Envy of characters (was: Re: L'Engle, etcetera)

Irina Rempt ira at rempt.xs4all.nl
Fri Sep 15 04:15:36 EDT 2000

On Wed, 13 Sep 2000, Melissa Proffitt wrote:

> The more potent reason I have for disliking L'engle's books is completely
> unrelated to this.  I hate that her characters have the families they
> do--reading together, scientist parents, this whole intellectual
> environment.  It made me incredibly dissatisfied with my own family when I
> was an older teen. 

It made me incredibly envious. I was dissatisfied with my family
already, though I never actually rebelled or ran away (looking back,
and talking to various people, makes me think either would have been
justifiable). I think I am, and was as a teen, sufficiently prone to
depression to think it was all my fault, not theirs, and I sulked
and half-heartedly acted out rather than fighting and going my own
way. Perhaps I was just too cowardly, didn't dare go all out.

I had a friend in my early twenties who came from such an
intellectual family; they had books in every room and in the
hallways, they talked about science at meals, they had little notes
with geek jokes ("On parle anglais, We speak German, Wir sprechen
französisch") everywhere. I basked in that, thinking that *this* was
what a family should be like, not the veiled hostility and heavy
silences that we had at home. I'm still not comfortable when my
husband is silent, because I keep expecting an angry outburst.

My friend was the only "normal" person in that household, and she
felt terribly left out. She held on to me as an island of sanity when
I was there, but then I fell in love with her brother (it never came
to anything because he was a rabid atheist) and I was suddenly one of

(eek! I suddenly realize that our kids may be growing up like that,
house full of books and geek jokes and educated table talk)

> And I hated being jealous of fictional characters.

I'm forever jealous of fictional characters. Better that, than to be
jealous of real people :-)

> And this brings us round to Pamela Dean, surprisingly.  Her books have a
> similar quality of "rightness" that makes me unable to enjoy them.  No
> matter what the characters say--for example, the narrator in _Juniper,
> Gentian and Rosemary_ isn't herself smug, despite her group of friends being
> just as intellectual as Janet's crowd--I always have this sense of Dean in
> the background, this feeling that this is how intelligent well-read people
> really are, and since I'm not like this I don't qualify.  

Hit the nail on the thumb - ouch! I haven't read _Juniper, Gentian
and Rosemary_ (can't get hold of it), and I keep rereading _Tam Lin_
and being jealous and frustrated and fascinated all at the same time. 

> And at the same time, I was wishing I *did* have a group of friends like
> this.  

Yes! I used to have a group of friends almost like that, but two just
sort of drifted away, one acquired a non-intellectual boyfriend and
suddenly didn't want to know us any more, and one got caught up in
gay activism. There were only two of us left, and we were married
already (to each other, fortunately). 


           Varsinen an laynynay, saraz no arlet rastynay.
irina at valdyas.org (myself)     http://www.valdyas.org/irina/valdyas

To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at suberic.net with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at http://suberic.net/dwj/list/

More information about the Dwj mailing list