skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (cosmia)
I have never read Dhalgren or indeed any Samuel R. Delaney. However, as of yesterday I have at least had a Dhalgren Experience, thanks to [personal profile] aamcnamara, who turned up a local theatrical-dance-music-light-'architectural puppetry' performance of something called Dhalgren: Sunrise this weekend.

Dhalgren: Sunrise is comprised of bits of text from what I assume is Dhalgren the book, accompanied by dance, light, and music, almost all of it improvised. Also, some of the music was performed on imaginary instruments. "That must be a theremin!" I thought brightly to myself on seeing one of the instruments, mostly because I don't know what a theremin looks like and therefore I assume that any instrument I don't recognize is a theremin. But it turns out it was not a theremin, because there was a credit in the program for 'invented instruments,' though I don't know whether the one I saw was the Diddly Bow, the Bass Llamelophone, or the Autospring.

Anyway, so my new understanding of Dhalgren is that it is about a city in which Weird, Fraught and Inexplicable Things Are Happening. This is not a very thorough understanding, but it's still more of an understanding than I had before. The show is composed of seven scene-vignettes:

Prelude: A brief reading of [what I assume to be] the book's introduction.

Orchid: Three women dance on a bridge and a man acquires a prosthetic hand-weapon-implement. The director at the end gave special thanks to the dude who made it, understandably so, because it very effectively exuded Aura of Sinister!

Scorpions: Gang members dance and fight in front of a building? Alien gang members? Just aliens? Anyway, some entities wrapped in glowing lights have a dance fight in front of a building; the text is from the point of view of a worried inhabitant of the building who Has Concerns.

Moons: The moon has a new secondary moon friend named George. The dancing in this section was one of my favorite bits -- the Moon did some amazing things with her light-strung hula hoop. [personal profile] aamcnamara pointed out later that the narration in this bit, which featured a wry and dubious radio announcer, seemed like a perhaps-intentional echo of Welcome to Night Vale. I have never actually listened to Welcome to Night Vale, but from my cultural osmosis knowledge this seems about right.

Fire: The light show took front and center in this bit about everything being on fire and also, simultaneously, not on fire. The maintenance man doing the narration is very plaintive about all of this. There may also have been dancing in this bit but I don't remember what anyone was doing.

Sex: The guy with the sinister prosthesis has an intimate encounter with two other people inside a blanket fort. I always like the blanket-fort method of showing sex onstage, it hints appropriately while allowing actors not to have to do anything they're uncomfortable with. At some point in this process the sinister prosthesis is removed for the first time, which I expect symbolizes something about human connection.

Sunrise: The characters who have previously just had sex emerge from the building and now seem to have a difference of opinion about whether the sunrise is just normal, or whether the earth is actually falling into the sun. Eventually all the characters are onstage being distressed, along with the music and the lighting -- again, really cool light effects here, especially the final overwhelming projection of light followed by and darkness.

It's a one-hour show without intermission, which we all agreed afterwards was for the best; the deeply weird mood and atmosphere would have been difficult to slip back into if one could get up in the middle to go to the bathroom. For those of you who have actually read Dhalgren, I will leave you with [personal profile] aamcnamara's sum-up: "It was a strange experience, but honestly could have been stranger."
skygiants: Jadzia Dax lounging expansively by a big space window (daxanova)
Our adventures with Star Wars: The Clone Wars continue! Though, alas, those of many of our clone buddies do not.

Episodes 11-20 of Season 1 under the cut )
skygiants: Drosselmeyer's old pages from Princess Tutu, with text 'rocks fall, everyone dies, the end' (endings are heartless)
I recently reread Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death. It remains an onslaught of a book, although being somewhat braced for the barrage of ANGER INJUSTICE GENOCIDE GONNA DESTROY A WHOLE CITY NOW does allow a little more time to, uh, stop and appreciate the occasional non-fraught thing that happens along the way? Onyesonwu makes friends with a camel at one point! That's nice!

