Having a weekend with partner in Frankfurt.
Hotel perhaps overdoing the stylish minimalism: why does this always mean, nowhere to put stuff in the bathroom? However, good marks for the breakfast buffet.
On matters of modern design, am I the only person who finds themself waving their hands at a tap that turns on some other way, and vice versa?
Today to the Stadel- art gallery, very good stuff and lots of it. Among works observed, one C16th courtesan as Flora, with obligatory symbolickal bubbie displayed.
Also to the Arts and Crafts Museum, which has gone full-on poncey and eschews labeling in favour of composing curatorial 'constellations'. Though I could have spent more time with the shiny pillow-like balloons that one was permitted even exhorted to touch. (Sometimes I am shallow and frivolous.)
Some general flaneurserie, looking into churches, etc.
Given in the order in which I read them. I'd be happy to vote for any of these, and picking an order is going to be difficult.
A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong
Two sisters, both weather workers, both capable of bending time back on itself and trying another timeline. It starts with one burning up in her own flame; it ends with the other still searching for a timeline in which her sister can live. In between we learn much about them and the different paths they have taken. It's raw emotion delivered in skillful prose, and not only supports but demands a second reading to understand the layers. The idea of a fan or network of timelines spreading out and being able to step from one strand to another is not new; but this use of the concept is an emotionally wrenching read.
Published by Tor.com and available free online, or for purchase as a DRM-free ebook. Kobo, Amazon UK, Amazon US
Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar
One woman is required to wear out seven pairs of iron shoes. Another sits atop a glass hill too slippery to climb. El-Mohtar considers what might happen when the woman of one fairy tale walks into the other story, and subverts the subtext of both. "Subverts" is rather too weak a word here - it dances on the subtext with hobnailed boots. Possibly too much so, but then there's a lot of subtext in fairy stories that needs to be dragged into the light and examined. This particular happy ending is one that I can believe has a chance at being happy ever after. It's sweet but not saccharine.
There's a lot to like in this story, but I was especially taken with the short scene in which the women run a scientific experiment with the golden apples meant to be a reward for the Hero who manages to climb the mountain. It left me wanting to buy the anthology it was originally published in.
First published in the anthology "The Starlit Wood" . Reprinted in Uncanny Tales (available free online). There's an interesting discussion of it at Short Story Squee and Snark.
Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies by Brooke Bolander
A short tale of a harpy's sweet revenge. Too short to review without giving away too much, but fabulous use of language that brings the narrator to vivid life in a commentary on modern media's portrayal of women.
Published in Uncanny Tales (available free online)
That Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn
"The people of Gaant are telepaths. The people of Enith are not. The two countries have been at war for decades, but now peace has fallen, and Calla of Enith seeks to renew an unlikely friendship with Gaantish officer Valk over an even more unlikely game of chess."
A short story that explores some of the ramifications of full telepathy, and does so through a pair of fascinating characters and their unfolding friendship. The chess game is indeed a metaphor for the war, and gives some idea of how a non-telepathic nation could have held its own against an army of telepaths, but it's the characterisation that makes this story shine. Calla and and Valk have each been a prisoner under the control of the other as fortunes have shifted over the war; Calla working as a nurse in her own side's military hospital treating prisoners of war that include Valk, and then as a trustee prisoner in a Gaantish hospital desperately in need of nursing staff. The chess game starts as a way to pass time, a way to take their minds off the situation they're in, and becomes much more.
Published by Tor.com and available free online, or for purchase as a DRM-free ebook. Kobo, Amazon UK, Amazon US
The City Born Great by NK Jemesin
Great cities come alive, and in this short story they do so in a most literal fashion. But there are things out there that feed on new life, and a city needs a midwife to guard it as it struggles to birth itself. Our protaganist is a young black man in New York who half believes, half disbelieves a new friend's tales of living cities and his role in New York's story - right up until the monsters try to come for him. Stunning fantasy story deeply rooted in a deftly depicted metropolis.
Published by Tor.com and available free online, or for purchase as a DRM-free ebook. Kobo, Amazon UK, Amazon US
The latest storm hit the whole country, but especially the east coast of the South Island, this area particularly badly. Oamaru got over three months of rain in 26 hours. The infrastructure couldn't take it, rivers have flooded their banks, State Highway 1 is closed in many places including downhill from us where it crossed the river, and houses in the North End, a flat coastal area, are flooded, and steep Don Street, one we considered, is now a river with water running under houses.
