readingredhead: (In the Book)
Dear Yuletide Writer:
 
First, thank you for agreeing to write me a story! Whoever you are, the fact that you agreed to do this already means you’re awesome, and I can’t wait to read whatever you’re willing to write for me. I’m going to talk a lot about specifics in the letter that follows, but the only thing that really matters is that we both appreciate the same obscure fandom. We’re friends already!
 
The kinds of things I like in fic differ somewhat between fandoms, but in general, I like fic that follows the canon pretty closely, or that works to develop ideas underrepresented/underdeveloped within the canon, or that takes place within the canon’s “blank spots” or “blind spots.” I like it when fics mirror closely the narrative voice of the original text, but I also like reading fic in somewhat experimental forms, provided thought has been put into the reason for narrative experiment. I don’t like OCs who serve no purpose, but I love it when the right well-written OC manages to bring about a deeper understanding or level of involvement between two or more canon characters, or serves to flesh out an interesting backstory.
 
When it comes to stories that deal with romantic relationships between characters, but I’m just as interested in the more prosaic or difficult or just plain awkward aspects of building and sustaining a relationship as I am in first kisses and proposals of marriage and other such grand gestures. Because of this, I’m perfectly fine if you tell me an established-relationship story, even if the characters involved aren’t presently an established canon pairing, though again, it’s not like I mind seeing how two characters got together! When it comes to physical intimacy, I care far less about how explicit the writing is than I do about how good the writing is, so write what feels right for you, whatever that means, and I will be more than happy to follow along! The only thing I WON'T be cool with is noncon/dubcon.
 
And don’t think that since there is a whole huge paragraph about romance, you have to write me a romance-centric fic! I am just as interested in fic that is about friendships—real, gritty, complicated, and necessary. Gen is totally awesome, or even fic that involves some background pairings but isn’t really “about” them, because as much as I love me some romance, I also love plot, especially plot that allows for the development of these worlds and their characters beyond what’s given in canon—whether that means more worldbuilding, or fleshing out character backstories, or even future-fic intended to explore the long-term ramifications of some canon decision. Said plot does not have to turn on major revelations in the cosmos, and can be something as small as a character working toward a personal realization or revelation, but I do like it when it’s there. I’m usually more interested in interpersonal conflict (two people sorting out issues they have with each other) than in galactic, world-is-ending conflict. The latter is perfectly okay as a backdrop to the former — end-of-the-world situations can produce really great character conflicts — but it’s certainly not necessary. I’m not a big fan of main character death (although there are times when it’s necessary) and in general I like “happy endings,” but I want to feel like they’ve been earned.
 
Some thematic things I love across all fandoms:
strong and complex female characters who have complicated but more-or-less positive relationships with other women
politics and politicking (anything from school election to inner workings of a royal court, either as backdrop or as motivator of plot), including espionage or court intrigue
the limits of magic; the intersections of magic, science, technology, and/or religion
children and young adults who have honest, mature, complex, and ultimately positive relationships with their parents and/or mentors
snark and banter and wordplay; whip-sharp back-and-forth conversational sparring (whether between actual adversaries or between friends only joking at being adversarial)
 
I’m sure I could think of more, but for now this is probably a good list to start with. If you want more details, browse this journal and my tumblr (I’m a pretty obsessive tagger, so you’ll probably find things quickly).
 
That said, on to the fandom specifics!
 
Young Wizards
 
Really, anything you want to do with this fandom will make me happy. And I mean anything. This is the fandom closest to my heart and I think you would have to try very very hard to write me something that I would not be interested in reading. However, if you offered "any" and you're looking for more guidance, for the younger generation I’d love to see Nita and Kit being awkward and trying to figure out their relationship post-AWOM, Dairine carrying on in Roshaun’s absence both at home and on Wellakh, Dairine finding Roshaun but not for a couple of years and then trying to figure out what in the world their relationship will look like, anyone going to a high school prom or having to get otherwise dressed up for something fancy (obviously with Carmela’s assistance!), or perhaps Nita and Kit’s first errantry assignment as a couple. Where Tom and Carl are concerned, I would love to read anything about their past, either shared or separate—how did they meet? What was life like for them before that?—and about their work as seniors and how that affects their relationship as partners (which I am 112% convinced is also a romantic relationship); I’m also interested in seeing them interacting with other grown-ups, ranging from parents of younger wizards to other wizards (perhaps even Nelaid and Miril?!). And if you want to write the epic in-and-out-of-time (b)romance between the Winged Defender and the Lone Power I will love you forever. But again, I stress that anything in this fandom will be wonderful and I will love you forever! Is there a fic you have been meaning to write for this fandom, but never quite get around to starting? Consider this your invitation to write it, even if it doesn’t involve any of the characters or storylines I mentioned. I just want to see this fandom grow!
 
Downton Abbey
 
What I really want, here, is the fantastic adventures of the Dowager Countess as an adolescent and young woman in the Victorian period. You could tell me about how she fell in love with late-nineteenth-century sci-fi (even in her old age she’s referencing Jules Verne), or about her girlhood friends (who was she gossiping with at the edges of those society functions she doubtless attended scores of?), or about how she met her husband and what their relationship was like, or about her imagined encounter with some Victorian personality (did she ever meet Dickens? Darwin? Wilde? George Eliot?). These are just a few examples of the many things that fascinate me about her as a character, and frankly I will be interested in any story about her past that suggests how exactly she’s developed into the woman she is at present. If, however, you’re not up for writing a younger Violet, I would also love any present-day story in which her interactions with her grandchildren(-in-law) leads to some kind of introspection, nostalgia, or reckoning with the changes she’s seen over the course of her life; alternately, how would she go about writing her will? Her memoirs?
 
Clarissa
 
You know that stuff I said above about sticking very close to canon? If you’re writing for this fandom, forget it. I finished reading Clarissa over six months ago and I’m still smarting over the way that novel ended, whatever Richardson might think about it. What I really want is a fix-it that, while respecting the intensity of the experiences Clarissa has gone through, allows her to heal rather than forcing her to die, even if that healing takes a while or takes on strange forms. I’m mostly interested in the relationship between Clarissa and Anna, which I have talked about at great length elsewhere, and I’m most interested in a story about how Anna and Clarissa work together to recover and rebuild after such a traumatic experience. Whether this recovery includes any version of Anna/Clarissa is totally up to you. The only thing that would be NOT OKAY in my books is any story that involves victim-blaming or tries to reconcile Clarissa and Lovelace.
 
