Knitting through.

Things are hard right now, my friends. I’m casting around for some kind of distraction, some kind of destruction, something to take my mind off, or at least away. My options are limited, since I don’t actually want to make bad decisions.

So this time, I’m taking up my knitting needles and working on a thing of beauty.

I knit because it lets me remain in my head while blunting the sharp edges of distress. It calms me, interests me, the repetitive motion is soothing. I am always getting somewhere. One more step in the spiral, one more link in the chain. It’s a labyrinth, built and explored by my fingers. It’s a path, a journey, there is a beginning, middle, and end, and so much can happen along the way.

A dropped stitch, an error in the pattern, a lapse in concentration. Terrible fates to befall one. I don’t use markers to portion the way, and I don’t weave in lifelines in case something goes wrong and I have to rip back. I just pick up needles and yarn and go. Of all the parts of my life, I am least anxious about knitting.

That doesn’t mean that I’m not anxious. Worry over whether I’m using the right needle size can plague me, fears that the product will be too big, too small, it won’t feel right, it’s not soft enough, it’s too stiff, too loose, it can take me an evening of swatching and choosing to make sure it’s going to be right. (And this is in the least anxious bit of my life. I think I need lavender oil, or maybe gin.) But once I get it right? (“Right” is, of course, subjective.) Once I find the combination, it unlocks my enthusiasm and I fly.

I’m flying on the project I’m knitting now. It’s so gorgeous, pattern complicated and engaging. The colors in the yarn look like fallen leaves from oaks and maples. The yarn even makes this wonderful crunchy, dry-leaf sound as I slide it along the matte gray needles. It’s a lace shawl, but I’m knitting it in heavier yarn. It’s going to be very big when it’s done. A roof. A house. A safe place. An autumn day to spread over me whenever I want one.

So this is me. A maker of beautiful things, in sadness, grief, in confusion and need. Dancing through my days as well as I can even though my heart is heavy. Wrapping the yarn around the needles like my arms around the ones I love.

Why you can’t get a girl.

Are you feeling lonely, sunshine? Do you feel like girls don’t like you, don’t want to be around you romantically? Have you found yourself grousing about how you’re “too nice” and “girls don’t want me?” Do you spend a lot of time complaining to your female friends about this?

Well, today, Miranda is going to sit you down and explain to you why this is, in small, simple words.

You’re a jerk.

That’s about it. The sum total of why you cannot get a girl.

This jerkitude may exist on several levels.

First of all, let’s be clear here. When you say “I can’t get a girl,” what you mean is, “I can’t get a girl I feel is attractive enough to validate my cripplingly shallow sense of self-worth.” This is sad, to be sure. That your sense of self-worth is so shallow, I mean. You can’t get a girl who rises to your level of acceptable female fantasy attractiveness to have sex with you? Awwwuh, honey. Most women do not look like supermodels or anime chicks or whatever else you’ve been whacking it to since you were fourteen. This does not make them undesirable in any way. It makes you a shallow jerk, though, and you might want to look into that.

If you complain that you are “too nice,” then let me direct you to the first part of that sentence. You are complaining. Whining, in fact, about how “girls” (more specifically, girls-you-want-to-bang) would rather have sex with “that asshole who treats them really badly” than with you. This might mean that you are generally a whiny, non-self-aware, entitled jerk. You might want to look into it. Are you even able to articulate why the guy they’re with is an asshole? Might it just be because he has something you want? Furthermore, do you actually have some idea of how you’d treat her better?

The next thing I want to point out is one of scale. If you say, “I can’t get a girl,” or “I can’t get girls,” you are reducing women to collectible tokens, redeemable for manhood at the nearest arcade. What, pray tell, would you do with one even if you got one? Do you ever think about that? Do you ever think about how to be a good boyfriend, or a good man, if it comes to that? Do you think about what you’d like from a woman in your life romantically? I bet not, most of the time, beyond girls being a good source of self-esteem and blow jobs. I bet you just don’t think about it, because that isn’t the point of this exercise. The point is to get something that you find lacking from a girl, instead of from within yourself. This attitude makes you a jerk, and you probably want to look into that.

