Friday, November 07, 2014

The Suck Fairy--You'll Recognize Her

Have you ever read a book, thought it was terrific, remembered it fondly, finally re-read it sucked? That's the work of the Suck Fairy.

Author Jo Walton (whose Farthing books I've read, btw) has a great essay from 2010 on the Suck Fairy at Walton says, "You can say that you have changed, you can hit your forehead dramatically and ask yourself how you could possibly have missed the suckiness the first time—or you can say that the Suck Fairy has been through while the book was sitting on the shelf and inserted the suck."

I can recall reading Mists of Avalon with a book club years ago. I did not care for it at all. I had read The Once and Future King when I was a teenager. I knew what a good Arthurian novel was. I decided to re-read it to get the taste of Mists of Avalon out of my mouth. You guessed it. The Suck Fairy had been there. But according to Walton the Suck Fairy allows me to retain my happy memories, to remember "what’s good while not dismissing the newly visible bad."

There's a whole flock of re-reading fairies out there. Ever re-read a book and can't imagine how you missed the racism, sexism, or homophobia? That's right. Your book was visited by the Racism, Sexism, or Homophobia Fairies.  After reading Louisa May Alcott's An Old-Fashioned Girl four years ago, I'm afraid to re-read Little Women. I suspect it will have been visited by the Message Fairy.

Walton says the Message Fairy often hits "children’s books or books read when you were a kid. Kids are really good at ignoring the heavy-handed message and getting with the fun parts. It’s good they are, because adults have devoted a lot of effort writing them messages thinly disguised as stories and clubbing children over the head with them."

Yeah, I'm really worried about re-reading Little Women.

Thanks to Facebook Friend Suzi Steffen for tipping me off about the Suck Fairy and directing me to Jo Walton's essay.


Jen Robinson said...

I can definitely relate to these concepts. And I hate to say it, but I got only a very very little way into Little Women (on audio, a year or two ago) before quietly setting it aside. Best to keep the memories.

But then it is wonderful when a book DOES hold up. So there's that.

Gail Gauthier said...

You have to be brave to take the risk.