Grapefruits Need Pruning and Blogs Need Naming

Now here is a book I’m sure you’ll really enjoy. It is called Seven Ways to Prune a GrapefruitIt’s a collection of poetry by one of (if not the) most delightful minds I have had the pleasure of knowing. Dr. Johnny Wink is a professor of English and Latin, a perpetual student of his wife’s Advanced Grammar class, and a real nice guy, to boot. He has been writing poems “for the sheer fun of it” many a year, now, and it’s high time his words were put back into print.

I encourage you to read this article to get an even stronger idea of the whimsical nature of Johnny Wink and the affection he inspires in all who come across him.

Then I encourage you to pre-order his book here, at the publisher’s website. They will only print as many books as they have orders for, and will be taking orders until August 19th. Unsettling Wonder is a British publisher, so it will ship from overseas if you are from North America. The total comes to £17.99, or approximately $28USD, and I have every confidence that it will be well worth it.

I was lucky enough to have Johnny Wink as a professor, mentor, and friend during my time at university. It makes my heart swell with gladness to know that now virtually anyone can be moved to giggles by his wit.

Johnny Wink was, in a way, the inspiration for the title of this very blog. Erin had asked me what we should name our joint endeavor, and I was at the time enrolled in the Charles Dickens course taught by Dr. Wink. It was a very small class, with only seven students—and all of us female. Being a small group, we were able to spend quite a bit of time bringing up our favorite quotations from our reading and having a good laugh (Dickens really is quite the chap for humor, in case you had gotten the impression he was all stuffy and didactic). One such session brought up this very quote from The Pickwick Papers (or its full title, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club), which turned out to be my favorite Dickens novel.

“Rum creeters is women” was such an unusual phrase; we had to know what it meant. When it was explained that the dirty-faced man was declaring women to be strange creatures, our class knew we had to take ownership of that phrase immediately. Johnny Wink, who for the purposes of that class was nicknamed “Miss Peecher” after one of Dickens’ characters, took it even a step further and suggested we start an all-girl punk rock band called The Rum Creeters. Well, we never did start that punk rock band, but I wasn’t willing to let that phrase be closed in a book and put back on a shelf. So now here we are, the Rum Creeters (for we are all a bit rum, aren’t we?), thanks to one Johnny Wink.

Signing off for today,

Puella Fontanarum Calidarum
(my Latin nickname, bestowed by Miss Peecher himself)

ROAR

I feel like I’m in a mud puddle.

Breaking news this morning on CBC was the shocking to some; saddening to others; heartening to yet others; and completely nonplussing news to many that Robert Munsch, beloved Canadian children’s author, admitted to mental illness and drug addictions.

At first I was shocked, and then I was saddened, and now… now I feel like I’m in a mud puddle.

The first burble in the mud puddle was the thought that addictions and illness have absolutely nothing to do with this man’s art. He’s not writing self-help books on battling cocaine abuse. He’s writing quirky tales of paper-bag princesses and sleep-walking fathers. If the end result is a satisfactorily tongue-twistingly chewy bedtime story, should the personal process that may have accompanied the writing really matter?

The second blip in my puddle was the realisation that today’s CBC story was not, in fact, a shocking new discovery. Munsch has talked about his battle with mental illness before, in interviews in The Globe & Mail and Global Television Network. In fact, I would far more readily describe the story in G&M as beautiful and inspiring instead of “shocking.”

Excerpt: How Robert Munsch grabbed a lifeline (The Globe & Mail, October 09 2009)

“ Purple, Green and Yellow is my take on depression,” the real-life Mr. Munsch says in an interview. “That’s what it was like for me: You want to kill yourself, but you have to be funny. You colour yourself for the world.”

Known as much for his hyperkinetic performances as his funny-with-an-edge children’s books, Mr. Munsch, 64, has struggled his entire life with bipolar disorder.

From his “wild and wonky” behaviour as a teenager, through to his years studying to be a priest, then as a daycare worker with a gift for storytelling, he largely suffered in silence and accepted the wild mood swings: “When you grow up with it, it seems like the way life is,” he says.

But the bouts of depression and related alcoholism grew ever worse, and Mr. Munsch finally got help – therapy and antidepressants – when he was close to 50.

While many artists fear that treatment for mental illness will rob them of their magical je ne sais quoi , Mr. Munsch had the opposite result: “Taking antidepressants didn’t interfere with my creativity, the depression interfered with my creativity.”

Better still, instead of having to paint himself happy, he actually began to enjoy the performances. “After treatment, it became more fun to do the shows – it made me better.”

And yet, the question must be asked…

What was Mr. Munsch attempting to accomplish by posting the following “Note to Parents” on his website?

And was it accomplished?

NOTE TO PARENTS

I am a storyteller. I write books for kids, I talk to kids, and I listen to kids.

But that is not all that I am. Several years ago I was diagnosed as obsessive-compulsive and manic-depressive. Those challenges have led me to make some big mistakes.

I have worked hard to overcome my problems, and I have done my best. I have attended twelve-step recovery meetings for more than 25 years.

My mental health and addiction problems are not a secret to my friends and family. They have been a big support to me over the years, and I would not have been able to do this without their love and understanding.

I hope that others will also understand. I hope that everyone will talk to their kids honestly, listen to them, and help them do their best with their own challenges.

Take a Look, It’s In a Book

I was asked which five literary characters I would marry if I had the chance….and I realized I couldn’t fit it down to just five. I could do eight, six, even three if I needed to, but the nice average number five just would not do.