If you find yourself becoming resentful of the girls in your life, both the ones you do and do not want to bang, because SO MANY WOMEN do not want to bang you, you will start treating even your female friends badly because you “can’t get a girl to like you.” Thus alienating the girls who already liked you, and contributing to several pernicious cycles all at the same time.

Do you complain about the friend zone? “Argh, she totally friend-zoned me!” Let me tell you a little something about the friend zone, snugglepuss. The friend zone is where women put jerks. Or boys/men who come across as really, really needy, or sort of mean, or even people who have abuse red flags going up all over the place. But mostly jerks. And while we’re at it, do you really want someone to date you out of pity rather than sincere and interested affection? And while you’re complaining to me, thanks for letting me know that unrestricted access to a woman’s vagina is all that matters to you. Good to be aware of, nice to have the feedback. Now get OUT OF MY LIFE, YOU JERK.

Ah, yes, I must say a word here about friends. If you have female friends, chances are at least one or two of them really were into you, however vaguely, at some point, but something about you turned them off to you as a romantic partner. She probably realized you were a jerk. Maybe you made too many misogynistic jokes, maybe you came across as too needy, maybe she realized she valued you as a friend more than as a boyfriend. It really does happen. Girls know that relationships are going to go horribly wrong, and maybe they didn’t one to go horribly wrong with you. Also, they might not be physically attracted to you. It happens. Remember, guys are let off the hook for not noticing the geeky girl until she hots herself up for them all the time. You do not get a pass on this because you have a penis. Despite what you have been told, it is not a magic wand.

You want to know how to get a girl? Stop being a jerk. Stop thinking about girls-and-how-to-acquire-them. Shower every day, keep your hair clean and pulled back off your face, shave, look at men in magazines and figure out how to dress nicely. Have hobbies that get you out and about. Read. Listen to music. Go for walks. Develop your friendships and cultivate new ones. Think about what you really want from life, and figure out how to get it. And when a woman becomes interested in you, don’t. be. a jerk.

Grief/Love

Today is the birthday of someone I recently lost. I didn’t lose her, exactly, what a silly thing to say. She’s not misplaced. I know exactly where she is. She’s not here anymore.

So, like I said, today is her birthday. No e-mail, no phone call, just this ache where someone I love used to be in my head and my heart.

I was in the neighborhood of the church where she got married. I was in her wedding there, over ten years ago, now. I saw the restaurant where I met her husband, someone else I love very much.

I thought I would go in to the church. I thought I would cry. But then the church was closed for a convention, so there was no crying for me. Not then.

She was a mystic, and she had many things to teach me. This is one of them. You can’t do everything exactly when you want to. Nothing waits. Nothing stays. You can’t engineer a moment of healing, all you can do is wait and let it find you when it will. If it ever comes. Maybe it won’t. Even if it doesn’t, that I want to remember, and grieve, and heal, that has to be enough.

This is the moment, and it is enough. I miss her and I love her, and that is also enough.

Perfection isn’t possible. Why seek it? She said to seek the center, and in the eye of the storm of sadness, and anger, and loss… there will be peace as well.

Happy birthday, Grandmother. I never called you that while you were alive, and now I’m sorry. To be closer would have been better, even if we didn’t know exactly how, and you’ve taught me that.

Happy New Year!

At midnight last night, we rang in the new year with a group hug and good wishes. The turn of the year is my favorite holiday, as we take the arbitrary and make it sublime.

I don’t have many resolutions, but there is a direction I want to go in. Tendencies I want to encourage, and a mindset I’d like to buy into. I think concrete declarations of intent are important, but perhaps more lasting for me is the idea that I am heading toward balance in all things, and moving the tipping point to a place where I am taking care of myself more assiduously.

Creating, doing, caring, making, and loving. That’s what I want 2013 to be about. 

Dear Teenager

Hi, teenage girl.

I remember that. Oh, my god, I was miserable. I felt like every other person wanted something different, and all I wanted was someone to love me. Me, for who I was right at that SECOND, and then a second later when I was somebody else.

