Friday, June 08, 2007

And dragons shall eat all the literary snobs. . .

I had jury duty yesterday -- and spent the morning in the jury room writing on my laptop, only to discover, when it was time to change to my second battery, that it was not charged. And I had not brought anything else to do. AAAAAAGGGHHH! So at lunch break I stumbled desperately into Borders where I picked up a few books, and where I forgot, again the author and title of those dragons-fighting-the-Napoleonic War books that I've been curious about. So I asked at the info desk if that rang a bell with the clerk and I was told "No, I'm sorry. I don't read that kind of book." Huh. I never knew bookstore clerks only had to know about they kind of books they themselves read. Anyway, I remembered the dragon's name (Temeraire) and found the books myself, thank you very much, helpful Borders employee. Honestly, the way this woman said "that kind of book," you'd have thought I was asking for porn, not fantasy. Oh my god, dragons! Lewd!

You know, this used to be so entirely the pervasive attitude toward fantasy -- the pitying smirk -- but large strides towards social acceptance have been made. Still though, plenty of people out there, and I am sure many of you may be among them, think fantasy is juvenile and a little embarrassing. Check out this fabulously awful quote from Mary MacCarthy:

"If a criterion were wanted for telling a novel from a fable or a tale from a romance, a simple rule-of-thumb would be the absence of the supernatural. In fables and fairy tales, as everyone knows, birds and beasts talk. In novels, they don't; if you find birds and beasts talking in a book you are reading you can be sure that it is not a novel."

Damn! I totally thought I had written a novel. Alas. Anyway, that was probably said in the '60s or something, not now. Whatever. I like talking birds, and I like dragons. Two of my favorite books this year have had dragons in them: Dragon Slippers and Dragon's Keep. Awesome books.

As for jury duty, I did not get called to a panel, so I am free of that civic duty for at least two years.

But to the "good stuff"-- Today is Jim's and my sixth wedding anniversary. Yay! Six years -- pretty amazing how quickly it has gone. Well, closer to nine years together, but six years of marriage. I feel so incredibly blessed to have found such a sweet, talented, thoughtful, funny guy to spend my life with! I love you, sweetie! It's also almost seven years to the day since he proposed -- in a gondola, in Venice. Can you believe that? How awesome. We had been traveling for some six weeks or so, and all the while Jim secretly had my engagement ring tucked into his wallet, and I had no idea! I found out later he had almost proposed once in a Turkish restaurant when some folk dancers pulled him up onstage to participate in a "wedding dance," and once on a tiny little beach on the Amalfi coast that we had kayaked to. But he waited for Venice, and it was beautiful. And so was our wedding, in Berkeley, and so have been the last six years. So many things we have shared -- buying our little house, sticking with our creative dreams, experiencing the sadness of our doggies growing old, and much, much more. So, happy anniversary to us!

And, Blackbringer comes out two weeks from yesterday. At last! My first book will be in the world! Good things have been happening -- it is a Book Sense summer pick, and as a former indie-bookstore-worker, this tickles me! Also, Booklist just gave me a good review! This is my favorite line: ". . .this all braids together into a radiant conclusion." Aw, shucks. Okay, and I like this one too: ". . . lovely echoes of its literary antecedents from Tolkein on down," and the reviewer calls my language "vibrant," though that is, I must confess, in the context of my first criticism: "Vibrant language overcomes a surfeit of telling rather than showing." Okay, for days that was the only line of this review I was able to process because. . . really? I mean, I take such great pains to "show" rather than "tell" that I was bowled over by that. It made me want to sit down with my book and study it and see if it's true. Of course, I don't think it's true, but I am not going to try to prove it to Booklist right now. My mind has cleared and I am capable of seeing the niceness of the rest of the review. But it made me feel a little tiny bit how much a bad review would hurt. Ouch.

I also stumbled upon this review whilst -- ahem -- googling myself, and it was lovely to read this reviewer's take on my characters. And this one, which totally gets my theme about dreams! It's so awesome that people are "getting it"!

P.S. Without brown sugar, steel-cut oatmeal isn't really worth it. Sigh.


Left-handed Trees... said...

Sounds like you had a very full day...dodging pissy clerks and jury duty, oh my! I hope you know that Petunia and I are both eagerly awaiting your book's release (she would LOVE a--gasp--autograph too, from "a real writer" feelings are seriously not hurt, I swear). the way, fantasy appeals to me more and more (as a former "snooty exclusively literary reader") all the time. This attitude is simply one of ignorance about what these books can be...

Jim Di Bartolo said...

