larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (vanished)
Slightly late, but still in time for Reading Wednesday:


The Four Seasons ed. by J.D. McClatchy. This has immediately become one of my favorite anthologies ever. Heartily recommended.

In Good King Charles's Golden Days by Bernard Shaw. Shaw's influence is all over 20th century drama, isn't it. Parts of this could have been written by a young Stoppard.

A Popular Schoolgirl by Angela Brazil. This one is set just after the Great War, and its shadow looms over civilian life. Read it while recovering from a kidney stone attack, and it did the job admirably of distracting me without any need for serious thought. Not her best or even most interesting, but a solid instance of her sort of schoolgirl stories.

In progress:

The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism by Bernard Shaw, which is lucid and entertaining, if marred by occasional bits of condescending. Would that more books on economics were written this well. Maybe a quarter of the way in? -- it's hefty, but quick reading.

Love Poems ed. by C.N. Edwards, which is the sort of anthology where the illustrations are much of the point: there's an old painting opposite every poem. (The cover has Klimt.) Not many poems that are both good and new to me, so far, though many lovely paintings I hadn't met before. Overall, acceptable as a member of its class. The text is oddly marred by proofreading errors, including several instances of two stanzas being run together. Am ~½ through.


Subject quote from "The Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron," George Chapman.
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (seasons)
Reading Wednesday is nigh. In fact, it's here. And I done been readin'!


I Shall Seal the Heavens. Finally. I have to say, this is epic: The author knows how to plot on an enormous scale, and how to build up the stakes in order to tear down everything you think you know is safe, before pulling back more of the curtain to show a wider stage. (The first timeskip is startling enough, and successive ones have stronger impacts until the climactic one that's as baffling as it is shocking.) There's a couple narrative patterns that get a little tiresome and in the final arc, the author resorts to using an unreliable POV, apparently to up the tension but the effect is to make some reveals feel like ass-pulls, but those are quibbles. I won't say that the treatment of women is unproblematic, but it's better than typical for Chinese popular lit and some female characters are given complete respect by the narration. I do recommend this to anyone in search of a timesink* and interested in current trends in Chinese fantasy.

An Interpretation of Friends Worship by N. Jean Toomer, a Friends General Conference chapbook found randomly on Project Gutenberg. I've no idea how much sense it make to anyone unfamiliar with Quaker practice, but I found it spoke to my condition, to use the Friendly phrase.

The complete flower fairies of Cicely Mary Barker. I've one book of hers and read at least one or two more over the years, but having them all together as on that official website is nice. Archive binge! This is a good example of a mixed-medium art form: each {poem + picture} is a unit -- they require each other, and are significantly weaker when separated. (The sentiments are not very Chinese, but the genre certainly is.)

In progress:

The Four Seasons ed. by J.D. McClatchy, another Everyman's Library pocket hardcover poetry anthology. Needless to say, I'm All Over this one. Lots of good stuff, too. Am halfway through Summer (following Western tradition, it starts with Spring).

In Good King Charles's Golden Days by Bernard Shaw, which is a quite Shavian if somewhat rambly imagining of a 1680 meeting between Isaac Newton, George Fox, and Charles Stuart, with interruptions by three royal mistresses. And others.

* At 1600+ chapters, it's freakin' HUGE. The translation is somewhat over 3 million words long, or roughly the size as all the Jordan-only volumes of The Wheel of Time.


Subject quote from a recent episode of Saga Thing.
larryhammer: a woman wearing a chain mail hoodie, label: "chain mail is sexy" (chain mail is sexy)
Reading Wednesday meme-thingy:


Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner, which I quite enjoyed. It was nice to read such a linear narrative in this world -- all the complications are below the surface, instead of in your face. Also nice to see another first-person narrative, this one from someone trying (if not always succeeding) at being honest about what was happening. And yes, there are gods interfering in this one.

Lhind the Thief by Sherwood Smith -- finally getting to this. Good fantasy adventure fun, with some twists I didn't expect. I think there's a sequel? -- If so, I want.

Sasharia en Garde! by Sherwood Smith, being previously published in two volumes as Once a Princess and Twice a Prince but, like Crown Duel, now put back together into the single novel they were written as. Even better fantasy adventure fun, with initial primary POVs being daughter and mother (the latter with previous adult experience in this fantasy world) but expanding outward with the story.


Various poetry bits, most of which I haven't noted down. Chinese in translation and Housman was involved, I remember that.

Up next:

A return to I Shall Seal the Heavens now that the translation is finally complete at 1614 chapters -- leaving me with 250-odd to go. Long xanxia novel is long. As I recall, I left off in the long, very drawn out battle between two confederations of worlds, one formerly overlords of the other, now larger one -- so a lot of bad colonial blood between them.


