Saturday, December 12, 2009

That Girl's Got Something

I recently came across a new book called The Girl With Glass Feet, by Ali Shaw that is being released this January.

The publisher describes the book as "an inventive and richly visual novel about young lovers on a quest to find a cure for a magical ailment". The book was released in May in the UK, where it got a lot of buzz and was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. With it's impending North American release it's being tipped as a book to watch. When I turned to the library catalogue I was pleased to see we already have it on order for our collections, but in looking for it, I was surprised to notice something else....

According to fiction authors, girls that have something are well worth with writing about. Or at least their titles suggest so...

The recent mega popular thriller by the late Steig Larsson certainly follows the pattern. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo stars a tough (tattooed) lady protagonist who forms one half of an investigative duo looking into a 40 year old murder in Sweden.

And the spate of "girl with" names isn't just copycatting to ride the wave of popularity of the Larsson title - its been happening for years. I'd like to tie it to the popularity of title with European connections Tracy Chevalier's The Girl With a Pearl Earring, an historical novel that follows the life of a young maid working in the home of Dutch master painter Johannes Vermeer but it's more likely that it's just an easy, catchy beginning to a book title because several of the ones in our catalogue predate the Chevalier book as well.

There's The Girl With the Botticelli Eyes (more art!) a well reviewed suspense story published in 1996 that follows a museum curator's attempt to put together a Botticelli exhibit at the Met and a mad men who slashes paintings and threatens death to those involved in the project.

The trend seems popular in mystery circles. There's The Girl With Braided Hair which follows the story of the unsolved murder of a native activist and is the 13th in a long running series set in the Arapahos Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. The curiously titled The Girl With the Long Back, also part of a mystery series, but with a very different setting: the underside of British life in the London drug world.

True life tales also embrace girls that have something: The Girl with the Gallery is the story of Edith Gregor Halpert who grew up as a poor Russian immigrant in early 20th century NYC and went on to own an important and influential modern art gallery.

Girl With the Crooked Nose takes us back to crime tales - although this one is focused on forensic artistry and how it helps to solve real life crime.

And you know, I feel like I would be remiss if I failed to mention The Girl With Curious Hair by one of my favourite authors: David Foster Wallace. The library's copy of this book carries a cover quote from another favourite author of mine (T.C. Boyle) that reads "David Foster Wallace turns the short story upside down and inside out, making the adjectives 'inventive,' 'unique' and 'original' seem blasé."

And after all those titles of girls that have something, you might take a bit of pity on the only book in the library catalogue of the girl that doesn't have something, a book of interconnected short stories of growing up called The Girl Without Anyone.

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