Currently, I am reading The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black. I read her Curse Workers trilogy in 2013 (I think it was 2013 anyway) and really rather enjoyed it; I like her voice, a lot. It’s poetic without ever being flowery or distracting, visceral without being explicit. It’s just good. She writes good.
There’s a Harry Potter reference in it, and it’s the first time I’ve come across a Harry Potter reference in a book that a) wasn’t snarky and self-reflexive and “clever” and b) actually felt like it belonged in the story it was in. This is a story that concerns the Fair Folk, that is wrapped up in fairytales and magic while set in the modern world, that references King Arthur alongside Dr Who, a story about how childhood becomes the memory of childhood, and how that memory can cast a long shadow over us as we grow into adulthood.
The reason that this reference works, for me, is because Harry Potter – Hogwarts, specifically – is referenced not just alongside the knights of the round table, but because it is referenced in the same way: with reverence. It’s not name-dropping; it’s storytelling, myth-weaving – world-building. This story is one about the world we build through the living of our lives, and the thing about Harry Potter is that, to a modern audience, those stories are part of that world for us. They are our mythology. Harry Potter and the Doctor do belong with Arthur and Gawain; children have grown up with all of them as mythic figures, so it makes sense to write of them as such.
I like this reference. I like it because I never would have considered doing it myself, because even though I did grow up with them, I didn’t grow up after them, and I think that’s the crucial difference. This story – full disclosue: I’m only 60-ish pages in – is all about what happens afterwards, what happens after something happens, something that we either weren’t around to witness ourselves or that we understood so little at the time that it may as well have happened before we came into the world. That to me is what mythology is, not just stories of things that came before, but stories that, as stories, came before we were around to hear them, and that when we hear those stories we know that they are older than we are. It is weird to think that Harry Potter is exactly that for people who are alive today, because I grew up with those books when I was young myself. But it makes sense that these stories should be treated as more than just a pop culture reference used to either sound hip or to ironically mock such attempts to seem hip, both of which are obnoxious in different ways. This is genuine. This is originality. Not because nothing like it has been done before, but because it was so obvious and yet hadn’t been done. I appreciate it.
I also renewed it so that I don’t have to force myself to read all of it today and can finish it when I get back from Malaysia. That and The Queen of the Tearling, which I’ve heard mixed things about, along with Emma Watson apparently being attached to a film adaptation (which she is also executive-producing, at least as of July last year). I read the first chapter; it’s nothing amazing, but it is compelling. And it’s even high fantasy, which I kinda swore off after The Killing Moon didn’t really do it for me. I did kind of break that swearing-off earlier this year with God Stalk by P.C. Hodgell – another book I wish I’d reviewed – oh well never mind it’s just books I can read whatever books I want. I finished Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead and am asking myself the hard questions: do I want to buy the whole series? Do I like it enough to make that kind of commitment? If I do buy the whole series, where the hell am I going to put all these new books? Surely I could just clear some space on my bookshelf? Do I need to buy a new bookshelf? Why aren’t I writing my own book?
Speaking of which: my old writing buddy Sam Blood officially launched his novel Shadows yesterday. I will be putting up a review of that when I get the chance to read it – possibly while I’m in Malaysia – but if you want to check it out yourself before that, then that would be cool. The book launch was at the Ponsonby Community Centre, and it was incredibly inspiring. I am so happy for him for realising a dream that he’s had for the last 14 years, and only slightly envious that I haven’t quite gotten there myself.
Therefore, I should really get back to writing my own stuff. I keep having mini-brainwaves for Tallulah, and the latest one is such a game-changer that it’s like nothing I’ve ever thought of before, except for all those other times I had huge game-changing ideas about Tallulah while stuck in a slump unable to think my way out of it, but no seriously guys this time this is it this is the one this time things will be different I’m gonna make a change for one in my life it’s gonna feel real good gonna make a difference
… yes anyway, back to reading, writing and trying to decide whether to let myself freak out so that I get it out of the way nice and early, or repress everything until I’m actually about to fly out and risk maybe missing my flight on purpose. It’s fun, living in the real world.