Did you know that reading fantasy is part of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy of the U.S.? Okay, not really, but having just watched debate snippits of the colleciton of toolboxes running for the G.O.P. 2008 nomination reminded me of that neanderthal-like policy, that, while it might have been a baby step in the right direction 15 years ago (by, yes, Clinton), it's ridiculous that it hasn't changed since. As Jon Stewart put it, "The only thing more dangerous than another 9/11 happening is a heroic gay person stopping it."

Oh, and HAPPY ANNIVERSARY SWEETIE!!! :) Here's to 50+ more years (60 hopefully? :) Love ya!


Anonymous said...


Happy Anniversary! Time flies, eh?
Dave & I are celebrating #10 in 2 months! wow!

Also,I agree steel cut oatmeal needs brown sugar and also diced apples! :)

~ Jennifer

Anonymous said...

Happy Anno'Versary Dragon Lovers! May you have not 60, 70, 80 more years together but 80,000 more stuffed with goo and geese, jellies and jiggers, zooloos and zebras.

Rhonda the Stitchingnut said...

Did you know that has you paired up with Harry Potter #7 book? You know where they say "Better Together" to buy today. Really! I've put your's on my wish list. I fell in love with science fiction [that's what they called it back then] when it was suggested that I read "The Mote In God's Eye" ... what a FANTASTIC book. I was hooked. And my DH is also.

BTW, I felt your pain ... I had Jury Duty yesterday also. I can't be called again for 3 more years in MA. Yippy!

Mom2fur said...

Happy Anniversary! May you have many, many more years together!

Frankly, as a reader and a writer, I long for the days of the old mom-and-pop bookstores. You know...the little ones where the people who worked there truly loved books for the sake of books?

Stace said...

On behalf of all (former) Borders employees, I apologize for the treatment you received. I used to *love* it when someone asked me about fantasy, and probably gave far more recommendations than most people wanted.

On the other hand, I really hated when people would ask for things like: "No, I don't remember the author or the title, but it had a blue cover, and I'm sure it was in this section somewhere... " True story, too.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Happy anniversary you two!! I think Laini, that we should co-author an essay with two pov's on being engaged in Venice. I too was proposed to on a gondola in Venice, at age 20, by a man I did NOT marry, and I've written about the near-snafu that it was so sad it was funny.

My own wedding anniversary (8 years!) is in August, so this tickles me to see another couple so proudly shouting about their love.


Michelle (a.k.a. la vie en rose) said...

happy aniversary to you! so exciting about your book!!! yay!!!!

Laini Taylor said...

Thanks for the well wishes, everyone! And:

Rhonda -- I've been puzzling over that Harry Potter thing for weeks and weeks -- Amazon would have you believe that no one who has ordered my book has ordered anything else but Harry Potter. Know what would be cool? If MY book was also on the Harry Potter page!!!

Cartazon -- I should clarify: as another former bookstore employee, I do feel the pain of "I don't know the author or title" customers, and so I am always careful to preface any such request with due self-deprecation and advance apologies! Yeah, I got some insanely silly questions back in the day!

Jordan -- I MUST hear this gondola story! Ha ha! And I should say a huge THANK YOU fot the Book Sense write up. You are awesome!!!

luckyzmom said...

The fantasy snobs are much like the art snobs who ignored Andrew Wyeth's art because it wasn't oil.

Congrats on the book and the anniversary.

Amber said...

First of all, HAPPY DAY to the Love Birds! From what I read here, is seems you two are perfecto for one another, so many happy years to come. ;)

And in aside from all the nice things you said, may I also add that he is a cutie-pah-tootie? Not that I am hittin' on your man, but rather giving you a high-five! ;)

Next, people working in bookstores should really not be snobs about any books, imo. I get this tude about "junk romance", too, when I read it. And I like romance! Not every book is wonderful lit, but sometimes I find one that really is very good. And fantasy romance is good too! Reading is good, no matter what!

Congrats on your reviews! What an exciting time for you. It is so neat to see/read, and share your happiness. :)


Anonymous said...

I wish you both a wonderful anniversary...I hope that you have something special planned! (Cean and I celebrate our 14th on the 6/19 :-)

I am so pleased to hear that your book is popping up in many places and receiving fabulous reviews. A big congratulations to you!!!

Have a beautiful weekend.

Kim G. said...

Happy Anniversary! Hope you get to do something fun together tonight! At least you don't have to worry about going back for a long tour of jury duty next week. :)

Looking forward to seeing Blackbringer on the shelves. I'm so embarrassed to admit that for months I've been calling it "Dreadmark" instead of "Dreamdark"! I must have a bit of dyslexia!

Deirdre said...

Happy Anniversary! What a terribly romantic engagement story.

