* WARNING: THIS IS A RANT. IT IS VERY RANTY. IT CONTAINS THE F-WORD. YES, FUDGE. FABULOUS, FABULOUS FUDGE. ONLY NOT *
Growing up, my older brother had a set list of films that he would watch over and over and over again. They were usually violent and sweary, featuring men with ponytails and gorgeous women inexplicably falling for men with ponytails. Soon enough, through sheer osmosis, I could recite every line of Snatch; I knew, to the second, when the stripper was going to pop out of the cake in Under Siege. Still, I didn’t get the desire to watch Rocky on repeat. I got it even less for Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV and Rocky V. Then I found the one. That one film I could imagine spending a lifetime with. We simply got each other. It was love. No, it was more than that. It was all out, Buttercup and Westley True Love. The kind of love that involves having an understudy DVD, owning multiple copies of the same soundtrack album, and, finally, naming a blog in obscure tribute to it. Poe in the Trunk? This one is for you.
The 5 Things You Become to Younger Colleagues When Working in a Crappy Job
Either you are the new employee or they are. You are in your early to mid-twenties; they are still considered lawful children. You need the job to buy food and heat and survival; they need it to supplement their clothing allowance and top-up a phone so technologically advanced that you are afraid to look directly at it. But you are experienced, mature. Those six plus years of extra earth living have worked a charm. Perhaps you know things, really know things. You might even call it wisdom. So might they… for a week. In that week, you are Annie Potts in Pretty in Pink (or so you think) — the uber-cool, eccentric, damn near aspirational older woman. You pass on your witty one-liners, roll your eyes at arsehole customers and trade sympathetic groans as the shift drags on. Then it gets weird. Having exhausted your knowledge of popular culture, you begin to try a little too hard. Suddenly you’re the joke in the leather jacket, the mother who dresses like her daughter, the old woman who talks too loud about immigrants and the price of tea bags. Your attempts at conversation are now met with a wince, a full-on body shudder which a polite smile can do nothing to hide. In short, you become:
A Poe in the Trunk review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
The classic teen movie is well-known for following a formula, those stock scenes that the bespectacled girl and the preppy boy must traverse before they get their happy ever high school ending. There is the makeover scene, the grand gesture, the public declaration of love. Before this comes the cafeteria walk. It is your first day at a new school, and there you are, food tray in wobbling hands, surveying the hellish pit of adolescent demon dogs for an empty seat. In Rainbow Rowell’s novel Eleanor & Park, the school bus doubles for this thunderdome. Alternating between the perspectives of two teenagers – the eponymous Eleanor and Park – Rowell’s novel begins with a reluctant act of kindness on the part of Park:
He looked back at the girl; it looked like she was starting to cry. Before he’d even decided to do it, Park scooted toward the window.
‘Sit down,’ he said. It came out angrily. The girl turned to him, like she couldn’t tell whether he was another jerk or what. ‘Jesus-fuck,’ Park said softly, nodding to the space next to him, ‘just sit down.’
The girl sat down. She didn’t say anything — thank God, she didn’t thank him — and she left six inches of space on the seat between them.
Park turned toward the Plexiglass window and waited for a world of suck to hit the fan. (p.7-8)
It is hardly love at first sight, but gradually Eleanor and Park make the most of their seating arrangements, bonding over comic books and music, and sharing in that special knowledge that most everyone around them is a giant d-bag. And everybody knows that where there is mutual distaste, Smith lyrics and X-men, love is soon to follow.
Keeping her prose simple and low-key, Rowell absolutely nails an authentic teen vernacular. Despite touching upon heavy topics like domestic abuse, E&P is never preachy, mawkish or exploitative. It does not sell out or look down on its protagonists. Instead, it fully evokes what it is like to be sixteen and all the crappy, wonderful, world-ending feelings that go with it. Whilst other novels might overload on pop culture references, relying on a vocabulary of nostalgia and irony to establish their 80s credentials (basically the generational equivalent of having a TV bohemian reading Howl with no pants on), Rowell shows how music and comic books can becomes lifelines — worlds to escape to.
Wonder Boy? Verdict on Main Character
Eleanor and Park are wonderful people, the best kind of people. Yet they frequently doubt themselves: too fat, too Asian, too weird, too much crazy red hair! How could the other possibly chose them to love? However much we might want to give Eleanor the sassy best friend treatment, “Girl, Park *loves* you, like a LOT!”, this insecurity is relatable. Eleanor and Park are not immortals crossing time and space, they aren’t waging war against demons or on an epic quest. But in their own true and real way, a way that involves misunderstandings about too-tight gym wear and the asshole behaviour of their peers, they kind of are.