Also—and I almost can’t believe I am saying this, but I seriously mean it—I have been feeling for the longest time that this novel would lend itself fabulously to a vampire AU, in which Lovelace, in addition to raping Clarissa, turns her into a vampire without her consent. How does she respond to becoming a creature that her incredibly strict religious convictions suggest a) shouldn’t exist and b) doesn’t possess a soul? Would vampire Clarissa still be pious, or turn vengeful, or somehow be both?
readingredhead: (Write)
Just got word of [livejournal.com profile] shipswap , a rare-pairings exchange that will be taking place for the first time this summer. Rules look approximately the same as Yuletide, but you request/offer pairings rather than characters, and as a result rare pairings in big fandoms are totally okay. Nominations are going on right now through May 16, sign-ups will start May 18, assignments go out June 11, stories due by August 26.

I'm definitely planning on doing this at present, and I've already nominated everything from Kit Rodriguez/Lone Power (Young Wizards) to Anna Howe/Clarissa Harlowe (Clarissa), once again proving that 90% of my interests are either 1) young adult fantasy novels or 2) eighteenth/nineteenth-century British novels.

(Now I should maybe go back to writing the paper which is due in nineteen hours and currently lacks introduction, conclusion, and cohesion.)
readingredhead: (Grin)
There have been a lot of times in my life lately where I've worried that what I do for fun and what I want to do seriously with the rest of my life don't mach up. I spend a lot of "fun time" reading books written for teenagers, with magic and/or crossdressing and/or teenaged royalty and/or flying whales. I spend a lot of the same funtime not only analyzing those books, but turning that analysis into a lens for understanding and critiquing social inequalities and broad societal misconceptions and problematic assumptions about Big Issues like race and gender and religion and sexuality. 

And then what do I do with my "serious work"? I read things people were writing before flying whales were even on literature's imaginative horizon. (At least to my knowledge! If you or someone you know has encountered a flying whale in the eighteenth century, please direct me!) I read works by women, and I find myself drawn to works written specifically by those women to whom the traditional English canon tends to deny a voice, but my major subjects of analysis have themselves been rather canonical thus far -- I am somehow the white girl who got into grad school with a writing sample on Jane Austen -- and while I know this will shift as I read more under the direction of some awesome professors (male and female) who understand that the eighteenth century is a time when "literature" as a category is only just coming into existence, allowing for a great deal of space in the literary imagination that gets restricted as things like canonization and genre solidification begin to happen, I do occasionally wish that it was easier to connect the two halves of my life to each other.

But the thing is, they are connected. Intimately. Even when (especially when) I don't see it. Prime example of this being that I'm currently in a course on eighteenth century oriental tales which has got me reading lots of stories by and about women, and also stories with magic! That elusive combination which, before this semester, I would not have thought constituted a portion of the canon that was available for my analysis, or that I could speak about as a way of gaining any kind of scholarly authority. 

And I realized as I submitted the paper proposal for this class that without fandom-related conversations about the importance of representing women who are friends with other women, I would never have come to this paper topic. I am essentially writing a paper about how the collapse of society in one particularly violent early-ish gothic novel could have been averted if it wasn't in the interest of men and masculine organizations of power to pit women against each other, or if women realized that their animosity against each other only existed because routed through masculinist assumptions of women's social roles and decided to counteract this by being friends with each other anyway.

Seriously, I keep looking at my paper and thinking about fandom and smiling, because the wonderful female commentators of fandom have taught me just as much as the wonderful female writers of the eighteenth century. Ladies who are friends with other ladies and do not judge them for their way of being a lady are the happiest best ladies. That is all.
readingredhead: (Sketch)
In case you could not tell from the title of this post I am now going to talk surprisingly seriously about fanfiction? But mostly as a way of asking questions of others on my flist who may write it/may have written it. (Though of course this won't happen til I go off on a digression!)

My own fandom history is peculiar. I discovered internet fandom via Harry Potter but it was always so effing huge and when the tiny fansite that I had followed from its start ended up closing down and I no longer had a manageably miniature way of participating in forums, reading and reccing fic, keeping up-to-date on news, etc. I basically let go of fandom. (This was in the Days Before LJ so I had no idea what kind of fandom went on through LJ comms!)

Also through Harry Potter, though in a very different way, I ran into the fandom that would become the love of my life, my One True Fandom, if you will: Diane Duane's Young Wizards novels, which I picked up for the first time when in between Harry Potter novels and fell for in a flash. Years later my passion for HP has faded but YW and I are still more-or-less madly in love. It helps that this is a super obscure fandom, easy to keep up with, very supported by the author who runs a discussion forum over at her personal website, and all of the people in it are really kind and supportive (though you'd expect this out of a fandom whose canon depends on the belief that any anger or unkindness, however small, speeds up the heat-death of the universe and plays right into the cosmic antagonist's hands). It is the fandom through which I have made my only non-RL LJ friends!

The point being, I've flirted with other fandoms, but Young Wizards is really my home, and has been for at least the past seven years. I've read all the novels multiple times, I fall asleep listening to the audiobooks on occasion, and characters grew and changed over time and along with me. And this is really the only serious experience of fandom that I have.

Which is why I'm suddenly finding it frustratingly problematic to get my head around writing fic for another fandom. I posted before about how much I loved Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series, and I really think that it could be a brilliant second fandom home. It's the first fandom since Young Wizards where I've said, "This is something I want to be a part of for a while, not just until the obsession wanes." But my experience coming into the series is so totally different from what I had with YW. I read all three books in the trilogy within the past four months, they haven't been a part of my mental landscape for very long at all, and as much as I want to write ALL THE FIC for them, I find myself feeling weirdly blocked by a sense that I'm just not ready yet.

All of this is an incredibly long-winded way of asking: How do you get yourself to the point where you feel comfortable writing in a new fandom? How do you iron out things like characterization and tone and headcanon and backstory? Do you read a lot of other fic for ideas or do you tend to read and re-read the source material? Is there some magical secret that I have yet to encounter?

Part of the problem is that Leviathan is also a small fandom, but since these are YA novels most fandom participants are probably teenagers...not that this is inherently bad, but it does mean that the kind of discussion I would expect from an LJ comm is a bit lacking in the one active comm for the series... Another part of why Young Wizards is awesome is that a lot of current fandom luminaries are people who might have been teens when the first book was released in the eighties, but are now obviously more mature and care about having philosophical conversations about the nature of the world and the characters, etc.