(...for the record, my review from 2010 seems to indicate that at the time I understood and appreciated what happened at the end. Well, good job, past self, because my present self has no idea. Spoilers ))

Anyway! Rereading Who Fears Death got me thinking about the kind of books that are constructed around an ancient lore or a knowledge of the world that turns out to be fundamentally wrong, cultures constructed around poisoned lies. The Fifth Season is the other immediate example that springs to mind of a book like this -- not that there aren't other parallels between The Fifth Season and Who Fears Death. It seems to me that I ought to be able to think of more, but since I can't I'm sure you guys can.

When I mentioned this to [personal profile] genarti, she immediately said "YA dystopia! Fallout!" and that's true, a lot of dystopias are built around a Fundamentally Flawed Premise that has been imposed upon the innocent population by a dictatorial government. Those feel a little different to me, though, maybe just because that sort of dystopia very clearly grows out of our own world. We know from the beginning how to judge truth and lies, we're WAY AHEAD of our naive heroine who believes the color blue is evil because the government put an inexplicable ban on it. But Who Fears Death, while it may be set in our future, is in a future so distant from our own that there's no particular tracing back from it, and The Fifth Season is another world altogether, and we don't have any home court advantage over the protagonists as they figure out where the lies are except a belief that something that poisonous has to be wrong; maybe that's the difference.
skygiants: Jadzia Dax lounging expansively by a big space window (daxanova)
I knew I probably should have written up A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet before I read the sequel, because I loved A Closed and Common Orbit SO MUCH that now there is no way I can do justice to the first book.

I mean, A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is certainly a lot of fun! It feels a bit more like a season of television than a novel -- very much out of that genre of beloved, relatively lighthearted crew-is-family space TV, full of aliens and semi-incidental interstellar politics, with approximately one episode dedicated to each crew member's interesting alien culture or surprise dramatic backstory as well as episodes where Everyone Just Goes On A Shopping Trip. There is a Noble Captain, a Friendly Polyamorous Lizard Alien Second-in-Command, an Earnest Financial Assistant, a Manic Mechanic, a Caring Chef Who Feeds Other Species To Compensate For The Embarrassing Genocidal Tendencies Of His Own -- ok, some of the archetypes are more archetypal than others. In the dramatic season finale, our plucky band of space truckers reaches their long-haul destination at last and becomes involved in a major diplomatic incident, the outcome of which is the one thing in the book that rubbed me slightly the wrong way ) Anyway, if you like this sort of thing, you will almost certainly like this particular thing.

I like this sort of thing all right but the things A Closed and Common Orbit is doing appeal to my id MUCH more. A Closed and Common Orbit focuses on two characters who appear relatively briefly in A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet: Sidra, an AI who, due to compelling personal circumstances but counter to interstellar law, has been installed in a designed-to-be-instinguishable-from-human artificial body; and Pepper, the mechanic who has volunteered to take on responsibility for her.

The main present-day thread of the story involves Sidra's attempts to figure out whether she can comfortably inhabit a body that she was never designed to inhabit - not just whether she can live permanently as something like an independent intelligent biological life-form without giving herself away, but whether she wants to do so. The plot is mostly comprised of small slice-of-life events like Sidra Makes A New Friend or Sidra Considers Getting A Tattoo, all interwoven into a really compelling and thoughtful examination of artificial intelligence, self-determination, and free will.

The other half the book delves into Pepper's backstory as an artificially created human being, designed to be cheap disposable labor. As a child, "Jane 23" mostly-accidentally escapes the factory where she labors, and is subsequently raised by an abandoned ship's AI in a junkyard. The backstory plot does a couple of things: a.) serves as an excellent example of the always-compellingly-readable 'half-feral child must make home in dangerous environment, survives with ingenuity and a box of scraps' genre; b.) works in dialogue with Sidra's main plotline to complicate ideas of 'human' and 'artificial' and 'purpose' and 'free will'; c.) gives me FIVE MILLION FEELINGS ABOUT AI MOMS WHO LOVE YOU. Sometimes a family is an AI mom, her genetically engineered daughter, the daughter's boyfriend, their AI roommate, and the roommate's alien friend who honestly didn't even particularly want to be there that day! AND THAT'S BEAUTIFUL.
skygiants: the Phantom of the Opera, reaching out (creeper of the opera)
Catching a chunk of the Tony Awards the other night (bless Bette Midler, who WILL NOT BE SILENCED) reminded me that I never wrote up Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway, a nonfiction account of (primarily) the Shubert Organization, Broadway's largest theater-owning company, with stopovers into the offices of other leading Broadway financiers along the way.