The Terry Crabtree Award for Best Supporting Character
And the award goes to…Park’s parents! His tiny Korean mother, who tries out beauty techniques on her son and is generally kick-ass, and his All-American soldier father, who might object to his son wearing eyeliner but will damn well help him out when he needs to go see about a girl. Despite her understandable awkwardness, Park’s parents welcome Eleanor into their family. After reading this novel, you might just wish that you were a member of it too.
The Love Parade
There are many adjectives to describe the relationship between Eleanor and Park. Here are a few of them: Sweet. Raw. Tentative. Storming. Funny. Hot. Heartbreaking. Hopeful.
A month has passed since I read Eleanor & Park. In that month, I’ve read many books but none of them have meant quite as much to me as this one. The original plan for this review (okay, rough-written-on-receipt-roll-at-work plan) was to base it around 80s films. I would have gotten fancy and included many gifs and videos and shiny things from the classic teen films of the late and great John Hughes. Eleanor on the bus? That would be this one:
Comparisons would be drawn. I’d have a big ol’ picture of Pretty in Pink’s Molly Ringwald in her home made prom dress. I’d make puns on titles: Gosh, Eleanor & Park is Some Kind of Wonderful. You better not Say Anything against this book. You get my point. But that would be obvious and tacky and time-consuming. Because really, glibness aside, Eleanor & Park cannot be broken down into 80s film references. It is more than the sum of its parts. The story it tells — of two people in difficult, messy, uncompromising love — is timeless.
If you like this, try:
More Australian: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
More New York hipster: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
More filmic (because it’s an, uhm, film): Before Sunrise
Warning: This post will involve gushing. I am incapable of being glib and cynical about these books. Also, beware spoilers. They are pesky.
Review: Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier
When you pick a book up at the library, one of you know nothing of, you might not expect the story to still be inside your head ten years later. You might not expect the characters to feel as immediate as they did on that first reading. More so, they are familiar now, known as friends. Daughter of the Forest, the first in Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters series, is that book. A retelling of the Six Swans fairytale, it follows Sorcha as she attempts to reclaim the human lives of her brothers. It is a story of hope, and of love — romantic, familial, the loyalty of a good dog, and the kindness and strength of new friends. There are moments within it, and within the following books, that feel instilled in the memory, as if they exist beyond the page: Sorcha calling Red’s name, Niamh dancing, Bran watching his son and saying, ‘Is he supposed to be eating that?’, the fall of Darragh and his return. The recurring image of three small children, deep within the forests of Sevenwaters, both past and future. Think of these, of characters such as Finbar and Conor, Padriac and horse-mad Ellis, and any pretence of objectivity and rationality shatter. Just a book? Not likely.
In honour of the stand-up awesome young women — Kami, Holly and Angela — of Sarah Rees Brennan’s new book, Unspoken (review forthcoming!), this post is dedicated to the many and varied fictional ladies who populated television screens in the late 90s and the early 2000s. This was a blessed time. This was a youthful time. I miss you youth.
The Duh Division
This one is a given.
The Cartoon Redhead Division
Before there was Pixar’s Merida, there was Jane. The girl could joust, fence and save princes like no other. Plus, she had her very own sardonic dragon. Always an asset.
She may not have had superpowers but Ginger was the type of girl you might just have been: a little awkward, occasionally self-absorbed but ultimately smart, creative and loyal (that’s 60% compliment). She had an annoying brother, a single parent mum, and two brilliant/bonkers best friends. As Told by Ginger was one of those rare cartoons that showed its characters growing up. Spots and all.
See also: Braceface.
Teenager. Student. Spy. Ass? Yeah, you’ve been kicked.
The Witch Division
Early season Xander — the snarky comments, the Angel hate, the demon lady lovers — will always be my favourite character but there is no denying that Willow had the most unexpected and dynamic character arc. From plaid-wearing wallflower to hippy dress-wearing lesbian to nerd flaying leather-wearing sorceress to white-haired goddess. Whew.
