snurri: (Default)
2011-04-07 12:37 pm
Entry tags:

2011 Reading #37: Edinburgh by Alexander Chee

Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
Books 21-30.
31. Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge.
32. Those Who Walk Away by Patricia Highsmith.
33. The History of the Danes (Gesta Danorum) by Saxo Grammaticus, translation by Peter Fisher, edited by Peter Fisher and Hilda Ellis Davidson.
34. Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin.
35. Edge of Our Lives by Mark Rich.
36. My Mother Gets Married (Mor gifter sig) by Moa Martinson, translated by Margaret S. Lacy.

37. Edinburgh by Alexander Chee. I sometimes dislike lyrical prose, but this is not one of those times. It's difficult subject matter; the narrator, Fee, is one of eighteen young boys molested by their choir director, and forever after he blames himself for not having spoken up. The book is about his survival, sort of, but it's also about the damage done. Chee's prose is relatively spare--the book clocks in at just over 200 pages--but the imagery in them makes the book seem much larger than it is. When I finished it and shut it I had to sit for a moment, marveling that so much could fit into so small a space. Two motifs recur through this desperately sad and lovely book--one is swimming, and the other is song. Reading the book is, I think, something like swimming through a song.
snurri: (Default)
2011-04-06 02:38 pm
Entry tags:

2011 Reading #36: My Mother Gets Married by Moa Martinson

Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
Books 21-30.
31. Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge.
32. Those Who Walk Away by Patricia Highsmith.
33. The History of the Danes (Gesta Danorum) by Saxo Grammaticus, translation by Peter Fisher, edited by Peter Fisher and Hilda Ellis Davidson.
34. Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin.
35. Edge of Our Lives by Mark Rich.

36. My Mother Gets Married (Mor gifter sig) by Moa Martinson, translated by Margaret S. Lacy. We read a snippet of Martinson's Women and Appletrees back in the first Scandinavian Lit survey course I ever took; I've probably been carrying this novel around since around that time. Martinson (born Helga Maria Swarts; no relation) was a social realist at a time when that label meant something more literal than it does now; she grew up terribly poor, in a society where women were not treated much better than livestock. My Mother Gets Married is, in the larger sense, autobiographical; told from the point of view of "Mia," it follows her and her mother through several moves and varying levels of poverty, with the stepfather alluded to in the title drifting in and out of the picture, leaving them for drink or other women. The characters of Mia and her mother Hedvig are painstakingly and heartbreakingly drawn, as are the relationships between them and the other women in their lives; the husband's adoptive mother, Mia's classmate and best friend who turns out to be her stepfather's illegitimate child, and the young neighbor trapped in a marriage with a similarly jealous and undependable man. Brutal stuff at time, but well worth the read.
snurri: (Default)
2011-03-30 01:08 pm
Entry tags:

2011 Reading #35: Edge of Our Lives by Mark Rich

Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
Books 21-30.
31. Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge.
32. Those Who Walk Away by Patricia Highsmith.
33. The History of the Danes (Gesta Danorum) by Saxo Grammaticus, translation by Peter Fisher, edited by Peter Fisher and Hilda Ellis Davidson.
34. Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin.

35. Edge of Our Lives by Mark Rich. Mark is a prolific guy; as his biography states, his printed nonfiction amounts to more than a million words. I'm partial to his fiction, however. Mark is sort of like a Golden Age SF writer, master satirist, and modern poet wrapped up in one package. This volume includes some stories I've seen before, in zines like LCRW and the late, lamented Say...; of these, I'm particularly fond of "Fear of Tall Buildings" and "Swathes of Grass." Other highlights include "Beercan Medusa," "Asleep In the Arms of Ambience," and the title story, about defense AIs who base their emerging personalities on a soap opera, and what happens when that soap opera gets canceled. If this is the first you're hearing of Mark, I encourage you to check out his stuff.
snurri: (Default)
2011-03-30 12:27 pm
Entry tags:

2011 Reading #34: Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin

Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
Books 21-30.
31. Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge.
32. Those Who Walk Away by Patricia Highsmith.
33. The History of the Danes (Gesta Danorum) by Saxo Grammaticus, translation by Peter Fisher, edited by Peter Fisher and Hilda Ellis Davidson.

34. Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin. Oh yeah. All my high-fantasy misgivings and gender questions from the previous books are acknowledged here. The style is less epic and more personal, making the perils much more frightening and real. The cultural assumptions of the feudal, male-dominated society are pointed out and questioned, to a greater or lesser degree. And the wizards of Earthsea lose their breezy gloss and are revealed as just men, in some cases deeply flawed and dangerous ones. Tenar, from The Tombs of Atuan, is the protagonist here, and she's a wonderful character to revisit long after the events of that book. Since escaping her fate as the servant of the Nameless Ones, she's been intermittently content; she's raised a family and made a life, and yet the way in which it is so easily uprooted here forces here to realize that she's never been fully at home. I loved this both as a story of characters I cared about, and as Le Guin's answer to her own work.
snurri: (Default)
2011-03-28 04:20 pm
Entry tags:

2011 Reading #33: The History of the Danes, Books I-IX

Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
Books 21-30.
31. Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge.
32. Those Who Walk Away by Patricia Highsmith.

33. The History of the Danes (Gesta Danorum) by Saxo Grammaticus, translation by Peter Fisher, edited by Peter Fisher and Hilda Ellis Davidson. I majored in Scandinavian Studies as an undergrad, but while Saxo was often referred to we never had to read him. That might have been because my concentration was on Norway and not Denmark, but the introductions here suggest another reason; it's implied in places and more or less said outright in others that Saxo was kind of a hack historian whose wrote convoluted prose and more or less made shit up. Perversely--because I have an affection for crackpots, I guess--this makes me like him a little more than I might have if I had just read the book without reading the intro first. The first nine books of the Gesta Danorum cover the pre-recorded history of the region, which is one reason that it kind of reads like hyper-patriotic pulp fiction--sort of like if some dude three hundred years from now was trying to reconstruct American World War II mythology based on a DVD of Patton and some ancient issues of Captain America. So you get giants, lots of garbled material from the sagas, and the repeated assertion that the Slavs and the Norwegians and the Saxons and basically everybody but the Danes is scum. (Also women--except for warrior women--and the low-born.) Gesta Danorum is also known as the likely source for the plot skeleton of Hamlet; the story of Amleth in Book III is obviously the same tale, though many of the details and ordering of events differ. (Fascinating to me is the fact that Amleth has many of the characteristics of Askeladden, a figure from Norwegian folklore that I've always found intriguing.) There are other tantalizing bits to the history, like the character of Starkad/Starkather, and various weird mythological echoes and connections, but there are also some really dull stretches. I wouldn't want to use this book for research, but as a sort of anthology of national heroic myths it's at least sort of fun.
snurri: (Default)
2011-03-22 01:36 pm
Entry tags:

2011 Reading #32: Those Who Walk Away by Patricia Highsmith

Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
Books 21-30.
31. Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge.

32. Those Who Walk Away by Patricia Highsmith. I confess that I'm approaching each new Highsmith novel with trepidation, and while starting the last few I've thought, "This might have to be the last one for a while." Her world is dark and claustrophobic; on the other hand, her characters are odd and fascinating. "Odd" may seem an understatement for Tom Ripley or Bruno from Strangers On a Train, but it works for Ray Garrett and Ed Coleman, the men at the center of this book. Odd because the book opens with Coleman taking shots at Garrett with a gun, and instead of reporting this attempted murder to the Roman police, Ray takes off and makes his way to Venice, where he expects to meet Coleman again. Ray is Coleman's son-in-law, or rather was, because the novel opens in the aftermath of Peggy Garrett née Coleman's suicide. Both men are emotionally wrecked by Peggy's death, but the effect on Coleman is more obvious; he blames Ray for her suicide, and simmers with a homicidal rage throughout the book. Ray, on the other hand, seems willing to bear a certain amount of punishment despite having no apparent culpability for what has happened--he doesn't want to die, and yet he treats Coleman's attacks as little more than inconveniences, as if unwilling to compound his father-in-law's grief with legal consequences. A weird and fascinating novel, and one that really makes me wish I could go to Venice.
snurri: (Default)
2011-03-17 01:41 pm
Entry tags:

2011 Reading #31: Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge

Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
Books 21-30.

31. Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge. Just recently re-printed by the wonderful and personable Small Beer Press, so get your copies there. Solitaire is a definite page-turner--I am kind of a robot in that I have pretty structured reading times, and this book basically obliterated them. What's compelling about it is primarily the character of Ren "Jackal" Segura, who starts out as the gifted and sheltered scion of the Ko corporation; everyone's expectations for her are high, but she's had the best training they can offer and she's smart. And then quite suddenly everything goes to hell, and she's not the golden child anymore--she's a prisoner, sentenced to a term in a virtual reality prison. The novel covers a lot of ground: corporate life, prison, trauma, and functional and dysfunctional families of both the biological and constructed varieties. Mainly, though, what Eskridge really explores what it means to be alone, how community is constructed, how relationships can make us simultaneously vulnerable and secure. Highly recommended.
snurri: (Default)
2011-03-13 07:52 pm

2011 Reading #30: The Collected Jorkens, Volume Two by Lord Dunsany

Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
21. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin.
22. Rebellion at Christiana by Margaret Hope Bacon.
23. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.
24. This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith.
25. Sandstorm: A Forgotten Realms Novel by Christopher Rowe.
26. The St. Paul Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by Patricia Hampl and Dave Page.
27. Thor: The Mighty Avenger Volume 2 by Roger Langridge, Chris Samnee, and Matt Wilson.
28. A Brood of Foxes by Kristin Livdahl.
29. The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin.

30. The Collected Jorkens, Volume Two by Lord Dunsany. I swear that I wrote about the first volume of these stories on here somewhere, but I can't find the entry; bad tagging on my part, I guess. Anyway, I really like the way that Nightshade did these collections; the bindings and the paper are beautiful. The stories themselves are for the most part quite different from Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter and The Charwoman's Shadow. These are club stories, a tad more cynical in tone and significantly moreso in context; namely, in that it's never quite clear whether Jorkens is an outrageous liar or not. The structure of them can feel a bit dated, since many of them are twist or punch-line stories in the O. Henry vein. It does get repetitive at times, and some of the stories are pretty forgettable, but I suspect that it's still better to read them in a collection; on their own I don't know that they would have much impact, whereas the character of Jorkens really comes through in the concatenation of tales. Some of my fave stories here are: "The Neapolitan Ice," "The Lion and the Unicorn," and "The Sultan, the Monkey, and the Banana."
snurri: (Default)
2011-03-12 04:37 pm
Entry tags:

2011 Reading #29: The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin

Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
21. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin.
22. Rebellion at Christiana by Margaret Hope Bacon.
23. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.
24. This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith.
25. Sandstorm: A Forgotten Realms Novel by Christopher Rowe.
26. The St. Paul Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by Patricia Hampl and Dave Page.
27. Thor: The Mighty Avenger Volume 2 by Roger Langridge, Chris Samnee, and Matt Wilson.
28. A Brood of Foxes by Kristin Livdahl.

