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July 07, 2004


Jennifer Jordan

I've received two gifts (so far) in my lifetime that have actually moved and shaped me. Evening Star by Sulamith Wulfing.

I spent my childhood staring at it. It hung on the wall opposite my bed and it was my first and last sight everyday. I thought I outgrew it when I was thirteen and removed it, storing it in oblivion. Despite looking for over a year, I still can't find a full size poster of this painting and I regret my constant and infantile need for outward signs of growth and change.

This painting is in all of my artwork and Dianne's (my sister) as well. I can see it in my girlish first attempts at writing (an absolutely horrible, huge thing I wrote when I was eight). I bit of the boy in that image is in some of the protagonists that pester me now.

The second gift was a beautiful copy of The Romance of King Arthur that Arthur Rackham illustrated. When I opened that on Christmas morning, I couldn't wait to sneak off and read it. Within a few months, the dust jacket was history. The book itself is very worn and very read. It's from the Knights of the Round Table that I based my own code of ethics. At twelve, I vowed that despite any mistakes I would make in my life, no matter what I faced and what I was blessed with, I would always put honor above all other things. As I slowly grew and somewhat matured, that was a glowing ember that remained (still) in the back of my brain and the seat of my heart.

But, in reading the book, I was bitterly disappointed to see how few women evinced this sentiment or lived by that code. The women in that book, save one, are really dreadful. Guenevere (my namesake) was a liar that put her passions before vows she'd given and before what was best for a whole damn kingdom. I wanted to change my name so badly. Named after a forever child that lusted after a schizophrenic goth knight. Arthur was an honest, honorable man and she goes for the French fop.

After all my readings of that tome, the only woman I found to look up to was referred to simply as a gentlewoman hunting. This chick was out there in the dead of winter, dressed in skins, providing for herself. She shoots the hapless dolt Launcelot, tends to his wounds and sends him on his way. No seduction, no fawning or coyness, just a healing, maybe some rabbit stew and an open door. Have a nice life, Sir Idiot.

Elaine falls madly in love with him and look what happens to her. For want of Lancehead, she refuses to eat, drink or sleep. She begs God to receive her soul despite being an earthly woman who 'loved out of measure.' I'm sure He received her, patted her on the head and sent her to pick flowers until Guen arrived. It would be so nice for her to have a playmate. Raspberries to both of them...
I never wanted to be a queen, a princess or any damned 'lay' in waiting. I wanted to be the gentle woman hunting.

I never wanted any blathering dunderhead of a knight, either. First, they smelled really bad. Let's face that. Secondly, when they killed, it was for glory, not survival. A little too much testosterone in those old lance breakers. Thirdly, they married to make babies and get land. That's it. To hell and back with that premise. Give me a gentleman hunter any day.

If I see a knight in my dream, I'll pray for rain and hope he rusts.


I think my wife's is another Shel Silverstein book, WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS. And having just got her THE GIVING TREE, I'm not too ambivalent about it. It reminds me of my Immutables, Antoine de Saint-Exupery's THE LITTLE PRINCE and (a prince motif?) Oscar Wilde's short THE HAPPY PRINCE.

I am such a soppy get.


mmmm I scored 71%.


Wow, so many immutables, so little time. Instead of a specific book, I'll try this from another angle.

I come from a genre fiction warzone -- the mother is a mystery/crime freak (my childhood secret power? Memorizing the back cover copy of every Agatha Christie novel because she couldn't remember what she'd read and would buy a lot of duplicates -- memory always kicked in around the end of the first scene). I spent far too much of my late teens interspersing JD Salinger (9 Stories, mostly) with romance novels. I refused to touch my mother's books (one must rebel in some way); she sneered at my romance.

We were daggers drawn on our reading choices for years. I, being the reasonable one, have discovered there is a lot to be said for mysteries. She refuses to believe that there might be a halfway decent romance out there. Despite proof (in making reading recommendations, I slipped a few less obvious titles into her library...she never knew what hit her). I actually get this a lot when it comes to romance, but I think most genre readers encounter some sort of prejudice.

However, this story does have a happy ending of sort -- a previous immutable (is it immutable if your tastes eventually evolve....sort of like discovering a love for spinach when you reach adulthood) has been embraced by both of us. Yes, though it shames me to say it (especially considering that I read romance), I believed there was no good to be found in science fiction/fantasy. I am standing before you today and admitting I was wrong. I judged books by their covers (which do tend toward cheesy in some cases). I committed a sin that I condemn others for. And this from a person who, while avoiding sf/f, swore she'd read anything.

I haven't taken the test -- I'm so bad with either/or things. Choosing between Steely Dan and Elvis Costello requires a detailed analysis (what period for each, specific songs, what is my mood...).

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