Sabrina and her magical linen closet door! Remember that time in boot camp? Or the time when Sabrina and her aunts made a man of out clay? Remember Principal Kraft? And Libby? And Dash? And the family flipping secret? Yes, Harvey was a drip and everybody was upstaged by Salem, but Sabrina was an icon and the show had, hands down, the best montage-of-a- magical-teenage-girl-trying-on-ridiculous-clothes EVER. The college years do not exist.
In high school I would crimp my ginger hair and put it in high pigtails in order to look like Clarice Crow:
I thought I looked ace and buzzing and nifty and whatever other words have thankfully died and gone to language hell. I didn’t, of course. I looked like I’d undergone shock therapy but the point was I was empowered by The Worst Witch. At the centre of it was Mildred Hubble, an accident prone, naive witch who was forever getting spells wrong and being wronged by the dastardly Ethel Hallow and her reluctant sidekick, Drusilla. As the series progressed, Mildred learnt to control her powers and grew into a confident young woman, respected even by super tight bun-wearing battle-axe, Miss Hardbroom.
See also: The Belfry Witches and Mildred Hubble-as-a-fresher-show, Weirdsister College.
The Blonde Girl Detective Division
Chloe Sullivan a.k.a. the best reason to have watched/to watch Smallville. Chloe was, like Sarah Rees Brennan’s Kami Glass and V Mars (see below), a petite tornado of capability, wit and wiles. Beginning as editor of student newspaper The Torch and ending as a reporter at The Daily Planet (not to mention her Watchtower duties), Chloe was far more interesting than Clark Kent or his Superman alter ego. Far more.
Hardboiled marshmallow Veronica Mars solved crimes with her P.I. father (best TV dad ever?), investigated cases for her classmates, fell in/out/in/out of love with obligatory psychotic jackass, Logan Echolls, avenged her best friend’s death, grappled with rapists, thugs, bikers, frat boys, rich boys, bad boys, billionaires, dog nappers, drug dealers, militant feminists, sleazy private dicks, sleazy teachers, snobby teachers, murderous teachers, the law, and anybody stupid enough to be caught in-between. And she still had time to be smarter than this guy:
And everybody else.
Army Jacket Division
Daughter. Sister. Scholar. Waster. Mathlette. Freak. Lady L. Deadhead. Whatever the hell she wants.
This still remains one of the best closing moments I’ve ever seen:
Not a people person.
All-Round Bad Ass Division
My all-time favourite TV heroine hails from New Zealand teen show, The Tribe. Predating the rash of dystopian YA fiction and CBBC knock-offs, The Tribe was about a world without adults, where teenagers and children form tribes, dye their hair, paint their faces, make babies, and murder each other. It was insane and glorious. Amber, sometime leader of the Mall Rats, was, arguably, the strongest of them all. Even death, amnesia, the loss of her true love, a baby, and civil bloody war couldn’t stop her. Yes, in that order.
I would be ashamed to admit the amount of hours I spent trying to replicate Amber’s hairstyle. Almost as long as I spent trying to remove my leg hair with cellotape.
A Poe in the Trunk Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
The story is a Sherwood forest nutshell: Will Scarlet isn’t like other boys. Sure, he’s moody, likes to fight, and is a bit vain about his hair but Will is actually Scarlet, an eighteen-year old lady thief (Robin’s description) who is an important, if reluctant, member of Robin Hood’s band of outlaws. Scarlet, along with charming lug Little John and quiet, clever Much, help Robin to right the injustices wrought by the Sheriff of Nottingham, robbing the rich and giving to the poor as best they can. Following the arrival of the dastardly Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet is forced to deal with her past, her feelings for Robin, and most importantly, herself.
Having read a few reviews which picked up on Scarlet’s colloquial narration I was slightly wary of a From Hell situation, i.e. bad bordering on hilarious English accents (See: Cage, Nicholas) but A.C. Gaughen kept it restrained, using language as a part of Scarlet’s persona, rather than just a Ye Olde gimmick. Beyond some worrying Twilight-style repetition of physical characteristics — Robin’s stormy eyes, Scarlet’s weird eyes, my rolling eyes — the writing is accomplished, at times poetic, and nearly always immersive. The story weighs heavily in favour of Scarlet’s romantic entanglements, meaning that the threat of Gisbourne is less serious than it should be, and certain characters feel underwritten and vague. Despite this, Scarlet ends strongly, with a bloody, cinematic set piece, bittersweet swoonage, and just the hint of a sequel.