Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Tolkienesque Man and His Amnesia Card


I met a lot of interesting characters during my two years working at a book store. I have countless anecdotes about favourite customers (my staff picks had a bit of a following in Ottawa), not-so-favourite customers (like the man who threw his change in my face and called me useless) but one customer in particular sticks out in my mind.

He was probably in his late sixties, early seventies. He wore tweed with elbow patches and was stirringly reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien, so naturally, I loved him. I could find myself in hour-long discussions with him in the History & Political Science section, neglecting my duties but thoroughly enjoying talking with him. I don't even know his name, but to this day I consider him to be a favourite person of mine.

One day when I was working as a cashier up front, he came to my check out with a massive pile of books and an even bigger smile on his face. We talked books for a bit and then when I had no choice but to start closing the transaction, he opened his wallet and out fell a business card that I couldn't help but notice.

"What's that?" I rudely asked the gentleman.

"Oh, this is my amnesia card!" he told me excitedly, handing over the small card. On it was a printed paragraph that read:

In the event that I suffer from memory loss or amnesia, 
please refer to the list below for the books I wish to re read immediately:
-The collected works of Tolkien
-Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes 
-War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

He had a few more listed, but sadly I forget the rest. I was too giddy to see Tolkien on the list. But still, I looked up at him, a bit puzzled. 

"Those are the books that I desperately wish I could read again, as though it were my first time," he told me. The card itself was a bit beaten up, rough around the edges.

"How long have you been carrying this?" I asked him, in awe of his brilliant idea.

"The card has gone through several incarnations, but I made the first one about five minutes after finished The Return of the King in 1960," he smiled. We chatted for a few more moments before he departed. I moved to a new province shortly after, and I still haven't forgotten about his amnesia card.

Isn't that a beautiful idea? Some books leave me with that feeling. I wish I could erase all knowledge of the characters/setting/plot and just relive the magic for the first time again. But what books would I include on my amnesia card? Here's my list:

-Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone 
(well the whole series, obviously) by J. K. Rowling
-The Road by Cormac McCarthy
-Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
-A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
-The collected works of Tolkien
-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
-Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges
-Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
-Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
-Emily of New Moon by Lucy Maud Montgomery

So readers, what books would I find on your "amnesia cards?"

Friday, 8 March 2013

Stalking in YA: Why This Isn't Romantic

So myself and my lovely friend Katie were discussing YA boyfriends yesterday, and how we're sick of the typical trope they usually represent. 

Yes, I'm talking about the possessive, controlling and stalker-y boyfriends who often get labelled as "bad boys" so they're easier to swoon over. The best (and only) example I will give to you is... and this shouldn't surprise anyone... Edward Cullen

Check out those eyes, they're the ones that will watch you sleep at night! The reason I am only mentioning Edward Cullen (and I mention him because I can't hurt Stephanie Meyer's sales and he's been discussed to death anyway) is that I don't think it's my job to publicly "out" the other restraining-order worthy YA boyfriends. You all know they exist. They cut car cables to keep you from seeing other people, they pin you down forcefully to exert dominance, they muse about how they could kill you in an instant if they wanted to. 

And boy do readers SWOON over these potential psychopaths. Now let me be clear. I am not insulting the readers of YA. If you think Edward Cullen is the perfect example of chivalry, that's fine, you're allowed. The potential dangers behind characters such as Mr. Cullen to perceptive and impressionable young girls is not my topic to discuss. Seriously, there are about ten thousand articles out there about that very subject. This blog post is more of a lighthearted look at why I'm 100% over the stalking-is-romantic-because-it-means-he-cares plot device in YA. 

So to make this potentially unending post a bit more concise, here's a list:


1. They are not the "bad boys" we'd like to think they are

Seriously, "bad boys" exist, and they come swooping in on motorcycles and have the boy version of daddy issues. Think Jess Mariano from Gilmore Girls. They are bad at expressing their emotions so they come off as mean. But they can be healed, so to speak. Reformed bad boys are so much sexier than the near-criminal YA "bad boys."

2. They are not honest

Have you ever met a sixteen year old boy? Anyone who has been through high school can tell you that teenage boys (and girls!) are awkward. They're at an age of uncertainty. An age of questioning. An age where the mere thought of aggressively pursuing the mysterious new girl at school should send them into a sweaty fit of nerves. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but keep your weird possessive boyfriends out of high school!

3. They are not appealing

Okay full disclosure: I had a slew of clingy boyfriends in high school and I hated them all. Okay, I didn't hate them but I sure didn't keep them around for very long. So what I'm saying is when I was a sixteen year old girl, I was turned OFF by clingy, possessive and obsessive behaviour. I wasn't keen on keeping those guys around. So why is Bella so into Edward? Well, my friends, it is a work of fiction.

4. They are, in fact, abusive

I don't need to go into the myriad of reasons why secretly watching someone sleep is not okay. Same goes for casually implying that you could hurt your girlfriend in an instant because you are so strong. Ladies, it is not endearing when a guy ensures that he alone occupies your world. 

5. Good guys, the ones who don't stalk you, are SO MUCH SEXIER

Let's hear it for the good guys, the ones who are partners in healthy relationships. The ones who support their significant others, the ones who help their partners grow. Let's hear it for the guys who have interests/hobbies/passions outside of their girlfriends, and who support their significant other's interests/hobbies/passions. 

So to end this post, let's hear it for my favourite "good" guys in YA: Ron Weasley (Harry Potter), Peeta Mellark (The Hunger Games), Tobias Eaton (Divergent), Augustus Waters (The Fault in Our Stars),  Prince Po (Graceling), Mal Oretsev (Shadow and Bone, I'd consider him a reformed bad boy) and Sean Kendrick (The Scorpio Races). 

So, fair readers of my blog, who are your favourite "Good Guys" in YA?