Bold Fortune

fortune favors the bold

Month: January, 2010

Red Sox Nation

by mollykl

The worst morning. Everything small and trivial that could go wrong…did. Lost my keys, couldn’t get the car seat adjusted, ran late for an appointment. As I was at the recycling center, swearing like a sailor because the handle of the  bag broke, spilling paper everywhere, I passed a guy who smiled and said,

“I like your hat. Red Sox Nation.”

At that I had to, had to, grin. I still had to pick up paper, the car seat still won’t adjust right, and my face is still breaking out, but at least, for a moment, I smiled.

Liberte, egalite, fraternite

by mollykl

As a woman who has the right to wear whatever I want, whenever and wherever I want, to work, to go to school and to tell my husband to fuck off, I can’t wrap my head around the idea of wearing a burqa. I’ve seen them not just in news stories, but in everyday life. Where I do my grocery shopping there’s one or two women who come in burqas. It’s hard not to stare the first time you see one – is it hot? how well can you see? that material looks really nice…how much did that thing cost? But now they’re just the people I shop with. I nod, smile,  make eye contact (difficult, but possible) and go on my way in the aisle.

I think we tend to equate burqas with Islamic extremists (although apparently there’s no mention of the actual full veil in the Koran- only the moderate hijab, which covers the face and neck, is required -anyone who knows different please illuminate!). I don’t, because all I can picture when I read about France’s proposed ban on burqas is the women in the grocery store. If they weren’t allowed to wear burqas in public, would they simply not go out in public? Would their husbands not allow them to?

Nicolas Sarkozy said, “In our country,we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity.”  If the burqa is what lets them step forth in public, isn’t banning it condeming them, and in effect punishing the very people you sought to liberate? Will they thank you when they sit at home, because they can no longer go out in public? Is “a little” freedom better than none at all?

Reader-response 2.0

by mollykl

Now that I’m out of school I’m getting back to reading for fun.  Once I find an author I like (I’m reading a lot of mysteries right now) I’ll search for other books and information.  several of the authors I’ve been reading lately have websites, which isn’t suprising, since everyone, yours truly included, seems to have a website. What I find interesting is the way authors are using their websites to keep in touch with readers. Readers now have the opportunity to learn more about the historical and political background of characters (ok, I don’t know how many other people care about that, but I’m a dork and do). Suzanne Arruda’s Jade del Camereon series or Clare Langley-Hawthorne’s An Edwardian State of Mind blog are some great examples of authors using the internet and their blogs to give more depth to characters and stories. I am somewhat religious with checking back on Amazon for new titles from authors I like, since Amazon is usually only a little behind Bowker’s Books in Print on currency. (And a big thank you to Drexel, I pay you roughly $45,000 dollars for my MLIS, and two days after I’m done with school you yank my access to the library databases? WTF?) I like to know what to expect and when. There are several titles being released this year that aren’t even on Amazon yet – but I learned about them through the author’s blog.

Even beyond just getting background information an author’s website is a way to have some contact with the author, and for the author to have contact with readers. Some authors, like J.R. Ward have message boards, where readers can talk with her and each other. On nearly every website there is a contact form, although some authors, like Jacqueline Winspear who writes the “Maisie Dobbs” series about a female investigator in post-World War I, admit that they may not be able to respond to each contact. I can pretty much guarantee you that there’s no way Stephenie Meyer can respond to all of her e-mail, since that would be from every SINGLE teenage girl in the continental U.S..  But through posts readers can keep up and feel a sense of kinship and community. Websites and blogs are the book group you can belong to, no matter where you are.

Which brings me to my question: how much of that contact is reflected in the author’s work? J.R. Ward’s fans are particularly rabid (and I mean that with love) and vocal. Do their impressions and views of characters ever alter the way she sees her own creations? I would not have the end of the latest Maisie Dobb’s book coming – what inspired Winspear to set her character on the path to recovery from PTSD, especially given that her “shell-shock” was one of the  outstanding hallmarks of the character? I know from reading interviews with Winspear that she has had contact with doctors who treat patients with PTSD – did her contact with them have anything to do with her character development?

When I was getting my under-graduate degree in English Lit, I was a big fan of reader-response criticism, because I really felt that while the author’s own intent was important most readers could never really understand it fully. Everyone brings their own understanding and experience to a reading, so that is what matters most. Now we have the interesting  concept that those very readers have gone beyond just changing the story and meaning through their reading experience, but also, through their contact with the author, possibly altering the story from the outset.

The nature of heroism

by mollykl

In the British Library, years ago, there was an exhibition called “1000 years of English literature”. Part of it was a recording of a conversation between Raymond Chandler and Ian Fleming talking about the nature of the hero. Basically it was the two of them arguing, “no YOUR creation was a hero….no YOURS was.” And I loved it, because, well, I love James Bond and Philip Marlowe.

Miep Gies died on monday at the age of 100. She was the secretary who helped hide Anne Frank’s family, bring them food and try to keep them from discovery. She always insisted that she wasn’t a hero, and that she only helped one family, while others helped many more.

In fact, she once said, “Imagine that young people would grow up with the feeling that you have to be a hero to do your human duty. I am afraid that nobody would ever help other people, because who is a hero? I was not.”

I beg to differ. Chandler asserted that Bond was a hero because he risked his life and sacrificed his moral center for the good of Queen and country. He killed because his job demanded it, and didn’t give it a second thought.

Miep Gies did much more. Only one family? So she only tried to save one family?

My dear, that’s the true nature of a hero. Rest in peace.