Living in Fantasy Land

Dymocks’ latest Booklover catalogue includes a fantasy-style map titled “Journey through the magical lands of fantasy”. Five lands are marked on the map, with a list of authors assigned to each land, grouped according to what type of fantasy they write. The groupings are “High magic & epic quest”, “History & myth”, “Sorcery & intrigue”, “All ages” and “Urban”. (Clearly I need to read more urban fantasy, as I’ve only read two of the authors on the list.)

Dymocks have done this before, and it’s a handy way to discover new authors. They’ve included quite a few Aussies but, as an Australian bookshop, I would have liked them to make a bigger effort to push Australian authors. I realise such lists can’t be exhaustive, but where, for instance, is Sara Douglass? She sells ’em by the truckload. Why not mention Justine Larbalestier under the “All ages” category? And what about Glenda Larke? I must have read a gazillion fantasy trilogies, but I’d never read one where the showdown with the ultimate bad guy comes at the end of book 2 instead of book 3 until I read her Isles of Glory trilogy. It was so refreshing to find a different take on the usual format.

The other thing that struck me was: why is JRR Tolkien the first name on the “High magic & epic quest” list? Don’t get me wrong, I adore The Lord of the Rings. It’s still my favourite book after all these years, he’s the father of modern fantasy, I know, I know, but come on! If there’s a single person out there in reader land who hasn’t heard of him by now, they must have been living under a rock. Is it really necessary to put him on the list? It’s like saying to someone, “Oh, you like religious stories? Have we got the book for you! It’s called the bible – you’ll love it.”

Another interesting thing I noticed – the majority of the names on the “High magic & epic quest” list are male, whereas all but two on the “Urban” list are female. Any theories about that? I have a few but since I haven’t actually read much urban fantasy I’d probably be talking through my hat.

And yes, I do spend quite a lot of time poring over the pages of book catalogues. No, I don’t need any help getting over my addiction, but thank you for asking.

In which I apologise for cornering the world market in green paint

If you’ve had trouble finding green paint at your local hardware store recently, sorry. That was me. Who would have thought it could be so hard to pick a colour for one piddling little feature wall? With all that practice at combining colours for quilts and scrapbook pages it ought to be easy, but the green sample pots continue to mount up. My beloved reckons we’d have enough to paint the whole house green if we just combined them all. Such a helpful man. This is why I make the decorating decisions at our house.

When I can decide, that is. So far we’ve had greens that belonged in a lolly shop, greens that were too dark, greens with too much yellow, greens with too much blue and the dreaded green-that-looks-like-something-the-cat-sicked-up. The perfect Goldilocks “just right” green remains elusive.

On top of that, I don’t think the young guy at the paint counter is talking to me any more. Admittedly he’s not exactly on my Christmas card list either after stuffing up a previous paint order, but still. On yet another trip to the paint department recently Drama Duck was with me. He was in the middle of helping us and had just turned away to find some more colour samples when she said in one of those thunderous stage whispers kids use:

“Mum! Don’t trust him – he’s the one who gave us the wrong paint before!”

“Do you want to get us thrown out of Bunnings?” I hissed back.

Then, last weekend, the whole family went along (yes, we have a very exciting social life). The five of us walked up to the paint counter, saw he was the only assistant free, wheeled in unison and walked straight back out again. Plaintive cries of “but why are we going?” from Baby Duck floated in the air as we disappeared. With moves like that we could join a marching band.

But I think I’ll have to start going to another Bunnings.

Surprise!

Baby Duck was giving me a cuddle the other day when he looked at me lovingly. “Mum, we bought you a DVD for your birthday.”

I managed not to laugh. “Really? Don’t tell me what it is – it’s supposed to be a surprise.”

“It had a dragon on the front,” he said. “But I can’t remember what it’s called.”

What kid hasn’t done this? My mum still tells the story of my brother announcing, “Daddy! We bought you some slippers!” the minute Dad walked in the door, despite many promises to keep it a secret. And that was more than 50 years ago.

Or there was Drama Duck’s classic effort when she was about 6, and we’d bought an umbrella for her daddy’s birthday. Having heard the story of my brother’s slip-up so many times, I was very careful to impress upon her the need to keep the purchase secret. I didn’t have a great deal of hope, but I figured it was worth trying. I also warned my husband on the phone that we’d been shopping, and he should try to discourage any attempts to reveal all.

Sure enough, he came home from work and I heard her run to him. “Daddy, daddy! I’ve got a surprise!”

“Remember you can’t tell me what it is,” he warned.

“Oh, it’s not about the umbrella,” she assured him. “This is a different surprise.”