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[personal profile] mrissa

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

Review copy provided by Haikasoru Books.

This is one of the weirdest books I’ve read in a long time. The Bamboo, the creatures in it, are described as vampires, but they’re really more grass monsters who eat human carrion. They’re described as scary, but I’m not particularly scared by them so much as baffled by their strange, secretive, hierarchical laws. (For me, this is a feature, not a bug.) And on basically every other page, I’m left saying, “What? What?” (Again, a feature, not a bug.)

There are three sections varying widely in time, with different protagonists. Even within the sections, the timeline swings wildly, spending pages on a conversation translated lovingly to attempt to show what level of formality the Japanese conversation used (oh, a losing battle) and then going over forty years in a single line. I would say that it’s full of plot twists, but that sounds very linear, very straightforward, as though things are following one upon another with logic–it is full of plot twists the way the dream you are trying to remember from two nights ago is full of plot twists. “And then you what? Why? Okay.”

And then the grass monster reached the end of their life and exploded into flowers. What? Okay. No, different section, they ate someone who they thought was abusing a prostitute. What? Okay. If that’s not okay with you, you should probably move along, because that’s what there is here, a whole lot of angst and monsters and randomness, and some of you are saying, gosh, no thanks, and some of you are saying, sign me on up.

Please consider using our link to buy A Small Charred Face from Amazon.

Books read, early September

Sep. 19th, 2017 06:45 pm
mrissa: (Default)
[personal profile] mrissa

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

Alex Alice, Castle in the Stars Book One: The Space Race of 1869. Discussed elsewhere.

Hassan Blasim, ed., Iraq+100 Discussed elsewhere.

Chaz Brenchley, Dust-Up at the Crater School Chapter 7. Kindle. Plotty, moving forward, full of dust storms and schoolgirl antics, as one would expect for this project.

Marie Brennan, Maps to Nowhere. Discussed elsewhere.

George Eliot, Middlemarch. Kindle. And this is what happened to my early September. Middlemarch is surprising; it is delightful. It is one of the longest classics of English literature, and it is a joy to read. I kept thinking that I would want to leaven it with bits of something else, go off and take a break and read something in the middle of it. I didn’t. (I mean, I always have a book of short pieces going. But other than that.) While I was reading Middlemarch, I kept wanting to read Middlemarch, and when I was done reading it I wanted more of it. The only thing of its size that’s at all comparable in my attachment to it is John Sayles’s A Moment in the Sun, and that does not have the passionate following Middlemarch has–wherever I mentioned it I found that friends and strangers were ready to share my delight in this wandering intense chatty behemoth of a book. I’m discussing it with a friend who’s reading it with me. I’m not sure I have a lot to add for the general audience except to say, it’s funny, it’s intense, it’s gigantic emotionally as well as literally, it makes me want to read more George Eliot, it makes me want to read its giant self all over again. It is in some ways exactly what you would expect and in other ways nothing like what you’d expect. It is thoroughly itself. And oh, I love her, I love George Eliot so very much. I’m glad I read such a quotable thing when I was past the age of needing to strip-mine books for epigraphs. I can do that later. I’m glad I could just relax in and read this first time.

Masha Gessen, Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot. I enjoyed another of Gessen’s books and picked this up because the library had it, more or less on a whim. And it gave me a perspective on modern Russia that nothing else has, particularly on its criminal justice system. What the prison system is doing there, what trials are like, what sorts of things are prioritized, what and who counts, what and who does not. Enraging, illuminating. There are some things Gessen just takes for granted you will know about feminist art theory and punk, but I think it may still be interesting if you don’t? but even better if you do. Also, if you have a very strong high culture/low culture divide, read this book and have that nonsense knocked out of you. Not that I have an opinion about that.

Ben Hatke, Mighty Jack and the Goblin King. Discussed elsewhere.

Steve Inskeep, Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab. This is very much in the popular history category: short chapters, many things explained on a fairly straightforward level. Not a lot of delving deep into the obscure corners. However, Inskeep does a fairly good job of switching back and forth between the lens of the European settlers turned recent Americans and the lens of the cultures of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, and especially Cherokee people in the region he was discussing. One of the things that this particularly underscored for me is how quickly the European/American settlers viewed the land as traditionally theirs in that part of the south: the beginning of the Cherokee Trail of Tears was twenty-three years before the US Civil War. Even the earliest of the resettlements was only thirty years before. So in some parts of the Deep South, there were indeed plantations that had been going for generations–but in large, large swaths of it, the land they were fighting so hard for was land they had just taken from its previous owners basically five minutes ago. References to traditional way of life in that context are basically like talking about GameBoys and other hand-held gaming devices as our traditional way of life: they are bullshit. I think the way we are taught this period of history in American schooling encourages us not to think of that. I will want to read much deeper works on Andrew Jackson’s presidency. In this case I will say: Inskeep is not trying to paint him as a great guy or not a racist…and I still think he ends up going too easy on him. But it’s a good starter work for this period, I think.

Ursula K. LeGuin, The Language of the Night. Reread. The last time I read this was before I was keeping a book log, which means also before I was selling short stories regularly. I was a lot less prone to argue with assertions about fantasy not needing to compromise then. (Oh nonsense, of course it does.) But one of the things that makes Ursula LeGuin a great writer is that she argues with her past self, too. She evolves. She evolves in the course of this collection. And I think she’d be far happier with people thinking and arguing than uncritically absorbing anyway.

Rebecca Mead, My Life in Middlemarch. So…I didn’t mean to go straight from Middlemarch to a book about it, but the other thing I had from the library, I bounced off, and…I wasn’t ready to be done. This is Mead’s memoir entangled with a bit of biography of Eliot. There are places where Mead is bafflingly obtuse (some areas of gender politics and the writing of sexuality, notably, but also the difference between a character who is fully human and a character who is generally sympathetic), but in general it is short and rattles along satisfyingly and tells me things I want to know about George Eliot without telling me too many things I actively didn’t want to know about Rebecca Mead.

A. Merc Rustad, So You Want to Be a Robot. This is a solid and heart-wrenching collection. It’s impossible to pick one true favorite because there are so many good choices. Definitely highly recommended, Merc hits it out of the park here. And they’re just getting started.

