juushika: Photograph of a stack of books, with one lying open. (Books)
This comes about a week late, but better that than never. Having reviewed it, let me talk a bit more on Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, because this is one of those books that I wanted to discuss with someone while reading it. For lack of a fellow reader, I poked around on the internet instead. Rowan Inish's Green Man Review is a look at the book in the best possible light: a dense and delicate, indulgently idealized, brilliant college fantasy blossoming into a strong, realistic rendering of a fairy tale taking place in our real world. Meanwhile, Asking the Wrong Questions approaches the book more critically, searching for some body behind all the glorious fantasy of manners fluff, and failing to find it at key moments. (Both reviews are rife with spoilers, so be warned.) I stand between the two opinions—

Because I was surprised that reading Dean's Tam Lin didn't inspire a slew of college nightmares, but really that makes perfect sense. Blackstock is so intensely and perfectly the college experience that I wished to have that it defies nightmares about the reality of the hell college actually can be. I can't overstate the effectiveness of Dean's wish-fulfillment fantasy. The book is so dense and detailed that the fantasy college experience is utterly immersive, and the experience itself is seductive to the hopeful academic. The whole thing is a delight. But I know that I'm an easy mark in this regard, and I begrudge being made and taken for my last penny—and I'm bitter, too, that the real world can't compare to the book's fantasy. It's a bit like the allure of Harry Potter: Mary Sue-ing yourself into a House and picking a wand and guessing at your patronus is fun, but it's silly and a bit humiliating in hindsight—and heartbreaking, too, that you'll never get to attend Hogwarts because in the real world, people don't turn into cats (and, for that matter, you're far too old).

So as much as I enjoyed Dean's Tam Lin and wanted it to succeed, I turned a jaded eye on all of its faults—and it has many of those. It was a bit of a conflicted read: as many joys and complains, and much reading aloud of the good as of the bad. (Sorry for that last part, Devon.)



Somewhat less relevant to the quality of book, but more relevant to its quality as a retelling:

I have some doubts about how Dean approaches Tam Lin. (Spoilers for the end of the book follow; consider yourself warned.) In Janet's general, growing impression that something fantastic exists at Blackstock, Dean does a wonderful job building up to some sort of fantasy—but until she's already pregnant with his child, Janet knows nothing of Tam Lin himself. The original ballad, on the other hand, begins by introducing Tam Lin and warning maidens to avoid Carterhaugh, where he can be found. This warning is not specifically directed at Janet, but it is placed in explicit contrast to Janet's journey to Carterhaugh. In other words, the ballad implies that Janet knows, and willfully encounters, the risks. Which isn't to say that Dean's Janet is uninformed: the book's focus on birth control makes sex and pregnancy the known danger and the risk willingly taken.

But it's not quite the same thing. I should state that my introduction to Tam Lin was Tricky Pixie's version of the ballad, which brings the sexy back to the source material—and the willfulness, and the consent (which, for some strange reason, are a pretty big part of the sexy)—and encountering that version first has certainly influenced my interpretation of the ballad. Even with that influence aside, what makes the ballad so remarkable is Janet's agency: she knows the dangers, she goes to Carterhaugh, she bears the blame for her pregnancy, she declares the identity of her lover, she returns to him, she asks for his story, she asks how to save him, and she does then do so.

Dean's Janet may know about the dangers of pregnancy and suspect that there's something supernatural afoot, but in the rush of the last 50 pages Tam Lin's story still takes her by surprise and his rescue is a last-minute, conflicted decision; furthermore, because the quick ending receives none of the complexity and detail given to the rest of the book, it feels like Janet is fulfilling a role rather than making her own choices. That role may be more or less logical, it may not feel entire out of place, but it still lacks the remarkable, wonderful, willful agency that Janet possesses in the source material.

And Dean's novel is the poorer for it.



To end on a positive note, I give you one of my favorite paragraphs from the book:

Janet considered interrupting, but what she thought of as the fatal flaw of the novel-reader prevented her. She had meant to ask Nick if he and Robin were coming to the party, since neither of them had actually expressed any intention of doing so. But the flaw of the novel-reader is to want to know what will happen if a situation is allowed to develop unmolested. So she let them talk, and ate her canned okra and tomato soup, and wondered if they should move any of the furniture in their room to make more room for the party.

Tam Lin, Pamela Dean, 190


A favorite because it is true, you know—or, at least, it is true for me.

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
I don't read HP fic much anymore, but during gift fests (as run during the holidays) I watch [livejournal.com profile] daily_snitch and check out a few of the recommended fics to see if anything catches my eye. Some have been decent, some good, but this one blew me away.

The White Road by Preverse_Idyll
NC-17, Snape/Harry
From the afterlife, Lily watches Harry's present and his futures on an old telly—and discovers that in one potential future, he's in love with Snape.

