If you were floating around Twitter for the bulk of last night, you may have seen some odd things. For instance, a single tweet that just said “Prawns.”
Or a hashtag #bosomfiend.
These things came about because my friend Kristin McFarland (who, on a much more serious note, interviewed me on Wednesday for her Why Write project) and I have been reading through the Anne of Green Gables books. She came across them between undergrad and grad school; I found Anne when my grandmother gave me the Canadian films when I was a kid. I somehow made it to adulthood having never read the books, but I can’t say that anymore.
Kristin got me to read the books, so I thought it was only fair I get her to see the movies.
Last night we settled in, three states apart, to watch them.
We sighed over Gilbert Blythe, tried to hug Matthew Cuthbert through the screen, and fell in love with that little redhead all over again.
It made me wonder how a rather simple story about an orphan girl finding family and love could affect me as much as it did when I was a kid. I remember seeing Anne shriek at Rachel Lynde and calling her fat and wishing I had the guts to stand up to the people who were mean to me. I remember seeing her break a slate over Gilbert Blythe’s head and knowing that I was learning to take no shit.
Anne rapturously declares to Marilla that she wishes to have a bosom friend, and Marilla chuckles, “A what kind of friend?” But Anne finds in Diana Barry the truest kind of friendship most of us only hope to share with another person.
If you’re truly curious about the public side of our screening for these films, check out the Twitter hashtags #solemnvow and #bosomfriends.
As we were watching, I got to thinking. It’s always a bit funny to watch something you loved as a child with an adult perspective. Some things you’ll watch and wonder where you ever got the idea that it was a good use of your time. Other times, you’re struck by the layers of meaning, the hidden purpose, and the power that remains, turning memory to new discovery.
That’s how it’s been with me for Anne of Green Gables.
Reading the books was like diving into a richer world, learning and growing alongside Anne. There were new characters to meet who I could tell had been distilled and shifted, combined and compressed into characters in the film. There were familiar moments of fear and trepidation and love.
Watching the films as a child, I don’t think I ever quite understood the fullness of what happened when Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert decided to keep Anne Shirley even though they’d sent for a boy.
As a child, I just wanted Anne to be able to stay at Green Gables because she loved the place so. She seemed so self-sufficient to me that I never questioned her ability to survive elsewhere. Through the years, though, and now having read the books as an adult, that moment is something more altogether.
She arrives at Green Gables with more adult experiences than a child should have. Caretaking, housekeeping, even medicinal knowledge. She’s capable, intelligent, independent. She’s a dreamy little kid, who escaped the harsh reality around her by fleeing into the boundless wealth of imagination.
More and more, when I relive this story, I see myself. Just like Anne, I fled poverty and chores and cruelty at school and the stress of many, many moves by fleeing into my imagination. Into countless books and worlds. When something didn’t exist, like Anne, I made it up. And I yearned for a bosom friend, just as she did.
Anne greeted the world with a sense of awe and wonder, allowing it to thrill her in a way most people don’t. She showed Marilla and Matthew that in spite of her misfortunes, the world was still a beautiful place. And when she arrived, they knew that sending her back could end up breaking her, snuffing out that light that she allowed to shine so brightly.
They made the decision to take that child and give her love. To give her love and family and an education and an opportunity. An elderly pair of unmarried siblings wanted to give Anne Shirley more scope for her imagination.
And oh, the love.
Anne Shirley is a veritable magnet for it. She wins Matthew over the first time she speaks to him. And Marilla the first time Anne tucks her trusting hand into that of the older woman’s. She dazzles Gilbert with her resolve, her perseverance, and her intelligence. And, of course, there’s Diana, Anne’s bosom friend.
When I think about the love this child found, it’s made even more poignant fully understanding from an adult perspective what exactly Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert did for her. It reminds me that it’s what I got from my second mom and later, my stepdad. The ability of an adult to raise a strange child as his or her own. I benefited from that kind of love as well. And like Anne, I’ve continually reaped the blessings of love in this life. From finding Jordan and Julia (MY first real bosom friends, who walked me down the aisle) to my loving husband, who is a true partner in life.
Kristin and I spent several hours last night watching these films a couple hundred miles apart from her. At one point, we were discussing another film we both love and Capclave (which she is joining me for), and Kristin said, “Plus, we’ll have known each other for like two years by then and NO MEETING. It’s outrageous.” And it’s true. We’ve been chatting on almost a daily basis for a year and a half. We watched Anne and Diana skip about the beaches of Prince Edward Island, and that struck me all over again. Technology has made it possible to form friendships with people hundreds or thousands of miles away. We’ve done Google hangouts and talked on the phone. We’ve “introduced” our husbands via video and shown each other our critters.
For all our rather goofy tweets about Miss Fortune and bosom fiends last night, we really are friends.
This world still holds wonder.
The best thing about watching something like Anne of Green Gables with someone who loves the story as much as you do is that it’s a nice reminder to be grateful.
I’ll be damned if that Anne Girl didn’t work her magic again.
I’m super excited today to get to review the debut novel of Rebecca Berto. Some of you might be familiar with her blog, Novel Girl. A couple months ago, she released her debut novelette, PRECISE, which is a prequel to her forthcoming novel, PULLING ME UNDER. First of all, I owe her an apology, because posting this took me way longer than it ought to have. I was deep in revision-mode for SHRIKE for most of February, and March just sort of blipped by, and all the sudden it was April. As a result, this is me sort of shamefacedly tugging a lock of hair at you all and confessing my much-belatedness in this review.
So here we go!
I would give PRECISE three stars.
The story is about a young woman named Kates, who (at the beginning of the book) lives with her husband Paul and her abusive mother. The book confronts this abuse head on through the eyes of Kates, who struggles both with her own feelings of intense confusion and her desire to create a better life for her new daughter.
