Tuesday, April 21, 2015

If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love, by Rachel Swirsky

Rachel is a little bit older than my oldest (biological) child. She is a graduate of UCSC (The Banana Slugs) and the Iowa Writers Workshop, which I understand offers the MFA in English. From this, I draw the conclusion that she loves books. Without any direct evidence, I choose to also draw the conclusion that this is a love that she developed in childhood. It doesn't take much more imagination to suggest images of her as a young girl, learning to love stories read to her by parent or grandparent, a love that continued as she learned to read on her own.
One of the great books to hit the scene when Rachel was small was the first in a series of books by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond, “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.” My children loved this one, and the next in the series, “If You Give A Moose A Muffin;” sadly, by the time “If You Give A Pig A Pancake” came out, my little ones were no longer little enough to for me to sit with them on the sofa, curled up, and read the words to them while they looked at the pictures and turned the pages. Life cycles on, however, and I now have grandchildren.
Because I have the cadences of the “If You Give” books in my memories, I recognized “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love” instantly. The implications of each act demand the next, and the repetitions of the phrasing, from each discrete event to the next, resonate from the Mouse to the Dinosaur.
And the phrasings, though certainly of a more adult level in the story of the Dinosaur than in the story of the Mouse, are beautiful. They paint a picture of a fantastic happiness, with a T-Rex crooning love tunes on Broadway, and even of a T-Rex wedding, with the narrator as Best Woman at the wedding. It is truly a lovely work, up to this point.
I don't know why Rachel chose this particular form to tell a story of bloody, bigoted murder, and the destroyed hopes of a young woman. She tells the story powerfully, to the point that I feared that this was an actual experience of hers. Fortunately, I discovered that she has a living husband, who is in fact, a dinosaur fanatic.
I have knowledgeable friends who have objected to the award of the Nebula and the nomination for the Hugo for this story, based on the fact that it isn't science fiction. I have absolutely no opinion on that at all. Obviously, there were others who felt differently. The story has been cited as an example of why there is a need for broader fan input in the awards process.
My position is nowhere near as educated or informed on the nature of science fiction. I am not a writer; I am a reader and reviewer. I rather regret the reviewer role, at this point. It is because I write reviews that I read Dinosaur. If I could choose to undo that read, I would. I would rather have unsullied memories of Mouse and Moose and Pig. I hope, before the next time I read “If You Give A Pig A Party” to Heath or Joshua, that I will be able to disassociate the cadences of this story from the sweetly engaging children's books.


  1. What do you know about books?

    1. I know I have loved them for significantly more than a half century.

  2. That's an interesting take, Pat. I hadn't considered that, but I think you're right.