Subject quote from "'Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came'," Robert Browning.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
Reading Wednesday is ON baby. For there's been some reading, despite it all.


Safely You Deliver (Commonweal #3) by Graydon Saunders -- this is NOT the book to start the series, as it is the second half of the story started in A Succession of Bad Days and heavily relies on knowing those characters, with the addition of a new one left unexplained for a long time -- and who despite being an extremely interesting idea, is basically kept mute the entire book. The expansion to multiple first-person POVs also dilutes the narrative line. That said, this does a good job poking at some of the moral underpinnings and consequences of the world Saunders created. And, yanno, sourcerer/unicorn romance is nothing to sneer at, especially when the unicorn is an obligate magicvore.

Reynard the Fox: or, the Ghost Heath Run by John Masefield, which remains my favorite of his narrative poems, despite the long, Chaucerian introduction of all the people hunting the titular fox -- a very pretty gallery of portraits, but less than a handful are actually relevant to the story. (Relevant to the depiction of one strand of English country life already fading at the time, sure.) The best part is the second half, mostly from the fox's point of view -- and you don't lose much just starting there. I note only excerpts from the chase get included in anthologies of narrative verse.

Amours de Voyage by Arthur Hugh Clough, which remains my favorite of his poems, period. Yes, it's an anatomy of a failure of … dunno whether to describe it as "will" or "character." A failed romance, and there's more than a little class conflict in the mix. Claude's hesitations, this time through, remind me more than a little of Trollope's stock hobbledehoy character, only in an intellectual version. Sort of. Maybe. Ah, whatever. I still like the poem.

In progress:

The Earthly Paradise by William Morris, starting with rereading "Prologue: The Wanderers" -- which has to be the most insistently middle-aged work I've read in a long time, for all the wanderers are described as "old" -- and the frame narrative & plot summaries up to where I last broke off (the very long Laxdaela retelling), with attention to reactions to both stories and seasons. This is not a simple poem, and when the frame narrator calls himself "an idle singer of an idle day" he is not being an escapist Victorian but -- sarcastic is the best word I can think of, as ironic doesn't have enough bite. And dang, but so many reviewers and critics have missed this. If only Morris wasn't so strenuously heteronormative and gender essentialist. (No, Mr. Morris, if a young woman does not want marriage at this time thank you very much, the answer isn't always because sexual hostility.) (Thank all the gods he didn't try his hand at Calisto.)

Erotic Poems ed. by Peter Washington, another small format Everyman anthology -- and another reread. I admire how the editor was willing to spend 20-odd pages on "The Eve of St. Agnes" -- that's a lot of space for a book this size. NB: no porn, but a lot of sensuality and some explicit descriptions. Organization is not topical, nor is there a plot/relationship arc -- this is a mixed jumble of poems, associatively (and sometimes cunningly) placed. Am about ⅔ through, having been interrupted by:

Thick as Thieves (Queen's Thief #5) by Megan Whalen Turner, yays. This one is from the POV of the slave secretary of the Mede who made a play for the throne of Attolis in #2, dealing with some delayed, dire consequences of his master's failure. I find it interesting that he is refusing to name his traveling companion, Costis (from #3), and I'm looking forward to learning how the heck Gen is chessmastering this whole adventure from across the sea. A little more than halfway in.


Subject quote from "The Walker of the Snow," Charles Dawson Shanly.
larryhammer: a woman wearing a chain mail hoodie, label: "chain mail is sexy" (chain mail is sexy)
Another Wednesday come, another reading report. I am a very boring poster, with little more to say than this. I plead parenthood.


Sohrab and Rustum by Matthew Arnold. Very pretty, Mr. Arnold, and a lucid embodiment of what you claim is Homer's style. However, comma, despite your treatment of Rustum as a tragic figure, his catastrophe is not a consequence of his character but rather circumstance, making him instead a pathetic figure. Try again. (Oh, wait, you did -- and failed damn every time.)

The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red by [personal profile] marthawells, the first of a projected series of novellas about a security droid who has hacked its own governor system and so became fully autonomous. Murderbot is the name it gives itself, which nicely encapsulates its own worldview -- not that it does much murdering, being far more interested in watching the entertainment feed than actually interacting with humans. Though if you start trying to harm its humans, it might feel a little compelled to prevent that -- if only to avoid exposure, which would get in the way of watching serial dramas. Wonderfully wry voice, like Marvin with more understatement. Will read the next, yes indeedy.

