Archive for the ‘literature’ Category

Censorship & the city

November 23, 2009

An interesting thing happened today.

I was told to remove a book from my book list because of “explicit content.” The book was Stardust, by Neil Gaiman, and the questionable content was the scene in the beginning where Dunstan is seduced by the witch. Luckily, due to the fact that the book isn’t really that risque for a teenager, I was able to get away with a gracious “Thanks for letting me know!” (I knew, I’ve read it) and leave it on the list.

It brings up a compelling & multi-faceted argument, though. I bookmarked Claire’s take on it back when she wrote it, because I love hearing other young teachers’ opinions on classroom politics. I thought of her (and in conjunction, this one from the Guardian book blog) today. Do we have a right to censor what kids read?

The answer is, ostensibly, yes. But is it good for them? No. Life isn’t pretty. People die. Pets run away. Genocides happen. People have babies in one night stands with faerie-slaves. It’s life. So I tweeted earlier that I wasn’t going to take it off the list.

My parents (all 4 of them) never censored what I consumed in any form, especially not books. Sure, Beavis and Butthead were verboten, but I read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was 8. They knew I was smart enough to ask questions if I had them, research what I didn’t understand, and most importantly, they knew that I was intelligent enough to understand the difference between reality and fantasy. In fact, I still mostly can! Bonus.

Do some books blur the line? Absolutely. But riddle me this: what’s worse? A skanky faerie-witch, or a main character whose whole relationship is predicated on saying ‘No’ and being forced to do things anyway? The whole Twilight franchise glorifies ignorance and sexism, and yet… No… Stardust?  We’ll encourage unrealistic teenage relationships, unrealistic teenage marriage fantasies, and unrealistic teenage pregnancy, thanks.


I clearly win.


Calendar updates, now with more Andy Warhol

July 23, 2009
ana via flickr

ana via flickr

The calendar has been updated to reflect some neat stuff going on around here. I personally am looking forward to Poetry on the Green, which is next week in Westfield. I’ve been looking for an excuse to go see Lori Desrochiers read, and this time it’s outdoors! Perfect.

Literary ladies #9: Ella Turner

July 22, 2009


Literary Ladies is my series where I nerd out for a bit & imagine my favorite literary heroines into the modern world. Email me your suggestions or leave a comment below!

In Tracy Chevalier’s novel The Virgin Blue, the main character, midwife Ella Turner, moves to France with her husband, which sparks the beginning of a journey that she can barely bring herself to believe. Her dreams are arrested by scenes from the life of a Catholic midwife from the 16th century, and as Ella learns more about her French lineage, it becomes clear that fateful forces have drawn her to her family’s ancestral home. Because Ella & Isabella both play active roles, the actress in the lead would have to be versatile enough to play both parts, and speak convincing French. That’s why I chose the beautiful French actress Marion Cotillard for my imaginary film:

via ask

via ask

Like Isabella, Ella and her husband are experiencing marital troubles– Ella spends her days studying French and preparing to become licensed as a midwife in a new country, while her husband’s increasing absence due to work makes it hard for them to communicate meaningfully. Isabella’s husband is abusive and manipulative, taking no care with her well-being or happiness. Meanwhile, Ella finds it hard to connect with locals and neighbors, despite her efforts at learning French and being friendly. Isabella is also a midwife, and furthermore, she is also a former Catholic, whose family converted to Calvinism with the Huguenots’ crusades. She still prays to the Virgin Mary, or La Rousse (a nickname suggestive of her red, red hair), which causes problems within her family and her community, who come to view her as something of a witch. As problems for Isabella increase in Ella’s dreams, Ella connects with a librarian who specializes in local history. As their friendship intensifies, Ella becomes aware that the coincidences between her own story and Isabella’s cannot be coincidence alone.

Ella Turner

For Ella Turner, simple and stylish pieces should be mixed together for the ultimate sense of luxury and good taste. Her style would mesh the classic (khaki shorts, strappy sandals, stacks of bangles and pearls) with the funky (drape-y, near-neon tops; sparkly, ruffly dresses paired with popping blue platforms for nights out dancing). Ella and her husband are financially well-off, and her wardrobe in film format would reflect that. After all, she is able to stay at home, study French and take midwifery classes to update her certification– the luxury of freedom suggests at least moderate wealth. She would choose a bag that both surprises and compliments several of her favorite outfits– just because she’s wealthy doesn’t mean she would be wastefully so. Her base would be neutral, but a flash of color helps her to stand out as an individual in a sea of unfriendly faces. Ella would love classic headbands, pink lips, and understated beauty. Film-Ella would have flawless porcelain skin and hair that changes throughout the film– in the novel, Ella’s hair lightens over time from dark and brown to a fiery auburn, symbolizing the interconnection between her life and the life of Isabella– who is often called La Rousse herself.

This novel was Chevalier’s first, and got far less attention than did her follow-up novel, The Girl With the Pearl Earring. If Pearl Earring was your favorite book of all time, you may not like this one as much, as the writing is not as refined as her later work, however if you can suspend disbelief and just enjoy the how well-crafted the supernatural and spiritual aspects of the book are, you can certainly enjoy it at least as much as the other.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

You’re jealous!

March 18, 2009


Robyn Bradley sent me the full transcript! But I won’t be sharing it with the internets. Go read the excerpt and leave feedback so she wins, and then you can be special like moi and read it. :)

Plugging for a friend– read Petrichor by Robyn Bradley!

March 17, 2009
Still Life of Books, Jan Davidsz de Heem, 1628

Still Life of Books, Jan Davidsz de Heem, 1628

This morning I found out that my lovely friend and real-life literary lady Robyn (a fellow writer-Piscean-dreamer-soulsister with auburn hair and a thousand years of wisdom in her thirtysomething blue eyes) is a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award! I admit, I haven’t finished reading the story yet (too busy spreading the word via NEN and facebook) but from the 8 or so pages I’ve read, it’s the same thoughtful intellectually edgy Robyn that I loved to hear talk over Captain and diet at the local watering hole.

So, please let me take a moment, in my morning procrastination, to ask you to check this out. And if you’re ambitious, leave a review. I know I’m biased, but I promise you won’t be disappointed. You can download the e-book for free here. You need an Amazon account, so if you don’t have one let me know and I will get a copy to you. newenglandnoir (at) gmail (dot) com!