8 November 2016

Friends: A Review of All The Birds In The Sky, Charlie Jane Anders

Operatic singing meanders down the staircase from my child's room as he negotiates his world through lego, all while the hubby smugly slumbers. As the house dances with the rhythms of Tuesday morning, my thoughts slip to friendship. My particular slant to friend bonding is a response to the giggles; if you can follow my joke, and even better, best it, I am yours. While I accumulate new peeps, and meander out of the lives of others, only a few have ever been like-minded readers. Not that someone I adore must shine their geek light as brightly as I, but it is rather odd that my overarching passion for SF books has always been a solo pursuit. 

Always is so defiant in it's absoluteness that as I finish All The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, I realize that my proclivity to fantastical tales is thanks in large part to a teacher friend. The life of an ELS instructor is an odd bag of crazy; the love affair with the place fluctuates from intensely hateful to achingly glorious. Self-perceived as the outsider, colleagues become fast friends, even family within weeks of meeting. Hence my clandestine friendship with a punk-ass girl from Portland, who brought the fun to a small, Japanese rice-village but a wide appreciation for American surrealistic lit. 

Remarkably there was a time that I had not read Katherine Dunn's Geek Love, John Kennedy Toole's posthumous delight,  A Confederacy of Dunces, or the poetic compactness of Lewis Nordan's, Lightening Song. Transecting my life for less than a year, this friend directed me down a path of reading that honed my appreciation of novels like All The Birds In The Sky.

Informed she is a witch at a young age, Patricia progresses through the humiliations of teenage-hood despairing in her inability to unlock her full potential. Was that night she was lost in the woods talking to the birds real, or was it her imagination trying to escape her tragic childhood? Lawrence in the meantime lives a life of constant degradation, the classic nerd, he is bullied relentlessly, eventually creating a portable time machine that pushes him into the future by 2 seconds. The small victory of avoiding the moment the egg was too spatter provides his only respite. Reluctant friends, Patricia and Lawrence move through their high school days trying to salvage some dignity from the vitriol that is slung their way. 

The harbinger of the apocalypse, All The Birds In The Sky masquerades as a coming of age story. Patricia and Lawrence shall bring forth the end of days and so they most die. Charlie Jane Anders has the talented ability to weave words into a tapestry of images. This novel ensnarled me, reluctantly unfolding, inspiring my imagination, even questioning my perceptions, all the while firmly entertaining me. It should be rightly shelved with all the fantastically mundane American lit that I have come to love. There is something quite satisfying reading a novel that puts the reader slightly on edge, slightly unhinged as the story begins to reveal itself. All The Birds In The Sky dystopian message is akin to Margaret Atwood's deeply disturbing MaddAddam trilogy, simply offered in a softer package.

23 October 2016

Return to Magic: A Review of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

The house is quiet. The son and hubby have vacated to hockey school, leaving me with a 20 pound turkey in the oven, a cup of honey-sweetened coffee and level of contentment only comprehended by a parent who is home alone. The 20 pound bird have you frozen in thought, late for Canadian, too early for American Thanksgiving? There is little point of having turkey without the leftovers, thus the roasting of the bird while I sit in my writing chair, looking out onto a perfect fallish day, feeling less saddened.

As I move along the mourning path, I realize my journey is a transformation. While the essence of me remains, my life will forever progress without the consistency that was my father. Somewhat adrift, the childhood shores of my past are no longer an isthmus of my present but an island of happiness. As friends who have wandered this winding track have forewarned me, you never really heal but life propels you down new avenues, leading to new joys. This past week I actively sought out the sun, revelling in my family moments, enjoying the hilarity that is us three. 


This girl's happiness stems around a few core items; park benches, leaves on trees, a funny hubby and books. Cramming my loaned copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child into my purse on Friday was the clearest indicator that my world was returning to it's normal levels of weirdness. What grown woman actively arranges her day around  a hard cover book?  While I may have the glorious bragging rights of being a representative of the generation of kids that Strange Things actively attempts to capture through film, my Harry Potter fandom is through the guise of adulthood. Early in my 30s, entrenched in my oversees teaching adventures, I consumed the first three of the series while navigating the windy streets of Istanbul. My copies over the years have slowly been replaced to a lovely bound set that now sits on the bookshelf, waiting for that moment when the little boy in this house begins his magical adventure.


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a Jack Thorne screenplay; as such, it is slightly removed from the core 7, all the while maintaining the essence of J.K. Rowling's incredible vision. Clearly blessed by the author, the story advances the lives of the heroes into adulthood and all it's trepidatious meanderings that comes with parenthood. We are introduced to Albus Severus Potter, middle child of Harry and Ginny, troubled tween, reluctant to navigate the future that seems so clearly laid out for him, who finds solace with his only friend. Their adventures takes us down the winding, dark paths that we come to expect with the Harry Potter universe. 

Because Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a script, I was torn as a reader, spending half my time envisioning the play, the other living in a illusionary world. I was not able to rectify the story as a play, wanting Rowling's jovial, abundant words to expand the dialogue into a techno-coloured extravaganza of imagery. Even though my wants were purely a reflection of a reader's desire to sink into a good book, the script still easily sucked me down into Pottermore. I am fan, and thus the target buyer for this play bound book hence leaving me with a slight tinge of regret. 


As a play, Harry Potter and Cursed Child is alive. An offering of delights for the theatre, somewhat childish and predictable but still a must to see. Having now read the script, I have burst that theatrical bubble. The play when it most certainly will sweep through North America will offer less a thrill for me, because I have unveiled it's plot secrets and secured my own perceptions on it's design. Sometimes, a play should just be a play, perfect in it's purpose, not masquerading as a book, unwilling to compromise, keeping the Potter fans queued outside the theatre, and not as it has happened, the bookstore.