Review copy provided by Haikasoru Books.
This is one of the weirdest books I’ve read in a long time. The Bamboo, the creatures in it, are described as vampires, but they’re really more grass monsters who eat human carrion. They’re described as scary, but I’m not particularly scared by them so much as baffled by their strange, secretive, hierarchical laws. (For me, this is a feature, not a bug.) And on basically every other page, I’m left saying, “What? What?” (Again, a feature, not a bug.)
There are three sections varying widely in time, with different protagonists. Even within the sections, the timeline swings wildly, spending pages on a conversation translated lovingly to attempt to show what level of formality the Japanese conversation used (oh, a losing battle) and then going over forty years in a single line. I would say that it’s full of plot twists, but that sounds very linear, very straightforward, as though things are following one upon another with logic–it is full of plot twists the way the dream you are trying to remember from two nights ago is full of plot twists. “And then you what? Why? Okay.”
And then the grass monster reached the end of their life and exploded into flowers. What? Okay. No, different section, they ate someone who they thought was abusing a prostitute. What? Okay. If that’s not okay with you, you should probably move along, because that’s what there is here, a whole lot of angst and monsters and randomness, and some of you are saying, gosh, no thanks, and some of you are saying, sign me on up.
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Chaz Brenchley, Dust-Up at the Crater School Chapter 7. Kindle. Plotty, moving forward, full of dust storms and schoolgirl antics, as one would expect for this project.
George Eliot, Middlemarch. Kindle. And this is what happened to my early September. Middlemarch is surprising; it is delightful. It is one of the longest classics of English literature, and it is a joy to read. I kept thinking that I would want to leaven it with bits of something else, go off and take a break and read something in the middle of it. I didn’t. (I mean, I always have a book of short pieces going. But other than that.) While I was reading Middlemarch, I kept wanting to read Middlemarch, and when I was done reading it I wanted more of it. The only thing of its size that’s at all comparable in my attachment to it is John Sayles’s A Moment in the Sun, and that does not have the passionate following Middlemarch has–wherever I mentioned it I found that friends and strangers were ready to share my delight in this wandering intense chatty behemoth of a book. I’m discussing it with a friend who’s reading it with me. I’m not sure I have a lot to add for the general audience except to say, it’s funny, it’s intense, it’s gigantic emotionally as well as literally, it makes me want to read more George Eliot, it makes me want to read its giant self all over again. It is in some ways exactly what you would expect and in other ways nothing like what you’d expect. It is thoroughly itself. And oh, I love her, I love George Eliot so very much. I’m glad I read such a quotable thing when I was past the age of needing to strip-mine books for epigraphs. I can do that later. I’m glad I could just relax in and read this first time.
Masha Gessen, Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot. I enjoyed another of Gessen’s books and picked this up because the library had it, more or less on a whim. And it gave me a perspective on modern Russia that nothing else has, particularly on its criminal justice system. What the prison system is doing there, what trials are like, what sorts of things are prioritized, what and who counts, what and who does not. Enraging, illuminating. There are some things Gessen just takes for granted you will know about feminist art theory and punk, but I think it may still be interesting if you don’t? but even better if you do. Also, if you have a very strong high culture/low culture divide, read this book and have that nonsense knocked out of you. Not that I have an opinion about that.
Steve Inskeep, Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab. This is very much in the popular history category: short chapters, many things explained on a fairly straightforward level. Not a lot of delving deep into the obscure corners. However, Inskeep does a fairly good job of switching back and forth between the lens of the European settlers turned recent Americans and the lens of the cultures of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, and especially Cherokee people in the region he was discussing. One of the things that this particularly underscored for me is how quickly the European/American settlers viewed the land as traditionally theirs in that part of the south: the beginning of the Cherokee Trail of Tears was twenty-three years before the US Civil War. Even the earliest of the resettlements was only thirty years before. So in some parts of the Deep South, there were indeed plantations that had been going for generations–but in large, large swaths of it, the land they were fighting so hard for was land they had just taken from its previous owners basically five minutes ago. References to traditional way of life in that context are basically like talking about GameBoys and other hand-held gaming devices as our traditional way of life: they are bullshit. I think the way we are taught this period of history in American schooling encourages us not to think of that. I will want to read much deeper works on Andrew Jackson’s presidency. In this case I will say: Inskeep is not trying to paint him as a great guy or not a racist…and I still think he ends up going too easy on him. But it’s a good starter work for this period, I think.
Ursula K. LeGuin, The Language of the Night. Reread. The last time I read this was before I was keeping a book log, which means also before I was selling short stories regularly. I was a lot less prone to argue with assertions about fantasy not needing to compromise then. (Oh nonsense, of course it does.) But one of the things that makes Ursula LeGuin a great writer is that she argues with her past self, too. She evolves. She evolves in the course of this collection. And I think she’d be far happier with people thinking and arguing than uncritically absorbing anyway.