Gerald Vizenor, Bearheart: The Heirship Chronicles. This is when Vizenor was just getting started, and gosh I’m glad I didn’t get started with his early work, because…why, oh why, did so many men of the seventies–particularly men who wanted to claim they were ecologically minded without doing much about it–pick the same direction for their demonstrations of their own sexual daring? Well, Vizenor grew out of it. But it’s a one of those. The person who wrote the afterword was sure that objections to it would be because people thought Indians couldn’t be like that! and no, it’s that it’s trite, it’s exactly the kind of trite sexual objectification of women–especially Indian women–that you’d expect from “seventies dude trying to be sexually shocking.” He got better. I’m glad.

don't worry cause no-one saw me fall

Sep. 19th, 2017 07:22 pm
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[personal profile] ashlyme
I aten't dead! Had a benefits-related wobble yesterday. I have to complete a form every year to confirm if any circumstances (addresses etc) change. They don't. The form takes me ten seconds for me to tick, sign and date. For the last three years the office I send the form into have written back claiming it hasn't reached them: please complete another by x date otherwise your benefits could be stopped. It doesn't help they use business-class second post, which can take a week. This time they sent the letter three weeks after I'd posted the form, despite the DWP texting me to confirm they had received the form. Ugh. Had to go into my local jobcentre to sort this out and to be fair the lady who dealt with me was nothing but lovely and helpful. Told me to redo the form, offered to send it by internal post, and did me a photocopy just in case. People I can talk to I can deal with. The faceless bureaucracy is what does for me.

In nicer news I had a lovely weekend date with [personal profile] cybermule . A fairly quiet one, which is what I needed. We meandered through Wooton-under-Edge, which for a sunny Saturday was dead. The charity shops for once didn't yield much. But then she took me for a wander up my first sunken lane, just under the Edge! A canopy of oaks high overhead: steep earth banks. Knotted ivyboughs snaking up the trunks. The air cooled by quite a few degrees as you went in. A storm had grazed that part of the country just a few nights before and H pointed out where some trees had fallen since her last walk there. There was something poignant about the scatter of acorns and branches on the lane. A good pub at the base of this walk with a vineyard behind it in a little bowl of land, though I didn't do myself any favours by mistaking the tender of the vines for a scarecrow. They were burning what I think were laurel branches at the edge of the car park: little flame but a lot of sweet smoke. We also watched the documentary Being Alan Bennett (2009). There's something wrong (but hilarious) about watching AB sing Larkin's They fuck you up, your mum and dad to the tune of Last of the Summer Wine. I miss H badly.

I'm rereading a lot of Caitlin Kiernan's short stories as background to an article (just a short overview rather than an essay) I'm writing on her work. I rediscovered a couple of albums I thought I'd lost, radio sessions by Tunng, Scott Walker's Scott V which was a present from Joel and a wounder to mislay. Today was too cool to count as Indian summer but the trees along the Stratford Road were brittling into green-gold. A cloud like ginkgo leaves up in the blue.

sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
On the one hand, A Matter of Life and Death (1946) is my least favorite Powell and Pressburger. It's a superlative afterlife fantasy in the tradition of Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), which is the problem: it's the Archers doing, excellently, a kind of story other people do. I don't hate it. I like the premise, which flips the opening glitch of Jordan so that instead of snatching a man untimely into the afterlife, a psychopomp lets his assigned soul slip away into the world; I love its filming of Earth in color and the "Other World" in black and white, whence Wim Wenders and his Berlin angels; I really love its double-tracking of the plot in both mystical and medical registers and the way it refuses to resolve one over the other, eventually, rightly merging the two. I have always suspected that after the credits roll, somewhere among the stars Marius Goring's Conductor 71 and Edward Everett Horton's Messenger 7013 are gloomily comparing notes on their respective balls-ups and wondering if Alan Rickman's Metatron was right that angels can't get drunk. It has one of the great escalators of cinema. It's objectively good and I know it's widely loved. But it's easily the least weird thing the Archers ever committed to celluloid. I can't tell if its otherworld is deliberately dry or if my ideas of the numinous just for once parted ways with the filmmakers', but I found more resonance in the real-world scenes with their odd touches like a naked goatherd piping on an English beach, the camera obscura through which Roger Livesey's Dr. Reeves watches the town around him, or the mechanicals within mechanicals of an amateur rehearsal of A Midsummer Night's Dream, than I did in the monumental administration of heaven and the courts of the assembled dead. I watched it in the first rush of discovery following A Canterbury Tale (1944) and as many other films by Powell and Pressburger as I could lay my hands on; I was disappointed. It didn't work for me even as well as Black Narcissus (1948), which I want to see again now that I'm not expecting real India. On the same hand, the Brattle is showing a 4K DCP rather than a print, which means that I'd be settling for an approximation of the pearly Technicolor monochrome of the Other World, which is still astonishing enough in digital transfer that I really want to know what it looked like on the original 35 mm, and the same goes for the rest of Jack Cardiff's cinematography.

On the other hand, the screening will be introduced by Thelma Schoonmaker and this is how Andrew Moor in Powell and Pressburger: A Cinema of Magic Spaces (2012) writes about David Niven as Squadron Leader Peter David Carter, the pilot hero of A Matter of Life and Death (look out, textbrick, for once it's not me):

Never an actor of great range, Niven came instead to embody and to articulate a rather out-of-date ideal: gentlemanliness – or 'noblesse oblige'. His light tenor and gamin beauty are those of the nobility: he reveals, if provoked, the upright steeliness of a man with backbone, but this grit often shades over into a likeable, smiling insolence. Though we knew he could be naughty (and the actor was a noted practical joker), it was the forgivable naughtiness of a well-liked schoolboy It is usually his graceful amusement that impresses, rather than his physicality or intellect (to talk of 'grace' might seem antiquated, but old-fashioned words like that seem to fit). He could be the younger son of a minor aristocrat, at times silly but always charming, and in the last instance gallant, gazing upwards with a sparkle in his eyes, a light comedian who, through sensing the necessity of nonsense, is perfect as Phileas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days (Michael Anderson, 1956, US). He is fittingly dashing in The Elusive Pimpernel (Powell and Pressburger, 1950), where as Sir Percy Blakeney he embraces foppishness with gusto. His 'airy' quality is winning, and his poetic virtues shine in AMOLAD. He may be well-mannered and eloquent but, as charmers go, his 'classiness' sits easily . . . He is undoubtedly an affectionate figure. Unkindness is not in him, and he is important in our gallery of heroes. But he is never like John Mills, the democratic 1940s ' Everyman'. Mills is the boy next door to everybody and, while that is a nice neighborhood, we really aspire to live next door to Niven. Is it a question of class? We suppose Niven to be a good host of better parties. Mills is like us; Niven is exotic. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, and during the war Niven stood for some of the most valued of principles, but his quality (or was it just his prettiness?) seemed the stuff of a previous, and probably mythical, time. Niven himself was a Sandhurst-trained army man, who joined the Highland Light Infantry in 1928 and served in Malta for two years before drifting towards America and into film acting. In 1939, when he left Hollywood for the army, he was a star, and managed to complete two propaganda films during the war while also serving in the Rifle Brigade . . . In the opening sequence of AMOLAD, it is hard to think of another actor who could mouth Powell and Pressburger's airborne script so convincingly. Bravely putting his house in order, saying his farewells and leaping from his burning plane, he is ridiculously, tearfully beautiful. Notably, it is his voice, travelling to Earth in radio waves, which first attracts the young American girl June, not his looks, and later it is his mind which is damaged, not his body. It is difficult, in fact, to think of the slender Niven in terms of his body at all. We remember the face, and a moustache even more precise and dapper than Anton Walbrook's (which was hiding something). Like Michael Redgrave in The Way to the Stars, he is the most celebrated man of war – the pilot who belongs in the clouds.

