How I Met Your Mother – A Modern Day Dickens

There have been few TV finale’s as widely anticipated as that of How I Met Your Mother. This says more for the notoriety of the show and its infamous title than its popularity. People wanted to know exactly how enternally love-struck Ted met ‘The Mother’ of the title – understandably.

But in the hours since the finale aired last night, the internet has been a very hostile place – mostly due to the show’s eventual ending which – gigantic spoilers ahead – was not to every viewer’s taste.

Or... How I Met Your Plot Device

Or… How I Met Your Plot Device

This was more due to the – some have been saying shoe-horned – epilogue following Ted’s utterance of the words: ‘And that’s how I met your mother’, than it was due to the finale as a whole. For the safety of people who are reading this but haven’t watched the episode and don’t want to find out what happens: let’s just say that the ending of the show has – in this humble viewer’s opinion – rendered the last three season’s of the programme’s storyline pointless as they were undone about 15 minutes into the finale and then continued to be undone following the ‘big twist’ we were promised in the last five minutes.

This ‘big twist’ has been promised by creators for the last few weeks and anticipated by fans for even longer.

They ranged from the far-fetched: Ted is telling the story to his children because he has Alzheimer’s and is participating in a kind of reverse Notebook situation.

To the really far-fetched: Ted finally finishes telling his kids the 9 year story of how he met their mother only for the audience to see two skeletons sitting on the couch. Ted needs to learn to summarize his stories.

To my personal favourite – as told by my boyfriend- :   Ted is standing at the train station, about to meet ‘The Mother’ when Bob Saget (the narrator) jumps out of the bushes, shoots Ted in the head and gets the girl, finally finishing the story in his dulcet tones.

But ultimately the story anticipated by fans weeks ago – due to the most obvious foreshadowing in the world – turned out to be the one that was true, and it was this story that led me to realise that Craig Thomas and Carter Bays have been ripping off Charles Dicken’s all along.

 

****MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD***** (Doff’s cap to Major Spoilers).

 

It turns out that ‘The Mother’ (who will here-to-fore be known as Tracy Moseby) has been dead for six years since the story began (perhaps Ted told it to her first… We never did find out what killed her…) and the story that viewers have been patiently listening to over 9 years (I feel I need to repeat this fact as many times as possible) was in fact the story of how he loved Robin – and how he met their mother was merely a very good framing device.

I’ve had some very strong- frustrated Kermit the Frog-esque – feelings about this over the last few hours but I believe, after some healthy retrospection (and some screaming into a pillow) I’ve reached a plane of acceptance. (The things I cannot change and all that…)

 

Close your eyes and think of happier times...

Close your eyes and think of happier times…

Stories and anecdotes have always been a central aspect of How I Met Your Mother and they led me to an interesting conclusion: Thus brings me to the title of my post: How I Met Your Mother is not only a story made up of many stories – it is in fact a story that has been told before. 150 years before to be… somewhat accurate.

The original cover

The original cover

In the midst of my angst over a finale that killed it’s title character and re-established a relationship long thought dead – something occurred to me: How I Met Your Mother is a modern retelling of Charles Dickens semi-autobiographical work, David Copperfield. (without the childhood trauma and death of quite so many characters.) Especially when I began to think about just how many parallels exist between the two works.

Remember it now?

Remember it now?

For those of you who don’t believe me (and have forgotten the Daniel Radcliffe BBC miniseries) I have provided a summary to prove my point:

We have a hero who’s entire purpose is to tell his story: Ted and David Copperfield himself.

Who lives his life picking up friends and life lessons. Some of these are from friends such as his slightly off kilter lawyer: Marshall and Wilkins Micawber/ Mr Wickfield.

and his odd but child-orientated wife: Lily and Mrs Micawber

The parallels exist right down to Marshall/Micawber becoming a judge/mayor.

