Contented Reader

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I Am a Magical Teenage Princess

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I Am a Magical Teenage Princess

Luke Geddes

Chômu Press

So, let me tell you about Books by the Banks.  Books by the Banks is Cincinnati’s annual literary festival.  I don’t know whether it’s similar to, or different from, other cities’ book festivals, because I’ve never been to one in another city.  But in Cincinnati, what happens is, there’s a large room.  The room is full of tables.  At each table sits an author, surrounded by piles of his or her books.  Visitors can walk around the room, meet and talk with the authors, pick up books, ask for autographs, and buy them.  There’s also a program of demonstrations, talks, and panel discussions.

Fun, right?

I went for the first time this year, and I found the author room to be intensely awkward.  Normally, I love a large room full of piles of books, but at each table was the person who wrote that book, trying hard not to look like a puppy at the shelter.  “Oh, please take me home.  I promise to love you so much.”  Most of the authors played it cool, but I still felt awkward.  How can I pick up a book to look at, knowing that the author will be watching me put it down and walk away?  I love writers.  I don’t read every book, but I don’t want to reject them on a personal level, right in front of their sad writerly faces.

I’m sure other people think this is all very normal and not at all awkward.  Maybe, if I go back for a few years, I’ll get used to it.

And anyway, for various reasons, I actually had very little spare money, so while I was visiting to look at things and listen to things, I wasn’t going to buy books unless I found something I was certain in advance I would love.

The panel discussions were less awkward.  I can sit in a conference-room chair and listen to things like a pro.  One of the sessions I went to was the rather vaguely titled “Beyond Bestsellers:New and Notable Fiction.”  It was a panel of David Bell, Luke Geddes, Katherine Howe, and Nancy Jensen, and Katherine Howe was the one I went to hear.  I’d never heard of any of the other three.

While I was there, I developed a tiny crush on Luke Geddes.  He’s a PhD student at the University of Cincinnati, where I got my MA and my girlfriend got her PhD, so it’s almost like we’re friends, right?  I just liked him, personally.  He was thoughtful, nerdy, amusing, a little awkward.  I assumed that he was gay, but the acknowledgements of the book say that he has a girlfriend, so clearly my gaydar was not functioning correctly that day.  Well, it’s a big complicated world, and there’s room for all kinds of people in it, even straight and bisexual people.

After the panels, I wrote down the title of his book.  I wasn’t going to buy it – just because someone is likeable doesn’t mean they are a good writer, after all – but I put it on my List of Books to Look For One of These Days.  that’s a long list in my little moleskine notebook, but this week I checked the book out from the public library at last.

And now, a month late, I experience the highlight of my Books by the Banks experience, which is the actual reading of a good book.

It’s a collection of short stories.  They have a surreal, magical quality that reminded me a lot of Kelly Link’s writing style, but funnier.  They’re influenced, as the title indicates, by ideas about teenage girls and pop culture.  The first story, “Surfer Girl,” started me off feeling deeply skeptical about Geddes as a man writing from a girl’s point of view, and I was telling myself that I’d take it back to the library if I didn’t like the way he was doing it.  But by the time I got to the lesbian romp of “Betty and Veronica” (yes, it’s that Betty and Veronica), I was sold.  My absolute favorite story in the book, the one that is the reason I’m going to buy it, is the last story, “And I Would Have Gotten Away With It If It Wasn’t For You Meddling Kids.”  I’m going to finish up this blog entry by excerpting a little of the beginning of it, and if you get to the end and haven’t gone looking for the rest of the story, well, I guess you’re a very different kind of reader than I am, and I wish you luck with other books.

In 1864 my Navajo ancestors were forcibly relocated from their homeland, Dinetah, and made to walk over three hundred miles to Bosque Redondo in the Pecos River Valley area of New Mexico, where they were held in a glorified internment camp and given access to scarcely enough food and supplies to survive.  Four years later and after many hardships, the white man graciously declared the relocation a “failed experiment” and allowed my ancestors to return home, on foot.

Hundreds died on the way to Bosque Redondo and back, and now, here on the outskirts of Albuquerque – the rough halfway point of the Long Walk of the Navajo – I emerge from the secret cave entrance to the gold mine hidden behind this abandoned amusement park, wondering if it’s my intuition or the spirits of my forebears that warns me of the garish van in the distance crawling along the gravelly road.  Focusing my binoculars as the vehicle nears, I can just make out the words painted on its side: Mystery Machine.

I put on my mask, all bulging eyes, canine teeth and bloodstained fur, but then I change my mind, slip out of costume and back into coveralls.  Better not to pull the spooks right off.  Wouldn’t want to pique their curiosity.


Written by Contented Reader

November 25, 2012 at 10:35 am

Posted in Reviews


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