Guys, I just want to write stories where a girl dressed as a boy and the boy she's in love with go around their alternate universe Europe having adventures and being awesome -- is that too much to ask?
readingredhead: (Default)

Dear Internet:

I do hope you have been comporting yourself well in my absence, as I have disappeared beneath scholarly tomes of various levels of interest and engagement. Things seem to be going fine but one can never tell, thus, the occasional check-in.

My purpose in writing is to inform you of a series of novels that may pique your interest, and that you should go out and acquire RIGHT NOW because they are SO AWESOME that they are causing me to break the fabulously formal tone I had going for all of two sentences. But seriously - if you are interested in cheeky cross-dressing Scottish girls, aeronautical (and other) escapades, alternate history, political shenanigans, introspective princes of the royal line of Austria-Hungary, and/or something like steampunk but actually more awesome - you NEED to read Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. And then you need to read Behemoth and then you need to read Goliath and then you need to tell me all about it so that we can fangirl over HOW BARKING AWESOME they are.

I read the first two books in August, having had Leviathan on my list for a long time but never gotten around to it (don't ask me how not!) and when the third book in the trilogy was released I got it delivered the day it came out and read it in six hours, basically only breaking to deal with bodily imperatives. I spent most of that reading making incoherent noises of commingled anguish and glee. It is so worth it, as a series and as an imaginative universe in which to play.

Deryn Sharp - aforementioned cross-dressing Scottish girl - grew up flying in hot air balloons with her dad, and even his death in a freak ballooning accident can't keep her from wanting to get back into the sky. At fifteen, she takes the last of her inheritance and heads from Glasgow to London, where "Dylan Sharp" is born and gets a job as a midshipman on board His Majesty's Airship, the Leviathan. The prince of Austria-Hungary would be Aleksander, (fictional) son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who is forced to run away when his parents are assassinated. Through a series of complicated events, Alek and his men wind up as passengers on the Leviathan, and the story develops onwards and upwards from there.

Westerfeld has reimagined the Allied/Central powers divide along technological lines: the Allies are known as the "Darwinists" because of their advanced biological sciences and genetic manipulation, which they use to create living ships and weapons systems (ex. the Leviathan is basically a massive hydrogen-breathing whale-like creature, with a whole ecosystem of other genetically manipulated animals living on and in it); the Central powers are called "Clankers" because they tend towards machine-based technology, but even their machines are more animal-like than our modern ones...think "walkers" and things that move on legs more often than on wheels. The alternative histories and technologies are fascinatingly intricate, but they never intrude upon the centrality of the story at the heart of the trilogy, in which two kids from different backgrounds leading totally different lives become fast friends and change the course of human history in the process.

Maybe I like it so much because that whole "two kids who become fast friends and change the world in the process" bit is also applicable to a lot of Young Wizards, but I don't think that's all of it. The writing is very honest about Deryn and Alek's struggles as fifteen-year-olds in the midst of a completely shifting world order - they are awkward and uncomfortable and unpredictable and energetic and hilarious - but it also never signals them out as somehow less deserving of anything due to their age. Part of this is accomplished by the fact that "there's a war on" and thus all people are expected to chip in, but no one ever tells Deryn and Alek that, since they're "just kids," what they're doing somehow "doesn't count." They are brave, and their bravery is recognized.

Of course, also, Deryn just smashes gender binaries left and right and is SO AWESOME doing it. Reading the books I came to the conclusion that I may have more in common personally with Alek, or at least that I don't know if I could or would do all that Deryn does, but damn, I wish I had it in me. I hope my daughter(s) do(es) - and/or my son(s)!

I actually just reactivated my Audible account for the sole purpose of downloading the Leviathan audiobook (of course I did this right before my iPod decided to die on me, but hey, that's life), and although it lacks the pictures that made reading the physical books so pleasurable (did I mention there are pictures??), I cannot complain about it at all because it is delivered WITH ACCENTS and I am in love. Again. Still.

Moral of the story: Read these books, because goodness knows that I will still be reading them and talking about them and what happens after them for a good time to come.

readingredhead: (Reading)
Prepare reading material: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel in paperback (200 pages in, I have just met Jonathan Strange) and Gail Carriger's Changeless on my iPad, courtesy of New York Public Library's ebook rental system.

Download incredibly relevant fanfiction to iPad: two long-ish Young Wizards fics, one in which our favorite wizards deal with an earthquake, another in which they tackle a hurricane. (For the curious, the hurricane story is also a Regency AU and thus required reading.)

Download "A Good Man Goes to War." Watch in preparation for "Let's Kill Hitler." Cross fingers that power will be up and running long enough to download "Let's Kill Hitler" once it's aired. Consider livestreaming.

Put finishing touches to reading nook, which did not exist this time yesterday but now consists of rug, lamp, comfy chair, and pillow. Place flashlight, candles, and lighter nearby, just in case.

Turn AC on lower than usual so that in case of power outage my death from excessive heat and humidity will be postponed. Close all windows.

Fill most cup-like things with water. Refrain from filling up bathtub in hopes of being allowed one last shower before water is in danger of being shut off. But fill mixing bowls just in case.

Go out and spend $20 on a seriously massive brunch, as it may be the last delicious food to be had in a while. (For those interested, it included challah bread french toast with citrus butter, bacon, and homefries.) Take home half of it because it was too big to eat in one sitting, even while reading leisurely.

Look forward to the possibility of cooking with gas stove during a blackout. Be content to have saved some of the dessert crepe batter that was prepared last night. Nothing says "safe and sound" like sugar crepes in a blackout...especially if chocolate and peanut butter are also involved. Which they very well could be.

Charge extra computer battery. Charge phone and iPad. Calculate how much online time can be achieved without power between these three devices, provided the phone lines aren't down. Determine that 20 hours between laptop & iPad should be more than enough for stormbound entertainment, not to mention the 600 pages of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel which have yet to be read.

Call parents and grandmother. Assure them that yes, I will live, no, I won't go outside, and yes, I will call them whenever possible, but no, they should not worry if I don't, because New Yorkers are silly and crashed the phone lines over the (totally minor) earthquake last week, so this hurricane might take them down for a while.

Keep calm and carry on.

