I felt like the last part of my childhood died today.
I know a lot of people have said that by now, but that’s because sometimes a cliche is true. To my son, Michael Jackson is nothing more than a set up line in a joke about pedophilia, but like so many others, I grew up with him. For me, he was in the background, not centre stage, but always present, from the Saturday morning cartoon show to the explosion of “Off the Wall” — which made a much greater impact on me than “Thriller.” I’ve always loved his dancing more than his music, though some of his songs are still iconic for me. “Billie Jean” was high school graduation. I still have an old cassette tape somewhere that has Yaz’s first album on the A side and then Altered Images, ABC “The Look of Love,” Men Without Hats “Safety Dance,” and “Billie Jean” on the flip side.
My relationship with Farrah is far more complicated. She hit on the very cusp of my homely adolescence and what that poster said to me and to a generation of young women was, “You will never, ever be good enough. You will never be who someone wants.” When we played “Charlie’s Angels” in the playground, I knew instinctively that the most I could attempt was Kate. And that’s sad, because, given her choice of roles in later life, intimidating a crowd of teenage girls was probably the last thing Farrah ever wanted to do.
I think this video is as good as any to close with because it shows Michael at one of his most admirable moments, and also encapsulates the era I’m saying goodbye to as well as anything could.
I have to laugh at the status-consciousness of some (very few) of the people in my field sometimes. For the four or five of us who haven’t figured this out yet, fifteen minutes away from the Medieval Academy Meeting, to paraphrase Pierre Trudeau, you could be the most published, beloved, reprinted, honorary degreed, endowed medieval historian in the world, and nobody will know your name.
What I didn’t realize until this week, was that much the same can be true in the fiction publishing world. I met Diana Gabaldon on the weekend, and I have spent much of the week trying to impress my friends with the coolness of this and being met with “Who’s she?” or “I *think* I’ve heard that name.” And this is from people who read, and who read fiction at that. It goes to show that you can be a New York Times best-selling writer whose books normally make that list with a publishing career that has spanned decades, and still people will say, “Ummm…”
Anyway, I met Diana Gabaldon on the weekend, and she was lovely. Friendly and warm, and not in a “I will tolerate you while you gush all over me” way, but in an “I will join you and your friends on the couch and we can talk about how to write sex scenes” kind of way. Very impressive.
I spent last weekend in Schaumburg at the Historical Novel Society conference meeting old friends and new, and thinking hard about what it takes to write a compelling historical novel. I was going to write a full post about the conference but all my procrastination has meant that Julianne Douglas got there before me, and I must concur with everything she said. She even went to most of the panels I attended, so go on over there if you want to see what I thought!