Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Anna Sheehan

Anna Sheehan is the author of A Long, Long Sleep, released August 9th.

Her reply to my recent query about what she has been reading:
When I was asked this question, I realized I do an awful lot of rereading. My favorite stories are comfortable as old shoes, for one. For another, as I read and reread I learn different aspects of storytelling, focusing on different tricks of the trade. I just finished Diana Wynne Jones’ The Lives of Christopher Chant for the umpteenth time. Is there any superhero more cool or more exciting than the nine-lived enchanter, Chrestomanci? (Except maybe Doctor Who.)

In keeping abreast with my own genre, I’m currently reading Tamora Pierce’s Trickster’s Queen. I’m about a third of the way through it, which surprises me, as I usually read much faster than this. I often love stories from Tamora Pierce – her execution has always been brilliant – but sometimes I find myself discouraged by the topic she has chosen to explore. I loved the Song of the Lioness Quartet, enjoyed The Immortals and was fond of The Protector of the Small. I actively hated The Circle of Magic sequence, which seemed to me to be another in the Harry Potter style – disobey everyone who tries to keep you safe, put yourself in dangerous situations, and the adults will all realize how clever you are and reward you accordingly. As a mother I hate that concept. When I was a young, I was offended by it. It seemed to say that if you listened to your parents or your teachers that you weren’t living up to your potential, when the opposite is usually the case. I was on the whole a good girl, and I would see all my friends disobeying their elders and getting into all kinds of trouble – like drugs and pregnancies. In the case of Trickster’s Queen I’m having a hard time keeping track of the characters, and the political intrigue seems interminable. Not to mention the sheer number of tricks the protagonist has up her sleeve – magic and darkings and gods on her side. The protagonist’s win seems inevitable, and I have no fear that she might not succeed. That’s probably why I’m only dipping into it now and again, swallowing only a few pages at a time. Shame really, because Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet was one of the reasons I wanted to become a writer in the first place, more than a decade ago.

In my bathroom, consistently looked at again and again, is The Great Wave: Price Fluxuations and the Rhythm of History. I recommend this book to everybody. It seems thick and unwieldy, but more than half the book is appendixes and proofs. This details the rise and fall of economies for nearly a thousand years, and shows that our current financial meltdown is nothing new. I find myself desperately scanning this book to remind myself of where we and our economy is. This has happened before, it will happen again, and when we get through it, we can expect a golden age of stability. Let's just hope we manage without a resurgence of the Black Plague this time.

My daughter has just turned seven, and in our nightly readings I am exposing her to a classic from my own childhood – Tove Jansson’s Finn Family Moomintroll. I loved the Moomintroll books myself as a child, and it has resonated through my adult life. I believe my affection for my battered leather Aussie hat to stem from wild and untamable Snufkin’s beloved old green hat, which he would never part with. My daughter has already become enamored with the indomitable Moomintroll and the dainty young Snork Maiden, sniveling little Sniff and the unflappable Moominmama, and the gloomy, discontented Hemulen. Like A.A. Milne, the Moomintroll books are filled with iconic small beasts. But as they were translated from the Finnish, there’s a certain exotic flavor to the stories that other children’s books lack. Many of the Moomintroll stories are not even really children’s stories. The tale of The Fillyjonk Who Believed in Disasters, for example, is most assuredly not a story either for or about children, though they may well enjoy it. For adults, however, the irrational fear of an uncontrollable event, finally culminating in acceptance and even giddy delight as the weight of years is melted away, is a tale that offers many levels of personal enlightenment. I’ve been waiting for my daughter to be old enough to follow these stories, and I’m delighted now that she is. I’ve been looking forward to reading them again!

The thing I am reading – or at least listening to – most at the moment is Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. To my joy and amazement I was granted the role of Puck at my local community theater. We’re using puppets for the faeries, and the whole thing is a madcap romp. Shakespeare of course holds the seeds of everything, and so even though I’ve read the play a dozen times before, and by now have almost the whole thing memorized, I still find myself laughing every evening. I cannot understand the people who say, "I don’t understand Shakespeare." The only reason I can think of for this is that we are no longer used to understanding the structure of poetry. Shakespeare does not use overly difficult words, and his plays are high-concept – something made famous by the high mucky-mucks of that elite and intellectually exclusive company "Disney". The concept of each and every Shakespeare play is easy to absorb. There are things that the uneducated might not catch – the difference in social-tenses or the different meter of the different characters – but on the whole, Shakespeare is easy. It was written for the masses, after all. So why find it hard to understand? I think people just assume it to be boring and inaccessible, and create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Just know that a few concepts will be described backwards, and on the whole, the Bard is pretty easy to swallow.
Visit Anna Sheehan's website and Amazon and Facebook pages.

--Marshal Zeringue