“She’s on myface.”

I love my mom so much.

When I got home today I found a facebook friend requests from one of the librarians that I mentioned in my previous post. This made me feel incredibly cool. So I told my mom. Then, right after, she was on the phone with her sister and trying to relay this information.

Mom: “One of the librarians added her on myface.”

Miss Print (while laughing): “Facebook.”

Mom: “Hisface?”

Miss Print (while laughing): “Facebook.”

Mom: “Mybook?”

Miss Print (finally enunciating before laughing): “Facebook.”

“I’m Heyden.”

Today was pretty cool. Before I get into that though, I just need to take a minute to sound insanely obnoxious and review the awards I’ve won so far this year from my school: Heyden Award for Creative Writing (that’s the super awesome amazing news I blogged about a while ago), 3rd Place in Poetry for the English Dept. Writing Contest, Excellence in Research Award, and apparently the English Award for Academic Excellence (don’t tell anyone, but I’m still not entirely sure what this last one is and haven’t figured out a tactful way to inquire about  what exactly it is).

Okay, so anyway, the award ceremony for the Excellence in Research Award today. That award was from my school library. I submitted a paper and the librarians decided it was excellent, as the award name suggests. (My “mildly feminist” review of Ella Enchanted was taken from the opening part of this more overtly feminist paper.)

One Dr. Heyden was at this award ceremony. After my mom and I introduced myself (my mom came with me and had a great time hearing all the profs tell her what she already knows: that I’m awesome) this Dr. Heyden looked at us, confirmed my name and that I had won the Heyden award. Then he looked at us, smiled, and said, “I’m Heyden.”

Which is so cool! Because he’s that Heyden. And his family administers the award. And they ALL read my poems and liked them (even his mom, which he says is a big deal). Suffice it to say, I’m kind of star struck in my own strange academic way. He was equally tickled to meet me and hear that I’m using the prize money for Pratt tuition next year, which he says is exactly what the family intended when they started the award.

On top of that, several old profs spent significant amounts of time talking me up to my mom and saying what a great student I am.

Then I got to meet the librarians who gave me the award and they said my paper was enjoyable and they read it straight through and one added that she could immediately tell “it was a winner.” Plus they thought it was awesome that I’m going to library school (like to the point of revealing the secret handshake).

In summary, today was really fun and a great boost for my self-esteem and sense of awesomeness.

House of Many Ways: A Chick Lit Wednesday review

House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne JonesLike many seniors, my attentions have shifted recently from life at college to life after. In my own case, that means thinking about the start of rigorous librarian training which others might know more commonly as graduate school. Since I’ve consequently been thinking even more about libraries than usual, I decided to focus on two of my favorite things for my latest CLW review here: fantasies and libraries. Specifically, Diana Wynne Jones’ newest fantasy novel House of Many Ways which centers on an aspiring librarian of sorts.

Find it on Bookshop.

Surprisingly few recent fantasy novels feature libraries. After some deep thought, I could only come up with The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and Lirael by Garth Nix. I am going to go out on a limb and say that House of Many Ways does a better job as a fantasy novel with a library angle than either of those books.

House of Many Ways is Jones’ third novel featuring Howl and Sophie, following Howl’s Moving Castle from 1986 (also a movie adaptation made by Hayao Miyazaki in 2004) and Castle in the Air from 1990. Although all of these novels stand alone very nicely, certain nuances of the story will make more sense if you read the novels in sequence. Certain characters’ cameo appearances will also be more satisfying with the background afforded by reading all three novels.

This particular story starts in High Norland with Charmain Baker. Born to lovely parents determined to make their daughter respectable, Charmain is ill equipped for almost everything besides eating and reading—a fact that has escaped the notice of her parents and doesn’t much bother Charmain.

The only problem with her tame existence is that Charmain is unable to do the one thing she has always, desperately, wanted to do: work in the royal library with the elderly Princess Hilda and her even more elderly father, the king of High Norland.

As part of her plan to gain entry to the library, Charmain agrees to watch the royal wizard’s house while he undergoes treatment from elves for a mysterious illness. Upon her arrival at the house, it becomes clear that this house-sitting venture will be more than Charmain had expected what with the angry kobolds and the sudden arrival of the wizard’s new apprentice, Peter. It may, however, also be exactly what she needs.