I've come across the same attitude over the years about fantasy novels. (Hmm, I always thought I was reading novels too.) And about YA books. Honestly, they're some of the best written and most heartfelt books out there.

At some point in the past dozen years or so I've gotten too high-minded about books. There had to be some social message or deep thought worked into the story. And really, sometimes that's just so boring. I've decided to read only books that entertain me right now. Dammit - I want happy, hopeful, quirky, mystical, ever-so-slightly-twisted novels.

I'm headed over to Amazon to order a new book - something about fairies and crows.

Anonymous said...

Happy anniversary, Laini and Jim! May the good times and happiness continue to roll (can happiness roll? It does for you!)!

And, yes, there are ALL sorts of weird biases about respectable subjects for a "real novel"--it's just another way to be a snob, IA.

Congratulations...I cannot WAIT to read your book! xoxo, M

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your anniversary - may there be many, many more happy ones to come (swoon! how incredibly romantic - both your proposal and that sweet comment I saw from your beloved).

Congrats, too, on such great reviews. I cannot wait till it comes out - I'm waiting to buy it in the bookstore, just so I can have the pleasure of picking it up off the shelf - and I'll turn my nose up in the air, if I get any snooty reactions from snobby clerks, about fantasy NOVELS. Sheesh! That quote! So 'Watership Down' and 'Wind In the Willows' aren't novels (classic ones, at that), simply because the characters happen to have fur or feathers? Sounds to me like someone's a species-ist.

Thanks for the book recommendations - those look like fun. I haven't read a dragontale in awhile - I'm overdue.

Sam said...

Hey, I wrote a review in Booksense this month too!!!

Can't wait to read your book.

Anonymous said...

Happy anniversary to you both, what starts on a gondola in Venice must surely continue to be magical.

I noticed my serious political affairs colleagues looking siddeways at me on the plane from Kabul to Dubai as I lost myself in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy while they read non-fiction. They don't know what they are missing!

When my friend Rachael got a less than brilliant review on her first novel last year she and I talked it through for several hours. I can't say I know what it feels like, but I can imagine a little. But with so many rave reviews you have plenty of other places to look! Sometimes I think reviewers feel they have to make a critical comment just to appear to be serious critics...

Looking forward to reading it, since I'm almost through with Lyra Silvertongue.


Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Oh we'll tawk, Laini. We will tawk :) (I love to write tawk the way it sounds phonetically when New Yorkers say it).

And I didn't even know that my booksense recommendation made it in for Blackbringer. How wonderful!


[a} said...

If I were a famous writer, of a book with amazing cover art, I'd totally google my name every other day.

Dragons rock. I loved the Narnia books & I love novels teeming with fairy/leprechaun life.

Dragon Slippers sounds interesting. Here in Saudi, they don't offer a wide range of fantasy novels, just the most popular, best-selling stuff, like Artemis Fowl & the Narnia books. Thank God I have a full-to-the-brim school library, or I'd sink into mundaneness......


Heather said...

Excuse me, but my dictionary (which happens to be the Oxford Dictionary of Current English) states that a novel is "fictitious prose story of book length". It does not say anything about who can or cannot speak and whether or not they have to be human. Honestly, the snobbery in the literay world can be insufferable at times. Of course, there is always my alternate experience whenever I cross the threshhold of a Chapters and the staff follow me around like little trolls asking if they can help me find something. If I say yes, they automatically head to the self-service computers and look it up, which is what I was going to do anyway! I often feel like asking if they have memorized every book in the store!

I'm going to head to Chapters this weekend and preorder your NOVEL. Unlike your snobby Borders clerk, I DO read THOSE kinds of books AND novels!!

Unknown said...

Hey there,
I enjoyed reading your blog...

Congrats on your success with your first book, and congrats again for working on the next one!


Sylvia C.

steve on the slow train said...

I just finished listening to a "Modern Scholar" course on CD on fantasy literature by Michael D.C. Drout, a professor at Wheaton College (Massachusetts). One of Drout's themes is that fantasy literature deals with the big issues such as mortality in a very direct way. It's worth listening to if you can find a copy. (I checked it out from the library.) Drout makes a very strong case that fantasy literature is serious literature.

Congratulations on your anniversary.

Jone said...

Happy Belated Anniversary. Hope you got a chance to see my posts on your book. As far as a sweetner for oatmeal? Go to Whole Foods, or New Seasons andbuy Agave will be in the sugar aisle. It is like a honey and is yummy oatmeal. Good substitue for sugar.

Roz Foster said...

Congratulations, Laini, on all the great reviews of your debut! I very much look forward to snatching up Blackbringer next time I'm in the bookstore. You are such bright,inspiring faerie thunder!