My Daughters’ Library

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For River and Inara

Bookworms of the world, I would like your help in making this gift for my disabled daughter and her sister. (It doesn’t cost a penny, and it will take only a few moments.)

As my family tumbles from one medical issue to the next and my youngest daughter’s situation remains serious, I oscillate between wanting to dig a hole and scream into it until my throat is hoarse like the railroad workers in Maxine Hong Kingston’s China Men … and wanting to book a long Pacific cruise, which would arguably be more productive though also prohibitively more expensive.

Instead, as I look for a way to channel and direct all of my anguish, fury, helplessness, and fierce need to protect in the face of my daughter’s ongoing illness, I think I’ll ask everyone to help me make this gift for my daughters.

I have said that no matter how bleak things may appear, one thing that we can celebrate with our whole hearts is our access to nearly unlimited stories, that in an often-dark century, that is our single greatest “Wow,” an advancement our ancestors could not have imagined.

I believe that.

For that reason, I want to collect a little Library introducing my daughters to so many books. Not just any books, but books that people care deeply about. These can be young adult novels, novels for older readers; they can be any genre, from the suspenseful to the gruesome to the romantic to the fantastical to noir. It doesn’t really matter. Because chances are, some day, my daughters will want to read something from any or all of those. And one day, they and I and their mother will read this page together. If our Inara is still mostly blind, we will read this page to her.

Growing the Library of Pages

ChildrenI would like to collect a few … no, dozens … no, hundreds … no, thousands … of quotations from novels for my daughters. I want to make a Library of Pages and a digital zoo that is jammed full of roaring, laughing, giggling, weeping, and whispering stories. It would be easy to find lots of random quotes online, but I want this Library to be a library of quotes that mean something to many readers who we know or who know my books or who know my daughters, or readers who know those readers. (If you are a novelist, I ask only that it not be a quote from your book, but from another book you treasure.)

I want it to be a gift rather than a Google search. That makes it personal, that makes it real.

So here is what I am asking you to do:

1. Read the story of my little Inara (if you’d like to), which you can do here and here — or watch the epilepsy awareness video about Inara that my wife made. You can also meet my older daughter, River, by scrolling down to the middle of this interview; River, who is nearly four, is fiercely protective of her sister.
2. Type a favorite quote from one of your favorite novels into the Comments below, and tell my daughters where the quote is from.
3. Share this page with other readers you know, so that this Library of Pages can grow more and more vast, until its trees with their page-shaped leaves tower over my girls as a mighty shelter and a wilderness of wonders they might explore.

And it will be special to them because they will know that all of you heard their story and grew this library forest for them, one quote at a time, that this forest was the touch of many caring hands and minds.

Thank you for being a part of this.

Yours in truth and fiction,

Stant Litore

UPDATE: A LEATHER-BOUND COPY OF THE LIBRARY:

I have been touched at the level of response to this Library, and I’ve begun copying the Library into an old leatherbound journal that I’ve had at hand waiting for the right purpose for its existence. If, when Inara is older, she remains mostly blind, I will create a Braille copy for her. I’m pretty good with a Braille writer.

River_Inara_Journal_1

River_Inara_Journal_2

The High-Pitched, Panicked Shrieking of Commas

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Doing a final once-over on this copy edit for No Lasting Burial. Having dreams in which commas and semicolons duke it out, chucking flaming ellipses at each other like anime superhero fireballs while they dance to keep their balance on paragraphs that are sliding into the chasms opened up by strategic and even brutal cuts in the text. Wake in the morning to the high-pitched, panicked shrieking of commas as the paragraph on which they reside tips, continent-like, and slides downward into the fault. And the deep hooting of the semicolons, slow and indignant as the realization dawns that their death-battle with the commas was all for nothing, they and all the words that stand about them like emptied houses sliding down together into the hissing, bubbling magma of the mind from which they came. Glancing up with wide and bewildered eyes, they glimpse the riotous foliage of verbs and nouns in the paragraphs that survive on the other side of that crack in the text, a jungle of lush and thriving sentences. Louder than the magma, the tread of the text’s characters, stately behemoths, the many-branched sentences slapping their thighs and legs as they lumber mountain-large across this grammar-thicketed landscape. The semicolons’ mouths fall open as they try to take in the understanding that their many small lives are being sacrificed so that those immense characters can grow even larger, thundering and chewing across the story, vast as gods, their bodies so massive compared to the tiny instances of punctuation, their bulk dark against the sky. Below, the death-shrieks of the commas as they slide into the magma first. Then the commas are gone. Hooting louder, waving their frond-like arms, the semicolons wonder if they will be remembered even by their creator, or if the text will simply close over the fissure once their paragraph has been burned away, if the wild forest of sentences and phrases and clauses will grow thicker and hotter and greener once they are gone.

A few quotation marks flap by far overhead in a flying V, migrating toward the surviving paragraphs. Their lonely flight is the last thing the deep-voiced semicolons see before the fire takes them.

Stant Litore

Reacting to Wonderbook

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My contributor’s copy of Wonderbook: An Illustrated Guide to Imaginative Fiction arrived today in the mail, and this is my review — or my blurb — or maybe it is my thank you letter to Jeff Vandermeer and Jeremy Zerfoss, the architects of this book. I am seriously amazed. It is a voluptuously beautiful book. It is available for preorder and arriving in mailboxes soon, and you can go look at a preview of the book here. Which you absolutely should. Because it’s beautiful. And instructive. And practical.

What’s Ahead for my Daughter

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Inara2So, the update. Little Inara is seizing again. We are at the point where increasing her medicines carries some not insignificant risks (specifically, to her kidneys). Before making that judgment call, we and her doctors need to be certain what is happening with her body and brain and what’s needed. The standard EEG didn’t capture what we needed to know, so our next step is to schedule a hospital stay of up to five days; she’ll be wired up with electrodes and videotaped 24/7 to catch and confirm exactly what’s happening, if we can.

Then, better informed, we can look at our options. Increase Medicine A? Increase Medicine B? Look into medical marijuana? Some combination of the above? What’s frustrating is that we don’t know what’s causing her seizures, her blindness, or her developmental delay; all our tests (so far) for genetic disorders have come back negative.

All I know is that I am her father and it falls to me to protect her, and I don’t seem to be doing that. In my head, I know that I am doing all I can. But that isn’t good enough. This is my little girl. I want her safe. She is happy and also feisty and brave. I want her safe.

Stant Litore

Zombie Books I Recommend

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Today is a historic day. On October 1, there was a massive government shutdown and nightlong terror as millions of citizens boarded themselves into their houses to await the horrors that might come, hoping beyond hope that the dawn light might yet bring the authorities rushing back to action and to their rescue. America trembled and nearly toppled to its knees.

Yes, today is that day. It is the anniversary of that terrifying night of the living dead–Oct 1, 1968–that still, in memory, makes us shudder.

NOLD

The Night of the Living Dead, bestial and hungry grandmother of the modern zombie movie, was first screened on October 1, 1968.

This is the type of zombie story that I love — dark, deathly serious, brooding, with a healthy wallop of social commentary. And it is still (for me) one of the two most terrifying and fascinating films I have ever seen. I plan on watching it again in honor of this historic occasion.

By the way, if you’re looking for some dark and serious (as opposed to campy) zombie fiction with a healthy wallop of social commentary included — Romero style — then, aside from my own work with The Zombie Bible, I recommend:

These are the seven on my top shelf, and I hope you’ll give them a read. What better way to commemorate the unforgettable and unholy menace of October 1 than to open one of these novels?

Stant Litore