Illustration from Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Ana Juan
What is a guilty treasure? It might be uniquely your own. It might be something you’re not supposed to, but it is definitely something that you love.
So, I thought for quite a while about what I could write. Shows with years worth of episodes that I’ve binged watch in weeks? Searching through Netflix for horrible looking movies? But, then I looked over at my bookshelf and overwhelmingly growing stack of books waiting next to my bed and I see it.
I read children’s books. And it’s a damn good time.
Catherynne M. Valente writes adult novels as well, which is how I first started reading her work. I had found the first few pages of Deathless online right after it was published and immediately got the book after falling in love with the opening paragraph. I read it in one day.
She has self described her work as thorny, literary fantasy rooted in myth, folklore, and fairy tales, and darker science fiction. That’s a really good mixture for me. She is such a descriptive writer that the images she has built are so clear. Many times I read a passage and then take time to think back on the intricate world she just portrayed, sometimes rereading it to make sure i got every detail. She’s just the greatest.
So, I went online and started looking through her other work and one by one, read them. One day at the book store I went to see what was available. She used to do readings over at Mac’s Backs on Coventry during the time she lived in Cleveland, so they had a decent selection of her books. But, the one I didn’t already have was her children’s novel The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, the first in the “Fairyland” series.
In a incredibly rare decisive moment, I bought the book immediately. I really had no reason to doubt her writing abilities and could only assume her skills for writing to a younger audience would match her other novels.
The “Fairyland” series follows September, a bored but incredibly strong, logical character that goes through identity defining adventures once she is whisked off by the Green Wind to a strange land of dangerous fairy tales to confront the Marquess, a moody, jaded woman. She builds relationships with unique characters like a Wyvern which is half a library (but only A-L), but most importantly she is growing as person.
“One ought not to judge her: all children are Heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb high trees and say shocking things and leap so very high grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one. But, as in their reading and arithmetic and drawing, different children proceed at different speeds. (It is well known that reading quickens the growth of a heart like nothing else.) Some small ones are terrible and fey, Utterly Heartless. Some are dear and sweet and Hardly Heartless At All. September stood very generally in the middle on the day the Green Wind took her, Somewhat Heartless, and Somewhat Grown.”
― Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
I have continued on with the rest of the series to date. I’ve gone back to pick up childhood favorites as well. I like being able to read something that can connect me to my childhood. So, I will probably keep doing it, but less secretly.
What is your guilty treasure? Is it a video game you spend hours playing, keeping notes and leveling up? An ever growing collection of action figures? Here is you chance to tell everyone why you love it and why it’s awesome. Have no shame because we all like something weird. To submit, email your 1,000 words or less on your guilty treasure to heather [at] geekcle [dot] com and maybe we will feature it on the site!
Angela is a co-founder of GeekCLE. She grew up in the exurbs of Cleveland watching MST3K and Heavy Metal and now has elaborate plans of how she will be the world leader (in Risk Legacy only).