At first I was pleased to live on a hill - and so far we're all right as the rain continues - but we woke up to see a slip on the hill opposite. There aren't houses on the slope (another reason for picking this place - nice view) but I suspect there are on the flat under it.
We have to go to Christchurch next week, so I hope the roads are open by then.
Re the current hoohah about Boots the chemist charging well over the odds for the morning after pill, I was going to comment - when posting the link on various bits of social media, to go 'and Edwin Brooks must be spinning in his grave!'
Brooks was the MP who put through the sometimes overlooked but significant 1966 Family Planning Act: as discussed in that post I did some while back on 'why birth control is free under the NHS'.
However, I discovered from googling that - as far as one can tell from The Usual Sources - Brooks is still alive, but moved to Australia. I am profoundly shocked that the Wikipedia entry, under his political achievements, doesn't include that act. We wonder if, in the long history of reproductive rights, it got overshadowed by the more controversial 1967 Abortion Act, or, by the final incorporation of contraception into the NHS in 1974. If I had time on my hands (which at this moment I don't) I would go and try and edit that entry.
*I think this is a quotation from someone? but I can't find a source.
Except some of it doesn't seem to be, o hai, I am now making an effort, it is more that various academic things (seminars, conferences, etc) that I had flagged up in my diary ages ago finally came up and were all within the space of a few weeks, I don't know, it's the 'like buses' phenomenon. And some of them I did do some social interaction at and others I just slipped in and out, more or less.
Have booked up, what I was havering about, the annual conference in one of my spheres of interest that I was usually wont to go to but have missed the (I think) last two because I was not inspired by the overall theme that year. And it's not so much that I'm not inspired by this year's theme, it's more 'didn't they do something very similar a few years ago and I did a paper then, and don't really have anything new to say on the subject', so I didn't do that, but I think that it would be a useful one to go to to try and get me back into the groove for that thing that the editor at esteemed academic press was suggesting I might write and talk to people (if I can remember how to do that thing) and hear what's going on, and so on.
Also had a get-together with former line manager, which between the two of us and our commitments involves a lot of forward planning, but it was very nice to do it.
Have also done some (long) and (a bit less) outstanding life admin stuff, which I both feel pleased about and also as if I haven't actually done anything, which is weird.
Did I mention, getting revised article off last week, just before deadline? and then got out of office email from the editor saying away until end of month. WHUT. The peeves were in uproar.
And generally, I am still working out what I do with the day when it does not begin with posting an episode of Clorinda's memoirs and go on with compiling the next one. Okay, there are still snippets to come, but they come slowly.
What I read
Melisande Byrd His Lordship Takes a Bride: Regency Menage Romance (2015), very short, did what it says on the tin, pretty low stakes, even the nasty suitor who molests the female protag in a carriage (the Regency version of Not Safe In Taxis) just disappears. The style was not egregiously anachronistic (apart from one or two American spellings) but a bit bland.
Janet Malcolm, Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers (2013) - charity shop find. Some of the essays were of more interest to me than others, but all very well-written.
On the go
Matt Houlbrook, Prince of Tricksters: The Incredible True Story of Netley Lucas, Gentleman Crook (2016). I depose that somebody whose scams got rumbled and who was banged up in various institutions for his crimes is not exactly trickster royalty. He then went allegedly straight and got into journalism, partly writing up the inside stories of the crime world, but these are very much complicated by the author as to their authenticity and did he actually write them. While he was more of a career criminal than the opportunistic upperclass louts in the McLaren book mentioned last week, he did have claims to gentility, but again, so not Raffles The Amateur Cracksman.
I'm currently a bit bogged down in it, which may be a reflection of the author's own experiences in trying to write about somebody who lived by lying, had numerous false identities, etc etc (which are very much foregrounded).
Simon R Green, Moonbreaker (2017) - came out this week, I succumbed.
Also started one of the books for review.
There's a new Catherine Fox out tomorrow (allegedly)...
Official list price is US$3.99. Looks like local prices are currently £3.09-£3.49 and AU$5.25 for the UK and Oz.
Sex and love, lies and truth, shades in between. Happy endings and might-have-beens. Nine tales of these things between men.
How about, not?
