Book Review: Making Friends with Black People by Nick Adams

Yes, it’s another book review. Why so soon? Well, I was in Barnes and Noble the other day with a friend when I came across this book in the humor aisle. The title alone was enough for me to pick it up and flip through it, thinking, “What on earth could this be?” It immediately opened to Chapter 3, titled “To Ebonics and Beyond!!!!”

I bought the book for 14 bucks on Tuesday. Finished reading it on Thursday. It’s that hilarious.

making-friends.jpgIf you read my last Friday’s entry, I went off on this little thing called ‘dialect’ and ‘voice’, and the problems I’ve been having with it trying to get it down right, despite the fact that I’m a black woman. (It’s them book smarts. I got so much of them I never really boned up much on the street smarts.) So when I saw Adams’ book and flipped through it, what went through my head was “Oh, I must get this. Now.” Call it researching my own race, if you will. I figured for the slang along, it will be worth it.

And yes, Adams does go into the intricacies of human slang. But what really drew me into this book was how it went into what black people are as a whole.

First, some interesting things about Nick Adams. Obviously black man, living out in LA. He’s a comedian, but he’s also done some screenwriting and worked at NBC, BET and other media outlets. He’s also married to an Indian, and besides R&B, he also listens to a lot of rock music too. That last bit really impressed me–though I am not a huge Dire Straits fan. But any black man who talks about Dire Straits immediately gets points.

But the book. It’s a very tongue-in-cheek, humorous look at the whole culture of blackness, from music to food to language. Adams writes in a very casual, loose with the expletives style, that is pretty much directed to white readers, but also gives shout outs to the black readers of his book as well. And yes, when I say loose with the expletives, I mean it’s chock full of them. Don’t let the kiddies read this. It could get quite graphic at times.

Of course, Adams starts off by jumping right into the most controversial topic–the ‘N’ word. You know it. I know it. Rhymes with Bigger. Adams goes into the conundrum of how young black people can say it to each other whereas older black people can’t stand it, and white people just can’t, shouldn’t, and really don’t want to even think of it. He’s got an interesting take on it–obviously, he’s right at home using it. He feels his use of it is taking it away from the hate groups. I don’t necessarily agree with that–personally, I hate the word. But it does bring up an interesting thought. As time advances, and younger generations of blacks start using the word with a more positive spin, will it get to the point where the original meaning is lost? It feels like Adams is arguing the case that it will, but he does it in a humorous way:

Since an end to the use of the word is nowhere in sight, I suggest we have fun with it…(lots of amusing N-word anecdotes here). It may seem harsh, but I just love the fact that black folks have taken ownership of the most powerful slur in the history of the English language. We can actually use (N-word–I want it to be family friendly at the Cafe) and other epithets to make white people uncomfortable now. Say it in front of them and you can see white people wince. I’m seriously considering changing my name to Jigaboo Pickaninny just to watch the receptionist squirm the next time I go to the dentist’s office. ‘Mr. Picka…umm..Jiga…umm. Yes, you. The black guy who’s laughing so hard. The doctor will see you now.'”

Adams gives white people a hard time in this book. He also gives black people a hard time in this book. In fact, nothing really escapes. He goes from what to call black people (African-American? Afro-American? Black? Huh?), to bashing black stereotypes (“Yes. We love soul food…all of that stuff is great. We’ve moved on. We eat sushi now.”) to rappers, black and white. He takes on Hollywood, movies, interracial dating, dancing, the media, basketball, crime, affirmative action, television, politics, George Bush, Elton John and Britney. Yes, that Britney–though it shows how such a book can become outdated within just a couple of months. When Adams wrote it, Britney had just started her wacky hijinks with her sudden marriage and annulment. (And for the record, I gotta love what he has to say about her: “Behind all the money, makeup and hair extensions, she’s just a white-trash girl from Louisiana. This is what they do, people. She’s not going crazy. She is fulfilling her destiny.” Yeee-ouch.)