Rebecca Mead, My Life in Middlemarch. So…I didn’t mean to go straight from Middlemarch to a book about it, but the other thing I had from the library, I bounced off, and…I wasn’t ready to be done. This is Mead’s memoir entangled with a bit of biography of Eliot. There are places where Mead is bafflingly obtuse (some areas of gender politics and the writing of sexuality, notably, but also the difference between a character who is fully human and a character who is generally sympathetic), but in general it is short and rattles along satisfyingly and tells me things I want to know about George Eliot without telling me too many things I actively didn’t want to know about Rebecca Mead.
A. Merc Rustad, So You Want to Be a Robot. This is a solid and heart-wrenching collection. It’s impossible to pick one true favorite because there are so many good choices. Definitely highly recommended, Merc hits it out of the park here. And they’re just getting started.
Gerald Vizenor, Bearheart: The Heirship Chronicles. This is when Vizenor was just getting started, and gosh I’m glad I didn’t get started with his early work, because…why, oh why, did so many men of the seventies–particularly men who wanted to claim they were ecologically minded without doing much about it–pick the same direction for their demonstrations of their own sexual daring? Well, Vizenor grew out of it. But it’s a one of those. The person who wrote the afterword was sure that objections to it would be because people thought Indians couldn’t be like that! and no, it’s that it’s trite, it’s exactly the kind of trite sexual objectification of women–especially Indian women–that you’d expect from “seventies dude trying to be sexually shocking.” He got better. I’m glad.
Then, a few minutes ago, I took the dog out for a walk, and the neighbor came out, and said, look at the trunk of your pine. Whoa!
Here's from the side. click and embiggen, to see how far around the trunk they go.
And this below is from the sidewalk. Look in the upper portion of the trunk--that is a zillion bees tightly packed together.
That looks so . . . weird.
If they're still there in a couple of days, I'll have to find beekeepers to move them. My son's biological family on the female side has a deadly bee allergy running through them--his bio uncle has to carry an epipen everywhere, and my patio is about the size of two bedsheets put together. In fact, when I dry my laundry outside, I can only get one set of bedding out there at a time.
EDITED TO ADD: Between one check and the next ten minutes later, they suddenly vanished. I would have loved to see them swarm! But they are gone, and I hope they find a good, safe home.
Today, calimac is in Southern California, and so had a chance to come by for tea and scones. (Well, I had tea, and calimac had water.) We blabbed non-stop about reading, Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, classical music, the evolution of TV, the differences in short story and novel writing, and how to conduct an interview/ run a panel (calimac suggested this interview with Robin Williams and Stephen Fry), and the Mythopoeic Society, and then reminisced about stuff the younger generation has no concept of, except in movies: things you never think of, such as leaded gas, and the total lack of recycling of the sixties, party lines, how horribly expensive it was to make long-distance calls (especially in the days when families had a single phone), etc.
We didn't just blab about old people stuff. We also talked about how awesome YouTube is, especially for musical discoveries. I have so many saved links, tabs, and tags that I can't find what i'm looking for half the time, but I did manage to find this one, and am always looking for more, of course.
Ah, that was fun--then, of course, back to work.
I have been reading about the Graham-Cassidy ACA repeal bill, and the more I read, the more horrified I am. The premium hikes it allows for "pre-existing conditions" are unconscionable, and if you don't think Wisconsin will exploit those hikes, you have no understanding of your state's governor. Moreover, it's estimated that 32 million people will lose coverage within 10 years. Remember when you were arguing that 16 million was "better" than 22 million? Because I remember that very clearly.
Senator, this bill is a DISASTER. I am forced to choose between believing that you did not read or understand the bill that you have co-sponsored and believing that you understand it perfectly and just care that little about the well-being of your constituents and the rest of the American people.
Your party's obsession with repealing the ACA has been wasting time, energy, money, and other resources since the beginning of 2017--not to mention the resources and opportunities wasted by your party's childish obstructionism throughout the Obama administration, in which you are fully implicated. Repealing the ACA is fantastically unpopular and has failed repeatedly. And, honestly, the worst thing that could happen to the Republican Party is for this repeal bill to succeed. If it weren't for the catastrophe that would be brought down upon millions of people, I would almost want to let you have this monkey's paw. By all means, Senator. GET WHAT YOU WISH FOR.
However, I would much prefer it if you would join those of your colleagues who are trying to REFORM the ACA, even if you won't go so far as endorsing Medicare for all. In fact, I thought you HAD joined them, since you were participating in hearings about healthcare reform, and I am bitterly disappointed in you (yet again) by your co-sponsorship of the Graham-Cassidy bill.
I know nothing I say will change your mind, and certainly nothing I say will convince you to vote against your own bill. But I cannot remain silent and allow my silence to be counted as consent for this abhorrent, inhumane, and unethical bill. You cannot say you did not know that there was vehement opposition to the Graham-Cassidy bill among your own constituents, to whom, in theory, you are supposed to listen and whose interests, in theory, you are supposed to represent.
I am frankly ashamed to have you as my senator.
Today you unveiled your proposed health care legislation. I am not impressed by it, especially in comparison to the health care legislation of Senator Sanders and Senator Baldwin. I know I cannot change your mind, or convince you that removing federal regulations is a catastrophe, not a solution, or that block grants to states, while perhaps a workable solution in some states, will be misused in every way possible in others to ensure that the money does not go where it is most needed. I count Wisconsin as one of those states. I do not believe the state government has its citizens' best interests at heart any more than I believe you do.
