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27 September 2011 @ 07:21 pm
#24, #25  
Tam Lin, Pamela Dean

I liked a YA book and the world didn't end!

Of course, this may be mitigated by the fact that I'm not sure this was intended to be a YA book. Also, I had plenty of issues with it and the main one was that I wished there had been no magic in it. And yet! Enjoyment was had! I am shocked, I tell you, shocked.

Janet is attending a 'small midwestern liberal arts college' in the seventies. This is the part of the book I just loved and the one I feel should have been the sole and only focus. As Dean herself commented, I did indeed feel wistful. Going to college to read books and talk about them seems to me life's highest delight, and I still regret not doing it myself. (I am the Molly in this equation.) It was lovely to read about Janet's classes and her thoughts on books and the plays she attended interspersed with the careful descriptions of what I assumed was a real place - it was based on one - and the curios of a bygone generation. Calling someone's hallway and leaving messages, indeed! I wonder what college libraries looked like when there were no computers, and what writing papers was like without google.

However, the point is that Janet and her classmates are re-enacting the events of the poem 'Tam Lin', which was helpfully provided at the back of the book. Reading, I formed the impression that the narrative got away from Dean a little - she clearly started out writing a modern retelling and then got overtaken by the modern and forgot the retelling for half the book. That didn't bother me; it was all so interesting and original - at least until she tried to dovetail the myths and magic into it, at which point it grew clumsy.

I'm still not able to link the pregnant ghosts, Shakespeare's players and the ballad of Tam Lin in any sensible fashion. I mean, I get each element individually and I think each one would make for its own, great story. It's when they're all mixed up that they fall apart. Dean clearly had a lot of ideas and was in a rush to get them out there in case, I don't know, she never wrote another book? I felt it took away from the general creepy mystique surrounding Medeous that she was Queen of Elfland instead of just a cutthroat administrator. The notion that the Queen of Elfland flitted back and forth between Elfland and Blackstock College was also rather ludicrious. And then you have the atheistic Janet in a story about paying a teind to Hell? Okay. There's a way this could have been done, like making Hell another university and the teind some kind of hazing or sporting or even literary ritual. None of it needed to be as literal as it was. It's a shame that Dean didn't follow through her originality to the end.

Her mother had taken Lily's Girl Scout troop canoeing on the river, and they had all been very grumpy about being made to work, believing, like all children of their generation, that all transportation was
equipped with engines.

HA! What would they have thought of the children of the eighties, I wonder.

It was her personal conviction that anybody could be taught to read a poem usefully but that some people could not be taught mathematics no matter how you went about it.

Mine too!

Rumble on the Bayou, Jana DeLeon

This book has a cute title and a cute opener: Deputy Sheriff Dorie Berenger is called to a drunken woman's house because she's got an alligator in her pool. The alligator is high on smuggled heroin, hence the swimming. The town of Gator Bait is tiny and has no problem with drugs, aside from the occasional pot-smoker. The DEA from Washington becomes involved in the shape of a handsome FBI agent called Richard Starke. (Sadly he never said 'Winter is coming', but it would have been excellent if he had.) All proceeds in a truly predictable fashion. I didn't mind how obvious the outcome was, but the sex scenes were mediocre at best - why do people bother when they're just not good at it? - and I really couldn't get behind a heroine who was 'well-endowed' breastically yet never wore bras. SENSE NOT MADE, THAT SHIT WOULD HURT. Not to mention that Dorie was a classic failbot, all feisty and mouthy about going into dangerous situations when warned not to and then having to be rescued. I knew characters like that existed, I've read the tropes and discussions about shows that feature them, but I've never actually come across one first hand before. It was ... unpleasant.

Additionally, I don't like mysteries or crime, so how I ended up even buying this book still mystifies me. Probably the cute title and the junkie alligator. If even I can solve the mystery before the characters, it's in a bad way. It all brought back (bad) memories of learning about crocodiles and sharks in Australia and how you shouldn't swim in certain areas and what to do if you saw one, and how I wished someone would take a machete-bomb to every human-eating creature alive and wipe them from the face of the planet. Ergo, I'm not exactly the audience for a book whose second message was the preservation of carnivorous wildlife.
Current Music: testament to youth in verse // new pornographers
Jain: domestic dragonjain on September 27th, 2011 07:57 pm (UTC)
While Tam Lin's set in the '70s, it was published in 1991 and marketed as adult fiction, so you still haven't enjoyed a YA book. :-)

I remember really loving the book when I read it, what, a decade and a half ago? I sort of want to reread it, and sort of want to avoid doing so in case it doesn't live up to my memories.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on September 27th, 2011 08:01 pm (UTC)
LOL!!! How did I miss that, or rather, pick up the idea that it was published back then?! Still, god, 1991 is TWENTY YEARS AGO. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN. I'd better edit my post.

I know the feeling! Yet Anne of Green Gables hasn't let me down yet. :D
Blindmouse: Alice readingblindmouse on September 28th, 2011 08:19 am (UTC)
None of it needed to be as literal as it was.

That exactly, yes!

But the college stuff was completely delightful.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: jillicons: blue star handsscoradh on September 29th, 2011 10:34 pm (UTC)
I really want to write Tam Lin now as two companies in say, London. Hellion Software and Carter House Publishing maybe. They share the same building. Hellion Software is run by this awesome woman ... Elvelyn. :P She's trying to poach a closer or something called Tom from Carter House. I mean I'd have to think more about what the companies are and why they'd be stealing employees off each other but that's easy enough. I like stories that twist things and continue to twist them without resorting to the easy magic handwave option.
Blindmouseblindmouse on September 30th, 2011 02:30 am (UTC)
I would like to see the magic retained, because that's how I'm wired, but, yeah, in a less literal way. Magic that works with corporate poaching/corporate espionage, say, not the ballad magic shoehorned into a modern setting in which it makes no sense.

But a completely nonmagical version of the ballad would also be awesome. You should think some more about it *g*
oopsoddishly on September 28th, 2011 10:09 am (UTC)
This is the part of the book I just loved and the one I feel should have been the sole and only focus.

every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Fooish: yellow doughnutscoradh on September 29th, 2011 10:35 pm (UTC)

Hi. :D
a kid on the lookout for transcendenceextemporally on September 28th, 2011 12:26 pm (UTC)
yes yes yes! i found the premise of tam lin (they're magical beings who are also at college) kind of ludicrous...
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Discworld: Mobscoradh on September 29th, 2011 10:36 pm (UTC)
It's basically Twilight. I'm sorry, but it is. The concept, at least. Magical powerful beings ... I'd be on a fucking yacht, dude.