Wednesday, July 31, 2013

ovid's heroines

Very excited about this.


Reading Wednesday! On time and even early for once! (No I did NOT stay up all night, thank you very much, I woke up about 2 hours ago, after maybe 12 hours of sleep. Hi-ho. Morning looks rather strange, all fresh-washed and sparkling, when you're a permanent citizen of the nightside.)

What did you just finish reading?
A whole bunch of modern urban fantasy -- late Russell Hoban, Ben Aaronovitch (rather disappointing), Paul Cornell ('these characters were originally written for a TV series,' and boy does it show -- still enjoyable tho).  Fun, but sort of like that moment sitting in the movie theatre when you realize you've eaten nearly all the popcorn in the jumbo-size box you're holding.  I love Hoban to bits and pieces, always have, and I'm so delighted we got something like TEN new novels from him after the silence of the nineties, but the later books just aren't up to the earlier ones. It's like Peter S. Beagle's post-2000 second renaissance of so many short stories -- delightful, but not quite like it was. But nothing is ever quite like it was at first, and more Hoban, or more Beagle, is only something to treasure. Angelica's Grotto was surprisingly OK (given its awful premise, and even more awful cover) until the terribly botched ending, Amaryllis Night and Day was very charming and had a good twist (even if he didn't seem to know quite what to do with it), and Angelica Lost and Found was like a beautiful little finial on his whole career. There was a great quote from a Grauniad review of it:

.....he's asking, very entertainingly, deeper questions about belief and reality, about storytelling and the nature of life. "Two kinds of reality," a character shrugs. "It happens." Yes, it does happen, every time you read a book, every time you tell a story, every time a character like Volatore or Angelica yearns for more than just the narrative that traps them. Much as we often do in life.

Broken Homes was very well-written, as always, full of great characters and set pieces, ditto, and has the narrative pace of a hot-air balloon and ends on a GIANT, completely unresolved cliffhanger. I special-ordered this book from the UK because I didn't want to have to wait for the US Kindle edition in FEBRUARY, and now I feel like a patsy. I hate and despise cliffhangers (you should have heard the wails of despair when my parents took me to see The Empire Strikes Back in the theatre), and I'm beginning to get really fed up with fantasy series that have Grand Overarching Plots to keep the sales going but which also don't really ever resolve said Grand Overarching Plots, to keep the sales going. Which makes it sound like I hated the book, or personally resent its author, and I really don't. I just hate cliffhangers. Which is a personal preference, but when the publishing industry seems to be using cliffhangers as a desperate move to keep sales going, that's what makes me actually angry. (See also: the dreadfully edited/marketed Blackout/All Clear, and the way a lot of first books in fantasy series don't have "series" anywhere on the cover or even in the back pages.)

London Falling was nowhere near as well-written (at first I couldn't tell the characters apart, the prose style is so pedestrian you want it to catch a bus, and the author keeps resorting to constant ! and even ?! in reported speech and thoughts), but damn, that was a fast-paced narrative, and surprisingly moving by the end. The last scene is obviously sequelbait, but not in an annoying way, and I was very pleased at how a female character who seemed offstage was brought naturally into the foreground. (Aaronovitch tries to do that in his novel, and fails pretty completely.) However, the female villain is an express trip to Misogyny Land, and there's a long, terribly ill-judged, anachronistic and baffling interlude sort of from her POV which neither really explains her character or makes us feel sympathy of any kind for her. Broken Homes really fails its main female character right at the end, but in a way that's maybe fixable (SPOILERS). But I fear that isn't the author's intent. -- That said, Broken Homes has a mixed-race narrator and two major characters in London Falling are black (one is also gay), and that was really nice.

What are you reading now?
Just started Chuck Klosterman's I Wear the Black Hat, a gift from a very generous friend -- again: I was looking at it but then saw the first pages of Falling London, and fell down that rabbit hole instead. I have to be a little careful with Klosterman -- I enjoy his stuff, but I have to be in just the right mood for it, otherwise he sounds like some deranged suburban Midwest version of Woody Allen.

What do you expect to read next?

The Zauberberg group read loooooms out of the mist ahead of me, like Everest first seen from Base Camp. Oy vey. I just hope I don't wind up like Joe Simpson.

editing is dead

You mean whitED sepulchure. WHITED. Not white. 'White sepulchure' makes no fucking sense.

- me on reading London Falling

Monday, July 29, 2013

considering Hoban

Lessee, how much Hoban have I got left -

The Mouse and His Child 
The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz 
Turtle Diary 
Riddley Walker 
The Medusa Frequency 
The Moment under The Moment 
A Russell Hoban Omnibus 
Mr. Rinyo-Clacton's Offer 
Angelica's Grotto 
Angelica Lost and Found

Amaryllis Night and Day
The Bat Tattoo
Her Name Was Lola
Come Dance with Me
Linger Awhile
My Tango with Barbara Strozzi

Linger Awhile and Tango don't look that great, but I'm looking forward to Amaryllis and Bat. I thought I knew where Lola and Dance are, but maybe not, ARGH. (In the UK ALL of his books are available for Kindle! BUT NOT HERE.)

