larryhammer: Yotsuba Koiwai running, label: "enjoy everything" (enjoy everything)
Crowdsourcing one's con panels is, of course, an old tradition. The panel in question, SF/Fantasy for Preschoolers, isn't for a month -- but that's not a lot of time to review new material.

So -- any recommendations?

Picture books and early readers preferred -- shorter chapter books and age-appropriate comics are good, of course, but the focus is on rec'ing genre books for kids who are not quite reading or just starting to read. As for the genre, we'd like to exclude anthropomorphized animals/vehicles/objects as a class, at least when that's the only unrealistic element, as generally the animal/vehicle/etc. is a stand-in for the child reader rather than one element of a fantasy. Thus Adam Rex's School's First Day of School is out, regretfully, though his Moon Day is very much in.*

Feel free to signal boost this post.


* If you have a picture book consumer in your life who has not been introduced to either of these books, rectify this. Both are TOTALLY recommended.


---L.

Subject quote from "A Song in Storm," Rudyard Kipling.
larryhammer: a woman wearing a chain mail hoodie, label: "chain mail is sexy" (chain mail is sexy)
Time for another installment in that intermitant feature, a Reading Wednesday report. Aside from a backlong of Yuletide fanfic, I finished one book:

Batgirl at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee, which is book #3 of a series of YA tie-in novels for the web-based animated series DC Super Hero Girls (which frankly amazes me: it's an officially produced high school AU focusing on female supers, including future villains). We've read with TBD some of the younger-suitable material (early readers and comic books) but this is definitely too old for them. Enjoyed it as escapist fluff reading by a good writer. FWIW, I now have #1 from the library, but haven't gotten into it yet (partly because the opening, in which naive Wonder Woman first leaves Themyscira, skirts embarrassment humor).

Ongoing:

As far as the Big Brick aka Minford & Lau's Classical Chinese Literature v1, am a little short of halfway through (I'm up to the Six Dynasties period of disunion between the unified empire of the Han and Tang dynasties) but am a little more than halfway through all my available renewals from the library. Oops. I may jump to chapters covering topics I'm less well read on (that is, skip the High Tang poets).

Poems Dead and Undead ed. by Tony Barnstone and Michelle Mitchell-Foust, which is yet another Everyman's Library pocket anthology. I want to like this more, but it hadn't really engaging me. This may be me -- I think I was expecting something with more monsters, but that's another anthology by the same editors. Certainly the idea of poems grouped into corporeal undead / incorporeal undead / devils+angels strikes me as a good thing, and I'm meeting new stuff that I like. And yet. Have picked my way about halfway through.

Plus boning up on canon for my Yuletide assignment, but I can't talk about that oops.

---L.

Subject quote from "The Ballad of Mulan," Anonymous tr. John Frodsham.
larryhammer: a woman wearing a chain mail hoodie, label: "chain mail is sexy" (chain mail is sexy)
Given Yuletide 2017 is upon us, I should post recs from last year's collection, as I somehow never got around to it. Hmm -- I wonder why. 'Tis a shame, as there's lots of good stuff -- and that's with barely scratching the vertices.

The best poetry fic of the season is Second Chance, an Ancient History RPF that slashes Scipio Africanus/Hannibal Barca in rhyming quatrains. Yes, really. Takes place long after Zama, thankfully (during battle would … not be my thing). The competition: Fragments from a Lost Manuscript, giving Greek lyric snippets of a retelling of the Iliad (which I liked for obvious, entirely personal reasons). Yeah, only two this year. Time to step things up here.

My favorite ancient history RPF, though, is Say to Them, based on a 1750 BCE letter to Ea-Nasir, a copper merchant of Ur, sometimes described as the first complaint letter.

The Dead Authors Fanfic: Christopher Marlowe and Walt Whitman is a silly fic for a silly conceit, in which H.G. Wells uses his time machine to interview other authors. Excellent use of Whitman at his slashiest.

Working over to traditional materials, The Tale of Rasul and Rawiya is an original story in the manner of the 1001 Nights, based on an illustration in the manner of same. Tight fairytale writing.

Merrily in Springtime convincingly explains why the Sheriff never sees through any of Robin Hood's disguises: prosopagnosia. Good character writing all around.

Moving on to modern fandoms, there were a couple excellent post-canon Earthsea fics: The Empty Sky is Ged and Tenar post-canon observing Sunreturn, which is absolutely lovely, while The Ending From the Beginning is Penthe as a grandmother learning of the death of Tenar a.k.a. Ahra-that-was, which brings up interesting Earthsea theology.

My favorite Lord Peter Wimsey fic is the missing story of how Miss Murchison got married and left the Cattery: Prelude and Fugue on the name of B.A.C.H. (spurious?). And yes, Bach organ music is involved. Honorable mentions, though, for A Brief History of the Patronage of Beatie Wilson, about the oldest daughter of the villain of Gaudy Night, and Like As the Hart, a slice of Harriet the week after the end of GN.

My favorite fic on Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief is On Political Murder, giving us young Heiro's start at running Attolia's domestic espionage department. It does get a run for the money from The Dolphin's Promise (ETA: link fixed), about Helen of Eddis' experiences with pirates in the islands of the Middle Sea.

My fave Tamora Pierce fic is A True and Honest Thought, a retelling of the first two-thirds of Sandry's Book from the POV of Niko, focused tightly on his relationship with Tris. Well-told and well-characterized.

My fave Imperial Radch fic is Make Some Tea, Lieutenant Seivarden, a post-canon study of Mercy of Kalr, who is still getting used to using she.