Kates was a very strong character throughout the story. Her need to build a new existence with Paul and baby Ella pushes her outside of the realm of her comfort, and as a reader, I was drawn into Kates’ story. Throughout the narrative, the existent tension kept me reading as Kates tries to break free of a mother who has her fingers so tightly clenched around her life. Paul and Ella are the sole bright spots in Kates’ world, and she defends them in the best way she knows how.
Her mother, Rochelle, is terrifying. Even without being able to empathize with the experience of growing up in a home with a parent who wished you harm, it’s easy to put yourself in Kates’ shoes and imagine the trapped feeling.
The first couple chapters were a bit confusing to me, and they had a few turns of phrase that took me out of the narrative a little, but the story found its grip and held on tight after that.
While PRECISE took a little bit to find its footing, the sample pages from PULLING ME UNDER at the end of the book showed that the momentum gained throughout the rest of PRECISE was nothing if not amplified in the writing of its follow-up. PRECISE was a solid debut, and Rebecca shows an excellent talent for character development that makes the next installment in this series exceedingly promising.
Rebecca has just also released her first full-length novel, DROWNING IN YOU, which you can buy on Amazon (AND it’s climbing the ranks — as of this writing it’s at #179 in Paid Kindle Books!)
Want me to review your book? Check out my Request a Review page!
So, the very cool J.J. Anderson featured me on his blog for my flash fiction writing! Go forth and check out his blog, including the parts that aren’t about me! But then come back. Because I love you and we gots shit to do together today.
Aside from the awesome factor of this gentleman carving out a chunk of his blog for yours truly, there was a moment of head scratching where I thought to myself, “Self,” I thought, “haven’t you written a bit more flash fiction than all that on your Fiction page?”
And then after another moment of head scratching, I thought, “Why, yes. You have.”
Part of it was J.J. attempting to track down a bit of Twitter flash fiction he’d seen and lost in the abyss of The Timeline, which happened to be about killing a chicken. I thought, “I just wrote a blog post about not doing that.” My second thought was, “And I wrote a piece of flash about doing EXACTLY that.” I sifted through the Engine of Search (that’d be Google) and found it. And posted it on my fiction page where it belongs. Which has really nothing to do with this post at all. This post is a whole other thing.
You’re welcome for that ramble.
This post is my ineligible contribution to last summer’s End of the World Flash Fiction Contest, which I ran in July. It was a highly successful and awesome contest, and I had fun creating my own entry just for the halibut. The prompt was, in essence, happenings that occur the day before the end of the world. My preference was for human snapshots, moments that show they don’t know what’s coming — but you, O Wise Omniscient Reader, you do. I hope I captured that essence in this flash fiction piece.
Additionally, this happens to be my 500th post. *nostalgic sniffle*
I thought about doing something extravagant, like tooting a kazoo on YouTube or painting my face with gold. But then I thought to myself, “Self,” I thought, “you’re a writer. Your 500th post could totes be a bit of your writing. You know, the fiction kind. As opposed to the other kind that normally pollutes people’s eyeballs with this blog.”
(I usually don’t use the word “totes.”)
So here you go, gentle viewers. Here’s my little snapshot of the day before the end of the world. I hope you enjoy. And happy 500th postiversary to me!
by Emmie Mears
I hear the chuffing growl of the engine just as the cherry of my cigarette hits the filter. It’s close, but I can’t see it. But I know what it is.
“Shit.” I stomp on the butt and kick it into the grass. “Shit.”
I come around the corner just as the tow truck lifts my battered Buick onto its back axle.
“This yours?” The driver’s mouth is pinched and puckered like a dog’s asshole, and she spits on the ground before I can get the image out of my head.
“I was just having a smoke. I gotta get back on the road. My kid graduates tomorrow.”
“I’ve already done the papers, Mister. Sorry.” Her hand is creased like her mouth, and it feels like leather when her skin brushes mine as she offers a business card.
“Look. Please? I haven’t seen my little girl in five years.” My fingers jab at the healed track marks at the crook of my left arm, and as the driver’s gaze follows, I pretend I’m slapping a mosquito. “I gotta be there.”
“Maybe you should’ve left earlier.”
I snort a laugh. “Yeah, maybe. Ended up losing my job anyway.”
Her jaw slackens as she takes in my appearance. I know what I look like. Boots like barely tanned leather. Jeans I had to scrape the cow shit off of before the laundromat owner let me wash them. White button down I got for two bucks at the Second Run Thrift Store and spilled mustard on at dinner. Yeah, I know what I look like. Burned out cowboy who took too many do-si-dos with needles.
“Where’re you headed?”
She nods. Hope tickles my chest.
“Yard’s open all night. You should hit the Texas border by four or so. It’s not the end of the world.”
It’s half past ten. “How much to get my car out?”
Could be worse. Could be five. This way, it’s fifty bucks less than I got to my name.
“Where’s the yard?”
“Five miles down Route 15. Turn right there,” she points. “And just keep walking. You’ll see it.”
“Can’t I hitch a ride with you?”
“It’s not allowed.” She slams the door of the tow truck and tips her hat at me. “Good luck getting to your girl.”
The sun’s long gone to sleep, but the Mississippi air smothers me before I make it a mile. My white shirt soaks through in minutes and clings to my chest.
It’s almost midnight before I make it to the yard. My stomach’s sounding like the tow truck, but I hand over my two fifty-three to the attendant, grab a Slim Jim and a Coke, and snatch my keys from his hand.
“Second row,” he says.
Little Lou’s graduation is at one. I’m gonna make it.
I crank the air as soon as the engine turns over, and it cools my skin and brightens my mood as I speed west.
I’ll be there.
Tomorrow I’ll make things right.