Hmmm, I don't have The Carrier Frequency, The Second Mrs Kong, the Riddley Walker play, or Soonchild and The Trokeville Way, altho those don't look that interesting. Also 'One Less Octopus at Paxos' in Granta and his last short story. I wonder if his publisher'll do a new posthumous collection....they should, he was the one who said death would be good for his career, after all.

my tolerance for reading about young well-off white men is at an all-time low

With “& Sons,” David Gilbert....has set out to write a big, ambitious book about fathers and sons, Oedipal envy and sibling rivalry, and the dynamics between art and life, talent and virtue....The novel also contains some razor-edge glimpses of literary life in Manhattan, and the rarefied latitudes inhabited by old Upper East Side money. -


(Also featured on that website today: the story of a man who lost a $150K job as 'vice president of a student loan company' ((below advertising executive, in my book)) and "reinvented himself" two years and one $188,000 severance package later by accepting a $75K job at Merrill Lynch. Then he quit and had another full-time job offer teaching abroad. PS He took it.)

un dia

Friday, July 26, 2013

into the spin

over the wall

Reading is not as insignificant as we claim. First we must steal the key to the library. Reading is a provocation, a rebellion: we open the book’s door, pretending it is a simple paperback cover, and in broad daylight escape! We are no longer there: this is what real reading is. If we haven’t left the room, if we haven’t gone over the wall, we’re not reading.

- Hélène Cixous

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Magic Mann* reading schedule

From here, written by Kalliope:

Week 1: August 12 - 18. 
Read from Chapter 1, “Arrival” (Ankunft) p. 3, until the beginning of Chapter 3 “One Word too Many” (Ein Wort zu viel) p. 81.

Week 2: August 19 - 25. 
Read from “One Word too Many” p. 81, until the beginning of Chapter 4 “Table Talk” (Tischgespräche) p. 158.

Week 3: August 26 – September 1. 
Read from “Table Talk” p. 158, until the beginning of Chapter 5 “My God, I see it!” (Mein Gott, ich sehe!) p 242.

Week 4: September 2 - 8. 
Read from “My God, I see it!” p. 242, until the beginning of Chapter 5 “Research” (Forschungen) p. 318

Week 5: September 9 - 15. 
Read from “Research” p. 318, until the beginning of Chapter 5 “Walpurgis Night” (Walpurgisnacht) p. 382.

Week 6: September 16 - 22. 
Read from “Walpurgis Night” p. 382 until the beginning of Chapter 6 “The City of God an Evil Deliverance” (Von Gottesstaat und von übler Erlösung) p. 458.

Week 7: September 23 – 29. 
Read from “The City of God an Evil Deliverance” p. 458, until Chapter 6 “Operationes Spirituales” p. 521.

Week 8: September 30 – October 6. 
Read from “Operationes Spirituales” (Latin title) p. 521, until the beginning of Chapter 6 “A Good Soldier” p. 590.

Week 9: October 7 – 13. 
Read from “A Good Soldier” (Als Soldat und brav) p. 590, until the beginning of Chapter 7 “Vingt et un” p. 659.

Week 10: October 14 – 20. 
Read from “Vingt et un”(French title) p. 659, until the beginning of “Mynheer Peeperkorn – Conclusion” (Mynheer Peeperkorn – Schluss) p. 729.

Week 11: October 21 – 27. 

Read from “Mynheer Peeperkorn – Conclusion” p. 729, until the beginning of “The Great Petulance” (Die grosse Gereiztheit) p. 813

Week 12: October 28 – November 3. 
Read from “The Great Petulance” p. 813, until the end of the novel in p. 854.

*eternal Heart fan, no apologies

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Reading Wednesday

Readsday returns! On a proper Wednesday even! The stunning shock!

What did you just finish reading?
Summer, by Edith Wharton. I'm trying to get back into reading fiction, and baby-stepping myself with short novels and collections of short stories.  This book was short all right, but pretty damn haunting. It's not written in absolutely stunning prose, I didn't even like reading it sometimes (life in a small rural town is all too well-portrayed), but the heroine is amazing and there was something really compelling about it -- about her.  I wound up carrying the book around the apartment with me because I kept picking it up when I was supposed to be doing something else. It gets paired a lot with good old Ethan Frome, apparently, but it reminded me more of Chopin's Awakening, except (SPOILER) the girl doesn't die at the end.  The top-rated reviewer on GoodReads apparently thought it was about as sexy as a bathtub full of ice cubes, which tells you all you need to know about GoodReads (and its reviewer ranking system) right there. Marilyn French, in an exquisite introduction, argues that Ethan Frome remained in print and on school curricula because in it illicit sexual love is punished (it's also the story of a man. Narrated by another man). Summer was criticized because the lovers seem to "get away with it" -- only it's Wharton, so nobody gets away with anything. She reminds me of that supposed Spanish proverb: "Take what you want, God said, and pay for it." Wharton's stories are a full accounting of the price paid.