29. The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin. I've come to the conclusion that--so far, at least--I like Le Guin's science fiction a little better than I like her fantasy. That's not to say that I dislike her fantasy, but the first three Earthsea books all have strong moral themes, and this volume in particular has a sort of lyrical didacticism to it that I find myself reacting against. The Hainish/Ekumen books are moral books too, but the questions they pose are more open-ended, the answers more complex. There's also the fact that this book is in part about the Empty Throne, and how putting the Rightful King on it is a large part of restoring the world's balance; I am bothered by the class problems inherent in such stories. Certainly Le Guin handles it better than most, but it grates. On the other hand, there are things like the Children of the Open Sea, and the dragons of Earthsea, which are as evocative as any creations from fantasy literature. It's still a good book, but it's one that I have some problems with.
snurri: (Default)
2011-03-11 12:42 pm
Entry tags:

2011 Reading #28: A Brood of Foxes by Kristin Livdahl

Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
21. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin.
22. Rebellion at Christiana by Margaret Hope Bacon.
23. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.
24. This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith.
25. Sandstorm: A Forgotten Realms Novel by Christopher Rowe.
26. The St. Paul Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by Patricia Hampl and Dave Page.
27. Thor: The Mighty Avenger Volume 2 by Roger Langridge, Chris Samnee, and Matt Wilson.

28. A Brood of Foxes by Kristin Livdahl. Kristin's first book comes from Aqueduct Press's "Conversation Pieces" series. What I love most about this novella is that it has absolutely no anxiety about defining itself. It's a story about identity where some of the characters have both animal and human identities which shift without warning; it has elements of a fable or fairy tale, but the coming-of-age here is more subtle and less symbolic, and is sprinkled with sf-nal elements; it's sort of an environmental story, but even in that aspect it's more about how we hurt each other in backhanded, unintentional ways. I've known Kristin for a while, now, and I've been in a critique group with her for a few years, so I've read a lot of her stuff; and I feel like this novella and the stuff I've seen from her recently signals an exciting new stage in her writing. A Brood of Foxes is really excellent stuff, and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.
snurri: (Default)
2011-03-10 02:15 pm

2011 Reading #27: Thor: The Mighty Avenger Volume Two by Langridge, Samnee and Wilson

Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
21. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin.
22. Rebellion at Christiana by Margaret Hope Bacon.
23. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.
24. This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith.
25. Sandstorm: A Forgotten Realms Novel by Christopher Rowe.
26. The St. Paul Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by Patricia Hampl and Dave Page.

27. Thor: The Mighty Avenger Volume 2 by Roger Langridge, Chris Samnee, and Matt Wilson. For some reason in reading this I twigged to something that I hadn't quite realized in reading Volume One; this is a romance comic. I mean, yeah, it has superheroes, and robots, and Namor--well, Namor isn't really inconsistent with the romance thing, is he? But at heart, this comic is--or, tragically, WAS--about Thor and Jane Foster getting all googly-eyed over each other. And in case you're wondering, that is AWESOME. Seriously, I get all swept away myself, and when the story is abruptly cut off after issue 8, I feel sad, like realizing that maybe that girl you went on that great date with doesn't actually want to see you again. It hurts a bit, until you learn to focus on how great the date itself was, and at least you can relive it. In this, this comic is very like the late great Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, which I also highly recommend for readers young and old.
snurri: (Default)
2011-03-10 01:58 pm
Entry tags:

2011 Reading #26: The St. Paul Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
21. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin.
22. Rebellion at Christiana by Margaret Hope Bacon.
23. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.
24. This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith.
25. Sandstorm: A Forgotten Realms Novel by Christopher Rowe.

26. The St. Paul Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by Patricia Hampl and Dave Page. The truth is, despite growing up in St. Paul and currently living in the very neighborhood where Fitzgerald was born and spent much of his early life, the only thing I've read by him is The Great Gatsby, and that was in high school, if I recall correctly. So I don't have a firm grounding in his work, and reading this I wished I did. It would make it easier to contextualize--for example--the throwaway bits of racism, which really bothered me, and not just in a well-you-have-to-consider-the-period kind of way. There's also (and I don't think this is news) the class thing; Fitz was an acute observer of the boundaries of class, of who is allowed to cross them and why, but behind that sharp eye there's . . . perhaps not envy, exactly, but an attitude of "Those people are awful, aren't they? But they sure know how to live." The stories in this particular collection fall largely into a sort of formula of young love found and lost. That sounds a bit dismissive, and I really don't mean it to be; this is smart stuff, and occasionally a line just jumps right off the page and stops you. There's this bit, from "Bernice Bobs Her Hair": "People over forty can seldom be permanently convinced of anything. At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide." And for all his legendary disdain for his hometown, Fitz has a gift for describing its rhythms. In "At Your Age" he writes:

It was a long winter, even in a land of long winters. March was full of billowy drift, and when it seemed at last as though the cold must be defeated, there was a series of blizzards, desperate as last stands. The people waited; their first energy to resist was spent, and man, like weather, simply hung on. There was less to do now and the general restlessness was expressed by surliness in daily contacts. Then, early in April, with a long sigh the ice cracked, the snow ran into the ground, and the green, eager spring broke up through.


He could be talking about this winter right now. Anyway, I intend to read more Fitzgerald, including a revisitation of Gatsby, and hopefully he will impress me a little more.
snurri: (Default)
2011-03-08 01:28 pm
Entry tags:

2011 Reading #25: Sandstorm by Christopher Rowe

Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
21. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin.
22. Rebellion at Christiana by Margaret Hope Bacon.
23. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.
24. This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith.

25. Sandstorm: A Forgotten Realms Novel by Christopher Rowe. I'm not precisely sure how long it's been since I read an RPG tie-in novel, but I know that the last one was Homeland, which is one of the worst books I have ever read. It's one of the Drizzt Do'Urden books, and this was when everyone was going crazy for Drizzt, and I was curious, and, well. That was the last but not the first D&D-related novel I read; when I was 10 I heard about and tracked down a library copy of Quag Keep (that's right, I was HARDCORE), and I read and enjoyed the Dragonlance books back in the day. The first trilogy came out when I was in junior high, and I was heavily into D&D then--in fact it's probably safe to say that insofar as I had a social life at all, D&D (and, on occasion, Gamma World or Champions or Top Secret) was it. Otherwise I read, and while I never went quite as crazy for the Dragonlance books as I did for Tolkien or McCaffrey, they had the virtue of being about a world in which I already knew the rules, and into which I could insert myself (or at least a character created by me) without much effort. And whatever its weaknesses, Dragonlance had great characters--I still get a bit misty thinking about good ol' Flint Fireforge--and one lesson that I took from RPGs is that characters are paramount.

I played D&D into college (my LJ handle, which I use all over the internets, comes from Snurri Icebreaker, my dual-classed fighter/ice mage, who was named for Snorri Sturluson), but aside from that one time at Sycamore Hill--seriously, who would turn down the chance to play when HOLLY BLACK is going to be the DM--I haven't played in 12 or 15 years. I haven't much wanted to. The trouble with RPGs, for me, is that they use the same brainspace that I use for thinking about and writing fiction, so when I play I tend to write less. Which is fine 99.99% of the time, but not right now, because after reading Sandstorm I want to be playing in a D&D campaign SO FUCKING BAD.

If you have never heard of Christopher Rowe, then I sort of envy you, because he's one of those writers that I wish I could go back and read again for the first time. Until now I'd probably have said that about "The Voluntary State," his cyber-absurdist mindfuck novella that was nominated for (and should have won) every award in the genre the year that it was published. Now I'm not sure. I know that if I was to go back and discover him at fourteen or fifteen, I'd want someone to send a copy of Sandstorm back in time to me, because it blows any Dragonlance novel out of the fucking water. Characters are paramount, like I said, and Rowe's characters have a life beyond what's on the page; I think that even for me to try to encapsulate them here would diminish them. What you need to know is: great characters, thrilling action, mystery and intrigue, romance and sacrifice, a fertile landscape seeded with story. If you're anything like me, you need this book.
snurri: (Default)
2011-03-05 03:15 pm
Entry tags:

2011 Reading #24: This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith

Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
21. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin.
22. Rebellion at Christiana by Margaret Hope Bacon.
23. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.