As shown above, despite Adams saying (almost apologizing in some places) that this is a humorous book, underneath the humor there’s got some real biting commentary and harsh criticism, both on the white and black side. Some of the most interesting chapters come from him being semi-serious in discussing the media world, particularly in television and news. Having been behind the scenes in both areas, his strongest feelings come out in these areas. He really rips into BET, exposing their practices in putting their ‘content’ on the air (and in the process, making me release the guilt that I never was interested in watching it–their ‘content’ was worse than I thought). He tears into the news media, particularly the Jon Benet murder and the Columbine shootings, things he doesn’t feel newsworthy because such things have been happening in the black community for years, yet the news doesn’t even blink. This is where the angry-black-male part of him rears up, despite his still casual tone. (“The same people who cried crocodile tears over the dead bodies at Columbine turn a blind eye to these stories, and to the social problems that cause them, every single day. The message that is being sent here is loud and clear. Our children are more important than yours…But this isn’t new. White people have a long history of ignoring an issue until it smacks them right in the face.”)

Despite everything that gets called out in this book, there is one group that Adams conspicuously omitted. I kept waiting for it to show up, but it never did…and that was black women. Sure, he bashes people who listen to country music, the Jefferson theme song, God (I didn’t like that chapter as much, though he had a hilarious chapter afterwards on the pros and cons of other religions). And he does mention specific black women, Halle Berry, Jamaica Kincaid, But black women as a whole group? Not one word. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because, it being a book that’s geared toward white people, he didn’t feel the need to black women out as a group to bash. Maybe it’s because he’s talking about race relations from a black man’s point of view and he didn’t feel the need to go into the black male/female relationships without confusing his white readers even more (and outraging his black readers even more). Maybe because it appears he only dated white women. Maybe because black men and black women just seem to be angry at each other and he didn’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole.

(And before you start flaming me, check out this interesting CNN news article, which talks about black women getting tired of black men dating white women, so now they’re beginning to date white men. Oy, oy, oy, now there’s a nice read. Almost makes me want to write a book in answer to it. But you know what? Being married to a white man myself, I’m not going to touch this subject. Nope. Not gonna do it. If Adams didn’t want to touch it, then neither do I. It’s way out of my league. I’ll leave it for the Angry Black Woman to dissect.)

This was not a book that had me nodding in agreement to everything he said. At some point, I think I even started to argue with the book–I think it was when he started talking about black books being relegated to the black section of the bookstore instead of in the normal literary section. “Untrue! There are stories who do that, but there are also stores who do put contemporary black authors in the literary section, you stupid N-$*@!” After a while, the constant N-words and F-words do get a bit overwhelming. Plus, there were times where he went off on a rambling diatribe, which were still hilarious, but way off-topic. But I do have to say, language aside, I really, really, really enjoyed this book. It made me think. It also gave me insight on black language as a whole, which helps me with my writing, so I think the $14 was completely worth it. And finally, it gave me great insight and confirmation into my own race–that I don’t need to be watching BET and those trashy black novels (you know the ones I’m talking about) to prove to myself I’m black. It gets 5 watermelons out of 5. Hey, if Adams gets to take the N-word back, I’m gonna take watermelon back. It’s good for you, healthy, full of fiber. Just don’t expect me to sit on my porch and eat it barefoot. I’ll use a knife and fork, thank you.

Finally, one more observation on just how cool Adams rights. Just before Adams launches into his BET diatribe, he writes, “…I won’t tell you any of those stories because that would be overkill. But, I will tell you one story that most accurately depicts their preposterously parsimonious ways.” Parsimonious. Where did I see that before…right! In Sideways! My last book review. It just goes to show how in one book, that word is used in a horrible, pompous and pretentious way that set my teeth on edge, while in another, that same word can be spun in a tongue-in-cheek, humorous way, with alliteration to boot. So tell you what, Nick. For using that word, I’ll forgive you for leaving out all us black sisters. That’s probably a book in itself anyway.

Book Review: Sideways by Rex Pickett

I have a romantic view of Napa Valley. I always wanted to take a few close friends, maybe my husband, maybe some girlfriends, and drive though Napa Valley, visiting vineyards and pretending to be gauche, listening to music in a convertible with its top down, culminating the day with a picnic somewhere, drinking wine and watching spectacular sunsets. Last year, I actually did have a chance to go to Napa Valley. It didn’t quite live up to my romantic fantasy (though I did get a chance to visit a winery).

