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I am avoiding your entries, dear fellow journal-writers, because I do not want to know who won Eurovision, which tells me I ought to prioritise watching Eurovision very soon indeed.

Wednesday was full of sturm und drang and therapy in which same was identified and some peace made -- all of which is very well, exceedingly well, but not at all like writing a long catch-up reading post. And next Wednesday Joy and I go to the eye-doctor and beforehand to a park and afterwards to Starbucks while we wait for our eyes to un-dilate and she will have a 'cake pop' as a treat if they still have them, and if not I'm sure we can find something. Again, likely very well, but not the long catch-up reading post. But right now my in-house partner has taken both children on the train to the farmer's market, and our housemate has just left to go see friends further north, and so for the next half hour at the very least I have the house altogether to myself, quite unusual. I am drinking coffee and listening to The Pogues, and it seems an ideal time to write about books.

Semi-Recently Finished: First, a great deal of manga; I finished the whole of Takaya Natsuki's Fruits Basket after spending over a year at it, and was quite well rewarded. I have never seen any other manga tackle something so complex as how people can emerge from an abusive family system through survival into actual rich life, and that it started off as a light-hearted comedy about cute boys who turn into animals when you hug them -- well. I have been considering how to write about this series, really write about it, not a paragraph here or even reviews of individual volumes on Goodreads, but how to write about the thematic concerns and the way that she uses the space of the series (23 volumes!) to engage with these questions from a wide variety of angles, with sympathy and compassion but without letting anyone off the hook -- everyone has to grow up, or break trying. A truly amazing series, I hope I can find the right form for analysing it in writing.

None of the other manga I read was that extraordinary, but then, I did not expect it to be. I am enjoying Barakamon, about a young man who is living on a rural island learning to appreciate the culture and community there -- it feels good just as one would expect, and why not? I also liked Whispered Words, in some ways a much more realistic look at teenage girls dealing with their attractions to other girls than any other manga I've seen -- but the last volume suffered a lot from a lack of copyediting which is a pity. Then a handful of other things loaned to me by friends, various shoujo romance series that I enjoyed but did not leave much of a trace. Manga is excellent for reading when I am sick, or attending on sick children, most of it does not suffer when interrupted the way that a good novel or rich biography does.

Finally, I read two books worth mentioning since last I posted. One was actually a collection of plays, Three American Plays by Laurence Stallings and Maxwell Anderson. I read it for the first one, "What Price Glory?", which The New Yorker of 1925 repeatedly trumpted as the best play about the war the writers had encountered. To me it read fairly grim, humorous but black, a lot of hatred, but after reading it I see that it was made into comedic movies and those movies had sequels and so on and so forth, so I am ... mystified, I suppose. I wonder what it was like when first performed, if it was considered a comedy, if the rivalry between the two men was seen as funny-and-awful or just funny? I really cannot imagine. I liked reading it, though, and the other two plays ("First Flight" and "The Buccanneer") were interesting as well.

The other book was just last night, Seventeen by Liz Rosenberg, subtitled "A Novel in Prose Poems" which subtitle seems rather unnecessary, it is just a novel and quite a good one, but I suppose as it is for a YA market it was felt necessary to warn the readers that they were not just getting a straightforward unadorned narrative? Stylistically, yes, some passages are poetry, but many are just prose. Regardless, it was very good; it is a girl's emotional arc through a school year as she has her first romance, learns some of bodily desire, struggles with her mother's mental illness and her own fears of adulthood, and all through it just shows, it does not explain, there are no resolutions, no epiphanies, just life beautifully told. I could imagine giving it to Joy when she is much, much older. I will look for more by Rosenberg.

Currently Reading: I have just started Soon I Will Be Invincible, Austin Grossman's superhero novel. I read a lot of superhero comics in the late 80s and early 90s, so I am familiar with all the tropes, and both interested and amused to see what he does with them. I picked it up right after I finished Seventeen last night, in the hopes it would be strong but cross-grained, and it is just that, a very different feel but surely written so I can trust it.

Up Next: I only discovered the existence of Life in Squares yesterday morning and I am intrigued and uneasy in equal measure -- can it possibly be good enough to satisfy me? And that actor playing Lytton Strachey, doesn't he look about fifty times too ruddy and healthy? And anyway, given that it is on the BBC, how long will I have to wait until I can watch it here? But as one might imagine, this has renewed my desire to dive back into the Strachey/Carrington books I have piled up in the bedroom, and my library time ran out for the Hyakunin Isshu books, so I think June will be a Bloomsbury month. Although with that being said... I realised during my sturm und drang earlier this week that I had fallen into old bad habits of reading things because I 'felt like I should' or because I had started them and could not give up even when they were obviously terrible -- all of which really stems from using reading to avoid my own self, to keep myself from thinking or being present or feeling all the worry about my long-distance partner's younger son who is having frightening medical issues. So -- enough of that, I will read what I feel like reading, and right now I feel like Bloomsbury, but if tomorrow I feel like something else, I will do that instead. And only the good books, life is just too short.

