Saturday, February 5, 2011
As many of you know, the real name (I like to think of it more as a secret identity) of the blogger known as Sycorax Pine is "Ariel." Long, long ago, when my parents had settled on the fact that if they had a boy, they would name him either "Orfeo" or "Rafael" (I'm not kidding. It was a near miss.), they decided on "Ariel" for a girl. My mother was thinking fondly of the Shakespearean character and my father of the British motorcycle.
"Why are you naming your daughter after a television antenna?" asked their friends in Wisconsin. My parents shrugged them off, confident in the originality of their naming. Neither of them had an inkling that about a decade later, Disney would make a mockery of their desire to find an unusual name for their child by sparking a new generation of shell-clothed, fish-befriending Ariels and Arielles.
But I have to admit that I have a soft spot for books with heroines named Ariel. So the other day I ordered a mystery (the ominously titled bit of internal rhyme that is Burying Ariel) about Canadian academics with the following plot:
Ariel Warren was a popular lecturer among the students and staff, and her violent death shocks - and divides - Regina's small and fractious academic community.
This sort of reminds me of the time I nearly rented a horror movie only because it was set on my tiny urban street. Suddenly I thought, "Wait: wouldn't I like to be able to continue living alone on my street?". Back it went on the shelf.
Of course, it wasn't the first time I'd made a purchase like this. My friend C gently reminded me of another incident:
And having acquired Burying Ariel, will you actually read it? Because you might recall that you ask me to read The End of Mr. Y for you because you weren't ready for the adventures of Ariel Manto, "oversexed renegade academic, [who] stumbles across a cursed text, which takes her into the Troposphere, a dimension where she can enter the consciousness, undetected, of other beings."
OK: That sounds pretty awesome, but in my defense, I was in the midst of finishing my dissertation at the time, and I seem to recall that the book jacket of Mr. Y strongly implied that the inciting incident of the novel would be the sudden disappearance of Ariel's adviser, mid-project. It was too anxious to be borne.
And let's never forget that I keep a book called Sex and the Single Witch on my shelf because its cover promised me it would tell this tale:
When ice hockey coach JT becomes the first person to buy one of Ariel Watson's paintings, her work is suddenly the hottest ticket in town. And JT is more than an art lover - he's a lover. Trouble is, since falling for him, Ariel hasn't been able to produce one decent piece of work. What's a witch to do?
I begin to wonder why so many of these fictional Ariels are artists and academics and why, furthermore, they are so frequently experiencing obstacles and blockages in their work processes? (I think we can all agree that death is the ultimate obstacle to doing your job.) And are there other fictional Ariels I should be adding to my collection?