?

Log in

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Postcards from Nowhere Wednesday

What I've Finished Reading

Bruised on the outside, and apathetic on the inside, I returned to work from the rock party weekend with The Enchanters, with Renee, thoroughly disinterested in facing the squid again. I was twenty minutes late, caught in sluggish Monday morning Cimarron Boulevard traffic. When I finally made it to Cleveland Steamerz Good Time Bar and Grille World, I snuck in through the back-door employee entrance, the white black-lettered sign reading "THRU THESE DOORS WALK THE WORLD'S GREATEST EMPLOYEES." I was dehydrated and a little dizzy, with a headache like beavers chewing on my optic nerves. My unwashed work clothes - black regulation slacks and teal floral-printed button-down short-sleeved shirt - stunk like rotten seafood. My thoughts were a blur of the last three days as I moved through and around the stainless steel kitchen's line cook pot clangs, the prep cook's machete thwacks on the cutting boards, Hobart the Dishtank's whooshes, the abandoned squid-cutting station in the far corner next to the walk-in cooler, wherein the stoner line cooks and coked-out servers took turns tiptoeing inside with furtive little giggles, then hopped out, coughing and sniffling like a TB ward.

In The Enchanters vs. Sprawlburg Springs, squid-cutter Shaquille becomes the drummer for Sprawlburg Springs' most enigmatic and galvanizing underground band. They wear football helmets and tshirts with dumb slogans written on them in Magic Marker, and their house shows inevitably turn into chaotic Dionysian free-for-alls. Renee, the curiously earnest lead singer, insists in referring to as a "pop band," "because, like, our songs have things everyone can relate to. I don't mean pop like in the traditional sense of it, but in the universal, the stuff everybody knows about but doesn't talk about everyday."

I'm normally a little wary of satires of suburbia, but I liked this one a lot. Maybe I can discuss why a little better when I stop having a cold. It very successfully recalled a complex of feelings I used to have a lot, when I was a shabby, grubby, pretentious teenager in a Midwestern suburb. So in a way it was pure self-indulgence, like a lot of the other things I've been reading lately.

I was shocked - shocked! to discover that Can't Help Falling, a sprightly and extremely innocuous romance about two nice young C.S. Lewis fans falling in love in Oxford, turned into a Christian romance halfway through. I know, C. S. Lewis - but there were no signs in the cover design or back-cover copy, and no hint in the first hundred pages - except maybe the innocuousness, and C. S. Lewis, of course. The first half of the book is cute and fun, if a little repetitive, but once God rears his head and the characters decide to grapple seriously with the problem of evil, things get awkward. And for a book that lured me in with its promise of my favorite thing, characters who are fans of something, there was surprisingly little Lewis content. But I read it all anyway and I'm not sorry I did.

What I'm Reading Now

It was supposed to be Catching Fire, but I have no idea where I put it. :(

What I Plan to Read Next

I ordered a couple of wordsofastory's romance recs, and I am DELIGHTED by how embarrassing these covers are. My only regret is that there is no public transport where I live, and that I have no bus on which to flaunt these beauties. The cover of the surprise!Christian romance was sugary but contained zero (0) bare chests, which in retrospect may have been a sign.

Also Catching Fire, if I ever find it.

Comments

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
lost_spook
Feb. 15th, 2017 08:33 pm (UTC)
a sprightly and extremely innocuous romance about two nice young C.S. Lewis fans falling in love in Oxford

Well, I suppose it makes a change from mail order brides and marriages of convenience with an Earl. It sounds terrible but almost tempting in its tweeness. Heh.

Good luck with finding Catching Fire! It must be somewhere, surely (and hopefully not in L-Space).
evelyn_b
Feb. 15th, 2017 09:08 pm (UTC)
The tweeness is its main draw, once you realize no one is really taking the Lewis fan thing seriously (I mean, they do, sort of, but it doesn't really play the role you'd expect from the back cover). It's "contemporary," but detached from reality in kind of a pleasant way - like a book based on a family-friendly sitcom based on an ad for chocolate milk. This is charming until they break out the theodicy, and then it's just a mess.