He also learns lessons in debauchery and gentlemanliness from his somewhat pervy best friend: Barney and Steerforth – although at least Barney got a happier ending.

Ted/David have had many opportunities at love, either through childhood sweethearts who are wild and adventurous, Victoria(okay that’s a bit of a stretch)/Emily.

or the steadfast best friend whom he has loved for years and years, his one true and trusted confidant: Robin and Agnes

(She even almost ends up with the pervy friend at one point!)

Ted/David has always been a believer in love but it has taken him a great deal of time to find it with the woman of his dreams. Suddenly he meets her: Tracy and Dora.

how-i-met-your-mother-cristin-milioti

It’s out of the blue, but she is everything he has been looking for, gorgeous, witty, musical, and that little bit quirky. Ted/David has finally found his heart’s desire. But the story doesn’t end here. Because, life rarely ends where you think its going to, and sometimes the story keeps on going. (That and Dickens – much like the show runners of How I Met Your Mother – wrote in a serialised format, and it was in his interest to keep the story going for as long as possible.)

In this case the story continues and Ted/David have a few very happy years with the woman of his dreams. But suddenly, the worst happens and Tracy/Dora contracts a mysterious illness. Devastating Ted/David her life comes to an end – but not before she can give her blessing to Robin/Agnes (for Robin its with her invitation to the wedding, for Agnes on her deathbed).

Ted/David spends many years alone in solitude, doing nothing but writing/telling his life story. While he is away he keeps in touch with Robin/Agnes until one day a family member: Betsey Trotwood/The Kids encourages him to declare his love for Robin/Agnes.

The rest, as they say, is history. Although the ending reminded me more of Great Expectations than it did of David Copperfield.

I’ve yet to meet anyone, including myself, who was ecstatic about the ending of How I Met Your Mother. Not many seem to have felt it was worth the wait. Perhaps because, what Dickens got right, How I Met Your Mother got wrong, for the sake of a finale with ‘impact’ they left the story underwritten, and underdeveloped until the last possible moment.

If Ted was telling a story of how he loved Robin – even unconsciously – he could have given us a few more hints, rather than turning away from it at every moment. Especially after all the trouble the writers went to to make sure we adored Tracy.

Agnes and David were never by any means a sure thing – but their eventual love was something that is woven into the story without seeming intrusive and still packing its own element of surprise. In the end, the real flaw of How I Met Your Mother – something pointed out by a friend of mine long ago – is in the name. Because looking back over the 9 seasons, its not The Mother’s story, and nor – despite the Kid’s protests – is it Robin’s.In the end it was Ted’s, he much like Mr Copperfield, was the hero of his own tale, and maybe it should have been called that in the end.

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” – David Copperfield, Charles Dickens

 

 

The Story of Ted Moseby's Neverending Quest for Happiness

The Story of Ted Moseby’s Neverending Quest for Happiness

 

 

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Will Rainbow Rowell please be my Best Friend?

After an inexcusably long hiatus, I’ve returned to the land of blogging and books. It’s been months since my last post and I’ve read thousands of pages between now and then. As can be expected, some of those pages have been good, some have been bad and some have been life-altering.

I haven’t wanted an author to be my new best friend since I read Harry Potter and discovered JK Rowling, so the discovery of Rainbow Rowell has been something of a revelation. I discovered her last September – with the purchase of Eleanor & Park – and moved swiftly on to Fangirl and Attachments.

Eleanor & Park US cover

Eleanor & Park US cover

Eleanor & Park tells the story of two teenager’s first love- Eleanor, the new girl at school who couldn’t be more different than her peers (with her disasterous home life and unique tastes) and Park, the boy who has never been outside of the crowd – but never quite fit in either. It sounds like a conventional premise, however it’s anything but a conventional love story. Continue reading

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Her Story of Before: A Conversation with Susan Stairs

 

With comparisons to The Lovely Bones and a voice so affecting that it stays with you long after the page, it’s no surprise that Susan Stairs, The Story of Before is sweeping readers off their feet.

