This post should really be titled, “Sparkle on! Or how Libba Bray and I became best friends after bonding over an awesome Kobayashi Maru joke,” but I noticed that that I tend to write really long post titles. And that maybe it’s annoying. So I’ll do a short title today and then most likely end up writing a hugely long title next time.
But back to the story. On Friday I had the day off from the library so that I could work on Saturday at our awesome Friends of the Library Book Sale. It seems like it was a success but the sale is running until tomorrow. Libba Bray was speaking at the Brookline Public Library and I just so happen to have a delightful boyfriend who lives in Brookline. Cue parking space! (And it’s the only place in Boston to which I can drive without freaking out.) She was promoting her new book, The Diviners, the kick off to a supernatural series set in the 1920s with brash flappers and mysterious men. Sounds great, but I was mostly there to hear her talk about Beauty Queens and Going Bovine, because I really loved those. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I might htink that Beauty Queens is definitely one of my favorite books and I think the best book about celebrity/reality TV culture. Yes, even better than the Hunger Games! Or at least different from the Hunger Games. Obviously, there is a lot less at stake in Beauty Queens but I think Bray does a better job of portraying the ridiculous and vapid nature of it all.
Before I got there, I spent some time at the MFA visiting all my favorite paintings and works of art. These are mostly in the John Singer Sargent room, the “salon” style room next to it, the Arts and Crafts movement room, and the Boston School. What can I say? I love the late 19th century. Some of the most interesting historical events, movements in art and music, and writers wrote back then. (Henry James! Edith Wharton! John Singer Sargent! Debussy!) I stood for a while in front of what might be my favorite painting at the moment. Sargent’s “A Capriote.” The picture below doesn’t do justice to the subject’s luminous skin and expression or the way the light filters through the trees so go see it in person. Prepare to cry. It makes me cry every time:
After that, onto Libba Bray at the Brookline Library. First she read from a story she wrote in 5th grade called “Death Castle” which was hilarious and keep innocently wandering into borderline porn-y territory and she had to keep assuring us it was not porn. For example, here’s a paraphrase: “It was Halloween and it was raining. We all got really wet. We went into the castle to find clothes because we were so wet. I didn’t want to wear the old dresses so I wore a nightgown. Sally wore a nightgown, too. We got scared so we stayed in the same bed together…” Ha! The story also had just great plot devices such as time travel via holes in the ground. So that’s pretty amazing.
Then she answered questions about the research she did for her new book and talked of her appreciation of libraries and reading widely. She said one of her mottos for research was, “When the going gets tough, the tough get a librarian,” which made me very happy. Doing the research for a book sounds so great, by the way. Bray got to read a book called, Jesus and Gin, for the Diviners which is about the 1920s Evangelicals and temperance movement and prohibition. Awesome!
Finally after about 40 minutes of questions she announced she was take one more. Cue, Anna, who loves to hear the sound of her own voice. Here’s a little play by play of it for you.
ANNA (raising her hand and looking adorbs): Umm, I actually have two questions.
(laughter at my audacity)
LIBBA: Wow. You just totally Kobayashi Maru’d that, didn’t you?
ANNA: Yup, I’m basically Captain Kirk.
(uproarious laughter at my sparking wit)
My first question was whether or not she ever considered writing/creating the reality show she mentions in a brief, off-hand footnote in Beauty Queens: “Girls Gone Rumpsringa” where Amish girls have to live with strippers. Honestly, I would so watch this if it were real. I don’t really like reality TV, other than “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” but this would be amazing. Bray said that she wanted to make a video about it where she would play the aging stripper teaching the Amish girls about crazy things like zippers and velcro. This made me want the show to be real even more. Please, TV, make this happen!
But my real question was about why she writes for teens instead of for grownups or children. Her answer was so great and made me grateful that such a wonderful person and author writes and cares about teens. She said that at the end of the day, everyone is still coming of age in some way, so it’s more interesting to write about that. I think what she sad is true – I’m still coming of age as a real grownup and a librarian, and hopefully a writer. So, maybe that’s why lots of grownups still read YA and still love books like Catcher in the Rye. Those books were easy to relate to when we were teens and they still are.
So, yes. Libba Bray and I are best friends. And she was so lovely to chat with when she signed my book. I can’t wait to read The Diviners! Look for a review soon.