Books 2013

Jan. 1st, 2014 12:50 pm
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (misc girl reading)
First Time Reads

(These are not in order, I was slack about recording things, and I'm pretty sure I'm still missing some things.)

1-2. Mary Robinette Kowal - Shades of Milk & Honey and Glamour in Glass. These are straight-up Jane Austen pastiches with bonus magic. The first was quite charming, but the second one dragged enough that I didn't feel compelled to move on to the third. Hard to maintain the momentum when the romance plot is complete.

3. Robin Sloan - Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
I need to re-read this but what I particularly liked about this novel was a sense that it was very much written for my generation/people like me, i.e. people whose lives are well mediated by the internet. It reminded me a bit of Pattern Recognition by William Gibson - the sense of someone describing experiences that felt incredibly true to my own life in specific detail.

4-6. Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer - Sorcery & Cecelia and its two sequels
The middle one suffers from being diaries rather than letters and Sorcery & Cecilia is by far the best, but these were charming and soothing. Like Shades of Milk and Honey these are novels of manners with bonus magic; despite a dip in the second one, the third one picked up a lot of the first one's charm again.

7. Jo Walton - Among Others
Beautiful book. It reminded me a little of Diana Wynne Jones' The Merlin Conspiracy, oddly, but is probably better written. Hard to summarise in a few sentences but I loved it to pieces - it is a rural urban fantasy (if that makes sense) - I think that's what reminded me of the Merlin Conspiracy - about a young woman who gets sent away from her immediate family to attend school - but it's actually about what happened to her before that.

8-10. Ben Aaronovitch - Rivers of London, Moon Over Soho, Whispers Underground
I LOVED TO PIECES. What the Dresden Files would be if it grew up, got less sexist, five times as clever, funnier and was set in London (and really set in London, not just window-dressing).

11. Elizabeth Wein - Code Name Verity
MINDBLOWING. Possibly best book I've read in a few years. About the friendship between two young women in the war effort in World War II, one working for Britain's secret services and one a pilot.

12 & 13. Ellen Kushner - Swordspoint and Privilege of the Sword
On the whole I preferred Privilege to Swordspoint. Didn't find Alec or Richard sufficiently likeable in Swordspoint to really fall for them, although I thought they had a fascinating relationship. But Alec picking fights to find Richard people to kill really soured me. OTOH in Privilege Alec has mellowed a lot and I understood him much better, and Richard's relationship with Katherine was just sweet. I thought Privilege was profoundly brilliant around, well, privilege. The scene with Artemisia and her family after (extended plot spoiler) was incredibly disturbing and well-written. I guess I found the politics in that book a bit more directed and clear, so that when characters were nasty I felt it was in service of something. Whereas in Swordspoint I think the politics and their relationships to how the characters act were much less clear. Which made it a more complex book but, also, made me mad.

14. Emily M Danforth - The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Beautifully written, a really enjoyable YA novel, but didn't scratch my itch for just regular old gay protagonists.

15. Karen Healey - When We Wake
Really good fun, I'm looking forward to the sequel, but very YA without transcending the genre the way I thought, e.g., Code Name Verity did.

16. Ben Aaronovitch - Broken Homes
See what I said about the other Aaronovitch books above. I had a lot of complicated, spoilery thoughts about the ending that I should summarise in a post sometime.

17. Max Brooks - World War Z
This is very very good and compulsively readable, but once I started noticing that there were something like one or two women to every ten men, I couldn't stop.

18. Rainbow Rowell - Attachments
I liked it a lot - a fun modern(ish) (well, 90s) epistolary basically-romance. If you've read Meg Cabot's Boy Next Door books, a bit like those with slightly less romance.

19. Wil Wheaton - Just a Geek
Enjoyable enough, no complicated feelings.

20. Rainbow Rowell - Fangirl
Like Attachments, I liked this a lot, but I felt weirdly troubled by a gap in the experience, viz, where are all her internet friends for this entire book?

21. Tamora Pierce - Battle Magic
This felt very ... bitsy to me and a bit rushed. I didn't mind (as I was sort of expecting to) the bits where people went off on their own, but on the whole it felt like a book that could have been longer or possibly two books. I thought a lot of the supporting characters were not as well-drawn as Pierce's usually are - the God-King was perfect but the bloke and his twin sister (whose names I've already forgotten), despite getting a lot of screentime, I didn't really "get" them.

22. Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling - The Cuckoo's Calling - this was a really enjoyable modern crime novel, a bit Kate Atkinson-y, perhaps? I liked it.

23. Ian Tregilis - Bitter Seeds
This is the first book in a three-part World War II AU in which British blood magicians battle Nazis with various supernatural powers. It is well-written and compelling and I haaaaated it and will not be reading the rest because there was basically not a single character who was likeable by about a third of the way through. In the end the character I liked the most was a Nazi assassin (the only character in the entire book who had a moral qualm and tried to alter their actions, rather than having qualms, being very sad and drug-addicted about it, and then going ahead and doing the bad thing anyway). I have some very complicated feelings about the extent to which I have enjoyed British-based fiction about WWII. Unlike WWI I find it quite easy to buy into some fairly heroic narratives about the British during that time, which I know is not completely just; and I know that the Nazi atrocities are so horrendous and so well-documented that repeating them in fiction can be tasteless or revolting or just pointless. But, the thing is, if the actions of the British during that period are so monstrous that they begin to look like only somewhat an improvement over Hitler (partly in their treatment of British people but more significantly in their treatment of Europe), I feel like you're kind of doing it wrong.

However, if you like your characters to be extremely, extremely gray, this could be the series for you!

24. Jo Baker - Longbourn.
This is a book about a maid at Longbourn during the events of Pride and Prejudice. I have to say I really enjoyed it and it was a bit of a soothing balm after Bitter Seeds. Not quite as smart as Jane but very smart and thoughtful indeed; a bit like Downton Abbey if it was thoughtful and realist and not classist and hopeful.

25. Rainbow Rowell - Eleanor and Park
WONDERFUL BOOK! I cried. Really beautiful book about first love and also about small towns, poverty, abusive families.

26. Elizabeth Knox - Wake
This was the first Elizabeth Knox I've really really gotten alone with. I liked this book a whole hell of a lot. Creepy science fiction, John Wyndham-style but more horrifying/gory/graphic, set in a fictional town in Golden Bay - fourteen people are the sole survivors of a strange illness which causes people to become incredibly, obscenely violent. But when they try to leave, they find they can't get out. Anything more is spoilery, but I highly recommend it to people who like horror, science fiction, and genre books set in New Zealand.

27. Suzanne Collins - Mockingjay
I liked it, but having just seen Catching Fire I'm increasingly convinced that these books are books that were really destined to be and improved by becoming movies. It helps, of course, that the adaptations are really good. I can almost read every thought Katniss has off JLaw's face.

28. Pamela Dean - Tam Lin
I read this ages before the end of the year and forgot to write it down with my thoughts immediately that I'd finished. However, I liked it very much.

29. Scott Lynch - The Republic of Thieves
Another one I forgot to note down at the time. I was SO excited to finally get the new Locke book and, by and large, it lived up to expectations, with a very dramatic conclusion. Loved getting a look at Sabetha, loved all the flashbacks to the Camorr childhood, etc.