It was a mess in my head. Sometimes I wanted to punch the wall, sometimes I wanted to break down and cry. I had all this power, and no place to put it. I wanted sex, I wanted rock ‘n’ roll, I wanted to throw myself onto a motorcycle and ride. I wanted to curl up on the couch watch a Disney movie, holding a stuffed animal.

I never knew if I was doing it right. Whatever “it” was. My parents didn’t understand, because nobody could understand what it was like in here. The confusion, the aching, the extreme joy and the bitter darkness. It was all in there, and I was so small. How could I hold it all? Where did it come from?

One minute I was a pretty happy kid, wandering along, and the next I was this freakish thing with body parts I didn’t know how I felt about, and desires I really didn’t want to think about, because who the hell was I, anyway? Suddenly I was careless and argumentative, and I didn’t call when I was supposed to, and I stayed out too late, and I kissed people because it seemed like a good idea at the time, even when I knew it wasn’t, and all the time it felt like someone was shrieking at me. Only that was me, too.

And all the time, the question, the brutal, endless question: Who was I going to be when it was over?

Because intellectually, I knew this was only going to last a few years. I was a teenager. My brain was crazy. But I was so alone. Sometimes it felt likeI was trapped in a box, only the box was still myself.

It was very lonely. I didn’t know how to talk about it, because it sounded stupid. Sometimes people were assholes to me, and it felt awful. But I thought if I said anything, my parents, or my teachers, or my friends would just tell me not to let it bother me. But it did. Oh, it did.

This is going to last a few years, babe. I’m sorry. I really am. We all go through it. Every adult around you was a teenager once, and honestly, they just want it to be easier for you than it was for them. That’s what they’re trying to say, whenever they give you advice you don’t want, or yell at you because you didn’t call when you were supposed to, or your grades dropped, or you started to scream at them when they asked you if you did your laundry.

They just want it to be easier for you. They just want you to avoid as much pain as possible, because they love you more than they ever thought they could.

But don’t listen to them. Listen to me. I did this ten years ago, and I was a lunatic. I have the chops.

You are lonely because you have realized the stunning, terrific weight that is your self. You are like no one else, but you are similar in a lot of ways, so you can build on that if you have to. Maybe you dance. Maybe you draw. You have things you love. Hold on to them. They’re going to save you.

Read books. Go to movies. Listen to music. Do your goddamn homework, do your goddamn laundry. You can be miserable and angry while you clean something. Work with that. Lie on your bed with the pillow over your eyes for five minutes every afternoon and listen to a song or two on your iPod, and just let it all go away.

You’re going to make mistakes and hurt people, you’re going to make mistakes and hurt yourself. Do not make any of these mistakes fatal. I’m serious. Do not drink too much. Do not smoke any pot you haven’t grown yourself. Do not trust the people who know how attractive they are. Band together with the confused ones like you, who are also driven by the things they love.

People are going to want you to do things. It’s okay if you don’t want to do them. Your cousin Miranda, who knows a thing or two, is here to tell you that you don’t have to do them. No matter where you are, or what time it is. Just pick up the phone, and call your dad, and tell him you want to come home. Tell him you need a rescue.

Even if they aren’t good at showing it the way you need them to, there are people who love you so much. Who want to help you more than anything. Who would throw themselves in front of this train if they could, but it’s your train, and your tracks, and I’m afraid no one can cut in on this dance. But they can help you. Let them help you. Let me help you.

You’re smart. You’re beautiful. You’re funny. You’re silly. You’re big. You’re little. You’re graceful. You’re clumsy. You can hurt. You can help. You’re the world. You’re an insignificant speck on a planet that is itself an insignificant speck. But you are the world. And you can make the world better by smiling whenever you can find it in yourself.

You’re going to make it through this. You’ll stop feeling so raw. And you’re going to have fun, too.

Love,
Miranda

Nora Ephron: 1941-2012

"You were the only person I knew in New York."

Nora Ephron died this week. Our long-suffering correspondent broke the news late Wednesday night, reading it off the BBC app on his phone. He didn’t really know who she was, only that she was a writer and I’m a writer, so maybe I would care. He didn’t expect to have his arms suddenly full of soggy girlfriend, firing quotes at random through her tears.