Acquainted with the Night: Insomnia Poems edited by Lisa Russ Spaar, a reread in snatches while winding down in bed. Still a very good anthology, selectionwise, but the layout of long lines was mangled very badly and not fixed by the proofreader. (And this from a university press!) If that sort of thing bugs you, you may want to skip this -- unless you are really drawn to the subject matter. Which I am.

The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde. Ouch. I do not understand how Wilde simultaneously wrote successful propaganda and Poe-ean gothic horror, but he did. (Also, nobody expects the unexpected offhand Tannhäuser reference.)

Malcolm's Katie by Isabella Valency Crawford, a colonial romance valorizing the heroic individual with stylistic influences that are, despite this subject, not Byronic but Tennysonian (ETA: specifically, it's a domestic idyll). This works anyway, in no small part because even stronger than the frontier mythology is the Native American mythology. Plus the soliloquies are Shakespearean. Worth the tracking down -- or, yanno, following the link above. (Short shameful confession: the author first caught my attention because she shares an unusual name with the also-Canadian protagonist of The Blue Castle.)


Old Spookses' Pass by Isabella Crawford -- because thick dialect writing. Pity, as it looks like it might have a good story underneath the bad spackling.

Eros & Psyche by Robert Bridges -- because the versification was just too grating, and not just the archaisms: too many lines clunk on the ear. Plus, he was showing no sign of ever departing from, undercutting, or otherwise revisioning Apuleius, and so far all the little elaborations were weaker than the unoriginal material. Meh.


Am still reading Villanelles ed. by Finch & Mali -- about ⅔ through. Plus other pomes, some stories & some not.


Subject quote from "The Ethics of Elfland," G.K. Chesterton.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
"Reading Wednesday" sounds like I'm reading the actual day, which is nicely surreal. So: Reading Wednesday! -- in which I am still inhaling narrative poetry.


The Charivari by George Longmore, an early Canadian poet (Montreal flavor). The influence of Byron is overt, and acknowledged in the subtitle ("in the style of Beppo"): this is a slender narrative interwoven with a plethora of narrative digressions that ostensibly distract from the story but actually support the point(s) the author is trying to make -- which, here, is to satirize and hopefully tone down the titular boisterous mock-serenades-cum-shakedowns upon the remarriage of widows or widowers, as part of a broader program to get Canadian arts and culture to parity with the Old World. Having recently read a couple Beppo-influenced tales where the digressions aren't on point, I applaud. Longmore's language is vigorous and colloquial, the verse under control, and the punctuation of this edition could use some serious editing for modern style -- specifically the commatization (the m-dashes are fine, even plethoric as they are). The ending doesn't quite land as firmly as I wanted, but it's appropriate for the story and genre. This deserves to be better known outside of Canada, so here: go read it.

Snow-Bound by William Greenleaf Whittier, an account of a New England farming family's time during a circa 1820 blizzard -- before trains and other modern communications changed how people lived and thought. Whittier started writing it after the death of his little sister, as a remembrance for his niece, and while nostalgia is the dominant mode, this never controls the narrative. There's multiple deaths being dealt with, actually, including explicit acknowledgement of the suffering of the recently concluded Civil War (Whittier was an ardent abolitionist, even unto being a founding member of the Republican Party, but as a devout Quaker he was a committed pacifist). The historical details keep ringing in my mind, after -- that and the imagery highlighting the importance of the fireplace.

The Fairy of the Fountains by Letitia Elizabeth Landon, a retelling of the Melusine story. I've been wandering through some of Landon's mid-length narratives, and this one is particularly interesting -- enough that I reread it. There's a few signature touches (including, yet again, a character getting in trouble through an emotional response to a story) and lot of echo patterning between Melusine and her mother. (Due warning: I haven't found a modern edition, and Landon's punctuation is atrocious, even by 1830s standards. If a period jars you, try mentally replacing it with a comma or other shorter pause -- the sentence will likely make more sense. Also, the first line makes more sense, both locally and symbolically, if you emend "mother's" to "mother".)

The Troubadour by Letitia Elizabeth Landon, a book-length historical verse romance. This has the structure of a bildungsroman, though Raymond doesn't seem to learn very much. Provençal knight with some facility with the lute more or less grows up, or at least survives vicissitudes of adventure (helped by a couple coincidences). Not entirely successful, nor as interesting as The Improvisatrice, but Landon's habitual pattern of expanding longer poems via inset stories/songs is handled well.

In progress:

Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott, the first of a trilogy. Almost gave up after the time jump after chapter 2, but got hooked by the end of chapter 7. Am ~⅓ through -- see how long I stick with this prose thing. (I understand that many people read a lot of that.)