30. Matt Fraction/David Aja - Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon
Yeah, this is as good as everyone says it is, I'm excited to read the next trade. &Kate;;;

31. Meg Wolitzer - The Interestings
Really enjoyable litfic, quite immersive.

32. Donna Tartt - The Secret History
I thought I might have read this last year, but not according to last year's post. I liked it a lot.


1-5. Diana Wynne Jones - The Pinhoe Egg (and a shitload of other Chrestomanci)
6-7. The Lies of Locke Lamora, Red Seas under Red Skies
8-11. Tamora Pierce - the Daine quartet.
12-14. Anne McCaffrey (& Jody Lynn Nye) - the Doona trilogy.
15. John Green & David Levithan - Will Grayson, Will Grayson
16-30. Just about every Vorkosigan movel.
31-33. Garth Nix - Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen (plus Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case, which was in point of fact new to me)
34-40. Arthur Ransom - a shitload of Swallows and Amazon books for YT canon review
41-??. Terry Pratchett - FaustEric and then a whole lot more Pratchett that I couldn't be bothered counting

Upcoming to-read list
Beau Geste
Jerome K Jerome - 3 men on a boat
K S Robinson - Mars books
Seanan McGuire - Chimes at Midnight
Neil Gaiman - The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Max Gladstone - Three Parts Dead
Wen Spencer - Tinker, A Brother's Price
Top of the Rock - Warren Littlefield
Robopocalypse - Daniel H Wilson
The Girl who Fell to Earth - Sophia al-Maria
Ken Dryden - The Game
The Revolution was Televised
Jo Walton - Farthing series
Les Miserables
London Falling - Paul Cornell
The Luminaries
Henry James - What Maisie Knew
Elizabeth Gilbert - The Signature of All Things
Libba Bray - Beauty Queens
Ann Leckie - Ancillary Justice


Dec. 27th, 2012 09:00 pm
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (misc girl reading)
1. Merry Christmas and/or best wishes for whatever holiday you celebrate <3 I hope you all had a wonderful holiday.

2. I spent my Christmas semi-camping in a valley in Wanganui. The weather was ungodly hot which was nice for three days (but couldn't have stood it much longer). It was in a funny place with two so-called cabins, one of which was really pretty nice where my parents stayed and one of which was basically a garden shed where my brother and sister and I slept (in sleeping bags on skanky mattresses on a rather dusty floor ... but mustn't grumble, and much better than tents, truly). There was a cooking area with running (but not hot) water and a solar shower which was totally exposed to the elements - which was actually sort of fun since it was just family there (and the shower was way off round the side so it's not like people were coming past all the time or anything). There was a sort of lake which you could kayak on but not swim in (I daresay swimming wouldn't have killed you, but it was kinda brown and mucky) - somewhere to swim would have improved the ambiance immensely, I must say. Anyway, for a few days it was quite fun and I didn't murder anyone and only had one everyone-crying miserable fight with my mother, which is pretty good for us. We all read a lot and played a bunch of cards (completely shockingly considering my family, we're actually pretty good at not fighting over cards).

We did have a little bit of excitement. On Christmas day the running water stopped running. It later transpired that the line that ran to fill the tank had had a break in it and so we'd run down the tank and it hadn't got refilled. This was a bit of a test for everyone as it involved rather a lot of water conservation (the shower was still running and we used this to fill a lot of water bottles, the kettle, etc. And flushed the loo with lake water).

Then on the day we were supposed to leave, we packed everything up, and Dad took Mum and Helen (staying with us, had her own car) up to Helen's car. Now the valley we were staying in was reachable only by a narrow and rather slippy dirt road, which was fine when we came down because it had been dry. However, when Dad had gotten up there it began to BUCKET down, and H and F and I were all still in the valley with our stuff. We hung out and played cards for awhile - I got crushed at P&A, a game I used to be unbeatable at :( - until the guy who runs the cabins came roaring down on a quad bike and picked us and our stuff up (took two goes). This journey was sliiightly terrifying, sitting on the back of a quad bike (having just read that health and safety report that went on about how dangerous they are) clinging onto my stuff AND the bike and fairly ROARING up some steep and muddy hills in a pine forest - not on the track, because that would have been too slippery. When it was over it was quite fun, but fairly scary doing it.

3. I stocked up my Kindle intensely in preparation, but ended up mostly binge-re-reading Chrestomanci books. I did read Shades of Milk and Honey and Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal. These are professionally published Austen fanfic with the serial numbers filed off in a with-magic AU. (NB: I'm not sure whether they were ever published as fanfiction, but I would assume so after this series of tweets:


The magic is called "glamour" and is confined to various visual, auditory and olfactory illusions (they can also do hot and cold, but it's implied that these are very difficult and take a lot of energy). It's also considered to be mostly a female art. I found them quite delightful although I should add that they don't have the depth of Austen in terms of the social satire or wit. Good fun as romances though. (And "not as good as Austen" is rather praising with faint damns, if you see what I mean.)

4. I'm also working my way through The Game by Ken Dryden, which is a memoir about the author's last season in the NHL - he was the starting goalie for the Habs in an era where they won a BUNCH of Stanley Cups, and he retired at 31 when he was still an extremely good goalie (which although I don't have a real great sense of it I think is pretty unusual for hockey players generally). I'm struggling to remember if I've ever read a non-fiction book about sports before and I'm pretty sure I haven't. Anyway, it gives a whole lot of really interesting and entertaining information as well as being an interesting portrait of the dude himself and is pretty well-written on the whole (I'm having a bit of trouble with the way the tenses are structured, but I think this might be a formatting issue - I bought the Kindle version and I think possibly some paragraphs that should be indented or set aside aren't).

5. Other stuff I'm reading: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (nowhere near as captivating as Middlesex) and Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (just started it, no opinion yet).

6. I was going to talk briefly about food but this post feels long already. What are you reading? How was your Christmas or other holiday? Isn't not having to go to work blissful, those of you who are on holiday still?
labellementeuse: animated icon with shots from various fantasy novels or flicks followed by "fantasy. what more do you want?" (misc fantasy pride)
I outlined this to my flatmate tonight while I was doing the dishes so it's not fully thought-out or anything but it's a complete thought, so I thought I'd make it a post.

extremely general tone spoilers for Being Human UK, the Dresden Files novels, and Mike Carey's Felix Castor books )

End o' rant. I need to catch up with the Toby Daye books so I can see how they fit into my Grandiose Theory.
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (Default)
The NPR specfic meme:
etc etc )

47/100, a solid score on any reading list, IMO.

I actually got into a mild Twitter allocation lol, whoops, altercation with @neilhimself (very mild, he wisely chose not to keep fighting my bored-at-work-on-a-friday stream of tweets) and [ profile] chattycheese about this list, which allowed me to sort out what really annoys me about it, which is primarily this: there are far fewer women than there are men on this list (and vanishingly few people of colour). This by itself is a problem, but what I think is characteristic of this problem is that the women who are on here are very much canonical. They're the women who write the books that always appear on these lists; The Mists of Avalon and Frankenstein and The Handmaid's Tale are as inevitable and, in their way, as uninteresting, demographically speaking, as Lord of the Rings, Foundation and, sigh, American Gods (It's not that I don't love Neil Gaiman, because I really do, it's just that can't we agree that maybe The War for the Oaks is as interesting and influential if not more so than Neverwhere, for pete's sake?) In all of these kinds of top 100s, these books will always be there. They are tremendously influential in the genre, and they're extremely widely read - although they're not necessarily good, I don't think genre fans would throw away Anne McCaffrey and Misty Lackey, or David Eddings and Piers Anthony.