The book starts out with Broadway ticket-scalping scandals, jumps back to a overview of the lives of the original Shubert brothers, and lays out the drama of various generations of hard-partying Shuberts eventually being ousted by Responsible, Respectable Lawyers Jerry Schoenfeld and Bernie Jacobs.

Then Michael Bennett, legendary choreographer of A Chorus Line, enters the picture and the whole book gets sort of carried off by him for a while. A great deal of page space is devoted to the psychodramatic relationship between Bennett and Jacobs -- as recounted in this book, a wildly unhealthy pseudo-father-son dynamic in which Jacobs constantly attempted to ensure Bennett's emotional and financial dependence on Jacobs while Bennett was constantly attempting to break away and BE A PRODUCER ON HIS OWN, DAD. An excerpt featuring further Michael Bennett drama, including one of history's most melodramatic Tony Awards, is up in Vanity Fair for the curious.

And then it's Andrew Lloyd Webber and Andrew Lloyd Webber and Andrew Lloyd Webber, alongside an in-depth discussion of the various political and financial campaigns that eventually led to the Disneyfication of Broadway after its days of 1970s sleaze, and that brings us about up to the present day.

It's an interesting, rather gossippy account of the money, organizational politics, and personal quirks that underlie the eventual decisions about what makes it onto a theater stage; I read the whole thing and then left it in the airbnb I was staying in when I finished it, because I felt I had taken what I wanted from it and couldn't really imagine wanting to read it again. It's certainly interesting to know how the sausage is made, but it's occasionally a bit depressing to look at Broadway largely from the perspective of the people for whom profit is the most important consideration.
skygiants: (wife of bath)
I feel at this point that I'm sort of playing a long-term drinking game with Joan Aiken: every time an inexplicable Arthurian reference shows up out of nowhere in her fiction, immediately go to the nearest repository of alcohol and grab a bottle!

...although to be honest last night was just a really good night for drinking a beer and reading an entire [personal profile] rachelmanija-recommended Regency Gothic on the porch, and I didn't think of the drinking game angle until this morning. Also, the Arthurian references in The Five-Minute Marriage pretty much limit themselves to unusual naming conventions and are honestly the least weird I've ever encountered in Aiken. The Five-Minute Marriage overall is really only about as weird as, say, a particularly madcap Georgette Heyer. Not a murderous beehive, exploding can of soup, or immortal Queen Guinevere in sight!

Our Heroine is Philadelphia Elaine Carteret, an impoverished Regency music teacher struggling to maintain herself and her ailing, amiably confused mother, who of course happens to be a DISINHERITED DAUGHTER OF THE GREAT HOUSE OF PENISTONE.

Unfortunately, when Delphie turns up at Penistone Manor (it has a name, but I've forgotten it) to try and claim some financial support for her mother, she is met by a plot twist: there's already a Philadelphia Elaine Carteret in the family and the current lord has been supporting her for the past twenty years.

ARROGANT ALPHA HERO GARETH PENISTONE (current heir): However, imposter, you have turned up just in time! Because the current lord is DYING and he's going to disinherit both me and Elaine if we don't get married before he dies, which everyone expects to happen, like, right now, today.
FRIENDLY MORDRED PENISTONE (illegitimate relative, definitely not a villain, why would you think that?): It's OK! We'll get a FAKE bishop to write a FAKE marriage certificate and in exchange for this DEFINITELY FAKE MARRIAGE we'll slip your mother into the will. OK? OK.
DELPHIE: Every proper feeling is mortified by this offer! ... but it's true I could use the cash, and it's not like I ever actually want to see any of you again.

So Delphie and Gareth get fake married, just until the current lord dies, which is almost certainly going to happen right that night!

24 HOURS LATER, in a TOTALLY SHOCKING twist:

FRIENDLY MORDRED PENISTONE: Oops, I accidentally forgot to tell the definitely real Bishop to perform a fake ceremony, so ... congratulations on your marriage! Also, the current lord has made a miraculous recovery!

