Saturday, January 23, 2010


Last night I finished The Mermaid's Madness by Jim Hines. It was a great read--quick, dark, and sometimes funny--that kept me reading the way one is drawn further out into the breakers on a sunny day at the beach. This is the second book in his series of Princess novels giving the now entwined histories of how Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella survived the circumstances that became enshrined in their respective fairy tales and what came next when they came together as wiser, tougher women in the kingdom of Lorindar. Can't help but think these would have been the perfect companions for lazy days in the dorm.

As it is, I'm happy to have something fun to sneak in between the stalk of writing about writing that I seem to have waded into again. It must be that January needs to have some kind of instructional component, because I find myself wandering out of the literature aisle and creeping into the instructional titles almost without intention. Perhaps I can put off drafts with another several chapters regarding how I should be organizing my paragraphs. I think I'd rather be swashbuckling with the princesses.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Great Workplace Romance

I've discovered that conversational, slightly odd accounts of working in cubeville (Dilbert, Then We Came to the End, microserfs) are my equivalent of the romance novel. I read them from cover to cover, empathizing and wishing that I had a well-paying, life-eating, interesting job instead of the crazy job I have or instead of spending all day avoiding doing the dishes.

In addition to being guilty pleasures, they show the way that workplace relationships function (for that one job, in that one company): how they create identity, how they offer opportunity for the demarcation of private and public information and personas, how they are as fleeting as collegial and high school status structures. These structures are as good as the costume personas of the romance novel. While I didn't believe in the myth of happily ever after vis-a-vis your average romance novel long enough to pick up the habit of reading them, I do believe in the idea of the perfect job, in which status, hours, salary, and responsibilities align to bless the employee with respect and satisfaction. Alas that the limits of my practicality don't extend into the workaday world.

Job novels are also about the artifacts of communication and technology that shift with the status of the company and the age or status of the corporate leaders. I recall the time that I left a temp job after arriving and being given a pencil and a pad of paper upon which to do some odd job--it was obvious that neither the company nor my position in it would provide the status I wanted at the time, especially being eager to prove that an English degree from a local university didn't make me unfit for the earning of a reasonable salary. As I hunched over the pad, miserable and drawing chains down the side of the page, I realized that this was another dead-end relationship. Now, in the middle of another job search, I'd like to combat the creeping Romance colonization of the rest of the bookstore with a new category: Workplace Pub Fiction, or those novels in which you could imagine hearing the majority of the book across a table from a disgruntled coworker, best friend, or former boss. There are good stories out there, from the very heart of our cubicled, consumerist, flourescent wastelands.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Happy New Year!

Surprise! A new post for the new year. I had a wonderful holiday with my family and I'm now full up on new books (with more coming soon--thanks, Mom & Dad!!) for the new year. So, here we are on an unusually cold day in January--32 degrees at noon here in south Texas--with leftover barbeque in fridge and more than a little irritated by the last book that crossed my path.

I'd been looking forward to it, already taken in by the cover art, the good word of mouth, and the dearth of new fantasy on my shelves as of late. Then it was here and I was half-way through and waiting for the story to begin. I was in denial that it had already started and that it was the kind of soap opera plot that was more like the Fairies of Peyton Place. Of course, female protagonist, it would have to be a journey of the heart, right?

Well, no. It didn't have to be about self-discovery through sex, nor did it have to treat the fantastic elements like the remnants of bad traditions that cause people to do stupid and murderous things. Thanks for that. Good to know that I only read fantasy because I'm a reactionary prig. And your next fantasy novel? Black-balled from the library, my dear. So sorry, tradition and all that. You understand.

I had much better luck with Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. It was engaging from the unexepectedly bloody beginning to the unexpectedly sad ending and kept me immobile on the couch from start to finish. Altogether the kind of reflective book that brings up the missing parts of the holidays, friends and relatives no longer here or unable to visit, the way the season changes as its meaning inevitably shifts to younger family members.

And here we are in the new year, waiting for the words that haven't been read yet and the days that haven't been thawed from the future or accreted to the past. Happy New Year!