But ... then there are the spots that are, hm, not so serious; not so solid; not so inevitable except of course they are, because they always get filled with the same stuff: Miscellaneous White Dude. It's always The Sword of Truth and never The Ruins of Ambrai. It's always Old Man's War and never China Mountain Zhang. Twelve zillion books by Robert Heinlein and none by Octavia Butler (a freaking crime). Michael Moorcock, not Elizabeth Moon. The Codex Alera, but not the Crown of Stars. Brandon Sanderson but not N K Jemisin.

I feel like I'm not articulating this very well, and at the end of the day I've long since decided that lists that don't adequately represent women and people of colour well are not worth my time in terms of trying to find books I actually want to read. But I'm pretty bored of having this represented to me as inevitable (because they're all canonical; well, so is lots of other stuff!) or an adequate representation of the demographics of either the good stuff or the industry generally (emphatically not true). Sigh, IDEK.
labellementeuse: kristen stewart in a blazer & really emo eyeshadow (misc gaystew army)
I feel like such an absentee LJ-er at the moment. I'm barely commenting (but I am reading and I still love you guys, honest). I'm tweeting a lot of boring tweets, for those of you who might want to keep up with me in micro form, but the energy needed to do a LJ post - even a boring blah blah one - seems a little beyond me right now, and I also don't really have anything to talk about.

Except that's not really true, here are some things I've done in the past couple months:

- Got a job. Been in a job for a month.

- Started dating a lovely young woman. (ETA: Says it all:

- Read eleventy billion words of Inception fanfic. I have delicioused some of my favourites here, although I'm pretty crap at deliciousing so it's not comprehensive.

- Maybe, possibly, read a few H50 stories. I. YOU GUYS. IDK. I stand Morally Opposed to another freaking buddy cop show getting all the slash time. and I have loved some buddy cop show fandoms in my time!

- only read like three new books this year. TERRIBLE. I feel sick thinking about it. But today I got a bunch of new books out from the library - Kehua! by Fay Weldon, The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi, Double Vision by Tricia Sullivan, Wildseed by Octavia Butler, Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett (got to fit a re-read in there somewhere), and Natural History by Justina Robson. I'm pretty hopeful that I will be energised to read these ones, I'm excited.

I got the Justina Robson mostly because I saw it on the shelf and it's the next book to be discussed at Torque Control. After an extensive discussion of women in SF late last year, Torque Control has been doing a thing where they review and discuss the top ten SF books by women in the last decade. Anyway, I've only gotten a couple chapters in, but it's making me think a lot of things about disability, ablism, bodies, and, you know ... Anne McCaffrey's Ship series. (Also that post-Otherland short story Tad Williams wrote for Legends, "The Happiest Dead Boy in the World". That scene with Orlando's parents? Yeah.) So if anyone has any links for discussion about that I'd really love to hear them.

Anyway. I'm going to try to LJ/DW a bit more because I miss you guys. How are you all?
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (misc the higher common sense)
Oh man, I so badly wanted to get these up before reveals, but JUST TO PROVE that I did write all of this stuff before New Year, here are my prelim recs!
three YW, two TDiR, and some misc. )

I wrote two stories but they weren't very good (not being modest, I really am not pleased with either of them): Some Blessing in Disguise Nikita, Nikita/Daniel, for [personal profile] templemarker, which was not very good despite some stupendous beta efforts from just about everyone I know as well as two delightful Yulechat strangers, Hsifeng and someone whose Yuletide name I don't know (went straight to email and it was not obviously fannish name); and too young to know the time, Circle of Magic, Sandry/Daja, Lark/Rosethorn, for [personal profile] trialia, beta'd by Grevling. Darlingest Tria, I hope you had a good Christmas anyway.

On the other hand, I beta'd some awesome stories! I think this is vaguely in the order in which I read them.

What You See is What You Get (If You're Looking Hard Enough, [ profile] sixth_light, The Mentalist, Steampunk AU. So like, I know nothing about this TV show, but I know that this story is fabulous. If you know the Mentalist, you probably will think so as well.

I've Got Four Voices On The Line (the only one I hear is mine, by [personal profile] sushiflop, Animorphs, Tobias-centric. This is as awesome a Tobias fic as anyone could want to read.

The Indian Rope Trick by [personal profile] dustyasymptotes, The Children's Book, Julian Cain. OKAY SO I can't really say I beta'd this because I am the worst person in the world and *forgot it was sitting in my inbox* and then I'm pretty sure she went away. So I'M TERRIBLE. But this story? Not terrible! Julian Cain, at the end of his life.

I know there are a few last-minute yulechat betas I did that I'm forgetting about BUT. I'm also going to sneak in a TOTALLY NON-YULETIDE RELATED rec for...

The Anonymous Tip Job and Professional Contacts by [personal profile] china_shop, White Collar/Leverage, Neal, Hardison, and then the sequel is Neal/Hardison. LOOK AT THAT PAIRING. That is one hell of a pairing, people, is what I'm saying. These were a treat to beta, and they are just exactly right.

ALSO AND FINALLY. a) I did a blog post about the books I read last year; and b) I made the DW post where I've been reading/reviewing/listing these books public, so if you're interested in my (mostly seriously mundane) commentary on more of them, have a look.
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (Default)
All authors write in English unless otherwise noted.
Read more... )
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (Default)
I only have six more books to read this year before I'll have officially read 100 books this year (not including books I'd read before, novel-length fanfic, or comics I read as single issues; including trades and cover-to-cover poetry). I'm half-way or more than half-way through Hallucinating Foucault by Patricia Duncker, Dead People's Music by Sarah Laing, Going Bovine by Libba Bray and Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon and I've read just over half of the stories in the (admittedly giant-sized) James Tiptree, Jr anthology Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. (I think I've raved about this anthology before, but it is just fucking amazing. You need it in your life if you like any of these things: a) speculative fiction b) women c) intelligent death-plagues d) neat clean smart brilliant writing.)

Despite this, yesterday and today I binge-read Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson's Towers of Midnight. And I do mean binge: started it late in the evening, read til 5 am, woke up at 11, read til 5 pm. (Mini, non-spoilery review: a) Everyone's awesome again! b) Brandon Sanderson Gets Plot-Related Shit Done. Coming from the perspective of someone who no longer cares about prophecies, who killed Asmodean, or what exactly that one dream Egwene had one time means, this is basically 100% of everything I'm looking for in Wheel of Time books now: a rehabilitation of my favourite characters after they were all progressively Spikified, and to know what happens to them and ideally that they all live happily ever after. Spoiler: Nynaeve does not cry soppily in this book. It's terrible to feel that Sanderson is writing these people as more in-character than Jordan was in the last three or four books, but that is kind of how I feel.)

Anyway the problem is that now, instead of picking up the millions of books I'm part-way through, I'm instead fondling the beautiful-looking A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse as well as 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson and A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer, which frankly has a hideous cover but I could quite go for some silly epic fantasy that won't take me the rest of the year to read (Traitor's Gate by Kate Elliot is at the bottom of my to-read pile propping the rest of it up...). Also I have Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X Stork and The Edge of the Alphabet by Janet Frame out from the library.