“Men and women can’t be friends! Don’t cry, shop girl! You were the only person I knew in New York… She wrote my favorite movies,” I wept. Concerned and off-balance, (suddenly crying girlfriends are, I am assured, the worst kind of crying girlfriends) he did the only thing he could think of: he tried a joke.

“Yeah, but she also wrote You’ve Got Mail.” Only too quickly did he realize his mistake.

“That’s one of my favorite movies!”

He says he was about to start in on me about my bad taste in movies, but decided to hug me instead. There was nothing for it. One of my teachers was dead, and I needed to cry.

Nora Ephron taught me about love. She taught me about being a woman in a complicated, post-feminist world that doesn’t know what to do with you, but has a lot of ideas about what you ought to want. She taught me about being a good friend, having lunch, eating ice cream, talking, laughing, but always understanding that another person’s heart is ultimately unknowable, and you can’t really make anyone change. She taught me that being independent was the basic expectation. That you don’t need a relationship, you only want one very very much. You have to be hopeful, and smart, and aware of your choices, and you have to laugh. It’s not all a joke, but most of it can be really fucking funny if you let it.

She also told me you had to write it all down. I can’t say she made me a writer, but she taught me that you have to tell the truth, you have to borrow from life, and she helped me see that you can write the pain and it’ll get easier, that you can write through the joy and let more people share it.

She taught me that you have to pay attention to who drives you crazy and who makes you feel at home, because someone who does both at the same time might be the trouble you don’t want to get out of. She taught me that love is always a possibility, that if you have the feeling it might be love, you get on a plane and fly three thousand miles to find out.

All of these lessons were hidden in her movies. (Some more obviously than others.) Maybe she didn’t intend to teach anybody anything. She was writing for her contemporaries and for the women coming up just after them. Maybe she had no idea that a little girl would watch You’ve Got Mail, Mixed Nuts, When Harry Met Sally, and Sleepless in Seattle a hundred times while she was growing up, that she would pore through them for wisdom, because these men seemed like men she wanted to be with, and these women seemed like people she wanted to be.

That girl watched those movies on the couch with her mother, talked about them, quoted them all the time. Each one was a right of passage. (Except Mixed Nuts, which was a fluke, but one of the best flukes in the world.) When she was about to go to college in New York City, she and one of her best friends went into the city for the day and she decided it was the right decision when she saw the Washington Square Arch and realized where she was. She was where Harry and Sally fell in love, where Joe and Kathleen had their bookstores. It was home.

When her mother had cancer and they sat on the couch in more dire straits than they ever thought, out came the Nora Ephron movies. They laughed and cried through them, too, and knew it was going to be okay.

And when I was a young woman in a relationship and realized that I was thinking of these movies as nice fantasies instead of possibilities, I left. And when I was on the edge of something and had the feeling it might be love, I got on a plane and flew three thousand miles to find out.

You need to believe in love, Ms. Ephron told me. That you have power, that you can change your life, and that your life matters to the people who know you. Maybe love is flying three thousand miles, maybe love is carrying a Christmas tree, maybe love is hiding a body disguised as a Christmas tree. But you have to believe that even if it isn’t easy, it can be yours.

I am so sad that this is the end. Sad for the people who actually got to know her, sad for the writing we won’t get to read, and see. But so grateful that she was… that she was. Because she gave me so much. And there’s not much more you can ask of a person than that.

Happy Father’s Day

My father is an electrical engineer by training, a computer programmer by profession, and a seriously nerdy man the rest of the time. I mean it, he is the Uber-Geek, the King of the Wonks, the apogee of the odd. If you ask this man for the time, he may very well spend the next twenty minutes explaining how clocks work and segue neatly into a discussion of the adoption of the Julian calendar. It will be Interesting. You will be Informed. You will walk away saturated with facts and mildly dazed.

That, in a nutshell, is my childhood. Anything I wanted to know about, I asked Dad. He read books about longitude, (that’s where the clock info came from) about pencils, about screwdrivers. Walking the dogs late at night, he would point the stars and the planets out to me. I asked him questions about anatomy, submarines, space, nuclear reactors, Batman. He answered them all.

