Friday, April 2, 2021

Weekend Reads: Melanie Dickerson and the Importance of Jellybeans (Mary)

 Pretty much everyone who knows me knows I love the Medieval era. Those who know me beyond passing acquaintance know that I'm slightly obsessed with it.

Those who know me very, very well, know that during our teens, my best friend and I actually kept journals of "our lives" that we wrote as though we were living in the Medieval era. That's how deep my obsession goes. Granted, we were wildly inaccurate historically speaking, creating instead some kind of weird, mostly fictional, Medieval/Renaissance/sheer fantasy alternate universe in which the drama ran outrageously high and we both spent the majority of our time either being kidnapped or proposed to--sometimes both, for good measure.

We spent hours every week--sometimes hours per day--pouring our dramatic little souls onto the pages of those journals, and looked forward with giddy excitement to seeing each other every Friday, when we could exchange journals, read each other's adventures and exploits from the previous week, and add to them our own adventures for the next week.

Looking back at those journals now I think "Oh my goodness, I want to die..." but at the same time, there is still an appeal to living in that world, as much as I blush to admit it. The castles and knights and gorgeous clothes and pageantry and coats of arms and tournaments...but with enough fantasy thrown in to break the historical rules whenever I need or want to, to conform to the story I'm telling.

I think that's why I love the work of Melanie Dickerson so much.

(My most recent Melanie Dickerson read)

Melanie Dickerson's books are a relaxed blend of Medieval historical fiction and fairy tale/fantasy, but in my opinion they don't fit neatly into either category. There are too many anachronisms to really call it historical, but they are too historical to really qualify as full-fledged fantasy, either.

And I think that's part of what appeals to me. Dickerson's books are fun, relaxing, easy reading, and don't require a lot of thought to follow--the kind of books that I like to call "jellybean reading."

You can't live a healthy lifestyle if all you ever eat is jellybeans--they aren't going to power you through a 5k or boost your immune system or keep you satisfied all day at work--and in the same way I don't believe that you can have a balanced, well-rounded literary diet if all you ever read is Melanie Dickerson.

But boy, jellybeans sure taste good.

 If you want a little something sweet and enjoyable (and let's be honest, jellybeans are just cute to look at), if you want something with a variety of flavors but the same basic form and format, if you're feeling down and need a sweet, colorful little pick-me-up, nothing quite hits the spot like jellybeans.

I know people who won't touch a sugary snack like jellybeans, and I know people who won't read books like Melanie Dickerson because they're "fluff." But I would argue that, just as jellybeans can have an important cheering-up effect, "fluffy" reads can be an important part of a literary diet.

Sometimes I'm just too tired to read nonfiction or heavy, "serious" literature. Sometimes I'm sad and don't want to read anything emotional or that deals with super heavy topics. And, I'll be honest, sometimes I get nostalgic about living in a Medieval fantasy world with my best friend, and just want something to remind me of that.

Literature doesn't exist only to educate and challenge us. Literature also exists to comfort, to console, to be a friend, to help us relax, to just have fun. Different books and different authors fulfill different purposes with their work, and who's to say that the jellybeans you use to cheer up and have some fun aren't as important to a balanced, varied diet and lifestyle as an 8-ounce steak or a spinach salad you use to build up your muscle and get some serious work done?

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