And pomes. Lotsa pomes.


Subject quote from "Makamat," al-Hariri of Barra, tr. Theodore Preston.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
For Reading Wednesday, there's … actually quite a lot to mention. Huh. Part of it is that narrative poems, even longer ones, are rather shorter than novels, so I can do more of them.


A Castaway by Augusta Webster, in which a kept woman anatomizes the hypocrisy of the Victorian social system that cuts women off from all but a few respectable life options then punishes them for that. Now here is rage in pentameters. Ouch. I find it especially telling that the speaker's cutting sarcasm abruptly ceases when talking about her brother -- that's the one relationship that still matters to her, for all he unbrothered himself, and the sister relationship was an important anchor for that system. Despite being a dramatic monologue, this is not very Browningesque: the writer's focus is societal rather than psychological.

Beppo and Mazeppa by George the Byron, rereads. Still love the former, not the least for how he makes every digression, no matter how superficially irrelevant to the story, solidly on point. The latter is both a ripping yarn and interestingly knotty -- 'specially around what, ultimately, we are to make of title character. (Note that the historical Ivan Mazepa (so usually spelled) remains a politically charged figure, with Ukraine and Russia taking different sides.) If you want to try Byron but have limited stomach for Byronism, these are good ones to try.

The Loves of the Angels by Thomas Moore, which is an odd duck. For a controversial work, I was expecting something a little more spicy, what with the whole angels of God looking on the daughters of Man and finding them beautiful thing (thank you, Genesis 6:1-4). And it's not like Moore never wrote racy (see some of his songs). Possibly my standards for the genre was set too high by Byron's Heaven and Earth, from around the same time. Regardless, the ruffling of doctrinal feathers was enough to force him revise the Christian angels (with a thin layer of Rabbinic tradition varnished on) into Muhammadian ones in revised edition. (FWIW, I read the pre-orientalized, or rather less orientalized, version linked above.) The plot, such as it is, is three angels recounting to each other his own story of falling in love with a mortal woman (all three angels are male and heterosexual -- a whole 'nother layer of problems on top of the orientalizing)(yes, I know, following the pronouns of Genesis -- but still) and so falling from blessed communion with God. It's not clear how aware the angels are at how self-deceptive they are being, or even whether the writer is. The verse is smooth and the speakers' emotions are surprisingly well-handled, but overall not really successful. Or as I said: odd duck. Head over to Moore's Lalla Rookh instead (which wears its orientalizing on its sleeves of BLAZING NEON PAISLEY PRINT).

The Two Broken Hearts by Catherine Gore, being her first publication, before she turned from verse to highly successful novelist (one of the best "silver fork" novelists, writing about high society of the 1830s). It was instructive to read this soon after Jacqueline, as it has another paterfamilias protagonist whose child has married against his wishes. The tale itself is inventing a backstory for a historical incident tossed off by Montaigne (the fanfic impulse, as we all know, is as old as storytelling), but this is mostly an excuse for melodrama in a medieval Black Forest setting -- with, let it be said, surprisingly little Gothic given said setting and time of writing. The verse is serviceable but rarely exciting, and the tale starts with a double-flashback rendered with too much tell instead of show, so it takes a while to establish good tension. Meh, especially compared to Jacqueline -- but Sherwood, you might be interested anyway.

* False Colors by Georgette Heyer, which is not the best Heyer ever but good enough I should probably move it into the pile of books to reach for when I want a dose of Heyer. (This was only my second reading.) After all, Twin Impersonation is a fun trope, especially when combined with Courtship While Impersonating.

In progress:

* The Poetry Bug edited by John Tennent, a British entomologist who happens to love poetry and has unearthed a hella lot of poems about insects (with spiders given honorary insect status for anthology purposes). Not only am I enjoying it, but TBD is interested -- though I have to pick and chose what to read aloud, as many have a lot of big words for an almost-four-year-old, or are longer than attention span. Will report more when I get further along.

And other verse, both anthology and narrative. Scattered. As one does.


Subject quote from "What is life?" Henrik Ibson (tr. Fydell Garrett).
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
Reading, reading, who's got the reading? Aside from the usual truckload of early readers and picture books, of course, there's been:


Enoch Arden by Alfred the Tennyson, whose plain style here only highlights how much he goes out of his way to avoid calling Enoch a fishmonger. The love triangle is believable and handled sympathetically, even if Victorian sentimentality, but the resolution is ... not convincing -- Enoch's behavior, I mean. And the final two lines are just awful. I'm still wincing. (That he was very defensive about those lines suggests he knew just how bad an idea they were.)