So I'm thinking about it.

Meeting an actual hero and statesman

Sep. 18th, 2017 04:43 pm
asakiyume: (Timor-Leste nia bandiera)
[personal profile] asakiyume
If you're going to meet an actual hero, a freedom fighter and former political prisoner who helped birth a new nation--that's YOU, Mr. Xanana Gusmão--you would do well not to be 45 minutes late. Alas, Google maps misled me about how long it would take me to drive from my house to the Pell Center, in Newport, Rhode Island, where Mr. Gusmão and a panel of distinguished experts were going to be talking about the future of Timor-Leste. And then I made a wrong turn at the very end and got lost. By the time I was driving down Bellevue Avenue, past RIDONCULOUS mansions, I was more than a half-hour late. But damn it! I did not drive all that way just to ... go home again.

Finally I found the place. A guy waiting in a bus kitted out like a trolley told me yes, this was it.

The talk was happening in a room with gilded Baroque-style accents.


Source

between entering and **the kiss** )

I hung back in the hallway, hoping to somehow say something, anything, to Xanana. I knew I wouldn't really ask him if he could shapeshift, or if he'd like to collaborate with me in writing a story based on this experience, and I didn't want to just gush that I was a fan, but I wanted to say **something**.

And I got my chance. He walked by and saw my expectant face and stopped and smiled at me. And I started blurting out that one small thing he'd done that made me admire him was get out and direct traffic one day in Dili, when there was a traffic jam. I think I said more presidents should do things like that. But before I got two words out, he had lifted my hand to his lips and kissed it, all the while looking at me with an expression of friendly affection.

I can see why people would die for him--or better yet, live and struggle for him. He was EVERY BIT as charismatic as I thought he would be, and then some.


source

I've Been Negligent

Sep. 18th, 2017 02:15 pm
handful_ofdust: (Default)
[personal profile] handful_ofdust
...in terms of posting here, as with so much else. It's a lot easier to just like and reblog a bunch of shit on Tumblr, or have my conversations on Facebook, and that's frankly sad as hell. But then again, both Livejournal and Dreamwidth appear to be almost exactly as mordant, these days. Comments conversation is a dead art, I fear.;)

Anyhow: I went through my notebooks again, did a transcription binge and moved all my In Development pieces into a folder, thus discovering that while I may have far more upcoming deadlines than I thought I did, I also have roughly fifty things I could potentially use to plug those particular holes--seeds, sketches or outlines, as I like to call them, depending on the level of content. (A seed, for example, might be as simple as the sentence "Break John Wyndham's "Close Behind Me" down for parts and remix it to my own satisfaction."; an outline goes all the way, from first few sentences to three-act structure and coda sentence, with nothing left un-worked-out.) So that's good.

All of which goes to explain why I'm currently in the process of bulling my way through a new story called "The Church in the Mountains," based on the vague yet highly specific memory of something I thought for years that I must have caught on TV sometime in my teens, maybe as part of a Canadian anthology series, except that Google Fu has completely defeated me in terms of working out exactly what the hell that might have been. Thus leaving me with the floating question of "If this comes from inside me rather than outside me, then what IS it, exactly? A really detailed dream? A story idea that came to me so full-blown I convinced myself someone else had already made it? Where do these tropes come from, these images? Does the simple act of trying to tell it to other people make it change and evolve, and could disseminating that telling start to alter the world around you?" (That last part seems unlikely, yet makes for a pretty good thesis statement.)

In other news, I finished "The Puppet Motel" and sold it, then finished a shorter piece called "Come Closer," and sold that too. I posted the contracts on that one today, so I guess I can count on being paid for it soon. I also placed a couple of reprints and did more brainstorming work on Nightcrawling; I think I'm almost ready to start the first real chapter, now that I'm done with the prologue and I understand the overall structure. It'll be set back in 1990, so that'll be interesting--weird to think of that making it a period piece, even though it totally does. The other day it occurred to me that that's around the time I started writing many of the stories that eventually made it into Kissing Carrion,, so maybe I should go back and take a look at some of those, because it'll give me a sense of how Lennox Frewer might write for that Creative Writing 101 course she and Ancke Ewert (Nightcarwling's protagonist) meet at. Everything eventually folds in somewhere, doesn't it? Which is sort of one of the refrains of the book, so there you go.

In personal news, we're proceeding apace towards Cal's tonsilectomy, which is going to happen (fingers crossed) on October 13. Not even a stay-over procedure anymore, as I recall--he gets it done, then comes home with us, has two weeks of recuperation and might even be back on track just in time to go off to the Viva! Youth Choir's annual music camp. Tomorrow I'm in Peterborough, doing ChiSeries Pride; mis-October I'll be in Windsor, Ontario, doing another book festival. It doesn't stop, which I guess is good.

Oh yeah, and I need to do some reviews pretty soon, drive-by or not, or people will stop reading this. Ha!

When the screams rage, shake it off

Sep. 18th, 2017 12:33 pm
sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
I have just learned that Stanislav Petrov died in May and I feel this is a bad year to lose a man who knew how not to blow up the world.
sovay: (Otachi: Pacific Rim)
[personal profile] sovay
Plans to spend the day outside were somewhat revised on account of incoming holidays and I have the kind of headache that is barely a light sensitivity off from a migraine, but I can totally recommend the experience of baking ten honeycakes (and eighteen honeycupcakes) for Rosh Hashanah and then lying on a couch to finish reading the second half of Ruthanna Emrys' Winter Tide (2017). It's good at ocean, good at alienness, good at different ways of being human; it braids different threads of Lovecraft's universe without feeling like a monster mash, although the nature of monstrosity is one of its front-and-center concerns; it has a queer romance around the edges that I'm delighted is canonical. Technically I suppose I could have timed it to fall during the Days of Awe, but that might have been too on the nose. Also, I would have had to wait.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
[personal profile] sovay
I spent most of yesterday out of the house and not at doctor's appointments, which was a much better ratio than most of the rest of this week; despite an almost total failure to sleep at night, I am about to endeavor to do the same today. Two writing things, one not.

1. Yesterday's mail brought my contributor's copy of Not One of Us #58, containing my poems "The House Always Wins" and "Dive" along with fiction by Patricia Russo, Rose Keating, and Mike Allen and poetry by Mat Joiner and Holly Day, among others. The theme of the issue is fall. Not One of Us is one of the longest-running, most stubborn black-and-white ink-and-paper 'zines in existence and I am deeply fond of it, with its inclusive themes of otherness and alienation; it is where I published my first short story sixteen years ago this month. If you have the fiver to spare, I recommend picking up a copy. The editor and his family have a cat to support.