(This might be the point to say, I am seriously not fazed by this, and though I would possibly prefer not to be spending the next two days alone, I don't actually know anyone in this city who I would particularly want to spend them with, and do not mind a chance to catch up on my reading.)
readingredhead: (Reading)
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I don't know what books I'll read to them, but I know very well the books that I hope they will discover for themselves, and that we'll talk about later on down the road.

First and foremost, I hope they find Diane Duane and the Young Wizards books, because those books, more than any others, have changed the way I live my life -- and, I would say, changed it for the better. I hope that my children read novels that show them that parents and children don't need to be at odds, that kids can have mature and trusting relationships with adults in their lives, and most importantly, that magic is everywhere you look for it.

I used to think it would be inevitable that they would run into Harry Potter, but my sister (who just spent the summer teaching English to fourteen-year-olds) says that of the thirty-odd kids in her classes, only one of them had actually read the books, and only half of them had even seen the movies. Harry Potter will always play second string to Young Wizards in the Canon According to Candace, but these novels are also magical, and I don't know what my own childhood would have been like without it.

Whether I have girls or boys, I hope they'll find Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre, and read them with open and respectful minds. Not because they are "classics" (the Canon According to Candace does not really take this label into account), but because they are good, and because they were important parts of my journey -- and they continue to be. 

Most of all, I hope that my kids will someday start suggesting things for me to read, instead of the other way around. That's when I'll know that I've done my job right.
readingredhead: (Adventure)

I'm sitting in an airport Starbucks, looking like a hipster with my coffee and my iPad and my plaid flannel shirt, and pondering the fact that in a couple of hours I'll be getting on a plane and I'll wake up in New York City.

The summer went by fast, except for the parts that went by slow. I did a lot with my time -- almost as much as I hoped, perhaps more than I expected. I wrote and rewrote more of my novel-in-progress, The Printer's Daughter. I discovered exactly how exhausting it is to work something like full time on a novel project, especially in the revision stage, and a lot of the work I did was reworking and making note of the things I need to add or change, but in the end I know this is all valuable information, and I am dedicated to the process...I just know that it may take a while, and I accept that. It surprises me that my not-entirely-conscious realization that pursuing a career as a professor is more important to me than pursuing a career as a writer has actually made me more keen on (eventually) getting this novel written.

In addition to working on original fiction, I somehow got a weird fanfiction boost and wrote more fic over the past summer than I think I have in the past few years. I also made a semi-conscious decision not to be ashamed about fandom. I'm not even one of the crazier elements of it, and it seems silly to be ashamed of something that makes me happy. I've never been deeply enough involved in fandom for it to frustrate or anger me; I've never been caught up in fandom wank. It probably helps that my main fandom generally believes that being angry with people speeds up the heat death of the universe! (Young Wizards fandom, I love you, never change.)

I didn't read all the books on my list -- I didn't even read a significant portion of them -- but I did read a lot, and a lot of what I read was good. I especially loved stuff by Holly Black and Scott Westerfeld, suggesting that a) Twilight notwithstanding, YA is far from dead and b) I should probably read it more often...at least, the bits of it that Rebecca recommends!

Surprisingly (for me at least), I really got into yoga. My younger sister had taken a few classes and encouraged me to go with her, and I while it certainly isn't a replacement for other more intense forms of exercise, I really appreciate the way it focuses on linking your mind and your movements, so that you're more thoughtful about your workout. Even doing relatively intense yoga leaves me feeling refreshed and relaxed when I'm done, and i think some of the things I learned on the mat have an important place in the rest of my life. Yoga is about letting go of whatever isn't serving you, about honoring your body and its limitations. It's about coming from where you are, instead of where you wish you were or where you think you ought to be. When I get to New York, finding a place to do yoga is high on my list of things to do -- right after I get my New York Public Library card!

I set out with the intention of feeling an academic detox this summer, and it worked. I've done a lot of being lazy and I'm ready for what's next.

I oscillate between being overcome with the amount of work I know I have to do in the next weeks -- move into apartment, buy supplies, sign lease, etc. -- and being delighted by the idea of finally taking that next step in my career/life plan. For a girl who still believes that the world is so big and she is so small, I'm surprisingly ready to have a place to call "home" for the next six years. I don't know if anywhere other than New York would make me feel this way. I only hope that I'm right about the city that so many people dream about...especially since, until about March, it wasn't a place that I specifically dreamed about. But I feel, right now, like these hopes will be met and exceeded. I feel like I'm going somewhere new, but also somewhere that will one day be home.

So, while I'd rather be traveling by TARDIS, I suppose I'll make do with a plane, as long as it gets me there.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.

readingredhead: (London)
At some point in the next few days, I'll have a post up about what it means that the last Harry Potter movie is out, and that I don't have another good excuse to wear a cloak and a Gryffindor scarf, and why the books are so much more than just books. It will also involve lots of links to other things I've been writing about Harry Potter and other wizards who are not Harry Potter but actually better, and something about how weird it is to feel grown-up enough to have my own credit card without my parents having to co-sign.

For now I will just say, does anyone have recs for fic taking place at Hogwarts during Deathly Hallows? I was always said that we never got to see Neville and Ginny and McGonnagal kicking ass and keeping the castle safe during the school year, and seeing the movie has just reinforced this sadness. Also, would love to see any Neville- or McGonnagal-centric stuff, long or short, during or after the series. FLIST I AM COUNTING ON YOU.

Eventually there will also be some thoughts about what I use this journal for, and why I'm seriously considering making it friends-only despite the fear that this might make me even less of a presence in fandom than I already am (though, let's be honest, Young Wizards is pretty much my only fandom, and most of my really fandom-y stuff on LJ takes place on [livejournal.com profile] youngwizards or [livejournal.com profile] myriadwords or -- more recently -- the YW fic comm I'm somehow quite happily co-modding, [livejournal.com profile] dai_stiho).

But right now, I really just want to get back to enjoying my summer afternoon, reading Red Glove and admiring how Holly Black refuses to pull her punches, and just keeps hitting her characters with blow after plot-propelling blow.

(Also, if anyone realized that the title of this post is actually a Young Wizards reference, please let me know so I can profess my undying love/propose marriage/bake you a cake.)

Re-reading

Jun. 22nd, 2011 09:36 am
readingredhead: (Reading)
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I'm a re-reader by nature, so if I like a book, chances are I have read it a LOT. It's also a habit I've picked up as a student of English literature -- you can't create a valid analysis out of a single reading.