What are you reading now?
 I was rereading Lords and Ladies, but I might have worn that one out. My period's over (it routinely flattens me for at least a week, EVERY damn month) and I still feel crappy, so I might go back to bed with another Wilkie Collins (recently read The Law and the Lady, and it was fabulous, and simultaneously deeply, cringingly problematic about the mentally ill and the disabled for about the last third. That was some combo). Collins is really ideal sickbed reading, for me. But that's more about

What do you expect to read next?
This always fucking stumps me. I might read Collins, I might try Dinesen's Seven Gothic Tales which I haven't reread in over a decade, I might FINALLY pick up Russell Hoban's last book, Angelica Lost and Found. -- But I feel a little sad, and odd, about reading his last book, but also paranoid that even though I have agoraphobia and almost never leave my house, I'll get hit by a bus or something before I can get to it. -- Speedboat, The Dream of Perpetual Motion, Hav, Shaggy Muses....just a few in the Kindle queue.  So many books! Only two eyeballs!

.....of course, I might get an early start on the brand-new translation of The Magic Mountain, in preparation for the GoodReads group read. AAAAAAAAAAHAHAHA. I last read that sucker....God, probably in my late adolescence, when I relentlessly chewed my way through everything I could lay my muddy little paws on. I think I reread most of it in my very late twenties, but not all the way through. My Vintage paperback edition has NO NOTES, too, which will make those long philosophical conversations just fly by, I'm sure. Oh, Mynheer Peeperkorn, how I am not at all looking forward to making your acquaintance again.


all's well

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


I was surprised, when my body no longer made sense to me, and it seemed foreign, somehow, ungainly, full of complicated wrongness. 

I was surprised when I cheated on myself with other girls, telling myself they were so much better than me, so much prettier in every way. 

I was surprised when I had to be smart because I wasn’t anything else anymore, instead of being smart because of everything I was. 

I was surprised when I felt relieved to be called pretty by even the least interesting guys. 

I was surprised when I sometimes dated them. 

I was surprised when I found myself having sex I didn’t want to have. 

I was surprised that I’d been doing it for a long time by then. 

I was surprised by the reshaping of my desire, which became contorted so that I sometimes couldn’t locate it, and sometimes I seemed to be coming at it through a confusing loop, a rift in a the space-time continuum, so that I could only feel lust as a pretend man, because it was only men who seemed to actively lust, and women were always just moaning along, splayed, obliging. 

I was surprised that this was supposed to be liberation. That being a free woman meant being a woman who didn’t flinch, didn’t blink, didn’t bother to be hurt by anything. Being a free woman meant, somehow, doing the things to guys that guys already wanted you to do, but doing them because you thought this was fun anyway, because you just felt like it. It was all in the nonchalance, the unaffectedness, the laughing-it-off. 

I was surprised to look at myself, finally, and find that I could no longer see myself through my own eyes. Instead, my image had been filtered through all of the other eyes in the world. Through the eyes of every man. 

 I was surprised by my surprise, which after a while seemed misplaced. Why be surprised at all? This is just life. It just goes like this. 

The truly surprising thing, really, I began to think, was that I’d learned somehow to be surprised in the first place. 

- "Eat the Damn Cake"

can't spend what you ain't got / and you can't lose what you ain't never had

jealous guy

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Friday, July 19, 2013

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

he says you ain't no Buddha

'Trayvon Martin and the Irony of American Justice' - Ta-Nehisi Coates

In trying to assess the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, two seemingly conflicting truths emerge for me. The first is that based on the case presented by the state, and based on Florida law, George Zimmerman should not have been convicted of second degree murder or manslaughter. The second is that the killing of Trayvon Martin is a profound injustice. 

....The injustice inherent in the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was not authored by a jury given a weak case. The jury's performance may be the least disturbing aspect of this entire affair. The injustice was authored by a country which has taken as its policy, for the lion's share of its history, to erect a pariah class. The killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman is not an error in programming. It is the correct result of forces we set in motion years ago and have done very little to arrest. 

You should not be troubled that George Zimmerman "got away" with the killing of Trayvon Martin, you should be troubled that you live in a country that ensures that Trayvon Martin will happen. Trayvon Martin is happening again in Florida. Right now.... 