2. I am very pleased to announce that my novelette "The Boatman's Cure," heretofore available only in my collection Ghost Signs (2015), will be reprinted in a future issue of Lightspeed. If you have not read it and want an advance idea of what it's like, it was reviewed by Amal El-Mohtar when the collection came out. It has ghosts and the sea and personal history and classical myth and periodically I wonder if it counts as a haunted house story, although it was not written as one. It carries a lot of significance for me. Rest assured that I will link when it goes live.

3. I was not so pleased to hear that Harry Dean Stanton has died. As one can do with character actors, I seem to have conceived an incredible fondness for him over the years despite never seeing him in any of his really famous roles; I have good memories of him from Dillinger (1973), Alien (1979), and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992). I probably have Paris, Texas (1984) or Repo Man (1984) in my future. I had not realized he was 91. He was a sort of weatherbeaten middle age for so long, I just figured it was his natural, permanent state.

I'm the guy you buy

Sep. 17th, 2017 03:58 am
sovay: (Claude Rains)
[personal profile] sovay
I met my father this afternoon for a matinée of Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton (2007) at the Brattle Theatre. I had not seen the film since it was released and it really holds up. It's a character study interlocked into a tight ensemble drama; it has classic bones and no guarantees. I can't say it's the best acting George Clooney has ever done only because I love so much his perfect '30's leading-man turn in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), but he's human-sized here, bruised and ambiguous, a man whose finesse with dirty deals and laundry has never made him more than a "janitor" to the swanky law firm that declines to offer his blue collar a partnership, no matter how sharp his suits or sealed his lips. Tilda Swinton almost certainly deserved her Oscar just for ruthlessly suppressing her natural air of the numinous, substituting flop sweat and a queasy determination that would be admirable if it weren't in service of corporate exploitation that can't even be written off as cartoonish, it's so routine and successful. I first noticed Tom Wilkinson in this movie, having a spectacular version of Clooney's own moral jolt: a glittering manic break in the middle of a tricky class-action suit, precipitated by an inconvenient access of conscience, also going off his meds. Other character actors have made themselves visible in the decade since, each sketching in some angle of the title character's world and the aggression, anxiety, weariness, and anger that principally define it (hello, Denis O'Hare, Sean Cullen, Sydney Pollack, Bill Raymond, oh, good God, Ken Howard, that was you). Other ways of living swing elliptically through the story. Good luck getting hold of one of them.

Looking at the film now, I am not surprised that I fell in love with it ten years ago, because it is, in addition to a kind of chamber corporate thriller, an essentially noir narrative. Its chief concerns are people's prices and limits, how far they'll go and for whose sake, whether there is such a thing as redemption or whether some stains go too deep or whether it even matters so long as just here, just now, just a little, the damage stops. It assumes institutional corruption and personal complicity without making them anyone's excuse. It asks real ethical questions and proffers no pat answers. I've never seen it counted among modern neo-noir and I'm wondering if people miss it because it eschews the style: there are no cigarette contrails or Venetian blinds, but all the philosophy is there, the starkness with which the void can suddenly open beneath you. It's never didactic; it would be dead in the water if it preached. The longest speeches belong to Wilkinson and as his character says shruggingly, "I'm crazy, right?" But it makes its audience notice the inequalities, how being useful is not the same as belonging, how suffering in aggregate can be business as usual until a face turns it into personal crisis, how the woman in the boardroom is the one out on the branch that can be sawn off at need (which does not absolve her of the actions she takes to cling there), and without playing games with audience satisfaction it ends with a move into the appropriate total unknown. It's not grimdark, because good noir isn't. It just doesn't promise anyone they'll make it out—even metaphorically—alive.

I am being evasive about the plot because it's good: it knows that a car bomb and a photocopy can be equally explosive, but the renunciation of empathy is more killing than any chemical. I didn't realize the writer-director had also written four of the Bourne movies, although I feel I should have been able to guess from the scene with Clive Owen in The Bourne Identity (2002), or that he co-wrote the script for Rogue One (2016), which is less immediately obvious to me. I can't remember if I knew that cinematographer Robert Elswit had previously worked with Clooney on Good Night and Good Luck (2005), where I discovered David Strathairn, Frank Langella, Ray Wise, and Dianne Reeves, started to notice Robert Downey, Jr., and finally differentiated Jeff Daniels from Jeff Bridges; he gets some beautiful shots out of ordinary things and some horrifying ones out of the same, like a glossily deserted, fluorescent-lit office building late at night that seems to be waiting for J.G. Ballard. I wish Clooney had won the Best Actor he was nominated for; I don't still randomly think about Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood a decade later. I think the best compliment I can pay this movie is that even if I think of it as noir, I don't think it would have been better filmed in 1949 with John Garfield or Dan Duryea. This memo brought to you by my valuable backers at Patreon.

Derek Jarman's The Last of England

Sep. 16th, 2017 03:46 am
rushthatspeaks: (altarwise)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks
Derek Jarman is probably my favorite film director-- the only serious competition is Ulrike Ottinger-- and in several of his books he speaks about The Last of England (1987) as his masterpiece, which of course means it's the one of his films that is impossible to get for love or money, especially if you live in the U.S..

The Brattle just screened it as part of their currently ongoing Tilda Swinton festival. Tilda Swinton, very young at the time, turned out to play England. (I probably should have expected that, but somehow I didn't.)*

He was quite right about it being a masterpiece, and, again as I should have expected from Jarman, it has had me thinking very hard about the nature and purpose of art ever since.

The Last of England is definitely a movie. It's a post-apocalyptic dystopia shot entirely using the decay of the civil infrastructure present in Thatcher's England, and I could identify a narrative-- a pair of brothers, one of whom is subverted by his attempts to subvert a balaclava-wearing, machine-gun-toting agent of the state, so that their romance causes him to wind up in a mask with a gun himself, and the other of whom winds up shot by said state agents-- and there are a lot of interesting allusions to other works of art (the opening narration at one point quotes Howl and then veers crashingly into T. S. Eliot in what is either complete literary blasphemy or the way that line was always meant to end, possibly both).** There's a year-king thing, kind of, except he doesn't get up again, and the childhood of the brothers is portrayed using home videos from Jarman's own childhood, which is fascinating because his parents were among the latest chronologically of the dyed-in-the-wool servants of the British Raj and it shows. There's a vitriolic intellectual critique of just about everything about the concepts "England" and "British".

But the thing that had me reeling and trying desperately mentally to cope is that above all, and with absolute intentionality, The Last of England is not a movie. It is a curse.

