Game of Queens, India Edghill

Note: I received a review copy of Game of Queens from the publisher for review consideration. This has no bearing upon my super-intense vengeful emotions about Haman and their contribution to my enjoyment of the book; about which, see further remarks below.

In my 2014 book preview, my expressed wish for Game of Queens, a retelling of the story of Esther, was that it not use the word sex as a euphemism for genitalia. And it did not. It also turned out to feature Daniel, of lions-not-eating-him fame, being gay without his close friends fretting too much about it, and it managed the neat trick of vilifying not Esther nor Vashti nor Ahasuerus. Which, if you remember the Book of Esther in any detail, you will notice is really quite some trick.

Haman is vilified, as is right and just. When I was a wee tot, I had this amazing book called Behold Your Queen which was also a retelling of the Esther story (it did vilify poor old Vashti), and so the moment where Haman gets hanged upon his own gallows was one of the formative Revenge moments of my childhood.

Fun fact: Thinking about revenge activates the reward centers in your brain!

Although Game of Queens is subtitled A Novel of Vashti and Esther, it’s really Vashti’s book. In part this is because Esther’s story is already so familiar, and by the nature of her story, she’s a less dynamic character. Vashti’s the one who gets to change and grow, to realize that she can’t be Marie Antoinette all the time, and to learn to become a player in the politics of her country, instead of a pawn. She’s a fun character, and it’s surprisingly rare to have a book in which a ditzy girl gets to get to make shit happen.

Greatest book ever, Pulitzer Prize material? Okay, probably not. But I cherish the story of Esther, and what Edghill has produced here is a monumentally satisfying version of that story. Not only do we get a Vashti who finds a way to control her own destiny even after she’s set aside as Queen of All Persia, but there’s this whole subsidiary plot about getting REVENGE on Haman even before Haman comes up with the idea of killing all the Jews.

Final note: Apparently Martin Luther was ruhlly ruhlly not into the Book of Esther. It was probably too fun for him. He probably wanted to put the Book of Job in there twice, just to make everyone miserable. Cranky old jerk. (I’m glad the Reformation happened. Super important, historically. Major step forward for Europe. I’m just not such a fan of Martin Luther as a person.)

New Year’s Resolutions: A Manifesto

I have seen many lists of New Year’s Resolutions around the blogosphere this month. People are setting admirable goals for themselves, and you would think that I, having had a highly successful round of New Year’s Resolutions from 2010, would be raring to set still more awesome goals for myself this year. In fact the exact opposite is true. All through January of 2011 I have shied away from making Resolutions, even in my brain, because I think that in general they are unrealistic and ultimately a self-esteem suck. Having goals is one thing, but New Year’s Resolutions tends to be something slightly more idealistic, and thus more fraught with the potential for failure.

Well, dear ones, I have found an alternative. I have opened up a glorious future for us all. Your lives will never be the same. Here is what I’m proposing: Retroactive New Year’s Resolutions. This is the cure for all resolutions-related depression. I will explain.

I have a purple blanket, which my daddy made for me and which I have had since I can remember. As I was tucking myself into bed a week ago, I tugged too hard on the frilly border of the blanket and ripped a long strip of the border away from the lining. This weekend I sewed it back together again, and as I was sewing it (by hand, which took two episodes of The Good Wife) I felt really proud of myself for sewing it so successfully. (I don’t sew.) I kind of wished I had made a New Year’s Resolution to sew something together that wasn’t buttons. So I decided, I did make that New Year’s Resolution. That happened. And now I have accomplished it. Yay me! No wonder I feel so proud: I accomplished a resolution!

This is how New Year’s Resolutions should work. Every time you accomplish something difficult that you’re proud of, you should make a retroactive New Year’s Resolution to do that thing. I feel so happy right now, after having sewed my blanket back together. If you did a scan of my brain at this moment, I bet you would find it’s being flooded with serotonin and dopamine. I bet you would find my brain responding like it would respond to delicious food and revenge. Bloggy friends, I want this feeling for you. Join me in making retroactive New Year’s Resolutions the norm. It’s a foolproof recipe for a reward chemical cocktail of awesome.

I’ll start. Jenny’s 2011 New Year’s Resolutions:

1. Sew something together that isn’t buttons.
2. Fall in love with a book translated from Spanish.
3. Modify several existing recipes to create one amalgam recipe, and then use that amalgam recipe to cook an official food of Louisiana and have it come out awesome.
4. Read more translated modern poetry and find a translated modern poet to love.

Done and done and done and done! Go Jenny! 2011 is shaping up to be a huge success, and I feel awesome about myself! These aren’t, of course, my only New Year’s Resolutions. There will be more. I’ll find out what they are as the year goes on, and when I do, I will be sure to let you know. Anyone want to join me? Have you accomplished anything that can be retroactively made into a resolution? Alternately, do you think my plan is insane and self-serving? Have any refinements to suggest?