The books I have read and/or heard the most are definitely Diane Duane's Young Wizards series, but this is because I own all of them as audiobooks in addition to having hard copies that I read every so often. For whatever reason, Jane Eyre is another book I find myself reading a whole hell of a lot (and Pride and Prejudice, though I like it better than Jane Eyre, is not something I find myself re-reading).
readingredhead: (Reading)
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As usual, this is a question that demands multiple answers, because it's me we're talking about, and I rarely read one good book per year. But this past year, I've done a lot of re-reading (both in school and out), so my new books intake has severely dropped. Thankfully, that's what next year is for...?

I feel that in order to appropriately answer this question, I have to give three answers. Maybe four. So stick with me.

When I first saw this question, the answer that immediately sprang to mind was Possession by A. S. Byatt, in which two modern academics discover the lost letters of two (fictional) Victorian poets, and follow the literary clues therein on a detective hunt through Great Britain and parts of France. Oh, and did I mention that they may or may not have something like a love story of their own throughout? I purchased Possession from a small used-and-new independent bookstore down the street from the hotel my grandmother stayed at in London this spring (right by the British Museum, where one of the characters actually works). I began reading it on the Eurostar train from London to Paris, and finished it in a small hotel room overlooking a tiny street between the Louvre and the Opera Garnier; I read with the kind of energy that a book hadn't evoked from me in far too long. Possession felt a little bit like the story of my life-as-it-could-be told back to me as a fiction: a collection of various texts (the novel includes third-person omniscient narration, snippets of poetry and academic prose, the discovered love letters, and various other ephemera) meandering over a wider ground than entirely necessary (it's been compared to a Victorian novel), questioning and testing but ultimately affirming the relationship between literature and love.

The other important books of this year (for very different reasons!) are ones I've talked about elsewhere: Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg and A Wizard of Mars by Diane Duane.

The rest of the texts I'm going to mention are very, very literary. But they're also very important. I think that Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, and Persuasion all belong on this list because the time I've spent with them, starting this summer with my SURF research, has really launched me into the thesis of a lifetime. Although Northanger Abbey is the only one out of these that I actually read for the first time this year, I've become increasingly close with the others, to the point where I have a bordering-on-brilliant fifteen-page Pride and Prejudice paper ready to be sent out to various graduate schools as we speak. My experience as a reader of Austen has changed so much since I was a freshman in high school disdainful of Emma, and I couldn't be happier about it. More and more, I feel like I've chosen (or been chosen by) the topic and the time period that are just right for me.
readingredhead: (Adventure)
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It depends if by "world" you mean a particular planet, or a particular universe. If I'm choosing between different planets/planet-like spaces/planar domains and dimensions, the first one that comes to mind is Narnia -- to live in a land where animals talk and children rule as kings and queens. Ever since The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe I've been longing for a meeting with Aslan.

But if we're talking about comprehensive fictional universes, I have to say that I'd most want to visit our mirror or neighbor universe (or is it really our universe and I haven't caught on yet?) as portrayed in Diane Duane's Young Wizards books and associated stories. Not because it has wizards, or at least, not just because it has wizards. In fact, I have a feeling that if I did go there, I wouldn't be one of those people who gets offered a chance to take the Wizard's Oath and take up a role in the great fight against entropy alongside Life Itself (because though I'm almost a "grown-up," a part of me believes or wants to believe that she's just describing the world as it really is, but as I can't see it -- and if this world really is her world, then I would have been offered the Wizard's Oath by now if there were any chance of that ever happening, because the world always needs more wizards...). But for whatever reason, Duane answers the questions of metaphysical cosmology for her universe in a way that appeals to me. Possibly this is because I first began reading her books in a moment when I was asking these same kinds of questions of my real universe, and failing to develop adequate answers. Possibly it's just another sign of the human dependency upon answers to fight off the darkness. Still, if I could head out to any of the strange and wonderful fictional worlds out there, I'd most like to find myself in a New York suburb eating dinner with the Rodriguezes and the Callahans (and perhaps, if I'm lucky, some alien visitors).
readingredhead: (Doctor What)
New Doctor Who. As I've only seen one episode it's totally possible that I will have to revoke this sentiment but something makes me doubt that, so here goes: Matt Smith has what it takes to make it. He's not David Tennant but he knows it and he's not trying to be. He's just being his own kind of Doctor and obviously having good fun with it. EDIT: Just watched second ep and while it doesn't make me like Matt Smith any more or less than I previously liked him, it does make me like Karen Gillan lots and lotses. I like that she's feisty and that it seems like, unlike previous companions, she's going to actually challenge the Doctor and argue with him and stuff. Not just sit there with puppy eyes when he's about to destroy the world and tell him to stop. I read an interview where Karen said Matt was like her annoying older brother, and I think that sort of shows in this ep, in a good way. Why do I have to be out of the country for the next one??

Torchwood. I have heard it is not on par with Doctor Who but seriously, John Barrowman. Need I say more? Also, awesome Welsh accents. I am seriously in love with the breadth and variety of British accents, and not just with that singular concept of "the British accent" (which almost always means the Oxford accent to Americans, including me before I lived here).

Changes by Jim Butcher. The most recent Dresden Files book, which just appeared in my mailbox and promises to be completely game-changing. I'm almost afraid to read it because I know I'll breeze through it in six hours and then be left waiting another year for the next one.

A Wizard of Mars by Diane Duane. The most recent Young Wizards book, which also just appeared in my mailbox in the same shipment from Amazon and is only the book I have been waiting for ALL MY LIFE. Seriously. It's been FIVE YEARS since the last YW release and I've waited oh so patiently. This is worse than waiting for Harry Potter because a) there are no movies and b) the fandom is much smaller, so there are fewer people to understand your pain (however, the small-but-dedicated fandom is generally one of the things I love about YW, so I shouldn't complain). I'm definitely afraid to read this one because I have no idea how long it'll be until the next one appears, and I do not know what I will do with myself in the meantime and with the waiting. This isn't like Jim Butcher where I know he'll pop out a book a year, no sweat (which allows me to read them so quickly when they come out). Diane Duane is meant to be savored, in slow but intense portions. I would almost say it has to be read casually, except there's nothing casual about it. In fact, I don't even remember what it's like to read one of her books for the first time anymore. The last time I had that experience, I had only just gotten a livejournal and certainly didn't blog about it. I just emphatically don't want it to be gone.