The Widow's Tale by Caroline Bowles (I use that name because she published this well before she married Robert Southey, but most editions use her married name). Meh. Were it not for touches of High Romanticism in the descriptions, this would not be out of place in an anthology of Victorian sentimental tales. It's instructive to compare it to Enoch Arden -- for one thing, despite all his faults, Tennyson's sentimentality is more restrained, and his plain-style poetry better controlled. This is good for its type, but when I want to wallow in glurge, I prefer it romantic over sentimental.

Three Chinese Poets trans. by Vikram Seth (yes, he of A Suitable Boy), being translations of a dozen-odd poems each by Wang Wei, Li Bai, and Du Fu. It's good to see a translator not just acknowledge the importance of Chinese rhyme, but follow through by reproducing it. As usual when this happens, what then gets lost is some end-stopping and the strict syntactic parallelism of regulated verse. For the common anthology pieces, Seth's versions are generally pretty good but rarely the best I've seen. (Unfortunately, the collection starts yet another version of Wang Wei's "Deer Park" that doesn't quite come up to snuff. Ah well.) It's probably telling that the piece I remember best is Seth's verse dedication to his Chinese professor.

Gertrude of Wyoming by Thomas Campbell, a reread. Very pretty, but seriously, the transitions are horrible to the point of incoherent. That it was written by someone without local knowledge doesn't help (hint: flamingos do not visit, let alone inhabit, northeastern Pennsylvania).

Jacqueline by Samuel Rogers, a Romantic romantic tale originally published anonymously together with Byron's Lara (also anonymously). Rogers is an interesting figure: he started as a Late Augustan but successfully made the transition to Romantic poet. The story is slight, but the Romantic manner is well-handled. The focus is not on Jacqueline herself, who elopes in the opening lines, but her father's anger and, increasingly, regret, ending with forgiveness and reconciliation. I rather like this one.

On Hold:

I Shall Seal the Heavens by Er Gen at chapter 1361, which is where the translator was the day I caught up -- in the middle of an intense battle against the protagonist's hardest foe yet. I am amused that the title-phrase incantation finally showed up about a hundred chapters back. Anyway, this is on pause till enough there's enough new stuff to binge on.

In Progress:

False Colors by Georgette Heyer, a reread. This is the one with the twin impersonating a brother gone AWOL right before meeting his future in-laws. Bouncy, bouncy, solid Heyer hijinx.


Subject quote from "Be Prepared," Tom Lehrer.
larryhammer: a wisp of smoke, label: "it comes in curlicues, spirals as it twirls" (spirals)
Reading meme day. And I've been reading. Some.


Great Short Poems from Antiquity to the Twentieth Century ed. Dorothy Belle Pollack, who translated the Greek and Latin selections (and I suspect at least some of the uncredited translations from French and German). I want to like this, especially given how many unfamiliar poems it has. And yet ... the cumulative result is a bit thin, almost monotonous. The book's large trim size for presenting small poems does not help, nor the arbitrary arrangement (alphabetical by author within period). Possibly it's the tight focus on lyrics, with minimal epigrams? Dunno. Regardless, the result is not what I hoped for.

The Improvatrice by Letitia Elizabeth Landon, an intriguing but not entirely successful verse tale. It has some excellent elements, including a female protagonist from Renaissance Florence who is both musician and painter, and some of the songs she improvises are quite appealing. There are interesting signs that what Landon's actually doing is a critique of Romanticism. And yet ... and yet ... the tale is so episodic that I found myself skimming the last third, only to find that ultimately our titular heroine dies of a broken heart -- over a guy named Lorenzo. (My reactions to that last may be more personal than yours.)


I Shall Seal the Heavens by Er Gen continues on -- I'm up to around chapter 1180, approaching the sum of what's been translated. Which is part of the reason for my slowing down -- another part being, the initial new venue of book 7 did not excite me, though what was made of it did indeed turn out tasty. (No "and yet" for this one ... yet.)

Plus various rounds of poetry both lyric and narrative.


Subject quote from "Time After Time," Cyndi Lauper.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)

Lullabies and Poems for Children ed. by Diana Secker Larson, another Everyman's Library anthology that's pretty tasty -- lots of traditional wind-down songs, well-known and obscure, including additional verses for some usually heard in curtailed form. Pity lullabies have been pretty much nixed in our household for almost a year. The slimmer second half is disappointing, however: heavy on nonsense, making the couple selections of Blake a breath of fresh air. Recommended for the lullabies only.


I Shall Seal the Heavens through chapter 1004, finishing book 6 -- so about ⅝ done. Whew!


