Friday, June 19, 2015

Rainbow Blog #1

For those not aware, Rainbow Rowell is an Omaha author who is freaking huge right now. How huge? Like they are making a major movie out of one of her books huge.

That's pretty huge.

I find this pretty awesome. Local writer makes good. What's not to love? Yet as big as she is, and as cool as that is, I have yet to read any of her books. I mean, I'm not her target audience, right? Her niche (a rather large niche) is that she understands females, particularly young adult females.

I am not one of those.

But I did follow her work in the Omaha World-Herald as a columnist. Rainbow is somewhat of a controversial figure in the circles I run with, for some reason, but personally I found her columns entertaining, particularly her exploits deep into geekdom, with stories about sampling the butter beer at Universal Studios or thoughts on the latest Star Wars film. It was a nice break from some of the other, more serious columns the paper runs (i.e. boring). 

Still, her column wasn’t for everyone. In fact, I have had actual arguments with people about whether or not Rainbow Rowell is a good writer. These arguments were silly because of course she is a good writer. The fact that you don’t like someone’s columns does not make them a poor writer. There's no denying that she was a good columnist.

But is she a good novelist? Well, tons of people like her, so…probably? Art is subjective. One man's trash, another's treasure and so forth. Of course, her target audience is primarily teenage and "young adult" girls. In other words, not me. Still, I'm curious. What does she have that I don't have? Why is she so successful when I'm so...not.

I don't know, and probably never will, but I'm going to give one of her books a read and figure it out!  (I am guessing it has something to do with the fact that she gets a segment of people, in this case those above mentioned girls, and I don't really get anybody, including myself.)

I decided to start with Fangirl, mainly because it was her latest release on the day I purchased it. Like most readers, I have a stack of to read books. Finally, this one came up. Then a thought occurred to me.

That thought? Simple: wouldn't it be funny if I kept a diary of sorts with random thoughts I experience while I read Fangirl? Sure it would. So here goes nothing, starting with the first four chapters. These are going to be pretty much stream of consciousness, so there's a good chance it will be terrible. Oh well. 

After planning on calling it Rainbow Diaries, it seems to me that Rainbow Blog sounds better--kind of reminds one of Rainbow Brite, no?


Anyway, here we go. For those unfamiliar with Fangirl--like me, really--before I start here's a preview from our evil friends at Amazon. 
At first glance Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl has a lot in common with Eleanor & Park: idiosyncratic girl with troubled family meets good, normal boy and falls in love for the first time. But this is why Rowell is so talented--from the same basic ingredients she can create something new and special. In Fangirl, quirky introvert, Cath, is safe within the immensely popular Simon Snow (think Harry Potter) fan-fiction blog she writes with her twin sister, but college turns her life upside down, leaving her feeling like an awkward outsider. When she writes, Cath knows exactly what her characters should say to each other, but when it comes to forging real-life friendships, much less a romance, she hasn’t a clue. An immensely satisfying coming-of-age novel, Fangirl deftly captures the experience of discovering your true voice and clumsy, vulnerable, remarkable, first love.
Chapter One
The name of the dormitory is Pound Hall. That seems…dirty. Is this symbolism?

Page 9 and we’ve got a Soylent Green reference. If it was me, I would have explained what Soylent Green is seeing as it is an old Charlton Heston movie from the early 70s that most of her target audience will not be familiar with. But Rainbow doesn’t, and you know what, I respect that.

For the record, I love post-apocalyptic Charlton Heston movies from the late 60s and early 70s. I’d rate them Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, Soylent Green, and finally, Beneath the Planet of the Apes as a distant fourth.

Tthe Soylent Green reference has expanded to the main character's dad making a crack about his daughter Cath potentially eating an eyelid (for those who don't know Soylent Green, google search Soylent Green is People!!!). Eyelid one threw me for a loop—I think I would’ve went for a finger or something. An eyelid seems kind of random.

So far, the only character I like is dad (single father, widower, not ashamed to be a little cheesy). But, he's dropped his daughters off at school and now he's gone. On to chapter two.

Chapter Two
Man, so far these characters are very unlikable. Someone is “desperately trying to make friendly eye contact” with the Cath and she ignores her! Ouch! You don't have any friends Cath, say something to this other sad lonely soul!

