Saturday, April 26, 2008

Fables and the Imaginative Mind

It's been a long time since I posted anything about what I've been reading. I mean, I'm a writer, so I should be a voracious reader, right?

Yeah, but...

I'm also a really undisciplined reader. When a fiction book captures me, it's all bets off. I'll stay up most of the night reading. I'll read at breakfast, lunch, snacks. I'm like an addict.

So then I schedule my reading time for that rare weekend when I can take a full day to read without guilt.

The other problem is that when I started to study the craft of writing, it changed how I read fiction. I get too easily distracted by the mechanics of the storytelling and the writing. I get too easily bored. So when I do reserve precious time to read, sometimes what I'm reading fails to capture me and I move on to some other activity.

When it comes to non-fiction, I have bookshelves full of books that I've collected on all sorts of subjects. But they serve mostly as occasional reference, since I don't have time to read them cover to cover. My solution lately has been to designate a book for the office that I take to lunch with me and read during that time. It might take several weeks or so to get through a book that way, but when I do it, the system works for me.

The best solution, though, was when I discovered courses on CD. Then I could listen to them during my hour of commuting time every day, blowing through college-level courses in a few weeks. Bonus: No studying, tests or term papers.

Which leads me to my current post -- what I'm reading and listening to now -- because, truthfully, the two tie together so well.

What I'm reading is a series of graphic novels called Fables, and what I'm listening to a Teaching Company course titled Masterpieces of the Imaginative Mind: Literature's Most Fantastic Works.


The Brothers Grimm, Tolkien, the fantastic, science fiction, the universal structure of orally composed tales. It's all here.

Strangely, if you were to ask me what I've learned so far? The two facts that stick out in my mind are these:

1. Flowers are the sex organs of plants. (Remember that the next time you give or are given flowers.)

2. In fairy tales, they don't say "I love you", they give you food, and they don't say "I hate you", they poison you.

Really, there's a lot of good information in this class, but those are the two things that jump out at me right now.


It took me until Snow White and Bigby Wolf went on a camping trip together in the middle of book 3 to officially get me hooked, and now I've been pouring through the remaining books. [Yeah, yeah, I know Dave and Marriott have been telling me for weeks, no months, that I would love this series, and I resisted. I'm confessing now: You were right.]

Basically, the setup is this:

A great dictator, the Adversary, has taken over the magical kingdoms where the characters in our beloved fables and folktales live. Snow White, Prince Charming, The Big Bad Wolf and many of our favorite fairytale characters have had to flee their magical world and are living in exile in New York City in a secretive community known as Fabletown, while those fables who can't pass for human, such as the Three Bears, are living in upstate New York at a place called The Farm. There's romance, political intrigue, mystery, and a war to fight against the Adversary.

It's definitely a series for grownups, as it has adult situations. But it's very well written and entertaining, weaving in lots of storybook references.

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