Sunday, November 18, 2007

Travel writing

I'm writing this on the plane as I head home from the second of three Wednesday to Sunday (or Thursday to Monday) travel weekends in a row. And while it seems ungrateful and uncaring, to say the least, to complain about spending so much time on the road when the first long weekend was spent on a Roman Holiday with my newly 50-year old husband, this weekend with my daughter while she was in the hospital with pneumonia (she's better now, thanks for asking, and recovering at home), and the coming weekend eating turkey and hanging out with our Minnesota friends, I have to say that I'll be glad when I can stay home for, say, four days in a row. Because having turned in Volcano Scientists, I have this little thing called revisions for my Antarctic Scientists book to do.

(Picking up now at home, because obviously I couldn't post on the plane.)

That said, while it was difficult to do much real revision work past the first chapter, I did get a chance to catch up on some reading. I finally got around to reading The Book Thief, by Makus Zusak, which was a Michael A. Printz Honor book for 2007 (a young adult literature award, named for a Topeka, Kansas librarian, who knew?). One of those wonderful, moving books with three-dimensional people who love and and hate and transgress and sometimes forgive. Narrated by Death, who is really not as bad as we make him out to be ("Please, trust me. I most definitely can be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that's only the A's. Just don't ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me."), and he guides through a whole lot of bad stuff through the Holocaust. It was one of those books where I found myself trying to hide my tears in the hotel restaurant, on the plane, or in my room not at all. It was also one of those books where I found myself reading shorter and shorter increments as I neared the end; partly because I didn't want it to end and partly because I was afraid of what I'd read.

Just read it. At the risk of sounding like Death, trust me. I think it will be added to my top 25 books for our Latta/Liss top 100 fave list. Something will have to go in its stead.

Now playing: Joni Mitchell - Answer Me My Love
via FoxyTunes

And then, in completely different vein, I read Dairy Queen, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, all in a day's trip. Here are some things I loved about the book: it gives a pretty good description of life on a small family farm. The narrator, D.J., is 15 and 16 in the book, and she knows how to milk cows and rake and bale hay. She takes over the farm, basically, when her dad develops problems with his hip. Why don't we get more books about kids who live on farms?

Well, why don't more people like me, who grew up on farms and know a thing or two about rural life, write about it?

That's a good question. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that some of us, well, me, wanted to put that part of their lives behind them, no matter the cost. That life bears re-visiting, I think.

I love the fact that she decides to go out for football, bucking all traditions in her small town, if not in her football-start family of men.

I love the fact that she flunked English and doesn't read much. I think that too often YA writers find themselves writing about young misfits who loved to read...oh, wait, that would be us, the writers, huh.

And I loved the fact that a large part of the book deals with the fact that her family does not know to talk about their problems, keeping silent about their wants/needs/thoughts until it's too late. I think this is a large, and largely unadressed problem, especially in rural families. We just didn't talk about feelings or any of that crap much, it just wasn't done.

What I didn't love...well the writing was not especially spectacular, although it was fine. And I think that her mom and dad had some issues that were left too much up in the air, even leaving open the chance for a sequel (which there is). But these are minor things, and if you're looking for something to appeal to a rural readership, this is a good bet.

And I think I should know.

Now playing: Shawn Colvin - Twilight
via FoxyTunes

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