Monday, October 31, 2011

The right place, the right time: following the breadcrumbs

Sometimes things work out just right. And last weekend was one of them--when I happened to be in Minneapolis and able to go to the lovely Birchbark Books and hear our wonderful Anne Ursu read from Breadcrumbs. All the chairs were full and we were enthralled to hear Anne read from her book.

We've heard parts of the story before and know of Hazel and her friend Jack , made of "baseball and castles and super-heroes and Jack-ness." And we may remember that Jack gets a shard from an evil mirror in his heart, gets entranced by the white witch, and forgets his friend Hazel. I bought a copy of Breadcrumbs at Anne's signing and am now to the place where Jack has just left with the white witch. There is so much I want to underline in this book, so much I want to share. I won't share all that I'd like but I have to pull this piece out--the description of the evil character who makes the mirror that explodes and sends one shard into Jack's heart:

"We'll call him Mal, though that is not his real name. His real name has forty-seven syllables, and we have things to do. Mal looks like nothing you know or can imagine, neither goblin nor troll nor imp nor demon. ...Mal is not any one of these things but all of them. Mal is a goblin. He has green-brown skin, a froglike mouth and sharp little teeth. Mal is a troll. He is seven feet tall and warty, has terrible breath, and a penchant for hanging out under bridges. Mal is an imp. He has a small bat wings, a high-pitched screech of a laugh, and pointy little ears. Mal is a demon. And that means he is up to no good."

I will not be able to think of personified evil again without thinking that its name must have forty-seven syllables.

This little section of the book made me wonder what I would write in describing "Mal," what ears or teeth or feet or voice. Perhaps evil uses e-mail, or Western Union, or a too-wide smile. Some morning, when faced with the blank page, I'm going to write a cousin for Anne's Mal.

In the meantime, it was wonderful to be at the reading with Phyllis Root, to hear Anne, to chat and laugh with Megan Atwood, and get a catch-up on the semester from Quinette Cook.


  1. Wish I could have been there. Sounds glorious to be with the Hamline community. Congrats, Anne. Yes, please, have Mal's cousin be an evil fake policeman in Canada. I would read that story.

  2. I think that would work, Claire. Surely Mal has at least one cousin who is an evil fake policeman.

  3. All you Minnesotans are making me jealous.

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  5. And... Kelly Easton created a "Mal" in Liberty Aimes. Mal's making his rounds, y'all.

    You should write a cousin for Mal, Jackie! Maybe he'll (or she'll) froth at the mouth and all. Much love to Anne and her wonderful new masterpiece. It's a tour de force!