That’s pretty much how I feel about Sideways.

When I rented the movie a few months ago, I thought it would be a comedy about two guys touring wine country and learning about life and love. And, in a sense, it is about that, but there’s absolutely nothing romantic about it.

The premise is same for the book and movie. Miles, a writer who has a book making publisher rounds, takes his friend Jack up to wine country to celebrate Jack’s impending marriage. Miles is a morose sort, preferring to be a connoisseur of fine wine rather than focus of the black hole of his depressing life. Jack is simply determined to nail any woman he sees before he gets hitched for good. And he does.

At some point in the movie–I think it was when Jack is boffing some waitress–my hubby turns to me and says, “This is supposed to be funny?”

I’m still trying to figure it out myself. It won an Oscar for best writing for Adapted screenplay, so when I saw the book at a garage sale, I thought, well, maybe the book provides more insight than the movie. So I got it. And read it.

And I thought, this won an Oscar for best writing?!?!

The book opens with Miles going to a wine tasting to wait for Jack. As a pretaste for what the rest of the book turns out to be, Miles swills, whines about his book, depresses himself about women whom he’s sure he’ll never score with, and exchanges good-natured F-bombs with a dentist.

But what really slows the opening scene is the description of every single wine he tastes. I’m not kidding. “I quickly sampled the second Chard, a single-vineyard wine with a better balance of fruit and acidity and subtler oak overtones that imparted a slightly smoky, almost nutty taste.” This is followed a couple paragraphs later with “The second Pinot was a single-vineyard from the nearby storied Rochioli property. It had notes of cardamom and exotic berries, and it pinwheeled around on my palate, deliciously lingering.” Did he get this from the back of a wine brochure? And what’s worse, this is pretty much how it is throughout the entire book. It gets really old fast.

The book version of Miles is far more pretentious and pathetic than his film counterpart. Part of it is due to the writing, I think. Pickett tends to throw in fancy, obscure words (parsimonious, epigone) but he pairs it with pretty bland clichés. It makes Miles comes across as a rude, ostentatious snob. And because it takes at least 20 pages for Jack to show up, I slowly began to feel I was stuck at a very unfunny party. (Even Jack, later on, rags on Miles using such long, esoteric words “Let’s hold off on the ten-dollar words, Bester.”)

At least I had a little sympathy for the Miles in the movie, but because we’re privy to his every thought in the book, it not only makes him a very unreliable narrator, but it’s a pain to slog through his negativity. Of course, Jack isn’t much better. He comes across as a smooth-talking, misogynic creep. I swear, if I read this book if I was single, I probably would’ve sworn off all men. At the point where he tells Miles, “This may come as a shock to you but sometimes…chicks just want to get pounded.” I decided, you know, I think I had enough of this…and proceeded to flip through the rest of the book.

The rest is pretty much the movie. They meet two women, Jack proceeds to sleep with one. She learns he’s getting married and she beats the crap out of him (in the book, she actually has a gun, which was just a tiny bit funny and well-deserved). Miles actually connects with the other woman, somewhat. Until he learns that she was given a thousand dollars to go to bed with him..

Yeah, no one is exactly nice and pure in this book. In the movie it sort of glosses over the characters so at least there’s some redeeming quality in them. Not so in the book. Everyone’s pretty scummy on some level. Even Jack’s fiancée, who you really feel sorry for in the movie. When she dances with Miles at the end, she asks if Jack had sex with anyone. When Miles evades the question, she says, “Well, if he did, tell him we’re even.”

Ick.

I did a little searching on Amazon to see how reviews for this was. The vast majority seemed to really, really like this book in the way it portrays the two men honestly. You even get to see them try to connect with each other in what would be considered emotionally, as Jack trying to cheer Miles up, trying to get him to move on with his life. And I did get a sense of that when I read the scene when Miles learned that his ex-wife remarried and will be coming to the wedding. It was a pretty powerful scene. But with all the trek before it, it came way too late for me to care. I’m sure that there are other scenes towards the end of the book, but I really don’t know. I just sort of flipped through it.