So I did the typical Rachel thing and expanded it to 10. Enjoy.

By the way, I hope you notice that not one of the men on this list is Mr. Darcy. I’ve never read Pride & Prejudice (although I did start Pride & Prejudice & Zombies the other day), so I can’t put him on here anyway, but I’m especially determined to keep him off the list because I’m sick of everyone saying he’s the quintessential man. From what I’ve heard, he seems a little like Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables (another character girls always swoon over), and I’ve never been much attracted to him, either. Anyway, on with the show.

Top 10 Literary Characters I Would So Marry:

-Peter Pevensie, from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

The first person I remember having a crush on. I would marry him both as he appears in the books and in the BBC movies from the 1980s, but I cannot stand what they did to his character in the new films. Bad form, Walden Media. Bad form.

-John Jarndyce, from Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Apparently one of my favorite authors, Nabokov, said Jarndyce was “the best and kindest man ever to appear in a novel,” and I’m inclined to agree. Take that, Mr. Darcy. I’m swooning just thinking about him. I really need to read Bleak House again.

-George Weasley, from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Yes, specifically George. I love Fred, too, but I think I’d rather be friends with him. I actually can tell the two apart, even though they almost always appear together. George is the slightly kinder, calmer, more generous of the two.

-Remus Lupin, from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

I’ve loved him pretty much since his first appearance in Prisoner of Azkaban. While most of the people I know prefer Sirius Black, I find Remus to be the Marauder worth marrying. He was the mediator of the group, and was just so darn sad all the time I wanted to cheer him up.

-Neville Longbottom, from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

I have to admit I didn’t have a crush on Neville until the third movie came out and I noticed the actor who played him grew into a fairly good-looking boy. I always liked the character, but it was more of, “Oh poor pitiful Neville, look how adorable you are!” The fourth book was when I started caring for him even more. And by the time he was a 7th year….yowza, that boy had my heart. I so can’t wait for the last movie; they better do him justice.

-Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

My 9th grade English teacher said Atticus Finch was the only literary character she ever wished she could marry. At the time I hadn’t read To Kill a Mockingbird yet, so I had no opinion of him. The next year we read it, though, and I have to say she made a spectacular choice.

-Pippin Took, from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein

This is another character that I already loved from the books, and then when I saw the movies it just made him that much better. I got a mad crush on Billy Boyd because of Pippin. He’s sort of Neville-ish in a way, with his clumsiness and inadvertent let’s-make-a-mess-of-things. And he’s also Neville-ish in his managing to become an awesome hero by the end.

-Stock the poet, from The Westmark Trilogy by Lloyd Alexander

I have to read these again to remember the story and characters properly, but I do remember being completely enamored with Stock. He was only a minor character, one of “Florian’s children” (that is, one of the followers of revolutionary leader Florian) and he sadly doesn’t last very long in the series. He was the gentle giant, who looked like he could squeeze the life out of you in seconds, but would rather write poems and look on the brighter side. A complete reversal of his best friend, Justin, who looked like an angel but was the bloodthirstiest of the bunch.

-Bran the Pendragon, from The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper

Another series I need to read again. Bran is a mysterious, albino Welsh boy whose best friend is a silver-eyed sheepdog named Cafall. As it turns out, Bran is King Arthur’s son, and as a baby was brought into present day so that he can take up his fate as Pendragon during the last battle between the Light and Dark. (It sounds extremely cheesy and cliché in this summary, but these books are seriously amazing. Read them.)

-Louis the Yard Teacher, from the Sideways Stories from Wayside School series by Louis Sachar

I….have no explanation.

It’s probably a compliment to J.K. Rowling that I fell in love with three distinct characters from her books.

Also notice how most of them are from fantasy novels, and usually those in a set. It helps when you can read that person in more than one book.

A lot of them are from books I read throughout my childhood. I think that’s partly because the books I liked to read as a child had much more likable characters than the books I like to read now. You probably won’t find many marriage-worthy men in any J.D. Salinger or Flannery O’Connor stories.

So. Who would you choose?

-Rachel

Uncertainty can be a guiding light (?)

Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

I am a movie snob. An unabashed, unashamed, unwavering movie snob. And movies made from books are one thing that make my nose tip up disdainfully higher than nearly anything else. (Except, of course, the people who say they’ve never “seen” Pride and Prejudice, or Lord of the Rings, or Possession… THEY’RE BOOKS. YOU READ THEM!!!)

I love Harry Potter. As an awkward pre-teen, I waited eagerly in line with my sister for each book, yawning in the dim midnight streetlights of the McNally parking lot, making hurried McDonald’s runs to fortify our long wait. When the fifth book came out, I stayed up until 5am reading as far as I could, only to get up at 7am for my aunt’s wedding rehearsal, where I was singing at the  reception. When the first movie made its appearance, my sister and I were again waiting eagerly in line, making hurried popcorn runs as the trailers slowly made their way off-screen.

But then… disappointment. The movies didn’t come close to the magic of the books. Worse, they dampened and diluted the magic of Hogwarts, chopping the storylines to tasteless bits and diminishing any character development to bright lights and big hair. In short: I hated the movies. And will loudly judge anyone who thinks otherwise.

But now? I have two respected creeters claiming exactly the opposite. Which is making me consider giving movie #6 another chance.

Erin- and Rachel-creeter, what have you done?!