It is painful to say this: Trayvon Martin is not a miscarriage of American justice, but American justice itself. This is not our system malfunctioning. It is our system working as intended.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

gotta believe Big Mama

Big Mama Thornton - "Everything Gonna Be All Right"

Monday, July 15, 2013

by and by

XTC - 'Melt The Guns'

'the very presence of a gun -- like all forms of power -- alters its bearer'

I grew up in a situation where violence was a fact of everyday life. Violence waited for you when you walked to school. Violence waited for you in class. Violence waited for you on the way. Violence waited for you on the way to football practice. Beatdowns at the bowling alleys. Shootings at the roller skating rinks. You could not go and see your girlfriend if she lived in some other neighborhood without bringing five other dudes with you -- one of them possibly strapped. I was not a violent kid. I was, and am, a softie. But after about a year of living in that environment, I basically became acculturated. When I became a professional and an adult, I basically spent years trying to deculturate and act like I was civilized. This isn't a matter of punching people because they looked at you wrong. (Thought it kind of is.) It's a matter of understanding that what you once considered vital has no meaning in the wider -- much less violent -- world. I am the furthest thing you will meet from a street dude. And yet I still find myself in conversation with myself over how to comport myself like a civilized person. Add on to that thinking about how to comport yourself when you are a big black dude, and you see what kind of weight might be there. It's not so much that I am uninterested in defending myself. It's that I spent a good part of my younger life doing exactly that. My takeaway was that defensive violence often isn't, and even when it is, even when all your dreams of triumph come true, it still takes a toll on you.

- Ta-Nahesi Coates

Sunday, July 14, 2013

dear EVERYONE, please stop fucking reblogging this crap

Stay healthy; sickness is a waste of time and money. Smoking or overeating will eventually make you sick. Drinking and drugs interfere with clear perception, which you will need in order to make good work. It may be worth paying for psychotherapy sessions now instead of paying for inpatient treatment next year; see someone in-network.

- Sarah Manguso, "How to Have a Career: Advice to Young Writers"

-- MY GOD, talk about fucking privilege. I FORGOT, AND WENT AND BECAME ALCOHOLIC AND AGORAPHOBIC AND BIPOLAR AND HAVE DEBILITATING RSI! Silly silly me! And I have about three-four other chronic health conditions besides, which, like chronic pancreatitis caused by the alcoholism, are just going to get worse as I get older! And I don't have insurance, so I can't even afford to see a sliding-scale therapist in my neighbourhood, let alone someone in-network. Jesus. What is she, a fucking Republican? "If you want to have a career, don't get sick!"

(also who the fuck even goes to psychotherapy anymore, I don't think that's really covered by any insurance. But hey, "don't get sick, that just wastes your time," great advice, right?)

a jealous heart did retaliate

After twenty years together it's still a shared favourite dorky habit to suddenly drop into Rock Star Face around the house and mock-shout some lyric totally unrelated to any ongoing activity, and this week "The laws of men -- THEY DON'T APPLY -- when BLOOD gets in a woman's eye" is that lyric.

one of my friends is taking her in and giving her codeine

Saturday, July 13, 2013


YES, IT'S STILL READSDAY, SHUT UP. Every day is Readsday! Every single day! my personal timezone, anyway.

What did you just finish reading?
Just reread Hangsaman from start to finish in its spiffy new Penguin Classics edition, which I bought to treat myself -- the paperback I bought used when I was twenty or so has this horrible cover. It was as chilling and beautiful and unsettling as ever, like nearly every damn thing Shirley Jackson ever wrote. She must have revised like a motherfucker.  It's so wonderful to see her getting just a little of the acclaim and worship she deserves -- more than thirty years after her death. Hi ho. -- I think what awes me most is how precise her writing is: not just that no single word is wasted, but she picks exactly the right word, or combinations of words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, so that it's not so much like reading a book or even hearing a story but being entirely caught up in someone else's waking dream. Her narrative voice, her descriptive style, her characterizations, everything about her writing is as if she never had a doubt about it in her life -- which can't really be true, she was after all human, but damn, she's just amazing. Even though it's been mumblemumble years since I read it through, I found there were whole passages I knew almost by heart, as if they were music.

(Apparently a big problem people have with this novel, to judge from the whining, is that it's not clear enough whether or not the Imaginary Friend is real. This makes me wonder if they've ever read anything else by Jackson -- espeecially Hill House. The point is not whether or not Tony is real, or Eleanor is "doing this all by herself," or if the apocalypse really is outside the door, but that the perspective shifts equally and dizzyingly from yes to no; that is the point, that our perceptions are subjective and we can never be as sure about what is real, and what is imagined, as we think we can be. That this is expressed in the clearest possible language, and the most confident manner, is fittingly almost just like another twist for the reader.)

What are you reading now?
Digital Vertigo (which I keep perpetually mistyping as Digital Vortex), in a probably vain attempt to disentangle myself from the parts of the Web I regularly participate in - mainly Tumblr, GoodReads, and too often, Twitter. I never got into Facebook (frankly, the interface is too ugly and confusing), successfully divorced myself from IM (in the process grievously offending three or four former friends: WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON'T WANT ME TO BE ABLE TO GET HOLD OF YOU ALL THE TIME), and I tend to just upload-and-run on Flickr, but I need to unplug. All that liking and reblogging and retweeting is making me stupid. Focusing so much on other peoples' content is preventing me from, in the horrible phrasing of the day, generating my own, and that makes me unhappy.  The author is far too full of himself and name-drops nearly every other paragraph and his thoughts aren't half as profound as he thinks they are, but it's amusing enough to thumb through. I am taking perverse satisfaction in reading this on the Kindle.

