Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Happinesses (with Footnotes)*

Today weatherwise was a miserable day in New York, but I was all singin' in the rain because of these:

Boots! Or more specifically still: WELLIES! I got these for my birthday last year from my dear friend Rachel, and -- true story -- people have approached me on the street, said "Pink boots!", and walked away.

(When I was wearing the boots, I should add. Though it would be more marvelous still if I wasn't.)

Anyway, gentlemen, and ladies of that persuasion, if you are still looking for a gift for your ladylove tomorrow, I highly recommend a pair of brightly colored rainboots. They are practical, they are colorful, they keep you dry, they are a party for the feet. (Mine are from J. Crew, though you should be able to find a cute pair in a shoe store near you.) Hurrah!

And then, browsing the giveaway pile at work while making some copies, I found this:

I imagine certain readers just shrieked and said "Really? Really really?" like I did upon seeing this, for it is, indeed, a sequel to Jim the Boy by Tony Earley, truly one of the loveliest, sweetest, most poignant novels I've ever had the pleasure of reading. After that book, I felt that Mr. Earley could legitimately claim the title of "the next E. B. White" for the purity of his prose and the delicacy of his emotional development. His humor! His characters! His understanding of boy psychology! His heartbreak! It's one of the few novels that I will buy an extra copy of whenever I see it in a used bookstore, just for the pleasure of giving it away** . . .

And I loved it so much I am absolutely terrified to read this sequel. It could be The Queen of Attolia and I'll love it more than the first book; it could be Rose Daughter*** and a case of diminishing returns. In either case, I think I will prolong my fears and try to finish***** one of the other books I'm reading before I take up this one. Still, it exists, and that mere fact is enough for a "Yay!"

* And sometimes, aren't footnotes a happiness all by themselves?
** The other novels in this category:
Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian (though I always feel vaguely like giving this book to someone is giving them their first taste of crack for free), The Big Love by Sarah Dunn, To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, and many (though not all) of the books on this list.
*** I must have read
Beauty by Robin McKinley ten times my sophomore year of high school -- my least-favorite year of high school, when my freshman-year friend group broke up and my crush started dating a freshman band bimbo**** -- and I adored The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword madly when I found them later (not to mention her short prose -- The Door in the Hedge is a terrific collection of retold fairy tales). Rose Daughter came out while I was in college, her first new novel since I discovered her, and I was terribly excited to read it, and terribly deflated when I was done. While I don't begrudge any author the right to make a stylistic change, Ms. McKinley's swing away from character and action toward lushness, symbolism, and to my eye, self-indulgence, really did not work for me, and Spindle's End confirmed me in this opinion. I haven't read a novel by her since. If I should pick one up, let me know.
**** All right, not a bimbo (actually now a real-estate agent, as I just discovered by Googling her). But it's fun to remember her like that.
***** Not "try and finish," which is grammatically incorrect, as a schoolteacher told us in a letter regarding Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, requesting that the "try and" construction not appear quite so much in Book 7. (We obliged her where possible.) I just spotted a "try and" in Barack Obama's Dreams from my Father, though, which is wonderfully written, with much truth and pain, if not well copyedited.
****** Thank you for putting up with my happy burbling.


  1. Ohh, love the Wellies!*

    *and the footnotes**

    **bimbo turned real-estate agent--snort***

    ***okay, I'll stop now.

  2. Adorable Wellies!

    I am so with you on having books to read sophomore year of high school. I'm a sophomore now and my freshman year friend group broke up--but not before torturing me and making everyone hate me.

  3. I'm not usually a shoe person, but those boots are special.

    And thanks for the book recommendation. I've never read Jim the Boy...and now I shall!

  4. Those are the most fabulous boots I have ever seen. My Sorrels kept me dry yesterday in ankle deep (and sometimes deeper) icy, watery slush. But pink would have kept me so much happier. yum.

  5. Now see, I knew I liked you! We are boot sisters, yes indeed. However, your brown ties trump my tieless pink wonders. Boot envy.

  6. Meghan, that 100% sucks. But believe this: you will survive. You might have to hide in the library at lunch time, it might take the rest of the year, but it will be okay. Good luck -- I'll be thinking about you.

  7. What Cheryl said, Meghan. Life gets so much better than high school. Hang tough.

  8. Yeah, the sudden style change of RMcK is rather jarring. I loved Beauty and Outlaws of Sherwood in particular, and as an adult I picked up Sunshine. Um. NOT NOT NOT what I was looking for.

  9. Those boots are MADE OF WIN.

    Also, re Robin McKinley -- I hear you... and no, I don't think she's written anything since that you'd like.

  10. Your flap copy might not be kick ass, but those boots are!

  11. Unlike Rose Green, I liked Sunshine very much. It wasn't a Damarian novel or from that style, but a sun-adoring baker of cinnamon rolls involved in an uneasy truce with a vampire tickles my fancy. Ms. McKinley came out with Dragonhaven lately (haven't got that one, yet) and will be releasing Chalice soon.

    Great boots, Cheryl. Happiness comes in all sizes and shapes. :o)


  12. I will second the suggestion of Sunshine. It's now my favorite McKinley book, followed by The Blue Sword and Hero and the Crown.

    Great boots.

  13. Those boots totally match the giant tote bag I'm carrying today.

  14. Reading McKinley lead me to a different re-telling of Beauty and the Beast. In this one, the Beast was a Persian (I think) prince turned into a lion, who then made his way to France. Anyone know the title?

  15. Christina, that's BEAST, by Donna Jo Napoli.

  16. "The other novels in this category: Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian (though I always feel vaguely like giving this book to someone is giving them their first taste of crack for free)"

    So true!!

    Those pink boots are awesome.

  17. I would say definitely read Sunshine. It's not often you find a genuinely good, not-at-all-trashy vampire book, but Sunshine is excellent. And it's been a while, but I remember liking Deerskin a lot. Other than that, I haven't liked any of her books since Beauty. Sad but true.

  18. Yes, I was just about to ask if you'd read Deerskin--I think it probably did come out after you discovered RMcK--I bet you'd like it, if you can deal with some well-handled sexual abuse.