As often happens, it’s Friday. I haven’t done the math1, but almost every time you turn around. Bam. Friday. Put on your raincoats and dance. Or something. You know. Friday stuff.
Carmen is a wonder. And also a recent National Book Award finalist. I met her at Clarion. That thing I attended back in 2012, in San Diego, where also I met many other amazing people 2. The thing I remember about Carmen is that I love her. There are other things, I remember, but that’s the first thing that came to mind. Here are some of the other things I remember:
- We ate a lot of avodado and eggs. Or maybe we did that once.
- One morning, we drank coffee and talked about life in a way that made life seem like the scariest most awesome thing, but I don’t remember anything about what we said only the feeling of feeling connected to something that we were inventing or discovering about the way everything fit together.
- We collaborated on a story together about how to be a man. It was in the shape of a list. I remember at least two sex scenes, a single Twitter bio, and several hearts in peril. Part of our collaboration involved wandering off into the woods in search of a talking tree. I believe we settled for a mysterious assortment of furniture on which we sat and wrote about the aforementioned imperilled hearts.
- An LA Times reviewer described Carmen’s collection of stories, Her Body and Other Parties as an example of “almost preposterous talent.”
- Preposterous is probably one of my favorite words.
- But only when it is deployed in the spirit of love and wonder.
- In that spirit I would probably describe Carmen Maria Machado as an almost preposterously magical person.
EG, partner in adventure and professional creative type, has gone and got herself long-listed in the Information is Beautiful Awards for this visualization of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.
I have not read many of these books, but I will.
I am looking forward to spending time with Death most of all.
Oh. Also. Of note. EG did that illustration of Carmen in which BAM!.
I wrote “Maemi” during the third week of Clarion in answer to Delia Sherman’s challenge that I do that thing people do sometimes which is to go and read a bunch of fairy tales and then select one with which to muck about.
I spent several days in the UCSD library, sitting at the window and reading many fairy tales. On the ledge outside my window, a crow would come, now and then, and sit and hop and look at me curiously. As much as I might have wished, the crow and I never said more than a few words to each other, and, most of the time, I was doing most of the talking.
The fairy tale I chose involved a little girl, and a lion, also a bird, and no small amount of magic or betrayal. It turned out this was “Beauty and the Beast.” It wasn’t called that in the book I read, and I didn’t recognize it, but when Delia told me that this was the true nature of the story I had chosen it made sense. At least, that is, the kind of sense one finds in fairy tales. Which is a sort of inscrutable sense that tricks you into understanding something altogether different and more important than whatever thing you set out to understand.
I combined this fairy tale with the story of a little girl in Korea who was sold by her father into sexual slavery during the second world war.
I lived in Seoul for two years and, while there, I taught English at an all-girls school. One weekend, during my second year, I went with a group of friends (some of whom were part of a group called Durebang), to the House of Sharing in Gyeonggi-do. We walked through a museum and an art gallery and, later, met several of the women who lived there and who are called, sometimes, “comfort women.” A large group of kids showed up, at one point. A school trip, I think. One of the old women, through some manner I never entirely understood, instigated a K-pop dance-off among the kids, the teachers, and some of the group that inclued me. Roly Poly3, I believe, was the song of choice. I’m pretty sure Roly Poly will always be, because of this, my favorite K-pop song. All of those kids and everyone dancing. And the old woman who danced for a bit and then sat, chuckling at the gorgeous mayhem she had created 4.
There are many books about that time in Korean history. I have read many of them. Two that I remember, in particular, both by Nora Okja Keller, are Comfort Woman and Fox Girl. Here are some others.
As it turned out, there were no lions in the story I ended up writing, but there is a bird, a heart in peril, and no small amount of magic or betrayal.
I added a bit of music, as well. It seemed the right thing to do at the time.
Happy Friday readers.
- Actually, I have done the math. Approximately 14.2857% of the time, it’s Friday. ↩
- Including my partner in adventure, E.G. Cosh, who was recently longlisted in the Information is Beautiful Awards for her visualization of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. You will read about this in a moment in thing two. ↩
- This is the video of Roly Poly. The long version. If you are only interested in the music, I would suggest skipping to the four minute mark or so. And then again to the eight minute mark. I have the whole thing on in the background right now. It later became a musical. Because that’s how things work in Korea. ↩
- Some of all of this came back with me to Seoul. And I talked about it with my students, one day, in an after school class in which there were only maybe eight of us. I talked about what they knew about that part of Korean history. I talked with them about how it felt that week in school, seeing every classroom full of girls the same age as those taken during the war. It was a fairly advanced conversation class that day. ↩