Everyone's favorite fanfic tropes follow )
skygiants: Sokka from Avatar: the Last Airbender peers through an eyeglass (*peers*)
I found In the Teeth of the Evidence at a used bookstore when I was still in the midst of my Sayers reread, and bought it because it contained a bunch of Sayers stories that (to the best of my recollection) I had not read and I figured I might as well.

These are ... not Sayers' greatest works. The first seven stories feature Lord Peter Wimsey and Sayers' other recurring detective, traveling salesman Montague Egg; they're all very much of the Solve A Brain-Twister In Four Pages variety and are otherwise not very interesting. Also, Montague Egg is the sort of person who goes around quoting maxims like "Never miss a chance of learning for that word spells '£' plus 'earning,'" and, like, on the one hand, I respect Sayers for resisting the temptation to make her other detective as Dreamy as Lord Peter, but on the other hand.

I found the back half of stories easier going; they were not any better per se but at least there was more variety? Stories included:

I'm just straight-up spoiling the punchline for many of these so click at your own risk )
skygiants: Hazel, from the cover of Breadcrumbs, about to venture into the Snow Queen's forest (into the woods)
T. Kingfisher's The Raven and the Reindeer is an enjoyable Snow Queen variant that stakes out its territory with a few clear thematic changes:

- Kai was always kind of a jerk
- Gerta is projecting feelings onto Kay that neither of them really have
- Gerta's journey of discovery and self-knowledge is largely about getting over Kay and finding true love with the robber girl

The book commits hard to these things, as well as to the talking raven, and the creepy reindeer magic, and the Finnish-Sami setting. It's a well-written quest story and I had fun reading it, but as soon as I finished it I was struck with an irresistible urge to go to my bookshelf and reread Anne Ursu's Breadcrumbs, which remains my all-time favorite Snow Queen retelling.

The books are doing extremely different things, so it's not really fair to compare them. The Raven and the Reindeer is a quest fantasy coming-of-age story, written for teens and adults. Breadcrumbs is a battle to the death against loneliness and depression as filtered through the iconography of fairy tales, written for eleven-year-olds. The Raven and the Reindeer is Robin McKinley; Breadcrumbs is middle-grade Utena.

Also, Breadcrumbs is not gay. Nor is it straight! Because everyone's eleven.

Now, having just said that it's unfair to compare them, I'm going to compare them anyways: talking about Gertas and Kays and robber girls in a spoilery fashion )

As a sidenote, I don't think I've ever actually read the whole original of Anderson's Snow Queen, but from similarities among all Snow Queen variants I have now collected the following important facts about the Snow Queen:
- snow is made of bees
- having a frozen heart makes you very good at math
- flowers are more helpful than almost any human being
- the best thing to do with a kidnapped child is make them do ice puzzles for you
skygiants: Cha Song Joo and Lee Su Hyun from Capital Scandal in a swing pose (got that swing)
This weekend [personal profile] genarti, [profile] wickedtrue and I went to go see Arrabal at the A.R.T. -- a theater piece in my favorite genre, dance dance revolution.

I haven't seen very much dance theater that isn't just straight-up ballet. Arrabal uses the language of tango rather than classical ballet, but it still feels quite a lot like a ballet -- there's very minimal dialogue (two brief scene-setting news-clips, two significant letters read aloud, and a brief callout song in which the psychopomp/magician makes fun of the love interest for his machismo comprise the whole of it) with everything else conveyed through motion and mime.

The music is gorgeous, the dancing likewise. The plot is relatively simple, and not actually as depressing as I thought it would be. Arrabal is the infant daughter of an Argentinian protester. Eighteen years later, she's haunted by his absence; his surviving friends, meanwhile, decide it's time for them to meet her and tell her his story.

....his surviving friends run a dance club, so along the way Arrabal gets a cute new dress and a pair kicky high heels, learns how to tango, falls for the leader of the pack, makes out with the leader of the pack's girlfriend, and briefly visits an orgy before deciding that it's maybe not for her, thanks. None of us were entirely sure what was actually going on with the orgy, plot-wise. This is the downside of ballet theater with minimal dialogue. But it's all very pretty and beautifully danced!