Preparation for spring break trip will probably take more time/effort/energy than I give it credit for. I mean, I'm gone for 16 days which I'm spending in 5 cities in 4 countries in 2 time zones (though only one continent this time). By the end of the month I'll have seen where the Thirty Years' War started, the Cold War (symbolically) ended, the great temple to Athena was built to command an entire city, a man named Freud revolutionized our perception of selfhood, and the small Greek island immortalized courtesy of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. It will be AMAZING. But try packing enough stuff for all of that in a small suitcase and you run into some issues (or at least I will...when I finally start packing the night before I leave).

Finally, it's sunny outside. Why in the world would I want to get things done when I could sit outside in the sunshine and just revel in the world being such a beautiful place?
readingredhead: (In the Book)
So my sister is coming to visit (yay yay yay!) in almost exactly two weeks and it is going to be absolutely the most epic and awesome week of our collective young lives. There will be theatre. There will be walks in parks. There will probably be bad weather for at least four days but that's a small price to pay for living in London. There will be lots of walking, lots of use of public transportation, lots of hanging out with large groups of friendly people, and of course, there will be dancing.

However, this means that my goal is to have finished with ALL schoolwork for the remainder of March before she arrives, seeing as how I do not intend to do anything while she is here other than gallivant around London (and perhaps even further afield -- I love you, National Rail) being awesome.

Of course, this also means that the only things I actually want to do are:

1) Watch Doctor Who. How have I been obsessed with most things British and lived in London for upwards of five months without seeing this show? I have heard so much about it that even without having watched it I was capable of picking up on references and jokes made by British people about the show. This is how culturally pervasive it is. (Also, how did I not go out and watch it immediately after I discovered that the strange man who saves Dairine in the Crossings during High Wizardry is actually meant to be the Doctor? Srsly, self, keep up!)

2) Return to Epic Novel of my Past. After getting back from reading week trip I had this sudden urge to reacquaint myself with the epic fantasy trilogy that I started writing way back when I was in fifth grade and haven't actively worked on since ninth grade. I looked back at it and liked a lot of what I saw and had about a week-long burst of energy in which I realized that I need more of Azuria in my life.

3) Write my first legitimately crossover fanfic? Oh dear god yes. I place blame upon a discussion over at [livejournal.com profile] myriadwords about crossovers, and more specifically upon [livejournal.com profile] araine and [livejournal.com profile] odette_river for having linked me to fic that is, I kid you not, Artemis Fowl/Young Wizards. More specifically said fics involve shipping of two characters who are so obviously well matched that I am being drawn into severe violations of canon, something which I usually abhor in fic and ficcing. (Let's not even talk about the part where I rarely write fic anymore and never write anything over 1000 words or that takes more than one sitting to complete. Because apparently now I do?)

I think we'll just say that my next two weeks are going to be...quite interesting...and leave it at that.

WIP Meme

Feb. 26th, 2010 04:33 pm
readingredhead: (Library)
Post a sentence (or two) from as many of your WIPs as you want, with no explanation attached. Meme from [livejournal.com profile] araine. Perhaps as expected, very few of these are actually one sentence.

--

“How did you two deal with going off to college?” Nita asked.

Tom and Carl shared a look that was one part nostalgia and one part “I told you this question was going to come up and that when it did, I didn’t want to be the one to answer it.”

--

“So let me get this straight,” he said. “You,” he pointed a finger at her, “want me,” he poked a finger into his own chest, “to help you learn how to act like a man. You want me to give you lessons in being a man, and then you want me to lend you a few sets of clothes and keep the secret that this mysterious man who’s just become engaged to your best friend is, in fact, you--dressed as a man, of course.”

Gil nodded. “Yeah. That pretty much explains it.” She paused for a second, then added, “And the sooner the better. We’d like to announce our engagement next week.”

--

Much has been said on the subject of universal truths, to the extent that a modern author, upon attempting to annex another aphorism to this collection, must be circumspect to say the least; but to the compendium of factual evidence thus sanctioned, I find it profitable to append one truth more: that is, that a man who does not know what it is like to be laughed at, cannot possibly have a wife, or cannot have had one for long.

--

For a moment, it’s all that Carl can do to look at Tom, wide-eyed and wondering which Power to thank. For safety’s sake, he decides to thank all of them. “You’re sure?” he asks breathlessly, in a voice so faint he can barely hear it.

“Carl,” Tom says, and there’s something new in his voice: impatience, and need. “Do you really think I’d have bothered with asking if I wasn’t?” He reaches up a hand to Carl’s face and traces the curve of his jaw with tentative fingers, his eyes never leaving Carl’s, not for a second.

--

It’s twilight when I open my eyes and find myself in the cemetery.

--

Everyone knew the witch’s house by its roses.

--

“Beautiful,” she heard him say, barely above a whisper. “Don’t you think?”

“Dangerous,” she returned.

“The fire warms as well as burns, you know.”

“It’s all a function of how close one gets,” she replied. “The closer you are, the greater the danger.”

“But the greater the warmth.”

“I don’t think I’m cold enough yet that I’d be willing to endure the pain of the burn for those few moments’ heat.”

Suddenly, he was looking right at her, his eyes cool and piercing. “Are you sure?”

--

Gah, going back through and looking for these quotes makes me really want to write the stories they belong to! Aaaaand now I have to stop procrastinating and actually get some work done. Less fun, but more productive than the alternative!
readingredhead: (In the Book)
Since Saturday, I have:

-had a snowball fight in the courtyard of a castle
-people-watched in a Dublin pub
-been caught in a snowstorm
-walked along cliffs overlooking the Irish Sea
-climbed Bray Head
-more or less relived key scenes from a Diane Duane novel (not my favorite, but how often do you get to visit an obscure Irish town you only knew about because of a kid's fantasy book?)
-eaten the most delicious scone of my life
-traveled by bus, train, ferry, and foot
-tried my first Guinness
-had my first drink bought for me
-listened to live music for free
-watched my first-ever episode of Friends
-discussed the Holyhead Harpies quidditch team while in Holyhead (Sidenote: Holyhead is ghetto and those lady quidditch players are either all on steroids or the wizardly solution to juvenile delinquency...)

And it's not over yet! Tomorrow morning I leave Dublin for Galway and the fun will only continue. Expect more complete update, with details, when I return on Friday/Saturday.
readingredhead: (Earth)
“Your people do have the idea of being ‘just good friends?’”

He gave her a sidewise look. “For so high and honorable an estate,” Roshaun said, “‘just’ seems a poor modifier to choose.”

