Monday, 16 February 2015

A little something new...

The Retired Bridgeburner is now two years old! Excuse me while I have a bizarrely proud parent moment.

Last year my "something different" was the 30 Day Chronic Illness Challenge. Whilst I enjoyed doing that, it has isuses with repetition and towards the end it became difficult to answer similar questions differently enough to make it worth posting. One of the key problems was in some cases I'd already covered the answer in an earlier post - there are only so many questions you can ask about the experience of chronic illness after all. At some point you enter the murky boggy waters of "Where have we heard this before?"

So, I'm doing something quite different for this birthday. I'm going to answer more typical life questions and see if they reveal any links into the more usual realms of this blog. I'm going to start it off with this post myself with a question fresh in my mind from a recent discussion with a friend, but I'm also quite openly asking for questions from you readers. I'm really looking forward to your suggestions!

So, the first one.

Given complete freedom, name a person you would like to meet and why. 

I doubt this will surprise many of you, particularly if you've stuck around with TRB for a while. Also, I'm cheating. There are two. 

J. K. Rowling

(I really recommend this Oprah interview to other fans - they're actually both very interesting women and it's a nice thing to watch.)

On one level, I'd like to meet her because I think she'd be an interesting person to talk to, and I love stimulating conversation. I've watched the few TV programmes she's done (Who Do You Think You Are, A Year in the Life etc) and my impression from this is of an interesting and grounded woman with a great outlook on life. Who wouldn't want to meet someone like that?

On another though, it's the same reasoning as I have for the second person. I'm a book person, and books are my first great love. However, as for I suspect all people there are certain books which do important things for you, whether it be to teach you something profound about yourself or because they make you feel at home. The Harry Potter books were one of my examples. 

There is a documentary on the special edition of Deathly Hallows Part 2 called "The Women of Harry Potter", in which Rowling discusses the the various female characters and the reasoning behind their creation and some of their actions. The final third or so is about Hermione, and Rowling reveals Hermione came from a very personal place as she is an exaggeration of her at a similar age, She talks about the sort of little girl she was at that age and the parallels with the character, and the first time I watched it I burst into tears and wept rather quietly for the rest of the discussion. The only way I can describe it is as if she had reached through the television and grabbed me around the heart. I can honestly say she could have been talking about me. 

The Hermione Granger comparison is something I smile and laugh at rather fondly now (yes, I can still do a rather good impression of "Just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon!" and the like), but at the time it was something I held rather closely. For a chronically bullied young teenager, I cannot express the power of the existence of a pop culture figure who is very similar to you. The Philosopher's Stone film was released in my first year of secondary school, which made up what cannot honestly be called the happiest five years of my life. I'm not suggesting anybody thought Hermione was "cool", but her existence meant I wasn't alone. It made a love of learning, a high level of ability and a strong sense of what was right over what was "cool" that little bit less abnormal, and such small victories are very, very important at that age. They kept me just shy of the brink of despair.

Discovering proof that she was based upon a real person just perfected the sense of what the character and the books gave me. Even as my taste moves on, my love of re-reading the series endures because of that nostlagic attachment. They're also an easy thing to return to when I'm not feeling well because they're undemanding entertainment. It serves as a wonderful pick me up, and makes me feel good. What more can you ask for? 

Steven Erikson

("And ignorant historians will write of us in the guise of knowledge.... They will compose a Book of the Fallen.")

Yup. Predictable. 

As mentioned, books that do something important for you resonate, and I doubt it's unusual to wish to meet the person responsible for them. 

Aside from the books however, Erikson's other writing is often thought-provoking and challenging, and to me that's a wonderful thing. I adore stimulating discourse. I love anything that makes you pause and consider things, perhaps more so than you may have done before. 

For a recent example, he hosted a rather brilliant discussion on Reddit about authorial intent. The good folks of Malazan Empire shared this, and it kept me riveted and deep in thought for quite some time. There is nothing so wonderful for me as challenging and intelligent discussion. 

Occasionally though, you come across an author and you feel an instant spirit of kinship with the way they look at the world. Ms Rowling says in the interview linked above that she thinks you find out what you believe from what you write sometimes. I think the same can be true of reading as well. Throughout the Malazan books I had more than one "light bulb" moment. As I've said before, I first read Malazan when I fell ill and was awaiting my own light bulb moment when a doctor would finally tell me what the heck my body was doing to me. 

Timing is sometimes key, and those books came along at a very formative time in my life rather like the Harry Potter books did. I was older and hopefully wiser, and as such the connection is different and deeper. It's my adult love as opposed to the nostalgic childhood one above. However, they're both examples of an escapism I firmly believe I need for my own mental health. It angers me to sheer fury when escapism of this nature is derided as childish and having no place in an adult world. I don't think it's in my nature to be so wholly cynical, so it's anathema to me that the wish to escape into something reassuring which makes you feel good has no valid place. If there were ever books to prove that fantasy is not for the childish, it would be these. 

On the meeting front, there's a particular death in one of the books which monumentally destroyed me, and I really want to tell him off for that, somehow at the same time as congratulating him on creating such a perfectly crushing moment. Such is the perfect dissonance of those books at times. 

So there you go. I'm not remotely interested in "celebrity" or being famous for being famous. The only known people I would be interested in meeting would be those who've done something interesting. I'm not a person who feels things in a shallow fashion, and emotion runs very deeply for me. In a way I suspect that's part of why I have such health problems relating to stress, why it never fails to cause flare ups. 

Doing the things that make you feel good, whatever they may be, really are one of the keys to overall health and well being. Partially it's why I picked these two people - it'd be nice to say thank you in person, wouldn't it?

Who would you meet given the chance? 

Wishing you all many spoons xxx

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