My family is back from the farmer's market with peaches and strawberries, so I must go.
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Here, I mean, because in my life not silence but much noise, everyone in my family took getting sick in turn, and then there was the weekend in which we went out of town (my partner for a weekend with his girlfriend playing games, myself and housemate and our children to visit friends, a lovely time had by all), and then coming back from that, I and Joy both got sick, and so it went, that was May. I am glad for June, perhaps a change of pace -- and glad also as Joy finishes school in just a few days and I will no longer have to deal with a large variety of minor irritations, as well as the major, unspoken, difficult to pinpoint irritation that is dropping her off every day with adults whom I do not trust. Trust to keep her from obvious harm, yes, trust not to harm her themselves, yes, but I do not trust them (her teacher or any of the support staff I have encountered) to treat her as an actual human being, a child of course but still fully as human as themselves, with her own thoughts, feelings, motivations, narrative. It infuriates me constantly, and also produces enormous upwellings of anxiety each morning, but in the concrete actuality of it for her it has mostly been fine,. There have been a few very odd times -- they did a 'lockdown drill' which is preparation for a school shooter and then were mystified one and all when she was terrified to go to school for a few weeks -- but when I give them precise instructions they do try to follow them, all the while confused that treating her as something like a hyperactive puppy doesn't produce the results they want.

But -- only a few more days, and then she is home for a week (a different kind of noise but likely pleasant in large part) and then she starts going to a day camp run by the city to which she has gone twice before with immense success, a mix of energetic college students who seem to care deeply for children as people, and older adults more grounded but with the same care.

In the meanwhile, I take care of the children, take care of the house (less than I ought), and try to manage the anxiety and exhaustion and annoyance. Next year we are at a new school, a very different one, still in the public system but a magnet school focused on environmental sciences, and both Joy and I are looking forward to it -- I think I am more than she is, even, because I hope to make friends amongst the other parents (there is a strong culture of volunteering, so why not?) and also for her, that it will hopefully be a space which takes her personhood seriously.

If there is time tomorrow I will do an overly long catch-up post for Wednesday reading.
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The difficulty with having done Wednesday reading on a Friday is that I keep thinking, didn't I just do this? Well, more or less, yes. But it is not as though I have stopped reading.

Just Finished: Heir of Sea and Fire, the second book of McKillip's Riddlemaster trilogy. I did like the first, but I liked this more, although it still feels... simple? I do not quite have the words for it, but what is happening is the thing that is happening, there are not other things also happening. It seems like these might make excellent YA novels, with the lovely prose, the large emotions, everything always at a fever pitch, and yet a very, very simple plot and the questions at hand not easy to resolve, but easy to understand. It will be another 8 or so years before Joy is ready for such books, at a guess, but I am looking forward to when she is.

I read Ben Aaronovitch's Foxglove Summer in under a day, I think, and loved it. I don't seem to look for 'fun' very much in my reading (or my life, come to that, something to consider), but his novels are quite fun and this one was the best yet. A pity that a degree in Rural Land Management would require moving to the British Isles, I actually think I might love that. (And it is not at all unlike what my sister-in-law does for her work, so obviously I could go a different route and do that sort of work right here, except I am just not emotionally involved in this landscape... and why I should be emotionally involved in a landscape I've only seen once is a deep mystery, I blame too much early reading of Watership Down, but there it is, I am not a rational person.)

Currently Reading: The New Yorker, of course. Up to August of 1925 in the archives, and still about a week behind the current issue. I suppose it ought to show up in the above section too, but I never of being done, finishing an issue just means another issue to go, and I am still really enjoying it.

Harpist in the Wind, the final McKillip in the trilogy. It is more complex than the first two, and I am enjoying it the most, and I hope it holds up through the end. Considering it a little more, I think one reason it feels like it would make good YA is that there is such surprise in the narrative when people are not consistent -- when a person first does a cruel thing and then does a kind one, as though people are all one thing or another.

I have happily given up on Connolly's Twenty Palaces novels; I will see if I like his fantasy any better. He is clearly a competent writer, it is just that these books are not what I like to read.

Up Next: I realised that I needed to prioritise my larger projects or I would never get anywhere with them, so the Strachey/Carrington project is set aside for a month or so while I spend time with the Hyakunin Isshu, a collection of 100 Japanese waka which is the basis for a semi-popular Japanese card game, as featured in the anime Chihaya Furu which I am currently watching. The anime is charming and I am enjoying it very much, but it is the poems themselves which have really caught me, so I am sitting down to give them proper attention. I cannot read classical Japanese (or modern Japanese except at the most basic level), but translations abound, and I have happily acquired six or seven different translations, plus some useful webpages, and a really amazing pictorial reception history (Pictures of the Heart by Joshua S. Mostow) and am enjoying beyond measure the chance to get to know these poems and the poets. I have not quite decided yet but I am thinking of doing a poem a week, here (or maybe in the I-am-a-writer blog... but probably here) with my favourite of the translations and a little bit of the history and all, just because... why not? Although a poem a week is almost two years, so we will see. It is just the sort of project which I would start and not finish and I am rather tired of doing that.
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I spent Wednesday having brunch and conversation with my friend C., and driving back and forth to same, and then of course the parenting etc -- thus, no time to post here.

Just Finished: The Riddle-Master of Hed by Patricia McKillip. Morgon is such a classic reluctant hero, spending the majority of the book trying to escape the plot. And if I was (re)reading this without the second and third volume to hand, I would have found the ending really annoying.

