Violet & Claire

Violet & Claire

4.5 51
by Francesca Lia Block
     
 

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This is the story of two girls, racing through space like shadow and light. A photo negative, together they make the perfect image of a girl. Violet is the dark one, dressed in forever black, dreaming Technicolor dreams of spinning the world into her very own silver screen creation. Claire is like a real-life Tinker Bell, radiating love and light, dressing herself

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Overview

This is the story of two girls, racing through space like shadow and light. A photo negative, together they make the perfect image of a girl. Violet is the dark one, dressed in forever black, dreaming Technicolor dreams of spinning the world into her very own silver screen creation. Claire is like a real-life Tinker Bell, radiating love and light, dressing herself in wings of gauze and glitter, writing poems to keep away the darkness. The setting is L.A., a city as beautiful as it is dangerous, and within this landscape of beauty and pain Violet and Claire vow to make their own movie. Together they will show the world the way they want it to be, and maybe then the world will become that place—a place where people no longer hate or fight or want to hurt. But when desire and ambition threaten to rip a seamless friendship apart, only one thing can make two halves whole again—the power of love.

Francesca Lia Block's latest novel is a beautifully told story that boldly combines the world of film with the lyrical graceful language of poetry. The voices of two friends—one dark, one light—combine to tell a larger tale of love and loss, and the strength that comes from believing in dreams.

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Editorial Reviews

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Francesca Lia Block Gets Real

In the final pages of Francesca Lia Block's deftly written new novel, Violet and Claire, one of the main characters wonders to herself: "Maybe there had really been a kind of murder that night." This salient assertion comes from Violet, the whip-smart teen who, along with her friend Claire, wonders loudly about life. Besides forcing her characters to face big questions, this scene illustrates Block's current foray into storytelling in which events reflect a more hard-edged reality -- one where, if people are not physically dying, then, perhaps, their spirits are.

"Instead of genies and fairies, demons and lovers, it's very grounded in reality," Block said during a telephone conversation this past August. "It definitely has that tragic reality, and it's more plot-oriented than my other books." The 36-year-old author, whose widely acclaimed Weetzie Bat series for young adults has catapulted her to the top of the teen books scene, was forthcoming with her current interest in reality-driven storytelling.

Violet and Claire reads almost like a film script, which was originally the projected medium for the story. "I wanted to write a script, and I had a cool idea in my head," Block explains. "I woke up in the middle of the night and I typed 30 pages, and my legs were shaking -- it was really weird." The script-turned-book, however, still retains a scriptlike format ("fade in" and other stage directions are utilized throughout), and Block employs the Faulkneresque literary technique of shifting points of view. Hence, the book is divided into three sections: Part I is narrated in first person with Violet speaking; Part II is narrated in first person with Claire speaking; and Part III is told in third person through both Claire's and Violet's points of view, as well as through the narrator's.

Since her first book, Weetzie Bat, which she has referred to in many interviews as a "love letter to my friends and family," Block has had an intimate alliance with her characters. In Violet and Claire, she takes parts of herself and apportions them between the two main characters; in addition she draws on a real-life encounter to bolster Violet's character. "Violet is a very strong, forceful character, but there's some darkness to her," Block says. "She takes things very far. Claire has this ethereal quality, this sort of innocent, childlike quality, and both of them are seeking something that is missing in themselves." Curiously, toward the end of the story, Violet aptly renames herself Ambition and Claire Innocence. These are tools of the fable trade; both allegory and metaphor strongly inspire Block's work.

When the story begins, Violet, 17, is working on a screenplay she hopes to make into a film. In her first-person narrative, she shares her personal philosophies and practices: "And what else is filmmaking about if not a series of perfect and potent images strung together like the words of a poem?" Later in her monologue, we learn how she went from "wanting to save the world in sixth grade" to her "Goth" phase at 13, all the way up to her screenwriting venture, which came from years of studying storytelling and "renting two movies a night." Claire, on the other hand, is the flower of the two, the peace-loving, poetry-writing child whose fantastic dreams of making a living as a poet contrast with Violet's dreams of a life as a Hollywood screenwriter. Violet, Block says, was drawn mostly from a person she met through her recent encounters in L.A.'s film business, in which she is currently immersing herself.

