In a near-perfect society, the ugly Magdala bides her time on the edges, waiting for the small luxuries she allows herself & to eventually die unnIn a near-perfect society, the ugly Magdala bides her time on the edges, waiting for the small luxuries she allows herself & to eventually die unnoticed. That is until the charismatic Claudio enters her life & presents her with more than she could have ever dreamed: beauty &, with it, power. Little does she know the price that she must pay for this fantasy.
If I could, I would give this as a fuck-you-very-much present to the character Roman DeBeers. Because the story certainly comes across as if Tanith Lee wrote it on a fit of pique, where every justification she gave for the story & its structure is driven by "because I say so." Why is this story about a futuristic society presented as a book? Because it's a part of an academic presentation & because I say so. Why is the subject avatars & displaced consciousness? Because the idea of changing personas can be used in unhealthy ways & because I say so. Why should readers who like "hard sci-fi" be interested in what is ultimately a story about relationships & self-perception? Because we should not "ignore the nakedness of humanity before the huge-wheeled vehicle of progress", oh, and BECAUSE I SAY SO.
While the story itself is captivating (it is really more of a traditional noir story reskinned with tech), I found myself drawn to Forest's meta-ness & how the main character flits in & out of awareness of the greater forces around her. I found myself not moved by Magdala's struggle to define & redefine herself through her trials but by the pure idealism presented in the epilogue. It is a truly authentic statement about why the arts, literature, & chosen illusion remain important in a society that is constantly looking forward & outstripping its reach with cold purpose. But I've also read other stories by Lee & I know that her idealism is never starry-eyed & is always waiting to be grounded by reality. I loved it & will probably reread it soon to pick apart its structure with my new insights....more
I recently got this little Dover Thrift collection as part of a boxed set of mystery & supernatural stories. I chose to read Le Fanu first becauseI recently got this little Dover Thrift collection as part of a boxed set of mystery & supernatural stories. I chose to read Le Fanu first because Carmilla is on my to-read list & I wanted to get a taste of what this author's style was like. Unfortunately, the four stories presented here did not give me much to go on. The first story "Green Tea" was interesting enough & had a sort of Hawthorne-esque twist to it, where the reader doesn't really know if the supernatural hallucinations are a product of the character's guilt, some physical ailment or an actual batch of bad green tea. (If it is that last option, than this story becomes an unintentionally hilarious cautionary tale for this former Mormon reader.) However, the last three stories are all variations on deals with the devils or bad karma, with two of them being nearly identical.
I find myself wondering if I'm missing something. I'm uncertain if this is simply a poor collection or whether Le Fanu's Victorian prose has a subtext that I'm not picking up due to his circumspect style. I do still want to read Carmilla at some point, but right now, I'm not much impressed with these stories....more
The White Album: a collection of essays by Joan Didion covering a phase of disillusionment she suffered in her thirties with the upheavals of the AmerThe White Album: a collection of essays by Joan Didion covering a phase of disillusionment she suffered in her thirties with the upheavals of the American 1960s & the paranoia of the 70s as its narrative backdrop.
This book proves to me that sometimes a book or an author just has to come to you at the right time. I had previously read Blue Nights & found myself underwhelmed with much of it. I picked up Album partially because some of it had shown up in an episode of You Must Remember This & partially because I felt ready to give Didion a second chance. As I read further, I found myself deeply empathetic to Didion's bewilderment of living in a time where violence & chaos seemed part of everyday life, mistrust underscored every relationship & experience, & with Didion's own confusion about what her role was supposed to be in her developing family & Californian community. Her words were a odd comfort to me, a conflicted thirty-something trying to figure out how to get through the current troubles racking American society in 2017.
Even the essays which would seem dated today, like the development of the first HOV lane or reflections on the lofty ambitions that created the Hoover Dam or the Governor's Mansion built by the Reagans before they left for the White House, have fascinating connections to today's crumbling infastructure, the rogue Park Service's struggle to maintain public lands, & the hollow display of wealth in American politics. Reading Didion's subjects also emerged, to me, as a clearer influence on Claire Vaye Watkins & helped me understand some of Gold Fame Citrus better. (Although, there is some very clear class conflict that Didion recognizes but is unable or uninterested in pursing further.)
Because of these personal associations with reading The White Album, I can't promise that another reader will have the same epiphanic moments as myself. But I do think that the collection is still powerful & will move readers in unexpected ways....more
The Wollstonecraft Detectives are approached by paleontologist Mary Anning looking to rescue her dog from some blackmailers that want the scientist toThe Wollstonecraft Detectives are approached by paleontologist Mary Anning looking to rescue her dog from some blackmailers that want the scientist to authenticate a fake skeleton at the new British Museum. But the quartet's mission is thwarted by Ada's imperiously strict grandmother, a doctor whose over-eager with his use of leeches, and odd agents with a connection to the mysterious Nora Radel.
