Crafting an identity as an adventurous woman naturally led me to books…. and cue surprised face, yes? As I thought of women modeling strength, audacity and enough curiosity to power at least half the universe, of course, women like my much loved Eleanor of Aquitaine, Elizabeth I, Jeanne d”Arc, Maria Mitchell, Ida Tarbell, and Babe Zaharias (there is an excellent new biography — check it out). However, when I think about the women who “raised” me, I tend to think fiction. The richly nuanced women in great novels showed me grace, and power and humor — but how to narrow them down. Google to the rescue, much like the cavalry in the old westerns, we turn to the ubiquitous search engine to answer our daily queries. So, I asked for the most important females in literature (which seemed to just be the Western canon) and a list showed up from an issue of Glamour magazine (I know, but it’s definitely pop culture).
- Jo March from Little Women (Alcott)
- Lysistrata (Aristophanes)
- Jane Eyre (Brontê)
- Hermione Granger from Harry Potter (Rowling)
- Sula (Morrison)
- Elizabeth Bennet from Pride & Prejudice (Austen)
- Eva Luna (Allende)
While not a bad start — the list omits a few dozen (hundreds of) strong women. Some I’ve mentioned before include Anne Shirley, Shakespeare’s Portia, the indomitable Scarlett O’Hara, or my darling Meg Murry. There are so many others from Euripides’ Medea to Homer’s Cassandra, think of Ferber’s Magnolia Hawks & Julie Dozier, or even the blood and sex soaked women of George Martin’s fantasies.
As you read of their exploits, you learn how to negotiate life with grace, grit and oftentimes life-defying humor. Medea presaged helicopter moms in a big way, while Cassandra spoke truth at infinite cost. Love for the heroines, brings its own cautions and joys… banter, friendship, lasting and fleeting passions, laughter and tears.
In the night, as a playlist lulls me to sleep, I plot stories that pulse to a particular song. Maybe as a little variation on the songs I usually post, I will play with plots that float through my dreams — stories that have yet to be written. It’s often silly, so indulge in a little song play… after writing these down it’s kind of clear I was meant to be either a torchy lounge singer or some sort of woman of mystery 🙂 ! guess a librarian can be both?
• She’s Leaving Home (the Beatles) for some reason, people don’t realize this is a happy ever after song, I guess there’s the weepy mom part in the middle… but this I think of this as a solid, slice of life story — Megan & Amber meet as children in gymnastics — and through all life’s complications they have each other’s back — when they realize they were meant for one another!
• Rosalina’s Eyes (Billy Joel) — the NY rhythms pulse in all of Joel’s music — but this one always reminds me of El Paso (the place & the song) — so I created a story of Rosalinda and Matt — torn asunder by the conflicts between Pancho Villa and Black Jack Pershing — both fiercely loyal to their countries and their independence.. ok, less bodice ripper than it sounds, I would make up stories like this to learn history
• 50’s French Movie (Carrie Rodriguez) — this song makes me incredibly happy — the story is of course set in Paris, kind of French new wave, á la Breathless (the French version — not Richard Gere). Cécile is an Interpol operative on the trail of international hit man — Charles Noone.
• Veronica (Elvis Costello), Valerie (Steve Winwood), Althea (Grateful Dead), Cecilia (Simon & Garfunkel) and of course, Roxanne (the Police) — Name songs are always fun to make up little vignettes — there’s a couple of books on the premise Nick Hornby has Juliet, Naked & Robin Benway has Audrey, Wait both of which work far better than my poor efforts… most of the time, the singer/band is performing the song in a smoky bar — and Althea (love that name) or one of the other ladies referenced above makes up her own mind, and oftentimes just walks away…
• Wonderful Tonight (Eric Clapton) — it’s not the Notebook, which is a horror story, let’s establish that up front. But this most romantic song ever (ok, it ties with Elton John’s Your Song) — creates one of those epic, generational tales shot through with the passionate story of Lainey and Drew.
• She’s a Rebel (Green Day) — Green Day is music to play to rattle the cage — and the stories I come up with are Mad Max/Tank Girl inspired. Vivian is a loner, and a badass. Her adventures continue and would make an awesome graphic novel…
• Wicked World (Laura Jansen) & Hey Cinderella (Suzy Bogguss)– so of course, I go into fractured fairy tale mode with these. However, my Belle doesn’t develop Stockholm syndrome — she heals the Beastie by finding and defeating the sorceress in a battle of the wits, and then sets off to find her true love, who looks suspiciously like Richard Armitage in the description… Beast is OK, he and Gaston discover they have much in common, and Beast tries to counsel Gaston on the folly of egoism.
Ladies of Cambridge (Vampire Weekend) — just the title drags me into a Revolutionary era and I’ve created stories set in both the 1960s and the 1770s
• She Will be Loved (Maroon 5) and Most of the Girls LTD (Don Dixon) — Maroon 5 is a no brainer, but you may not recognize the amazing Don Dixon, often better known as the producer of some cool NC bands. These two would be a YA novel, Lisbet has everything — popularity, talent, a plan for bio-engineering (ok, I dream about STEM careers for girls) and a vacuous guy who dumps her in chapter 2. Oh, but little does she realize that Jack, her best friend and fellow science team partner is right there. Not original, but a nice solid triangle with fun plot twists…. in one version she hacks the Pentagon, which may be because I’d just watched WarGames….
• She Loves the Sunset (Old 97’s) — laid back, rambly kind of band — this song sounds like beaches in Hawaii — so Astrid runs a small, lush resort on the big island, Raoul plays guitar in the nightclub. She is a professional and doesn’t have time for romance — even with a cutie pie.
• Turn on Billie (the Pierces) — any song that prescribes Billie Holiday is delicious — Ava is a stenographer in an office during WWII, when a visitor to the company asks if she wants more money and an adventure. Hoping she wasn’t walking into a white slavery ring, she ends up in the secret city of Oak Ridge, TN where the atomic bomb was developed..
• Only Girl in the World (Rihanna) — I make up stories about a cool, bounty hunter in space named Joss — I have no idea why Rihanna makes my brain go in that direction
• Red Red Rose (the Weepies) — one of my go to happy ending songs…. in sweet, little tales of love gone right — there are always flowers, oftentimes greenwood, and waterfalls can happen..
My mind work in idleness. To do nothing is often my most profitable way –> Virginia Woolf