Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wings, puppies, and the genius of Joann Sfar

When I'm really into a work-in-progress, my blogging suffers. As it should be, yes, but as I cast around for something to write about here that doesn't have to do with the minutiae of characters you know nothing about, I feel like my external world has shrunk to about the size of. . . my house (which I haven't left in several days, except to take the dog into the back yard), while my interior world is all dazzly and sparkling and immense, but in a way I can't really share. Except by, you know, actually finishing this book and then getting it out into the world.

So, hm. I keep wanting to drop bizarre little hints about the book, but that would be more interesting for me than for you. Instead, I'll show you my sister's new puppy:
Awww. Lookit him! She picks him up from the breeder in two days. Question: if you are a dog person, are you a puppy person or a grown dog from the Humane Society person? We are the latter, partly out of fear of puppy destructiveness, partly out of soft-heartedness for older dogs who need love too. Well, now we have only Leroy, and he doesn't *play nice with others* or we might have brought home another rescue after Shiloh died two years ago. But seeing pictures of puppies like this, I certainly understand the draw.

Okay, and here's another question for you, sent to me by 12-year-old Erica in Michigan (who, delightfully, describes herself as: "human, unfortunately"). Erica asks:

If you could fly, would you rather have butterfly wings, dragonfly wings, bat wings, or no wings at all, you could just magically float? Thanks!!!

Well. This is the sort of thing I tend to give a lot of thought to. Too much, maybe. In this case, I would have to answer that, though I am a lover of all things "wings," if I really had to make this decision I'd go with the magically floating (and magically zooming, a la Superman). See, wings are great in theory and in art and fiction, but they might be kind of cumbersome as far as sleeping positions and movie theater seats, etc, and then, I'd have to alter every single shirt or jacket or dress I ever hoped to wear. And this is me we're talking about. I wear 6-inch-platforms just to avoid hemming jeans!! So, there you have it.

But, if the question were simply: what kind of wings would you have. . . well, I suppose I'd do some studying up on the respective merits of bird wings vs bat wings, but it would be one of those, for sure. Dragonfly wings are cool and all, but in the nonmagical world, without access to old healers who can re-knit rips with spidersilk, they must be quite fragile. Crow wings (like a certain young faerie lad I know) would be my choice. Or perhaps. . . bat wings, for that little touch of eeevil that never did anybody any harm.

(One of my all-time favorite movie moments comes from a movie I've only seen half of, because I got bored, and that is Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders. The scene I love is two angels sitting in a convertible, longingly listing all the things that would be great about being human. And one of them says, with feeling: "Just once, to enthuse for evil!" I. Love. That.)

So: puppy or grown dog?
And: wings or superhero flight?
And: what kind of wings?

One last thing. I just read one of the most awesome graphic novels I have EVER READ. It's The Rabbi's Cat by the French writer/artist/genius Joann Sfar, responsible for titles like The Professor's Daughter (a mummy romance) and Vampire in Love (the first of his I read, stunned the whole time over its total oddness). Well, I liked those, but LOVED this story, which is narrated by a rabbi's cat in Algiers in the 1930s -- a cat that manages to gain the power of speech, only to use it as any cat would, to lie, wheedle, and blaspheme! The humor; the many perfect moments where Sfar captures something so TRUE about human nature; the fascinating context -- being Jewish then and there, at the bottom of the complex social/religious spectrum of North Africa; and there's so much warmth and silliness, and a little bit of [delightful] crudeness (that makes it inappropriate for younger children).

Perhaps my favorite line in the book, from p. 82: "You sure you don't want me to kill him? You know, sometimes you kill just one person and it takes care of everything." tee hee!

This is one to hang on to. Alexandra gave it to Jim for Christmas (thank you!), and I ordered the sequel yesterday, which led to -- ahem -- a much larger order than I had intended, stuffed with tantalizing books on the obscure topics of my w.i.p. . . including the discovery of this Anglo-Afghan author, Tahir Shah, who has written all kinds of totally intriguing sounding books, about things like renovating a decaying palace in Morocco; or studying fire-walking with a sorcerer in India; and tracing the folklore of flight from the Andes to the Amazon. . . Cool.

And very very lastly, a tidbit of trivia from another fascinating nonfiction book I am reading (which was also a gift from Alexandra): did you know that the most important red dye in history, responsible for the brilliant color "carmine" is made not from flower petals or berries or some such lovely source, but the blood of cactus -dwelling beetles? How about that? It's called "cochineal" and it's likely in your lipstick, not to mention your Cherry Coke!