Do we not get the impression that he has a very halcyon vision of what working on the land might involve? I suspect that there are not enough lovely organic farms practising biodynamic agricultural methods to take up anything like the numbers of intending students there are each year and a lot of them would end up working in agribusiness enterprises (which I suppose might be a salutory awakening, or not).
Also, would not much of the work be seasonal? What would they do the rest of the time?
Might there not be objections from the local communities?
I also think of the lack of amenities in many rural parts, e.g. no or inadequate public transport: in the evenings, not in the least worn-out from hours of back-breaking toil for poverty wages, maybe they'll gather round and sing folk songs and dance traditional folk dances and practice folk crafts?
And actually, I don't think this is true:
We also know that without contact with nature we will not form an attachment, we will not learn to love it.
See the rise of the notion of the healing powers of nature and the pastoral way of life in Britain as the society became increasingly urbanised, and therefore romanticised the supposedly more simple and harmonious existence of country life.
I have a feeling that people who live close to nature know exactly how dreadful nature can be. Tetanus! Anthrax! entirely natural.
Doesn't say how long this charmer has been running a business, if you can call it that, but what I should have liked to have seen would have been a face-off between him and Driff Field, author of successive editions (last in 1995) of the idiosyncratic Driff's Guide to All The Secondhand and Antiquarian Bookshops in Britain (these are probably still worth reading if you ever come across copies, even though the information on actual bookshops is presumably waaaay out of date):
Hugely successful for its wit and wide coverage of the field, the guide was nonetheless chaotic, idiosyncratic and often sarcastic, with entries such as: "the b[oo]ks are slowly transforming themselves back into rags"; "judging by body temp, shop seems to have expired in 1930"; "I could smell a bargain, pity was I had a cold that day"; "owner has been unwell recently with bad back (possibly caused by turning on the customers once too often)".or at least how Driff would have written him up.
Yet another paean to the 'return' of the physical book and the allure of the bookshelves: My bookshelf says who I am – and a Kindle cannot do that.
Well, that depends whether your bookshelves do say who you are - mine, I depose, say 'I am large, I contain multitudes' - and whether you want this revealed to any casual observer - though I daresay anyone wishing to decode oursin from her bookshelves would have to be in and out of several rooms and up and down staircases.
(Also, of course, we may not have physical shelves to browse but we have our virtual ones, no?)
Today’s unlimited information makes the boundedness of bookcases profoundly comforting. My inner librarian is also soothed by arranging books. When my young children go to bed and I’m confronted by their daunting mess, my favourite activity is tidying their bookcase.*looks around at piles on floor* And not even the excuse of having small children.
Me, myself, today, I was actually doing something that might be considered my inner archivist at work - going through what I cannot even with any accuracy describe as my files, to bring some order into various matters of life admin, accumulated over a considerable period. The cobblers' children...
Bread during the week: brown oatmeal.
Saturday breakfast rolls: from the wholewheat nut bread recipe in James Beard, cutting down on the amount of sweetener he seems to think necessary - sugar AND honey!!! Nice. Haven't made these for yonks.
We stayed in Saturday evening and I made the following meal: starter of healthy-grilled asparagus and hard(ish)-boiled quails' eggs, sprinkled with a dukkah-type dry dressing of toasted sesame and sunflower seeds + pinenuts, crushed in a mortar; then smoked swordfish (which I had happened to spot in the organic butchers/fishmongers), which I served with ground black pepper and lemon, and a couscous and raisins salad dressed with lemon juice and olive oil, heritage tomatoes sliced and tossed in wild pomegranate vinegar with salt, sugar and basil (maybe it's me, but do heritage tomatoes, whatever their colour and shape, all taste like tomatoes?), and a hot cucumber pickle thing from one of my books of Japanese cooking - cut the cucumber in 4 lengthways, cut out the seeds, chop into batons, stirfry briefly in sesame oil with dried chile, add a mixture of soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar (recipe also says salt, which I consider supererogatory with soy sauce) cook briefly, and leave to marinate for a bit.
Today's lunch: duck steaks, panfried and then rested as per instructions on packet, with Greek spinach rice (for some reason the rice was a bit too al dente), okra simmered with ginger, coriander and fish sauce, and padron peppers.
I really love my nieces, and it was good to spend a whole week with them. We built a lot of sandcastles and met a lot of donkeys.