What do you expect to read next?
As always it's hard to say -- I'd like to get out of the nonfiction rut I feel I've been in this year, and read interesting novels -- something challenging. I used to almost never read nonfiction, and then I got really fucking sick of the late stages of Mailer and Updike and Roth (oh my) and the critical sucking-up to them, and then there was horrible Literary Minimalism, and then there was utter crap like The Corrections, and I just couldn't stand it anymore. But now people are praising Shirley Jackson and Angela Carter again! and there's Aimee Bender and Kelly Link and other neat new writers! so I don't have to just hide with Woolf and Murdoch anymore. You young people who can read zombie novels without being laughed at* today** don't know how good you have it.


**Altho I knew a Classicist who claimed one of the Roman histories -- Suetonius, I think? -- basically was a post-apocalyptic zombie tale.

'The advertisers are the ones buying, Facebook is the one selling, and we’re just the goods.'

It’s in the interest of services like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to protect you from the very real possibility that your “friends” are out there and they can see what you’re doing, but they just don’t care. Or, alternatively, that you’re less interesting than you think you are.

- The Number Facebook Doesn't Want You To See


I am cycling through several titles a day. Titling a book has never been this excruciating before. Usually I pick a title - and then I am home with the book - can see through this book - can inhabit it - a title has to allow me to love it and inhabit it -  I guess it's like naming a child. Once Heroines became Heroines I knew what it was (and some have interpreted the title to be about the women I worship, admire, that's not what the book is about, it's about women who were characters, who see themselves as characters, it's also taken from a series of monologues by Claude Cahun.) I wanted a one-word title that was an abstract concept, kind of mirroring Bernhard (am rereading Concrete now, what permission Bernhard gives to the bilious a friend of mine just noted) - and mimicking Franzen's Freedom.

- Frances Farmer Is My Sister

Friday, July 12, 2013

c&p'd from GoodReads

My bedside books, currently, in a stack that I then rest my glasses on whilst I sleep....hey why don't y'all list your bedside stacks and glasses resters??

I don't have a bedside table and I rest my glasses on the windowsill, altho sometimes my Kindle is on the bureau by the bed. I'll tell you what's piled on my desk right now tho:

Seattle Architecture, Maureen R. Elenga (research)
Make Good Art, Neil Gaiman
The Glass of Time, Michael Cox
The Meaning of Night, Michael Cox
Wolf Solent, John Cowper Powys
Charles Dickens in Love
Iris Murdoch: A Life (duplicate copy, can't find first one)
Dopehead, Tim Elhajj (research)
Cemeteries of Seattle (research)
Heroin: Its History, Pharmacolgy, and Treatment, Second Edition Revised and Updated (research)

Postcards from the Province of Hyphens, Sonya Taaffe
The Corpus in the Library, Alf mac Lochlainn
Bough Down, Karen Green
One Foot in the Grave, Peter Dickinson
Collected Poems, Sylvia Plath
Red Doc, Anne Carson
The Real Jane Austen, Paula Byrne
With Chatwin, Susannah Clapp  
Magic Mountain (Woods translation, bought for GR group read)
Doctor Faustus (Woods translation, bought for GR group read)
The Raw Shark Texts

Husband's pile on floor, his side of the bed:

Salt Sugar Fat (my rec)
The Ghost Map (my rec)
Viruses, Plagues and History
A Planet of Viruses
The Surprising Design of Market Economies
Merchants of Doubt
The Signal and the Noise
The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution

&c &c &c

'Claudio, in the pool, with the snorkel'

In a key scene when the film’s villains trick Claudio (Fran Kranz) into believing something that is untrue, Claudio appears in a manner wholly unexpected for a Shakespeare play but that makes sense for a modern guy who has just spent the night partying. So why did Whedon decide to put Claudio in a swimming pool, martini in hand, donning a snorkel for the scene? The answer is quite simple: The director, who shot the film at his own Santa Monica, Calif. home, told EW, “For the love of God, if you have a pool overlooking beautiful mountains and trees and you are doing a party scene in a modern-day Shakespeare, and you don’t have someone in a snorkel and martini, then you should be fired.” 

Actually, there was a little more to it than that. Even before Whedon knew that the photo of Claudio in a swimming pool would become a promotional image for the film, he knew that it would set the right tone for his adaptation and for that scene in particular. “It encapsulates so much of the spirit of the thing,” he said. “Ridiculousness with just a hit of darkness.” That carefully measured dose of darkness comes into this scene as a night of partying ends and the morning dawns with the first of multiple times poor Claudio is cruelly tricked by the movie’s antagonists. Whedon sees Claudio in this moment as “a guy who has been partying too much, and there’s that feeling of decadence that’s about to go from charming to damaging in that image.”