Prior to reading this, I would have scoffed at the idea of a Snape and Harry love story told from Lily's point of view. But here, written with such skill and grace, with such detail and thought and ingenuity, it's entirely convincing. More than convincing, really: Snape, Lily, and Harry all shine, they are all real, their lives and their potentials are meaningful, their suffering and their triumph rings true. I'm rarely so impressed by any piece of writing either in or out of fandom—it's a true work of art.

Just go read it.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
I just got squicked out of reading a fic when Harry Potter started snogging Gregory Goyle in order to show Draco Malfoy that two could play at this build-a-bad-threesome game. My tolerances are high. They are very, very high. But that, my friends, is too much for me. Bad enough that it was absurd. Worse that it was revolting.

Meanwhile.

In the world of much better fic, I come bearing a pair of recs: Nocturne for Quill and Ink and the sequel, Étude: A Lesson in Voice by [livejournal.com profile] pushdragon. Harry Potter: HP/DM, NC-17. Severely depressed Harry spends all day lost in old fantasies about Draco, in anticipation of the climactic moment of Draco's nightly homecoming.

I am, in a way, hesitant to make these recommendations because I want to keep my experience of reading them private. It was a personal and frankly terrifying experience to read them, because they strike so close to home. The details and the circumstances are unique to Harry's experience, but on a whole this is the best description of a severe depressive episode that I have read in a work of fiction. From his immobility to his self-inflicted ignorance to his dodged refusal to change, Harry's coping mechanisms (and the lack thereof) are honest, authentic, and very much parallel my own. Never have I seen an author write about depression so intimately and so honestly. To her credit, [livejournal.com profile] pushdragon does one better: not only does she faithfully portray depression, she also refuses to judge or to change Harry. She accepts every one of Harry's faults, even while exploring the negative effect that they have on him and his relationship. She does not make Harry emerge from the depression, blinking into the bright new light; she doesn't orchestrate a fairy-tale ending. That isn't to say that there is no change or no hope—in fact, change and hope are the precise purposes of the stories—but rather that the change and hope are ambiguous, uncertain, and incomplete. As a result, these stories are at once uplifting and depressing, and above all they are honest.

All that, and the style is strong, the characterization spot on, and the sex nuanced. The stories are skillful as well as meaningful, which makes the meaning all that much more accessible.

These were difficult pieces for me to read; I can't even imagine how they must have been to write. They create such an intimate and honest portrait that it can be a bit terrifying. I applaud [livejournal.com profile] pushdragon for her work, and though I want to hold these fics close to my heart, worry them and treasure them, and keep private the pieces of myself that I see within, they really are too good not to pass along. If you read any HP fic, I highly recommend this set. They are incredible. I'm glad that I stumbled across them.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Slytherin)
I just finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. What follows are therefore my first incoherent thoughts and immediate impressions. SPOILERS, OH SO MANY SPOILERS.

Deathly Hollows Thoughts. )
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Slytherin)
Been putting off writing this for I am the lazy, ergo it shall be sweet and short. Unless my predictions are exceedingly accurate, this is of course spoiler free. I write this only for my own benefit, so that when I say "I knew it!" I can point to this and say "I really did!".

My predictions for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows )I'm picking up my copy of Dealthy Hollows in the calm after the storm: first thing tomorrow morning. (I've been to three opening parties, and what I really care about is the book, not the people.) Surprise of surprises, I'm not touching LJ or really the rest of the internet, probably including the comments to this post, until I've finished reading the book (probably twice). Ergo, I shall be thankfully spoiler free. Yay!

Oh, and in other news, I am writing a book.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
OMG, it's a fanfic. For a challenge at [livejournal.com profile] lumos_create, posted for [livejournal.com profile] _houdinilogic_ to view in full.

Promises
Harry/Draco
PG-13 for language and some sexuality
Based on "Promises, Promises" by The Cooper Temple Clause.
by [livejournal.com profile] juushika

Promises full text. )
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Titles: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chamber of Secret, Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, & Order of the Phoenix
Author: J. K. Rowling
Published: Bloomsbury Publishing, London, 1997-2003
Pages: 223, 251, 317, 636, and 766; total of 2163
Total pages: 4336
Text number: 10-14
Read for: Preparation for upcoming Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince release
In brief: I'm going to keep it in brief, because if I get started about Harry Potter I'll never stop. Needless to say, I adore this series. I reread them in preparation for the sixth book and to look for either proof or ideas for HP-theories. The complexity of the HP universe continues to impress me, and I have high expectations for the future of the series. Harry Potter may be written primarily for children, but remains good reading for everyone and required reading for English students and teachers, because it's impact on literature and its ability to make books appealing to the general public, including children, is phenomenal. An engrossing read, interesting subject matter just awaiting analysis, and a huge impact on our culture. What more could any reader want?

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