Currently Reading: Still The New Yorker, now down to only a week behind the current issue. It makes me hungry to travel, listen to new music, read different books, try many new things -- all in all a great good.

Heir of Sea and Fire, being the next McKillip. I think I applaud her for refusing to match genre expectations and making the scenic women into the main characters of the second novel, but ... it feels somewhat thin. A lot of talk about how beloved Morgon is, but it is unclear why he would be, except authorial fiat. Still, I like the language and I like the characters and I have no desire to put it down.

I had started on Game of Cages which is Harry Connolly's second novel about Ray Lilly, but then aforementioned friend C. gave me Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch and I couldn't resist starting it instead. It is the same genre, but Aaronovitch is funny; perhaps he can afford to be as I think his characters have script immunity and Connolly's clearly do not.

Up Next: I finally found my copy of Michael Holroyd's biography of Lytton Strachey (the updated 1994 version), but also Strachey's letters and Carrington's letters, and I am planning to sit down with all of these and read them all at the same time, to supplement the very annoying Gretchen Gerzina biography of Carrington that I mentioned last week.

I am astonished by just how many books about Bloomsbury I own, and how consistent my interest in these people have been (almost 20 years now) and also somewhat embarassed by how many of these books I have never yet got around to reading. Now is the time, I suppose.
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The weekends are such a mixed blessing; uninterrupted time to spend with my offspring is both lovely and exhausting. Also, I am not sleeping well in the nights, and so I ended up napping much of Saturday afternoon and then sleeping late on Sunday, in both times leaving children in care of in-house partner. My partner is willing and able -- after all, they are his children too, he likes to be with them, he works all week until past their very early bedtimes so only sees them in the mornings -- but it is still somewhat unsatisfying when the weekend ends up being a series of trade-offs of solo parenting rather than solid time spent together as a family.

Still, needs must. Along with sleep, the four of us attended an event for the school Joy will be at next year, put away a lot of laundry, and cleaned Joy's room to about 3/4 completion. My friend T., uncle-by-fiat to the children, came over as he often does on the weekends and they were delighted to see him, and in the evening we (myself, partner, housemate, T., neighbour M.) had our weekly anime night, which was lovely.

Sunday morning Joy wanted to hear 'that book about the girl who couldn't be in the circus anymore' which I eventually discerned was Noel Streatfeild's Tennis Shoes -- not my favourite of the books, but it was nearby a week or two ago and so we started it. I suggested that we might try something she'd find more interesting instead, and ended up reading the first chapter of Marian Cockrell's Shadow Castle which was a favourite of mine in elementary school. It may require mild bowlderisation, as it is from 1945 and it shows, but the first chapter went over well despite being almost all description of travel. I was delighted when later on she drew a picture of Lucy and Flumpdoria finding the castle, with our family standing by watching. Joy's first fanart!

Note to self: if feeling so tired that vision blurs, wash glasses. Causality may well be reversed, clean glasses leading to clear vision leading to realisation one is not so tired after all. Still, I think fiction writing may be out of reach today; I will read The New Yorker and take another stab at this Carrington biography instead.

written

Apr. 23rd, 2015 02:00 pm
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Words: 1187. Not fantastic, but it is writing.

Total Words So Far: around 15000 but some of those are notes to myself

I am glad for Google, which has told me that Jazzercise would have existed in Chicago in 1978, even if it would not show me pictures of purses specifically from 1986. But I am not sure either of these things really matters, it may be elaborate cat vacuuming, and I am a little inclined to think that this entire section is boring, all summary and no motion, so it will need to be rewritten or perhaps entirely removed. Still, I must get from Point A to Point B somehow -- or perhaps I do not, perhaps I may just say, here were are at Point B. I don't have the shape of it yet, but I will get there. This is the part of writing which used to drive me to despair, but I am pleased to report that while I feel a little irritable, it no longer seems an insurmountable problem indicating that writing is a useless endeavour.

I wonder if this will be a novel or a novella? If I finish it, it will be the first long thing I have ever finished, so really, that is enough of a goal. Keep writing. Finish it. Then find readers so I can figure out how to make it better.
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This goes a long way around through my kitchen and feminism but it gets to books eventually.

I was in the kitchen just now, making myself toast, considering the drudgery of being a housewife & stay-at-home-mother. Not mine in particular, which is remarkably minimal, but the general case of it -- I just started watching Mad Men a few weeks back -- and how it has and has not changed, and how even in my own exceptionally privileged case, the assumption is still that I am the person in the household who manages everyone's schedules and institutes the routines and sees that they are carried through. My partner may well take the children to school, but I am the one who reminds him to pack my daughter a lunch, and yes peanut butter is okay, and if I forget (as I did today) to remind him to send breakfast with my son, then my son is at preschool without breakfast.

So why is it that I am the one who must remember all these things? What are the vitally important matters on my partner's mind that keep him from tracking the fact that our son ought to eat breakfast every single day, and thus breakfast must go to preschool with him? This is snarky, yes, but I was also thinking about it seriously. He works full-time at a complex job managing complex things, which perhaps leaves no room in his mind to remember bananas. But then, I work as time permits trying to write novels, which is also a complex job -- so why is it so very obvious that, of the two of us, I'm the one who has the time & energy to keep track of the bananas, whereas he does not? Is it anything other than male privilege? Furthermore, isn't it very strange that by choosing to have these children (which I do not regret in the slightest), I have also signed up for years of buying shoes and remembering bananas, and my partner, somehow, has not?

