Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In case you haven't heard...

The lovely and talented Ellen Hopkins will be doing talks and signings at the Boise Public Library in various locations on the 24th and 25th. Please come by to listen to a fabulous speaker and have your favorite copy of one of her books signed!

Wednesday, February 24th:
4:00 p.m.Library! at Hillcrest
Registration required - call 562-4996 or stop by the library
7:00 p.m.Main Library Hayes Auditorium

Thursday, February 25th:
4:00 p.m.Library! at Collister
Registration required - call 562-4995 or stop by the library
7:00 p.m.Library! at Cole & Ustick

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Alchemy and Meggie Swan

I've just finished a new book by an old friend. I've never met her in person, but I've enjoyed all of the stories she tells. That friend is Karen Cushman and I met her first in her book titled, Catherine, Called Birdy. She's written a few more titles like the Midwive's Apprentice which won the Newberry Medal and the Loud Silence of Francine Green among many others.

Her next book, Alchemy and Meggie Swan is available on April 26. Set in the extrordinarily rich textures of Elizabethan London, takes you on a journey into a world both foreign and familiar and tells a dandy story as well. Meggie Swan has just arrived in London to stay with her father. But Meggie is no ordinary girl, she is lame and can only walk with the aid of two sticks here gran found for her in the woods. London with its slippery, twisty lanes and harsh language daunts Meggie as she begins her new life there.

A very fun trip into one of my favorite parts of history.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Tribal Impulse

So, if asked, "Why do people tell stories?" what would you respond? Is storytelling simply narrative art, designed as an aesthetic object? No, though good literature has intentional aesthetic value (positive or negative), not all good stories are good literature.

I would argue that anthropology holds the key to our storytelling impulse: the first people who played drums, danced, performed rites, memorized lineages, and told stories did so as an act of community formation. We may be so far from our tribal roots that our isolated lives resist participatory and communal acts, but that does not empty these arts of their power.

The act of hearing a story, and by extension the act of reading a story, ignites the communal impulse, the tribal instinct; when we read we become part of the author’s community, having entered into the authorial world, or the mind of the narrator, and we participate in the narrated events. One could argue that, for some people, involvement in the life of a story constitutes a more intentional and genuine involvement than that in which they participate in their unintentional, nearly accidental lives.

This tribal impulse drives us to discuss the story with our friends, start book groups, urge others to read our favorites. Indeed, even the academic impulse to research the lives of classic authors, read what they read, dissect their language, trace the themes of their works, compare their works to others, study the contexts in which their works take place, the people by whom they were first received, and the way in which they have been understood throughout their existence is a mad bid to become part of their tribe.

These things are acts of community formation with the author and with those who share our literary community, and in a world of isolated, deformed, and shallow relationships, our literary tribes are, for many of us, the truest experience of family we have ever had.

Look at the stories that people have used to narrate their lives throughout history, be they myths, family histories, national histories, or traditions, these communal activities have enabled the formation, development, and survival of cultures. Indeed, when we read Virgil, Beowulf, The Bible, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Enuma Elish, Shakespeare, Dante, A Thousand and One Nights, or the Kuzari (et alia) we are effectively inducting ourselves into the literary communities of the dead. Anchoring ourselves in these ancient communities, as well as the literary communities of our parents and grand parents et cetera, combats the impulse toward negative forms of discrimination: racist, nationalistic, political, ethnocentric, or intellectual by including generations and cultures with greater experience, wisdom, and longevity than our own.

In reading classics, the immediacy of the then re-enters our experience through works that encapsulate and define cultures of the past. In the same way, teen literature, for instance, seeks to capture and define the voice of modern youth, and thus facilitate the formation of a generational community. Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan) and John Green (Paper Towns) are the prophets and shamans of our youth.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Saving the world one Harry Potter fan at a time, check it out!