Anonymous said...

You should check out A Perfect Red by Amy Butler Greenfield, which is all about cochineal! I'm not much for nonfiction either, but I found this fascinating!

S R Wood said...

Oh no you did-n't! Tahir Shah? I came across his name while researching non-Western storytelling traditions. What a strange world.

His "In Arabian Nights" caught my attention and I'm currently building up justification for ordering it.

Elise Murphy said...

I have children . . . so puppies. Although I love my adult mixed-breed WAY more as a lazy five year old.

No wings. I agree . . . too cumbersome (and yes, Wings of Desire is one of the best movies ever made).

If I simply HAD to have wings, I'd like small moth wings. A neutral color. That would go better with my red shoe collection.

Jaime Temairik said...

Puppy AND older dog. Both.
Wingless zooming.
But if you must have wings, bat ones, for sure.

Anonymous said...

That Alexandra is really something extraordinary. What amazing books she selects. HOw much of your brainpower do you suspect you siphon from her brain on a daily basis? I love her...I love her.

Stephanie Perkins said...

Ooo, I learned about cochineal last year, when researching my novel! (For that certain someone with the red dye issue.)

Older dogs (though that puppy is waaay cute)

Superhero flight, because you are SO right about the movie theater seats thing.

Quetzal wings! Probably not the most PRACTICAL choice, but I'd be awfully purty.

("That would go better with my red shoe collection." -- tee hee, Elise!)

Stephanie Perkins said...

By the way, you still owe us a picture of those fab new Christmas boots.

Lexi said...

Both. I want grown dogs AND puppies!

I want buzzing blackbeetle wings. Ones that make TONS of noise.

Or indestructible wings out of paper that I could remove and fold up to put in my pocket.

Laini Taylor said...

Lexi, your imagination is so beautiful. I love both those wings ideas. LOVE THEM! Now go write stories. Go!

tone almhjell said...

Grown dogs and floating, though if wings: sparrow wings, cause they're my favourite bird, and because they make such a pretty frrrptp when I dive for croissants on sidewalk cafés. Crumbs would never do for me.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

i think wings of desire waa remade into city of angels with nicolas cage and meg ryan. :) loved both too.

Have you not heard of the SuperSized Cameleon FLEX Deluxe wings:
offers over 100 choices of wings
water proof
available in all sizes and colors
invisiblitly (optional)
clothes compatible
comes with ipod pug in/speakers
internet access
phone capability
cruise control
and of course energy efficient.

Heather said...

Interestingly, we have the same dilemma here: puppy or full grown dog. On the one hand it would be great for the kids to experience the aspect of raising their pet, but then there would be all of the training involved, etc. Hmm.

If I had a choice, I'd choose magical floating, but if it had to be wings, it would be jet black shiny raven wings.

Anonymous said...

COLOR is such a fantastic book! This makes me want to read it again... :)

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

Laini - I tagged you today
The rules are as follows: link to the person who tagged you; write down six things that make you happy; post the rules; tag six others and let them know you have done it; tell the person who tagged you when your entry is up.

MotherReader said...

I was going to say no wings, for the inconvience factors you mentioned. But it just came to me - Ladybug Wings! You can just fold them up nicely when you aren't using them.

(I've been at the quiet information desk at work and have been thinking far too seriously about this in that free time.)

Suzanne Young said...

Great post! We've gotten our puppies from the Human Society. Does that count? I've never adopted a grown dog, mostly because my kiddies are small and I'm scared if they get a dog that doesn't know them, they'll get bitten. I'm not a protective parent. I'm a protective dog owner. My daughter is violent!!

And I have to say, I like the dragonfly wings. I like the shape. But mine would be awfully tattered, so hopefully I'd be able to float as well. :)

Anonymous said...

I tagged you.
The rules are as follows: link to the person who tagged you; write down six things that make you happy; post the rules; tag six others and let them know you have done it; tell the person who tagged you when your entry is up.

Anonymous said...

As someone who dressed up as a cecropia moth for Halloween when I was four years old, I definitely need moth wings.


φ said...

I'd like a dog just past the puppy stage!!! So it wouldn't go on the floor.
Superman Style!!!
Fly Wings are my favorite because they catch the light in a special way, and there's only two of them, not four, like on most insects. I would not like four wings. It would be too much of a hassle.