Won’t Break Your Heart: Sorcery & Cecelia, by Wrede and Stevermer

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I hadn’t quite expected this to be so good.  In fact, I futzed around and failed to really start it for about four weeks (or maybe longer).  But there was some point, maybe around page 80, when I seem to have flipped a switch; suddenly all I wanted to do was finish the book.  It’s lovely and wonderful, and I would certainly recommend it to pretty much anyone who has any interest in epistolary novels, or female protagonists in post-Napoleonic Wars England, or magic, or even just fun stories.  To be clear, given how readily I’ve bounced off of other similar characters before, I had no idea how much fun they could be.

Sorcery & Cecelia (which I have learned, much to my delight, is part of a series) was written back in the 80’s as a Letter Game.  Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer decided to write letters to each other in the voice of their two respective characters, relating gossip and intrigue, and telling each other about the fabulous and exciting things which they were each getting up to.  When they’d finished their game, they looked at their collection of letters and realized that they’d basically already written a novel.  With some editing for details, continuity, and pacing, they found that they had a perfectly acceptable manuscript, and then managed to get it published.  I am exceedingly glad that they did.

Look, I don’t want to ruin any of the book for you by mentioning things.  Suffice it to say that the two main characters’ adventures and intrigues make excellent reading, and Kate and Cecilia are absolutely brilliant as heroines who must vanquish their antagonists, while carefully acting within the constraints imposed on them by society.  Do yourself a favor and pick up this book.  It’s really quite good.

p.s. Thank you to the visitor who recommended this to me one morning in Mama Dorr’s kitchen.  I wish I could remember your name to thank you properly, especially after the excellent conversation we had about epistolary stories and your research into the subject. [Edit: The visitor was Naomi, but I appear to have misattributed the recommendation!  It was still an awesome conversation, but Thomas may have been the original source.  I might manage to get to the bottom of this.  Maybe.]

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Gravity Falls: X-Files for kids, Comedy for adults

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I just spent much of Saturday evening blazing my way through Gravity Falls, Alex Hirsch‘s absolutely wonderful cartoon series.  Gravity Falls was first described to me as “like The X-files but with kids in rural Oregon,” which does a decent job of introducing it.  That also puts it dangerously (tantalizingly?) close to Twin Peaks territory, but fails to convey just how damn funny the show is; I was chortling the whole way through, and would happily watch many of the episodes again (a rare experience for me with most TV shows). There’re still many more episodes for me to watch, and I honestly can’t wait.  I might take a break from writing this just to watch the next one.

So yeah, Gravity Falls is what would happen if you mashed Twin Peaks and the X-Files together in a hilarious and intelligent kids show.  It chronicles the summer adventures of Dipper and Mabel, a pair of twins who’ve gone to spend the summer with their great-uncle (Grunkle) Stan.  They live with him in his house / Mystery Shack tourist attraction, and have the dubious pleasure of working for him while they try to enjoy their summer in the bizarre town and its even stranger environs.

They must face boredom:

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Beasts:

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And popcorn-machine math:

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What’s not to like?  And yes, I did just watch another episode.  Honestly, if you’re at all interested in smart animated comedies, you should give Gravity Falls a look.  It’s definitely a kids’ show, but like the best kids’ programming it uses that as a vehicle to go deeper than you’d expect, instead of holding back.  Despite the innately fantastical nature of the show, it still feels like a very real depiction of the emotional lives of its protagonists, and it doesn’t shy away from the realities of social pressure for impressionable youngsters.  Now, if you’ll pardon me, I really want to watch another episode.