As the story unfolds, Violet and Claire follow the path of their dreams, and a classic tale of lost innocence emerges; the reader, like the characters, may find herself asking moral questions. On their journey they meet the good and the bad: Richter, a Hollywood mogul; Tinker Bell, a potential character for Violet's screenplay; party girls Esmeralda and Mathilda; rocker Flint Cassady; and various lovers. "In my work I always try to work with dark and light, positive and negative, love and fear, magic and realism," Block says. "I try to include both of those things, not because I want to make a statement, but I believe in both those forces and that they are in this world."

If all this talk of good and evil and scripts and murder sounds like fodder for more adult-oriented novels, then it's correct to assume that Block's moniker as a teen author is somewhat miscalculated. Although she's been on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list and has been given awards by the American Library Association and the New York Times Book Review, her place as a teen writer continues to be a cloudy issue for her. "I didn't write my first book for teenagers," Block says. "A lot of my readers are older because I think these issues are ongoing. I think also a lot of the positive things of being a young person are retained." Her most renowned books, such as Witch Baby, Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys, Missing Angel Juan, and THe Hanged Man recount adolescent dilemmas while simultaneously addressing many of the same issues that adults encounter.

"When I say I write for young adults, I get people who say, 'When you write an adult book, let me know and I'll read it,'" Block says. "Does an adult book say 20 and up? It just limits it a little, and I try to avoid the label."

Discussing her following, Block refers to her fan mail, which accumulates regularly throughout the year. Many letters, Block says, come from people who may have read only a single novel she has written, but who have found her characters to be faced with many of the problems prevalent in their own lives. "I get letters from mostly young women, and they are so inspired," Block says. "They're incredibly smart, creative, humanistic, conscious, and some of the issues I struggled with, they've learned to deal with through communicating with each other. I'm encouraged by what I see -- they're very sophisticated; they are not jaded."

Of her own books, she feels closest to her first, Weetzie Bat, which she wrote while still an undergrad. But she is also proud of Missing Angel Juan and The Hanged Man for their "language and structure." Block works out of her home, which she shares with her husband and their dog, Vincent Van Go-Go Boots. Afternoons find her writing; in the morning, she exercises. On her reading list now are books by Barbara Gowdy, The White Bones and Mister Sandman. Also Joy Nicholson's The Tribes of Palos Verdes and Aimee Bender's Girl in the Flammable Skirt. Block adds: "I love Salinger. And I was really influenced by the surrealist writers of Latin America, like García Márquez."

If she weren't a writer, Block says, she'd probably be working as a psychologist for young people. And her secret ultimate fantasy is to be a modern dancer. But back in reality, Block is currently involving herself in L.A.'s film community, where she's making contacts and learning the trade of screenwriting so that -- you guessed it -- she can finish a screenplay she's working on. That, as well as thoughts about becoming a mother, has Block thinking about reality in the real world.

—Kevin Giordano

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780064472531
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/28/2000
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.12(h) x 0.48(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

FADE IN:
The helicopter circles whirring in a sky the color of laundered-to-the-perfect-fade jeans. Clouds like the wigs of starlets-fluffy platinum spun floss. Below, the hills are covered with houses from every place and time-English Tudor manors, Swiss chalets, Spanish villas, California Craftsman. Flowers threaten to grow over their doors and windows like what happened to Sleeping Beauty's castle. Pools flash like jewels in backyards where Sleeping Beauties in sunglasses float topless, waking to sip from goblets of exotica decorated with pineapples, cherries and hibiscus blossoms. On the roads that run between the hills are shiny cars, hard-candy-colored and filled with music.

This is how my movie begins. The credits floating in the pools, written on the license plates, on billboards, lighting up in neon over the bars. I am in the helicopter dressed in Gautier black and shades, pointing out the shots to the cameraman.

This is how my movie begins but not my life. My life started seventeen years ago in a hospital in West L.A. There were no cameras at the event, no sign above the hospital announcing the opening of THE LIFE OF VIOLET SAMMS. Maybe there should have been. Who knows, if I got famous, I told myself, it could be very valuable to have all that on film.

