Friday, September 10, 2010

An essay

For those of you who are guinea pigs for my writing blog, forgive me for the re-post.

Lady Librarian
A true-and-embellished essay on the individuality of reading tastes, and, I suppose, my literary snobbery

"Can I help you?" she asks, her somewhat-protuberant brown eyes ready and interested.
"Well, I just read the Twilight series--"
"OOHHH." She stops me with her huge-gust-of-air one-word disapproval, only a finger's width away from rolling her eyes.
I'm taken aback, but only a little. I recover quickly. "Oh. You didn't like it?"
She shifts her weight from one leg to the other and says with barely-concealed disgust, "If you like it, I won't talk about it."
Somewhere in her mouth is one heck of a snicker waiting to come out, and somewhere in mine is a biting insult.
But I plunge ahead with calculated enthusiasm: "Well, I loved it. To death."
I note with relish how she has to fight to appear objective.
I continue. "I'm thinking that I'm ready to try some sci-fi or maybe fantasy. It's a genre I really haven't explored at all, yet."
At this, she lights up. She's probably thrilled to offer what she considers real literature. I'm wondering what she'll recommend. But before she can come to my rescue with a recommendation that will surely show me what a terrible series Twilight is and oh-my-how-could-you-like-it, the male librarian to her left says,
"Oh! I could give you some great recommendations. Do you know of Ray Bradbury? Or Isaac Asimov, maybe?" I do. I'm thinking this guy knows what he's talking about, because the one short story I read from each of his recommended authors was genius, absolute genius.
I'm wondering, now, what Lady Librarian has to offer that could possibly sound smarter than this.
She looks at the male librarian and says with some secret joke in her voice, "Oh, I don't know about that for her, do you? I mean...."
She trails off, leaving me to wonder if she thinks I'm stupid. Or worse, that I'm into bad romance. I'm wondering, now, if she's going to offer some bodice-ripping pulsing-member heaving-bosom steamy-affair Harlequin novel. She continues looking at him as if he's stolen her Magic Book Recommendation Wand and turns to me to say, "Well. You might like those, I guess [snide look in his direction, which he cheerfully ignores], but I would recommend The Name of the Wind." She says it like the name is ice cream in her mouth. As if she has distinct memories of quietly reading it, sighing, while her mate [does she have one?] snores beside her, while she is delighting in forbidden fantasy.
But I'm old-hat at tact, so I say, "Oh! That's an intriguing title." And she says with her big eyes and happy face and maybe some sweat on her upper lip, "It's amazing. It'll blow Twilight out of the water." Then, because I'm really nettled by her trying to one-up my book tastes, I ask, "Um....did you read the Twilight series?"

And I know I've got her.

Her face is a combination of snoot, snot, and snide. She says, "Well. You know. I just. I haven't read it but I started but if you like it I'm not going to say anything but it's just not for me--" and she can't shut up, she's trying so hard to back-track. It's a wonder she didn't fall over.

So I smile sweetly and say, "Well. Yes. Reading tastes are so individual, aren't they?" And I let the male librarian lead me to Bradbury and other noted sci-fi geniuses. The Name of the Wind is in stock two days later, and I go to pick it up. I'm hoping that it's ridiculous, just so I can laugh at her reading tastes the way she laughed at mine. (Because as kind as I can be, unfortunately I also relish a little viciousness now and then.) I open the inside cover and begin to read:
My name is Kvothe, pronounced nearly the same as "quothe." Give it a chance, I tell my snickering self. Names are important as they tell you a great deal about a person. I've had more names than anyone has a right to. The Adem call me Maedre. Which, depending on how it's spoken, can mean The Flame, The Thunder, or The Broken Tree.

"The Flame" is obvious if you've ever seen me. I have red hair, bright. If I had been born a couple of hundred years ago I would probably have been burned as a demon. Oooooo, a demon. I keep it short but it's unruly. When left to its own devices, it sticks up and makes me look as if I have been set afire. Oh, vomit. A hero with untidy hair. So original. (Although at this point I find myself guiltily thinking of Edward's untidy hair. But his is untidy because he's a vampire, and busy sucking blood and so forth. It makes sense.)

"The Thunder" I attribute to a strong baritone and a great deal of stage training at an early age. Really? Sure it's not something else?...
My first mentor called me E'lir because I was clever and I knew it. My first real lover called me Dulator because she liked the sound of it. Now I'm REALLY going to be sick, but I'm laughing too hard to vomit just yet. I have been called Shadicar, Lightfinger, and Six-String. I have been called Kvothe the Bloodless, Kvothe the Arcane, and Kvothe Kingkiller. I have earned those names. Bought and paid for them.

But I was brought up as Kvothe. My father once told me it meant "to know."

I have, of course, been called many other things. Most of them uncouth, although very few were unearned.

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. Oooo. Is that supposed to be sexy? I can imagine Lady Librarian breathing fast when she reads about you, and THAT is not sexy. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in...Of course you were, 'cause that's cool, right?...I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women [gag], and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me...and here I'm thinking of all the Simpson episodes with "I'm Troy McLure! You may remember me from such films as...."

So begins the tale of Kvothe—from his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan...By now, I'm in a near-paroxysm of laughter. I can hardly breathe and I actually call my older sister to read aloud, while she is also losing a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. In these pages you will come to know Kvothe as a notorious magician, an accomplished thief, a masterful musician, and an infamous assassin. But The Name of the Wind is so much more—for the story it tells reveals the truth behind Kvothe's legend.

After calming down and quieting my jeering thoughts towards the librarian who recommended such hilarity, I wonder about my own desire to write a book, and then feel sheepish that I would dare to critique an author, just because the writing isn't to my taste and is pretentious and contrived. I think, "But what if my first book makes someone laugh this hard, and this cruelly? What if my first book is seen as pretentious and contrived to some discerning reader?"

And then I stop feeling guilty and feel smug that the librarian who poo-poo'd my reading choices recommended something that is, in my opinion, many levels below what I consider quality reading. And Twilight's not even my most favorite. I wonder if the librarian flaunts the same opinion about Harry Potter. If she does, I'll have to kick her in the shins and run away, concluding that she is woefully misdirected and should not work in a library.

But because I realize I have the potential to write horrible drivel, too, and because, as I said to assuage the Lady Librarian's awkwardness, reading tastes are so individual, I decide to drive back to the library and passively deposit The Name of the Wind in the drop box. I don't need to rub it in her face that I'm returning it only ten minutes after perusing its pages. The inside cover of that book was embarassment enough.


Lara said...

Love this.

I'm with you on the literary snobbery. Of course, I didn't like Twilight, which probably makes me snobby enough. But it was mainly because romance, and let's be honest, Twilight is just as much in the romance genre as it is fantasy, is not my thing. I hate pretty much every romance novel I've ever read. :)

But I would have wanted to punch that librarian anyway. What does she have to complain about? If someone wants to READ, she should be ecstatic! No matter what it is.

Kelly said...

haha! I love the way you think. :D

Qait said...

I'll be honest, it's hard to think straight when so,eone says they like twilight. I just think it's so stupid. But I read them-- I actually devoured them, in spite of myself, with a mixed feeling of disgust and curiosity. And I like that you like those books (which may seem weird, but it makes sense to me)(just because I do understand the ways twilight holds intrigue for its readers). And I did like The Host even though it sort of reminded me of stuff I wrote when I was thirteen.
Phewf! To the point, bad librarian. And what a barfalicious recommendation!

*this may have come out weird; I'm typing one-handed, and it's driving me nuts.