I sat down with the first time novelist to talk about fame,  fiction and the writing life.

Susan Stairs has had a busy month. Following the launch of her first novel, The Story of Before in June, Susan has been everywhere, talking about writing, tragedy and character’s motivation. When we meet, she’s just in from a BBC NI interview. For a writer who is used to solitude, to be thrust headfirst into the limelight isn’t exactly easy,“It is difficult to deal with the whole circus, interviews, and everything,” she says.

It’s a complete change of pace from the year and a half the Dublin native spent writing the actual novel.  “I started writing it during my MA. I submitted the first 15,000 words as my dissertation – so that was about five chapters”.  Susan completed her MA in creative writing in UCD in 2009 and from then worked towards finishing her book.

The Story of Before is told by eleven year old Ruth, who has just moved from the City Centre to the suburbs of Dublin with her family. Ruth’s estate in the novel is so immersive it borders on claustrophobic, which is exactly what Susan was going for, “I didn’t want to have a lot of scenes happening anywhere else”.

On New Years Eve Ruth predicts that a ‘bad thing’ will happen that year. She cannot know how this will affect her family and truly change her life forever. With comparisons to the direct and moving story of Susie Salmon in The Lovely Bones, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Susan has been plugging away in the novel game for years, rather than a relative first-timer. The story that befalls Ruth and her family was always one that she wanted to tell, “The ‘tragic event’ of the novel had been on my mind for a long time and I knew that was what I wanted to write about. It was inspired by an event that really did happen. I always knew that was going to be the reveal,” Susan says.

Susan Stairs author, The Story of Before

“I was writing pretty much full time, while I was doing it. I sometimes look back and wonder, how did I do that when I had now idea what was going to happen to it. I never had a doubt in my mind that I was going to finish it. I mean I was writing a novel and I was finishing it,” she smiles. It wasn’t speed that got Susan through the process but determination, “I consider myself quite slow at writing, some days I would have only written 300 or 400 words, but I’m thinking all the time.”

And Susan’s mind didn’t let her rest,  “I’m kind of my own worst enemy in that way – I’m terribly critical of what I’m doing. If something doesn’t sound right, even if it’s just one word I have to change it.” At the same time, when it came to editorial judgement Susan had to face ‘killing her darlings’ like every other writer too, “There were some parts that I had really laboured over and it was difficult to get rid of them but at the same time I could see why they needed to go”.

 

And even though a year and a half doesn’t seem that long  to write a novel, Susan told me,“It seemed like forever to me, there are times when I think back on the hours that I put into it.” But what came out at the end is something truly special.

It still took a while for Susan to develop the story into Ruth’s distinctive voice, “Ruth was always a character, but I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to let this girl tell the story when she was older or as a child, but when I got my first line, “The others used to say I was psychic”, I knew this was a child talking and from then on it was very natural.”

Susan still had to navigate the pitfalls of  writing as a child telling a very adult story, something that even the most experienced of writers struggle with, “When I was writing, I had to be her, I had to be an eleven year old Dublin girl in the seventies. It becomes very natural when you’re writing, your mind just switches into that mode, you become somebody else” And that brings its own restrictions too, “There were a lot of words I couldn’t use, which was restrictive because I would think ‘No, that won’t work’ – Ruth wouldn’t say that.’”

Whenever an author becomes so involved with a single character it becomes a part of their life, they eat, breathe and drink the world through their eyes, so it becomes very difficult to bring them the sort of hardship that in Ruth’s case, Susan knew was coming all along. “Absolutely, it was very difficult, to write the ‘bad thing’ I cried a lot when I was writing that part, definitely.

‘And when I decided on it, it was like watching your children do something bad – but you can’t do anything about it – and feeling responsible. So that was probably the hardest thing to do because I was so involved with these characters, I had created them and yet I was allowing this person to do this awful thing, so that was really hard.”

