Tuesday, September 29, 2009

“Novels. Fiction. I suggest you look up the definition of those words in the dictionary before you go about hurling accusations”….. BSC # 80: Mallory

Memory Reaction

This book makes me think of an episode of Hey Arnold! So, my memories might actually be about that show, not the book. Although, honestly, they may have the same plot. I don’t think writers for either were that original.

But anyway, the basic story I am thinking of is that Mal meets her favorite author and is disappointed by her. But then Mal acts all spunky or cute or whatever and wins the heart of said author. Like I said, not that original.

Revisited Reaction

Mal has a new favorite author, Henrietta Hayes (HH, for the rest of this post). By sheer coincidence, HH lives in Stoneybrook. Since Mal needs to do a school assignment on something connected to her dream career, she comes up with this project where she’ll interview HH to write about her life. Then Mal will write a play herself, that kids will perform.

Mallory tries sending letters to Henrietta, but keeps getting form letters back. She finally decides to go to HH’s house and knock on the door. Mal tells HH she was inspired to do this by the character in her books. This succeeds in not only getting an interview, but a part time job as her assistant. This is not as outlandish as it seems, Mal is just performing random tasks at HHs house, not working in an office or anything.

Anyway, Mal has decided that all writers must write things that are true about their lives. I don’t know why, since she has demonstrated writing talent in the past, but she has. And this causes two problems:

The first is that she is crushed when she finds out about HH’s real life – mainly that she grew up in foster care and had a child who died – because this means Mal’s favorite books are all “lies.” When HH tells her she is an idiot and that there is a difference between novels and biographies, Mal storms out.

The second problem is that Mal is writing her own play based on her family, and chooses to highlight the most annoying traits of her brothers and sisters. Since the Kids’ Club from the elementary school is performing it, her siblings end up hearing about the play and get pissed off. Mal is convinced that she can’t change it, because writers have to tell the truth. Finally, her mother convinces her to change it.

Mal talks to HH again who explains the concept of fiction to Mal. She tells her that good writers can write about true emotions without literally only writing about things that really happened. And during the whole experience, Mal inspired HH to write a “reunion” novel about characters from her previous books.

High/Lowlights

  • Mal’s assignment is 80% of her English grade for the marking period. That seems like a really high percentage for the type of project it is.
  • Awe, poor Mal really has no self-esteem. She says she might not put an author picture in her (future, potentially published) books so she won’t spoil the book for kids.
  • Vanessa Pike has a Skip-It. I really wanted one of those as a kid.
  • So, Henrietta Hayes does not exist (at least not as a writer). But, I wonder if she is supposed to be representative of a real author. Ann M. Martin seemed to like mentioning real books and writers when possible.
  • Mal says Mary Anne and Dawn didn’t have a lot in common when they met….but they sorta did, didn’t they? That was why they bonded so fast.
  • Mal is like the kid in a Christmas Story….she thinks that her teacher will say her proposal for the project is the greatest he’s every heard, and he thinks it sucks. Or, he thinks it needs revisions.
  • Weren’t Mal’s siblings in Kids Club? In this one they aren’t, but hear about the play through their friends. But I swear Vanessa and Nicky were in the club.
  • Ms. Hayes is actually much nicer than I remembered her. She only gets bitchy when Mal starts asking questions about her dead child. Which, is pretty much an acceptable time to be bitchy.
  • When Mallory shows up at HH’s house, the woman just lets her in. Would an author just let in some strange kid? Has she ever hear of stalkers?
  • And Mal just goes inside a strangers house? Just because she is a published author doesn’t mean she is safe.
  • Mal thinks it is cool that Ms. Hayes uses a teapot to boil water and not a microwave like in her house. It seems like a random detail to throw out.
  • Even the other girls in the BSC tell her that her play is unfair to her siblings.
  • I know Mal is easy to make fun of, but she has always been shown to be reasonably intelligent. At least in terms of school. However, she seems to have lost all her brains in this one. Besides the whole “writing the truth” thing, she thinks she can write about Henrietta Hayes’s life based soley on the interview. When her teacher tells her to do research, Mallory is all, “but why wouldn’t she just tell me everything I need to know?”
  • It is weird, because Mal is all upset that HH’s books aren’t true, but when her siblings complain that she is making them look bad in her play, she claims artistic license. It is sort of a contradiction.
  • Mal is horrible at the whole directing kids in a play. Seriously. She changes her mind every two seconds about what she wants the characters to do, and she can’t seem to keep any semblance of order. Which again, is unlike Mal, who usually can handle baby-sitting a lot of kids.
  • Mallory actually says, “What would Ernest Hemmingway think of Henrietta Hayes?” As though Ms. Hayes did this incredibly awful thing by writing something that wasn’t a mirror image of her real life. I mean, really. It is not like she claimed it was a memoir.
  • Mal is a bit insensitive… Danielle Roberts has to start missing rehearsals cause she has doctor appointments (because she has cancer), and Mal is all, “Oh, I knew we shouldn’t have given the lead to the sick girl.”
  • In the revised version of the play, Danielle does get to perform. To play Mal she wears, “a bright red corduroy jumper with a white blouse underneath.” Do you think that is an intentional callback to her outfit in this book?
  • When she is told she can’t write only the truth, she says she doesn’t know what to write. Again, really?
  • Even when Danielle does perform, Mallory makes a point of saying she looks pretty, “despite the dark circles under her eyes.” Nice.
  • Mal gets a mention on the acknowledgements page of Ms. Hayes book….but she is looking at manuscript of the first three chapters of the book. Rough draft manuscript. Who includes acknowledgements there?

