The Love Song of Ardelia Mapp: Or, Anthea Rereads Silence of the Lambs

Ardelia Mapp was in her usual position, propped up in bed with a book. She was listening to all-news radio. She turned it off when Clarice Starling trudged in. Looking into Starling’s drawn face, blessedly she didn’t ask anything except, “Want some tea?”

When she was studying, Mapp drank a beverage she brewed of mixed loose leaves her grandmother sent her, which she called “Smart People’s Tea.”

Of the two brightest people Starling knew, one was also the steadiest person she knew and the other was the most frightening. Starling hoped that gave her some balance in her acquaintance.

Let’s talk about Ardelia Mapp for a little while, because I’m in love with her and the way her relationship with Clarice is portrayed.

First the facts, because if you haven’t read Silence it’s entirely possible you don’t remember or don’t know who Mapp is, as she is sinfully underused in the movie.

Starling and Mapp examining research in the laundry room; Silence of the Lambs, 1991.

Continue reading

The Geek’s Prayer: Spirituality, comfort, and conviction in SF lit

Rowena Morrill's cover for "A Swiftly Tilting Planet" by Madeleine L'Engle

“A Swiftly Tilting Planet.” Novel by Madeleine L’Engle; painting by Rowena Morrill.

… That’s a very long title for a post that probably won’t live up to it.

I’ve been rereading a bunch of books lately, including some of Diane Duane‘s Young Wizards series. (I just bought her revised and updated versions of the first seven books for my Kindle; she has a sale that I think ends today that you should totally go take advantage of.) A couple nights ago a friend got me thinking about the intersection of Shakespeare and the Young Wizards universe, and I ended up rereading the Wizard’s Oath in order to translate it into iambic pentameter, as one does:

Continue reading

On blackberries

A clump of blackberries, some ripe, some not.

How can you not want to eat these?

It’s summer in Seattle, and that means that those asshole bushes with all the prickers that grow everywhere in Seattle are finally doing what they were made to do, which is producing blackberries.

Whenever I go by blackberry vines, I think of Tom Robbins’ Still Life with Woodpecker:

Continue reading

Redwaaaaaall! [The 2013 Room Clean, pt. oh god I don’t know]

I found these tiny clay sculptures cleaning my room. I made them when I was young and obsessed with Redwall. They are: an otter, a weasel (or possibly a fox, but I think I’d have made it red or orange if it were a fox), a mole (complete with cute little claws on the ends of its pink claws) and a rather nice squirrel.

What the heck do I do with these? They’re cute, I guess, but they’re really busted up. There’s certainly no place to display them in my room right now.

I guess they go back in a box to be stored with the rest of my “Keep forever despite all logic” tchotkes, and someday when my descendants are going through all my accumulated crap, they can wonder at them.


10 Minutes (Approximately) of Obscure Books 2

More obscure books from my library! I managed to cut it down to about 11:30, but only by losing a long rant on Jerry Spinelli’s “Stargirl.”

Books under discussion:
-Jerry Spinelli’s “Maniac Magee” and “Wringer”
-Peg Kheret’s “Sisters, Long Ago”
-Zilpha Keatly Snyder’s “The Egypt Game”
-Jean Craighead George’s “Who Really Killed Cock Robin?”
-Monica Hughes’ “Invitation to the Game”
-William Sleator’s “Interstellar Pig” and “The Boy Who Reversed Himself”

Edit: Amusing addendum! While going through my acting books I discovered that Peg Kheret wrote one of my favorite books of audition monologues for young actors, so while I kind of dis-recommend “Sisters, Long Ago,” Ms. Kheret herself is a fine author.

The 2013 Room Clean, pt. 1

So I’m home in Alaska for two weeks — apparently having just missed the unusual month-long heat wave Anchorage was having — to see friends and family and to finally clean out my room. It’s the milestone that comes for all of us eventually: the day our family tells us that they’d like to use that room for something other than a memorial to your elementary school art projects and high school celebrity crushes.

To say this is a daunting task is an understatement. I come from a long line of pack-rats. I have boxes and boxes of papers from all eras of my education; every little tchotke of a gift I got at cast parties or for a graduation is battling for space; the wall of my bedroom is papered with the poster from every show I was involved with before college. Literally all of them. Like, almost ten years’ worth of posters — The Miracle WorkerA Christmas Carol (several times), To Kill A MockingbirdAnne of Green Gables — they’re all there.