Republican senators have been trying and failing to repeal the ACA for all of 2017, despite intense opposition from their constituencies, while Senator Sanders' Medicare for All plan creates the reform you claim to want. You are wasting time, energy, money, and other resources that would be better spent on almost anything else--perhaps the opioid crisis you also claim to be concerned about.
I am disappointed and angry. You have betrayed your constituents again, Senator. And although this is just one more chapter in a book you are making longer by the day, I am still appalled by the stupidity and cruelty you continue to endorse. Even though Wisconsin is not my native state, I have lived and voted here for more than twenty years. I am ashamed that one of my senators has put his name on this bill.
P.S. You still have not made a public statement denouncing fascism, either.
New story out today! Nature Futures is giving you Planet of the Five Rings. This was a Christmas present to my father, who is a deeply serious person, so you know that it will be a grim and somber read. If that’s not enough, there’s a story behind the story blog post where you can read more about it. Hope you enjoy!
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Up the close & down the stair / But & ben wi' Burke & Hare / Burke's the butcher, Hare's the thief / And Knox the boy that buys the beef.
( Read more... )
Review copy provided by Tor Books.
The cover describes this as, “The first anthology of science fiction to have emerged from Iraq,” but “emerged” seems insufficient to describe the work the editors did to make this project happen. Without an established science fiction community, editors definitely can’t just call for submissions and put their feet up. From what’s in the introduction, Hassan Blasim, with the help of Ra Page, approached writers from many regions of Iraq, generations, and writing styles, coaxing and cajoling them to approach the idea of Iraq a hundred years after invasion, doing with it whatever they saw fit. That’s not just emergence. That’s beyond even encouragement.
My favorite part of the stories themselves is the focus on Iraq as a future setting: this square or that city taking pride of place, this saying or that legend being the focus. I love fiction in translation for that reason: for the shift in perspective. I want more of it. And in order to get more of it, I’m willing to deal with stories that are not what I would ordinarily like best: stories with more sexual threat, stories that retread similar ground to previous work in other languages/cultures, stories that don’t seem to be able to find any thread of hope in the entire world. Which is not this entire volume, but it is some of this volume. If what I really want is works in translation from all over the world–and it is–I need to let the people actually from those places tell me what stories they want to tell, not tell them that their stories don’t fit my preconceptions of what they should want to tell. So while in some ways this was a bumpy reading experience for me, with some delights and some difficulties, I’m very glad to have the opportunity for the bumps.
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Review copy provided by First Second Books.
When a person who mainly reads prose expands into reviewing graphic novels meant for children, suddenly the form factor of the book starts mattering a great deal more than it ever did before. This book is a large, slender hardbound, the sort of book I don’t see regularly outside picture books. Its production values are glossy and very high–but it’s not a picture book, it’s a watercolor graphic novel translated from the French.
The paintings are lovely. The layout is sometimes quite busy for my eye, having extra rows and columns of illustration compared to a “standard” size of graphic novel.
Seraphin’s mother is an explorer of the aether, a scientist in her hot air balloon. When she disappears on a dangerous flight, Seraphin and his father try to balance their own explorations with a desire to keep each other safe–and to find out what happened to her. They wind up in Bavaria, at the court of King Ludwig, whose swan-shaped aether-ship is promisingly bizarre.
The “book one” in the title is not merely an indication that this is a series: the story is not complete in this volume. What adventures will our young etc. and his daring friends etc. etc. I think comics readers are pretty used to that sort of thing, and there is plenty of adventure, excitement, swashing, and buckling. It’s a fairly old-fashioned sort of adventure–maximum of one girl character at a time, apparently, and the gratuitous startled-in-the-bath scene–but airships and 19th century science jokes do have their charm; I would definitely read further to see how this comes out.
Please consider using our link to buy Castle in the Stars Book One: The Space Race of 1869 from Amazon.
Pigeon-Bone Soup, by Patricia Russo
The Man Who Embraced His Own Fungus (poem), by Josh Pearce
Abhaus (poem), by Mat Joiner
Eqalussuaq, by Tim Major
The House Always Wins (poem), by Sonya Taaffe
Beside the Paprika, a Pinch of Cyanide, by Michael Piel
Back in the Day (poem), by Kent Kruse
Tidal, by Rose Keating
God Is Spying on Mankind (poem), by Holly Day
The Daemons (poem), by K. S. Hardy
Burn the Kool Kidz at the Stake, by Mike Allen
Dive (poem), by Sonya Taaffe
Peek Up (poem), by Neal Wilgus
Art: John Stanton
We’ll be mailing the contributors’ and subscribers’ copies next week.
But these two I really enjoyed. I was particularly pleased to love the Lise Breakey so much as its publisher, Candlemark and Gleam, is a small press run by Athena Andreadis, who is working hard to get excellent female-written work out there that would be ordinarily ignored by the big five.
I cannot believe Unraveling Timelines could have been rejected by the biggies, it's so intensely engrossing. Ianguishing unread for years on slush piles, yes.
Anyway, I'd love to know what others think.