Then I thought, how strange it would be, must have been, to be a man who takes it for granted that his wife will do all this enormous load of work, managing the household and children and so forth, and then suddenly she realises that she was signed up for a job she hated and that she could quit. Not that every woman can, of course, but some can, and do, often at enormous personal cost --

Spoilers for Jo Walton's _My Real Children_ within )

So now I know what it is that did not work for me, and knowing that, I am a little closer to having my own aesthetics of prose, which is important to me as I grow into my own writing. For a very long time I was unwilling to dislike the craft of things -- I might say I did not enjoy a novel, or that I disliked the ideology of it, but I could not say that I thought there were problems in how a work was put together; I both lacked the language and the courage. Now I have the latter, and I am developing the former in my own way, not entirely reinventing the wheel, but somewhat -- my degree in English Literature did not involve any classes in aesthetics, it was all cultural studies and the like, which I adored and am very glad for but does me no good at all in trying to understand why I experience some books as breathtakingly beautiful and others as dull. Or, really more importantly to me, some books as deeply true, and others as meretricious.


What, then, do I love in books? Truth and beauty, I suppose, ridiculously reductive, but that is what it comes down to. I find beauty in specificity of detail, and I find truth -- well, that one I am not sure of yet, but I think it is also about specificity, and what lives in the body. I want the books I read to be utterly real, even if they are fantastic.

I love Candas Jane Dorsey's Black Wine and Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls and Nicola Griffith's Hild and Sofia Samatar's A Stranger in Olondria and Jill Paton Walsh's Lapsing because in each of those books there are true things being said, and they are being said in part by the description of what it is like to see patterns of light moving on the wall in a strange room, or feel a flutter in your stomach that seems like fear but might be something else, or to smell the spices in the market of the country you have spent your entire life yearning to visit, or to feel the pine needles under your body as you wait to see if you are going to live through the next few minutes. Not every moment is described, but enough are, and when things are told rather than felt (I am thinking of the Dorsey in particular here), they hit with doubled force, because the author makes the reader complicit in the knowing of that moment, she suggests that it does not have to be described, we already know.

I am sure there are many more books out there which combine these things. I hope that I can find them. More, I hope that I can write my own.
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I am astonished I am remembering to do this on the appropriate day of the week.

Currently Reading: As always, I am reading a dozen books with various levels of attention. The most compelling right now is my first reread since 2002 of The Riddle-Master of Hed by Patricia McKillip. I am enjoying it, although not with the same white-hot passion as when I was younger; it is too simple for that, too much the unlayered straight line of plot despite the lovely things adorning it. Reading it now, I wonder if it was inspired by Earthsea? Regardless, it feels very much of its time (1976) in the way that there is a map and Morgon must go to almost each place on it so that the reader may tour the world. (In this it reminds me also of Nancy Springer, although in many other ways they do not seem alike -- but perhaps it was just the shape of some type of 1970s fantasy? And if so, where did this go in the 1980s?) McKillip writes it well and I do not mind the tour, but I am curious to see how she shapes the plot in the second and third books; I remember how much I loved them but very little else.

On my ipad I am constantly reading The New Yorker, always about three weeks behind the current issue; I enjoy almost all of it very much, and the occasional article that is too annoying I blithely skip. I also dip into the archives occasionally, reading through the early issues from 1925, finding little gems like comedy columns from Julius H. Marx and the occasional poem that stays with me. I am curious to see how the magazine changes over time, although if I tried to read every issue that has ever been published it would take me about twenty years at my current rate -- perhaps much longer, the early issues are so short. But I am enough of a completist that the idea appeals, even though it is a little ridiculous.

Finally, I am partly through a biography of Carrington by Gretchen Gerzina -- not very well done, I think, but I have not read many biographies, and it is the only one that exists, so I keep reading. I like it when it quotes her letters, but when she talks about how at nineteen Carrington was just like any other teenager -- is teenager not a social construct which did not exist yet in 1910? I might be wrong, but there are so many such moments that I end up not trusting the flow of the book.

Just Finished: Child of Fire by Harry Connolly, the first of the Twenty Palaces books. It has so much good in it, but I am just not the target audience for these books. They seem to me like an exceptionally good example of their genre (paranormal noir), Connolly neither pulls punches nor lingers over the grotesque, the protagonist is very realistic both in his willingness to do violence and his intense discomfort with it afterwards -- and yet, I end up skimming over pages and pages of action scenes, not caring about the details of who hides where and shoots with what, or how clever our hero/anti-hero is with the use of objects, or anything like that. But if you like that genre, by all means read these, because Connolly is masterful in his use of incluing and he does not care a whit if the reader is somewhat confused; his protagonist is confused as well, those with power are not sharing much information, and there is a large backstory shared only in the smallest bits and pieces.

(I am reminded by [personal profile] rachelmanija that these books do contain bad things happening to children, although not in my mind gratuitously or done as misery tourism. But mileage, of course, varies.)

