Sunday, April 19, 2009

Five Answers (un-not)

Here are the answers to the five questions I posted last night, then got too distracted to answer.

1. First, background on the question: I started asking this of everyone when I was 20, and suddenly thought that half a lifetime ago I was a WHOLE semi-adult person, capable of forming her own opinions of things-- and people. So, at 20, I wondered what 10 year old me would have thought of 20 year old me, and I decided I would have been really impressed with me. I think me-then would have liked me-now a lot. But I mean, 10 year old girls are easy to impress. When you're 10, all you know about being 20 comes from watching television shows, so it's guaranteed to seem glamorous. Therefore, any 20 year old who pays you the slightest bit of attention is OUTSTANDING because they seem both glamorous *AND* nice, because they're talking to YOU instead of glamming about with their presumably awesome boyfriend in their fancy car. So, OF COURSE, me-10 would think me-20 was cool. But it was fun to think about just the same, and a fun question to ask people, because the answer was almost always yes, and it was pleasant for all of us to realize that, even though we felt lame most of the time, our 10 year-old selves would still admire us.

The question doesn't just end there, though, of course. Because once you've taken the lid off the box of past-yous, they just start wandering around, giving opinions on everything. To keep it simple, though, when talking to others, I try to stick with me-10-years-ago model. It's easy to articulate. So, now that I'm 23, and most of my friends are 23, I ask what would your 13 year old self think of you now. Which is a much, much thornier question, at least for me. Because as a 13 year old, I was undoubtedly the worst person I was ever going to be-- I think most people are. I had just started a new school and I stumbled in to being friends with the popular girls. It was a right long year of being rotten and group-thinky until it all dissolved hideously because I bought a purple tank top for myself without getting the group leader's OK and was ostracized because purple was HER color.1 So, I don't necessarily know if 13 year old mean girl me would like 23 year old dweeby librarian/trivia-enthusiast me, at least not immediately. But I think if we had an evening together, at a boring party or similar, she'd come around to liking me. I doubt, however, that she'd ever mistake me for cool.

2. Background on this question: this is one I came up with last year when I was working in a children's bookstore in Cambridge, because it was a fun way to get to know my fellow booksellers. It's slightly more original than asking their *favorite* book, because different people approach the question in very different ways. Some people, for example, were utter pragmatists, and they picked Harry Potter, because then they'd be millionaires. Which is very smart. Other people were idealists-- one girl picked The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, for example, because she thought it was the most impressive accomplishment of any author in the store. And all the others were, for lack of a better description, stylists. They thought about themselves, the kind of things they liked, and the kind of things they produced, and picked the book that was the most superlative example of that style.

Although I find the pragmatic approach tempting, now that I know of it, I am at heart a stylist. I would never have thought to pick the highest earning book, and even when wishing, I don't think I'd wish to make something that didn't seem like ME, no matter how impressive I found it. That sort of seems like a different wish-- I might wish I were THE KIND OF PERSON who could write Middlemarch, for example, but even when playing pretend I know I'm not. Even though I don't write (as my lax blogging indicates), I have a sense of the kind of stories I'd produce if I did, and I feel bound to pick something in that style. So, when answering this question, I try to think of a book that seems like a Me Book, but me done the very best possible way.

When I answered the question last year, I picked I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith2, because the book is light and funny and a good bildungsroman about a smart girl with a screwball family and a fondness for Austen. And it's set in a castle. And all those things felt me, but superlatively so. Now I think I'd say The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, although even WANTING to have written that book feels like unpardonable hubris. However, it's about the complicated ways people relate to one another and P.G. Wodehouse and the difficulties of being a smart girl and wordplay and feminism and situationist ideas so... it does fall within the realm of me. And it's an incredible book that I think could help a huge number of girls make sense of the world, so I certainly wish I had written it.

3. This is a tricky one, because I have such a profound love for so many different fictional worlds-- Jasper Fforde's fake England was a serious contender, as was the world of Harry Potter (as frustrating as those books become for me by the end of the series). At the end of the day though, I can't help but pick The Enchanted Forest, as imagined by Patricia C. Wrede in the Dealing with Dragons books. It's intensely and impressively magical, but magic with a wry sense of humor, and it's blessedly low-stakes. As much as I enjoy reading about, Regency England, for example, there are far too many ways to end up seriously unhappy. Ditto Jasper Fforde's England and Rowling's Harry Potter. In the Enchanted Forest, however, although you can be unhappy, it's usually your own fault. You can be punished for being greedy, or stupid, or mean, but if you keep your wits about you, use your common sense, and treat people respectfully, you'd be ~relatively~ okay. And the thick, green carpet of moss it's supposed to have is just too inviting to turn away from.

4. Either the story of how I got the scar above my eyebrow in 7th grade math class , or the story of how I broke up with one of my boyfriends the night after we visited Auschwitz on a school trip (which, I SWEAR, is not as evil as it sounds). Both stories are too long to tell here, but you guys let me know which one sounds more interesting, and I'll tell the whole thing in a later post.

5. My friends in college once paid me $30 to sing "I Touch Myself" by the Divinyls in our school's Spring Fling Karaoke competition. I did, it was awesome, I should have won, but didn't. There is video footage out there SOMEWHERE that will surely come back to haunt me some day.

Bonus question 1: I am a serious YA lit enthusiast, and I found Brotherhood 2.0 in March of '07, when John had his eye ailment. Libba Bray is another YA author who's friends with Maureen, and she has a blog, and she also has a glass eye. So she went in to visit John and amuse him with it while he was in the hospital, and then she blogged about it, and linked to Brotherhood 2.0 where I went and promptly fell hopelessly in love.

Super bonus: Oh, John. Completely John. I like them both, but I like John best.

Triple super bonus: For a long, long time, I thought I would never get over Christopher Eccleston, and then Human Nature/Family of the Blood happened, and I realized that David Tennant owned my whole heart. Series 3 is my favorite and, bucking the general trend, Martha is my favorite companion, although Donna Noble has gained siginificantly. Rose, who I loved for so SO long, grew markedly less awesome when her whole plot became will she come back/won't she, will she and the Doctor/won't they. I still miss Jackie, Mickey, and Pete though. ESPECIALLY Jackie.

Oooof. This is a lengthy post. I hope you all will forgive me my wordiness.

[1] Well, it was little more complicated than that but yes. That really did happen.
[2] Which is, in case you don't know, the book I get my blogger pseudonym from. Cassandra Mortmain is the book's narrator, and the entire book is written like it's her diary, so it seemed appropriate for a blog.


shecaptain said...

I would really like to hear the story of you breaking up with your boyfriend after Auschwitz. Not the way one normally starts stories.

Also, I'm really really excited that you studied in England for a year! Do you mind if I barrage you with all my newbie traveling questions?

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