There are a lot of reasons that I like this book and its predecessors in the series. Diana Wynne Jones has a particularly charming writing style that is both cozy and engaging. There is something decidedly old fashioned about the prose, ranging from the chapter titles reminiscent of those found in E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View to the swift and casual narration so similar to the voice Jane Austen favored in her novels. At the same time, amazingly, Jones integrates elements of the fantastic like magic and wizards and elves without ever seeming outlandish or contrived.

House of Many Ways is a particularly appealing title, by an already well-liked author. First and foremost, for obvious reasons, I like that Charmain is a bookish character who wants to work in a library. The other characters that populate this novel, including some from both Howl’s Moving Castle and Castle in the Air, are original and appealing though not by any means perfect.

Even Charmain, the novel’s heroine, has moments where she is quite mistaken about a variety of things. Happily, never long enough to become problematic for readers. At the same time, it is refreshing that Charmain is utterly useless despite her being so well read. When she arrives at the wizard’s house she cannot cook, wash clothes, or do many other things that most people take for granted.

This story is about magic and a fair bit of adventure. But it is also about what every college senior has to think about sooner or later: being an adult. As the novel progresses, Charmain learns about more than books and magic, she learns how to grow up and take care of herself, even when that means admitting she might need some help.

Possible Pairings: A Room With a View by E. M. Forster, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Lirael by Garth Nix, Murder in Exile by Vincent H. O’Neil, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

“You couldn’t entertain me anyway. Because you’re boring.”

Taking a break from American Art review sheet making and trying to figure out how a subject differs from keywords to write this post.

Mom: “I’m bored.”

Miss Print: “I can’t entertain you right now.”

Mom: “Bored, bored, bored.”

Miss Print: “Still not moving.”

Mom: “You couldn’t entertain me anyway. Because you’re boring.”

Yeah. I just got dissed. By my mom.

Miss Print: 0, Mom: 1

Celebrity Near the Library: Mario Batali

I started work today at 9. Walking to work I don’t see a lot of people because my branch is not in an area inhabited by what would be called “morning people” (so of course opening even earlier makes perfect sense). Walking from the corner toward the library, I saw a man halfway down the block ahead of me.

This man was portly, wearing a denim shirt and what I would call “man capris” (others would call these crop pants or long shorts perhaps). He had red hair pulled back into a ponytail. He was wearing orange crocs. As I watched him walking, I thought to myself, “That guy looks a lot like Mario Batali.”

At the library entrance I met up with another librarian who, as we walked inside, confirmed that it was in fact Mario Batali.

Madapple: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Madapple by Christina MeldrumThe theory that there are no original ideas, that everything has been done before, has been bandied around a lot in relation to mediocre pop music and, more relevant here perhaps, in terms of newly published books. Although I can point out my fair share of movie remakes and rip-off book plots, I generally hold with those who disagree and think that there is still a bit of originality out there. After finishing Madapple by Christina Meldrum (due out in May 2008 from Knopf) I think that’s even more true.

While reading this novel, I tried to place it in relation to other stories I had read. It reminded me of How I Live Now (especially because of Daisy’s relationship with Edmond in that novel). It also had a hint of the fantasy genre’s penchant for stressing the power of naming and the tone of authors like Margaret Mahy. Most striking was the way that Meldrum controlled readers’ perception of the narrative. The only other novel I have seen that exercises such restraint to such good effect is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. And yet, at the end of the day, Madapple wasn’t like anything else I had read and these comparisons reveal very little about the actual story.

Madapple is Meldrum’s first novel, written while she worked as a litigator. The story starts, as many do, at the beginning. Specifically, it opens twenty years before the core events of the story with a young woman named Maren–away from her Danish relatives, living alone in Maine, and pregnant. Without, Maren tells her older sister, ever having had a lover.

Such are the origins of Aslaug, Maren’s daughter and the heroine of this novel. Immediately after this revelation from her mother, the narrative shifts from 1987 to 2007 in a courtroom where reader’s quickly learn that Aslaug is on trial for murder and tells the court that she has no biological father.

