Monday, February 21, 2011

"I close my eyes and I see/Blood and roses."

The Song: "Blood & Roses," The Smithereens. Words & music by Pat DiNizio. Track 9 of Especially for You, 1986.
When/how acquired: Gift cassette, c. 1987.
Listen/watch here.

Saturday I went to Boston for a day at Boskone 48, the annual gathering of the New England Science Fiction Association. It's a world I don't know much about, but I was interested in the program — particularly the chance to see and hear Jane Yolen, who wrote so many of the favorite stories of my childhood.

Here is a fundamental truth I think I've discussed before. It is not possible to have thoughts we don't have words for. It is possible to have feelings beyond our ability to describe. But when we can't name our feelings or find words to discuss them, we tend to do things about them, and sometimes that wreaks havoc.

Which is why fairy tales, in particular, are so important for children. Fairy tales riff on children's deepest fears and frustrations: our parents don't love us, can't feed us, secretly want to kill us. Our mother will die, and be replaced by someone our father loves better. The unknown forests hide monsters. Siblings are better-loved than we are, are responsibilities we can't handle, and/or also secretly want to kill us. The world is full of mysteries that might reward us if only we can figure out the tricks to unlocking them.

Children might not be able to articulate any of this, but look to the old stories for solutions and affirmation. My personal favorite: "Hansel and Gretel," which encapsulated every one of my deepest fears, and all my understanding of my responsibility to/for my twin sister. Of Jane Yolen's stories, the one that hit me hardest, and stays with me, is "The Girl Who Cried Flowers."

Jane Yolen read from her forthcoming novel Snow in Summer, a retelling of the Snow White story set in West Virginia. I think it'll be marketed to young adults, but Jane Yolen, like all great writers, never writes up or down to her readers. She just tells the stories she wants to tell. The chapters Ms. Yolen read were beautiful and gripping, and I do have the words to say that I'm impatient for November, when the rest of the book will be available.

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