Up Next: The rest of the McKillip trilogy, once I finish the first one. I have the other two Twenty Palaces books also, and in a way I want to read them because I liked Ray Lilly and I found the world fascinating, but will I just end up skipping a lot of pages of action again? And if so, is that any reason not to read them in the way that I will find the most satisfactory? I always feel vaguely guilty, the author put those words there for a reason, and yet -- my time is so finite.

I have Jane Hirshfield's third collection of poems, The October Palace, waiting for me at home, but in order to read poetry I really must be alone and quiet, so it keeps getting put aside. Tonight, perhaps, if I am lucky. I love to read poetry but it is like the richest chocolate, one or two at a time and then a long time to digest, which is sometimes frustrating when there is so much poetry in the world. An embarassment of riches, I suppose.
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I have not written again, because life. Life has recently consisted of:

* youngest child being ill with high fever, almost necessitating cancelling trip out of town.

* trip out of town occuring anyway, friends seen, merriment had, Joy allowed to swim despite it being really too cold.

* Joy coming down with high fever in car on way home and missing two days of school.

* Today both children are at school but in-house partner could not get out of bed due to high fever, thus necessitating trip to cafe for peace and quiet (both to achieve for self and give same to him).

I am quite cranky, although remarkably less so right this moment; I have delicious overpriced coffee and some food and the laptop and am complaining at my (mostly imaginary at this date, I fear) audience. Eventually the library will open and I will get the five books that are waiting for me. Perhaps tonight I will manage some solitude in my own space; alone in a crowd (at a cafe, for example) can be lovely, but it is not really the same, and too many days in which I have no time upon my own ground alone leaves me prickly.

written

Apr. 16th, 2015 02:24 pm
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I have no idea how many words I actually wrote, as these files are a mess and I wrote some things four or five times and haven't deleted all of the excess yet, but I think it was about 2500 words. Not much for the entire day, but having not touched the project in three months it took me some time to pick up the threads again, and then I had to rename a character, which led to finally solidifying necessary details as to other names, dates, and other useful underpinnings. I also ate two meals and helped my partner find various objects he needed for child-care purposes and so forth, so I am quite, quite satisfied.

Imagine if I did this every day. Why don't I? Oh, yes, two children, housework, errands, therapy, sleep, all of that. But really, I ought to be able to do this more days than I do, there are three days when both children are in school, and therapy isn't until 1, I could write from 9.30-12.30 3 days a week and that would be marvelous. I might even finish something then, and have to figure out what to do with it, a terrifying thought. Well, the next possible writing day is Monday, we will see if I may manage it.
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Oh, look, there's a journal here, how astonishing.

Life continues upon its busy way; Joy is 5 1/2, currently at day camp, and the baby is now a 2 1/2 year old who attends a Montessori 3 days a week -- but today he is delightedly playing with his father while I write. Which, of course, is how I end up posting here, as any attempt at writing must have its concomitant journalling window.

Both children are marvelous, and play together and fight together and have their own very distinct and different personalities. Joy is still cautious and very anxious, but loves school and is finding her own courage with new things such as this camp. She is imaginative, creative, determined, she loves art and stories and animals and learning new things, and right now she wishes to be a marine biologist so that she can study coral reefs and also befriend an octopus and find out if they really do like taking photographs. Her favourite story is Frozen, she identifies enormously with Elsa (unsurprisingly, I think; that feeling that one must be a good girl or perhaps the world will end seems endemic to female childhood, no matter how we try to parent against it) and has convinced her younger brother to play Anna. She has a rich inner world populated with characters from books, videos, and manga, and will sometimes play pretend by herself for an hour or more. This autumn she goes to a science-focused school, and I am crossing my fingers it feeds her mind and spirit the way I would like.

My son is full of language, focused mostly on vehicles (cars, planes, trains, buses) but also upon other parts of the world around him; he is fascinated by the moon, by animals, by my purse. He has begun to colour with the crayons instead of eating them, and he loves to help with the household tasks, putting laundry into the washer, putting away silverware, turning on the oven light when I am baking. When angry he lashes out, hitting and kicking and screaming, finding things he knows he is not supposed to touch and throwing them across the room -- very different from Joy at this age, her temper did not really start to express itself until she was much older. But he calms down quickly, often, and afterwards needs the cuddling and breath and gentle time. He has just transitioned from the toddler room at the Montessori into the pre-school room, and is adjusting well and quickly to the challenge of more structure, larger space, and many more children. He is less cautious than Joy, and rarely anxious, very outgoing and playful. He loves to clown, to laugh and to make other people laugh; he will fall down with staged drama, pulling a toy dump truck on top of his stomach, and then shout, "Oh no!" and wait to see who looks and will laugh about it with him. He also begins to imagine; lately he and Joy have been playing 'quick, hide, santa is coming!' which involves a lot of pretend play, and he can follow her through the steps of it and add his own refinements. They also pretend to camp, and discuss the possibility of bears and whether or not they must hide from them.