I did notice that those who gave it negative reviews were turned off by the foul language, the bad writing, and the scummy nature of the characters. Yeah. I gotta agree. This was a real pain to read, and it left me with an urge to take a shower to wash the scumminess off of me. This gets 1 glass of merlot out of 5, because I know that Miles really hates Merlot. He says so. Over and over and over again. So I raise that single glass of Merlot to you, Mr. Miles. You well and truly deserve it.

Another rejection! Hooray! (or, lesson on dialect)

On Thursday, we got ourselves a pretty wild storm, wild enough to knock down a tree branch. As thunder grumbled above our house, I settled down after we put Daniel down to bed to surf the web and check my email. Lo and behold, I got a response for a story I sent a couple of months ago. I opened it up and immediately recognized the words “We’re going to pass at this time…”

And I thought to myself, Whoohoo!!

This is a story that I’ve been meaning to do a little revision work on anyway. It’s something I realized I needed to do when I went to the MWW and took that class on dialect with Nickole Brown. Her class on dialect really helped me a lot, so much that I requested her thesis paper on it. For the past week now, I’ve been reading it, making notes, and checking out the books she mentions to get a better idea on how to handle dialect in narrative.

Dialect’s a tricky thing. When you do a story in first person, one of things you must consider is the voice of the character who’s talking. If the main character’s a person who uses slang a lot, then you have to consider how much to use it in the narrative and how much to use it in their actual speech. This doesn’t just mean the usual words and catchphrases a person uses. It’s also a way of how they talk, if they tend to drop their ‘g’s at the end of -ing words (playin’ for playing, for instance). How a person talks shows the level of education they have, but it also depends on who they’re talking to.

In the story I wrote, there’s a woman who had a very good education; however, get her around her jive-talking, swearing uncle, and her speech becomes just like his: she starts to swearin, an’ slurrin her speech a bit, an’ talkin all crazy grammar an’ shit like dat…

The problem in the story, I realized at the class, was that I don’t think I had a good enough handle on the narrative part of the story. When she’s telling the story, I couldn’t decide whether or not if I should use more “proper” grammar and phonics, or if I should leave it in the flavor of her “ghetto talk”, so to speak. I think I wavered between the two. But now that the story’s been rejected, I can revise it to be more consistent.

I just hope I have the voice nailed down well. Ironically, I’m not really good at talking “black”. I liked to listen to it, but I could never get a hold on the slang all too well. (And when I tried to as a kid, most of the kids laughed and said ‘that is sooo old!’. So I never tried to keep up on the slang. Speaking ‘proper’ grammar seemed a whole lot easier.) In some ways, I wish I had a consultant (roll eyes here), who could look at my work and say, “Okay, she wouldn’t say it that way.” Actually, I do have someone in mind…but getting a member of your family to look at your work can also become a tricky thing…

Anyway, the whole point of this blog is to say that the rejection pretty much gave me something to focus on. I feel like I’m back at work again. Granted, it’s just a short story, but it made me eager to jump into revision mode. It’s got me quite excited. I can’t wait to start. And all this from a rejection. Who knew?

Of course, the next day–yesterday, in fact–I got another rejection notice in the email box. And that one did bring back the usual air of depression. Oh well.

And now, a moment of Ewwwww…

So I’m in the backyard picking–yum–more tomatos. I’m getting to the point where if the tomatoes are plucked just as they ripen, they start to split open, disgorging their insides. As long as the splits are small and there’s no mold on them, I’m guessing they’re still good, but it still is gross to look at.

Anyway, I’m picking tomatos when I come across one that feels more slimy than usual. I pull it out, turn it over, and there is a tiny slug, about the same length as my pinky nail. It’s parked itself right on the open split and presumably sucking out the tomato yumminess. I sense a potential learning opportunity, so I bring it to Daniel, who’s playing on the patio. “Look, Daniel! Look at the slug.”

He makes the required, “Oooo! That’s a slug!” He wants to hold it, so I give him the tomato and he turns it around in his hands, watching the slug as it creeps along. His grandma had given him a bug cage for his birthday, so I figure now is a good time to utilize it. I go inside to get the cage. When I come out, the tomato and slug are gone, and Daniel is just standing there, making chewing motions with his mouth.