24. This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith. Highsmith explores romantic obsession in this novel, with the character of David Kelsey, who is so in love with Annabelle that it doesn't matter that she's married someone else; he keeps a house for them both, waiting patiently for what he believes is her inevitable return to him. At the start, his conviction here seems only a bit delusional, but not dramatically worse than that of any other person unwilling to let go of a relationship that they didn't want to end. Part of the reason for this is that Annabelle herself is pretty wishy-washy about the whole thing, giving Kelsey--perhaps unwittingly--little pieces of hope to cling to. When things start to tip it's mostly accidental, but Kelsey gradually falls deeper into a spiral of delusion, fragmented identity, and violence. Thematically this is not that different from some of the Ripley books, although the romantic obsession is a new angle; and yet somehow it still reads as fresh, with a protagonist whose frustration and denial is identifiable despite his actions being abhorrent. This novel is much stronger on character than A Game for the Living was, and it's both sadder and more horrifying as a result.
snurri: (Default)
2011-02-26 03:45 pm
Entry tags:

2011 Reading #23: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
21. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin.
22. Rebellion at Christiana by Margaret Hope Bacon.

23. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. A graphic novel about cultural identity, very much in the vein of The Woman Warrior except brighter and male-centered and aimed at young adults. I liked the art and I liked how Yang wove the three different storylines together; it's a bit tidy, but it works.
snurri: (Default)
2011-02-24 12:47 pm
Entry tags:

2011 Reading #22: Rebellion at Christiana by Margaret Hope Bacon

Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.
21. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin.

22. Rebellion at Christiana by Margaret Hope Bacon. I'm not sure where I picked this up, as it's long out of print; probably a library sale, judging by the tape marks on the cover. It discusses an incident that took place in 1850 in which a Maryland slave owner traveled across the border to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in an attempt to reclaim four slaves under the auspices of the Fugitive Slave Act. (There's a somewhat garbled account of the incident here.) Some of the local free and escaped blacks worked together to prevent this, morally if not actively assisted by the abolitionist temperature of the white residents of the county. During a confrontation at the home of William Parker, the slave owner was killed and another man seriously wounded; following the "riot," thirty-six blacks and three white men were charged with treason for preventing the Fugitive Slave Act from being enforced. There's a lot more context in the book, and an account of the trial that followed and the fates of the various participants. Parker and a few others managed to reach Canada, where he became a journalist and activist against slavery and inequality. I always enjoy reading about obscure but significant events like this. The book is a short, fairly quick read, but it draws from Parker's own account and is well sourced.
snurri: (Default)
2011-02-22 11:35 am
Entry tags:

2011 Reading #21: The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

Books 1-10.
Books 11-20.

21. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin (Re-read). As I noted in talking about A Wizard of Earthsea, I failed to get much out of the Earthsea books when I read them as a young adult. In the case of this, the second book, reading it now was pretty much like reading it the first time--I have some memory of the maps and illustrations, but pretty much none of the story. What struck me as I was finishing it up was how much it reads like a story about battling and surviving depression; I have some small discomfort with Ged's role as Tenar's deliverer from her dark and joyless existence, but I was also very moved by her transformation and her move into the light. I'm beginning to think that I was a particularly shallow and clueless adolescent (and if I told you what I was reading and re-reading during that period you'd probably agree), since I know how big these books were and are for so many people at that age.
snurri: (Default)
2011-02-21 10:50 am
Entry tags:

2011 Reading #20: Tomb of the Fathers by Eleanor Arnason

Books 1-10.
11. The Imago Sequence and Other Stories by Laird Barron.
12. The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith writing as Claire Morgan.
13. Surviving the Siege of Beirut: A Personal Account by Lina Mikdadi.
14. Mammoths of the Great Plains by Eleanor Arnason.
15. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin.
16. The Robotics Primer by Maja J. Matarić.
17. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.
18. A Game for the Living by Patricia Highsmith.
19. Alcestis by Katharine Beutner.