I, myself, am a little worn right now, with parenting both of them and my part in the household tasks and trying to carve out moments to write and read and think and be. As the children grow older, more and more parts of my past return to trouble me, and it takes a lot of space and thought to let these things move through so that they do not stay and colour all my days and nights. And I aspire to so many things which I cannot manage yet, to do yoga regularly to help energy move through my body, to garden and bake more, to learn languages, to play the piano, to see more ballet and opera and understand them when I do. I want so much it troubles me, and it is so easy to simply turn off all desire and move through the days getting done everything that needs to be done, without wanting more than to get to the end of the day and then through the next and the next. But it is not living, that, and so I continue to struggle to let myself want -- and right now I do want, and I am here, writing about.

Back to the fiction, now.
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This may come as a surprise to no one, but babies? They take a lot of time. A baby and a pre-schooler, together? They take even more time.

Joy is rapidly approaching her 4th birthday, and my son is 6 1/2 months. My mind is finally starting to emerge from the fog of change (additional child, new house, housemate, online girlfriend, husband doing a lot of parenting of Joy so I can take care of the baby) and take some bearings again. Coherency may eventually result.

In the meantime, I have Eurovision to catch up on watching. Glorious Eurovision, how did I ever do without you?
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Joy and I have now experienced the Delights of Public Transit, and I mean that without any sarcasm -- there's a big difference between living in a very pleasant town that has some bus service, and living around the corner from a light rail station that has trains every 20 minutes. She tried it out yesterday with her dad (they brought me bizarre and delicious doughnuts!), and was really eager to go again, and I wanted to see how it would be to take transit to the previously mentioned ginormous library, so off we went!

It's a pleasant walk, really just around the corner, although the station itself is in the middle of a busy freeway and quite noisy. Joy put her hands over her ears, waited patiently for the train, then showed me how to get on and told me that there was No Standing while it was moving. We sat and looked out the windows together, and commented on all the stops (only a few) and what interesting things might be at them. Then we got off (with another reminder from Joy that we had to wait until it was Not Moving), and walked the few blocks to the library. There was random public art on the way which Joy ran up to and stroked and admired, and a lot of students, and many little restaurants and coffee shops and movie posters and theatre posters and pots of flowers, all of which had to be duly examined and accounted for. We were thus not walking very fast, but at 8 months pregnant I was glad about that rather than frustrated.

The university itself is not so large, space-wise -- a few square blocks in a downtown -- but the edge that we walked along had a beautiful old building, and then, oh, the library. I'd tried to explain to Joy that it was really big compared to our old local library, but as we walked closer and I pointed out the 8-story building to her, she looked up... and up... and up... and said, "Mommy, that really is pretty big!" Nor did the inside disappoint; not only do they have a children's room on the ground floor, but the first few levels are connected by Joy's current favourite machinery: escalators. Given that we spent something like 45 minutes at IKEA a week ago riding up & down escalators I was a little worried about how this would go, but she was perfectly happy to escalate up to where we needed to switch to elevators, then go up in the elevator to the floor where PR (inevitably my favourite section of a library-of-congress catalogued library) was lurking. As it turned out this was the Silent Study Floor, so I was a bit worried, but Joy handled it admirably, keeping her voice at a whisper and looking at skylights flooding study areas with sunshine, rows of books all the same colour (whispered: "Why are they all red? Red is my favourite!") and then the amazing view across the city as I quickly grabbed a few books before she ran out of patience. Then we went back down and checked out the kid's room, which is not so exciting compared to our old one, but the fact that they have a kid's room at all is pretty astonishing to me, and Joy was happy to do the puzzles and pick out a book by Jane Yolen with bad dinosaur jokes in it before we walked back to transit and went back home.

The books I got were the first volumes of two different editions of Byron's letters (because of an entertainingly snide essay by Maurice Hewlett), three novels by 'Miss Read' who is my other (non-Wentworth) comfort reading at the moment, Rab and His Friends because of an essay praising it by "someone I don't know his name" (as Joy would say, by which I mean I can't recall the author right now), and a novel by Grant Allen that advertised itself on the back as being detective fiction & thus overcame the aversion created by having read The Woman Who Did a few years back. A very random mix, but oh it was beyond words wonderful to be in the stacks of a real library with sunshine and book smell and tens of thousands of books I might want to read. I am an unfortunately unpicky reader in my strange way; I'm willing to try anything old, because even if it drive me nuts (see The Woman Who Did) or is completely discredited history or betrays horrible ideological failure on the part of the author (everything written by Maria McIntosh), I feel like I'm learning something about the past by reading it with a critical mind. Everything is grist to my mill, I suppose, even if I am not exactly sure what I plan to do with the mill itself. Maybe go get a PhD in English Lit after all; it seems a shame not to do something I love so much simply because there is no practical outcome foreseen.
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I complained to my husband that I spend all my spare time sleeping and have not yet had time to go raid the 8-story university library which is now conveniently nearby due to the wonders of public transit, and he said, "Take the afternoon off!" So I am, but I quickly realised that what I really, really wanted to do was curl up with a stack of my existing library books and my computer and read some of your journals (which I haven't had time to do in three months) and post a little bit about my current reading and probably fall asleep again because I'm in that phase of pregnancy where my body wakes me up 2 or 3 times a night, just to get in practise for having a newborn. Thus, that is what I did!

I finished the Probability trilogy, by Nancy Kress, and was mildly disappointed. They were perfectly decent sf novels, but (as seems to happen with much of my sf reading), the parts I found most interesting weren't developed enough, and there was a lot of stuff that seemed... obvious, or shallow. I came away from it feeling like I wasn't the audience for the book, which is probably true.

