|Otherwise known as Margaret the Destroyer, I will bring pain to the the Great One. Then again, maybe I won't|
Randall Munroe(former NASA roboticist) posted yet another weird XKCD comic today which doesn't make much sense unless you get the references he's trying to make.
He's using titles of books by Judy Blume (born Judith Sussman on February 12, 1938), an American writer of teenage/kids books.
Some of Judy's books were :
- Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
- Then Again, Maybe I Won't
- Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great
- The Pain and the Great One
These were the books he referenced in the webcomic.
Apparently, Judy Blume is ready with her first adult book called, "In the unlikely event"
Judy Blume's first book was The One in the Middle Is the Green Kangaroo, in 1969
The Guardian gives a glowing review to "In the unlikely Event"
Now Blume is back – and with an extremely unusual and utterly brilliant novel. Never mind what she has done before: it feels as if this is the book she has been waiting her whole life to write. And it is, quite simply, extraordinary. It veers ambitiously between myriad viewpoints, with two or three pages apiece devoted to little windows into the characters’ lives. Each chapter is introduced by an extract from the local paper, the Elizabeth Daily Post, starting with 11 December 1951.
Even more extraordinarily, In the Unlikely Event is a fiction based on real-life events Blume herself lived through. She grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and was a teenager in 1952 when three separate plane accidents occurred within the space of three months, killing passengers and people on the ground. The mayor of the time called the skies above the town “an umbrella of death”. In this book, Blume “listens in” on the community shortly before the first crash and follows the fallout for the next three generations.
Initially this novel’s multiple-voice structure feels hard to follow. It could have done with a cast list. Early US reviewers report drawing up a chart of the 20-plus narrators in order to keep up. But Miri Ammerman, the first to appear, provides an anchor for the whole narrative. A bright, amusing but gawky teenage girl with the obligatory “perfect” best friend, Miri is being raised by Jewish single mother Rusty, who is equally entertaining. Miri serves as our quasi-sensible guide when everything starts to go wrong, as the inhabitants of Elizabeth struggle to cope with lightning striking three times. Is this related to a government conspiracy? Space aliens? The communists? The local paper reports Elizabeth as being “long fearful because of its proximity to Newark airport”.
There’s a wonderful Mad Men feel to the detail of the period, from Rusty’s mother’s Volupté compacts to the collection of cashmere sweaters belonging to Natalie, the “perfect” best friend with the “perfect” family. Except, of course, she’s not perfect. And she is one of the first to be affected psychologically by the crashes, embodying literally what everyone else is thinking and feeling. She begins to hear voices and when she looks in the mirror she sees Ruby, a dancer who died in one of the crashes. She collapses while impersonating Judy Garland and has to be hospitalised. “You think giving her a dance studio at home is going to fix this?” screams Natalie’s mother to her father.
Even before the crashes, many of the characters are revealing themselves to be deluded, secretive or in denial. It’s mostly up to Miri to unpick all this, while navigating her feelings towards Mason, the mysterious boy who danced with her at Natalie’s party to Nat King Cole’s Nature Boy without saying a word. Meanwhile, Miri’s Uncle Henry is unpicking everything on a grander scale as the town reporter, peppering his increasingly floral reports with novelistic flourishes and the language of pulp fiction: “The plane hurtled earthward into the heart of the city like an angry, wounded bird.” (This description, writes Blume in her author’s notes, was borrowed from a contemporaneous report.) The atmosphere is claustrophobic, frightening and fevered. But the action is always undercut with Blume’s trademark humanity and humour.
In the hands of another writer, this could have been a difficult maze of stories, characters and raw emotion. But Blume has worked on this for years and made it into the perfect jigsaw puzzle. Its only flaw is perhaps its greatest strength: how do you write fiction about facts that are stranger than fiction? Just like in life, there’s no great reveal and no childish pat answer. Blume’s fans – old and new – will approve.