“GAAAAAHHH! DANIEL! YOU DIDN’T!”

Daniel grins. Yellow pear tomato mush pepper his teeth.

“WHERE’S THE SLUG? DON’T TELL ME YOU ATE THE SLUG?!”

He blinks, then points down. Near his bare feet, the slug is crawling away, probably a little discombobulated from having his dinner stolen from him. I breathe a sigh of relief. It turned out that Daniel didn’t get a little extra protein with his veggie after all.

Then Daniel spots the bug cage and gleefully steps forward, smooshing the poor bug flat under his bare foot.

As I stare in dismay at the smeared remains on the patio, Daniel says, “Where’d the slug go? Maybe it’s hiding.”

Yes, Daniel. Maybe it is hiding. Hiding for a good long time…

Overflow and Underflow (or I trade you a tomato for a writing idea)

It’s been raining a lot these past few days. It means that I don’t have to water my “garden”, which is nice, though what constitutes my garden this years happens to be several of yellow pear tomatoes plants spilling profusely over the backyard lawn (thus showing the need, or rather disregard, for tomato cages), a couple of sunflowers that has miraculously escaped our evil killer bunnies, some sad herbs who were stunned to see the tomatoes completely take over their space, and some grape crimson tomatoes planted in pots, but not faring as well as their grounded cousins.

garden

I’m really lousy at gardening.

I don’t know why. I read the books and understand what they need. I can see myself planting them in the spring, on my knees in the dirt, a wide straw hat on my head as I cheerfully nip flowers to put in my vase, or decide to split a hosta and put it over “there”. But when it comes to action, I look at the dirt, think, “Oh well,” dig a hole and plunk a plant in it, water it, and wait to see what happens. Nine times out of then, the plant is dead within a week.

I have an entire patch on the northeast corner of the house I have no clue on what to do. You can’t really see it from the patio. It’s not viewable from the street. You have to move to the side of the house to see it. The previous owners had put bushes there. I moved them to the front of the house, thinking, “How can anyone see these bushes? There must be something else we can put there.” About three out of six bushes survived the transfer. But that left me with a very empty, useless plot.

No, scratch that. The weeds like it very much.

I did try to salvage it by planting a couple of hostas some years ago. They took, but the weeds took over even more. The northeast corner of the house looks like a jungle now. This year, I tried to redeem it by putting some mint, parsley, and ferns in it. They all died. Now, I got some type of funky vine absolutely covering the plot. It’s swallowed up the hostas, climbing up the flowering spikes. I also got some poofy wild grass that would look awesome if it wasn’t covered by the vines.

But at least I got tomatoes. Lots of tomatoes. Lots and lots and lots of yellow pear tomatos. So much that I’m getting sick of them. Used to be that I would shoo Daniel away from them just as they start to ripen from pale green. “Wait until they turn yellow,” I said. “Yellow!” Then, when they progress from sunshine yellow to the golden color of egg yolks, I pluck one off and give it to him. “There you go.” Now, I don’t even bother. He’ll grab handfuls of tomatoes and devour them, regardless of color, and I shrug and think “Well, at least he’s eating his veggies.”

I wish my writing was as prolific as my tomatos.

Actually, I shouldn’t wish that. I had carved out this time to be a period of rest, to spend time with Daniel and my hubby. That meant that I needed to slow down in my writing, to focus on at least one writing project a day rather than two or three. And trust me, I’m getting a lot done. I’m in this reading-to-learn phase where I’ve been picking apart stories to see how they’re put together. I’ve been doing some long overdue crits for my writing mailing lists. I’ve been taking it easy, if I don’t spend a normal writing time writing, I try not to feel guilty. This is a time of rest, I tell myself. This is a time for recharging my creative batteries, so when I get to editing Willow in the fall, I’ll be ready.

So why do I feel so picking itchy?