I have spent a lot of time considering evil and its relationship, if any, to art, because I try to create art myself and I feel it is a responsible thing for any artist to consider. I could get into a long digression about what I believe about evil and what I don't, but suffice it to say I do believe in evil, and the principle way I have seen evil interact with art is that subset of art which actively attempts to harm the audience, for no reason other than that it can. That sort of art can do a great deal of damage, if one runs into it at the wrong time. The other major way I have seen evil interact with art is art that is promulgating an ideology of evil, a set of beliefs which make the world decidedly worse, such as the racism of D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation.

I had never contemplated what I would think of a piece of art which is definitively opposed to an evil ideology-- Thatcherism, fascism, totalitarianism-- and which is doing everything in its power to harm, to hurt, to wreak havoc on, to destroy, and, if possible, to damn in the Biblical sense-- a set of people who are not the viewer.

When I say curse I mean it in a very old way. I mean that Derek Jarman was a great scholar, and he knew more about sixteenth- and seventeenth-century magic and alchemy than most academics, and he knew more about English witch-lore than any other authority I have ever encountered. And I don't know nearly as much about either as he did, but I know enough that this movie consistently raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I am... not quite sure that there is an attempt in and by this film to summon a specifically demonic presence. They may have been aiming for neutral. Or for angelic, and... missed, but I doubt that. I don't mean summoning in an obvious way, it's not like there are pentagrams on the floor, quite. It's done with light and fire and movement and the visual invocation of archetypes. It's done with dance and cross-dressing and other very careful costume.

And it's the precise kind of anger and pain turned into hatred that would cause a pastor to make serious inquiries as to the state of one's soul, and which might cause less theologically minded persons to mutter things about the abyss gazing back. Which is a concern Jarman eyes, and then discards, because this ideology, this thing that had happened to England under the rule of Thatcher and those around her, was to him worth that kind of hatred. And I think he came out of it all right as a human being and an artist himself, because he was objectively correct about that. But possibly only because he was objectively correct about that. The anger and pain and hatred here were so lacerating, so gorgeously done, so implacable and so beautiful that I kept wanting to hide, and it wasn't even aimed at me, he kept throwing in things to remind the audience that it isn't directed at us and honestly that does not help all that much.

Because with that sort of curse witnessing it is part of what drives it and makes it active.

I spent much of the film with some part of my mind trying to figure out if I thought it was moral to do this, to make this thing. Then I came down firmly and forever on the side that it is, because Tilda Swinton came in and played England.

We initially see Swinton's character in the memories of the one of the brothers who gets executed. She's wearing a sundress, and she's sitting in a field full of so many daffodils that it cannot read as naturalistic, even though, unlike most of the rest of the movie, the scene is shot in natural colors. She's his idealized love, that he won't ever be coming back to, and she's England itself, in both nurturing and colonialist aspects. "Don't be sad," we hear her say matter-of-factly as the bullets strike him: John Barleycorn is, after all, dead. She comes in next in full wedding dress and bridal veil, surrounded by attendants who are large and burly men dressed pretty much as Marie Antoinette, wedding a placeholder of a groom (the camera never focuses on his face) in a burned-out, rubble-strewn wreck of an industrial hangar. No dialogue, just the movements of the wedding, jerky smiles, everyone congratulating everybody else, Swinton eying a pram with an odd mixture of fear and longing. Earlier iconography has made it clear that the pram, though it does, of course, represent a baby, should also be taken to represent not a baby, but a cathexis of other ideas around fear and change and darkness.

And then we cut to Tilda Swinton outside, alone, by the water, by what looks like an industrial canal. There's a fire burning in an oil barrel next to her, a bonfire. She has scissors, and she tries to hack her way out of the wedding dress. It does not want to go. (It's really a lovely dress, by the way, in legitimately good taste, with about sixteen layers of veiling.) She rips at it with her fingers. She claws. She bites off parts of it. And these motions, without ever quite ceasing, turn themselves into a dance.

A line from a short story by Tanith Lee was running through my head during this scene, and it's still the only thing that comes to mind as anything resembling an adequate description: "... when she danced, a gate seemed to open in the world, and bright fire spangled inside it, but she was the fire."***

Have you ever seen something so transcendentally beautiful that you don't know how to think about it?

It's not just that this is the best thing Tilda Swinton has ever done on film, though it is, by such a distance that it's difficult to fathom. It's that I suspect it's one of the best things anyone has ever done on film. I am not exaggerating. Watching it is the kind of experience where you don't come away as exactly the same person.

Which she did, in full knowledge, in the service of Derek Jarman's curse.

All right, then. I consider it a moral action. Those few minutes are, by themselves, sufficient justification, and I don't see how the two of them, Jarman and Swinton, Tilda and Derek, could possibly have produced those few minutes out of hatred unless the hatred itself-- well-- to some degree contained within it all of that. Magical curses are, all the books say, perilous things, liable to come back on the caster unless their motives are completely pure. I have to take that dance as demonstration of impeccably pure motivations. I can't see what else it could be.

There are a lot of interesting things about this movie that I haven't even mentioned, of course. I finally understand why Jarman hated Peter Greenaway so much, because it turns out that for Prospero's Books, years later on, Greenaway swiped the aesthetic of some bits at the beginning of this movie that are set in Jarman's actual house and have Jarman playing himself. In fact, Greenaway even swiped Jarman's handwriting for use in his page overlays on the screen. I can see being upset by that. I would have been, too.

And there's the way almost all of the soundtrack is classical, except when it very much isn't. And the way that Jarman on several occasions intercuts between two separate scenes so quickly that persistence of vision forces you to believe that you are somehow watching both of them at the same time (well, and you get rather nauseated, which I don't think could be helped). And there's a scene with a man eating a cauliflower that totally defies all description; never had I imagined such a thing could be done with an innocent cruciferous vegetable. It's not remotely sexual. I'd almost prefer if it was.

But I've summed up the major things I've been pondering since watching the movie, and also it's five in the morning, so. A masterpiece. You should absolutely see it. But be wary.






* It occurs to me only now, writing this, that Swinton's role as both an allegorical England and a theoretically real young woman is an homage to Anna Magnani's stunning performance as the city of Rome in Pier Paolo Pasolini's Mamma Roma (1962). Somehow, all of the critical writing I have encountered on Mamma Roma fails to realize that she is the entire city incarnate and it gets shoved in with Pasolini's Neo-Realist period, which I am starting to think he never actually had. But I digress.

