What I've recently finished
since my last post: Tasogare-iro no Uta Tsukai
("twilight-colored song-user") v1 by Kei Sazane, the first of a secondary world fantasy series. Or apparently secondary-world, given the names -- going by the worldbuilding, it might be our-world-plus-magic. Certainly the high school for magicians-in-training owes far, far more to contemporary Japanese institutions than to Hogwarts. Anyway, this is the sort of author who, the moment he sets up a system where magicians specialize in summoning things that are one of five primary colors, immediately (as in, in the prologue) starts poking at the concept's limitations in two distinct directions, with hints of more to come. The story itself is serviceable despite some typical first-novel roughness and characters that are on the flat side -- though at least the protagonists do protag and even arc a little, and two of them are actively interesting. A series I'll be following. No. 6
v1-2 by Atsuko Asano. In the near future, Shion was a gifted boy living in a heavily planned and policed city called No. 6 until he aided an escaped criminal Nezumi ("Rat"), for which he and his family lose most of their privileges but are not actually expelled. Four years later as a teenager with a full-time job, he meets Nezumi again -- at the same time Shion is arrested on suspicion of involvement with a mysterious parasitic disease. The major genre influence here seems to be not shounen manga/anime but rather prose science fiction -- I would not be at all surprised to see something like this marketed in the States as younger YA dystopian SF. Or possibly older YA, given Shion and Nezumi's relationship has romantic overtones in these opening books (which may be why the manga adaptation runs in a josei mazagine -- and, huh, turns out to be licensed in English. Looks pretty, too). Recommended -- rachelmanija
, this might be up your alley despite the lack of aaaaangst -- Shion is appealingly level-headed about his ups and downs -- and the link above includes Kindle formats. The Book of New York Verse
ed. Hamilton Fish Armstrong, where the quality of the poetry is, shall we say, uneven -- but the quality is not exactly the point here, and at least there's very little actually bad
verse.* More problematic is, around the turn of the 20th century, the sudden knot of outright militaristic poems -- the sort where the fighting itself is extolled instead of just the imperialism it supports. Given this was published in 1917, I don't think the Great War counts as an excuse. I was however particularly touched, earlier on, by the Romantic description of the delights of nature
just across the East River: "Yet I will look upon thy face again, / My own romantic Bronx ... "** One interesting cultural detail: in the early 19th century, Broadway was universally stressed on the second syllable, but by the middle of the century it had shifted to the current initial stress.*** Also: when young blades dueled, they crossed the Hudson to face each other at dawn upon the deserted beaches of Hoboken.
* Though some of the sonnets to, for ex, Fifth Avenue and Washington Square are nowhere near good.
** Note the lack of a definite article, from which I gather the poet is describing Bronx River
rather than the nearby settlement that became the borough. It still makes me giggle, though.
*** And you wondered how poetic meter could be useful. Romes Monarchie
, sub-entitled "The Globe of Renowmed Glorie" in charming orthography, by one "E.L." -- an Elizabethan potted history in rime royal stanzas of Rome up to Nero. Frankly, it's not very good, nor indeed coherent -- if I didn't already have a solid grounding in the history and legends of the Republic I don't think I could have followed it at all. But as an example of what Elizabethans thought they knew about the stuff, it's interesting. The poetry is at best workman's verse: not terrible, but just as plodding as the less inspired parts of Mirror for Magistrates
(with which it has more than a few generic connections). I'm not entirely sure how I managed to finish it, to be honest. What I'm reading now
: No. 6
v3 -- onward in the series.Samurai William: The Englishman Who Opened Japan
by Giles Milton -- still reading in small snatches, usually over breakfast. Yokohama Kaidashi Kikô
("record of a Yokohama shopping trip") v1-2 by Hitoshi Ashinano, a reread by way of experimenting with manga on a Kobo (results are mixed, as it chokes on whole volumes and sometimes hiccups with single chapters). I still love this muchly, even where Asano is still getting a handle on his material -- yet even so, the first two chapters contain subtle introductions of half the major themes he'll develop over the series. Not to mention, despite the character designs still settling out in the first volume, the art is oh so pretty. And relaxing. And given the relaxed story, it works nicely for a chapter every so often. Poly-Olbion
by Michael Drayton, a long "chorographical" poem systematically and exhaustively describing the geography of Britain, catching along the way as much local history and lore as he could sweep up. As you might expect, this is an odd duck, but it is for once not bad verse and is indeed a easy read, for Drayton was a thoroughly professional Elizabethan poet who learned better than any contemporary how to modulate sound from Spenser. I'm partway through the third of thirty "songs," starting down in Cornwall and the southwest coast -- in part, I suspect, so he could get to the legend of Brute
as quickly as possible. I wish I had a detailed hydrological map, though -- he is very much into naming and personifying every. Single. River. Hills and forests and plains are also personified left and right, but they're less confusing. The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
ed. Arthur Quiller-Couch -- though not in a concentrated way, unlike Braithwaite's volumes. Chosen over Stedman
both because it's a more manageable size and because, while I don't trust Q's sentimentality or taste in range of voices, I have far more trust in his judgment of lyric quality. I mean -- Stedman actually includes multiple extracts from R.H. Horne's Orion
, which is in my TBR queue of egregious epics. (This is the same Horne as this guy
.) OTOH, I did have to struggle through Q's stretch of Emerson, so who knows.
Which all is too many things at once. Hmph.What I'll read next
Presumably further volumes of No. 6
, unless something majorly wallbangworthy happens, and Metaphysical Lyrics & Poems of the Seventeenth Century
is still in the queue. Though I foresee a need for fluffy and light this coming week -- any recommendations?