So you guys should tell me what to read! You always give me good advice.

Poll #5323 What should Tui read next?
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 4

For god's sake, finish ...

View Answers

Her Smoke Rose Up Forever
0 (0.0%)

Hallucinating Foucault
1 (25.0%)

Dead People's Music
0 (0.0%)

Going Bovine
1 (25.0%)

Wonder Boys
2 (50.0%)

You have these books out of the library, prioritise them ...

View Answers

The Edge of the Alphabet
0 (0.0%)

A College of Magics
3 (100.0%)

Marcelo in the Real World
0 (0.0%)

Forget all of those, read ...

View Answers

A Novel Bookstore
0 (0.0%)

13 Little Blue Envelopes
0 (0.0%)

Actually you should read this book:

What are you reading lately?
labellementeuse: Alanna (Tortall), Hermione (HP), Lucy (Narnia) and Alice (Carroll) followed by text: Got Rolemodels? (misc got rolemodels?)
I am very pleased to announce that the Chudley Cannons have had their first victory since 1892 ... because they were the namesake for [ profile] aimeemcn's team, of which I made up one happy member, in the Wellington Children's Book Association annual children's lit quiz. I knew immediately on hearing the title that this was an event for me: like pub quizzes, but with answers I know/don't have to shout down the judges about.* And so it proved to be. The Cannons managed to eke out a victory over our closest competition - Slytherin! Of course we were natural enemies, even though [personal profile] genusshrike was one of their members, but come on, we're Ron Weasley's favourite team! We squeaked through on a single point (luckily, because I would have been pretty embarassed if me writing down "the littlest swan" instead of "the little mermaid" had been our downfall.)

I made away like a bandit with a bottle of wine, cheese, and chocolate, and also scored spot prizes of a pen shaped like a pizza (for knowing the meaning of puttanesca) and christmas-themed cookie cutters for standing up in front of 50 people and singing "A Pūkeko in a Ponga Tree." (Although we didn't have most of those right: we got the flax kete and the piupiu and made up all the rest). Also we made a diorama of a pūkeko sitting in a ponga so basically, it was rad, and I'll have to go to a lot of the events next year.

*I have only done this once. The question was "Who invented the telescope?" For the record, the answer to this question is not Galileo Galilei.
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (Default)
When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, is a middle-grade novel that is yet another reminder of the fact that some of the most beautiful and precisely elegant writing being done today is being done for children and young adults. Children do not tolerate wasteful writing and, like Bloomability, Bridge To Terabithia, The World Around the Corner and The Giver before it, When You Reach Me is a perfect example of how this leads to writing that is not merely nice or thoughtful but refined and artful.

It is 1978. Miranda is 12 years old. She lives with her mom in New York. Her favourite book is A Wrinkle In Time and her best friend just stopped speaking to her. Then Miranda starts getting notes from the future. When You Reach Me is the letter Miranda writes back.

excerpt under the cut )

Read this book - another addition to my list of great middle-grade novels. I don't even want to be a writer, but if I could write like Stead, I think I would.

Wolf Hall

Aug. 5th, 2010 10:11 pm
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (and she's buying a)
So I finally finished reading Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, which I have been working on on and off since the beginning of this year. I really struggled with it, and I think at some point I'm going to work up a post to articulate why, but here are the Cliffs Notes:

- I found this book incredibly absorbing but incredibly alienating.

- I think this is because the conceit of the book - a close third person, with a POV character who seems to think entirely in metaphors and memories - is so overly clever that I'm tempted to call it conceited. (Ha ha.)

- Like, sometimes it's beautiful, and I think from a characterisation perspective this book is incredible. Not, perhaps, easy, but challenging and rousing. It woke me up, that's for sure. The point of view made me feel like I knew the people around Cromwell as well as he did, no more and no less, and I think that's pretty cool.

- And then, other times, you get half-way through the book and minor spoilers ) My point here is that there's challenging, and then there's opaque, and I think this sometimes went to opaque. And to be honest I think that's a flaw. Or rather, I think that I think it's a flaw. There's a concept we talked about in a paper last year that I didn't understand until now, and I wish I could remember the specific words, but it was a famous dude literary theorist who had a word for writing that isn't comprehensible. At the time I didn't get to grips with this idea at all - I could only compare it to the unreliable narrator, and the prof said that that wasn't it (but couldn't give any specific examples.) However, maybe, if I'm remembering it right, this book fits the bill in some wise.

- and then on the other hand I sort of am anti the idea of reading - surface-level reading - being a process of decoding. I don't think writing should be laboured. Perhaps this is because when I studied literature I looked at it in the context of the period it was written in and its implied sociopolitical meanings, not really at the content of the books, so much. But I don't think that's it.

- Maybe I was just offended because I'm a pretty good reader and I found parts of this mass-market fiction trade paperback to be as difficult as any fiction I've read, and more difficult than not a few academic papers. (And saying that, I don't even have this dilemma about academic papers: I'm willing to concede that there are multiple purposes for fiction, but the purposes of non-fiction writing is to be understood, and if you can't do that, you shouldn't.) So, well, I don't know! I don't know how I feel about it. We'll let it percolate for awhile, shall we?

- To get over it, today I read the last two volumes of Scott Pilgrim (AWESOME, and now I'm fully prepped for the movie which also looks awesome) and started in on Homeland, which is short stories by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver is one of my favourite novelists and earlier this year I read Prodigal Summer, the last novel of hers that I hadn't read, so I was planning on saving it for when I was really down. However, book group's theme this month is short stories, so there you go. I am enjoying them so far, but a lot of them, I must say, do feel like out-takes from her novels. But then, perhaps that's what I was looking for! They aren't like The Poisonwood Bible, so that's a relief.

- Also I saw my sister in her school musical and she was frigging rocking! She was the lead and unfortunately had strep throat but she did pretty well considering. (They did Brigadoon, a musical I had never heard of & tbqh I probably won't rush out and download it, but one of its strengths was that it was set in Scotland, so they all did dreadful Scottish accents (except for three people who did AMERICAN accents which were EVEN FUNNIER.) Worth the price of admission!
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (steph burning)
1. I had this big rant about how I started watching Supernatural again last week and how I kind of find the whole angel-demon-apocalypse thing weird/boring and yet I suddenly really like Castiel (which I really didn't back when I was last watching the show, beginning of S4) but it was kind of confusing and off-track and vaguely anti-Christian and also turned into a rant about how I just hate apocalypses so I deleted it and instead I think everyone should give me Dean/Castiel recs. I think this is the third time I've returned to this show, maybe the fourth, and I have to say I don't know why. There are better shows on TV. There are shows with actual women on them, which I happen to really enjoy. But w/e it sucked me in again.

2. Here's a profic rant that's been building up for awhile, probably since the Wellington book festival. I was not having a great week and didn't get to much, but I did get to the Margo Lanagan and Neil Gaiman panel about writing ~~Darker and Edgier~~ YA.

