Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NaNoWriMo: The Cardamom Sea

It's NaNoWriMo, national write a novel month, where you hopefully write 50,000 words by the end of November. My book club and I decided to participate. Well, we're halfway through, I am at 14,262 words, and the other two members have all but given up. Instead of giving up and feeling overwhelmed, I decided to try to make it to 25,000 words by the end of the month. I think that is admirable. I also want to share my story, which is written in short chapters; is good for a person who doesn't know what to blog about. It also gives me a chance to edit what I frantically typed at the beginning of the month before I had a plan. I hope you enjoy!


Something at the back of his mind, in his subconscious remembered lending it to his neighbors up the block, but there was no way to know. The tug he felt came from a gut feeling. If it were based on something more solid, like proof, he would have had the book in his hands. He had to accept that the book was gone. But right now was when he wanted to read it the worst. Christian's day at school had consisted of two big tests, being teased about his favorite yellow sweatpants and losing part of Japan to another shogun in his social science class's version of Risk. He needed to escape. It was painful for him to scan the bookcase in hopes that the spine would magically appear-The Snow Queen and Other Fairytales by Hans Christian Anderson-back among the other books. He was depressed because he was so careless with it and scanning the shelf only made it worse.
He didn't even know where the book came from. It was old, it did not have a sleek dust jacket with vibrant colors like most of his other books. Instead, it was bound in real cloth with gold writing on the spine and had a small picture on the front that gave the reader an idea of the illustrations inside its covers. The drawings were the best part. They were gruesome, dark and would have been censored out if the book were published today. His only belief was that it was from his grandparents because they had a lot of old children's books at their house. It seemed like a book they would have owned —the mildew smell characteristic of their house —it was comforting. 
The Snow Queen was his favorite and always would be. Although the other tales like, The Little Mermaid, where Ariel does not marry the prince in the end but turns to sea foam after losing her tongue, and The Wild Swans, where Eliza must endure weaving sweaters from stinging nettles under a vow of silence in order to transform her brothers from swans back into humans, were deliciously magical and dark, he enjoyed The Snow Queen the most. He loved to escape into the tale where Kay, who gets a piece of the devil's mirror lodged in both his eye and heart, is stolen by the Snow Queen and his best friend, girlfriend, Gerta must endure many trials in order to rescue him. Unknown to him, his love for the story was fueled by a wish to have a friend like Gerta—who would travel the world in order to save him. All he knew was the feeling it gave him ever time he read it; he felt protected.
He started thinking about the illustrations because they were unlike any others he'd seen; something about them drew him further into the fairy tale's world. The first one was the most gruesome because anything cute would have been swallowed up by Anderson’s descriptions. He remembered the mirror described as turning all good things ugly and transforming the most terrifying things into something even more terrible and the drawing on the page opposite a perfect representation of the description.  Hideous creatures beyond what he imagined goblins to look like held the mirror by a tree. One goblin, made even more ugly by the mirror, stood admiring himself while the other's chuckled. The landscape around the mirror also seemed melt into something that could never be seen as beautiful, at least that's how he felt when he looked at it. Muddy browns and bloody reds replaced nice green colors, and twisted lines and abnormalities replaced straight clean lines. Christian loved this drawing the best because when Kay got pieces lodged in his eye and heart later, Christian felt like he understood how Kay saw the world, why he left.
He needed to see that image because he felt the world was an ugly place tonight and he had to read the rest of the story—where the snow queen materializes and takes Kay, where the Gerta is trapped in a perfect garden by a witch, and where Gerta finally rescues Kay—because through it, his hopelessness would give way to hope. But it was gone. Christian felt empty because he knew that he would never get it back. Even if he got another copy of the story, he knew he would miss the illustrations. He had to accept it and find something else to cheer him up.
Christian skimmed his bookshelf in hopes of finding something that would fill the void. The Complete Brothers Grimm, they were dark, and his copy had a cool medieval drawing of a knight slaying a dragon on the front cover. It was bloody too. Or he could read the cool dinosaur book that was really outdated but had the best drawings of his favorite dinosaurs. A Tyrannosaurus Rex ripping apart its prey would make him feel better. His eyes came to rest on a book that he hadn't seen before or he didn't remember. His parents added books to his shelf sometimes when they were cleaning out old boxes so maybe it was one of theirs. He couldn’t read the title on the spine because the metallic paint had chipped off of the worn cloth. Something about the book intrigued him; maybe it was because the spine was the same color as The Snow Queen and Other Fairytales. There was no title on the front cover either, someone must have taken off and misplaced the paper jacket. Christian opened the book.
The inside paper, the endpaper that masks the fabric used in binding the book, had an intricate pattern that Christian had not seen before but it reminded him of the pattern on the cover of his copy of The Arabian Nights. It captivated Christian because it shimmered when he shifted the book in his hand; it almost seemed liquid. It almost seemed like magic to Christian, but he knew it was only an optical illusion. But it captivated him and it was exciting finding a new book. Christian decided that he would find out what the book was and at least start it tonight. If he didn't like it, he would get something else. He had nothing to lose. 

The Cardamom Sea
by Sir Thomas Templeton

1 comment:

  1. So I haven't had time to read this yet.
    But I have just printed it out to read on the bus.
    I'm excited!