17 comments:

Caroline from Sheep Are In said...

Mallory totally lost her mind in this one. I have no idea how you can get to be 11 and be as big a reader and writer as Mallory is and not understand that sometimes people make things up. The book doesn't even have any internal logic in it. It's all ridiculous, but HH's smackdown on Mal is pretty awesome.

Amy said...

"When Mallory shows up at HH’s house, the woman just lets her in. Would an author just let in some strange kid? Has she ever hear of stalkers?"

Robert Cormier famously pushed his phone number in one of his books and actually answered when kids called him. Things I wish I had done.

Kathryn said...

Vanessa Pike had a Skip-It? I still want a Skip-It.

This book made my wonder about Ann M, if perhaps she had some sort of sad or shady past...or if she was calling out some unnamed fellow children's author of her time.

Isabel said...

fun fact: ernest hemingway actually criticized the characters in f. scott fitzgerald's tender is the night for NOT being 100% made-up (they were in many ways an amalgamation of fitzgerald & his wife zelda, and a couple they knew in france), which went against what hemingway thought fiction should always be.

another fun fact: hemingway was kind of an asshole.

Jannie aka girl talk said...

Yes according to BSC #48 which I just recapped, Nicky and Vanessa are in Kids' Club. Way to go, ghosties!

Molly said...

I always thought HH was supposed to be AMM - at least in the sense of her defense of form letters (not unreasonable), and i believe she was always being asked why she didn't have kids, which is pretty obnoxious.

maybeimamazed02 said...

If Mallory were portrayed as just getting into the fiction-writing thing, I would have found her self-righteousness more believable. As it is...I don't ever remember confusing fiction with non-fiction, even as a little kid.

Dude, I just became an even bigger fan of Cormier. Barring potential stalkers, that's actually really cool.

HelenB said...

I don't know why they don't just call every Mallory book "Mallory gets screwed over by the ghost writer (again)". Seriously, maybe this storyline would have worked for Claudia (and even she would have had to be at her least intelligent) but for Mal? Puh-lease. I guess they were going for a "Mallory builds up her idol in her head and it turns out she's not like that", but there are far more plausible ways of doing that!

Skip-Its were amazing.

Anonymous said...

there were skip-its in my elementary school i still love them just saying Mallory is dork

Lori said...

Poor Mallory she always gets the loser stories. There's no way Mallory wouldn't know writers make up stories.

tinydancer124 said...

I don't know...Mallory IS pretty gullible. Remember in BSC in the USA how she thought Chincoteague was going to be exactly like it is in the book and was disappointed it wasn't? ;)

nikki said...

God, I never read this one and I'm glad. Listen, I love to Mallory-bash as much as the next gal, but sometimes I can't stand to see how the ghosties just shit all over her.

Psyche said...

Okay sorry this is a bit off-topic but weren't there like 3 different Hey Arnold episodes with a similar storyline?...
-In one Arnold meets his favourite author for a school assignment only to find out she's a cranky old lady.
-Phoebe meets her favourite singer only to find out he's a phony
-Eugene meets his favourite actor also only to find out he's a phony

Hmmmm

Anonymous said...

mallory is dumb in super special 5 she doesn't know who Alfred Hichok is (sorry I'm a bad speller) and she does not know what Asama is when i was 7 and reading this i thought she was stupid

Anonymous said...

I remember this book annoying me so much when I read it. I think I spent most of the time muttering about how incredibly stupid and annoying Mallory was. This was the point I began to think I was too old for these books and stopped reading soon after that. The Mallory books got bad in later books such as "Mallory hates boys and gym" but this was definitely the worse.

Love these blogs though, makes me laugh and nostalgic about these books

Anonymous said...

"So, Henrietta Hayes does not exist (at least not as a writer). But, I wonder if she is supposed to be representative of a real author."

It kind of reminds me of how I felt reading Beverly Cleary's autobiography, A Girl from Yamhill, when I was nine or so. Her parents were pretty strict and oppressive, nothing at all like Mr. and Mrs. Quimby. It was sort of depressing.

Yes, I know this is 3 years late, but I stumbled on this blog last week and have been reading ever since!

Sara S

Anne said...

Fun fact: I saw a Skip-it in a store yesterday. Now all my childhood dreams can come true!