Anyone who's cracked a book lately is aware of a surging interest in young adult fiction. This is at least partly because the shit is really selling lately, and not just to teenagers: also to women of all ages (like me). One aspect of this is that the stuff that's really selling is fantasy; for awhile in there it was urban fantasy, now, of course, it's paranormal romance. It's worth noting at this point that I think some of the greatest fantasy being written at the moment is being written for teen audiences. Gaiman (Coraline, The Graveyard Book) and Lanagan (Black Juice and many other short story collections, Tender Morsels) are only two examples. However, they are certainly poster children for a particular style of writing and for a fairly significant crossover audience.

Naturally they were asked about this: writing for YA, the differences between writing for YA and writing for adults, writing graphic violence and/or sex, how has the crossover audience affected YA, etc. They both said basically the same thing: they don't think of themselves as writing YA books. They write the books with the protagonists they want to write and then their publishers decide and you know kids can read all kinds of stuff these days and blah blah blah they're way too cool to make marketing decisions, which is all, you know. Fine. It's fine. I understand what they're trying to say: they're trying to say that the children's and YA reading audience is sophisticated, can be much more sophisticated than they are given credit for. And this is true, particularly for children who are prolific readers. (I was going to get into a discussion here about the relationship between privilege, especially educational and financial, and being a "good"/"sophisticated"/voracious reader, but I think I'll talk about it another time so I'll just leave it there.)

But Neil Gaiman couldn't answer the question without taking five minutes to diss the problem novel, which he described in this way (paraphrased): "Back when I was a journalist I would come across YA/teen books for review and they were all these horrible things about your brother being a drug addict and becoming HIV positive and your stepfather beating you up and your girlfriend getting pregnant."

Now, Gneil is hardly the first author or book reviewer or editor to take a swipe at the problem novel (sometimes also described as an issue novel and not to be confused with the social problem novel), which is indeed a staple of the YA genre (and has been since, oh, The Catcher in the Rye). Wikipedia has a fairly nice definition and brief summary of attitudes to the problem novel which I will quote here:
Problem novel is a term used to refer to a sub-genre of young adult literature that deal exclusively with an adolescent's first confrontation with a social or personal ill. The term is rather loosely defined ... as dealing more with characters from lower-class families and their problems; being "grittier"; using more realistic language; and including dialects, profanity, and poor grammar when it fits the character and setting.

I would add to Wikipedia that problem novels are famously YA but are not exclusively so: they're just as common in picture books and middle-grade and intermediate novels.

Now, first off let me point out that the problem novel has a frankly illustrious history. To Kill A Mockingbird is a problem novel. So are The Outsiders, The Chocolate War, Maniac Magee. These are widely-acclaimed novels, and if you check the list of Newbery and Carnegie Medal winners, you will see problem novels cropping up often. (I think Tithe is a lot like a problem novel too, by the way. Francesca Lia Block has written a few.)

So there's no doubt that problem novels can be good. Those novels, their existence and their value, doesn't need to be justified. However, it has become increasingly clear to me that adult readers, writers, reviewers, don't understand and often don't appreciate the problem novel, the ones that don't win Newbery awards, and it's these people who are popularising crossover YA fiction and it's a real attitude problem.

Anne Fine (Goggle-Eyes, Madame Doubtfire, Flour Babies, Step by Wicked Step, Round Behind the Ice-house) has won the Carnegie medal multiple times. Jacqueline Wilson (The Illustrated Mum, The Suitcase Kid, Bad Girls, The Story of Tracey Beaker) has won the children's Whitbread several times. These are women who write prolific, straightforward problem novels, about divorce, adoption, stepfamilies, shoplifting, mental illness, death, bullying, romance (not all in the same book.) (Note: these are both Brits and I'm referring to them because I read a lot of both of them. Judy Blume would be a US analogue.) But I do not think they are understood and they have no crossover audience of which I'm aware. And this is because - and I think this is crucial - they aren't writing for adults. They aren't writing ~the books that come to them~ and then letting their publisher pick who to market it to depending on what's hot. They are writing books for children and young adults about issues that are of vital and pressing concern for actual children and actual young adults. And these are the writers that are being dissed when we diss problem novels.

They made a movie of one of Anne Fine's books, Madame Doubtfire. Maybe you saw it, it had Robin Williams in it and it was pitched as a family film. But in order to make it as an American, Hollywood movie, they had to cast - well - Robin Williams. They had to change the protagonists from the children to the adults. Because Madame Doubtfire is profoundly a book about children. I have no doubt that it would not have sold well as a family film, because they have to be sold to adults as entertainment for adults. And I think this is a signal of why I find all this talk about crossover audiences and fiction for all ages and blah de blah upsetting.

Sure - we can sit around slagging off Go Ask Alice til we're blue in the face (and I think GAA is problematic because it's a bit of a cautionary tale, but w/e). But problem novels are profoundly not for us. They're for children and middleschoolers and young adults who, actually, do want and sometimes need to read about someone whose brother is a drug addict and whose girlfriend is pregnant. They can be crucial for teens in crises and for helping teens not be in crises and "at-risk" teens and children. Slagging them off is, to me, part of a process of co-opting the young adult market for 23-year-old women like me and I don't want a bar of it. Stop doing it, everyone.

Little bit o'links:
Justine Larbalestier on problem novels, great suggestion in the comments about differentiating between "problem novels" and "lecture novels"
A whole blog about problem novels, although - hahahaha - their 2007 intro post refers to the "new trend" of problem novels.
Diversity Roll-Call: Problem Novels, which includes the cover to the problem novel (actually a short story collection) that might have been most important to me personally, Am I Blue?
Problem novel recs at The Englishist.

Cross-posted with comments enabled to There may be further discussion in comments there.
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (kate demasking)
last week I read my 65th new book of the year! )

Today I'm reading Skulduggery Pleasant, by Derek Landy (thank you [personal profile] genusshrike, who lent it to me). Towards the end of the novel, but I hope non-spoilery, is a quote that I'm pulling out and sharing because I think it exemplifies the concept of women in refrigerators, why it's bad, and what creators can do to guard against it. (Names have been excised so it's not spoilery. Bold emphasis mine, italic his..)

"He used my wife and child as a weapon against me. In order to do so, he had to kill them. He took my family's death and he made it about me. When you die, it will be your death and yours alone. Let it come to you on your own terms."
-- Derek Landy, Skulduggery Pleasant (HarperCollins: London 2007), p 344

That can pretty much stand as is, I think. I just wanted to shout out to what I think is a very good, very simple analysis of the problem.
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (katara's feminist rage)
1. I didn't want my radio silence on the terrible fail that's been going on in SPN and Bandom big bangs lately to be taken as tacit consent, so for the record (and in case anyone hasn't seen these): This post on the complicity of fellow fans in race-related fail, especially in the context of a Big Bang fic, I think is really salient. Although it's an awkward, difficult thing to do, especially for fans who aren't people of colour and don't feel "qualified" to talk abot this, I think it's really important for us to tell our friends: stop. I think you've done something wrong there. That's a hard thing to do - but, from one privileged white person to a bunch of other privileged white people, it's also our own responsibility, to notice that shit, pick up on it, speak up about it, and try to clean up our own acts instead of wasting the time of others. And note that this doesn't just apply to racefail. So on that note if you see me doing something and you think I might be showing my ass, I would rather know than keep being an ass. [Of course - of COURSE - it is also our responsibility to scrutinise our own work.]

