Seeking Song and Story

Once upon a time, I read this guest post by Briana of Pages Unbound.  I put in my two cents about sidekick protagonists, carried on with my reading, and proceeded not to think about it further for four months.  But that post has been bouncing about my mind of late, for a couple of reasons.

The first is that Briana sought something that might not have existed.  She wasn’t looking for help remembering that one book she read in seventh grade that focused on the sidekick for a change and also it involved the Brooklyn skyline somehow. Had none of us readers had any volume to suggest, we might have taken it as a request to create such a narrative for her.

The second reason I’ve been thinking about it is that this post highlights the benefit of human eyes and human minds when one is on the hunt.  Google and other search engines do their very best to help one find a particular item or passage, and there have often been times when I could use such tools to find a song, a movie, a book of which I only recalled the haziest details.  But if you don’t come up with the right search terms, or if your query gets too lengthy, it can impede rather than assist your progress.

Therefore, dear readers, I bring my concerns to you, and hope that you can help with one or the other of these things I seek.

I’m looking for…

…a piece of music. 

I sang it in June 2001, at the Illinois Summer Youth Music choir camp.  It is called “Canticle,” and I sang it as part of an all-girl ensemble led by some Canadian lady whose name eludes me.  Tragically, I supposed that remembering all the words and most all of the notes would help me to find it again.  I was mistaken.  The text is Psalm 89:1 (or Psalm 88:2 for the Douay-Rheims folk) in Latin: Misericordias Domini in æternum cantabo; in generationem et generationem annuntiabo veritatem tuam in ore meo.  No idea who composed it.  No idea if it’s a setting of some earlier composer’s work or chant.  Someone, for the love of my sanity, tell me this rings a bell for you.

UPDATE: I ask, and Jenna delivers!!  Michael Levi’s Canticle!  MY HEART IS FULL OF SONG.

…an explanation for why “capital” should be different from “capitol.” 

Evidently I completely forgot this distinction in the years since my elementary spelling classes, but “capital” refers to the city or town which serves as the seat of government, while “capitol” refers to the building in which the legislature gathers.  Typically heterographs don’t bother me, but I just. don’t. understand.  Someone call the Inky Fool.

UPDATE: I have been informed that the legislative building was named, per Jefferson, for the Roman temple of Jupiter on Capitoline Hill.  Thus far I am satisfied that the difference stems from an existing difference between the words in Rome, but there has been no further illumination of the difference between Latin suffixes or whatnot.  Do feel free to ring up Inky anyway and see what capital he can make of it.

…a less-typical narrative. 

This one’s a bit tricky to explain.  Earlier today, I read this post (which, briefly, is the story of Susan Isaacs looking for love online, getting rejected from eHarmony because she didn’t fit into their algorithm, and eventually finding The Man on Christian Cafe).  I’m not 41, and my fortnight on OkCupid is nothing compared to Susan’s litany of dating site attempts.  When I reached the end, I was glad for her: she seems to have found what she was looking for, and it rounded out the story quite neatly.  But it also rang a bit hollow because it rounded out the story so neatly.

    "The artistic flaw is inaccuracy, specifically a violation of the canons of reality. Things don’t happen that neatly. It’s an upward slope, finally plateauing into a straight line. Which…when that happens on your heart monitor, it’s a bad thing." Oh, Dr. Whalen. How illuminating you are.

“The artistic flaw is inaccuracy, specifically a violation of the canons of reality. Things don’t happen that neatly. It’s an upward slope, finally plateauing into a straight line. Which…when that happens on your heart monitor, it’s a bad thing.” Oh, Dr. Whalen. How illuminating you are.

This isn’t normally a criticism I raise, because I appreciate both romance and happy, tidy endings.  I don’t recall ever complaining about the Prince marrying The Girl in any given fairy tale, or how relationships (and events more generally) shake out in Austen, Harry Potter, Stardust, or the Lord Peter stories.  I don’t whinge about Dune ending with “History will call us wives,” or the end of That Hideous Strength.  I don’t consider myself a feminist, and have never evaluated books on the basis of whether or not they pass the Bechdel Test.

But Susan’s story (and Hannah Coulter, and The Princess Bride, and any given article on Boundless) suggests that there is no other narrative, that no lady can ever be happy without The One, that the only ending possible is marriage.  This ground has been trod by a lot of women in tiresome family-vs-career arguments, but the fact remains that I want a story: a different story than my usual fare, something involving a woman who is content with a different sort of happy ending.  I’m looking for a female character who is content to live her life on her own, if only to show me that it is possible.

Surely one must exist; for all I know, there are dozens, hundreds, thousands of such stories that I’ve completely missed.  And if not, my dears, please help me write one.

14 thoughts on “Seeking Song and Story

      • Bother it all, I thought being super-vague would help. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! Right, so, it’s true. It’s ALL true. The Lady of the Lake totally runs away with the Man in the Moon. Sorry you had to find out in this sudden and brusque way 😛

    • I keep thinking “Whatever, just genderswap any given story about Men Doing Stuff.” But I’m not certain that such a thing would be convincing.

      • Huh. I am trying to think of one. Nothing is coming to mind.

        I’ve seen movies try to do this–Little Black Book comes to mind… and that one, at least, felt sour at the end. But I think that was the writers trying too hard to show that a woman can be happy with her life without a man, and they made the heroine outright unhappy in love.

        It seems possible… hmmm. I might take you up on the suggestion to write one. It might take me a decade or two. 😛

        Was this the song: Michael Levi’s Canticle? It would’ve been pretty new in 2001, which makes it seem like the sort of thing that might have been done in a youth choir camp. It’s also an SSA arrangement, which seems to fit your story.

        Hope this helps…

      • AAAAAAHHH!!

        You DID it.

        I’ve been looking for it for twelve years and I really wasn’t sure posting here would help and you FOUND it.

        This is the most magical beginning to my morning!! Thank you!

  1. Nothing’s coming to mind in terms of women having stories that do not involve love/marriage (which is awful- there must be stories like this!) but I can suggest a great reader’s advisory database. It’s called NoveList and your library of choice most likely has access to it. They have some great lists created based on genres and read-alikes for titles and authors. Maybe you can find what you’re looking for!

  2. Feminism, to me, just means “women are whole people too and ought to be treated as such.” By that standard, I am a feminist. 🙂

    There are very few stories like the ones you’re seeking that I am aware of. The film “Brave” comes close, but it has a very open ending in which the heroine leaves open the possibility for future romance. It’s also a mother-daughter narrative, which is a rare beast, though not quite as rare as what you seek.

    Hmm. Till We Have Faces comes close. Orual is not a happy creature. Her happiness has less to do with a lack of husband (though that desire is not absent in her) and more to do with her hatred of the gods/God, which is why I think it comes close. She could have been happy without a husband if she did not have that gaping hole in her.

    Miss Marple? She seems like a pretty contended woman of years.

      • Haha! True story: when I shared this on Facebook, Miss Marple was the only example I could think of. And of course Miss Katherine Climpson from the Lord Peter stories fits, but she tends to take a backseat to Peter-and-Harriet.

        Poor Orual. She could have, at that. Perhaps I will revisit her while I keep my eyes peeled for another single-lady story.

  3. Pingback: Follow-Up: A Single Story | Egotist's Club

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