Blog! I have one. I had forgotten.
A couple of weeks ago I emerged blinking from my author cave, having turned in the manuscript of my third novel. The book might be finished. It might not be. Only my editor will know for sure.
Since then I’ve given the commencement speech at my old high school, performed a wedding for a couple of very old friends, and attended my grandfather’s 90th birthday. In my travels I got to see the ocean. I don’t see oceans very often, living right smack in the middle of the continent as I do. My very small daughter seemed to enjoy the taste of salt. She smacked her lips together and grinned at the saltiness. Then she fell asleep in my arms, in the ocean.
Speaking of oceans, Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane just came out. It is astonishingly good. I reviewed it here. My review is Neil’s favorite, apparently—though he spelled “favorite” in the odd way that they do across the ocean:
This makes me extremely happy, but not in a squee-ish sort of way. Well, not only in a squee-ish sort of way. “It says nothing about the plot & everything about what the book is.” That’s important. Book reviews usually read like reluctant book reports. They follow a very specific format: a paragraph or two of inadequate plot summery (and all plot summaries are inadequate), followed by a single sentence of evaluation. That tiny smidgen of opinion at the end will tell you whether or not the reviewer liked the book, but it isn’t likely to tell you what the book is, or what it does, or whether it does so successfully. And it should.
So this a challenge. Read well, everybody! Prove that your reading of any given book is one worth reading about…
Two entirely different podcasts decided to interview me. One dedicated to the challenges of making art while simultaneously raising small children. The other is hosted by the Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota. Both were very fun conversations to be in; hopefully they’re also fun to listen to.
Pratfalls of Parenting Episode 39
William Alexander on Fantasy & Social Theory
Also! My second audiobook just arrived in the mail.
And today I blogged about music and magic at the Enchanted Inkpot. That doesn’t have much of anything to do with my voice, but it happened today so I should probably mention it.
Tomorrow my second novel comes out and we will party.
I’ll be reading for the Second Story Series this very Saturday, with Kelly Barnhill, at 2pm in the Loft Literary Center. There will be thematically-appropriate food. I look forward to finding out what sort of goblinish victuals our hosts will provide.
Also! I’ve been interviewed a couple of times recently, once for Write On! Radio (which is still streamable, but not for much longer) and once for the UVM alumni magazine. Here’s my favorite bit of the print interview:
“If we deny kids unsettling stories, then we deny them the very best hope that they’ll have for dealing with unsettling events,” he says, with mischief creeping around the edges of his voice. “So we have a responsibility to tell unsettling stories.”
Louise Erdrich’s novel The Round House is currently enjoying a massive swack of literary attention and awards. This is good. This is as it should be. The book is amazing. It’s a rich and strange portrait of boyish adolescence. It’s about Star Trek, the awesomeness of Worf, and how reaching adulthood often requires imitating Captain Jean Luc Picard. It’s about ghosts that aren’t necessarily the ghosts of the dead. It’s about rez life and rez law. But over and around all other subjects and concerns, the book chronicles the aftermath of sexual assault. It also dramatizes the impossible legal tangle of that aftermath, given that reservation law could not prosecute non-Native perpetrators.
Novels usually disavow any connection to reality. The fine print reminds us that “this is a work of fiction.” But check out Erdrich’s version of that disclaimer, typed up at the end: “The events in this book are loosely based on so many different cases, reports, and stories that the outcome is pure fiction.”
Go back and read that sentence again. It handles its rhetoric like a kung-fu master, moving almost too fast to see. “This story is made-up. And yet it did happen in one way or another, over and over again, in so many different cases. And it is still happening. All of this is fiction. All of this is true.”
Now we need to talk about politics and current events.
The Tribal Law and Order Act, passed in 2010, did much to challenge the basic, fundamental injustice dramatized by The Round House: abuse and assault committed by non-Indians on reservation land became answerable to reservation law. A new provision in the Violence Against Women Act would do more. This is good. This is generations overdue. But the GOP is blocking the hell out of the Violence Against Women Act.
I’m not entirely comfortable posting about politics in a blog about kidlit, but we need to be talking about this. The Round House won the National Book Award, and yet I’ve seen zero press connecting the novel to the current struggle in the House and Senate.
Every other email asks us to call our reps for one reason or another. It’s exhausting, I know. But call your reps. Or write to them. Ask whether or not they support violent misogyny. Demand an explanation for their support of violent misogyny. Get the VAWA reauthorized. Honor the magnificent literary achievement of The Round House by answering the specific legal injustice it dramatizes. Because it’s still happening. All of it is fiction, and all of it is true.
My office is now backstage to a puppet theater. I suppose it always has been.
When they aren’t performing, puppets will live in this pirate chest just outside the door.
This will obviously lead to tremendous productivity. Why keep the door closed and write novels when I could open the door to put on puppet shows?
Please do not tell my editor about this.
In other news, the School Library Journal just published a long conversation between Gary D. Schmidt and myself. They also called me a mischief maker. I am extremely pleased.
Here’s a quote:
The giant mask comes from one of my favorite theatrical exercises, an especially useful one for children’s workshops. You get everybody to walk in a circle and give them vivid, impossible metaphors: “Walk like your feet weigh five hundred pounds. But you’re used to it. They always have. Now walk like your head is full of honey. Now walk like your hair is on fire, and always has been.” This is great for giving each character a distinct way of moving. One of those basic exercises is “Walk like a giant.” Some stand on tiptoe as soon as you say “giant,” but they shouldn’t. “You’re already a giant. You don’t need to stand on tiptoe. You are already very tall.” That’s a useful walk to learn. No one ever bothers you when you stand like a giant, no matter how tall you happen to be.
You can read the rest here.