And then we cut back to Arrabal's grandmother and her friends marching for their disappeared children and suddenly we're all crying, so, you know. The important parts come through.
skygiants: Jane Eyre from Paula Rego's illustrations, facing out into darkness (more than courage)
You know how you live your life, watching television shows like a normal person, and then suddenly you're watching an episode of a show and all the important and dramatic scenes are full of women over thirty interacting with each other, and even though people on screen are literally being set on fire you suddenly have this tremendous feeling of peace in your heart?

ANYWAY. Relatedly, the kdrama I've just finished is a Gothic thriller called (depending on who you ask) Ms. Perfect or The Perfect Wife. The show itself is not perfect, but if you're into Gothics and would like to watch a show in which grown women drive pretty much every plotline, it might be worth your time -- with the very strong caveat that despite some token nods towards the importance of treatment and therapy we're definitely going Full Madwoman In The Attic, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect Any Brownie Points Regarding Trope Deconstruction Or Respectful Handling of Mental Health.



More under the cut )
skygiants: Moril from the Dalemark Quartet playing the cwidder (composing hallelujah)
I have spent the last five days rereading through Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief books at the rate of one a day, and doing very little else!

If you've missed them, the long arc of the Queen's Thief series features the three warring alt!Grecian kingdoms of Sounis, Eddis and Attolia getting their act together to avoid being absorbed by an alt!Babylonian empire. The books are heavy on well-researched worldbuilding, political complexity, and third-act twists; they are light on divine influence, though the gods do have a plan and they would rather like the protagonists to stop whining about it. Books include:

The Thief: A magus, his two apprentices, a soldier and a thief go on a life-changing field trip to steal a divine king-making relic, and Megan Whalen Turner shows off her unreliable first-person narration.

The Queen of Attolia: All three kingdoms start a slapfight with each other while the series protagonist sulks in his room, except when he's stealing important political figures from other kingdoms. Megan Whalen Turner would like you to know she can dance deftly around significant information just as easily in omniscient third as she can in first.

The King of Attolia: A sweet, honest guardsman punches his king in the face, and proceeds to regret every single one of his life choices. Megan Whalen Turner's like "look, this time I'm using limited third and telling you EXACTLY what my protagonist thinks and believes at any given time, it's not MY fault he only knows like 20% of what's actually going on."

A Conspiracy of Kings: The heir to the kingdom of Sounis is like "I COULD sort out this civil war by becoming king OR I could do hard labor for the rest of my life and honestly the latter sounds more appealing?" Megan Whalen Turner returns to first person but is too busy examining questions of ethics around violence in the political sphere to put all that much effort into setting up twists.

This is the part that's spoilery for the first four books )

Anyway, yesterday I finally got to the point where I could read the just-published new book, Thick as Thieves. So this is the part that's spoilery for Thick as Thieves. )
skygiants: Jadzia Dax lounging expansively by a big space window (daxanova)
Having temporarily taken a break from lengthy space operas about terrible wars within ongoing franchises after finishing DS9, [personal profile] innerbrat and I have now started watching through Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I'm going to try to stop to write up about every ten episodes for anyone who is interested in following along on this moderately lengthy journey.

For the record, going in, here is my knowledge of The Clone Wars as picked up via tumblr osmosis:
- there are clones
- Anakin has an apprentice named Ahsoka and we all love her
- Obi-Wan might have a romance with a planetary leader because that's just what Jedi do, apparently
- there is a Complicated and Tragic plot about Ahsoka's ruined relationship with the Jedi order that allows her to survive to appear in Star Wars: Rebels

That's it! That's all I know. Other than what happens in these first ten episodes of Season 1 )
skygiants: Tory from Battlestar Galactica; text "I can't get no relief" (tory got shafted)
Lara Elena Donnelly's Amberlough is being marketed as "John Le Carré meets Cabaret." This is largely accurate. I also saw someone mention Ellen Kushner's The Fall of Kings, which may also be accurate, but I haven't read Fall of Kings so I couldn't really say; however, I definitely did get some strong Swordspoint vibes.