Subject quote from "New-Mexican Love Song," Mary Austin.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
A reading of a Wednesday, a reading of a meme:


Marriage Poems ed. John Hollander, who does a good job of keeping the anthology from getting monotonous or predictable. Good and bad experiences are neatly balanced, without hammering on any one note. That said, there's more of Meredith's "Modern Love" than usual for this sort of thing (this is not a defect).

In progress:

I Shall Seal the Heavens by Er Gen to around chapter 765. Bounding along nicely, with scope and stakes scaling with the protagonist's power-ups. Soon, if I'm reading the signs aright, he'll finally find his family and heritage. Plus we're about due for a tragic beat in his arc.

Villanelles ed. Finch & Mali to a little less than ½ in. I find I can read only 10-12 contemporary examples a session before they start blurring and I need a break -- so now it's lunchtime reading at work.


Subject quote from "Assault and Battery," Howard Jones.
larryhammer: a woman wearing a chain mail hoodie, label: "chain mail is sexy" (chain mail is sexy)
A reading of a Wednesday meme. Or something like that. I guess.


The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery, a comfort reread during the flu.

In progress:

Am bounding along with I Shall Seal the Heavens and now just shy of 500 chapters in out of 1600+ total, ~¾ of which are available in English. I should however flag a content warning: an element that early on is handled as gruesome humor is later given a morally dark and potentially triggery explanation, at which time the narrative does not clearly signal understanding of just how dark it swerved; I am staying with it because the author has shown multiple times that he plays a long game and other moral issues have been returned to for questioning (and requestioning). This aside, it's working quite well as an adventure story with an ever-expanding canvas, and I've finally reached a point where there's glimmerings as to the meaning and significance of the title. Ultimate Vexation is a lot fun, but I understand how it would have gotten tiresome (both to write and read) if it hadn't been eventually suppressed.

Plus I've been reading two poetry anthologies of note:
  1. Villanelles ed. Annie Finch & Marie-Elizabeth Mali is an excellent collection. There's a historical section (as well an illuminating introduction: it did not originate as a French peasant form, despite what French poets told themselves) but the bulk is contemporary poets, including variations on the form. Unexpected inclusions of note include Ursula Le Guin, Tom Disch, and an ex-girlfriend. The layout is sweet: a pocket-sized hardcover just large enough that a standard 19-line beastie exactly fits on one page. I'm about ⅓ through, but still highly recommend this one.

  2. Obsession: Sestinas in the Twenty-First Century ed. Carolyn Beard Whitlow & Marilyn Krysl is another single-form collection built on contemporary poets, where the book is laid out such that a standard example fits on a page, and that has poem by an ex (same one). Haven't gotten as far in this one yet -- a 39-line layout means it's not as portable.

This hasn't been my only poetry reading, natch: I'm not noting other anthologies now because too scattered -- if/when I finish one, I'll record it then.

Other fiction, I've bounced around with unsettled mind, picking up many things and putting each down after a chapter. This happens betimes.


Subject quote from "The Wish," Abraham Cowley.
larryhammer: a woman wearing a chain mail hoodie, label: "chain mail is sexy" (warrior babe)
Wednesday for a reading. More meme. Combined with Poetry Monday, this makes more than half my posting these days memeage. Ah, well.


Child of Light (光之子) by Tang Jia San Shao in a semi-official translation, a fantasy (magic academy flavor) in a genre roughly equivalent to a Japanese light novel, with all the benefits (quick brainless read) and annoyances (annoying "hero" getting worse over time) this implies. Got four volumes in but I won't be continuing any time soon, if ever, because I started ...

In progress:

... I Shall Seal the Heavens (我欲封天) by Ergen, also in semi-official translation. This one is a much more congenial xianxia, a genre blending wuxia with Taoism, Buddhism, and Chinese mythology -- what happens when Chinese fantasy writers use their rich (read: old) local traditions for worldbuilding. Lots of spiritual cultivators getting their qi on as they strive to become immortals. This book in particular is praised for its literary gravitas, a quality that carries over in this translation -- and much preferable over the bluster-based humor of so much Chinese popular fiction. That said, at around chapter 125, I seem to have wandered into an extended tournament arc (?!). At least it's a race against an obstacle course instead of a battle tourney. This one will take a while: there's over 1200 chapters available in English -- Alexandre Dumas, eat your heart out.

The Truth-Teller's Tale by Sharon Shinn, reread of a YA fantasy -- or in theory, I'm still in progress on this: I was halfway through when I mislaid the volume. (It's around here somewhere, I know it, lose my head next.)