--Wizards at War by Diane Duane
readingredhead: (Talk)
Day one • a song
Day two • a picture
Day three • a book
Day four • a site
Day five • a youtube clip
Day six • a quote
Day seven • whatever tickles your fancy

"In Life's name and for Life's sake, I assert I assert that I will employ the Art which is its gift in Life's service alone, rejecting all other usages. I will guard growth and ease pain. I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way; and I will change no object or creature unless its growth and life, or that of the system of which it is part, are threatened. To these ends, in the practice of my Art, I will put aside fear for courage, and death for life, when it is right to do so, looking always toward the Heart of Time, where all our sundered times are one, and all our myriad worlds lie whole, in That from Which They Proceeded..."

--The Wizard's Oath

This is why I love Diane Duane's Young Wizards. Summed up in this succinct but beautiful mission statement are many of the tenets I strove to follow unconsciously before I ever read these books. I will guard growth and ease pain. I will put aside fear for courage, and death for life. I've been thinking about tattoos lately because a couple of my friends have them, and while I would never get a tattoo (I'm a wimp), if I did, it would probably be the phrase "In Life's name and for Life's sake" written in a cursive script around my right wrist.

In the books, a prospective wizard begins his or her career by finding and taking the Oath. Perhaps even more than I wanted to get that owl sent from Hogwarts, I wanted one day to open up my copy of So You Want to Be a Wizard and have it transformed into a wizard's manual, so that when I read the Oath, it would mean more than just the words.
readingredhead: (Default)
Day one • a song
Day two • a picture
Day three • a book
Day four • a site
Day five • a youtube clip
Day six • a quote
Day seven • whatever tickles your fancy

Conveniently, I have come across another meme that allows me to sort of answer this one by providing a whole lot of stuff about books!

1) What author do you own the most books by?
Not having my bookshelf in front of me at this moment (it being in another country and all) it's hard to say, but probably Anne McCaffrey, simply because she is so prolific. I own all of her Dragonriders of Pern books (multiple copies of some of them) plus assorted others. She takes up a jam-packed half-shelf.

2) What book do you own the most copies of?
This is probably a toss-up between Jane Eyre and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. For Jane Eyre, I have the first copy I read (a falling-apart-at-the-seams $0.25 library bookstore purchase), the first critical copy I bought (because I really liked the introduction), two copies of the one with the killer engravings (yes, two, they were only $1 a piece), and the copy that I bought in London this semester to read for my Fiction and Narrative class. As for Sorcerer's Stone, I possess it in paperback, hardback, UK paperback, special edition (leather-bound and gold-edged pages), and the Latin translation. But I am the kind of person who thinks it's awesome to have multiple copies of the same book, particularly if they possess different cover art or have some interesting distinguishing feature, so there may well be some other book that I possess five copies of.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
Considering I just ended my last response with a preposition, I'm going to say no.

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
I can't give one answer. Remus Lupin is mostly an intellectual crush. I love Mr. Darcy but more because I identify strongly with Elizabeth. Same goes for Mr. Rochester -- I like him because I am so attuned to Jane. I feel guilty loving fictional characters who are already (fictionally) attached! Also, of course, I love Nik from Julie E. Czerneda's Species Imperative trilogy and Enris from the Stratification trilogy.

5) What book have you read the most times in your life?
I feel like it's probably one of the Harry Potter books or a Young Wizards book, simply because those books were my favorites long before I read any of the other books that are currently my favorites. I feel like I've read Jane Eyre a million times but the truth is that I've just listened to my audiobook a million times; I've only read it cover-to-cover maybe three or four times.

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Probably Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban -- I know I read it before I turned eleven because once I turned eleven I kept waiting for my owl from Hogwarts to come...

7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year?
Breaking Dawn. Enough said.

8) What is the best book you've read in the past year?
Usually the answer to this would be a Julie E. Czerneda book, hands down, but Rift in the Sky was such a traumatic experience that I'm not sure I can say I liked it that much. I probably don't have a 'best' list, but I really came to like Neil Gaiman (mostly for The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere), George R. R. Martin redefined 'epic' for me with A Game of Thrones, and most recently Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca sent chills all up and down my spine.

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane. Her books have changed my life and I can't imagine not having them in the world.

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for literature?
J. K. Rowling. Her books have done more to unite the world under a banner of peace, love, and understanding than any author now alive.

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
Probably Diane Duane's Young Wizards books. There was actually a project to do this a while back, and Duane herself was going to write the script (before becoming a fiction writer she wrote for film and television).

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
Paradise Lost. Despite the fact that at one point last year there were two projects (one studio, one independent) attempting this. I don't know why.

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I was talking with Julie E. Czerneda and she got mad at me for not having made Rebecca read her books. Another time Diane Duane told me that I was being cocky because she overheard me tell my dad that I really wanted to be published by a particular sff imprint.

14) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult?
The more expensive variety of paperback romance...actually, the Twilight books are probably worse. And I read fanfic, so do with that what you like.

15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read?
Absalom, Absalom! by Faulkner is the first that comes to mind because it's difficult to get the story, much less something of the deeper meaning. But Paradise Lost might be the book where I've had to do the most digging for insight and meaning -- and where it has been most worthwhile.

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen?
Probably Love's Labours Lost -- I have read more obscure Shakespeare plays than I have seen.

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
Oh man, my favorite revolutionaries. It's hard to pick (the Russians have Chekov!) but in the end I have to go with the French. As long as you understand that they're rarely meant to make sense, you'll be alright.

18) Roth or Updike?
No idea who these people are.

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
Managed to never read either of them.

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Milton, hands down. See the part where that man consumed last semester at Berkeley (in a rather painfully joyous way).

21) Austen or Eliot?
Um, since when is that a question? Austen. Definitely.

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
I have never read anything written before Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. For non-English majors this is not at all a gap, but for me it means I haven't read Homer, Virgil, or Dante, only some of the most alluded-to authors that I've never encountered.

23) What is your favorite novel?
The Wizard's Dilemma by Diane Duane

24) Play?
Twelfth Night by Shakespeare, The Last Five Years (score by Jason Robert Brown), Metamorphosis (not by Ovid!)

25) Poem?
"Let me not to the marriage of true minds" by Shakespeare; "When I consider how my light is spent" by Milton

26) Essay?
"Trickster in a Suit of Lights: Thoughts on the Modern Short Story" by Michael Chabon

27) Short story?
I don't really like short fiction -- either reading it or writing it. "Skin So Green and Fine" is an odd Beauty and the Beast retelling that makes the cut; "Attached Please Find my Novel" is a tale of intergalactic publishing escapades that's in it for the title alone.