The care and love that Susan has put into the novel shows, Ruth is the kind of girl who lives right up your street and that makes her story feel so much more powerful for readers,  who are already clamouring for a sequel. “I’ve always said no” Susan smiles, “But sometimes I think that you could resurrect characters from it, and take them down their own paths”.

Even her second novel, which she is currently working on, gained it’s inspiration from an event in The Story of Before.“What I’m writing now, was in some was inspired by one small thing in The Story of Before, there’s a letter that David sends to Ruth that she’s convinced isn’t true. That whole scenario opened up something for me and that has inspired number two”

And if it’s received anything like The Story of Before, Susan has nothing to worry about. “All the comments I’ve been getting have been great. The one phrase that people keep saying to me is ‘I couldn’t put it down’ and I’m absolutely chuffed to have people saying that to me, telling me that they can really identify with the setting and the time period”.

Susan’s success isn’t something that she takes lightly, the whole process was a long and required her to absolutely persevere, “I got so much advice when I was doing the MA. I wouldn’t have been able to do the novel if I hadn’t done the MA. I got great advice from Eilish Ni Dhuibhne, who was my tutor.  And from the classes with James Ryan.” As she thinks about what it took to get her where she is today, Susan gives me some wise words of advice, “I always say to myself, you never see books in shops from authors who gave up, you see the books from authors who persevere.”

And Susan is a living example of that happy fact.

 

As published on writing.ie

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Beautiful, beautiful boys!

Why is it that every time I open up a novel recently that the boys aren’t just described as ‘handsome’ or ‘has a nice smile’ but as “cross my heart, hope to die, beautiful creatures” (Not a reference to the novel of the same name but now that I mention it, I’m fairly sure it offends in this way too)?

Don’t they all look pretty?

It’s not that I have a problem with the word ‘beautiful’ or men being described using a word that up until relatively recently was solely associated with women. I’m all about gender subversion. Give me a million superhero girls and damsel gentlemen and I won’t complain an inch. It’s more the frequency which “beautiful” has been cropping up as a descriptor that is starting to grate on my nerves.

Ultimately my issue with it is twofold: the first is that it seems to me to be lazy writing. If a female character is ever simply described as “beautiful” I tend to (metaphorically) close the book on her. It may be the word used to describe all that is good and wonderful and aesthetically pleasing about the skin around another person’s skull but it’s boring. (Side note- I have no problem WHAT-SO-EVER with the word ‘beautiful’ being used in real life. In real life people are allowed to be clichéed and say soppy things to the people they would like to hug and kiss and do the dishes with forever, etc. But I expect a little bit of variation from fiction.) How many books have you read, or indeed films have you watched where the title character (be they male or female) descends the staircase/sobs at the ball/shrugs off a compliment and is answered by the love interest with an incredulous “But you’re… (Big Moment here folks) BEAUTIFUL”. Followed by a groan from the entire audience and tears of joy in the protagonist’s eyes (I will forgive Howl’s Moving Castle for this as it handles it well and one of the primary themes is appearance). This was an incredibly annoying theme for ages in reference to women which most literature at least attempted to kill.

Think about it- when was the last time you read a description of a female character that described her as simply “Beautiful”? (Twilight doesn’t count for this half of the argument as it sins on almost everything) It isn’t allowed anymore. Female characters are acknowledged as being more nuanced, more interesting and more than their looks. I mean, there are books that have gone so far as to disregard certain love interests purely because they fail to describe the girl as anything but ‘beautiful’. And this is good – not just because of feminism and empowerment but also because it makes for more interesting reading. We get to see inside a character’s head, see how they really feel and not have a label stuck onto their significant other that basically says “I like you because your parents DNA combined to make face shapes that I like and would subconsciously like for my future progeny”. (How romantic).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=975OStgcPyM Continue reading

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The Great Gatsby – On Words and their Importance

It’s been a super busy month, which is why I needed to take a small siesta from blogging. But, last week I went to see The Great Gatsby and it filled me with the kind of confusion/rage/annoyance/I-really-don’t-know-how-I-felt-about-that I can only interpret through venting my views upon the rest of the world.