2. Relatedly, someone in the Young Wizards fandom wrote to me about the Young Wizards Kink and Cliche Meme yesterday asking me to consider restricting non-con or to apply warnings more consistently, and I want to thank her for being a good anti-rape activist and speaking up about this. Although I ultimately felt that I couldn't ban non- and dub-con from a kink meme, I ended up screening and reposting some prompts with subject-header warnings. So first off, if I screened your prompt, that is why, and thanks for not kicking up a stink; and secondly, I'd appreciate any discussion about this (or links to similar discussions.)

3. Malinda Lo has recently written a five-part series on Avoiding LGBTQ Stereotypes in YA Fiction, which I recommend (although a bit tentatively because well, this is fandom. The idea of anyone on my flist needing to be told that there is more to gay men than being flaming and that not all bisexuals are slutty makes me lol.) In the process of that I ended up reading her post at Scalzi's blog about writing a world in which same-sex attraction and opposite-sex attraction are treated in the same way (i.e. there's nothing weird about being gay or bisexual.) Someone in the comments, which are interesting, asked whether it's ever appropriate or useful to write about minorities in exactly the same way that you'd write about majorities, i.e. without the knowledge and context of Othering, discrimination, etc. She compared it to a discussion during Racefail about the fact that having a character who in all other ways behaves as if she is white, but giving her a randomly different skin colour, doesn't do much to increase diversity. I found this a really interesting discussion and I guess I have two things to say about it:

- I think this is a classic case of why discussions about and experience of one type of discrimination, or the lack of one privilege, don't always translate. Because actually speaking as someone who actively seeks out LGBTQ fiction, sometimes I DO just want to read something where the spectrum of sexualities [and gender expressions!] are all totally A-OK and fine and wonderful. In that vein, Diane Duane's Door books should be getting a lot of props (not wrt gender expression where they're fairly traditional: this is, after all, epic fantasy.)

- Queer YA literature is crisis fiction. It is fiction read desperately and sometimes under subterfuge by teenagers who are questioning, lonely, or miserable. And what this fiction mostly is - nine times out of ten, pace David Levithan, almost all queer books written before the year 2000 - is fiction about how goddamned hard it is to be queer in the Western world. Mostly about how hard it is to be a wealthy white cisgendered queer person with typical gender expression, which is an added layer of irony. For quite a long time, in fact, these books all had devastatingly grim endings in which [for the boys, and also for transgendered people] someone was beaten to death or contracted HIV or [for the girls] the crush turned out to be straight and the parents separated them horribly or, admittedly much more rarely, somebody got raped. And frankly this is pretty friggin' miserable. Some of it could be uplifting, challenging, brilliant, inspiring, a call to arms - I don't want to bash a whole generation of queer YA fiction. And I also want to say that teens *do* need this kind of thing, just like they need books about sexual abuse and domestic violence and drug abuse and drunk driving. Teens need to know that they are not alone. That other people are going through what they are going through. And that they will get out on the other side.

But on the other hand. Teens also need romance. They need fluffy, silly, fantasy. They need bouncy, happy fiction. They need to know that unhappiness isn't going to follow them for the rest of their lives and that it is possible to be a girl dating a girl and have a normal, ordinary romance with flowers and chocolates or a boy dating a boy with a million paper cranes and ridiculous romantic gestures. There's this book by Sonya Sones called One of those Hideous Books where the Mother Dies which features - spoiler! - an adult gay couple in a side role, and although the book really isn't about them, I distinctly remember reading it and thinking "at last, a couple with a normal life." There is definitely something to be said for undermining the "monogamous permanent couple with a kid is the height of normal and the goal of an adult life" idea, BUT, as a teenager you aren't always - I wasn't always - thinking of radically undermining heterosexism like this: I just wanted a happy normal life for some people like me.

There are always going to be people - I've read their reviews - who think Boy Meets Boy is a ridiculous book that betrays queer teenagers by failing to represent their real experiences of pain and discrimination. But there are also teens who are crying out for this stuff (many of them, of course, are straight teenage girls, as Alex Sanchez recently pointed out!) Don't diss the happy ending and the happy life: for some genres, a happy book *is* a radical book.

4. Upcoming: three ways the publishing industry made me mad last week! Tune In Next Time.
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (the human beings)
1. Apropos of nothing, a poll:
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 13

Which did you read first?

View Answers

The Hobbit
11 (84.6%)

Lord of the Rings
1 (7.7%)

I'm still waiting for the Hobbit movie
1 (7.7%)

Russian novels are my preferred doorstop books
0 (0.0%)

Complete the sentence: I read The Hobbit first and when I read LOTR I...

View Answers

... felt as I usually do when I read a sequel
2 (15.4%)

... liked the Fellowship friendship
8 (61.5%)

... felt BETRAYED by the fact that Bilbo wasn't the main character
7 (53.8%)

Pick one.

View Answers

Lord of the Rings
10 (76.9%)

The Hobbit
3 (23.1%)

The Silmarillion
0 (0.0%)

King Kong
0 (0.0%)

Why doesn't fandom ever latch onto literary fiction instead of genre?
0 (0.0%)

I read The Hobbit first, of course - in fact, it's the first book I remember reading to myself, and it was a great favourite of mine, so much so that it took me several months to read LOTR after my mother gave it to me. I just didn't trust that Frodo kid.

2. I feel like I haven't done any silly memes for ages! So I stole this one off [personal profile] aria

Give me a fandom, and I'll give you

1. The first character I fell in love with:
2. The character I never expected to love as much as I do now:
3. The character everyone else loves that I don’t:
4. The character I love that everyone else hates:
5. The character I would shag anytime:
6. The character I'd want to be like:
7. The character I'd slap:
8. A pairing that I love:
9. A pairing that I despise:
10. Favorite character:
11. My five favorite things about the fandom:
12. My five least favorite things about the fandom:
13. My five favorite characters:
14. My five least favorite characters:
15. My five favorite pairings:
16. My five least favorite pairings:
17. The character I am most like:
18. My deep, dark fandom secret:

3. I have finally gotten around to doing some Dreamwidth-related things:

A. Filling up the zillion icon spots that came with the paid account someone bought me, and right now I feel awful because I can't remember who it was or whether or not it was an anon. Either way, if whoever it was is reading this now, 1) if I ever knew who you were and I've forgotten, I'm so sorry that I'm an asshole! and 2) either way, I'm still very grateful. Because of this, I now really want that tell-me-about-6-of-your-icons meme to come back around and I'm cursing the fact that it just went by two weeks ago. Oh, comic timing.

B. Organising my tags. You know how LJ has that merge tags thing that sucks? Yeah. Tag management on Dreamwidth actually works and it is really really good, so I have been going back through - still not quite done, I think I'm through to w though, which is really quite good!

C. Pursuant to B., I imported all my old LJ entries. This is a round-about way of saying that if you're looking for something I wrote (unlikely but you never know), [personal profile] labellementeuse is the best place to go for it; it's where the tags are most likely to be coherently organised, although I fear I can't guarantee anything.

Also, and I probably should have asked BEFORE I did this, but what that means is that if you have commented on my journal in the past, those comments are now also archived at Dreamwidth. I believe they can still be accessed through openID and the usual deletey stuff done to them if you so wish, so it's functionally not a big change to the status quo, but nevertheless. If you have a problem with your comments having been imported, please let me know.