Cath arrived at class ten minutes early, but this was not enough time to get a seat at the back of the class. I don’t buy this. Nobody was ten minutes early when I went to college. She totally would be sitting in the back.

What's wrong with a dragon on a book cover? Nothing!
Cath gets quizzed by her twin sister Wren about not reading something with an elf or a dragon on the cover. Is there something wrong with having a dragon on the cover of a book?

A boy has been introduced. He is the boyfriend of Cath’s new roommate. He has to brush the hair out of his eyes. This reveals nice eyes. He says somewhat funny things. He seems nice, but he has a cigarette, so there’s a touch of rebellion. I would bet my life savings—so $1.57—that he is going to end up as Cath’s boyfriend.

The teacher in her writing class says “Let’s start with a question that doesn’t really have an answer…” Isn’t that giving away the point of the lesson right there? Shouldn't you reveal later on that there is no right answer?

Sorry Rainbow, I really hate this line: “People were chasing each other with Nerf guns across the street. Pi-Kappa-Weird-Looking-O.” I get it, but it's not working for me.

I really, really hate that line.

Rest assured that I have written 1500 that are worse in my lifetime.

Chapter 3
In between the chapters are little sections that are from a pretend Harry Potter-type book. The one before chapter 3 says “You don’t do magic, you are magic.” That’s a good little line. So good that Rainbow signed the front of the book with it (my copy was signed, which is a really cool thing Rainbow does--she works with our local book store The Bookworm in order to have signed copies available for her fans and anyone else). I would sign my book with that quote if I made it up as well. JK Rowling is pissed off somewhere about it.

Cath likes to write fan fiction, but a special kind of fan fiction called shipping. I was not familiar with shipping until discussing this book with a friend, but apparently you take two characters and put them in a relationship in fan fiction world—and from what I can tell, this is usually a gay relationship, which is then called slash fiction. Think Spock and Kirk, or Luke and Han, or Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. So she has slashed her Harry Potter stand-in Simon Snow to another dude, and apparently because of her work in this field Cath is a big thing online. I wonder if people do become big things for writing this stuff? Hmmmm.

Try as I might, I can’t turn off the anal little editor that resides in me when I read other people’s stuff. (When I read my own work, that little guy seems to shut right down. Screw him. Thanks for nothing.) For example, this caught my eye: Rainbow writes that Cath is happy to be eating food that requires silverware, for once, at the top of page 30, but at the bottom of that page she then writes that Cath is eating a sandwich and two orders of French fries. A sandwich and fries do not require silverware!

Little anal editor guy totally would’ve caught that if he was editing this. In other words, hire me Rainbow. This silverware thing could torpedo your entire career.

One of the dorms on campus is named Selleck. Named after Tom I wonder? Is this more symbolism? Will there be a helicopter flying, convertible driving mustached man somewhere inside this building?

The roommate’s boyfriend has not been around for a few days. He’ll be back. Oh yeah, he’ll definitely be back and waving his hair out of his eyes in no time. My life savings depends on it.

Chapter 4 
The little faux Harry Potter section before this is really cool. In fact, I totally read the faux Dumbledore guy’s speech in Dumbledore’s voice (aka Michael Gambon's voice): “The Crucible cast you together, Simon. You’re meant to watch out for him.” I don’t normally like faux Harry Potters, but I want to read this one. But not the shipped version.

Not that there's anything wrong with shipping.
Not that there's anything wrong with the shipped/slashed version.

Uh-oh. There’s another boy in the picture, and he has mysterious eyebrows, and he’s also saying funny things. Roommate’s boyfriend might cost me my life savings after all. Where have you gone roommate's boyfriend?!?

Here we are four chapters in and 30 days in book time, yet Cath, apparently, cannot find the cafeteria in her building. I repeat: 30 days. Rainbow, this is not a very strong female character. My female characters kill vampires and haunted skeletons and charge at armies and go on long quests to rescue their father. Rainbow’s female characters can’t find the place where food is served in their building!

Just saying.

Here at the end of chapter four these characters remain very unlikable but I’m kind of starting to like them despite their unlikableness (screw you spell checker, that's a word, or should be). Anyway, I find this strange: they’re so unlikable that I’m pulling for them to become likable.

And that is the end of Rainbow Blog #1. Rainbow Blog #2, coming....some day.

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