My fave Vorkosigan fic was The Huntsman's Reel, in which Lady Alys Vorpatril helps Simon Illyan thwart Cetagandan assassins at an Imperial reception, while dancing together.

I actually liked one of the His Dark Materials fics (I often don't): Selected Moments in Introductory Symbology -- which is basically Lyra, After, organized around the symbols of the alethiometer.

In the Kipling side of things, I liked the story of The Bisara of the Hills, which is a tale of Strickland (from some of the Plain Tales from the Hills) with crossover appearances by Lisbeth, Stalky, and Kimball O'Hara. The telling, though, didn't manage to nail Kipling's voice/manner, alas.

(And speaking of Kipling, an older Yuletide rec from 2014 that I somehow never got around to posting: The Impressionists - Part Two is a Kim + Stalky & Co. crossover, narrated in good Kiplingesque fashion by entirely different characters with agendas different from those they describe. It did better than the above at catching the Kipling voice as well as structure. Canon knowledge strongly recommended, given the slantways framing.)

And the prize for most excellent weird thing goes to Linguistic Assignations, for the fandom Languages (Anthropomorphic). You know that quip about English lurking in dark alleys to rob other languages for spare vocabulary? This is the backstory, going all the way back to Proto-Indo-European.

And that clears out my bookmarks. At least for now.

---L.

Subject quote from "The Battle of Waterloo," William McGonagall. I should nominate a McGonagall work for YT someday -- maybe the Tey Bridge trilology?
larryhammer: drawing of a wildhaired figure dancing, label: "La!" (celebrate)
Because I had something better to do, I checked the number of AO3 fics for TV shows TBD has watched more than a couple trial episodes (that I can remember):

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: 0
Tayo the Little Bus: 0
The Wonder Pets!: 0
Peep in the Big Wide World: 0
The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That: 0
Hurray for Huckle/Busytown Mysteries: 0
Chuggington: 0
Space Racers: 0
WordWorld: 2
Curious George: 4
Peppa Pig: 5 (all crossovers)
Dinosaur Train: 7 (half written for Yuletide 2012)
Blue's Clues: 8
Caillou: 11
Bob the Builder: 16
Dora the Explorer: 24
PAW Patrol: 46
Thomas & Friends: 80
Transformers: Rescue Bots: 270

The Thomas franchise has been around so long and Rescue Bots crosses over so much into the rest of the Transformers franchise, I don't it's fair to compare them to the others. OTOH, the large number of PAW Patrol fics speaks to just how engaging the show is: TBD interacts with it more enthusiastically than with any of the others, even those, like Blue's Clues and Dora, that invite viewer interaction. (Rocky is their favorite pup, because he fixes things.) Not to mention, has acquired more merch for it, not counting books.*

I'm most disappointed in the first number.** But there's still all the other zeroes. That's a lot of children's media filled with all sorts of fic-able holes that aren't getting filled, despite being co-watched by caretakers. Someone get on this, 'k?


* Books, it's the Marvel comics universe, hands down, with DC and Busytown not far behind.

** And that's even aside from how little Daniel's Dad, the original Daniel Striped Tiger grown up, has an absurdly sexy voice.


---L.

Subject quote from "Nothing Without You," Vienna Teng.
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (birds)
Reading Wednesday, with a few things to report --

Finished:

Poems of the Sea ed. by J.D. McClatchy, another Everyman's Library pocket anthology, which I snorked down like wahoo. I especially appreciate the songs and chanteys section. And ending with Whitman. Not quite as good as the seasons one, but close, and scratches a different itch anyway.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, which I greatly enjoyed, despite stalling a few chapters from the end for a week -- it's been that kind of reading time. Ragtag crew of a wormhole boring ship heading into a recent civil war zone on the prospect of a very well paying job, but unlike much space opera, the politics are downplayed to focus entirely on the crew and their relationships. I like the ways generic and individual characteristics are handled, and the whole crew in general. Want the sequel, even though it focuses on the character thread I'm least interested in.

In progress:

On Wings of Song ed. by J.D. McClatchy, yet another Everyman's Library pocket anthology, this one all about birds. My main complaint here is that there are too many very short sections, with title pages that take up space that could have been devoted to, yanno, poems. Am about halfway through, having just finished reading about owls.

Classical Chinese Literature v1 ed. by Minford & Lau -- crunching to about ~¼ in, having reached the Han dynasty. (One advantage, albeit a dubious one, of volume 2 being existentially challenged is not having to cross the Ming Dynasty without a camel, which is never fun.) I do like the editors' focus on how translations have been handled over the centuries, highlighting how western understanding of China and Chinese has changed -- as well as making sure ALL the modes are covered in reasonable depth. I think I very much need my own a copy of this.

---L.

Subject quote from "Paradise Lost" book XI, John Milton. Yes, I know, him.
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (vanished)
Slightly late, but still in time for Reading Wednesday:

Finished:

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.

---L.

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'!

Finished:

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.


---L.

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:

Finished:

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.

Ongoing:

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.

---L.

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.

Finished:

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.

---L.

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.

Finished:

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.)

DNF:

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.

Ongoing:

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

---L.

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.

Finished:

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.

---L.

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.

Finished:

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.

---L.

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:

Finished:

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.

---L.

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.

Finished:

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.)

Ongoing:

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.

---L.

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)
Finished:

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.

Ongoing:

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

---L.

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:

Finished:

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.

---L.

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.

Finished:

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.

---L.

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.

DNF:

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.

---L.

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.

---L.

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.

---L.

Subject quote from "Among School Children," W.B. Yeats.

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