Songs for the Open Road: Poems of Travel & Adventure ed. Carroll and Maclean, an original publication from Dover Books (they do that sometimes). Some nice discoveries here, as well as some interesting choices. It's a cheap volume, too, well worth tracking down if you need poetry browsing of a long evening (or middle of the night).

And speaking of poetry browsing, for those with smartphones, a recommendation: the Poetry Foundation's Poetry app is excellent for thematic browsing as well as searching for old favorites. There's a generous selection of modern as well as classic poems, the former slanted somewhat towards those appearing in Poetry magazine (I'm guessing because rights were easier). Accessing bios requires a connection, but not browsing itself.


Subject quote from "Scythe Song," Andrew Lang.
larryhammer: a woman wearing a chain mail hoodie, label: "chain mail is sexy" (fantasy)
For reading Wednesday, I can report actually finishing somethings. As in more than one, yays:

Sensual Love Poetry, ed. Kathleen Blake, which I've been reading in occasional snippets for more than a year and finally finished. Not my favorite anthology ever on the topic, but it has a pretty good decent-to-insipid ratio and has many poems previously unknown to me, which is more or less the point. The occasional gestures toward poems in translation was appreciated.

The Safe-Keeper's Secret, Sharon Shinn, reread of a the first book of a YA fantasy trilogy from a decade ago. Holds up well enough I've started the second book, The Truth-Teller's Tale.

The Changeling Sea, Patricia A. McKillip, reread after many years of my favorite McKillip novel ever. Holds up well enough I'm pining for more story EXACTLY LIKE THIS YES STOP HERE IT'S PERFECT NOW GET ME MOAR

Ongoing is other random bits of poetry anthologies. So it goes.


Subject quote from "Hymenæi," a wedding masque by Ben Jonson.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (classics)
Wednesday reading day, a day, a day-o. Er, sorry -- been improvised singing to TDB more than usual this week. (Singing, singing, away-o.)

Amid all the Yuletide fics, of which I'll post another day (another, other day-o), I've been poking at other stuff, and even finishing some, most notably:

Brust's Hawk, which was a quite satisfying caper. The places Vlad made mistakes were entirely in character for him, heh heh. It will be interesting to watch what he does in the last few books of the series. (I assume Brust hasn't changed the plan of 17 books for each house framed by Taltos at the start and Vladimir at the end?)

Also finished two rereads:
  • Eensy Weensy Monster, Masami Tsuda (2 volumes complete), a fluffy shoujo school romance trapped by a structural conceit into being dragged out for at least three chapters longer than it should have. Despite that and the need to prune my manga shelves, I'm keeping it for its charm.

  • Midnight Flute: Chinese Poems of Love and Longing tr. by Sam Hamill. I can't judge his accuracy here, but in his Japanese, I often find myself arguing. It's still a nice little volume to have on hand as the occasion rises.

Works in progress include Hinton's Classical Chinese Poetry, and collections of Edward Thomas, William Henley, and James Thomson (that is, what he wrote other than City of Dreadful Night), plus a few pages here and there of various poetry anthologies.

And there's nothing more to say, to say-o.


Subject quote from "Among School Children," W.B. Yeats.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (classics)
So -- Yuletide, that massive fanfiction exchange for small, rarely written-for fandoms, is complete.

The most important thing you need to know about it, of course, is my gift: Biscuit Lion gave me Living Out The Remainder Of Their Lives, a fic for "The Song of Everlasting Sorrow" by Tang dynasty poet Bai Juyi, a work of historical fiction about the An Lushan rebellion. This focuses on Yang Guifei's time in heaven before finally being reunited with Emperor Xuanzhong -- with crossover appearances by figures from Chinese mythology. So, a posthumous fantasy -- niiice.

Of the few fic for poetry fandoms, it is by far the best. Everyone -- read it.

As for what I wrote, that would be A Change of Season, a Tang dynasty RPF (basically, historical fiction) about the relationship of Wu Zetian, the first and only female empress regnant of China, and Shangguan Wan-er, her personal secretary who become her right-hand woman (sometimes called her "prime minister," a non-existent title -- as a woman, she couldn't take a formal office). I'm pretty sure authorship was entirely obvious to anyone who knows me who stumbled across it: I didn't bother trying to hide any of my quirks. So, yes, there is Chinese poetry. I was just glad to actually write something, anything for the first time in a couple years. Took me the whole Yuletide period to finish, but it was quite satisfying.

Recs later, after I've had time to read some more.

Does anyone have recs for me?