I’m trying to tackle things in the Unf*ck Your Habitat style of taking things in small chunks and doing 20/10s (twenty minutes of work, ten minutes of break). Today has mostly, thus far, been moving boxes of books from out of my room into my work area in the living room, though now I’m getting into the boxes of Everything Else. Each box brings a new hit of amazement: amazement at how much I used to read physical books, amazement that I used to own so many CDs (I have like a dozen CDs that someone made me that I’m sure I never listened to; judging by the handwriting I’m guessing it was my best friend Ellie), amazement that I still have all of my old magician gear.

If there’s interest, I’ll post pictures of some of the best/worst/weirdest stuff I find in this endeavor. Currently this is the box I’m most excited about:

A box full of books, including Charles De Lint's "The Onion Girl," a collection of Roald Dahl, Bruce Coville's "My Teacher Flunked the Planet" and "My Teacher Glows in the Dark," and Diane Duane's Rihannsu collection.

It’s like half the authors that made me who I am today, all in one box!

Seriously, I can’t explain to you how important Bruce Coville’s “My Teacher …” series was to me at one point.

Diana Wynne Jones’ “Reflections”: 6200 numens

A portrait of Diana Wynne Jones, leaning her cheek on her hand and looking rather wry about having her picture taken.

Diana Wynne Jones, or: another person on the long list of people I’d like to be when I grow up.

Do you ever find a word following you around?


I’ve been reading this fabulous, fantastic, inspirational book I picked up at the Tattered Cover: Reflections on the Magic of Writing, a collection of lectures and essays by Diana Wynne Jones. Ms. Wynne Jones is — as I now know she would be stunned but hopefully pleased to hear — one of those authors that I read at a young age (starting with Witch Week) and have happily never been able to escape. She wrote children’s fantasy. . . . Or at least she wrote fantasy. One of the things she talks about quite a lot in the essays in Reflections is the way people perceive children’s literature as being a different, often lesser, form of literature than books written exclusively for adults. Wynne Jones taught me early on that there need be no distinction between children’s books and adult’s books; her books always work on multiple levels, in part, she says, because of

… the spectacle of my husband falling asleep whenever he attempted to read aloud from almost any children’s book available in the late sixties. It seemed to me that he and other adults deserved to have something to interest them if they were prepared to read a bedtime story, and that people of all ages were more likely to be interested in something I myself found vividly interesting.

Wynne Jones talks a great deal about the literature that influenced her as a child, those stories and books she read that stuck with her forever and taught her what it means to be a hero and how to tell a story and what magic is, and she uses numinous multiple times. I feel as though I’ve come across the word recently in conversations as well, but now I can’t quite put my finger on when or where.

Numinous. I was almost afraid to look up what the actual definition is, because just the sense of the word, from context, from the way it sounds in my head and in my mouth, is so rich and fabulous — in the sense of coming from a fable or myth — that if the actual definition was somehow more grounded and mundane I would be so terribly disappointed. Numinous, like luminous, glowing with meaning and matter, magical and dream-like and not entirely effable. Numinosity.

Luckily, that’s pretty much what it means. Imagine my relief. (Even better, there’s a noun — numen, meaning a spirit presiding over a thing or place, plural numina.)

As I prepare to turn off my computer and start working on my own writing, I can’t help thinking numinous, and the half-formed images it sparks off in my head make me think maybe there’s something there, some misty light I can siphon into my own work.

[The idea for a book] has to be a creative mix of interior and exterior notions. The best ideas conflate three or more things, rather in the way dreams do, or the minds of very small children. A very good example is a baroque muddle of my own when, at the age of five, I was evacuated to the Lake District early in the Second World War. I was told I was there because the Germans were about to invade. Almost in the same breath, I was warned not to drink the water from the washbasin because it came from the lake and was full of typhoid germs. I assumed that “germs” was short for “Germans.” Looking warily at the washbasin, I saw it was considerately labeled “Twyford,” clearly warning people against germ warfare. Night after night, I had a half-waking nightmare in which Germans (who had fair, floating hair and were clad in sort of cheescloth Anglo-Saxon tunics) came racing across the surface of the lake to come up through the plug hole of this washbasin and give us all Twyford.

Reflections is on shelves and available for purchase at your local Internet bookseller, and I cannot recommend it enough. If you enjoy fantasy/sci-fi, if you enjoy children’s lit, if you write, if you work with kids, if you’ve ever read Fire and Hemlock and been enchanted but completely confused by it*, get this book.

*I’m still holding out hope that she’s going to explain Hexwood somewhere in here. Goddamn Hexwood.