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Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy

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Writer’s playlist

Return Post—The Bangles

Writing the lines as they come to me
Scratching them out almost immediately
Don’t know what it’s done to me

When I Write My Master’s Thesis—John K. Samson

It’s all gonna change
When I write my master’s thesis

Paperback Writer—The Beatles

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?

Every Day I Write the Book—Elvis Costello

Chapter One: We didn’t really get along.
Chapter Two: I think I fell in love with you.
You said you’d stand by me in the middle of Chapter Three
But you were up to your old tricks in Chapters Four
Five and Six.
And I’m giving you a longing look
Every day, every day, every day I write the book

Suzanne Vega—Book and a Cover

What’s that they told you
About a book and a cover?

Jools and Jim—Pete Townshend

Typewriter tappers
You’re all just crappers
You listen to love with your intellect

Wrote My Way Out—Nas, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Dave East, Aloe Blacc

Sister tapped my brains, said, pssh, you’ll get ’em right back
Oversensitive, defenseless, I made sense of it, I pencil in
The lengths to which I’d go to learn my strengths and knock ’em senseless
These sentences are endless, so what if they leave me friendless?

We Used to Wait—Arcade Fire

I  used to write
I used to write letters
I used to sign my name
I used to sleep at night
Before the flashing lights settled deep in my brain

Please Read the Letter—Robert Plant and Allison Krause

Please read the letter, I
Wrote it in my sleep
With help and consultation from
The angels of the deep

The Letter—The Box Tops

Well, she wrote me a letter
Said she couldn’t live without me no more

Letter from Bilbao—Lowest of the Low

I am writing you this letter
In desperation, I’m afraid

All She Wrote—Ray Davies

All she wrote was a goodbye letter
“It’s over for us, to tell you the truth
I’ve met this person in a disco
He’s really special, reminds me of you”

Word Crimes—Weird Al Yankovic

Like I could care less
That means you do care
At least a little


She wrote out a story about her life
I think it included something about me
I’m not sure of that but I’m sure of one thing

Her spelling’s atrocious

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Carry on

Rainbow Rowell’s novel Carry On has an unusual genesis.

412xh9uvpbl-_ac_ul115_It originated in one of her previous novels, Fangirl, in which the main character, Cath, is obsessed with a Harry Potter-like series of books about a teenage magician named Simon Snow. So obsessed that Cath writes a lot of fan fiction about it. Cath’s big goal is to write her own version of the final Simon Snow book—in the form of a long story she calls Carry On—before the official book is released.

So Fangirl contains supposed “excerpts” of the “official” Simon Snow books, along with bits of Carry On along with other Simon fan fiction Cath has written over the years.

And Carry On is Rainbow’s Rowell own take on these characters; that is, she’s not attempting to write it in the voice of Cath.

As it was somewhat whimsically chosen as our book club selection, I had the rare opportunity of comparing my reaction to it with that of two people who, unlike me, had not read Fangirl.

In the beginning

Carry On cover

Carry On is written with the assumption that you have read the previous six books (that don’t really exist). It doesn’t fully explain this world; it refers to previous battles and other characters without extensive elaboration.

This, I was somewhat expecting. My friends were not, and were initially somewhat mystified by it.

All of us, however, shared the “holy shades of Harry Potter” syndrome in that the beginning really seems like the start of any Harry Potter novel, with Harry—sorry, Simon—having a miserable, lonely summer among the “Normals”, then having some adversity in trying to get to his private school for magic people. There we find his smart friend Penelope, the great Mage who runs the school, the eccentric gardener Ebb, mortal enemy Baz, and so on. All so Harry Potter-ish, it’s quite distracting.

The plot thickens

Fortunately, as the novel continues, it diverges enough and develops the characters sufficiently that you do stop mentally matching them up with JK Rowling equivalents and just enjoy the story on its own merits. We all found the plot engaging enough and quite appreciated the storyteller’s humour. For example, one of my favorite bits is that Penelope’s roommate is literally a pixie (named Trixie) who is indeed, quite manic!

The book’s use of spells was also very interesting (see A linguist live-tweets Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On). The idea is that spells are based on English idioms, sayings, poems. The spells can gain or lose potency over time as the phrase itself become more or less popular in the vernacular. So those good with words tend to be more powerful.

Song lyrics can be particularly magical, and of special delight was that this song played a key role in the plot:


(On an unrelated note, the Bohemian Rhapsody Reinterpreted video, featuring ballet dancers, a choir, and a string quartet accompanying Queen, is awesome:


Spoilers for those who haven’t read Fangirl:

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