I have 'do you want to build a
(I watched Frozen. I physically cannot believe the sexy dress transformation that is supposedly Elsa's empowering moment of not caring what other people think. Disney can go fuck itself.)
I have a couple of days off work and a to do list of a million things. All I am actually going to do is read my book. I didn't take it on holiday because I knew I wouldn't be allowed to properly enjoy it. But now I'm home and I've missed it, and it's just so good, it's so much better than other books, I love it so much. Fitz is currently witbonding with a horse despite trying to explain that he definitely doesn't want that, and the horse is just like 'well it's no good not wanting me, we're brilliant together, I'm obviously your soulmate'. I have so many emotions. Fitz refused to let her know his name, so she's just read it from him, and is calling him Changer, which is what Nighteyes calls him, because it means Catalyst, which is what the Fool calls him, and which therefore is how he actually identifies. The Fool has bonded with a crow (<3) and keeps referring to Bee as 'our daughter' (<3333333333). Nighteyes lives in her head and calls her cub. I LOVE THEM ALL SO MUCH, they are the best fathers ever. (Or they would be, but one of them is dead, one of them is half dead, and one of them is Fitz.) The Fool asked him if Bee looked like him (the Fool) and Fitz immediately went 'no', and then started thinking about all the ways Bee looks exactly like the Fool and the Fool just laughed gently at him. I honestly don't understand the point of books that aren't sprawling fantasy novels about True Love. Fitz unravelled for a while and was just sending his emotions out to the whole castle, and now everybody has to politely pretend they don't know what a terrible mess he is. He let Kettricken feel how much Nighteyes had loved her and that was wonderful.
Day Eight: A song that makes you happy
I think my numbering has fallen awrong because I missed a question vaguely. But worse things.
All the songs I've been posting make me happy, I like songs that make me happy. I have a massive list of songs I could post for this one, but I ended up torn between Hey Baby and Hey Mickey, which are both so beautiful I could cry on them. I'm choosing Hey Baby only because I think I already covered the TRUE PURE HAPPINESS of the eighties in Green Door.
Ugh. It's such a stunning song, which is beautiful in its own right, and also beautiful in that it reminds me of patrick swayze. I know that nobody these days resists putting in the ooh, aah bits. Each to their own and all that, but it takes away everything that is full and lazy about the music, and if you prefer the other version you're basically soulless and you mean nothing to me.
via liseuse. Why do I think this was compiled by somebody who has not been reading for as many decades as I have? (I am still considering that peach you are offering me.)
1. You currently own more than 20 books: I slightly shudder to think how long ago I passed that mark.
2. You currently own more than 50 books: vide supra
3. You currently own more than 100 books: vide supra
4. You amassed so many books you switched to an e-reader: no, I switched to an e-reader for portability when on the move.
5. You read so much you have a ton of books AND an e-reader: is this at all exceptional?
6. You have a book-organization system no one else understands: I used to have a book organisation system but with one thing and another much of it has fallen into chaos.
7. You’re currently reading more than one book: yes, but some are more backburnered than others.
8. You read every single day: I breathe every day too.
9. You’re reading a book right now, as you’re taking this book nerd quiz: I'm not actually trying to multitask here.
10. Your essentials for leaving the house: wallet, phone, keys, and
a book: unless I'm just going round the corner to the shops or to the gym, e-reader; also, Freedom Pass for London Transport.
11. You’ve pulled an all-nighter reading a book: no, but I've stayed up later than I intended.
12. You did not regret it for a second and would do it again: no.
13. You’ve figured out how to incorporate books into your workout: WOT.
14. You’ve declined invitations to social activities in order to stay home and read: no, but there are occasions I may have wished I had.
15. You view vacation time as “catch up on reading” time: to some extent. Also, long journeys.
16. You’ve sat in a bathtub full of tepid water with prune-y skin because you were engrossed in a book: eeeeuuuuwwww, no.
17. You’ve missed your stop on the bus or the train because you were engrossed in a book: yes.
18. You’ve almost tripped over a pothole, sat on a bench with wet paint, walked into a telephone pole, or narrowly avoided other calamities because you were engrossed in a book: not to my recollection.
19. You’ve laughed out loud in public while reading a book: once or twice.
20. You’ve cried in public while reading a book (it’s okay, we won’t tell): no.
21. You’re the one everyone goes to for book recommendations: I'm not sure this is a thing one can say about oneself.
22. You take your role in recommending books very seriously and worry about what books your friends would enjoy: what am I, some kind of missionary? I put my thoughts out there and people can make their own decisions.
