I loved The Haunting. There were three kids in it, and all of them reminded me of myself - Barnaby, the central character, had imaginary friends (and that was the first year my 'imaginary friends' showed up); Tabitha, his sister, was a budding writer who insisted on asking everyone questions all the time and was writing a scandalous novel that would be published when she was 21; and Troy. Troy is described as follows : ... and frowning Troy who seemed to move around in the heart of her own private storm, struggling against tempests no one else could see.
I know we've all felt like that, and a disproportionate number of us, because my Flist is made up of misfits and strange creatures and I love you all for it, will have felt like that at eight, but it's one of the first things I remember reading that seemed to strike a chord for me - not a note of, I like this, because I read a lot back then, but one of I am like this. You know the feeling, that extraordinary feeling : someone else knows what this is like. I tried to change my name to Troy then, but, as previously mentioned, no-one took it seriously and I let it lie for years. I've never liked being an Emily. I like it less these days for the number of times I've heard it said in anger, frustration, disappointment, upset, shock and horror. 'Woolf'...people hated me at school, and my surname was funny. It might have cool associations but I just want to get rid of it, honestly.
And then last year I found this poem by W. B. Yeats and cried a lot. Not that I'm setting myself up as some great beauty lost in time or anything, obviously, but as a love song to all those people the world can't understand, I find it incredibly powerful, and I remembered Troy, and how badly I'd wanted that name. So I reread The Haunting to see what it looked like at 24. Much the same, it turns out. Fascinating, moving, strange, from that weird subgenre of children's books that happened in the 80s where everything was set in a nebulous magical version of England. And there was Troy, being like this :
"She can be so difficult - and unkind," agreed Grandmother Scholar apologetically [of her stepmother, Great Grandmother Scholar]. "I think she feels it's a sign of weakness to say nice things, and all her memories seem to be bad ones. But what can one do? She's so old - she's eighty-eight - you don't like to be equally unpleasant back to her."
"I'd like to," said Troy, and wandered off to lean against the wall in a forgotten corner of the room.
I'd read books with isolated kids, with lost and confused and indeed dead children, before that one, but I think that's the first book I read in which there was someone who truly was like me. Later on she says she's spent all her time "concentrating on some outside pattern so that my inside pattern wouldn't get too strong and show itself to everyone", which is more or less how I feel all the time. I have taken her name.
I'm toying with middle names and surnames at the moment - well, I say that, I know what my middle name is going to be, I'm just embarrassed about it. For various reasons I wanted one of my names to link back to my parents, so I looked at things my mum has played in operas and ended up with one of the first things she ever did, I think the only britches role she ever played (badly, according to the internet :x), when she was very young, and the young man who is possibly my second favourite character in all of opera. But it pushes the name from 'classy' into 'pretentious', so I am ashamed of myself. Still. 'Troy Octavian', I mean, it does look pretty, right? Cough.