D. I think of myself as living at DW now, so while I will continue to crosspost to LJ and read over there (apart from anything else all the good TV comms are over there), I'm trying as much as I can to move whatever can be moved over to Dreamwidth. So if you have a Dreamwidth, please add me over there! Let me know who you are if your names are radically different.

4. I marathoned the whole of Community this weekend! It is very very funny and generally recommended, altho' I have a few reservations about some things.

5. Relatedly, I know there are people who identify as ace on my flist. Are any of you aware of any meta about either Sheldon from TBBT or Abed from Community, or both, in the context of fandom's approach to asexuality? (I think this is the thing that has really bothered me: I think Sheldon/Penny and Abed/Troy are super, super cute pairings and I'm a little bit worried about that. But then again, can't men relate the same way to women as they do to men* without being asexual? Isn't that the dream?)

* Not that Sheldon does, but I think he's supposed to
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (knitknitknit)
“What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?”
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
“They are merely conventional signs!

When Lewis Carroll wrote this (in The Hunting of the Snark) he was making a sarcastic comment about C19th colonialism (really). But 'merely conventional signs' has also become a bit of a rallying cry for certain people with more relaxed attitudes to punctuation, while another part of the population writhes in horror. Now, I am not the most relaxed person ever. But I do think the 'merely conventional signs' attitude really has its pluses, and the reason I know this is because I was able to read the terrific Will Grayson, will grayson, by John Green and David Levithan, yesterday, with nary a wince, although half of the novel - including its gorgeous ending - is all in lower case. (I *think* it is the David Levithan half, alhough it's hard to tell.)

Sidebar: Gosh, David Levithan. That man knows how to write the most ridiculously, unbelievably silly grand romantic/friendship gesture in a way that makes it seem absolutely amazing. I won't spoil any of them; but if you haven't read Boy Meets Boy, Realm of Possibility, or Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist you're missing out. (I can't help thinking how weird it would be if you were actually dating him tho. I mean, either he's the same as the characters in his novel, gesture-wise, which would be amazing slash terrifying, or he's not, which would just sort of be a letdown.)

Anyway. Will Grayson, will grayson is really terrific, and if you are flexible about some of English's conventional signs, I think you will like it, especially if you like novels about romance, friendship being more important than romance, ridiculous gestures, mental illness, queerness that isn't about depression, being depressed and queer but not blaming either of those things on each other (seriously), betrayal, and musical theatre.

And I feel like making this Themed Book Rec Week, so here are two other recommendations:

Greg Rucka's recent run on Detective Comics with Batwoman and The Question. This is tough because there isn't a trade paperback for this yet! However, the second there is, you must all drop everything and run out and buy it. Although I really rolled my eyes at the idea of a book that was basically 'All the lesbians in DC comics in one convenient monthly book', the fact is that Rucka is just really good, the art for the first arc is un.fucking.believable, and this is a really fabulous run on a Batbook that surpassed a superhero comic's traditional weaknesses (sexism, racism, homophobia, being way inaccessible because of a squillion years of backstory) while simultaneously not being snobby or unsuperheroy or running down superheroes, just being a really, really good superhero book. With a classic Gotham-style backstory which didn't make me want to scream! And also, the most killer origin story which imma talk about under the cut for about 30 yeah )

Finally, The Skeleton Woman by Renee. This is just a good novel, not chicklit, not literary fiction, just plain, enjoyable writing, set in Lower Hutt, about a woman who runs a second-hand bookshop and gets left with a baby on her doorstep. It's a bit of a problem novel (the woman has just gone into remission from cancer and this novel also features domestic violence, Maori women succeeding in the Pakeha sphere and being accused of being race traitors, infidelity, the inability of this woman to commit to her partner Olga because of her father's infidelity, etc etc etc.) But you know, it was basically a good fun read by a New Zealand writer who writes well about a lesbian in a way that is not all sensational nights-in-the-garden-of-sin-and-family-guilt. So if you like that kind of thing and I do, this book is for you!
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (Default)
Word of the Day: usufruct, n/v: the right of enjoying the use and advantages of another's property short of the destruction or waste of its substance. hold in usufruct; usufructuary.

Try using that in a sentence three different times (the rule for how often you have to use a word to 'own' it.) Here, I'll start: Post-colonial land ownership disagreements frequently occur when European colonisers understand themselves to have bought land in the European custom, while the indigenous land-owners understand the colonisers to have bought only usufructuary rights. (This is not the sentence in which I ran across the word, but it's pretty close. Usufructuary! It's fabulous! Somehow says exactly what it means while similarly tasting like orange juice.)
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (the other wizards)
Guys, I need some help. I'm writing about how web pages and books are structured differently. It's really easy to give examples for non-fiction (I'm probably going to talk about feminism 101 and TV tropes) but I'm really struggling to think of examples for fiction, especially narrative fiction, because all of the best examples I can think of are, of course, fanfiction. I'd really like to find some stuff that demonstrates flexible narration, like Crysothemis' Fix or Cesperanza's Scrabble; I'd also really like something like Catherynne M. Valente's The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making that includes links to all parts (instead of just before and after parts) on each page, like most Big Bang fics do, for example. (I feel like before and after merely replicate the structure of the conventional book.)

Some Links

May. 7th, 2010 11:26 am
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (all in capital letters)
Here are some links that have been keeping me going lately.

1. This one I may actually have linked to before, because I find myself returning to it regularly. Orson Scott Card, meet Alan Turing. This is a post at Feminist SF about Alan Turing, the British mathmatician who worked on cryptanalysis during the second world war (and was awarded the OBE for his work there), and was later chemically castrated by the British gvt for admitting to having sex with other men; and Orson Scott Card, the famous homophobe (and author of Ender's Game, the tremendously well-known and influential science fiction novel.) Yonmei at feminist SF makes a terrific point, beautifully (and movingly) put, that Orson Scott Card owns a great deal of his literary career to Turing's work; yet people who share Card's views on queer people were probably responsible for his early death by suicide. I've read this post about 10 times now. I just can't recommend it enough, and I think it a challenge, as clear as a bell, to SF fandom: stop tolerating this behaviour. Stop buying Card's books: many of the themes in science fiction we love today are derived from the work of a man who Card despises. Stop tolerating homophobia in SF. Stop tolerating transphobia in SF. Stop tolerating, basically, this bullshit. Stop tolerating racism and sexism. Science fiction is about change. It is about the possibility of a different future. But we need to start enacting change here, now, today.

2. The Top 100 Children's Novels. This list was derived from an online poll asking people to list the ten books that had influenced them most as a child, and why. The top 100 are being posted in a careful, illuminating manner, including posting pictures of covers, quoting from what people wrote when nominating the books, history of the books, and, notably, addressing significant flaws of the books (for example, she linked to numerous criticisms of Lynne Reid Banks' The Indian in the Cupboard, which is notable for its racist and inaccurate portrayal of its titular 'Indian'.)

What would your ten be? I've been thinking about this for a few days now, and I think I have some of them straight, but in no particular order:

10. JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit. This is one of the earliest books I read independently as a child, and in fact reading it is one of my earliest memories. It introduced me to fantasy and all its tropes, and I re-read it several times in my childhood and young adulthood - although I haven't re-read it for about five years. Must get on that sometime. Although I wouldn't say that this book changed or influenced me particularly - if it did, it must have done so much too early for me to now distinguish - it certainly influenced my future tastes, which in turn have, literally, changed my life; changed my friendships; and introduced me to the wide, weird, wonderful world that is fandom (because I read LOTR... and then became involved with fandom through a friend who first fell into fandom through ETA: I ought to have said earlier that I do not underestimate the influence Tolkien's works had on the fantasy genre generally, which has included pervasive racism, sexism, and Eurocentrism. All of these things should be held in mind when considering Tolkien's enormous influence on the field.