Thanks to [personal profile] oursin[1] I am reading all the Patricia Wentworth mysteries that the library can find for me, and I really, really like them. The early ones (from the 30s) are more thrillers than detective fiction, which don't do as much for me, but they have interesting bits of period detail, and I tend to like her romances despite the endless stream of pale-skinned gray-eyed women whom the heroes always moon over. Her later works read a lot like Angela Thirkell without the horrible class stuff and with some murders, which is a remarkably enchanting combination, although I do sometimes find that I'd be just as happy to read the Village Drama without the mystery at all, which is a little embarassing. I was intrigued to see the ground (both in time and genre) her career covered -- according to the internets she started off in 1913 writing historical fiction, switched to the intrigue/spy stuff in the 20s, and only really got settled into the sort of 'cozy' detective series that I love in the early 1940s. I'm surprised she's so neglected in favour of Christie/Marsh/Allingham/Sayers, because she writes great women, including her main detective (Miss Maud Silver) being a retired Edwardian governess rather in the style of Miss Marple -- I'm not sure which came first, actually. I suspect she's been somewhat ignored by the tiny portion of litcrit that focuses on detective fiction because her Miss Silver novels are so much more Thirkell-village-drama and so much less detective-focused, but I haven't dug down to find out if she's as neglected as I think or if I just hadn't heard of her despite my single undergrad course in detective fiction. I mean, I didn't hear about Marsh & Allingham through that class either, but I certainly heard about them while doing general research for my paper on Sayers.

I realise that last paragraph got incoherent, and I am tempted to wait until tomorrow when I am more awake to rewrite before posting, but I think that given what life is like, it might be several weeks before I got back to this, so I will just post now and hope that you, oh gentle and largely hypothetical reader, will be able to sort it all out.

1: To be specific, it is thanks to oursin indirectly, because although she did not directly recommend Wentworth, she wrote an interesting post about mystery novelists who have internalised spinster-phobia which touched on the authors I was reading at the time (Allingham, Marsh, Christie) and thus led one of her readers to talking about Wentworth.
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Moving! We are now in a large city fairly close to the town in which I used to live (which was itself part of ginormous urban sprawl), in a house that was originally built in 1900 but had been upgraded since, so that we do not need to worry about the plumbing (much) or the wiring or anything like that. It is the sort of house I have always dreamed of living in; two stories, high ceilings, little period details in the molding and doors and such but enough mod cons to make it comfortable, and with a huge backyard filled with fruit/nut trees (a pear, an avocado, three walnuts and a little tiny lemon) and two orange trees in the front. We are right across the highway from the downtown of the large city, but in the northernmost residential neighbourhood of what used to be (in the 19th century) another town, so while it's easy to hop on public transit for restaurants or bars or the ballet (!) or the theatre, walking out the front door it's all old houses and giant trees and a park and a school. This is, I think, the best of both worlds for my family; my husband wanted to live someplace more urban and I wanted someplace with old houses and lots of green things. Joy loves riding the light rail and loves having a backyard to play in, and having her own room which she doesn't have to share with 6 bookcases filled with 'Mommy books' -- now she has her own bookcase and is busy filling it with her own books and the odd stuffed animal. There's also a tiny room for the new baby when he comes in mid-autumn, but right now it is filled with all the boxes of my books and clothes we haven't unpacked yet. Because the house is right by lots of freeways and an airport it can be noisy outside, but the walls & new double-paned windows so thick that I don't notice the noise with things closed, and even with the windows open I find it very easy to tune out car/plane sounds. Sometimes at night, with my bedroom windows open, it reminds me of Heidi getting used to living under the pine trees.

Another lovely thing about the new house is that, being so large, we have been able to put a long-held plan into action and move in with a friend, which not only makes this all affordable, but also means there's a third adult in the house who is involved in our lives while living his own. It is very, very nice to have another adult person here during the days (he works from home) to share meals with and brainstorm wacky projects (home brewing! curing our own bacon) and generally provide both company and support. I am occasionally overwhelmed with surprise that he wanted to do this, and seems happy so far (it's only been a week!), but I am very glad. I think that it's going to make being a stay-at-home parent to two children a lot less lonely.

The only real downsides of the new place are that we're farther from a lot of other friends who used to walk to our place, so we probably won't see them as much, and there's a river nearby so we seem to get mosquitos (I'm covered in bug bites for the first time since I was a teenager). And, of course, I am now farther away from Joy's pre-school and gymnastics class, but she is so attached to them (and so change-averse) that I am going to try to drive to them anyway rather than find something closer, at least for now. Next week will be the first attempts at leaving early enough to get her to school 11 miles away by 9am; we shall see how it goes.

In short, I am exhausted but happy. Moving in the third trimester is a pain, but oh I'm glad to be here.
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I just started reading Probability Sun by Nancy Kress (don't start with it, it's a sequel; read Probability Moon first) and was reminded that I've always liked her work, but somehow I never connect her early weird fantasy with her super-successful science fiction. It's sort of like Brust, who is arguably my favourite author just because I have reread his work (almost all of it; the only one I don't like is To Reign in Hell) more than any other author ever, but whom I always forget about when someone says "Who's your favourite author?"