The titular Amberlough is a secondary-world city (though not actually a fantastical one; there's no magic, as far as I can tell) heavily influenced by Weimar Berlin, full of corruption and cross-dressing and decadent clubs. While the nationalist/fascist One State Party is starting to gain in prominence in various regions of the country, nobody expects it to have a chance in Amberlough.

Protagonist A is Cyril DePaul, an intelligence agent who is not at all eager to re-enter the field after a previous traumatic experience; Protagonist B is Aristide Makricosta, a wildly fabulous cabaret emcee who moonlights as a key figure in a major smuggling operation. Cyril and Aristide are having a very comfortable time pretending that they are only banging so they can spy on each other, when in fact everyone is perfectly aware that they are only investigating each other so that they can bang. Protagonist C is Cordelia Lehane, Aristide's stage partner at the cabaret, who has numerous other personal business of her own but gets pulled into their storyline when Cyril finds himself in need of a beard.

The plot kicks off when Cyril gets yanked away from his moderate idyll with Aristide to go back out into the field on an undercover mission. In theory he is meant to be preventing an illicit takeover in the national elections by the One Sate Party. In practice -- well, I mean. Le Carre, Cabaret. I will leave it to you all to do the math.

This should probably be enough information that you'll be able to get a sense if this is the sort of thing you want (and feel able) to read or not. Personally, I'm more of a Privilege of the Sword person than Swordspoint; I was most interested in Cordelia, the only protagonist who at any point can really be said to take a stand for something more than [themselves+1]. That said, I will definitely be reading the next book.
skygiants: Sokka from Avatar: the Last Airbender peers through an eyeglass (*peers*)
A few months back, I discovered this in a used bookstore and ended up taking it home:



And this week seemed like a good time to experience the Cold War's Special Baseball Episode, so here we are.

A Pennant for the Kremlin is an extremely serious alternate history (written in 1964) in which an American millionaire decides to leave all his assets to the Soviet Union in an effort to cultivate world peace before unexpectedly keeling over dead. His assets include about ten major hotels, plus the Chicago White Sox.

The Soviets generously decide to give the hotels to the workers!, but decide to hang onto the White Sox for reasons of plot necessity, and send over a couple of Russians out of Central Casting to take over the management:

1) the malevolent career bureaucrat who sees everything as an Insult to the Party!
2) the sweet, gently comical one whose Job Is To Understand Baseball and, by taking his job very seriously, learns to love the sport for its own sake! AND IS BELOVED BY IT IN RETURN
3) the sweet one's beautiful daughter, who's just excited for the opportunity to go shopping for pretty dresses!

The sweet one bonds with the team's manager and flirts with the eccentric millionaire's spinster secretary; the beautiful daughter falls for the wildly anti-Communist baseball player, who Learns an Important Lesson that Soviets Are People Too (or at least attractive young Soviet women with a maximum of wide-eyed innocence and a minimum of Party ideals); and the malevolent one attempts various schemes For The Greater Glory Of The Soviet Union, much to the chagrin of our aw-shucks all-American baseball players, who just want the opportunity to chuck a good old American baseball without being buffeted by copies of the Daily Worker. The spinster secretary trips all around Chicago asking innocently for portraits of Lenin in order to make her new guests feel at home; the sweet Russian becomes an unexpectedly popular national celebrity when he gives all the players incentive bonuses, but forbids them from using their images to shill for Big Tobacco - think of the children! they should be ashamed of themselves! At one point, the Soviet agenda at a U.N. meeting is completely derailed while every representative takes their turn to wax rhapsodic about the signature sport of their home country. Baseball: it's transformative!

In the end, tragically, does anyone care about spoilers for this book? )
skygiants: Lord Yon from Legend of the First King's Four Gods in full regalia; text, 'judging' (judging)
OK, so if you've been around the internet you probably have already heard that KFC recently released a romance novella featuring Colonel Sanders. It is called Tender Wings of Desire and was available for free, so obviously I downloaded it despite knowing that this made me a tool of capitalist America.

Unfortunately, Tender Wings of Desire commits the worst sin that a joke romance novella written by a corporation can possibly commit: it is boring as heck.