28) Work of non-fiction?
Erm. I don't read those?

29) Graphic novel?
See above. Although I recently read Maus and thought it was fantastic.

30) Who is your favorite writer?
Aargh hatred for this question. But it's down to Diane Duane, Julie E. Czerneda, and J. K. Rowling.

31) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
I wouldn't know, I haven't read him!

32) What is your desert island book?
Tough question, but probably A Thousand Words for Stranger or The Wizard's Dilemma. Both are narratives of hope and connection in the midst of a chaotic world. But Paradise Lost might make the list because I could use all that time I was stranded to get all my Milton ideas out of my system and onto some paper.

33) And ... what are you reading right now?
A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
readingredhead: (Default)
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Well, this corresponds nicely with the following meme I was going to steal from [livejournal.com profile] gienahclarette. The rules are:

Day one • a song
Day two • a picture
Day three • a book
Day four • a site
Day five • a youtube clip
Day six • a quote
Day seven • whatever tickles your fancy

I'm not the kind of person who tends to follow individual artists; usually I just stumble across individual songs that set my mind on fire a little. I've only ever been to concerts for Jason Mraz and Vienna Teng, and I do like them both very much...but then there are the musicals. And I feel bad picking a single song out of context -- I feel like knowing the full ten helps. (Really you'd need to see the contents of my entire iPod to figure this out; I'm leaving out so many great songs from musicals and Disney movies that I love and adore, just to make sure all the right ones get in!) So, here goes!

10. "You Make My Dreams" by Hall & Oates
--I first fell in love with this song thanks to the movie (500) Days of Summer. It's just an upbeat little ditty that always makes me want to sing (and dance) along whenever it's played. Over the summer it was the number one song on my workout playlist; I would start my runs every morning to the bouncy, upbeat beginning chords and smile because everything was right with the world.

9. "I Can Go the Distance" from Hercules
--The thing about this song is that I have often dreamed of a far-off place where a hero's welcome will be waiting for me. And on some days, when that welcome seems further off than others, I can listen to this song and take hope. And it also has the nagging ability to remind me that there are different kinds of welcome -- the shift in the final verse from finding the hero's welcome in a crowd of people who are impressed by fame and fortune to finding it in the arms of someone who loves you for who you are, hero or not, to that person you are the world.

8. "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey
--Although the first Journey song that I ever listened to was "Running Alone" (because Nita listens to it in High Wizardry and I wanted to know what it was about it that made it a good enough song for Diane Duane to actually include in her novel), "Don't Stop Believing" (for all its popularity) strikes a stronger chord in me. It's about anguish and despair and making meaning out of the nothingness, whether there is any intrinsic meaning or not. There are days when I think about taking the midnight train "going anywhere," and on these days this song seems to speak even more loudly to me.

7. "Come on Get Higher" by Matt Nathanson
--When I first heard this song I didn't like it that much because everyone else liked it. Then someone had it as the leading track in a fanmix for a specific Young Wizards pairing (expect to see much more of Diane Duane's Young Wizards in this seven-day meme) and listening it in that context made me realize how beautiful it is. "Everything works in your arms"? So perfect. So true. It's a song for many moods, and I never feel like I can't listen to it.

6. "City Hall" by Vienna Teng
--I couldn't believe this song the first time I heard it. It tackles the issue of gay marriage in a singular, individual manner that makes you listen: it's not general, it's specific. Again, the piano is beautiful, understated, with this great cheeriness to it, of the smile-in-the-face-of-darkness variety, that seems so appropriate given the circumstances. "You've never seen a sight so fine as the love that's gonna shine at City Hall," and "If they take it away again some day, this beautiful thing won't change."

5. "Vienna" by Billy Joel
--Sometime during junior year of high school, when everything seemed to be all too much, Stephanie Johnson told me that I needed to listen to this song, and I'm still indebted to her for the suggestion. From its first command to "slow down, you crazy child" to the sad but true injunction to "dream on, but don't imagine they'll all come true," this song provides a good breather to the person I am, a reminder that I "can't be everything [I] want to be before [my] time, although it's so romantic on the borderline tonight." It tells me that I need to slow down, to put things in perspective, but it also tells me that "only fools are satisfied," that the dreaming and the inability of ever achieving everything that I want to will hurt but will in the end be part of who I am.

4. "All That's Known" from Spring Awakening
--There are a lot of blockbuster songs in this musical, but this is the one that always gets me. Melchior's questing at the boundaries of the knowledge allowed to him by traditional institutions is something I've felt before: that, and the desire "to know the world's true yearning -- the hunger that a child feels for everything they're shown" -- to feel the world in such an immediate and unfiltered way.

3. "Beauty and the Beast" from Beauty and the Beast
--"Bittersweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong" -- I honestly think that this song charts the course of all of the great romances that I have come to know and love. And it's part of the best Disney movie in all existence, based on the best fairytale in all existence, etc. I love Angela Lansbury but I don't like the version she sings; I prefer the duet between Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson. Just the opening chords are enough to give me that feeling of warm-and-fuzzy happy.

2. "Harbor" by Vienna Teng
--I love Vienna Teng as a songwriter because she has lines like this: "Fear is the brightest of signs -- the shape of the boundary we leave behind." And she backs them up with gorgeous and emphatic piano. In this song it becomes dramatic, swelling, and yet still so personal. She takes a common metaphor -- the loved one as a safe harbor (for example, see "Wild Nights! Wild Nights!" by Emily Dickinson) -- and turns it into something unique and beautiful.

1."Brave Enough for Love" from Jane Eyre the Musical
(in a great irony, I can't listen to this track recording because I am in the UK and the service is US only -- but that means you all can listen!)
--Of course my love for Jane Eyre as a book contributes to my love of this song in the musical. Everything from the little interchanges between Jane and Rochester, taken almost verbatim from the book (R: "Am I hideous?" J: "Very, sir. (pause) You always were, you know."), to the final climactic sweep of the ending chorus, gives me hot and cold chills. And there's this idea that love is something that requires bravery -- that living in tandem with another life is difficult, a struggle -- and yet the most worthwhile struggle that mankind can engage in. The music is absolutely beautiful and backs this up wonderfully.

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