Kress is not a favourite the way Brust is, she isn't comfortable and isn't part of the furniture of my mind, but I do seem to enjoy her work pretty consistently -- although the only ones I ever reread are The White Pipes and An Alien Light and it's been so long (15 years?) for both of those that they might sadly disappoint me the next time around. Still, it's nice to think she has several decades of work for me to catch up on, since I haven't read anything new by her since I read Beggars in Spain in my late teens, and who knows, maybe there's a gem in there.
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I just found out that Joy's new gymnastics teacher is a former Soviet World Champion.

This makes my brain hurt!
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As I had mentioned previously but only in comments, I am pregnant again, which is of course a source of great joy, but also a source of great exhaustion. And Joy herself is having some strangeness in her sleep schedule, which being a very dedicated sleeper she is making up for (to whit, waking up at 4am, playing for a while, then going back to sleep until 7.30) but it disrupts my ability to sleep as well. And my ability to plan, because I've discovered that I can't really settle into writing anything except the lightest email when she is giggling and shrieking and engaging in detailed pretend-play dialogues in her crib.

But I have many things to say: Planet Narnia and Crescent and Joy herself in more detail, and lentil-rice soup (I am finally making myself learn to cook things which do not come in boxes) and C.J. Cherryh (so much work!) and The Othering of CS Lewis. And gymnastics, because now that I think about it, gymnastics is sort of my fandom, except I don't write gymnastics fanfic because, well, that would be weird, except last night I sheepishly admit my brain came up with an entire dinner conversation between Alicia Sacramone and Bridget Sloan while it was falling asleep, because due to Twitter I knew they were having dinner together. But really, aside from that one aberration, I don't write gymnastics fanfic even in my head! But I do love women's artistic gymnastics, as a problematic thing which is also really exciting to watch.

I must give up on Joy napping and go fetch her and play whatever game she demands and read to her and then try to get our various ducks into a row to either drop off library books or run to Target to get vital paper products or maybe just go for a walk, since she has told me twice she wants to.
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Distasteful misogynistic language below.

I really liked the first season of Downton Abbey because, well, it is the sort of thing I like. But I was sad that in the final episode, one character dramatically calls another "slut". Surely the more likely term for 1914 was "whore"? I've been meaning to ask Google's ngram viewer about this for ages, and just now did, and it does look like slut was still mostly used for "an untidy woman, a slattern", although there is an interesting entry in a Pacific Reporter about whether or not it has the meaning of "unchaste woman" and is thus a slander. So quite possibly it already had the meaning it had today, but... I still think "whore" would have been more appropriate.

People who know more about this are welcome to inform me, since I am neither a Brit nor any sort of expert on early 20th century bad language.
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I had some of a post, but my computer ated it.

So I will dive in again! Planet Narnia by Michael Ward. It is fascinating; Ward argues that there is a unity to the Chronicles of Narnia because Lewis was basing the atmosphere of each book off of the medieval symbolic spiritual meaning of a particular planet. (This is not astrology in the modern sense.) I'm finding it a complicated thesis to summarise here, in part because 'atmosphere' is such a difficult thing to talk about -- Lewis apparently found it so himself, and wrote about his frustrations with trying to do critical analysis on a quality which didn't have a lot of useful critical language. IIRC he wrote about it a lot in On Stories, which I haven't read yet but now really want to.

Anyway... Ward argues that this unity underlies the series, and I've just gotten into the part of the book where he starts giving examples, one novel (and planet) at a time. Lewis was very concerned with the ideas symbolised by Jupiter, because he felt that they were being entirely lost due to the traumas of the 20th century, and thus people were finding it more and more difficult to understand what it meant to be truly 'Jovial'. He wrote a lot of poetry about it, and the planets in general, and put it into his science fiction trilogy (which I have not been able to read due to horrible triggery stuff), and so when he began Narnia he was still very focused on it. Thus The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is full of Jovian energy, which is all about overcoming winter and generous peace-loving kingship and pomp and joy, which the book certainly has its fair share of. Of course, Lewis was also describing his idea of what Incarnation and Salvation might look like in a world different than our own, so there's a lot of other stuff going on too, but Ward argues that the ways in which Lewis describes & uses Aslan are themselves Jovian -- the lion, the king in his rich pavilion, the dancing with the girls, etc etc.

I am, so far, finding it a pretty convincing thesis, in part because a lot of the elements of the novel which worked for me as a kid and then seemed weird as an adult -- like Father Christmas showing up -- make a great deal of sense if Lewis is trying to show a lot of forms of generous, magnanimous kingship. I'd come up with this on my own between hearing about Ward's thesis & starting the book, but Father Christmas (Santa Claus) is the one referent modern people still have for 'jovial' -- large, loud, associated with red (at least red-faced if not wearing red clothes), generous and powerful and warm and, well, jovial. Jolly. So it fits in with the atmosphere, yes, even if it doesn't fit in on a lot of other axes.

It is nice to be reading literary criticism of the sort which makes me think and think and think. Once my thoughts have cohered some more I may take a stab at this 'atmosphere' thing myself, since I knew exactly what Ward and the quoted Lewis were talking about, and it's something I've found surprisingly difficult to communicate.
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