Ever feel like there are some things that are better in theory than in practice? I’m starting to think fairy tale retellings are maybe in that category, alongside stiletto heels.
It was inevitable I would pick up The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine because it combines so many of my favourite things – flappers, speakeasies, fairy tales, sneaking out at night. And, y’all, it delivers on those fronts. I want to sneak off to a speakeasy and drink illicit champagne while dancing the Charleston! And I don’t even know how to Charleston!
But I feel like when you take fairy tales out of the misty world of fairy tale land they don’t hold up that well. Like if we’re in a fairy tale and twelve princesses are locked up I sure hope they escape/get rescued. If we’re somewhere real, like New York in the 20s, I start thinking they probably need therapy or something and shouldn’t someone call the authorities? Why doesn’t Cinderella tell her stepmother to shove it and go get a job? Who do you call when the roof of your candy house is leaking?
And while twelve anonymous Princesses seems reasonable for a fairy tale, twelve dancing sisters are a bit unwieldy as characters in a novel. There seemed a surplus of sisters, some of whom were just there to shore up the numbers.
But I can’t be too down on it because flappers! Speakeasies! Why did I waste my youth drinking cheap beer in a strip mall dive bar?
I once mentioned to my dad that I’d had a dream about a bear and he told me some theory whereby you dream about your local Big Predator, so since we lived in bear country (er, very broadly defined) of course my head would be full of bear dreams. I don’t really buy this – I think I’ve had more tiger-related dreams than bear ones and I’ve never lived in Asia – but I do buy the idea that Big Scary Beasts are always kind of lurking at the edges of our minds. At least I always jump when I hear strange noises in the woods. (It’s always something innocuous. Until, y’know, the time it isn’t.)
So I was drawn in by the premise of Wiliam Stolzenburg’s Where the Wild Things Were. (And also the title! I love Where the Wild Things Are!) Which can be summed up as: ecosystems without their carnivores are bleak and sad incarnations of themselves overrun with weeds and starving deer.
There are a bunch of examples going over the background of this idea with otters and wolves various biologists/ecologists who study them. There is talk of rewilding which I love for being a big, sweeping idea despite being dubious about some of the practicalities. Let lose some elephants and lions on the American Plains? What could go wrong? A few dissections turned me off pursuing Biology, but I do find it interesting as long as I’m not required to wield a scalpel. (I think this explains my fondness for dinosaurs; all the gross bits melt away.)
I did feel some nagging annoyance that so many of the examples seem so American. Of course it’s fine to focus on the US if you so desire, but it didn’t feel like a deliberate choice so much as a default. Perhaps it’s just me, but a few times when he talks about, say, wolves being eradicated in the Continental US and as a sidenote, there were still some off in Canada somewhere, I almost got offended on their behalf. Canadian wolves still count. I bet when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone the elk made them say “about” seventeen zillion times. No wonder they started getting eaten.
Anyway, the book is pretty firmly pro-predator, which is fair enough and makes good ecological sense. Personally, I’m glad to think of wild things being Somewhere Out There, and I agree eradicating wolves from Yellowstone and similar policies were spectacularly ill-advised. But I understand the impulse. I wouldn’t want to run into anything with fangs in a dark alley and if they were skulking around my house/kids/livestock I like to think I’d be all wise and level headed but I might find myself going for the gun too.
Y’all, have I showed you eleventeen pairs of garter rib socks yet? Because I have surely knit approximately that many. It’s my standard reliable sock pattern.
Perfect for some train trips and watching the Tour de France.
Also from the department of reliably awesome, I’m still working my way through The Company books. So often I find myself thinking, “Why is there a whole long series? *sigh*” But if you have characters who live forever I guess it’s not like you could fit it all in one book.
(I am actually coming around to series when there is good worldbuilding. I mean, if you’ve gone to the trouble of inventing a whole universe it seems fair enough to go back and play in it some more. And it’s not like I’m legally required to read them all.)
A while back I read A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan and was charmed by the premise. Dragons! World travel! Old timey natural history expeditions! Hey, I have dragged friends to museums to look at dinosaur bones on several occasions, which is kind of like studying dragons. So when the sequel The Tropic of Serpents came out, I was in. It’s more of the same – dragons, adventures, near death experiences. I tend to burn out on series that keep offering more of the same; I like a series that keeps stepping it up. But it does take a while for me to get sick of dragons.
Speaking of formidable beasts, I knit some elephants:
I’m working on writing up a pattern. And by “working” I mean “procrastinating.”
Posted in Books
Tagged Dragons, Sequel
Have you ever found yourself wondering what Ghostbusters would be like if they were kids in London? Actually, I can’t say I have, but luckily Jonathan Stroud has preemptively answered that one in The Screaming Staircase (Book 1 in Lockwood & Co.) I love Ghostbusters! Good times.
Also, I’ve been knitting mittens:
Which, given recent sweltering temperatures, started to seem a bit silly. But then Lockwood reminded me how ghosts bring their own cold, so I’m really just being prepared.
(If I should meet a ghost this summer there is approximately a 100% chance I will have neither mittens nor iron filings with me.)
Specs: The Grind Mitten, knit in Tanis Fiber Arts Yellow Label DK
Happy Canada Day eve y’all. We should just start pouring the beer now, right?