August 26, 2012

Back to School!

For those who don't know, I've been working full-time for two years. I was lucky enough to get an excellent entry-level job in the publishing field right out of college, and I learned so much about publishing (especially subsidiary rights) while I was there.

Last Tuesday, I quit to go to graduate school.

It's a scary thing, quitting a good job in this economy. My generation (and everyone's, really) has it tough right now. Pretty much the only thing keeping me going is remembering that while I want to be in publishing the rest of my life, my dream job is to be on the other side. The scribbler-of-books side. The pretending-to-be-Jo-March side. And I just wasn't quite getting there at my previous position.

I'll be starting an M.F.A. program in Writing for Children in two weeks, and while I'm thrilled to have this opportunity, I don't know if I remember how to be a student. Things that I'm sure used to come naturally now seem foreign. Notes? What is this 'notes' you speak of? Assigned reading? Haven't they figured out academic osmosis yet?

Sigh... I have two weeks to get my butt in gear, and two years to spend with dozens of people who might love books almost as much as I do. I can't wait. If you're looking for me in the next two years, I'm in the library. Or the bookstore. Or just the couch...with my nose in a book. Shh! Don't disturb unless it's truly dire.

August 10, 2012

The Canon: The Secret Garden

First things first: I read this book on my Kindle! For the first year (plus?) I've had the thing, I really haven't used it, but now that I'm traveling I understand the appeal. Thousands of books at the drop of a hat! Your suitcase doesn't come in overweight! La la la hooray!

In any case the formatting was fine. I could count the number of noticeable typos/formatting errors on one hand, which I consider acceptable. I also got The Secret Garden for free on the Kindle, which may have affected the quality. On to the review!

I LOVE this book. I had no idea. A Little Princess and The Secret Garden have been in my library for forever, but somehow Mary Lennox got the short stick compared to the exceptional goodness of Sara Crewe. My read count for this book is probably in the 5-10 range (compared to 20+ for A Little Princess), but I haven't read it in a while, and I was completely hooked right from the first line:
"When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable child ever seen. It was true, too."
It's perfect, and it sets the tone for the rest of the book. Mary is disagreeable, whiny, and strange, but she's such a compelling character with such an interesting viewpoint. I think this is what makes her more interesting to me than Sara Crewe. Sara is just so GOOD all the time. Mary has some contrariness going for her. (This is not to say that A Little Princess isn't wonderful too. It is. I'll have to write a canon post for that one later.)

My one quibble with the story is Colin. Colin himself is fine, but from the moment he appeared on stage, the story became much more about his getting better and his relationship with his father, and much less about Mary. Mary seemed relegated to the position of "excellent female helpmate on the male's journey to growth and self-acceptance," which is such a shame.

The language is lovely. Mary is great. The moor and the manor and the garden are blustery, creepy, and lush, respectively. This is a classic that is without a doubt deserving of its status.

In case any of you love this book and haven't seen the 1993 adaptation, allow me to recommend it here. There was a set of three films made at roughly the same time, with the same sort of feeling and in some cases the same actors, and they are all great. (These are A Little Princess, Black Beauty, and The Secret Garden, if I recall correctly.) The film is lovely and really captures the feeling of the book. It also balances the Mary-Colin-Archibald relationship much better than it's portrayed in the book. The movie is more obviously framed around Mary and her perspective, which I love. More Mary! Less whiny Colin! (Also, Maggie Smith!)

Anyway, read the book, watch the movie. They are lovely lovely lovely. Both will be on my shelves for ever.