Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Book therapy

I've heard that when women get depressed, they may shop. Especially for shoes. I had a very bad day yesterday, and feeling very depressed in the evening, I escaped to go shop for...books! Who needs shoes when there are books?!

I didn't even know what I was going to do or why. I just had to get out of the house and found myself making my way, like a homing pigeon, to Barnes & Noble. It was one of those bad days with the baby where I felt the full weight of what I'd gotten myself into by having a baby at nearly 40 years old, not just an "oh no the baby's crying and I can't catch a break" day, but an "oh no my life was finally supposed to start now but this puts it off 5 more years and there's no way my dreams could entail waiting until I'm 45 to pursue them so they're all defunct" day. I think I instinctively went to where I feel most myself, where the things I care about are. I thought I'd look at magazines, but I couldn't get interested in them. (In a move that would shock & horrify my children, I even chose not to purchase the latest Neopets magazine....) I found myself going to the YA section, where I stood in amazement looking at all the pretty covers and all the enticing-looking books. They have made the YA section much bigger in the past year, and the books mostly looked fantastic! I looked through many of them with longing.

Finally, I treated myself by doing something I have probably not done in 20 years: I bought two full-priced books I'd never even heard of before! One even by an author I'd never heard of before! And a hardback, at that! I will occasionally buy a hardback by an author I know personally, though usually at Amazon prices. I pulled out all the stops this time. I bought a graphic novel, of all things (the first I've read), The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci, and then Going Nowhere Faster by Sean Beaudoin. Further maximizing my retreat into comfort items, I found myself stopping on the way home for a Coke Slurpee and a Twix. Mmmm.

I read The Plain Janes as soon as I got home, which only took about 20 minutes. I enjoyed it, even if it did seem improbable that a town would react to something like bubbles in the town fountain as an act of terrorism or frightening criminal vandalism...but then, I guess comics are supposed to be a bit over the top (most real-life bad guys don't go to quite the lengths of, say, the Green Goblin). Still, it made me think of Footloose, with the town that banned dancing until the young people revolted, and the 80's song "99 Luftballons," with its idea that the sighting of some balloons by paranoid people could set off a nuclear war. I found the graphic novel format interesting and realized I could tell most of my stories in a lot fewer words. I also particularly liked the way the protagonist's eyes told the story a couple of times where her love interest was involved. There's an ad in the back for another graphic novel I'll definitely keep an eye out for (Good as Lily), about an 18-year-old girl who suddenly finds herself in the presence of versions of herself at 6, 29, and 70 years old. I'm fascinated already.

I'm halfway through Going Nowhere Faster, and loving it so far. I said before that I liked books with footnotes, but this one has something I relate to even more: parentheses. It's loaded with parenthetical remarks, and that's how I think. The character also reminds me a lot of my protagonist Dan, in my mostly unwritten book Can't Beet It, only funnier than Dan in ways that make me hit my head for not making Dan funnier. I'm beginning to think I can't do my story justice at all, when I see how much more other writers are doing with theirs than I'd even thought to do with mine. But no matter, the point is that I'm so glad (so far) I took a chance on this book. It has some things in common with An Abundance of Katherines (which I started to write a post about, which I haven't posted yet), in that the protagonist was a gifted child who has grown up without reaching his potential (something I have particular interest in, as a person who graduated high school at 16 and is still waiting for a book contract at nearly 40!), and it has those parentheses while the Katherines book has footnotes, but it's not too similar otherwise except that I like them both.

I have so much to post about, I'm breaking it into 2 or 3 posts, so that's all for that one.

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