These two segments largely set the tone for the rest of the novel that follows, a tone that I would call both eerie and confusing. The rest of the narrative alternates between chapters set in the courtroom in 2007 (always titled “Solomon’s Seal” for a plant thought to cast away demons) and chapters beginning in 2003 and working toward the trial in 2007 (these chapters are titled for other plants that Aslaug encounters, usually with some relevance to the events of the chapter).

Having set up the body of the story, Meldrum nows moves to what I’d call the beginning of the plot in 2003. It is here that readers begin to learn about Aslaug’s life instead of just her circumstances. Home-schooled and raised by her mother in an isolated house outside of town, Aslaug has little in common with the modern world. While other fifteen-year-olds are experimenting with makeup and going to movies, Aslaug is being taught ancient languages and learning about the various properties and lore of plants found in the woods near her home.

Completely isolated and alone except for her mother’s erratic, sometimes hurtful, companionship, Aslaug is desperate for a chance to escape from her life. That opportunity comes sooner than she had expected, the result of unforeseen events which thrust Aslaug into the world she previously watched from a distance. Along the way, Aslaug finds family she never knew she had and more questions about her own life than answers.

There is more to the plot, but to get into further specifics here is impossible without ruining the quality of surprise and shock that Meldrum incorporates into so much of this narrative. Suffice it to say, nothing in this story is as it seems.

At first, the narrative here seemed choppy–incorporating three different time periods in as many chapters as well as many unexpected Danish words. The more I read, the more the story started to make sense. As the narrative moved forward, to the point where past and future events converge, everything began to mesh together making the writing more seamless. For that reason, I found that Madapple was easier to handle when I read more of it at once. The text here is dense, with a lot of references to religious texts as well as plant mechanics, which do require a bit of time to absorb.

Aside from Meldrum’s masterful prose, her characterizations were interesting. Several of the “important” characters are unlikable but still remain valuable to both readers and Aslaug. At the same time, Meldrum spends a lot of time discussing religion in the text (as can be expected from a novel about a supposed virgin birth I suppose) but it doesn’t get tiresome or overly dogmatic.

By the end of the novel, everything Aslaug had thought she knew is turned upside down. And then it’s turned on its head again. Although Madapple is thin on actual action, it’s still a page turner that left me anxious to see how it would all turn out.

Possible Pairings: All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry, What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishigiro, Liar by Justine Larbalestier, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

“Welcome to ART 103.”

I recently realized I don’t have to quote coworkers to have funny things on here. Heard in my ART 103 class:

Dr. F: “Are you in this class?”

Student: “No.”

Dr. F: “So you’re just visiting?”

Student: “Yeah.”

Dr. F: “Are you a Pace student?”

Student: “Yes.”

Dr. F: “Is there any reason you’re here?”

Student: “No.”

Dr F: “Okay. . . . Welcome to ART 103.”

Today is the beginning of the rest of my life

This week has been so incredibly long. For a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that my feet are in agony (new shoes are kind of evil). But I’m over it and I’m moving on. Because I realized something today: If I’m not having fun, something is wrong.

My canvas stopped being fun at some point between the end of last week and the middle of this one. That’s when I realized it was more work than a really exciting thing. Today I realized that “Julie” was right. Painting Cornflower (the Pegasus) is supposed to be a fun/mellow thing and a way to leave my mark in the children’s room. It doesn’t matter who’s looks more complex, or who’s gets more reaction from the kids. It doesn’t even matter who finishes first. It’s just supposed to be fun. And, much as it kills me to admit it, “Ralph” is right too. It’s a process. It doesn’t matter if the finished product looks like the initial plan or not.

So I’m over it. I’m letting go of all of the things that have been making me mad or frustrated or just tired. And I’m moving on. I’m going to do the best I can in all endeavors and that is all anyone can ask of me. I can’t do more than that.

As of right now, the plan for the canvas is foam core clouds that bump out from the sides of the canvas and will be covered with the cotton I have been unwinding. I’m not even angry about that anymore, because the foam core looks really good with the cotton. Yes, it’s a lot of work. But it will be worth it. And probably I won’t be finished until the end of next week because cutting foam core is surprisingly complex, but that’s okay too. Because I’m almost done and now it won’t be a chore to finish.

I’m applying the same philosophy to school and life in general. I feel lighter and more zen. All is as right in the world as I can make it. Everything else will be fine. It’s a new start and there are so many things to look forward to.