He is a font of information, and as he will be the first to tell you, anything he doesn’t know he will cheerfully make up. (I hasten to add, his guesses are very educated.) Dad has weaponized these tendencies in recent years with the acquisition of an iPad, with which he is able to become an instant expert on anything at all.

As I’ve gotten older, my questions have become more complicated. I want to know how the heart works, but in a less practical, more philosophical sense.  Even my dad doesn’t pretend to have the answers to those. It’s been scary, growing up past the point where Daddy could tell me how everything worked. Also, realizing that I know more about poetry, art history, and the publishing industry than he does was something of a shock. (An embarrassingly recent shock, at that.)

My father isn’t perfect, obviously. He’s rough around the edges. We all are. But he has the best heart. He would drive anywhere for me, for one of my friends, for our family. I have always known that he loves me.

When I was little, he read me books at bedtime. He read me the first three Dragonriders of Pern books, he read me the Narnia books, he read me Sherlock Holmes stories, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. He read me Chapter 7 of The Once and Future King approximately six hundred times. (I loved Chapter 7 the best.) During a few very memorable, very special months, he read Lord of the Rings out loud to my mother and me. Gandalf will always sound like my father, no matter how many times I watch the movies.

He would discuss the finer points of steam trains with me for hours, courtesy of my sincere love for Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. The Way Things Work and Stephen Biesty’s Cross-Sections were as familiar and comforting bedtime-reading as those illustrated books retelling Disney movies. My dad knew things, and still does. He played Myst and Riven with me sitting on his lap. He played submarine commander simulator games with me hanging out over his shoulder, offering “helpful” suggestions like “Ping them!” Yes, give away your position to the enemy! I knew exactly what I was doing.

A lot of my life has been like that. I know exactly what I’m doing, and Dad just lets it ride. He knows that I’m going to make mistakes, no matter how much he’d like to shield me from them. So I’ll make them, and I’ll recover, smarter and stronger than before, because that’s who he trusts me to be.

When I was 13, we started going to the movies. Throughout high school, I think we saw every silly action movie and superhero flick that Hollywood could throw up onto the big screen. I don’t think I can put into words what that did. Maybe it’s a post for another day. But where so many girls I knew found their relationships with their fathers put under stress by adolescence and impending maturity, I went to the movies with my dad, and we talked in the car each way, and we sang songs. And while some things change, some things are always going to stay the same. He’s still my favorite date. I’m still his little girl. I’m just a young, independent woman at the same time. Because that’s who he trusts me to be.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. We have tickets to the midnight show of The Dark Knight Rises. I’ll even buy the popcorn.

Morality, Atheism, Wonder

On the heels of my post about what being Jewish means to me, I thought I might want to talk about what I believe, and don’t believe.

A debate began on a friend’s Facebook status over a comment the pope is purported to have made about how atheists “pick and choose” their morals. Like the impetuous fool I am, I decided to weigh in. Usually I don’t, especially in Facedebates, especially about religion. But I found I had things to say. I’ve been discussing religion a lot lately, and thinking about it more than usual. Someone I know referred to me as one of the least spiritual people he knows, and I was shocked and hurt by that assessment. I consider myself a spiritual person. I’m just not traditionally religious.

I am a macro-agnostic and a micro-atheist. My sense of wonder does not allow me to rule out the possibility that somewhere in the universe there are gods, or godlike beings, but I do not live my life as though, even if they do exist, they are terribly interested in me. Yet, my moral and ethical code is fairly restrictive in terms of how I live my life. I don’t believe in a supreme higher power of the Judeo-Christian stripe, and yet I don’t steal, murder, dishonor my parents, covet my neighbors’ anything, or any number of other forbidden activities in the Bible. I do my best at being a good person. I try to be considerate, honest, and thoughtful. Perhaps the Pope might have been more specific to say he believes that atheists pick and choose their morals as they go, suggesting that because we have no relationship with a higher power and are not accountable to a higher power, that we can allow our morals to slide when convenient. I think this, unsurprisingly, is complete and utter rot.

Never mind the convenient moral slidings of people who profess belief in these higher powers. I’m not interested in discussing hypocrisy. People will do what is in their best interests to do, especially if they can somehow explain it away, or cast it in religious terms. A religion is bigger than the acts of one person, and as many people hide behind that as live joyfully within it.