This is a book blog, so regular readers will have to forgive the following journey into movie territory but this movie was  adapted from a book (although what movie hasn’t been recently?) and I feel like that makes it fair game. Plus, in order to make sure my interpretation of the movie was correct, I re-read the book (I’ve been a little remiss in ‘what I’ve been reading’ posts lately, expect a blanket post to cover the last few books in the next few days).

The most famous cover image of the novel.

Now before I launch into this – some words of warning- If you have not read/seen The Great Gatsby, and would prefer the ending to remain a mystery, I would advise you to cease reading this post. Secondly, this will not be a review (yes, I know I tagged it as one, but there isn’t really a quick way of saying in depth analysis that focuses on the very nature of interpretation, is there?) as all my review-like feelings about the movie have already been said  here at Letters from a Patchwork Wizard (awesome blog run by equally awesome friend).

Continue reading

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What I’m Reading: Just One Day

This came as a recommendation from the wonderful blog of Theodora Goss (which you should absolutely check out) and she wasn’t selling it short. The premise is a familiar one for romance novels. Girl meets strange and exotic boy, strange and exotic boy invites girl to magical city on spur of the moment romantic trip, previously sheltered girl’s eyes are opened to the beauty of the world and men… And so forth.

But Just One Day has a massive saving grace: it’s narrator Allyson (Lulu). The writing throughout the book is so authentic, and so genuine that even though the story feels like something I’ve read before, for the first time it feels like it’s happening to a real person. So far I am in complete agreement with every snigle word Gayle Forman has said about love and life. It’s beautiful and even though I kind of hate the love interest at the moment (I’m only half way through), it’s in the best possible way.

Snapshot_20130410

Just One Day is completely worth it, for much much longer than it’s title presumes.

 

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You may have missed: Very far away from anywhere else

And now we’ve reached the end of this little series with, for me, the book that started it all. A tiny little piece that was written in a single summer by Ursula le Guin who, at the time didn’t have the following she has now. This is one of her works that should get far more recognition in my experience. Fans of John Green ought to take note- this book takes on a lot of similar themes to his (The Fault in our Stars, An Abundance of Katherines, Looking for Alaska). It breaks my heart that it’s out of print. (Don’t worry it’s still available on Amazon and the like).

Very-Far-Away-from-Anywhere-Else-Le-Guin-Ursula-K-9780152052089

Very Far Away From Anywhere Else by Ursula Le Guin

And now we’ve gotten to the last and smallest on my list. And probably, almost definitely, the most obscure. Le Guin is by no means a forgotten author, having gained international fame by writing her signature style of epic fantasy in The Wizard of Earthsea and The Left Hand of Darkness. But this tiny little book, a nobody from 1976 that no one ever paid attention to is quite simply beautiful, a love letter to those who read fantasy rather than live it. It’s an easy story, a familiar story about a boy and a girl, two outcasts who take their time to fall in love, the boy, a scientist, thinks too much, the girl, a musician, can’t plug into reality and they both struggle through each day, trying to do the ‘Gorilla Act’ as best they can. The  book is as normal as they come and there in lies its beauty, it tells a simple tale of two normally abnormal teenagers trying their hardest to fit – not with the world- with eachother. With references to the Bronte’s and MIT and Tanglewood, there is nothing typical about this little gem. It was the first book I found to coin the term and I’ve used it ever since. Its tiny, small enough to read in two hours. But they’re two hours that you won’t forget, and you won’t ever want them back.

