Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fantasy and Science Fiction: Weetzie Bat

Bibliographic Data
Block, Francesca Lia. Weetzie Bat. New York: Harper Collins Children's Books, 1989. ISBN 0060205342.

Plot Summary
Weetzie Bat and her gay friend, Dirk, are given a lamp by Dirk's grandmother. Weetzie rubs it and out pops a genie. Weetzie wishes first for world peace (Genie: "It's out of my league. Besides, one of your world leaders would screw it up immediately."). Next, she tries for "an infinite number of wishes!" (Genie: "People in fairy tales wish for that all the time. They aren't stupid. It just isn't in the records because I can't grant that type of wish.") Finally, Weetzie settles for wishing for a love for Dirk, a love for herself, and a house for them all to live in happily ever after. This whimsical modern fairy tale is how Weetzie gets her three wishes granted and finds out if it really is possible to live happily ever after.

Critical Analysis
Weetzie Bat is a modern day fairy-tale, set in the make-believe, fantastic world of Los Angeles. Weetzie and Dirk are just looking for happiness and love. But it takes a genie and 3 magical wishes for them to find these ever so elusive things. Even after they find them, they know that happiness and love aren’t something that doesn’t have to be worked at. Weetzie’s true love, My Secret Agent Lover Man, leaves when Weetzie announces that she’s pregnant. And Dirk’s true love, Duck, leaves because he’s scared of AIDS.

Weetzie’s Los Angeles is crucial to the story. This is a Los Angeles that most non Angelenos aren’t even aware of. Oki dogs, Canter’s, the Tick-Tock Tea Room. But it’s also a city of illusion. Charlie, Weetzie’s father, describes it this way:

          "Everything’s an illusion; that’s the whole thing about
          it—illusion, imitation, a mirage. Pagodas and palaces
          and skies, blondes and stars. It makes me too sad. It’s
          like having a good dream. You know you are going to
          wake up" (73).

In Weetzie's Los Angeles, reality never seems to rear its ugly head. Everyday mundane tasks such as mowing the lawn, doing laundry, etc., don't exist in Weetzie Bat's world. They would only serve to root her in reality, and how can you tie down a free spirit like Weetzie? Weetzie lives in a dream world, not the real world. Things just seem to happen, just like in a dream. My Secret Agent Lover Man comes back after awhile. Duck returns home with Dirk. Charlie dies from a dream that he doesn't wake up from. And even the grief Weetzie experiences at Charlie’s death feels like a dream to Weetzie:

          "Weetzie,” he said., "your dad’s dead. But you aren’t,

          She put her arms around him and cried. Their clothes
          fell away like clothes in a dream—like a dream peels
          away when you wake up" (75).

A story whose characters float through life in a dream-like state could only take place in Los Angeles, the movie capital of the US, where dreams are created.

This book has had its share of censorship. Dirk is gay. The 4 main characters live together without the benefit of marriage. But in Weetzie’s world, none of those things are important. The only thing that is important is happiness. My Secret Agent Lover Man comes back. Dirk finds Duck and brings him home. Weetzie’s baby, Cherokee, Witch Baby (who was dropped off on their front porch and who might be Secret Agent Lover Man’s child), Dirk, Duck, Secret Agent Lover Man, and Weetzie all live together in Los Angeles.

          "Weetzie’s heart felt so full with love, so full, as if it
          could hardly fit in her chest. She knew they were all
          afraid. But love and disease are both like electricity,
          Weetzie thought. They are always there—you can’t see or
          smell or hear, touch or taste them, but you know they are
          there like a current in the air. We can choose, Weetzie
          thought, we can choose to plug into the love current
          instead. And she looked around the table at Dirk and Duck
          and My Secret Agent Lover Man and Cherokee and Witch
          Baby—all of them lit up and golden like a wreath of lights.

          I don’t know about happily ever after… but I know about
          happily, Weetzie Bat thought" (88).

Awards and Honors
Parents' Choice Award, 2003: Gold Best 25 Books in 25 Years United States.
Best Books for Young Adults, 1990; Type of honor and awarded by.
Best of the Best Revisited (100 Best Books for Teens), 2001; American Library Association-YALSA; United States.
Eureka! California in Children's Literature, 2003; Book Wholesalers, Inc.; United States.
Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 1997; American Library Association-YALSA; United States.
Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 1990; American Library Association-YALSA; United States.
Senior High Core Collection, Seventeenth Edition, 2007; The H. W. Wilson Co.; United States.
Senior High School Library Catalog, Fifteenth Edition, 1997; H.W. Wilson; United States.
Senior High School Library Catalog, Sixteenth Edition, 2002; H.W. Wilson; United States.

Review Excerpts
Susie Wilde (Children's Literature) (n.d.)
Block is a cutting-edge young adult author who writes of a heroine who rambles in a wild Los Angeles world filled with unique characters. Several of them... are gay. Her settings are lush and her tone is a mix of dream and (sometimes) nightmare. She writes gay-lesbians as characters rather than poster children. Books such as these can help bridge the feelings of isolation that some young adults may be experiencing.

Patrick Jones (Horn Book Magazine, November 1992 (Vol. 68, No. 6))
With characters with wild names, magical transformations, and spaced-out dialogue, it is not possible to read Block as one would the straight narratives of S. E. Hinton. Hinton's language was Tulsa tough; Block's world is that of punk/pop culture L.A. Terms like slinkster and clutch pig come not just from the mouths of characters but from the voice of the author. Block also draws upon L.A. pop culture for numerous references. At times her books seem less novel and more travelogue for those wanting to find the hip and well-read — and well-fed, for there are many references to food. As Hinton did with her working-class neighborhoods, Block draws the reader into her settings with her eye for detail and catalogue of cool. For the hour it takes to read one of Block's books, one can't help but be pulled into Weetzie's world.

Book Hook
Pair this book with Block's other novels about Weetzie's untraditional family: Witch Baby (1991), Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys (1992), Missing Angel Juan (1993), Baby Be-Bop (1995), and Neclace of Kisses (2005).

Online Connections
Francesca Lia Block's website can be found here.

No comments:

Post a Comment