Rebecca’s Book Club

51SDIODYA7LPicture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

So I have been on a biography kick of late, and haven’t devoted as much time to fiction as I would like. It’s all very well and good reading about actors and leaders and geniuses, but they don’t get to do things like transcend the limits of human biology and human experience to plunge the reader into a world a little different, a little off-kilter.

This makes me very pleased to talk to you today about Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff. I read The Catcher in the Rye at exactly the right age to feel that Holden Caulfield’s troubled musing on ‘phonies’ and the slippery adult world spoke of exactly what I was feeling as I grew out of the idealism of my teenaged years. It’s interesting to see those feelings explored in what may be a more readily accessible way in Picture Me Gone.

Our protagonist is Mila. She has a gift which doesn’t seem so bombastic but which any adult would give their eyeteeth for: the ability to discern the truth from those people (and animals) she encounters: ‘I register every emotion, every relationship, every subtext. If someone is angry or sad or disappointed, I see it like a neon sign. There’s no way to explain it, I just do. For a long time I thought everyone did.’

Mila and her father travel from England to the US to visit one of her father’s best friends whom they haven’t seen in years.  However, that is scuppered quickly, for her father’s friend goes missing before they arrive. They set out on a road trip to find him, encountering a host of characters along the way. Everything is filtered through Mila’s astute point of view; hers is a world underscored by melancholy, but a world which doesn’t frighten or alienate her in the way it does Holden Caulfield. This is a character who is able to understand (without ever crossing into Ubermensch territory) the world around her and empathise with it.

In short, it’s a world we may glimpse infrequently in our own lives, or only after life has made us hard.

Mila is not hard and cynical, yet. But nor is she naive: ‘I will not always be happy, but perhaps, if I’m lucky, I will be spared the agony of adding pain to the world.’

As Salinger might have said: it’s a wise child.

California or Bust

Hello!

We’re taking a short break because Anne and Rebecca are in California. We’re stalking stars, people watching, and driving a Chevy Impala. We’ll be back soon with more tales to share.

While you wait, please browse through our list of past stories on the right.

Thanks!
~ Anne, Jen, & Rebecca

“Anywhere Is” by Alina Sliwinska Inspires Rebecca

The Road Not Taken

It’s been two months and a day since the zombie thing began. When it happened, Twitter exploded with people excitedly relaying their zombie escape plans. They played Shaun of the Dead on Channel 4 continuously, with wry commentary.  Kids from council estates rammed cars into the walking corpses and we cheered for them.

We boarded up our windows. We realised that all the rakes and knives and baseball bats in the world couldn’t stop the press of two, fourteen, fifty zombies smashing through the glass of your living room window; a bolted door could only resist so much pressure.

We killed our dog in the third week, and I know it sounds stupid but that’s when I realised it wasn’t really a game. Sure, I’d seen grisly reports on TV. I’d seen ogrish sites with close-up video of people being eaten alive, but this was my little dog. I’d been held back by my brother as dad snapped his neck. He barked too much. While we cowered in silence as the zombies shuffled through our garden and crushed mum’s prize chrysanthemums underfoot, the dog barked and whined and then there would be the angry scrabbling at the door, the terrible moments as we fought off the monster and smashed its dumb brains in.

The internet went down. Or the phone companies did, I don’t know. The router doesn’t work and we can’t get a signal for our phones. The BBC channels all went down, and the radio. Channel 4 keeps playing Shaun of the Dead on a loop. I don’t know if anybody is working the controls there, if it’s the work of an unfunny studio runner, or it’s just that they’re dead. Hell, I don’t know if our neighbours are dead. We daren’t even knock on the wall to hear if Joanne and Tommy are okay next door. What if they’re zombies? What if they remember somewhere in their decaying minds that there’s a flimsy little gate separating our properties out back and they come crashing through that? continue reading…

“Girl Carrying Bull” by Vladimir Fokanov Inspires Rebecca

The Fixed Sign

‘I’m terribly sorry,’ he said. ‘I don’t quite know how I managed—‘

‘Hush, Taurus,’ I said. ‘It’s all right.’

‘It’s not all right. It’s embarrassing.’ He pawed at the ground furiously. ‘I can just imagine how that damned crab will be, Aquarius.’

Curious, I turned to him. ‘How so?’

