Saturday, October 22, 2011

I Love Books. Also, Art.

Last week our friend Mary came to visit! She stayed for about 5 five days, and Jamie, Carla, Alex, and I took turns taking her around the city, as our schedules permitted.

On one day, Mary and I went to the Met! I tried to take a few pics, and some of them came out pretty nice, although Mary's were better (she is a photography hobbyist and has a pretty nice camera and lenses). I'll put them all up in an album on facebook, but in the meanwhile, here are a couple of my favorites.

I don't know if you can see with the low-res, small sized picture,
but the light just seems to glow out of this painting,
as if the sun is really there behind the canvas.

Anyway, the Met isn't even the point; I can go to the Met anytime (score one for living in NYC)! The point is, after we left the Met and walked down to Rock Center, we went to a little event Mary had found on Holly Black's blog, a panel at the Center for Fiction called "Before and After Harry Potter: YA and Fantasy," featuring Holly Black and fellow authors Cassandra Clare, Justine Larbalestier, Chris Moriarty, and moderated by Delia Sherman. How cool is that? And, p.s., how cool is it that Mary had found it and wanted to go? I love people with common interests!

The funny thing about the authors on the panel, actually, is that I have heard of all of them, and they're all on my list to read, but I hadn't actually read any of them - actually a fairly unlikely coincidence, given the rate at which I read YA fantasy. But the panel was really great, and I took a bunch of notes in the little journal I carry everywhere for occasions such as this, and so I'll just copy/clean them up for you here!

The authors were asked about authors who inspired them. Here is what I jotted down of their responses:

"Tanith Lee is loved by Justine Larbalestier. TL is a 'completely insane English writer' who claims never to edit anything.

"Cassandra Clare loves E. Nesbit, Enid Blyton, Edward Eager, Lloyd Alexander, Evangeline Walton, and Susan Cooper [I have read all these authors but Blyton! I feel like I am in the in-club!].

"Holly Black - L'Engle made her love the "strange connected universe" [because of how the Wrinkle in Time books sometimes weirdly tied in with the Ring of Endless Light/Austin books]; also on her list were Cooper, D'Aulaire's Greek mythology, and the Green No [??] books. She also loves Alexander.

"Chris Moriarty - loved Lord of the Rings and wrote Elvish, loved LeGuin, Diana Wynne Jones. Also Lloyd Alexander. She thinks of the Chrestomanci books by DWJ as a strong Harry Potter precursor, drawing out of books about English boarding schools.

"The Folk of the Faraway Tree is a quintessential Blyton book. Justine called Blyton 'possibly one of the worst writers.' Short story 'The Rotten Apple' epitomizes Blyton's morality, wherein, according to JL, a bunch of kids welcome a weird kid who then causes trouble, and the lesson is, you should be normal and shun weird kids. Blyton was a 'conservative, racist, horrible human being, and really really influential on me.' [I don't know if the hilarity of this statement comes across typed, but when she said it, JL cracked up the whole audience.] She made Justine want to go to boarding school and have midnight feasts."

Delia Sherman then mentioned that a lot of the books the panel mentioned as influential to them are really nothing like the books they write. What's up with that?

"Cassandra Clare read Anne Rice and the Border Town books, and those were influential. She is influenced by the stuff she read at the age she writes for - so not so much the stuff she read as a kid, but the stuff she read as a teen.

"Holly Black pointed out that when you're talking YA and Harry Potter, you end up talking middle grade, when it really encompasses a much broader age range in the end, what with starting with an 11 year old kid and ending with nearly an adult. She was also influenced by Terri Windling, Ellen Kushner, and Jane Yolen [who was in the audience!].

"JL loves retold fairy tales - Briar Rose by Yolen, for example.

"Cassandra Clare went through a fairy tale retelling phase also, including Red as Blood by Tanith Lee (CC thinks this is the best thing TL wrote), The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter [I would guess these are Bluebeard retellings], and Windling and Datlow's fairy tale retellings.