In case you, too, find yourself fatally curious, here is a brief summation of the events of Tender Wings of Desire:

- Madeline Parker, A Vaguely Regency Lady, who is Breathtakingly Beautiful but, Unlike Other Girls, does not like Embroidery or Matters of the Household, gets engaged to a perfectly nice Duke
- But Alas! She Does Not Love Him!
- she wants to See The World!
- so on the night before the wedding she flees into the night with zero preparation or plans
- which is fine because the next day she gets a job at an inn in a small seaside town by walking in and asking the inn if they have a job
- she's so much happier doing manual inn labor than she was as a fine lady
- no you don't understand! she's Seeing the World! a whole ... different small town of it!
- anyway then she meets a dreamy glasses-wearing sailor
- they go for a walk, once, and then they are in love
- now that she's not a lady anymore, there's absolutely no reason in the world that she shouldn't have premarital sex!
- they kiss a few times and have some tastefully ambiguous fade-to-black banging(?)
- her new innkeeper friend drops a backstory about being seduced by a rake sailor but Madeline's like "he's not LIKE that" and it's fine, he totally isn't
- but then alas, the dramatic reveal: though she THOUGHT he was but a humble sailor, his family has sent him a letter begging him to return home and assume the mantle of their business empire!
- "Yes, I'm a Colonel. Yes, I'm fabulously rich. I am a magnate of the restaurant industry, my dear, the king of an empire that I built with my bare hands. I took a sabbatical from my duties in order to see the world, see what else could possibly be out there, and on the course of my journey I found what I was looking for."
- honestly that line is the only thing entertaining enough to read the novella for and now, there it is, you've read it. You're welcome.
- (she almost dumps him because she doesn't want to go back to Being A Lady)
- (but the next chapter they're married and sailing back to Kentucky to take over the business empire so I guess that's fine)
- (can't believe I sold my soul to KFC for this)
- (I'M A VEGETARIAN)
skygiants: Sokka from Avatar: the Last Airbender peers through an eyeglass (*peers*)
I have finished rereading the back half of the Wimsey books and I have a fair number of opinions! BEAR WITH ME.

This gets a little long )
skygiants: Sokka from Avatar: the Last Airbender peers through an eyeglass (*peers*)
For me, the experience of reading this Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant was a lot like that Utena duel song that goes "allegory, allegorier, ALLEGORIEST." Axl and Beatrice, an elderly couple, living in a Briton village in an England afflicted by a fog that obscures memories, decide to take a voyage to visit a son in another village whom they don't quite remember but are nonetheless sure exists. Along the way, they encounter several symbolic boatmen, numerous symbolic angry widows, a Saxon child with a mysterious symbolic wound, a Saxon swordsman with a mysterious symbolic quest, various confused symbolic memory-fog-afflicted soldiers, and an elderly Sir Gawain. Sir Gawain, it goes without saying, is also extremely symbolic. There are also ogres and dragons. The ogres do things like accidentally eat poison sheep and then lie dying in ditches, sinking slowly into the mire, while children stare silently over the edge of the ditch at them. It's that kind of book.

The memory-fog that lies across the country obscures two large mysteries: what happened between the Saxons and the Britons during Arthur's wars and what lies between and underneath their currently peaceful relationship, and what memories Axl and Beatrice have lost and what lies between and underneath their current loving relationship. The book's central questions are things like 'at what price peace?' and 'at what price justice?' and 'can love be real when it's not built on anything?' These are solid questions, though I'm not entirely sure four hundred pages of dreamy unsubtle allegory is my favorite way to examine them.

My frustrations lie under a spoiler-cut )
skygiants: Nellie Bly walking a tightrope among the stars (bravely trotted)
The title of Amy Stewart's Girl Waits With Gun is rather (intentionally, I think) misleading - not only is it not actually particularly hijinks-y, but Our Heroine Constance Kopp is a grown adult woman in her mid-thirties, which is honestly one of the reasons the book stood out to me.