Castle in the Air: a review

Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne JonesCastle in the Air is Diana Wynne Jones’ sequel to her amazingly awesome novel Howl’s Moving Castle.

Find it on Bookshop.

It was originally published in 1990 (four years after Howl’s Moving Castle). At first glance, this novel doesn’t sound like a sequel–it sounds more like a companion book at best–but I promise it does explain more about Howl and Sophie, just not right away and not, perhaps, in the most obvious way.

That said, this story is set in the Sultanates of Rashpuht a land far to the south of Ingary (where Howl and Sophie make their home). Instead of a land akin to King Arthur and Merlin, Rashpuht is much more likely to harbor Aladdin and other desert-dwellers. This change in setting, along with a new protagonist, make for the most dramatic differences between Castle in the Air and its predecessor.

Abdullah works as a carpet merchant in the city of Zanzib. Abdullah’s stall may not be as prosperous as his father’s first wife’s relatives would like, but Abdullah can’t stand most of them so he doesn’t worry too much. What really bothers Abdullah is the fact that he’s selling carpets at all. Abdullah is convinced there is more to life and spends a good deal of his time daydreaming about what his life could be like if, say, he were a prince who had escaped bandits and disguised himself as a carpet merchant before he found his true love.

All in all, the young man doesn’t give his daydreams much thought until he is sold a mysterious carpet. With the carpet, Abdullah finds that all of his dreams seem to be coming true with alarming accuracy. Whisked to a magical garden, Abdullah meets and falls in love with the beautiful and intelligent Flower-in-the-Night only to have her abducted by an evil djinn. So begins Abdullah’s adventure as he and his carpet set off to rescue his true love.

This being a novel by Diana Wynne Jones, the plot is filled with charming twists and enjoyable characters throughout. The other great thing about this novel is how much Jones fleshes out the world she introduced in Howl’s Moving Castle. As the novel progresses, readers learn more about the relations between Ingary, Rashpuht, and Strangia (a land that becomes important later, trust me). At the same time, Jones also creates a completely new set of customs and even a new diction for her Rashpuhtian characters which gives the novel an impressive depth.

I don’t know if this was the intended effect but, even though both novels are written in English, this change in diction also creates the effect that the characters here speak a different language and that, on some level, their customs would be very foreign to those found in Ingary. One of Jones’ best inventions is that buyers and sellers in Zanzib always speak to each other “in the most formal and flowery way.” This habit creates a lot of conversations that function on a variety of levels much in the same way body language can add to an exchange. For example:

“It is possible that my low and squalid establishment might provide that which you seek, O pearl of wanderers,” he said, and cast his eye critically over the stranger’s dirty desert robe, the corroded stud in the side of the man’s nose, and his tattered headcloth as he said it.

“It is worse than squalid, might seller of floor coverings,” the stranger agreed.

Exchanges like this appear throughout the novel and make it really enjoyable to read. At the same time this type of double talk suggests that Abdullah is a shrewder narrator than Sophie might have been at the start of the novel. Abdullah doesn’t always know exactly what’s going on during the novel, but he always tries to make sure he comes out on top (or at least not on a forty foot pole).

On its own, Castle in the Air is a lot of fun as far as fantasies go. Read in combination with Howl’s Moving Castle and House of Many Ways (Jones’ latest novel featuring Howl and Sophie due out in June 2008 ) this book is excellent.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, Arabian Nights, Exiled: Memoirs of a Camel by Kathleen Karr, Hero by Alethea Kontis, The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner


Wisdom courtesy of Jasper Johns

I spent about twenty minutes today complaining once again about the cotton ball cloud thing to GC and Ralph. After finishing my rant, Ralph informed me that art was a process and I had to be willing to let go of the components that did not work. (Apparently I don’t have to use the cotton anymore as GC, in a total about face, suggested instead using foam core to make clouds–more about that later.)

Shortly after this revelation, GC looked at me and said: “Jasper Johns once said ‘If you invent gum and everyone uses it as glue, then you invented glue as well.’ I’m not sure what that has to do with this, but that’s what he said.”

So, there you have it.

I would have been more perplexed/frustrated if I didn’t think Jasper Johns was cool.