The atheists and agnostics I know are some of the best, most thoughtful, most careful people I have ever met. We do not live knowing that we will be redeemed at some later point. We have to think in terms of how our actions are going to affect us and the people we interact with, because those actions and those people are all we have. We are the sum of what we do on this earth, and this earth is, simply, it. There is no afterlife. No forgiving saviors. Only ourselves, and it’s harder by far to live with myself when I know I’ve done something wrong.

The notion of a personal and loving God is appealing. We are human beings, with all the flaws and all-too-often-realized capacity to injure others. The ideas of an entity that will always forgive, that some good-byes are not forever, that I will always have another chance to right a wrong or be forgiven for a slight, no matter how minor, are incredibly appealing. But in the end, it’s not for me. I am answerable to my own conscience and the web of people around me. Harsher critics and with more direct consequences by far than a deity and an afterlife. I believe, anyway.

I’ve had the fortune to know some intensely good and thoughtful people who believed in a god, in the more traditional form. They have loved me and welcomed me into their homes and their families without a second thought, it seemed at the time. I have also known people who were wrapped up in how good they thought they were because of what they believed. They weren’t shy about expressing opinions that would, I hope, have made them feel very embarrassed if they knew just how much I disagreed with them, and just how much they were offending me. And, without shame, I have misrepresented my beliefs to some of those people, because I was afraid of the consequences to my relationships with them if I were honest.

I don’t have a problem with people I know believing in a god, or ten gods. It matters to me how I act. How I behave. My frustrations over these issues are many, and they run deep. I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, but I also don’t want to be bullied into hiding how I feel. We should all be adult enough to prepare for the possibility that everybody isn’t just going to believe what we believe. To open our minds and try to see everyone’s point of view without being dismissive. And our faiths should be able to stand up to questioning, debate, and other points of view. My faith is. I’ve thought about it for a long time, and I finally have some conclusions I’m proud of.

I don’t say any of this to claim that I am better than people who have a more traditional belief system, just to put forth that I am no worse. I have faith, and belief, in many things. I feel that I stand on firm ethical ground, taught by good, strong people. The ways I come to spirituality are many and varied, they happen in churches and at concerts and in stands of trees and on beaches looking out at the ocean and in libraries and staring out at the lights of the skyline of New York, marveling at all the things people have managed to do. Because of, or in spite of, the beliefs and stories that we have carried around with us for a couple thousand years, now.

Thank you for reading.

Adulthood

About two years ago, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I don’t know if I’ve ever really talked about it here. She was healthy, she felt good, we’d been living in the city for less than six months and she loved it. She was writing, she was exploring the city, and suddenly none of that mattered any more. She had breast cancer, and she needed surgery and chemotherapy if she wasn’t going to die sooner rather than later. I remember the first thing she said right after she got the phone call. (And I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you which call that was.) She walked out into the kitchen and told me, “I don’t want this to interfere with you finishing school, you hear me?” Yes, ma’am. I heard you.

She had surgery later this month, two years ago. She scheduled it so that she would be in good enough shape to come to my college graduation. My mother has priorities, and damned if she’s going to let anything get in her way.

I had a crash course in adulthood that spring and summer. I figured out how to take care of a family and keep a three-bedroom apartment clean, and get dinner on the table nearly every night. It’s no mean feat. I don’t think most people who’ve grown up with a dedicated parent and household-wrangler appreciate just how much work goes into it, until they have to do it themselves. Being a housekeeper is a full-time job. I took care of someone recovering from major surgery, and then someone going through chemo. It wasn’t easy, and I needed a lot of help. But then I needed less help. I figured out what to do.

I’m telling you all this because as the weather gets warmer, I feel residual dread. Attacks of nausea for no reason. Headaches, which I normally never get. My body remembers stress, it remembers pain, it remembers fear. But right now I want it to remember the pride.

We did it, she and I. We got through it, and I think we did it well. I had just graduated. We watched lots of movies, lots of Jeopardy, I knit her this enormous blue shawl. We did puzzles, figured out meals, and went for walks. Every time I got her to the top of the hill in the park we cheered.