Subject quote from "Spring View," Du Fu tr. Mark Alexander.
larryhammer: a wisp of smoke, label: "it comes in curlicues, spirals as it twirls" (curlicues)
It's Wednesday, and I've been reading, so it's a Reading Wednesday post:

Finished (!) Very Far Away from Anywhere Else by Ursula K. Le Guin, a reread. Still very good -- possibly even essential reading for a certain type of misfit teen. Not surprisingly, Le Guin nails the voice of a bright teenage boy a lot better than Haldeman the voice of a bright teenage girl.

Newly in progress are For the Time Being by W.H. Auden, another seasonal reread, and Hawk by Steven Brust, the most recent (I think still?) Vlad Taltos novel -- this one's a Vlad-pulls-a-caper story, and as of a quarter the way in, it looks to be a fun one.

Continuing progress are The Library of the World's Best Literature, which has pushed me to finally try Balzac, plus translations of Chinese poetry by David Hinton and Sam Hammel.


Subject quote from "My Heart and I," Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (classics)
Some Wednesdays, I get to report on what I've been reading. This is one.

Which is yays, as I finished some actual science fiction, if only a novella: The Mars Girl by Joe Haldeman. Unfortunately Meh, not the least because the voice of a bright teenage girl was not convincing.

Otherwise, it's been pieces of The Library of the World's Best Literature, Hinton's Classical Chinese Poetry, and Stedman's Victorian Anthology. And I think there was poking at other anthologies as well, but I didn't record that and don't remember what.



Subject quote from "I Never Saw That Land Before," Edward Thomas.
larryhammer: a woman wearing a chain mail hoodie, label: "chain mail is sexy" (chain mail is sexy)
Oh yeah, reading Wednesdays. Those are a thing.

Finished since last update:

The Year's at the Spring ed. L. d'O. Walters, an anthology from 1920 that skirts around the main thrust of early Modernism as we see it today, in favor of continuing the trends of the Georgian poets. That there's an introduction by Harold Monro, whose career essentially involved trying to mediate between the Georgians and Modernists, is telling. The results are interesting, regardless. Worth a spin, especially if you don't mind bonus tasty Art Nouveau illustrations by Harry Clarke.

"Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street" by Herman Melville, which is a nice example of how masterful a writer he was. And a nice example of early corporate rebellion in literature.

Draco Minimus: The World of the Little Dragons art by Patricia McCracken, words by Michael Sinatra, which is really an art book of Japanese-style paintings (though some are modeled after prints) of tiny cricket- and butterfly-dragons blending into flowers and trees. While the mythological apparatus built up to support this was amusing, the art is lovely and entirely the point.


The Library of the World's Best Literature ed. by Warner et al., which gave me another "— the heck?" moment: How the hell would you know, O anonymous introduction writer, that Edwin Arnold's The Light of Asia "expresses the very spirit of the East"? And all the east? in an introduction to the life of the Buddha, written primarily from one source, versified and potted for the consumption of intellectual Protestants? painting his religion as one of pure personal enlightenment without any ritual and cultural aspects? Srsly? If that is all you know of "the east," then yes, it does express own spirit entirely, but your tautology is showing.

On the other hand, the essay on Matthew Arnold nails why I like only a little of his poetry, and his essays not much at all.

And on the third hand, I am at a loss to explain why I have not before encountered Byron's "The Dream" before. Apparently it is not anthologized much anymore? It reads like the ur-text of an entire genre of fantasies, and probably could be prosified and expanded into a pretty good fantasy story.


Subject quote from "The Dream," George Gordon, Lord Byron.
larryhammer: a wisp of smoke, label: "it comes in curlicues, spirals as it twirls" (curlicues)
Read the Wednesday! Even if it's a little late! Because I have lately been reading, a little:

The Compass Rose by Gail Dayton, a reread -- I have ~50 pages to go, intending to do the whole trilogy at once. For values of "at once" that include "in 15-minute snatches every other night."

The Mister Rogers Parenting Book by Fred Rogers -- This is not the only parenting advice book I've read, of course, but the first I've wanted to mention: humane counsel that rings True in almost everything (the chapters on disabilities and adoption are problematic, though the problems are more from omission than by commission). Overall, many good reminders with nuggets of useful new advice. Why just getting to reading it now? Because I only just learned about it, and anyway its focus is 3-6 year olds.

But the bulk of my reading has been more of Encyclopedia Britannica 11e. (1911), which easily chunks into piecemeal times -- am ~½ through volume 11 (Franciscans to Gibson) after a digression into articles on Dutch history. The number of articles that bury the lede by assuming you already know what the subject of an article is, and are only there for more details, bemuses me.

Plus, sometimes, a little poetry here and there.


Subject quote from "The Captain’s Drum," Benjamin Franklin Taylor.

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