23. Once you recommend a book to a friend, you keep bugging them about it: good grief, no. Seriously poor ton.
24. If your friend doesn’t like the book you recommended, you’re heartbroken: oh, come on, how old are you, 6?
25. And you judge them. A little bit: de gustibus non est disputandum, seriously.
26. In fact, whenever you and a friend disagree about a book you secretly wonder what is wrong with them: what are you, 6?
27. You’ve vowed to convert a non-reader into a reader: eeeeuuuuwww.
28. And you’ve succeeded: you have a great future ahead of you as a cult guru, but count me out.
29. You’ve attended book readings, launches, and signings: only when it's been mates of mine launching their book.
30. You own several signed books: a few, but mostly ones by friends.
31. You would recognize your favorite authors on the street: some of them.
32. In fact, you have: no.
33. If you could have dinner with anybody in the world, you’d choose your favorite writer: this supposes that there is one prime favourite. Also, quite a lot of my favourites are dead.
34. You own a first-edition book: a few, none, I think, that I went out specifically to collect rather than happening across a copy that was.
35. You know what that is and why it matters to bibliophiles: oh, come on.
36. You tweet, post, blog, or talk about books every day: no.
37. You have a “favorite” literary prize: I skorn them utterly.
38. And you read the winners of that prize every year: what, with my existing tbr pile?
39. You’ve recorded every book you’ve ever read and what you thought of it: life is too short.
40. You have a designated reading nook in your home: no.
41. You have a literary-themed T-shirt, bag, tattoo, or item of home décor: what is this even. Okay, I do have a photo of Dame Rebecca on my wall: it was a present. Do piles of books count as home decor?
42. You gave your pet a literary name: what pet.
43. You make literary references and puns nobody else understands: I will cop to that.
44. You’re a stickler for spelling and grammar, even when you’re just texting: ditto.
45. You’ve given books as gifts for every occasion: birthdays, Valentine’s Day, graduations, Tuesdays...: not really.
46. Whenever someone asks what your favorite book is, your brain goes into overdrive and you can’t choose just one. You end up naming twelve books: and then adding afterthoughts.
47. You love the smell of books: yes.
48. You’ve binge-read an entire series or an author’s whole oeuvre in just a few days: or at least over the course of a few weeks.
49. You’ve actually felt your heart rate go up while reading an incredible book: I've never actually checked this.
50. When you turn the last page of a good book, you feel as if you’ve finally come up for air and returned from a great adventure: not sure I would put it exactly like that.
In one of those buildings which are now part of one of the Institutionz of the Highah Learninz in the Bloomsbury area, and are really not entirely fitted for purpose when you take into account things like accessibility, because the entire row if not the whole square is probably Grade II listed and therefore limits what one can do with the internal arrangements, also precludes bulldozing the lot and building something new.
Also, actual conference took place in a space which has massive associational resonances (a member of the Bloomsbury Group wrote An Important Book in it) but is a) not air-conditioned and first thing was draughty because somebody opened the windows at the back and later on stuffy and soporific and b) acoustically awful, though I think some of the problem I had in hearing the first speaker was not just because I was sitting rather far back but because, although they may have been miked, they muttered. Less of a problem with subsequent speakers, though I did move further forward for the after-lunch sessions.
All in all, very interesting, slightly tangential to my general line of interests, but one of those subjects that demonstrates what very diverse approaches you can get with different people from different disciplinary fields looking at a particular subject.
Also, managed to ask at least one question during discussions, and had a good conversation with one of the speakers at tea-time.
Although some weeks ago attendees were asked to advise on dietary restrictions re lunch, the day before there was an email saying, oops, no catering, find yourself. So as it was just around the corner, went to former Place of Work where I still have the entree.
Where I encountered a former colleague and had some discussion of Recent Changes - possibly it is not quite the thing for someone who was there as long as I was to moot the idea that people staying forever in the same workplace tend to get ossified, as does the place itself: but I think I perhaps did somewhat to counteract that effect by having Outside Scholarly Interests, visiting archives for research purposes, etc? Maybe? (unlike certain colleagues whom I suspect still hang on and will do until their lifeless corpse is discovered in the stacks.)