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November 2004
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Top Twenty Teen Books of the 20th Century

Librarians in Seattle (where The Boyfriend List is set, and where I went to high school) have made a list of the top twenty teen books of the 20th century.

It's a pretty great list, I think -- and if you consider yourself a reader, you should certainly have a go at all of these and you'll be more literate when you're done. But you won't have much of a laugh. They are all pretty deadly serious. I've read them all except The Chosen, which is sitting on my bookshelf.

I was very glad to see Weetzie Bat on there. I love that book madly and you should certainly start with that one. Some of them are for rather a younger audience -- like A Wrinkle in Time and Hatchet. Don't miss The Chocolate War and The Outsiders.

Happy reading!

20 Questions Toward Being a Better Person

At "Jenny Turpish Slapped Me" there's a quiz to see if you are a good person. My score:

Your score as a human being is 80.45.
You are close to ideal. So close, and yet so far. Amusing, really, to watch someone squirm so close to the vaunted ranks of perfection and still remain so very, very ordinary. It is all one can do to keep one's ingratiating smile from polluting one's perfect face.
Actually, one recommends you take the quiz again and lie a little.

I think mainly I got a good score because I don't have a cell phone.
However, I am humiliated to announce that there was a question that asked "If you were a Pearl Jam album, which would you be?" and although I know who Pearl Jam is, I had no idea what any of the albums were! So I had to just randomly pick one. I felt desperately old and uncool.
Though maybe Pearl Jam itself is old and uncool? There is always that possibility.

Which Annoying B-List Celebrity Are you?

Dennis, are you at the gin again?
Which Annoying B-list Celebrity Are You?
Brought to you by Rum and Monkey.

Oh, my LORDY I can not believe that one quiz says I am Madonna (some earlier one I took -- 80s teen icons, I suspect; you can find it by clicking on the "Fun Stuff" category) -- and now I am Margaret Thatcher!
Is it even possible?

I think it's because there were lots of questions like: "Do you think British people are ugly little goblins?" and since I love all things British except the food (novels, gardens, tasty accents, theater, men, etc.), I answered "no."
despite its anglophobia,
and despite my most distressing results,
this was one of the most entertaining quizzes I have taken so far.


What Ice Cream Flavor Are you?

I am chocolate ice cream. It is one of the very best flavors: classy and universally beloved, if not a winner in the beauty contest department. Well -- that's what I say. The makers of the quiz say I am boring rather than delicious -- but what do they know?
And what flavor are you?
Chocolate Ice Cream
You are Perry's Chocolate ice cream: serious and
scholarly. Though you've got class, some
people might find you a tad boring. Lighten
up! Go for the sprinkles!

What Ice Cream Flavor are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Harper's Article on YA Novels

I read Frances FitzGerald's Harper's magazine essay on Young Adult fiction when it first came out (Sept. 2004) -- and it's interesting reading for anyone who reads, writes or publishes books for teenagers. I only just found it on the web, so I'm posting it now.

The essay is fascinating, but I think despite the ending that espouses adventure, chick lit, fantasy, etc.,FitzGerald sees the field of YA as largely consisting of problem novels -- that is, novels in which the agenda of the novelist is to address some painful issue teenagers might be encountering: pregnancy, drug use, physical abuse, stuff like that.

There are many great problem novels out there, and of course they exist. But I think they're only one part of a large field full of fantasy and comedy and romance and all the other things people like to read about no matter what their age.

It's easy to talk about problem books because they foreground an element of what makes a novel a young adult one rather than an adult one: there's a message that the adult writer is giving to the younger reader. True enough.

But the Mitford novels are meant to be inspriational and instructional, and so are all those memoirs about recovering from addiction and depression, and lots of other books where people learn to prioritize their families, or give up drinking, or whatever. I can't think of them at the moment, all these stories of personal growth, because I'm too busy reading about axe murderers and sex maniacs. But my point is, problem novels exist in the adult market, too -- they're just not called problem novels, and they may have a different kind of resolution or a different tone to their presentation than those published as YA.

It is difficult to say what constitutes teen fiction -- why is it teen fiction, when lots of grown-up fiction, from The Virgin Suicides to A Prayer for Owen Meany, is about teenagers? Focusing on the problem novel, to my mind, is a overly simple way of addressing the question. But read the article for yourself, and see what you think. It's really interesting, in any case.


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlieandthechocolatefactory_posterI am usually a purist and prefer the book over the movie. But if you like Roald Dahl, or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or Johnny Depp, or Tim Burton --
well, the media hype is working on me, that's all I can say.

Click here to see the coolest trailer I've seen in ages.

I never did fall for that old Willie Wonka movie, with Gene Wilder. I loved the bit where Violet Beauregard becomes a blueberry, and where that gluttonous boy gets sucked into the chocolate river -- but the rest of it had a quality that just failed to enchant me; I found it abrasive, somehow. Though I loved the books.

If you like Dahl, do you know he wrote frightening stories for adults?

A little more Audio News (plus so-called "spa week")

Hey, I am so psyched to learn that not only is the audiobook finished (I'm obsessed, I know) but it's going to be available in downloadable format from Audible, with whom I have no affiliation except for being a loyal customer. There'll be a CD as well, naturally, and it all comes out the same time as the book.

Meanwhile, with Fly finished, I resolved to have a "spa week" which was supposed to mean I did a lot of yoga and got a haircut and went out to lunch nice places with friends and saw some movies and read in bed and went in the sauna at the gym and maybe got a massage.

Here is what I've ACTUALLY done:
gone to the gym 4 times, and did yoga at home to new video of guy with a very nice chest
taken two enormous naps
no haircut
no sauna
no massage
shopped on the internet
cleaned the house
wrapped Hannukah presents and mailed them
likewise Christmas
mothballed all our clothes because we had MOTHS which was so gross I can't believe I'm even mentioning it
felt out of sorts because I didn't have a novel to write anymore
no lunches, with friends or without
went to one movie which was Bridget Jones's Diary: Edge of Reason, and the book is way way better, but this was still pretty funny, and is just me, or is Hugh Grant still mighty fine?

Pitiful, I know. I resolve to goof off in much better fashion tomorrow, after which I will start on The Boy Book.


What 90s Teen Movie are You?

10 Things I Hate About You
You're 10 Things I Hate About You! Loathing turns
to love when a bet goes awry in this quick and
witty movie based off of The Taming of the

What '90s Teen Movie are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

I appear to be Ten Things I Hate About You -- though when I had to pick actors I like, I did NOT pick Julia Stiles or Heath Ledger. His hair looks very weird in this movie, I think. Even in the poster.
It really is weird enough to be detracting from his hunkosity, I think.

But it is a good-enough movie. I mean, I could have been Cruel Intentions. That would have been seriously depressing.

I wish I was American Pie.