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You may have missed: Pretty Monsters

And we’re back to extraordinary books whose profile should only be increased. You’ve heard me talk about this one before. And as one of my all time favourites, Pretty Monsters has it all.

prettymonsters1

Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link

Those of you who follow me, will know that I mention Pretty Monsters about once a month, more often if I can help it. This is the book I’ve recommended to more than any other to my friends, family, and general people that I meet in the street (because it’s nice to recommend books to strangers). It’s a kaleidoscopic mess full of witches and Scrabble and second hand shops, librarians, and monsters and graveyards and girlfriends. For two weeks after I read this collection, I never wanted to write another word – because there was no point – all the best words had been put in perfect order. Some of the highlights of the collection include ‘Magic For Beginners’, ”The Faery Handbag’ and the title tale, ‘Pretty Monsters’ which won the Nebula Award for ‘Best Novella’.

Link’s distinctive style shouldn’t work. She meddles with the reader’s perception, she mixes genres, churns up the narrative structure and ends most of her stories three seconds into the third act. It leaves the reader extraordinarily unsatisfied, absolutely gasping for just a few words more. Kelly Link is dangerous, she makes you an addict and then calmly cuts off your supply. It’s genius, delicious, and cruel. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You can find more off the wall-amzingly-bonkers examples of her work at http://www.kellylink.net

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What I’m Reading: Clockwork Princess

The title of this post is somewhat misleading, as I happen to have finished Cassandra Clare’s conclusion to her Infernal Devices  trilogy already, but I’ve yet to move on. For fans, you can take your hands off your ears, you won’t hear any spoilers here.

Cover of Clockwork Princess, my own pic to follow soon.

Cover of Clockwork Princess, my own pic to follow soon.

In Tessa’s final story we know she must choose between her doomed to die fiancée Jem and his best friend and ‘blood brother’ Will, the boy who told her he loved her minutes too late. Oh- and there’s also the simple matter of  defeating the criminal mastermind who’s set to kill her and destroy the Shadowhunters forever but what else is new? What fans of this story (some might even go so far as to say the superior one over the Mortal Instruments) want to hear about is the love triangle that well known fantasy author Holly Black dubbed ‘The Kobayashi Maru’ (Star Trek fans take note) and to be fair, Clare devotes a great deal of her time to resolving it. The fact that she does this without limiting the action shows real skill and  has met with almost universal praise since the book’s release. And even though I’ve had my disagreement’s with the voices in the story, I have to admit to thoroughly enjoying the adventure all the way through.

Although the ending surprised me, in the most pleasant of ways, with Clare proving that she can keep the fans happy and write a satisfactory conclusion as well. Although calling it a ‘conclusion’ feels like the incorrect term, it might be better to say that it feels as though she placed the story within the wider world of ‘The Mortal Instruments’ series so it can continue. Don’t get me wrong though – I still bawled  my way through the last 20 pages. That’s saying something. I would consider myself to be something of a stoic reader, and although I do believe Clare pulled a number of her punches with regard to outright killing of characters, she still packs a fair emotional wallop.

And here's my pic as promised.

And here’s my pic as promised.

It’s no secret to fans that Tessa will endure beyond the final pages of this book and beyond the final pages of all those that follow but we were always led to believe that her story would end here. After finishing  Clockwork Princess I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Tessa were to turn up again. I think I would be very happy to see her.

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Directing your attention elsewhere…

If you have ever glanced nostalgically back at the books on your old bookshelf and remembered the happy times you spent together then you ought to check out my newly refurbished blog, Méabh’s Childhood Stories.

I’ve given it a going over, a new look, new content and all the nostalgia I can muster into one piece.The way I describe it to people is as a ‘retrospective diary’. What I think now about the books I read then. It’s enormous fun to write about and I hope a little bit of fun to read.

The new look.

The new look.

It includes posts about my own reading experiences and what it was like growing up in the 90′s when children’s literature was just beginning to change. From Harry Potter to Nancy Drew, I’m planning on going over it all.

It exists because even though every child wants to grow up, it still never hurts to look back.

Have a look, I hope it makes you smile.

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