** I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness starving hysterical naked not with a bang but with a whimper

*** From Tanith Lee's "When The Clock Strikes". Worth noting that the character described has sold herself to Satan, and is also the agent of promulgating a curse.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
[personal profile] sovay
[personal profile] ashlyme, I have seen your Pan of the brownfields. He was in Derek Jarman's The Last of England (1987), a bare-chested, leather-jacketed heroin punk atop a mound of ruined brick, the post-synched soundtrack playing a delicate melody in the midst of burning warehouses, fascist soldiers, forty-year-old home movies, Thatcherite apocalypse. He has a round-chinned face, an Elvis-black kiss-curl, tattoos on his arms; in the credits he is named "Spring." He shoots up, smokes, smashes things, has sex with a life-sized copy of Caravaggio's Amor Vincit Omnia while the cinematographer's shadow, maybe Jarman's own shadow, lies across them both. His scenes are all filmed in the slow-blurred, smokily tinted Super 8 grain of The Angelic Conversation (1987), of which he might be the darkening reflection: the angel in the fallen world, with no last trump to liberate him into the arms of his beloved. Everything in this film is apocalyptic, but very little of it is revelation. Maybe Tilda Swinton at the very end, rending with scissors and even biting her wedding gown to pieces as a pyre streams behind her on the sunset riverbank; she whirls in bridal ruins, fire and grief, I think of Shiva Nataraja, I have no idea if Jarman did. He wrote a book of the film, which is currently available under the title Kicking the Pricks (1987). I don't have it. I have this headful of images like stained glass windows, smashed and burning. Or channel-surfing on William Blake's MTV.

I was five minutes late to the theater, which I count as an achievement since at Downtown Crossing the Red Line had decided that it would prefer not to; [personal profile] rushthatspeaks and [personal profile] nineweaving had saved me a seat and I came in just as Nigel Terry doing his best BBC switched from Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" to T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land." (My memory is that this produced the line "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed not with a bang but with a whimper," but I don't actually think that happened.) It's even more of a cut-up film than Jubilee (1977), working with many of the same furious themes but even more abstracted here. It plays aggressively with time, slowing, skipping, echoing, blackout and shell-shock and dream. (We ran out of time when we ran out of history, here at the willed, sadistically avoidable end of things. If all time is eternally present / All time is unredeemable.) It flickers between scenes until the screen becomes its own double-exposure kinematoscope. Many of Jarman's movies are painterly; this one is staticky. It's like looking at a sparkler. And indeed, different characters carry these fizzing torches, white magnesium fire burning off the screen; they ward and threaten and signify, perhaps, at the last, hope. Of Jarman's work that I've seen, which at this point includes all the feature films except Sebastiane (1976), The Garden (1990), and Blue (1993), The Last of England reminds me most of the short The Art of Mirrors (1973) and the music videos he directed for the Smiths and for Marianne Faithfull, who appears via the soundtrack, singing the beginning of the "Skye Boat Song" over and over in her cracked bell of a voice as refugees or deportees huddle on the wharves of London, patrolled by balaclava'd soldiers with black boots and black guns and the confident stride of nationalists: there were white cliffs in Ford Madox Brown's painting, but here there's not even a boat. The other thing this film reminds me of is a nightmare. It contains the most frightening cauliflower I have ever seen. It contains a moon-crowned dancing androgyne, a wedding where the bridesmaids are pantomime dames and the baby is present in a pram full of tabloids, an execution in real time. A pair of soldiers waltz in a tire-littered alley, lit by a trash fire. The globe of the world spins as if out of control, between the hands of an actress who looks like (but I don't think is) Sycorax from The Tempest (1979). Its painted countries are probably out of date anyway. "Land of Hope and Glory" sails out over shots of the Albert Memorial and home footage of Empire-shadowed Pakistan from Jarman's childhood, but the violence of soldiers who are not on parade—the grandsons of Kipling's "sons o' the Widow," with all the latest overcompensating gear—stutters like bullet-flashes throughout. New York is a frenetic hallucination, a remembrance wreath the height of hypocrisy when exchanged for a submachine gun. Hitler's on the soundtrack, too.

I don't know why this movie isn't depressing. It should leave you feeling absolutely bludgeoned; I think it's so angry it's exhilarating. It mourns the loss of England that was or should have been, but it isn't conservative. In one of two scenes I had seen excerpted in photographs from the film—the other being Swinton between fire and water—a posh boy and a soldier fuck on top of a gigantic Union Jack, the former balls naked, the latter booted-gloved-masked to anonymity, in such a welter of cigarettes and empty wine bottles that you're amazed either of them is up for it, and maybe they aren't. It's vicious, but I also think it's funny. I'm not sure either the establishment or the jackboots got what they wanted out of that one. Elsewhere Jarman himself sits at his real desk, writing in his real journals, the nuclear power station at Dungeness overlooks Prospect Cottage to this day and the industrial desolation of London is a document as well as a vision. (Eyeless tower blocks, rag-and-bone quaysides, houses behind barbed wire. Nowhere is home here. Where are they setting out, that monkish, magician's boat at the end? All that's left is away.) The filmmaker's family appear as themselves thanks to at least two generations of home movies. The whole thing feels like something you could stumble across in the middle of the night but not discover in a museum. It feels more like the inside of another person's head than some self-portraits I've seen. Afterward, in the restroom, a total stranger with a German accent turned to me at the stall door and asked, "Did you just see the film? Did you like it?" Then she asked if I was German. I have to believe M. John Harrison saw this film.

You understand that this is not a review, but I hope you understand also why I had to say something. I love several films by Derek Jarman—Wittgenstein (1993) unreasonably—and when I walked out of the Brattle Theatre tonight I did not expect The Last of England to be one of them, but it may be that I do, not even because it's so beautiful, because often and pointedly it's not, but because it is so much itself. It's fragments against the ruins. It's on fire. (I could and would screen it to follow David Rudkin's Penda's Fen (1974): Jarman himself the ungovernable, dissonant flame.) This explosion brought to you by my visionary backers at Patreon.

Out of the whirlwind

Sep. 15th, 2017 10:23 pm
nineweaving: (Default)
[personal profile] nineweaving
O my!  Burdick's and Tosci's—twin gods in the Cambridge pantheon—have collaborated on an ice-cream sandwich!  You can get chocolate macarons with hazelnut ice cream; pistachio with Earl Grey; or almond with matcha.  Bliss.

I discovered this on my way to the Tilda Swinton festival at the Brattle.  So far this week, I've seen her in Sally Potter's Orlando (1993), and in two Derek Jarman films.  Orlando remains an absolute delight.   I love the wit; I love Orlando's glances through the fourth wall; I love the doubling of the scurrilous Nick Greene and the publisher, and the Sebastian and Viola casting of Sasha and Shelmerdine.  I adore Quentin Crisp's Elizabeth I.  (He was born to play that part.)  I love the Jacobean winter funeral, and the teacup topiary, and the perfectly truthful absurdity of most of the costumes.   I love the scene where (as I once wrote) Orlando "rushes in a fury into a hedge maze ... whisking round a corner, she emerges in another century, in another cage of skirt."

I confess that Tilda Swinton gave me Thea's fiery hair in Cloud & Ashes.  She's a fabulous muse—which is all I share artistically with Derek Jarman. 