It feels like there’s a gap in my life, like I should be doing something productive. With Willow done, it’s left this huge gaping void that screams to be filled, and it’s not really satisfied with the short morsels of stories and poem I’ve been feeding it (but granted, it seems that I have only enough motivation to work on just one short story or poem a day). I want to do more. I want to work on another novel. I want to tackle something big. It’s got me anxious, twitchy. I find myself checking email a lot, just for something to do. Gah…I’m tired of vacation. I want to go to work!

Well…in a strange way, that cheers me up. It shows that:

a) I’m really serious in becoming a writer.
b) The fact that I’m anxious to start again will work in getting me off on the right foot when I do start.
c) That I don’t think I’ll be an one-book writer. Chances are, once the trilogy of Willow is done, I’ll be raring to start the next book project after that…and after that…and after that. So as long as I’m writing books, I’ll be happy. And the next time I complain about writing books, I’ll just look back at this post and remind myself that it’s good to be itchy.

I had originally planned to start working on Willow after the Midwest Literary Festival, which is in October. But there may be a chance that I might not make it there (time conflict with something else), which means I can start Willow anytime I want. So I think I’ll move the start date in September after Labor Day. It shortens my resting time, yes, but I think that’s okay. I will have rested two full months, so that might be enough. So I’m going to be firm in telling myself to rest and to be patient.

(Learning patience is another mark of being a writer. Boy, do I need to learn it.)

In the meantime, anyone want any yellow pear tomatoes?

tomato harvest

Book Review: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

This is going to be a sloppy review. Just to warn you. I will probably ramble on and on about stuff. That’s because I can’t seem to get my thoughts in order. There’s so much to this book, and even if I put down everything I know about the book down here, there’s probably a lot more that I have missed. So if you’re a huge fan of this book, forgive me. I don’t think this review will do it justice. All I can say is, if you haven’t read the book, read it. Or watch the movie. Or listen to the audiobook. Just get it.

Warning. Lots of quotes from the book ahead.

Beagle is an awesome writer. I loved the Innkeeper’s Song, and I have now this book to add. I don’t know if I love the Last Unicorn more or less than this book. The storyline is so deceptively simple–a unicorn learns she is the last of her kind and sets out to find out where the others went. Along the way she meets a magician, who is more or less what he seems. It turns out that all the unicorns have been captured by an evil king and his Red Bull, so they go to rescue them, in typical storytelling fashion.

I made the mistake of watching the movie before reading the book. Of course, I don’t think I would have been prompted to read the book if it wasn’t for the movie, so there’s your catch-22. But in reading the book, I had the images and voices from the movie in my head, and it was truly hard to separate the movie images from the book images. I guess that shows that the movie did an excellent job in capturing the flavor of the book.

And it did. When I saw the movie, what had my jaw dropping was the way the people talked. When the witch spoke about the harpy she held in the cage, “Fool! Be still! I can turn her into wind if she escapes, or into snow, or into seven notes of music. But I choose to keep her.” How do you change someone into seven notes of music? What an awesome line. Or how about when Schmendrick tries to escape the amorous tree, which tells him, “I will keep the color of your eyes when no other in the world remembers your name.” How can you not be affected by that perfect, perfect line?

last unicornAll the characters talk that way in this book. Strange, lyrical, wise, almost in riddles but as plain as day and just as poetic. In fact, that’s the language of the whole book, the narrative told in poetic language that is to be read aloud above the background of accompanying snaps and crackles of a low fire. I have highlighted and underlined so many wonderful phrases in this book, just for the beauty and delight of them.

But for such a simple story, there are a lot of themes running through this book that goes on unawares. You got your basic theme of mortality vs. immortality. (the unicorn transformed from immortal to a human girl: “This body is dying. I can feel it rotting all around me.”, Schmendrick’s own curse), Beauty vs ugliness. (After becoming a unicorn again, she makes her first ugly sound ever, Molly Grue crying, “How dare you come to me now, when I am this!”, indicating her aged self), Old Age vs. Youth (the curse of Hagsgate, the four guardsmen), illusion vs. reality (the witch’s spell of turning common animals into mythical beasts) and joy vs. sorrow (King Haggard’s constant misery, Schmendrick laughing at the end, the only time you sense pure joy from him). And of course, the Use of Story. Everyone tells a story in this book. Either that or recite poetry. Beautiful

There was however, some rough spots, for all its beauty. For instance, the timelessness of the book: sometimes our own reality intruded on it: for instance, the butterfly singing “Won’t you come home, Bill Bailey” (and I thought that was a movie insert. But no, it’s right there in the book) Or even more blatant, when a woodthief says to them, “Come to the fire and tell us your tale. How do they speak of me in your country? What have you heard of dashing Captain Cully and his band of freeman? Have a taco.

