Monday, July 26, 2010

A Nice Surprise!

So, you know, there I am walking down the street in Nehru Place, and there is this thing dangling tantalisingly in front of me like a banana on that tree just across the fence you can’t climb (spiky). A big thing. But let me first tell you about Nehru Place. Need some computer hardware? Your place. Need some dirt cheap track pants? Your place. Want to stop for a snack? You got it. Want the latest software? It’s there. ‘All pirated,’ pipes someone in the background. Ah, yes. That. That it is. But that is not why I am waddling (trust me, I do waddle) around the place. I am there to claim warranty on my keyboard. How I end up instead in front of a second-hand bookstall, I cannot say, except that a couple of flights of stairs and the Sun are involved. So, there I am salivating and there is my mother beside me with her eyebrows raised and an expression that has ‘Seriously?’ written all over it. The thing is, I have spent about 7-10,000 rupees on books these past few months. I glance around tentatively, and lo! there is a second bookstall in a corner. ‘Just looking,’ say I, with a puppy dog glance, and promptly walk over to the first stall. The books are in a fairly decent condition and the stall has several YA fantasy titles beckoning to me mercilessly.

Books: *emanate Evil Allure*
Me: La la can’t see you! There is Twilight! I will look at Twilight.
Books: *slowly increase emanation*
Me: *sneaks glance* No! Look at Eddy! Concentrate on the sparklies!
Books: *concentrate*
Me: You. Can’t. Break. Me.
Books: Can’t we?
Me: Ye- Wait! What’s that?
Mother: *facepalm*
Me: Ooooo…. Bluuueeee….
Me: Me. Want.
Books: >: D

The blue book is Boudica: The Secrets of the Druid from Caroline Corby’s Before They Were Famous series. Now, I’ve always been fascinated by Boudica and don’t own a single piece of literature featuring her. So this seems like a good time to start. The synopsis on the back cover says:
Before they were Boudica, one day to be England’s warrior queen, in this new series about the early lives of some of history’s most charismatic figures. In Ancient Britain, a tribesman’s daughter is in trouble. The Romans have invaded, her father has been accused of murder and she doesn’t know who to trust. When a mysterious druid appears in her village, she knows she must enter his murky world if she is to bring honour to her tribe and one day become Boudica, warrior queen.
Boudica! Ancient Britain! Tribes to bring glory to! A girl! And it mentions ‘warrior’ and ‘queen’ twice! I am sold! The only thing left is the price. ‘Well?’ I ask. ‘50,’ replies the stall owner. Squee! That’s like 1 dollar! And the book is in a pretty neat state! ‘All these are 50,’ continues the stall owner, pointing to a stack of YA fantasies. Imagine a rabbit bouncing up and down, and then imagine a rabbit emitting pressure cooker whistles while bouncing. Now imagine a woman whose daughter has turned into the bouncing and whistling rabbit while standing right beside her. In a crowded market square. Where people stare. I’m sure you’ll understand if my mother hisses, ‘let’s check out the other stall, dear,’ and firmly grabbing my elbow, marches me towards the bookstall in the corner.

Well, the other bookstall doesn’t have any titles of interest to me. And they are in a not-so-good condition. But the owner is quite a well-read man. It’s highly unusual for me to find people trying to sell books who actually know what’s in them. So we chat for some minutes. Mainly about trying to find any book I want that he may have. We don’t succeed. And then, my father joins us. I use that as an opportunity to sneak back to the first stall. Boudica is still there. Waiting. ‘Like anything?’ asks my father, coming up. ‘Oh, you are so not getting her anymore books!’ exclaims my mother. My father shares my enthusiasm for dirt cheap books. My mother doesn’t (at the moment), cheap or not. Lately, I have been reading more and more when I should be out in the open air, exercising. Or when I should be getting a move on with my studies. Or when I should be spending more time with my baby sister who happens to be a dog. ‘Oh, come on, Mamma, pweez?’ I try the puppy dog eyes again. After much glaring and eye-locking on both our parts that is a lot like the run-up to a Western shootout, my mother retreats into the background, scowling.

I turn back. ‘This one,’ say I, holding up Boudica. ‘Anything else?’ asks my father. Hmmm… the books I ask for make the stall owner screw his face as though I want grilled slugs, but the ones he has look interesting enough. Peering, I spot a George R. R. Martin near the bottom. ‘George R. R. Martin!’ I squeal, ‘Gotta have that! Have heard great things about him!’ The owner pulls it out for me. It is The Ice Dragon. I think it is one of the books from his A Song of Ice and Fire series. ‘Got any more of this series?’ I ask. ‘Nope, just this one.’ Then my eye falls on the name of Madeleine L’Engle. ‘Madeleine L’Engle! Gimme that!’ You see Madeleine L’Engle is on The List. The List is a seemingly never-ending project of mine in which I research books and then add the ones I want to my list of books I’ve got to read (and own, but don’t tell my mother that; she is already frantic with all the books I already own taking over the house). So, out pops the Madeleine L’Engle, with the title of A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Ah no, the third book. ‘Got A Wrinkle in Time?’ I ask. ‘Nope.’ ‘Any more of this series?’ ‘Nope.’ Well, I’ll take what I can get. By this time the stall owner has formed an idea of the kind of books I might like. So he starts handing them over. And I start lapping them up. First he pops up Sammy Keys and the Curse of Moustache Mary. ‘I will get back to that,’ I say, so he moves on to The Treasures Of Weatherby by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. ‘Ooooooo, a girl flying, Peter Pan style! This is going to be awesome and contain fairies and murderous mermaids and pirates! Writing poetry!’ The bookstall owner stands looking at me with a bemused expression. ‘Er… I’ll take it.’ Next he flips out May Bird and the Ever After by Jodi Lynn Anderson. ‘Wow! Lot’s of green! And teal! A forest, girl, cat! I want this awesomosity! Got the next one in the series?’ ‘Uh, no.’ We move back to Sammy Keys and the Curse of Moustache Mary by Wendelin Van Draanen. I read the synopsis. Woman walking with a pig? Wild West? Moustachioed Grandma? In the Wild West? Awesome! I am so on board!

So, that evening I get home with my mother (still scowling), my six awesome books and no keyboard (it has been sent back to the company). Some light children’s fantasies are exactly what I need just now. And I think I’m gonna post my thoughts as I read them, post whether they turn out as awesome as I hope they are, post if I find anything problematic and supporting oppression in them,* post about what I like, about what I don’t like. So, I run over to get started!

*I understand that these books are the products of a highly speciesist culture and contain standard non-vegan stuff. So I’m going to ignore those bits unless something particularly misotheric (misothery is the hatred of nonhuman animals) grabs my attention.

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