- via

love's labours won

We saw the Whedon Much Ado on impulse yesterday as an early birthday present for T (its run ended that night, so it was right then or wait for the DVD) and it was ADORABLE. Acker and Denisof killed it as you might expect, Lenk ("That's Andrew!"), Diamond and Kranz speak the speech trippingly, Maher ("That's Simon!") is a great Bastard, and while Filion ("That's Mal!") was not actually as howlingly funny as the row of giggling fangirls behind us thought he was, it was cute to hear them get so into Will. (That's what she said.) I'm a Shakespeare snob and hate the pointless Papp-inspired modern "updating" ("Taming of the Shrew -- in the Wild West!") but this just felt right -- simple and stripped-down, despite the big house and beautiful grounds. Even the songs, often stumbling blocks in even period productions, actually work (as they didn't really in the even more hyped-up Tate/Tennant Ado). I'm also just a total sucker for let's-put-on-a-show ambience, especially with Shakespeare, so there you go.

In an interview, Whedon said

....when I started poring over it, I got a very strong sense of how a little bit dark and twisted it is. The movie’s in black-and-white partially because it’s kind of a noir comedy. I realized that everybody in it behaves like such a dolt — an articulate dolt, but a dolt. I fixated on this notion that our ideas of romantic love are created for us by the society around us, and then escape from that is grown-up love, is marriage, is mature love, to escape the ideals of love that we’re supposed to follow.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

from 'The Problem of Pain,' C.S. Lewis

Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it -- tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest -- if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself -- you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say "Here at last is the thing I was made for". We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

the blue remained

I was on South Bank one day by the Royal Festival Hall. It was a sunny day with a bright blue sky. I was looking up at a train crossing the Hungerford Bridge. Through the train I could see the sky successively framed by each window as the carriage passed. Each window moving quickly forward and away held briefly a rectangle of blue. The windows passing, the blue remained.

Russell Hoban, Turtle Diary

an enigma within a paradox inside a riddle wrapped up in a newspaper

I love GoodReads, but I think the site, especially the crack-like ability to post status updates while reading, is....contributing to my reading fewer books.


well this is no good

'Dozens of formerly independent firms have been folded into this conglomerate: not just Anchor, Doubleday, Dutton, Knopf, Pantheon, G. P. Putnam’s Sons and Viking, which still wield significant resources, but also storied names like Jonathan Cape, Fawcett, Grosset & Dunlap, and Jeremy P. Tarcher. Many of these have been reduced to mere imprints, brands stamped on a book’s title page....'


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

don't you fret my dear


sounds great when you're dead

working for the government

til we have faces

Despite the dreadful dreadful cover, this looks splendid. I only had to wrangle with UPS on THREE SEPARATE OCCASIONS to finally get it.

men-children in the promised wasteland

Tiqqun knows and says what the Lifestyle section does or cannot: Today the economy is feminizing everyone. That is, it puts more and more people of both genders in the traditionally female position of undertaking work that traditionally ­patriarchal institutions have pretended is a kind of personal service outside capital so that they do not have to pay for it. When affective relationships become part of work, we overinvest our economic life with erotic value. Hence, “passion for marketing.” Hence, “Like” after “Like” button letting you volunteer your time to help Facebook sell your information to advertisers with ever greater precision.

In the postindustrial era, work and leisure grow increasingly indistinguishable: We are all shop girls now. From this “feminization of the world,” Tiqqun writes, “one can only expect the cunning promotion of all manner of servitudes.” At times, Tiqqun speaks of this exploitation sympathetically. More often, however, they blame the Young-Girl for opening the floodgates by complying with her own exploitation, thus making it easier for control capitalism to make her attitude compulsory for everyone.

-- from the blistering "Further Materials Toward a Theory of the Man-Child," via the lovely and fierce lycanthropia

from "The Female Man," by Joanna Russ

There is the vanity training, the obedience training, the self-effacement training, the deference training, the dependency training, the passivity training, the rivalry training, the stupidity training, the placation training. How am I to put this together with my human life, my intellectual life, my solitude, my transcendence, my brains, and my fearful, fearful ambition? I failed miserably and thought it was my own fault. You can't unite woman and human any more than you can unite matter and anti-matter; they are designed to not to be stable together and they make just as big an explosion inside the head of the unfortunate girl who believes in both.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Joseph Arthur - Saint of Impossible Causes (Live on KEXP)

sweetness & light

I guess I should have looked at the back jacket copy before snatching it up for $4.99

This study is the work of a scholar who has long specialized in Norse and Germanic mythology. She describes the more familiar gods of war, of fertility, of the sky and the sea and the dead....All these deities were worshipped in the Viking Age, and the author has endeavoured to relate their cults to daily life and to see why these pagan beliefs gave way in time to the Christian faith.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

best book ever

Leaning her silly, beautiful, drunken head on my shoulder, she said, "Oh, Esther, I don't want to be a feminist. I don't enjoy it. It's no fun."