Based On A True Story, Girl Waits With Gun kicks off when stoic six-foot-tall Constance and her two sisters (Norma, congenitally disapproving adult pigeon-fancier; Fleurette, theatrical teen fashionista) have an unfortunate street encounter with a band of local toughs, who are practicing Reckless Driving. Constance attempts to Demand Compensation. Local Toughs Retaliate by setting up an increasing campaign of threats and harassment, specifically targeting Fleurette. Constance and her sisters switch their efforts towards attempting to get local law enforcement to take all this seriously enough to do anything about it, which is unsurprisingly as challenging in 1914 as today.

Meanwhile, all this excitement starts Constance off on a course of introspection and reinvention regarding the sisters' struggling finances, their deeply retired and isolated life - a course of action taken to protect a family secret decades before, and never altered - and the possibilities open for women in 1914 to find an existence that's both self-sufficient and satisfying. Some inkling of the outcome of all this can perhaps be gleaned from the fact that the second book of Constance's adventures is titled Lady Cop Makes Trouble.

Teen Girl Shakes Off Convention stories, while often enjoyable, are not particularly rare. Adult Woman Re-Evaluates Life And Makes More Satisfying Choices is a different subgenre and one I always appreciate on the occasions that I find it, especially when it revolves primarily around her relationship with other women.

The sisters do have one Law Enforcement Male Ally, Sheriff Heath. He is progressive and ethical and he and Constance clearly have kind of a pining mutual respect Thing going on, and also he is married to an unsympathetic woman who does not approve of his choices or enjoy the Mrs. Sheriff lifestyle at all. I made some faces about this in the first book. Lady Cop Makes Trouble starts to complicate this, and make it clear that Mrs. Heath has some legitimate reasons to be deeply unhappy and dissatisfied; I'm hoping this is a trend that continues in future books.
skygiants: Kraehe from Princess Tutu embracing Mytho with one hand and holding her other out to a flock of ravens (uses of enchantment)
Q: Why did you read The Secret History, a book all about death and specifically about the untimely death of a young man, on your way home to sit shiva for a young man who died an untimely death?
A: idk I just grabbed the first long-looking paperback off my shelf I hadn't read before?? In retrospect, I realize it is possible more forethought should have gone into this.

Q: When and where does The Secret History take place?
A: Where: a small liberal arts college in Vermont where everybody is either doing drugs or murders. When: I HAVE NO IDEA. I spent the entire book desperately grappling for temporal clues. Someone mentions learning about the moon landing! "Ah," I think, with relief, "late 1960s." Then 'Free Bird' comes on the radio! OK .. 1970s? "We sat around with margaritas and watched MTV." When did MTV even start? Are we suddenly nineties kids now?? WE JUST DON'T KNOW. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that I missed some obvious statement like "It Is 1989 Now," as I was not necessarily in my best state of mind for noticing details while reading this book, see above.

Q: You mentioned murder?
A: Yes! Definitely murder! This is not a spoiler, as murder happens on the first page before we flash back to happier, pre-murder times in the beautiful Vermont fall.

Q: Do the students get away with murder?
A: I see what you're doing there, and yes, I am pretty positive that the people who wrote or at least conceived of How To Get Away With Murder were strongly influenced by The Secret History. Although How To Get Away With Murder is much less white.

Q: What about women?
A: How To Get Away With Murder also has many more women.

Q: I don't watch How To Get Away With Murder! What else is like The Secret History?
A: OK, imagine that you put Nick and Gatsby into a blender together until you come up with one smooth-surfaced social-climbing desperately insecure bystander, and then you drop this blended narrator whom for convenience we shall call Natsby in the middle of a bunch of highly-strung Classics majors who think they're in a Mary Renault novel, complete with beloved psychodramatic tropes (sad queer kids! uncomfortably close twins! the protagonist almost freezing to death in a Vermont attic before being rescued by the most intense and highly-strung Classics major of all! everybody quoting Greek all the time!) and wrap it all up in extremely accomplished prose. In case you were wondering, The American Dream Remains A Lie.

Q: So ... did you like The Secret History or not?
A: I found it compelling and page-turney and interesting to think about structurally as an exercise in dubiously reliable narration and shifting character perception! I also think probably for maximum appreciation I should have read it as an 18-year-old with a Lot of Feelings about emotionally disturbed teenagers who quote Greek at each other, or at the very least not at the time when as it turns out I did in fact read it, return to top.

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