(I just looked at the author website, and she's written an earlier book about Tolkien fans who meet in New Zealand! I. . .can't say I'm not tempted. At least the author lives in New Zealand and won't have to rely on Google Maps for her setting?)

I need a librarian to look after my own living room. :(
lost_spook
Feb. 15th, 2017 09:21 pm (UTC)
I just looked at the author website, and she's written an earlier book about Tolkien fans who meet in New Zealand! I. . .can't say I'm not tempted. At least the author lives in New Zealand and won't have to rely on Google Maps for her setting?

Christian fans meet on location is kind of an unusual genre really. I suspect she has her own corner there. (Has she written one about Sayers fans meeting up too? Do Chestertonians also fall in love?? :lol:)

I need a librarian to look after my own living room.

I would volunteer if I could, but there is a cruel ocean between us.
evelyn_b
Feb. 15th, 2017 09:41 pm (UTC)
There are only the two books so far, but now we know what the next two will be! I'm especially looking forward to the one where the only two Five Red Herrings fans ON EARTH meet and fall in love in Google Maps Scotland. This is iron-clad proof of a benevolent God, because there are only two of them.

Where will the Chesterton fans meet and fall in love with the sound of their own voices, though? I had to check Wikipedia for this one and I'm still not sure. Beaconsfield? London?

Eventually the series will run out of likely candidates among popular English theodorks and have to wander further afield: Hilaire Belloc? Walker Percy? T. S. Eliot and Flannery O'Connor still have loads of fans, but I'm not sure how big the overlap would be with fans of ultra-fluffy inspirational romance.

(I'm a little sad that the titles are not explicit references to the Christian author the main couple is fans of. It would have made a better lure for the niche audience).
lost_spook
Feb. 15th, 2017 10:13 pm (UTC)
I'm especially looking forward to the one where the only two Five Red Herrings fans ON EARTH meet and fall in love in Google Maps Scotland. This is iron-clad proof of a benevolent God, because there are only two of them.

LOL!

Where will the Chesterton fans meet and fall in love with the sound of their own voices, though? I had to check Wikipedia for this one and I'm still not sure. Beaconsfield? London?

I was going to admit that I don't have a clue, but then I had a brainwave and realised that it must obviously be Notting Hill!

TS Eliot fans can meet in either a cathedral, or in a tea shop, where they measure about the sugar with their coffee spoons. And I suppose there's always the rest of the Inklings, and George Macdonald. I feel sure it can keep going!

(I feel somehow sure the author is not going to quite see the full potential of this, really.)

Edited at 2017-02-15 10:14 pm (UTC)
evelyn_b
Feb. 15th, 2017 10:55 pm (UTC)
Notting Hill! Of course! :D

(and I can't believe I forgot George Macdonald!)

And hey, Madeline L'Engle should get a book, too!

(maybe not, but you never know. . .)
osprey_archer
Feb. 16th, 2017 12:51 am (UTC)
I think Madeleine L'Engle should be the first author in an American sub-series. Or maybe she should just have a subseries of her own? There are the fans of A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels - the fans of the Austen family - that one weird pair who bond over a strangely intense love of And Both Were Young. (Naturally those two should meet while at a Swiss boarding school themselves.)
evelyn_b
Feb. 16th, 2017 01:37 am (UTC)
I am sure you could build an entire sub-series around different kinds of Madeline L'Engle fans bonding over Madeline L'Engle! But then it would need a name as good as Inklings of Love, and I haven't read enough Madeline L'Engle to come up with one, alas.
lost_spook
Feb. 16th, 2017 09:31 am (UTC)
I see Madeleine L'Engle already has a sub-sub-series of the American sub-series (no doubt featuring Elsie Dinsmore fans meeting up... er, do Elsie Dinsmore fans just meet in secret so no one else knows?), so she ought to be all right. (Inklings of Love is genius.)

Probably also Elizabeth Goudge fans who meet in a tiny cathedral town (whichever one it is that she based her tiny cathedral town books on, Ely or something). Someone has a special watch that maybe needs mending.
osprey_archer
Feb. 16th, 2017 09:45 pm (UTC)
Maybe instead of Elsie Dinsmore fans, the book could be about people who were scarred by childhood reading of Elsie Dinsmore and start a book club to find Christian books that are less terrifying. Naturally, romance ensues!