I knew even then that I was destined for a life of cinema. It seemed more real to me than real life, sometimes. As soon as I could walk I discovered cable and began to watch the classics. The parents could not get me away from the screen. The first word I learned was "Rosebud." I imitated Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, waltzing around the living room. I tried walking like Charlie Chaplin. When Marilyn wason I didn't do anything. I just sat there with my hands stretched out trying to touch her. Why was she just electric static? I thought she'd be as warm and silky as she looked.

Now you might assume that I wanted to be an actress. But that wasn't it at all. That would have limited me. I could never have dreamed of just playing one part, saying somebody else's words, doing what they told me to do like a lovely puppet. No-I wanted to be the one to give the words, and actions, too. I started by directing my dolls, but they did not cooperate. They had none of the vivid but ephemeral essence that emanates from a real star. I could dress them certain ways and twist their bodies around into the right positions, but I was frustrated by the lack of life in their eyes. That was when I began fantasizing about real actors. The boys and girls in the neighborhood never lived up to my expectations. They got bored fast and went off to play games that I never understood. Also, they had an aversion to some of the more strenuous poses that my dolls, with all their lack of emoting ability, always complied with.

Speaking of emoting-the neighborhood children weren't much better than my dolls with that. And then, most humiliating of all, they rejected me! They plotted ways to avoid me after school. I grew up alone but in the best company. Dating Cary Grant and Bogey at the revival house, hanging with Jarmusch at the art house, spending the night with Garbo and Veronica Lake on my VCR. Wondering why I couldn't find my own little Marilyn and Jimmy Dean to work with. I knew I was worthy of their talents, even then.

And one day, finally, I saw her.

EXT. HIGH SCHOOL QUAD: DAY

She was wearing a Tinker Bell T-shirt and her hair was up on her head in a goofy blond ponytail. You could tell she had no idea she was pretty. But I knew that on film she would glow with that weird light that certain people have. I've got an eye for those things.

I was working on my laptop, still trying to figure out what the script was going to be about. Of course it was going to be about me, but even I couldn't take one hundred and twenty minutes of pure Violet. We needed something. We needed a story. The proverbial "we," because so far the only one on the team was me.

There was no one at school that even had a clue what I was up to. They thought I was from another planet, and maybe I am. At least they usually left me alone. The girls admired my clothes and my hair and the boys checked out my body, but none of them wanted to talk to me. They thought I was some heavily attitude-endowed bitch whose only friend was her PowerBook.

Well, it was true. I didn't have many friends. Make that any. And that would have been all right as long as I could have been making movies. But for movies you need to collaborate. It is one of the laws of film, even if you are a dictator. And so, even if I didn't need any friends, I needed an actress. And there she was, sitting under the big magnolia tree with its fat white flowers, her hair up on her head in a ponytail and her scruffy Tinker Bell T-shirt and her toes poking through the holes in her Vans. It took an expert eye to recognize it in her but I recognized it-she was my star, my Miss Monroe junior, my teen queen extraordinaire, my young diva, my sweet celluloid goddess waiting to be captured on the luminous screen.

I was getting ready to talk to her when this boy Steve decided to come over. Atrocious sense of timing-he could never do stand-up, let alone be a leading man. Also, he desperately needed a stylist. I tried to ignore him, but he stood there, insistent, trying to see what I was writing.

"You must have the longest diary of any girl at this school. Is it about all your hot dates?"

I shouldn't have indulged him but I said it wasn't a diary.

"Oh, excuse me. Zine."

He was trying desperately to find some hepcat credentials to whip out. It made me nauseous.

"No, it's not a zine," I said patiently. "It's a screenplay."

"Awesome!" he exclaimed. "Can I read it?"I bet you can guess my answer, even in the short time we've been acquainted.

Unfortunately, he was not so astute. He seemed surprised and said, "If you don't ever do anything except write you'll need Prozac."

This was especially not funny since in junior high I had gained notoriety from a serious bout with depression that caused me to cut my arms with razor blades.

I asked him point-blank what it was that he wanted.

Violet & Claire. Copyright © by Francesca Block. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Francesca Lia Block, winner of the prestigious Margaret A. Edwards Award, is the author of many acclaimed and bestselling books, including Weetzie Bat, Dangerous Angels: The Weetzie Bat Books, the collection of stories Blood Roses, the poetry collection How to (Un)Cage a Girl, the novel The Waters & the Wild, the illustrated novella House of Dolls, and the gothic vampire romance Pretty Dead. Her work is published around the world.