Caravaggio (1986)  is imperfect and astonishing.  It was one of Sean Bean's earliest films, and Swinton's first.  The stagings of the paintings in the film are so perfectly Caravaggiesque—so blasphemous, numinous, intemperate, unmoving, shadowy, and dazzling, so cold and so  engorged with godhead.  They are clearly what the artist saw.  The canvases on screen are merely sketches:  art is what the camera sees.

Still trying to get my head around The Last of England (1987), which is incandescent.  It's so dazzling it hurts.  Literally:  I have eyestrain from the visionary flicker.  The rant is on the fall of England—all its goodness and greenness, every vestige of decency—under Thatcher, a gut-wrenchingly relevant anger.  Part of it I saw as Asmodeus' Books:  it begins with the auteur speaking as he writes a curse in a cluttered workroom, in a beautiful italic hand:  what he spells, is.  (Greenaway appears to have stolen that image, in a prettier, post-modernist take.)  Out of the whirlwind, I recall a few most vivid scenes.  There was an evocation of the Ford Madox Ford [Brown!  Ford Madox Brown!  My proofing skills have gone to hell] painting from which the film takes its name:  a huddle of despairing people at a harbor, underlaid with Marianne Faithfull singing, "Speed, Bonny Boat"—but they're prisoners.  There is no boat, and no Australia.  They've simply come to the end of ground.  There was a naked Poor Tom, gnawing on a demonic raw cauliflower.  It would terrify a vegetarian into eating sashimi—at least that doesn't writhe and flap.  No really—it looked like some sort of brain-bird with broken pinions.  And there were sequences of astounding beauty:  Pan dancing in a brickyard, and Tilda Swinton whirling in silhouette before the flames of the apocalypse.

Nine

Later: [personal profile] sovay  and [personal profile] rushthatspeaks have posted brilliant reviews of The Last of England, here and here.  I stand in awe.

 





Fox update

Sep. 15th, 2017 02:30 am
rushthatspeaks: (parenting)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks
At one day shy of eleven months, Fox is definitely both walking and talking.

Over the last few weeks, the walking has gone from very determined cruising to one or two steps without falling down to chains of three or four steps connected by moments of serious arm waving, or squatting and standing back up again. They don't really fall down at all, and never have, but they would sometimes cease forward motion. Now we've just gotten to walking across a room, and I haven't seen them crawl in several days. They also climb much better-- can get onto the back rail of the futon, or actively pull themself up onto my shoulder when I'm sitting on the futon. They don't seem to distinguish yet between standing on/climbing on somebody and standing on/climbing on inanimate objects. We need to give them a real shot at stairs sometime here, as there aren't any in our house and they could probably use the practice.

The talking... I guess many people's first words are... more readily distinguishable? I mean, either Fox has been talking for like a week, or Fox has been talking since about April, and I legitimately do not know. They've been saying 'Hiiiiii' to people all along, literally since birth, and they've been saying 'Ma! Ma!' to Ruth and 'Da! Da!' to me and 'At! At!' to the cats for some months, but they also said those syllables to things that aren't me or Ruth or the cats. I just wasn't able to tell babble from intentional speech, and I don't really think there was a way to.

However, what we're getting now is Fox saying 'Ma! Ma!' at Ruth in the morning when they want Ruth to get out of bed and feed them, which is pretty clearly intentional, and they say 'At!' when they see a picture of a cat in any of their books. (I haven't seen them hold a book upside down in a couple of weeks, either. Something about pictures has clicked.) Also today they hugged me and then put the final d on 'Dad' for the first time, which was just as heart-melting as I could possibly have imagined. We've also had 'Es' for a while, which means general agreement, though, and this fascinates me, we have nothing even vaguely resembling no as a word, just yelling. And 'Ba' means ball or book, but 'Ba' in a different tone means bottle; I can't really duplicate this but can hear the difference clearly.

I haven't heard them babble any of the phonemes yet that would allow them to use the names of various grandparents or their third parent, and we're all actually pretty sure they consider their third parent's name too hard right now, given the timing of various looks of frustration.

Their favorite toy right now is the photo album Ruth got them with pictures of extended family, friends, and various significant occasions in their own life, which they will pore over with devoted concentration for long stretches of time. They haven't liked an object so much since they first noticed their mobile at five months. Sometimes we'll go through and say again who various people are and what the event was, though I have no idea if they remotely have or can have the idea yet of a picture of themself.

They do have the idea now of doorknobs, but not the reach. I have seen them try to follow somebody out the door by going over and batting at the knob from below. So far they are about as good at this as our smarter cat, and I devoutly hope those two never team up. I will also be shocked if Fox doesn't start climbing over baby gates rather sooner than us parent-types would like, although at least we have one more level to lower their mattress inside its enclosure if they start getting out of their bed anytime soon.

Solid food clicked some while back, and while they're still having four or five large bottles a day, they also eat two or three solid meals, things like mango puree, applesauce, avocado, yogurt, Cheerios, and/or semisolid oat cereal. Sometimes we mix some of those together. We also give them bits of what we're eating, though we're trying to avoid large quantities of sugar and salt till they're past a year old. They have two and a half teeth, the bottom front two and one I think I see lurking partially emerged in the back bottom left. They can drink through a straw, and they can drink from a sippy cup and, actually, from a regular cup, though I don't let them very often because after they drink from it they'll just toss it down like they do the bottle.

We have never cut their hair, because that's a decision they'll be able to make for themself in not all that long, so they strongly resemble a Beatle, or possibly an emo rocker circa 2004. Putting a barrette across the bangs works until they take it out and try to eat it. Pigtails actually work but are not remotely my aesthetic preference. Fortunately they don't seem to mind hair in their face-- I've never seen them push at it or get frustrated with it.

Ruth took them to a baby swimming class over at MIT for a while, so we now have some notion of how to work with a swim diaper and how to interact with an infant in the water, which is great because we're going to the beach next month.

And their first birthday approaches apace, though milestone-wise-- toddler. I'd say we have a toddler.
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
[personal profile] sovay
Courtesy of [personal profile] handful_ofdust: Zeal & Ardor, a Black metal band. That is, a black metal band whose major influence is Black American field hollers and spirituals. Writer-frontman Manuel Gagneux is biracial and started the band in response to racist abuse on 4chan, which may be the best outcome I have ever heard of people being racist on 4chan; the results are shredding and subversive, the perfect Kai Ashante Wilson soundtrack. That the nine songs on their debut album appear to have burst in from some fearful history where the forced Christianity of slavery engendered instead the defiant seeking out of Satan makes it all the sharper that Gagneux's vocals have been mistaken for the Alan Lomax field recordings they quite deliberately sound like. I heard "Blood in the River" first and it's hair-raising. Its author associates it with the Stono Rebellion. I could not help associating it with Orlando Jones' Mr. Nancy. "Devil Is Fine," the band's only official video so far, is a close second. The two projects are not otherwise sonically alike, but the time-rupturing, musically confrontational qualities of Devil Is Fine (2016/2017) reminded me powerfully of clipping.'s Splendor & Misery (2016), which I still wish had won the Hugo. [edit: I am not the only person who thinks so.] In short, they are well worth your listening, although not if you need to concentrate on anything else at all.