I find it a lot easier to think of British Christian authors than American ones; there's also Rumer Godden. (I'm assuming her fans meet in a wee scrap of garden close to a ballet school.) Did the UK just produce more of them, or did they escape being shunted off into the Christian fiction section like many American authors were, or does this just reflect a gap in my reading knowledge?
lost_spook
Feb. 16th, 2017 10:02 pm (UTC)
It could take a while to find non-scarring Christian books. (I speak as a Christian, so I'm not just being mean; it's a jaw-dropping genre, or it used to be. I once had a Sunday School prize when I was about seven that was an early reader book about a girl who got hit by a bus and had to lie flat for a year and converted half the village in that time. I sort of enjoyed and resented it simultaneously.)

Yes, maybe the UK didn't have enough to have any dedicated Christian publishers apart from Scripture Union and so the few that made it into the mainstream are well known?? I... have no idea. There was Patricia St John as well (whom I at least remember as being non-traumatising). I'm not sure where her fans would meet. Could be in the UK, could be Switzerland, could be in Lebanon. Maybe the book is about their continued failure to meet despite being long-time penpals, until the final page when.... <3

I didn't know Rumer Godden was one, though! I think I've only really read The Story of a Doll's House (which was made into a stop-motion animated series when I was small, called Tottie and it was the best and scariest thing ever (because of Marchpane and Birdy).

I don't know. (But Disney, btw, beat you to a match-making tea-cup. It crops up frequently in Once Upon a Time, too, although not so literally. I once watched a TV series where there was a significantly romantic mug.)
osprey_archer
Feb. 16th, 2017 10:14 pm (UTC)
Rumer Godden was IIRC a Catholic, although only some of her books really draw on it. She wrote one long novel set in a nunnery, In This House of Brede, which I thought dragged a bit in places but nonetheless found quite interesting because, well, book set in a nunnery, how often does that happen.

She did write one called Pippa Passes which probably fits into the "traumatizing Christian fiction" niche, although it's not quite up there with the girl who got hit by a bus. People sometimes write the most bizarre stories for children, honestly.
ylla
Feb. 20th, 2017 09:42 pm (UTC)
How can you not love a book which combines two of the best things on earth, classic mysteries and train timetables?!?
evelyn_b
Feb. 20th, 2017 10:46 pm (UTC)
HOW INDEED.

In a way Five Red Herrings is the greatest mystery of all, if you don't mind your mysteries being meta-mysteries about how a book can technically meet all the criteria of a murder mystery yet have no entertainment value whatsoever.

(in Book 3 of the Inklings of Love series, the world's only two Five Red Herrings fans will have a painful argument and nearly stop speaking to one another entirely when it's revealed that one of them has been telling everyone that he only likes Five Red Herrings "ironically." How can they ever rebuilt the trust they thought they had?? Luckily, it's all sorted out in the end! The irony was just a pose to cover the depths of his feelings for timetable recitations and terrible phonetic accent spelling.)
osprey_archer
Feb. 16th, 2017 12:47 am (UTC)
Aw. You know, the sad thing is that I would totally read a romance where the characters fall in love while talking C. S. Lewis and theodicy, if only the C. S. Lewis and theodicy were well done. Actually, the book could totally dispense with the romance part. All they'd have to do is talk C. S. Lewis and theodicy.

Are their discussions about theodicy poorly done, or is it just that they feel bizarrely out of place with the first half of the book?

...I also like your ideas below for a whole series of romances where characters are brought together by their mutual love of certain Christian fiction writers. Could we call it Inklings of Love? (Never mind that Chesterton and MacDonald and so forth weren't Inklings. The Inklings read them! That's good enough!)
evelyn_b
Feb. 16th, 2017 01:24 am (UTC)
INKLINGS OF LOVE! Of course. <3 <3

I would, too - well, that's how I was drawn to the book in the first place. I just like fans and conversations.

More badly done than out of place, I think? I'm really the wrong person to ask, because I find all theodicy ultimately unconvincing, but there are thoughtful good faith attempts, and then there's "well, we're all sad about your cousin's suicide, but on the other hand, God put a teacup in a wardrobe so that you crazy kids could get together! Wasn't that nice of God?" Which doesn't really answer the question, when you think about it.