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Violet & Claire 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is probably one of the best books I've read in a long time the two diffrent halfs that make a whole it is a very touching story and I recommend it to anyone who is intrested in a tale about two friends who go to there breaking point only to find they really are diffrent fom the world and that they were made for each other. I personally favor this book because its really easy to relate to if you have ever had a true best friend you will understand to always make then happy and dry there tears when they need it the most. The realisticness is unbelivable a guy getting in the way of a friendship it happens all the time now but they found away to pull throuh and a only true friends can make that hapen. So if yiu are even thinlin about reading this book I urge you to take the challenge and read it. I hope you will like it as much as I did.
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Its_tiffani_LOVE More than 1 year ago
at first it was difficult for me to get into the book. but then i started to get used to it and half way into the book it started to get more and more interesting. after that i couldn't put it down. my eyes were glued to the page. Violet and Claire have such a unique and pulsing friendship. its as if you can feel their friendship like its tangible. they are each others other half. it is beautiful and full of life.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is one of my favorite books ever, but that may be because I am most definately Claire (minus the fact that I do not think I am a faerie). The book is about two out casts who come together only to fall apart. It's about how love can and does save the day...but not necessarily romantic love. It's very good and very well written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was assigned to read this book for my English class. When I read a short summary of Francesca Lia Block¿s Violet & Claire earlier in class, I thought, wow, this book sounds good! But when I got home and started reading it, I was immediately disappointed by the overall quality of the book. The character development of this book was very poor and you didn¿t get any feeling of the people around the main characters. Violet & Claire is mainly focused on a teenager¿s life- sex, drugs and alcohol. Violet is a straight- forward girl and it doesn¿t take long to figure her out .Her friend Claire, however, is quite random throughout the story and is half teenager, half faerie. Together they make up a very odd picture of a teenage girl¿s friendship to another but sometimes that¿s what a book needs, something different. The author writes about Violet and Claire¿s attempts to make a movie, or should I say, Violet¿s attempts to make a movie. Claire is in the background of Violet and is there with her from time-to- time. As she writes about Violet¿s dreams of making her own movie, Francesca Lia Block also does a pretty good job of telling the reader about their friendship and how Violet¿s movie-making success makes her forget about her friend Claire. I rated this book a 3P because the theme of the book itself was quite interesting and if the author had put down a bit more work in descriptions of the setting and the characters, it could have been a 4P. The book was rated a 2Q because it was written in a way that made it seem boring even though the story itself was very good. The author didn¿t put in any descriptions of the people around the characters or the setting she only described the main characters. However, the reader should be warned about the real-life insight of a teenager¿s life that the book gives, with excessive amounts of alcohol and drugs included. This novel is the perfect reading for anyone who enjoys easily read books with little time taken to describe the setting of the book and the characters. Violet & Claire is also a good choice for anyone interested in reading more about how a typical teenage life can be in LA.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book takes a minute to get into and understand what is really going on inside the charcters heads, and at times this book can be a little odd, but it is defiantly worth the risk!!! A great book! 5 Stars!
Guest More than 1 year ago
wow, this book is great, you should get it, but what makes it even better is to get other books by this author. I read it in 6th grade but world recommend it for evey age.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and could not put it down. You so have to read it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a good book, I finished it in one day
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book...I'm on my third time reading it. It's just so amazing and vivid and there's things that I compare and contrast with and like and sidlike about the book. It helps me toform my own opinion, like many books. Still, this book has got to be one of my fav books ever. Me and my friends like to see who we are more like (Violet or Claire). and I'm more like Claire. a combo of fantasy and reality. Just amazing. Read it. Just read it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I always loved Francesca Lia Block, but this book is just amazing. I got hooked to it from the very beggining to the very end. It has a few wonderful twists and I love it so much please read it! The characters are strong and its my favorite book ever!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved it.i read it in a week even though im constantly pounded with homework n parents. If u put claire and violet together i bet it would come out to me. when i read each section of the book (violets than claires)i felt like i was each of them because of the way they act and talk and think. im dark, gothic, and risky like Violet, but im also innocent, glitter, and very into Faeries like Claire. people at my age can definetly relate to this book. READ it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is just absolutly phenomenal! I loved it