9. Witi Ihimaera, The Whale Rider. One of the earliest distinctively New Zealand books I had ever read, and possibly the earliest book I ever read explicitly about Maori culture and its place in my native country, but I also remember noting its remarkable attitude to transsexuals and gay people (this is actually a real side note in the book, but it struck me at the time), to family, and to expectations.

8. Tamora Pierce, In the Hand of the Goddess. This is a weird pick, the second book in a series, and not, IMO, Pierce's best series, either. (That would be Protector of the Small, for those playing the home game.) This quartet, Pierce's earlist, is in mnay ways the most flawed: it has problems with race, espcially in the first book (Alanna: The First Adventure), but also in the third and fourth. This one, by dint of being set mostly in Tortall - the typical mostly-Europe country of epic fantasy - retains only the usual problems that epic fantasy has with race (monocultural, monoracial). However, this is the book I was reading when I met one of my best friends. It was one of the first fantasy books I read with a female protagonist. It was one of the first books I read that tackled feminism and women explicitly. Still one of not-very-many novels I have ever read that deal with getting your period, contraception, and having sex when you're ready for it. These have all had an ongoing effect on me.

7. David Hill, See Ya, Simon. The first novel I read about grief; the first novel I read about disability and illness; the first novel that ever made me cry. This book has returned to me every time I have had to deal with grief and every time I attempt to become less ablist (although from that perspective it remains a flawed novel.)

6= William Taylor, The Blue Lawn. The first novel I read about being queer, and in many ways this book has dated extremely; on the other hand, it's pretty brilliant for its time and expressive of the struggle for, I am sure, many young New Zealand gay men. (The reasons it's dated: this is very much one of those novels going Oh, It's So Hard To Be Gay, and although neither of the boys die, it doesn't have a happy ending. Optimistic, though.) Incidentally, this is also one of the earliest books I read that talked about the Holocaust, although it's only in retrospect that I realise that's what's going on for the grandmother. That William Taylor, he sure did go for Issue novels.

6= Paula Boock, Dare, Truth, or Promise. Another of my earliest queer novels, and probably the second novel I read, after In the Hand of the Goddess, that really discussed female sexuality. it has a happier, more defiant ending than The Blue Lawn, if I remember it correctly, and I should mention while I'm on these two novels that the experience of reading these novels and having them be set in New Zealand are part of the reason why David Levithan and Nancy Garden aren't here: it's not that I don't love them, but they meant less to me than these novels did.

4. Lois Lowry, Taking Care of Terrific. There is a category of children's and young adult novels that I always describe as 'plain and tall' (of course, a joking reference to the US children's historical novel Sarah, Plain and Tall, which is by the way much better than the Little House books.) 'Plain and tall' books are books with direct, unadorned language. They are lucid, they are clear, they address themselves directly at children and young adults, and they stand up tall in their subject matter, their unpretentious beauty, and their dignity. Lois Lowry's stand-alone books, which include this, Summer to Die, and Number the Stars fit in this category for me (so, by the way, do Sharon Creech and Katherine Patterson's novels: Bloomability and Bridge to Terabithia are nearly on this list). Taking Care of Terrific is, I'm guessing, a weird pick for Lois Lowry, because it's not one of her best-known - oh, Anastasia Krupnik, you are a truly great heroine. But this book is just... beautiful, and that's all I can say about it.

3. Louise Fitzhugh, Nobody's Family is Going to Change. Another weird pick. Harriet the Spy just didn't mean as much to me as Emma did. Overweight, black, angry Emma who wanted to grow up to be a judge to impress her father who thinks women can't be lawyers; who wants to stick up for her little brother, Willie, who wants to grow up to be a tapdancer; who joins the Children's Army looking for change and is let down by their beauracracy; who helps organise her branch to look out for each other. This book made a huge impression on me when I was eleven, which is how old I was when I stole a copy from the bookshelf at school (this was a very weird bookshelf, not part of the library, that contained partial sets of what I am guessing were books that had been previously studied at my school but weren't any longer.) Along with Taking Care of Terrific, this is one of the earliest books I read when I understood how different the US was. (Another one: Maniac Magee, of course.)

2. Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird. And here's an absolute classic. I'm sure I don't need to explain why this book is so high on my list.

1. Margaret Mahy, The Changeover. My first ever supernatural romance. 'Nuff said.

There's one person I wish I'd fit on here: Tessa Duder, whose courageous, bright, brilliant, influential, sporty, booky, drama-y, musical, overweight, underweight, Kiwi heroines are the women I'd most like to be when I grow up. Here's to Alex, Tiggie, Bingo, and Geraldine.
labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (let me define seven wishes)
1. I've just hit 51 new books read this year (re-reads were not counted, but included a re-read of the Tiggie Tompson series, several of the YW books, and Monstrous Regiment, by Terry PRatchett.) I'd like to thank Octavia Butler (three books), the Mitford sisters (four books between them, and another one in progress), and particularly Lois McMaster Bujold with a strong ten-book showing. These are fine writers that I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone (although I would tailor them. Perhaps I should say that, from these three authors, I could find a book to recommend to anyone.)

2. I went to see Regina Spektor last night SO GOOD SO GOOD SO GOOD. *bounces around thrilledly* Oh, she was just FANTASTIC. And she played "Folding Chair" and "That Time". asdfghj yes.

3. Tuesday is poem day!

unpoetical bathroom material

they always say things like that the snow is a white blanket after a winter storm
Oh it is, is it, alright then, you sleep under a six-inch blanket of snow and I’ll sleep under a half-inch blanket of unpoetical blanket material and we’ll see which one keeps warm

-- Ogden Nash, “Almost Like a Whale”

Friends ask
what I’m reading.
By the bed is Go, dog. Go.

-- Jenny Bornholdt, “Being a Poet”

At 9pm on a Monday night
I am thinking about the poem I want to write tomorrow
And cleaning the bathroom. Which, after all,
has to be done. Had to be done
two weeks ago, in fact, and now absolutely MUST be done
while my flatmates watch housewives, or footballers’ wives, or surgeons, or whoever, behaving desperately downstairs,
and hopefully don’t notice
soapscum sediment
sludging down the drain.

Alright, very silly! Have something rather good instead.

Being a Poet

Yesterday I bought
a blender — blue — from
Briscoes, just like
Marion’s. Today
we’re dealing with the big
issues, like: How the World
Can We Have Fruit Loops
For Breakfast?

Friends ask
what I’m reading.
By the bed is Go, dog. Go.
We looked at it this morning
just before our fight
over the nature of
Weetbix. But it’s soggy
every morning,
I hear myself say
that’s just what Weetbix does
that’s just its way.

- Jenny Bornholdt

Jenny Bornholdt is a New Zealand poet who, by the way, I cannot recommend often enough. Do give her a shot.


labellementeuse: a girl sits at a desk in front of a window, chewing a pencil (Default)
worryingly jolly batman

October 2017

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