Past astro borders, Zeno lies waiting

Sep. 13th, 2017 04:03 pm
sovay: (Rotwang)
[personal profile] sovay
Not only is the MBTA today made of pure butt, I don't like their new website, either. The user interface is less intuitive to interact with and the trip planner's ideas of directions are more confusing. I'm impressed, but maybe I'll just stick to paper schedules from now on.

1. I forgot to mention that the podcast in which I participated at NecronomiCon is now free to stream online: The Outer Dark 016: Live from NecronomiCon 2017. Other participants are the excellent Craig Laurance Gidney, Scott R. Jones, Stephen Graham Jones, and Peter Straub, with Scott Nicolay hosting and Anya Martin moderating. I seem to have overestimated how carefully I need to speak for radio, but it was a lot of fun.

2. Anthony Lane not liking The Limehouse Golem (2016) does not deter me from wanting to see it, since he consistently underestimates almost anything that counts as genre, but I am glad at least he appreciates Bill Nighy:

No film in which Bill Nighy appears can ever be discounted. Rakish, dapper, not quite ruined, quavering with half-concealed amusement, courteous toward a fallen world, and somehow both urbane and faintly spectral, he could have stepped straight out of a Sargent portrait. I can imagine him in spats. What a pleasure it is, then, to see him in a frock coat and a spotted necktie, stalking the London streets. In "The Limehouse Golem," set in 1880, he plays Inspector Kildare of Scotland Yard, whose career as a detective has been held back, it is whispered, because he is "not the marrying kind." The role was originally to have been played by Alan Rickman, who died last year—a passing as hard to accept as that of Severus Snape—and Nighy was cast instead. Rickman's Kildare would have been more insidious, perhaps, with a deeper drawl, and more likely to be suspected of the crimes that he was deputed to solve. Nighy, as sensitive as a seismograph, approaches them with a shudder.

3. Courtesy of [profile] strange_selkie: different kinds of manual labor being done really well, which means really beautifully because efficiency generally is. Some of it is performance flair, but some of it is just practical and also ridiculous.

Planet of the Five Rings

Sep. 13th, 2017 02:20 pm
mrissa: (Default)
[personal profile] mrissa

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

New story out today! Nature Futures is giving you Planet of the Five Rings. This was a Christmas present to my father, who is a deeply serious person, so you know that it will be a grim and somber read. If that’s not enough, there’s a story behind the story blog post where you can read more about it. Hope you enjoy!

a Garnet fan

Sep. 12th, 2017 11:32 pm
asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)
[personal profile] asakiyume
I was driving to the post office, and I noticed that the car in front of me had a sticker of Garnet, from Steven Universe, on the back of the car. Also, the car was from out of state.

Garnet



I haven't watched much Steven Universe, but I've really enjoyed the few episodes I've seen. I felt warmly toward that car. Then, coincidence of coincidences, it turned into the post office parking lot too. "Wow, someone from New York is going to the post office here in B'town," I thought, and also, "I can tell them how much I like their Garnet sticker." I followed the driver into the post office. They got in line; I had to fill out a customs form, so I was standing nearby.

"Excuse me," I said.

"Oh!" they said, startled, and made to get out of my way.

"No, no--you're fine! I just wanted to say, I really like your Garnet sticker, on your car."

"Oh!" they said again, but a pleased and happy one this time. "Thanks!"

Then it was their turn at the counter. On their way out they smiled at me and said goodbye.

I had no clue what gender, if any, they were, but they inhabited their skin and their space with a pleasant, easy charm. They looked more or less like this:

sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey)
[personal profile] sovay
Today I had back-to-back doctor's appointments on an hour and a half of sleep, so [personal profile] spatch met me after the second and took me out for dinner at Loui Loui in Allston. It was a surprise until we got there. It was wonderful. The walk was slightly longer than expected—and the day much hotter—but we kept to the Esplanade and ducks and sailboats and sunbathers and the breeze off the water until we cut over into BU territory and were abruptly surrounded by students. The restaurant is plain but delicious. The special of the day was the fried catfish basket, which suited Rob, while I got the shrimp boil and did not expect that to mean a solid pound of spicy, garlicky peel-and-eat for which I was thoughtfully presented with gloves so that I did not scald my fingers off. There was coconut-milk ice cream from FōMū afterward, cold-brewed coffee for Rob and peach compote for me. And then the MBTA totally fell over on us and it took us something like two hours to get home, of which the bright spot was encountering a cheap but well-preserved reprint of Chester Himes' The Crazy Kill (1959) in the basement of the Harvard Book Store and the totally unnecessary part was having to walk up the hill from Union Square because the 88 decided it was really an 87 after all. The Mummy Returns (2001) has not yet come in to the library. The sky after sunset was the kind of soaking, luminous blue that looks rich enough to reach into. I really just want to pitch over sideways on the couch. I might just do that.

Iraq+100, edited by Hassan Blasim

Sep. 12th, 2017 07:16 am
mrissa: (Default)
[personal profile] mrissa

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

Review copy provided by Tor Books.

The cover describes this as, “The first anthology of science fiction to have emerged from Iraq,” but “emerged” seems insufficient to describe the work the editors did to make this project happen. Without an established science fiction community, editors definitely can’t just call for submissions and put their feet up. From what’s in the introduction, Hassan Blasim, with the help of Ra Page, approached writers from many regions of Iraq, generations, and writing styles, coaxing and cajoling them to approach the idea of Iraq a hundred years after invasion, doing with it whatever they saw fit. That’s not just emergence. That’s beyond even encouragement.

My favorite part of the stories themselves is the focus on Iraq as a future setting: this square or that city taking pride of place, this saying or that legend being the focus. I love fiction in translation for that reason: for the shift in perspective. I want more of it. And in order to get more of it, I’m willing to deal with stories that are not what I would ordinarily like best: stories with more sexual threat, stories that retread similar ground to previous work in other languages/cultures, stories that don’t seem to be able to find any thread of hope in the entire world. Which is not this entire volume, but it is some of this volume. If what I really want is works in translation from all over the world–and it is–I need to let the people actually from those places tell me what stories they want to tell, not tell them that their stories don’t fit my preconceptions of what they should want to tell. So while in some ways this was a bumpy reading experience for me, with some delights and some difficulties, I’m very glad to have the opportunity for the bumps.

Please consider using our link to buy Iraq+100 from Amazon.

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