"I know," I said. "I don't either." People think you decide to be a "radical," for God's sake, like deciding to be a librarian or a ship's chandler. You "make up your mind," you "commit yourself" (sounds like a mental hospital, doesn't it?).

I said Don't worry, we could be buried together and have engraved on our tombstone the awful truth, which some day somebody will understand:


- Joanna Russ, On Strike Against God

Saturday, July 6, 2013

You're No Rock 'n' Roll Fun

A Summer Hamlet

Nothing But the Water

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - Nothing But the Water I-II (Farm Aid 2008)

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - Nothing But the Water I-II (Farm Aid 2012)

Terry Pratchett: “I thank my Lady Narrativia for favors bestowed.”

Is that typical for you? Usually, do the characters come before the plot, or which way does that generally go?

Pratchett: Well, the characters are the plot. What they do and say and the things that happen to them are, in a sense, what the plot is. You can’t take character and plot apart from each other, really. Actually, the day before yesterday, I was able to sit down with my agent and she said, “Tell me about this month and how it’s going.” It was like being put in front of your teacher, and I started to garble. And the garbling was, “All right, and I know how it goes, because that one, then that, and that bit there, which I didn’t think was important, now becomes increasingly important. And then the gentleman will be helping him to do this sort of thing, and…” [Excited garbling noises.] It’s all there, mostly, but I have to change a lot of what I’ve done, so it’s not quite so done as it sounds. My wife says I plot in my sleep.


Friday, July 5, 2013

books no longer loss leaders

Even as Amazon became one of the largest retailers in the country, it never seemed interested in charging enough to make a profit. Customers celebrated and the competition languished.

Now, with Borders dead, Barnes & Noble struggling and independent booksellers greatly diminished, for many consumers there is simply no other way to get many books than through Amazon. And for some books, Amazon is, in effect, beginning to raise prices.


Thursday, July 4, 2013


Wow, the new LibraryThing redesign is HORRIBLE. It basically makes all the Talk pages unusable for me, what with the GIANT fixed dark band across the top, the bright bright white and the pale blue in contrast (and what the programmers keep saying in comment threads is: "Nothing has changed! You're all delusional!"). It's all about new, new, new! users, and apparently the old, undesirable users like myself get thrown under the bus. If you have migraines, you don't belong on the internet! apparently.

'For many lives stand between me and home'

The final image of the BBC Television Shakespeare's adaptation of Richard III, showing Margaret of Anjou sitting atop a pile of bodies, cradling the corpse of Richard. (Wikipedia)

'One morning, some weeks after her arrival at Lowick, Dorothea—but why always Dorothea?'

Pullman is a partisan of the third-person omniscient narrator, which he thinks of as a character in itself—a disembodied “sprite.” This ringmaster of many a nineteenth-century novel can, as he told me, “go anywhere and do anything and see anything, and is both male and female, both old and young, wise and foolish, cynical and credulous, all these contradictory things at once. The narrating voice that tells ‘Middlemarch’ is just as much a made-up character as Dorothea or Mr. Casaubon.”

- via


"(novel-writing seems to be a work of high-minded betrayal and biography a work of dirty-minded fidelity)"

- Judith Thurman, from an essay on Charlotte Bronte

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

'Reading is everything'

Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.

- Nora Ephron

"The Sestina Has Been Sinking," Steve Davenport

Sestina, tonight’s the night I push you off the overpass.
I’m done with your six kinds of hell. Your demanding sky,
your French complications, your clouds in my happy wagon,
your forty-two words for rain, your pearl-handled gun,
this concrete and asphalt that leap-frogs the low ground
locals call the Bottom, dirt cursed with industry and blood.

I’m done with your sixes and sevens, the pressure of blood
at the thirty-nine sutures pinning us to this long overpass
you keep calling me to, far above the patchy ground
that only we who grew up here could think deserves a sky,
any sky, even this one with its petro stink. I too have a gun,
this twelve-gauge I’m pulling loaded from my buckshot wagon.

