Monday, September 17, 2012

The Hook #4: An Analysis of a Favorite Dedication

 by Jacqueline Fauni

We’re switching things up for today’s “Hook” post with Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner. The author’s first line,
“Here, I practice, and you practice,” 
is enough of a gold mine on its own, and I could easily go into raptures over how perfectly its parallelism and simplicity set the tone for Vaclav and Lena’s granted, intimate, just-us-two-in-the-world relationship. But for me, the real hook happened a little before I even read the first line--in the author’s dedication. In fact, I have never been so hooked by any first line I’ve ever read as I was by this:
Gavin, my partner in crime, my lovely assistant, 
my comrade, and the very best husband a girl could have, 
you are still my rising sun. 
You fill my life with wonder and joy and 
possibility every day. 
You were always on every page of this book, 
and now you’re part of the big, wild, gorgeous universe, too. 
I know you’re having fun out there, I can feel it. 
I love you.
Before we even get into the story, we are immediately swept away by Tanner’s unabashedly romantic, refreshingly earnest style, and are filled with the sense that we are about to witness something wonderful and profound. The graceful diction, lyrical movement, and overwhelming tenderness in Tanner’s dedication to her husband--who passed on after a six-year fight against cancer--pervade the light and whimsical, yet dark and intense love story that is Vaclav & Lena.

Vaclav & Lena is the story of two young Russian immigrants who met in an ESL class in Brooklyn at age six and have been incredibly close, destined-to-be-together-forever friends ever since. They go to Vaclav’s house every day after school and practice for their big magic show at Coney Island, proclaiming themselves to be Vaclav the Magnificent and his assistant, the Lovely Lena. Life for Vaclav and Lena seems as magical and pitch-perfect as their act, and Lena is drawn from her empty, unhappy home into the open arms of Vaclav’s warm, loud, and loving family. But everything changes the day Lena doesn’t show up for school and disappears from Vaclav’s life. His love endures, despite the probability that he’ll never see her again--but time, fate, and unyielding faith work their magic to prove how deeply connected Vaclav and Lena are, together and apart.

This sense of destiny, juxtaposed with whimsicality and a natural flow, carries over from Tanner’s dedication to small, poignant moments between Vaclav and Lena, like the first scene where Vaclav is practicing his introduction:
“Ladies and gentlemans, I give you, I present to you, I warn you in advance of his arrival, so that you may close your eyes or put your hands on your face if you are afraid, Vaclav the Magnificent, Boy-Magician.”
“Eh,” Lena says in a grumbly voice.
“Lena, what we are having here is perfect introduction to the act. It is long and perfect and made of only the best and longest thesaurus words,” says Vaclav.
Vaclav’s bright, garrulous personality is delightfully contrasted with Lena’s quiet brevity, and it is this effortless establishment of their voices and dynamic that lets us in to their own little world, and compels us to really care about them and invest ourselves in their fate.

* Moral of the day: Don’t skip over the dedication! You might miss a real gem. *

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