Stratford ups the stakes of his series here, splitting the four girls up & throwing obstacles in the way of their reunion. There's interesting tension as a result & lets the story develop naturally to make sure that all our characters are on the same page. One shining example is the auction scene, where each person knows the group has a specific goal to work toward, but each has to improvise as one by one their party is thwarted. An elegant scene combining drawing-room drama & sleight-of-hand ensues. Unfortunately, due to constraints of the page count (I imagine) some action takes place off-page & leads to more exposition than usual, but Stratford covers this with word games & introductory logic puzzles for his young readers.
As an adult reader, I am still fascinated by the narrative acrobatics the author employs to skate over some of the more scandalous real-life aspects of his characters. Ada's intractable mother is still a threat to the story & the presence of Allegra is explicitly mentioned as a problem as a result, but Stratford still manages to steer clear of the complication that Claire presents. (Claire is Allegra's real-life mother, but in the story is still barely a teenager & has never met Lord Byron & also, this is a book for kids so there's nothing even approaching sex-and-romance.) And I'm very intrigued by the included preview snippet for the next book in the back, which promises the appearance of Medora Leigh. (Really?! REALLY? How are you going to explain that one in your historical notes, sir?) Are you equally intrigued, dear Reader? If so, join me in speculation & try out the series....more
A deeply impressionistic novel about three outcasts in New Zealand who find each other & slowly grow into a family.
From now on, if anyone asks meA deeply impressionistic novel about three outcasts in New Zealand who find each other & slowly grow into a family.
From now on, if anyone asks me for stuff similar to Jane Campion's Top of the Lake, Bone People will be my first recommendation. There are some basic plot similarities, such as the intersections between European & Maori, urban & rural/Aboriginal lifestyles. There is also a child in danger & a community around it that knows about the trouble but has convinced itself to look the other way. But where Lake gestures to the metaphysical, People fully incorporates mystical influence into its story, making the story seem more like another iteration of a folk tale or mythological story. Echoes abound in Bone People, especially around the character Simon, & creates plenty of tension & wariness simply by hinting at or distorting what is or isn't said. (I spent a good portion of the book suspecting Joseph of even worse actions than what is portrayed.)
To sum up, a language-heavy book that excels more at atmosphere than plot. Kerewin never totally overcomes her perfect persona tendencies & Joseph's redemption is a little too pat, but the author's artistry is still compelling....more
3.5 instead of 3. Equal parts historical fiction & epic fantasy, Ariosto follows the poet Lodovico Ariosto near the end of his life in Renaissance3.5 instead of 3. Equal parts historical fiction & epic fantasy, Ariosto follows the poet Lodovico Ariosto near the end of his life in Renaissance Italy. Entangled in the deadly politics of the Firenzen court, Ariosto's perspective is split between the frustrations of his patron Damiano de Medici & the poet's latest epic about the Nuovo Mundo. Each world is threatened by great conflicting forces & Ariosto strives to live & write despite the pending chaos of each.
Yarbro's book is one that clicked with me at just the right time. I had just finished rereading Dante's Commedia so I was prepared for the court intrigue & the flowery style of writing found in the book. I also had a better appreciation for the conflicts of Church & State in Ariosto with Dante's vision lingering on the edges of my reading as well. With that said, Yarbro's historical research is evident in the dense world-building that takes up the first third of the novel & it took me some time to get through the material.
But even with the period details slowing me down, the novel truly shines in certain places. First, I loved seeing what another nation would have thought of the New World outside of the typical Anglo Protestant take I'd been taught in school. (Bonus points for figuring out the Italianized versions of Native American tribes like Cérocchi, Pau Attan, and Cica Omini.) Secondly, despite the obvious clues used to outline the courtly intrigue, Yarbro excels at keeping the readers guessing at how much Ariosto understands & how involved he may or may not become over the course of the book. He even tries to convince Damiano that help can come from the New World because his own desperation drives the poet to believe in his own characters.
Ultimately, Ariosto is about an artist living in a fractured, deeply paranoid society & with the current political state of my own country, I found myself moved to tears by an ending that would not have held such poignancy previously. I want to recommend it to anyone willing to give historical fantastical fiction a chance but with Ariosto hitting so many specific associations for me, I'm not sure it would be as powerful for others. If this review interests you though, I hope you'll give it a try....more