May your pieces make a smart pattern. May the dead wagon
carry a vacuum and glue. If there are forty-two words for hell,
I expect thirty-nine of them to be you. You need a real gun,
Sestina, my dirt under your nails, the rough of this overpass
for texture, the heft of a gunite hose shooting two-up at the sky
to make a holy road for rich pilgrims heading for better ground,

which means rolling or manicured or ode-worthy, any ground
but this petro dirt you call me back to with talk of the wagon
that will save you. I’d do the Crazy Wing through a bad sky
if I thought I had anything new for you and your stale blood,
your long form, the way your returns wrap this overpass,
Sestina, in the same old sixes and sevens. Better someone gun

you down than endure one more round of blanks from the gun
you pull from your obvious garter. Better the hard ground
meet you falling than I waste my love from this overpass
on your history, the stretch marks you earned on the art wagon.
Bottom needs steel, slaughterhouses, freight trains bringing blood
and thump of flesh on flesh to make its rough song, one part sky

to five parts slag and spill, glorious smokestacks praising the sky,
canals, and river, a round of voices joining as I lift my shotgun
and new ashes settle all over this Bottom I love like blood.
Time for us to go, Sestina, double-pumped to sky and ground,
me to open fields, where I’ll whistle past the dead wagon,
and you to your forty-two words for life after overpass.

We promise to curse the sky. We deliver our ends to the ground.
We’re loaded on the meat wagon. We love the noise of the gun.
Here is the blood we love. Here is where we leave the overpass.

"Of this fair volume which we World do name"

Of this fair volume which we World do name
If we the sheets and leaves could turn with care,
Of him who it corrects, and did it frame,
We clear might read the art and wisdom rare:
Find out his power which wildest powers doth tame,
His providence extending everywhere,
His justice which proud rebels doth not spare,
In every page, no period of the same.
But silly we, like foolish children, rest
Well pleased with colour’d vellum, leaves of gold.
Fair dangling ribbands, leaving what is best,
On the great writer’s sense ne’er taking hold;
    Or if by chance we stay our minds on aught,
    It is some picture on the margin wrought.

- William Drummond

"Evening," by H.D.

The light passes
from ridge to ridge,
from flower to flower --
the hepaticas, wide-spread
under the light
grow faint --
the petals reach inward,
the blue tips bend
toward the bluer heart
and the flowers are lost.

The cornel-buds are still white,
but shadows dart
from the cornel-roots --
black creeps from root to root,
each leaf
cuts another leaf on the grass,
shadow seeks shadow,
then both leaf
and leaf-shadow are lost.

from "The Lost Dialogue," by John M. Ford

Epilogue: Memo from Solon

Attend me, o Muses, Olympian Zeus, for I am homesick.
I loosed a thing in Athens that needed take its course
Without me; but now it is time to return for the reckoning.
Unlike the noble Theseus, I am going home cautious.

I have traveled, and heard stories, and seen much
Of the world the sea binds; I saw the bones
Of an island in the west, courtier stones
At an empty throne, the past unseated by force.

In Saïs the priests told me that Time is a river,
Their river, in fact, and all other cultures merely tides,
They told me of crashing stars, empires that fall and rise,
That earth has bloomed and burnt and grown again, forever.

I have tried to do something useful with all this history,
A tale of a great empire that made mistakes;
That strode the world boldly, but forgot its direction,
Something epical, touched with awe and mystery.

Though my people will not easily learn from another nation;
They will say that Atlantis gone is not Athens hence.
Anything can be built; nothing stands without a foundation.
People are clay, and must be fired to support monuments.

And the Egyptians may have made the whole thing up:
A claim that, being older, they are therefore oldest;
I think that people recall in the main what they wish to recall
And swiftly forget that they ever were powerless, beaten, or small.

It is in the mystery of priests to muddy what they say,
In the speech of statesmen to prove things their way,
In the way of engineers to twist nature's forces,
It is in the nature of poets to misuse their sources.

Monday, July 1, 2013

from "The Revolution Was Televised," Alan Sepinwall

I think this is about to be us, because we are almost at the end of Tennant NuWho and I don't remember being that blown away by Matt Smith the first time around, and I think T will be even less so. What everyone has told me is:


....I am not sure how this will be less confusing actually but okay! We are basically ready!....unless Six Feet Under is also on Netflix streaming, maybe.

books read in July 2013

Fiction is in red.

111. The Fry Chronicles, Stephen Fry
112. The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic, Steven Johnson
113. The Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic, Nora Gallagher
114. Hangsaman, Shirley Jackson 
115. The Cuckoo's Calling, J. K. Rowling 
116. Digital Vertigo: How Today's Online Social Revolution Is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us, Andrew Keen (brand-new contender for worst book I have read so far this year)
117. The Law and the Lady, Wilkie Collins
118. Prisoners, Jeffrey Goldberg
119. We Learn Nothing, Tim Kreider
120. People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction & Fantasy, ed. Rachel Swirsky and Sean Wallace 
121. Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink
122. Summer, Edith Wharton (my edition had a great introduction by Marilyn French) 
123. Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, Eric Klinenberg 
124. Fighting for Air: The Battle to Control America's Media, Eric Klinenberg 
125. Angelica Lost and Found, Russell Hoban  
126. Angelica's Grotto, Russell Hoban
127. Amaryllis Night and Day, Russell Hoban 
128. I Wear the Black Hat, Chuck Klosterman
129. London Falling, Paul Cornell 
130. Broken Homes, Ben Aaronovitch 

2013 booklist