August 4th, 2011

attractive government conspiracies

Adventures in fandom! ~part 2~

~in which the reason we have the greatest love triangle in literary history is because a fangirl shipped Gwencelot~

So I'm reading a series of Arthurian romances by the 12th-century storyteller Chrétien de Troyes, who after Geoffrey of Monmouth invented much of what's now our standard Arthurian canon.

The first time in known history that the love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot appeared was in Chrétien's romance The Knight of the Cart. This romance, according to Chrétien himself in the prologue, was a plot provided to him by his patroness, Countess Marie de Champagne (daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine).

While historians have been able to trace other parts of The Knight of the Cart to earlier sources, there is no earlier source for the love triangle. So, if the author is speaking the truth about getting the story from the countess, then it's possible and plausible that the countess came up with that piece of it on her own, and suggested that Chrétien work the romance into the plot.

In other words, he went to tell the story of King Arthur and Countess Marie was like, YOU SHOULD MAKE LANCE AND GWEN GET TOGETHER I TOTES SHIP THEM :D so he did! --thereby proving once again that everything is fandom. :D

Review: Peace, Love, & Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle

Title: Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks
Author: Lauren Myracle
Genre: Teen/Young Adult
How I got it: personal purchase
Where to buy it: From your local indie bookstore; from Powells; from the Book Depository.
In a nutshell: Carly's just returned from a bohemian summer camp to her upper-class white Southern family, and a sister who's starting high school with a whole new set of assets, if you know what I mean. Returning home carries its own challenges for Carly, always the smart, responsible daughter; and returning to school is a whole different set of problems: changing friendships, a sister who's terrified of her new body and her new environment, and unexpected challenges to her new progressive belief system.

Throw in a surprise crush, some serious pining (from multiple characters), a swim coach on a power trip, and an adorable set of abandoned ducklings, and you have Lauren Myracle's brand of mayhem: Southern values with a helping of irony on top, and equal parts hilarity and tear-jerking as Carly and Anna learn to trust their new identities, and each other.


Do the characters make you want to rip your own face off? Nope! They're great. I especially liked younger sister Anna, and Carly's new best friend Vonzelle.

Does the plot make sense? Yep! It's a pretty simple, though layered, story of two girls coming of age and learning to understand themselves, each other, their embarrassing parents, and their own privileges and responsibilities as they move closer to adulthood.

Is the prose abysmal? No! Lauren Myracle's narrative invigorates this story through a smart, confident, self-aware heroine. But like all girls her age, she's still woefully unaware about the big stuff, and that comes through with hilarity and poignancy.

Does it end on a cliffhanger only designed to make you buy more books? Nope! This is a great, solid standalone book. Before I left Virginia I gave my copy to myrafur's oldest daughter, for her to read when she's a little older and trying to cope with her younger sister. :)


The Verdict: Taken by itself, I really enjoyed this book. It's got a fresh narrative voice, a really engaging dynamic between two headstrong and vibrant siblings, and an important take on things like privilege and race from a Southern teen trying to deal with and be aware of her own privilege and social responsibilities.

As a Southern who had a very similar experience of returning from summer camp w/a whole new value system and finding everything back home in total upheaval (to put it mildly), I related a lot to Carly in this book. As an only child with no siblings, I still related to, and greatly enjoyed, Carly and Anna's relationship. This book made me want a sister of my own for a second--that's quite an achievement, believe me!

I always relate to LM's experiences of the South, which are honest and unflinching but also loving. And the way LM writes parents interacting with their teenage kids is spot-on. Often when I was reading I was cringing in embarrassment and recognition (for both generations)! The cast of characters is well-handled, and although you can see early on who the sympathetic friends are and who will turn out to be total jerks, there's still a bit of subtlety involved as Carly comes to our own conclusions.

A subplot involving Anna's fear of heights and her swim coach's tyranny over her inability to perform a high-dive in public is the most compelling of the various threads of conflict that Myracle weaves together, but there are powerful, funny, memorable moments throughout the book, and I bawled my eyes out at the ending.

At the same time, I have to tell you, guys, I don't know what to make of what I've labeled LM's "weird girl dichotomy," wherein it feels like she wants to deconstruct the gender roles her heroines inhabit, but at the same time, she also wants to teach young girls how to inhabit them. It creates a very odd sense of imbalance for me.

(As I write this I am listening to Shina Riingo sing, "I don't know how to be a girl," because it sums up my life and especially my feelings with regard to this writer, this book, and this post.)

Quibbles (Mild spoilers below):

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But more of that in the next review. For now, I'll just say I really loved this book, warts and all, and obviously-- obviously! -- I wanted to go run out and adopt a basket full of baby ducks when I was done. <3

P.S. I love this cover! The cover of my edition was the hardback edition, which is also uber-cute, but I loooove the poolside image of the paperback cover a lot. It's so pretty, and far more true to the book itself.