major Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell. The ultimate strong female character without being a stereotype. She’s strong, smart, and ready for anything you can throw her way. The TV show Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is really what got me into anime to begin with.

And the villain:

Gmork

Gmork from The Neverending Story. I don’t care that you can practically see the sticks holding that puppet up. He is by far the most terrifying thing I have ever seen in movie and not just for how he looks but also what he represents.

5. There is a crossroad at your feet. Behind you lies the path back to home and hearth (wherever that might be). The road directly ahead leads to a city, blue in the distance, settled among hills and on the edge of a bright inland sea. To your right lies a steep climb into old, low mountains clothed in forest and fern. To your left is rolling farmland that eventually flattens out into broad plains dappled by the clouds overhead. You can go as far as you like on any of the roads (even farther than you can see), including back home. There’s no wrong answer, only the where and why.

To the mountains I go! While the blue city sounds lovely it also sounds more like a temporary vacation spot or else a jumping off point for other adventures. Anyways, cities are not the best choice for this particular introvert. And as for the rolling farmland and open plains, no thanks. I had a professor in college who mentioned that he felt uneasy when he first moved to my hometown from the Chicago area because, living in the Appalachian foothills as we are, he could not see the horizon like he was used to. And then I realized why I had felt so uneasy the year before visiting my grandmother in Wisconsin- because I could see the horizon! It’s a bit unsettling to be surrounded by flat open farmland when all your life has been lived in foothill country. And I love being in the mountains, especially old mountains where ferns and greenery are plenty and even next door neighbors can be miles away. I might try to cross the mountains to see the valley beyond but I would probably be too much in love with the ferns and forest to go far.

And so, many thanks to jubilare for the nomination and I hope that I have provided my readers with some entertainment. And I would love to hear any answers you have in the comments!