20. Tomb of the Fathers: A Lydia Duluth Adventure by Eleanor Arnason. Yay for more Arnason! This novella is a planetary romance almost in the vein of an Edgar Rice Burroughs hidden/alien world story, but with all the subversion you'd expect from Arnason; flipped/complicated gender roles, Marx-and-Engels-quoting aliens, and extra-dry humor. I think my favorite part of the Lydia Duluth stories are the benevolent AI overlords. No one calls them that, but essentially that's what they are; since they weren't invented by humans (or any of the other alien races that are still around) they are endlessly curious about living beings, but they're also manipulative and at times clueless to the point of callousness, all while being scrupulously polite.
snurri: (Default)
2011-02-19 04:29 pm
Entry tags:

2011 Reading #19: Alcestis by Katharine Beutner

Books 1-10.
11. The Imago Sequence and Other Stories by Laird Barron.
12. The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith writing as Claire Morgan.
13. Surviving the Siege of Beirut: A Personal Account by Lina Mikdadi.
14. Mammoths of the Great Plains by Eleanor Arnason.
15. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin.
16. The Robotics Primer by Maja J. Matarić.
17. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.
18. A Game for the Living by Patricia Highsmith.

19. Alcestis by Katharine Beutner. Alcestis, you might recall--though to be honest, I didn't--was the wife of King Admetus, who volunteered to take his place in death, descended to Hades, and was brought back by Heracles. Beutner takes the story and uses it to illuminate the lives of Greek women, something we don't read much of in the myths. Alcestis's life--everything, from her domestic activities to her sexuality--is bounded by first her father's house, then her husband's; it's only in her death that her life becomes unstructured and self-determined. (It's more complicated than that, but I don't want to give too much away, here.) Beutner's handling of the Greek gods is remarkable for its matter-of-factness; Alcestis is the granddaughter of Poseidon, and Apollo, Hermes, Hades and Persephone all appear here, manipulating mortals but manipulated in turn by the Fates and their own passions. The novel has a strong start, exploring Alcestis's relationships with her sisters and the other women in her life, since her own mother died in childbirth. It's the chronicle of the time in the underworld that makes the novel work, though. Although at times this section feels too unstructured (deliberately so, I think--see above about Alcestis's limits in life), it's there that she discovers who she is and what she wants. Self-knowledge has its tragic side, of course, but again that's something I don't want to give away. A welcome feminist perspective on the Greek tradition.
snurri: (Default)
2011-02-18 02:54 pm
Entry tags:

2011 Reading #18: A Game for the Living by Patricia Highsmith

Books 1-10.
11. The Imago Sequence and Other Stories by Laird Barron.
12. The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith writing as Claire Morgan.
13. Surviving the Siege of Beirut: A Personal Account by Lina Mikdadi.
14. Mammoths of the Great Plains by Eleanor Arnason.
15. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin.
16. The Robotics Primer by Maja J. Matarić.
17. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.

18. A Game for the Living by Patricia Highsmith. This book starts with a murder, but it's not really a mystery novel and it's not a crime story; it's mostly a psychological novel about the contrasting reactions to the murder by the victim's two lovers. Mexican painter Lelia is murdered and mutilated, and friends and semi-rivals Theodore--a wealthy German expatriate--and Ramón--a furniture-maker and devout Catholic--have very different reactions. Theodore is bewildered and determined to find answers; Ramón is consumed by guilt for his occasional fights with Lelia. Highsmith spends the entire novel bouncing the two men and their worldviews off of each other. In the process much is revealed about Ramón's character, but less about Theodore's; on the other hand, Ramón becomes a bit of a caricature of a religious thinker, while Theodore is the calm and rational atheist. It's something like Strangers On a Train in that it's really about the collision of two men, but the two men don't feel quite equally balanced, here. It's still an impressively plotted and crafted piece of work, but as a character study I don't think it quite does what it sets out to do.