When you’re a kid, you think of adulthood as a switch being flicked. Suddenly you’re big, you’re aware, you’re sure of yourself, you know how to balance a checkbook and you know how to cook. You immediately know how to change the oil in a car and you know what all those mysterious settings on the washing machine are for. Doing taxes and buying houses come naturally. There’s nothing you can’t handle.

The reality is, and it’s a reality we don’t see often enough, really, is that only the last sentence of that paragraph is true. That’s how I feel about it, anyway. I know I can handle anything that happens, even if I have no idea how I’m going to do it.

Feed, by Mira Grant

Sometimes a book just makes you want to blog.

This isn’t the first time I’ve read Feed, and it won’t be the last. By Mira Grant, (A.K.A. Seanan McGuire) Feed is the first book in the Newsflesh series, centering on a team of news bloggers in the post-zombie apocalypse United States of America. The world is believable, the characters are enthralling, the plot is great, the action is exciting, and the ending makes me cry every time.

As if all this weren’t fantastic enough, there are puns everywhere. You know how I feel about puns.

I’m not going to spend a long time regurgitating the plot. I hated writing summaries in college, and now I don’t have to do it any more! Instead, I’m going to talk about the part of the book I like best.

Georgia Mason. We spend Feed in her head, a direct uplink, if you will. She is matter-of-fact, competent, opinionated, self-aware, and relentless in the pursuit of the truth. Or the facts, though for her they are mostly interchangeable. She’s obsessed with finding the truth and putting it online, running a miniaturized news organization with an ear cuff cell phone, mp3 recorder, and a PDA. The main interests of her life besides the news are Coca-Cola and her brother Shaun. Ah, Georgia and Shaun. Attached to each other utterly, to the exclusion of any other human beings in the world.  Georgia and Shaun are adopted siblings, with no genetic relationship. They grew up in the spotlight as their parents attempted to prove that they could in fact raise children as if there weren’t zombies after losing their only biological child during the Rising. (The zombie apocalypse, for those of us who just like typing it out.)

Georgia has dark hair, Shaun has light. Georgia wears black all the time because she can’t be bothered to dress herself, Shaun is stylish. Georgia is stern and acerbic, Shaun is exuberant. Georgia doesn’t like to touch people besides Shaun, Shaun does the hugging for her. Shaun throws himself at zombies, Georgia throws herself into rescuing him. They are symbiotic in just about every way. There are no cracks in the armor of their devotion. Their only weaknesses, respectively, are each other. It would be strange and off-putting if it weren’t written so well.

The experience of being in Georgia’s head is a fascinating exercise. The narrative is interspersed with excerpts from their public blogs, but she seems to be narrating as though she’s aware of her audience. Force of habit, perhaps. There are always cameras on her, why not even in her own head? She has some blind spots, and though most of the time she’s aware of them, sometimes she’s not.

It’s people that give Georgia the most trouble. Complicated, emotional people with layered motivations. She behaves as though she understands them, but her explanations for the behavior of those around her are often over-simplified. Her friends are largely unaware of how important to her they are, because she is largely unaware of how important to her they are. Shaun is the sun at center of her solar system, and everyone else just orbits in the dark. I’d be tempted to say “that’s not healthy,” but one of the core tenets of the Newsflesh books are that in the wake of the Rising, our own standards of health, safety, and even humanity rarely apply.

That’s the thing about Feed. It’s set in an internally consistent world, its main characters are consistent and trustworthy even when they’re unreliable. (Even Georgia, with her devotion to the truth, isn’t telling us everything.) I’m in the middle of rereading the sequel right now, written from Shaun’s point of view, and we learn more about them from inside his mind as well. Everything I learn just makes me want to know more.

These books have zombies, the news, politics, epidemiology, technology, discourses on different kinds of writing and why it matters, pop-culture references that have me laughing out loud, massive government conspiracies, and miniature epileptic bulldogs. But at the heart of it, these books are a love story between two people that trust each other completely, wholeheartedly, and with a fierceness that most of us in this world really are never going to experience. And that, my friends, is what good fiction does best. Makes us feel things and see things that we would never know otherwise.

June 1st, and the next book in the series, can’t come soon enough for me.