‘Please can you hurry? It’s awfully hard on this—this—‘

‘Ground,’ I say. ‘That’s what they call it. And I can’t help you until Orion gets here, so you’d do best to humour me. I don’t like being down here any more than you, you know.’

‘You could have sent Sirius,’ he said. continue reading…

“Winged Victory of Samothrace” Photo by Anne Marie Inspires Rebecca

Winged Victory of Samothrace by Anne Marie

We’re in art class and I’m supposed to be listening to Mr. Bolton’s speech about sculpture and the human form, but all I can do is look at Nikos and wonder about his form. I like to focus on different parts of him in our classes. Sometimes I’ll wonder at his jaw, or his beautiful dark eyes, or the play of his shoulder. Today, I’m just so in love with his hair. It’s a bit messy today, falling into his eyes fetchingly. I want to run my fingers through it, bring him close, kiss him and tell him I love him.

Half the girls in our year want to do this, though. Some actually get to touch him.

I’ve never been allowed.

I’ve tried, hard, to come up to scratch for him. I wear make-up now. My clothes are more flattering; I even dyed my hair red because I know it’s his favourite shade on a girl.

I put myself on this diet I read about in one of my mum’s magazines. It was the most soul-destroying experience of my life, if you must know. Fridays (pizza night in our house) became hell to me, sitting there with my broccoli while my family gorged themselves on stuffed-crust, deep fried whatever. But I did it. I lost 10lbs and I look amazing. In fact, I got a bit too skinny so I can allow myself a deep-stuffed-crust pizza thing every now and again. I look amazing, but not amazing enough for him. continue reading…

“The Field” by Rebecca Lowry Inspires Rebecca

‘Misty,’ I hiss. There’s no response from her. I  try again: ‘Misty!’

I curse her under my breath, but I’m really just afraid. It’s 3am. There’s no traffic on the road outside the field and if I cried for help, I doubt my sleeping parents would hear me. I cast a covetous look back at the house and my own bedroom lit by a low light. I should be safe in there, not out here in my pyjamas and boots, looking for an errant cat that doesn’t realise it’s in serious danger.

‘Misty!’ I whisper urgently, ’the blob is going to get you!’

When I say blob, I mean a literal blob. I’ve only caught glimpses of it from my bedroom window when I’ve dared to look at the field late at night, and sometimes it’s very big, sometimes about my height, but it’s always an indefinable thing, a ball of malice. I hate it and I fear it and nobody would understand, because they can’t see it.

So people would probably call me a witch, though I don’t like that at all because to me a witch casts spells and probably has a green face and all. I do have a cat (that would be Misty) but she’s a lazy moggy who can’t be told what to do, so she’d be the worst familiar. continue reading…

“Hook Line” by Andrea Gibson Inspires Rebecca

Hook Line by Andrea GibsonOne Longing For the Night

In our house, her name was a dirty word. If a Campbell muttered that someone was like Amelia, you’d better take note. If you were told you were acting up, like Amelia, you stopped. Mum’s mouth set in a hard, disapproving line if we spoke of her, which was rarely. Dad collapsed in on himself like shadows in the darkness. Amelia to him meant pain. They never told us that, I should hasten to add. Jodie used to give me a big sister punch to the arm if I slipped and mentioned her, so I stopped because Jodie was mean. When I became a teenager and finally understood the world, I saw why I shouldn’t mention her.

I locked my memories of her into a box in my mind. I would wait until I was comfortable in bed and the house was silent and dark, and the only light in my room was from the far-flung stars who always bore witness as I examined my memory for fragments of the late Amelia Campbell.

She’d been my favourite aunt when I was a child. She would visit in a flurry of presents and hugs and kisses; her unearthly beauty mesmerised us. I was fascinated with her red hair which gave her a fiery look. She had the greenest eyes I’d ever seen, not hazel or flecked with other colours, but pure green. It hurt to look at her sometimes, she was so delicate and beautiful and aflame. She didn’t talk down to us, ever. She didn’t change the subject when we entered the room, which annoyed mum to no end. She listened to my stories about my dolls and Jodie’s horrid pony collection in earnest. She’d nod sagely as I served Teddy Ruxpin high tea, and solicitiously ask him if he wouldn’t fancy a sandwich. When I introduced her to my imaginary friend Stanley, she didn’t frown the way the other adults did. She asked him if he liked chocolate ice-cream, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. She seemed just as enchanted with the world as I was. continue reading…