Huh?

Don’t get me wrong, I do love the goofiness of it. I can almost see Beagle giggling as he wrote it. And it does give the book a sense of timelessness. However, it still jolted me out of the story sometimes. There are also times when it feels like the fourth wall is about to be breached, such as Schmenderick saying a lot, “we are in a story. This is not how the story ends,” etc.

There are some slow parts to the book too. For instance, when Prince Lir woos the transformed unicorn, the story slams to a halt. Breathing space from all the action, perhaps, but it also gives Lir lots of time to compose lots of poetry. Heros may be good for killing dragons and wooing maidens, but they ain’t good at composing poetry. (And speaking of which, there’s a lot of poetry in this book, including a hilarious one sung by a blue jay that I swear is a parody of the song “These are a few of my favorite things).

Still, despite that, the story is magical. You can’t help but get pulled in, when the Red Bull chases the unicorn, when King Haggard face lights up when he sees his captured unicorns, as Lir and the transformed unicorn grow in love, and you’re woven right into the beauty and ugliness of it…and even the ugliness is transformed. My favorite character, though I don’t mention her much, is Molly Grue. When you first meet her, she’s heartless, cold, mocking. But one sight at the unicorn and her heart melts, she becomes more caring, more sensitive. She literally grew, so to speak. And at the end of the book, as she and Schmenderick rides off together, she laughs, shaking her head until “her hair came down, and she was more beautiful than the Lady Amalthea.”

And if that’s not a happy ending, I don’t know what is.

I bought this book with the intention of keeping it, and that’s what I’ll do. I’m sure I’ll be reading it over and over, just like I do the Innkeeper’s Song. In fact, I have a feeling that when Daniel is old enough, I will be reading it aloud to him, because it’s that kind of book. I give it 4-1/2 out of five talking cats, and the cat in this book made me suspect what I know about cats all along–they only speak when they feel like it.

Some MWW Author Links

My last ‘official’ post about the Midwest Writer’s Workshop.

A few days ago, I wrote a post on the Writer’s Block about the need for writers to reach out to other writers for support. I thought it would be nice to post some links to some writers I met at the conference. Check them out, won’t you?

Dave Malone: a writer who is trying out a screenplay for Sundance. Has done some poetry.

Melda Beaty: Put out an anthology called “My Soul to His Spirit: Soulful Expressions from Black Daughters to their Fathers”. She’s looking to get it down as a stage play.

Rita Woods: has one book published and is working on a speculative novel that deals with
alternate worlds during slavery times.

Nickole Brown: Speaker at the conference who spoke about smaller literary publishing houses. Helped me to understand writing in dialect and literary vs. lyrical writing. She has written poetry and short stories, and has Sister: a novel in poems, coming out this fall.

Heather Sellers: Speaker who really helped me to nail down “show vs. tell”. Has a couple of writing books out, some poetry, and will be coming out with her memoir on face blindness (very interesting condition. She explains it on her website).

Dr. Dennis E. Hensley: Has written a bunch of books and articles, Christian and otherwise. He also co-writes mystery romances under the name Leslie Holden. Really helped me to wrap my mind around the whole literary genre.

Crescent Dragonwagon: Taught the Fearless Writing workshop and helped me to learn about tone through some writing exercises. She has a vegetarian cookbook out as well as several children books.

Thank you, everyone listed above and everyone who participated in the Midwest Writer’s Workshop. It was a lot of fun! If you’re a writer and live around Indiana (or even if you don’t), I urge you to check this workshop out. It was a great learning experience and I really got a lot out of it.

And if you can’t make that one, then try to make the Midwest Literary Festival in Aurora. Ah, yes, that’s coming up in October! I better get ready.