It's also very rushed. All the other pieces of the plot are in place before the God plot is introduced, and it's immediately clear that the non-Christian is going to have to undergo a conversion stat in order to secure a happy ending before we run out of pages, and even if the characters had slightly better theology on their side, there just isn't time. So it ends up feeling like a lot has been swept under the rug at the last minute, not a very good look for a romance.

It might have worked out a little better if the problem of evil stuff had never come up, if the non-Christian's reason for not being a Christian were something like "nuns in school were mean to me" or "I don't know any Christians." That would be a laziness of another kind, but it wouldn't throw the rest of the book so far off balance.
osprey_archer
Feb. 16th, 2017 09:40 pm (UTC)
ISN'T THAT THE BEST TITLE? That is clearly what I should have called The English Breakfast Affair. Although in that case there would have needed to be more Lewis and less Brontes.

Random teacup in a wardrobe isn't even a bad faith attempt at theodicy. It's just "Oh no, I have no idea how to answer that question, HEY LOOK OVER THERE AT THE MATCHMAKING TEACUP."

(A literal matchmaking teacup would also be a hilarious plot device.)
wordsofastory
Feb. 16th, 2017 04:51 am (UTC)
Haha, romance novels may have changed in a lot of ways since the 80s, but the covers are still just as terrible. They say it's one of the reasons the ebook market has led to such a romance boom – your kindle looks the same whether you're reading War & Peace or The Cowboy's Virgin Bride!
evelyn_b
Feb. 16th, 2017 12:05 pm (UTC)
So, those covers. . . are they meant to be funny, or "sexy," or both? Or is it neither - are they just supposed to convey the message "this is a romance novel with the tropes you have come to expect"?

I don't mean to be an anti-romance snob; the descriptions of these books were all very appealing to me, which gave me a surprise when I saw the covers because they are very, very not.
wordsofastory
Feb. 21st, 2017 10:23 pm (UTC)
That is... an excellent question. I don't know anyone who actually likes them, and I know both romance authors and romance cover designers. At the best, they think they're funny in an ironic sort of way. Which is to say you're not being a snob! There's a whole tumblr called "WTFBadRomanceCovers". On the other hand, I don't know a lot of 'typical' romance readers, so possibly there is an audience out there who loves them.

I think it probably is just supposed to convey "romance novel" (and the specific subgenre of romance - paranormal has different cover standards than historicals, for example) in a quick glance. Romance has had such a boom with the ebook market too, that often no one is ever seeing the covers in anything other than thumbnail size on a website.
sallymn
Feb. 16th, 2017 09:40 am (UTC)
Romance book covers can be a joy for all the wrong reasons... I've just found one I'll post in the next day or two that should amuse :)
evelyn_b
Feb. 16th, 2017 12:07 pm (UTC)
I look forward to it! (just as I'm looking forward to reading these books in public).

Why are they like this? Is it driven by reader expectations, or is it something the publishers impose, or. . . ?
lost_spook
Feb. 16th, 2017 09:54 pm (UTC)
I don't know, but there's a tumblr full of them called wtfbadromancecovers.
evelyn_b
Feb. 17th, 2017 12:54 am (UTC)
That link is a magical portal to a world of wonder.
lost_spook
Feb. 17th, 2017 06:04 pm (UTC)
It's quite something. :-)
liadtbunny
Feb. 16th, 2017 03:21 pm (UTC)
If there's not a headless bare chest, it's not a romance! I'm not keen with the cropping of heads off book covers, ouch.

Disappointed 'The Enchanters vs Sprawlberg Springs' wasn't about crazy kids taking on a giant killer squid.
evelyn_b
Feb. 16th, 2017 06:39 pm (UTC)
All of mine have the heads on! At least, I think they do. . . will confirm when they get here.

Disappointed 'The Enchanters vs Sprawlberg Springs' wasn't about crazy kids taking on a giant killer squid.

In a way, it is! If you don't mind metaphors! The squid is Society.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

Profile

blase ev
evelyn_b
evelyn_b

Latest Month

June 2017
S M T W T F S
    123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930 

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Lilia Ahner