"Chris Moriarty mentioned that she is in conversation with the books she read as a kid, none of which were really about her (she is 'Jewish but it's complicated and Indian and Irish and never fit in anywhere,' so she loved classic fantasy but found it jarring) - except for the books by LeGuin and Yolen. [At this point she said to Jane Yolen, 'we can stop if you want [raving about you to your face nonstop]... or we could probably go on all night!' She wrote The Inquisitor's Apprentice for her kids, to put them in the middle of a book [instead of as a side character, if present at all]. She loves Witch Week, which has an Indian character."

Now they were guided more toward talking about the ups and downs of writing YA, and about how Harry Potter has affected the field.

"JL said, 'if you love every genre and want to write all of them, YA is the only place you can do it.'

"They talked about how adult books are marketed more by genre, whereas YA books are often in bookstores and by publishers considered all one genre, so you can sell books that are mysteries, romances, realistic, etc. all in the YA section. But later JL mentioned that it is weird to see, for example, Liar in the same section as Magic or Madness.

"Cassandra Clare mentioned that Harry Potter brought a lot of older books back into print, like a lot of the DWJ canon. She said that much of the resentment for Harry Potter - which they all love - stems from non-fantasy readers coming up to them and saying things like, 'you've got to read this! It's the most original, best fantasy you've ever read!' JL was accused of ripping off Harry Potter by many, even though of course Harry Potter was using all the old fantasy tropes. 'People see everything through the Harry Potter lens,' one of the authors said.

"Chris Moriarty took a moment to recommend Sabriel, which led into a story from Justine, as 'all Australian authors really do know each other.' Apparently, Garth Nix says that he was paddling along, then the giant Harry Potter wave came in and lifted his boat with it, and all of a sudden he could make lots of money; it was a lot of parents coming to librarians and teachers and saying, 'my kid finished Harry Potter, so what do I give them now?' Kids read a great fantasy book and then want to read other fantasy books - unlike adults, who often enjoy something new but then go back to what they were reading before.

"Chris Moriarty said that reading The Dispossessed was the first time she understood that a woman could write a book about math and science."

The discussion portion of the panel was drawing to a close, and Delia Sherman asked the authors to recommend new YA fantasy books they love.

"JL recommends Dia Reeves' Bleeding Violet and Slice of Cherry [which I have heard of but not read yet], which are 'Texan, weird, dark, and funny.'

"CC recommends Paolo Bacigalupi's Ship Breaker and The Drowned City, and Lainie Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

"HB recommends Megan Whalen Turner [hell yeah!], Anna Dressed in Blood, and Patrick Ness' A Monster Calls [which I have been seeing all over the internet for the last month or so but haven't read yet]."

Then there were some ok questions from the audience and interesting-but-not-interesting-enough-to-write-down answers from the panel, then some time to go up and talk to the authors. Mary and I were at the end of the line, which was great, because it meant we had time to actually chat for a while with no one breathing down our necks. Cassandra Clare and Holly Black are two of Mary's favorite authors ever, so she was fangirling it up, and I managed to hold up my end of the conversation in what I think was a quiet but interesting way without revealing that I have not actually read any of their books yet. We chatted about their books, about the panel and YA, about NYC, about restaurants, and about book tours! It was very neat, and they were very gracious. Justine and Holly offered to sign my journal!

Justine's autograph

Holly's autograph - "what belongs to you
but others use is more than you..."
If anybody can read that last word,
please tell me what it says!

That's all for now, but I do have more to blog about, so hopefully I'll be reliable and post again soon!


    I found them boring.

  2. I just realized that I'm right now listening to a Cassandra Clare book in the car: City of Bones. Enjoying it, mostly.

  3. Thanks for linking me to Green Knowe! Although they look boring, too.

    You'll have to let me know how City of Bones was when you finish it!

  4. What is yours but others use it more than you do? it is a riddle.

  5. Ooh I missed this when it first came out!

    That panel was so awesome. I haven't even begun to tackle the books they rec'd- I just finished Karen Healey's Guardian of the Dead.