This should have been so much better. The setting is a wasted opportunity (yes, fine, I had hoped to exorcise some personal demons here and was thwart...moreThis should have been so much better. The setting is a wasted opportunity (yes, fine, I had hoped to exorcise some personal demons here and was thwarted, but STILL), and the whole thing was repetitive and felt soulless. Granted, the letters from Mom to Martin sparkle - truly sparkle - but the rest of it was a sodden bone-crunching meh.(less)
I've been reading this series since a friend loaned the whole collection to me about three months ago. It's profoundly satisfying. Not only is Mike Ca...moreI've been reading this series since a friend loaned the whole collection to me about three months ago. It's profoundly satisfying. Not only is Mike Carey an exceptional storyteller (I'm also a fan of his Unwritten series), but he weaves an enormous amount of diverse mythology into a complex arc. Basically perfectly. His characters are superb: sympathetic, alarming, funny, stubborn and striving for selfhood in the fiercest way. The slant on theology is fascinating. The artwork is stunning, and subtly appropriate to each mythological or atmospheric setting. Superlatives everywhere, is what I'm saying.
If I try to go through and review each volume separately, I'll lose my reviewing momentum, so I'm just sticking to this one. Standout volumes for me were Lucifer 2: Children and Monsters, Lucifer 3: A Dalliance With the Damned (it turns out Hell has an obsession with 18th century high court manners) and Lucifer 11: Evensong.(less)
Dirty deeds writ clean. He makes it look so easy. A collection of short stories and a couple of novellas (Nightmare Town was, I think, later rewritten...moreDirty deeds writ clean. He makes it look so easy. A collection of short stories and a couple of novellas (Nightmare Town was, I think, later rewritten as the full-length novel Red Harvest - which has a whole fascinating back history of being the basis for at least half a dozen films with different titles.) All satisfying and gritty and spare of word. This is available on Amazon for Kindle for $.99.
The man stood for a time where he had halted - just within the door to one side - a grotesque statue modelled of mud. Short, sturdy-bodied, with massive sagging shoulders. Nothing of clothing or hair showed through his husk of clay, and little of face and hands. The marshal’s revolver in his hand, clean and dry, took on by virtue of that discordant immaculateness an exaggerated deadliness.
...she was madder than you’d think anybody could get on short notice.
She didn’t have any words I hadn’t heard before, but she fitted them together in combinations that were new to me.
The girl looked at the place where he stood as if no one stood there, as if, in fact, no one had ever stood there, turned her small back on him, and walked very precisely down the street.
Why, he wondered, whenever there was some special reason for gravity, did he always find himself becoming flippant?
She made proud sentences for herself while she spoke other sentences, or listened to them.
Margaret’s throat had some swollen thing in it. Fog blurred everything but the charging red face. An unvoiced whimper shook her breast. She wanted to run to him as to a lover. She wanted to run from him as from a ravisher. She stood very still in her doorway, smiling demurely with dry, hot mouth.
After all, if a man says a thing often enough, he is very likely to acquire some sort of faith in it sooner or later.
I don’t like eloquence: if it isn’t effective enough to pierce your hide, it’s tiresome; and if it is effective enough, then it muddles your thoughts. (less)
This was fascinating. I only have the early part of the journal, when Marie is 12 and 13. I was alternately delighted with her insight and language, a...moreThis was fascinating. I only have the early part of the journal, when Marie is 12 and 13. I was alternately delighted with her insight and language, and possessed of an overwhelming urge to kick her down a flight of stairs. Her language is deceptively mature and sophisticated, but she is most certainly 12 years old - in thrall to absurd passions, socially precocious and immature, entirely self-absorbed. And uncomfortably reminiscent, in tone if not erudition, of my own journals at the same age. I don't dare read them for fear of kicking myself down the stairs.
Here she is convinced she will be a singer, but according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Ba...) she became an accomplished painter and sculptor. I don't have the rest of the journals, but I'll track them down to find out how she grows up. Also, apparently, a collection of letters, including a correspondence with Guy de Maupassant.
I want to be adored, and I think no one worthy of my adoration. I love Nice; I hate Nice.
"It is soothing to write or communicate one's ideas to somebody."
"Everything I wrote previously now seems nonsense."
"I went in only a minute to ask Mamma something, in my character of a little girl."
"These transports overwhelm me at the mere sight of his name, for I am not sure of my happiness, and I ardently desire it. But when we have what we desire and love, we are calm."
"I don't want to wait any longer. I shall die if I stay in this furnace."
"How happy we are when we know what we want! But an idea has come to me - I believe I am ugly. It is frightful!"
"No doubt I shall be depressed tomorrow, for this evening I am certainly on stilts." (I LOVE THIS.)
"My head is heavy and my eyes are closing, yet at the same time I want to wrote more, the pen glides easily over the paper and, though I might have nothing to say, I go on for the pleasure of filling the white pages and hearing the pleasant scratching of the pen."
"I am not successful with serious poetry."
"What credit is it to conquer dunces?"
"Oh! There is nothing like the rolling of a carriage to give ideas." (Magical.)
"I feel sad, unnerved, I should like to smile and to weep. No, really, love is full of interest."
"Everything can be pardoned except scorn."
"What amuses me is to see a serious woman play pranks with me."
"I am not ill-natured at heart, I am only a little crazy."
"I believe I am uttering insolent things to God."
"Come, what was I going to write? That I am calm and agitated, sorrowful and joyous, jealous and indifferent."
"I am no longer drowsy. I am in a hurry to be everywhere. I want to live at full speed again."
"What is perfectly simple when written is no longer so when read aloud."
"I have used every expression, and am dying because I cannot make myself understood."
This series is so fun. Hardboiled detective fiction meets intricately imagined AI scifi. Well written, great vocabulary and truly likable complex char...moreThis series is so fun. Hardboiled detective fiction meets intricately imagined AI scifi. Well written, great vocabulary and truly likable complex characters.(less)
I had a love-hate thing with Kraken while I was reading it. I was pulled in immediately by the setting and the main character, and I'm always a little...moreI had a love-hate thing with Kraken while I was reading it. I was pulled in immediately by the setting and the main character, and I'm always a little resentful when a storyline takes a whacking great left turn away from an opening I like. I have to say it's completely worth it here, though. This story got turned on its head so fast and so thoroughly that I never really got my equilibrium back throughout; vertigo was a perfect traveling companion for the story.
The violence and perpetual unmaking throughout the storyline is inventive and nauseating; at the same time it's a refreshing change from the torture porn of, oh, every other thriller. I can't remember the last time I read something so constantly innovative.
The real meat of Kraken is the language, which is downright erotic. China Mieville has the most lascivious attention to language I've ever encountered outside of poetry. He may not construct the most moving sentences, but he's turned on by words in the most incredible way. You can practically feel him licking them. The acrobatic sound of every single page was exhilarating. I had to look up over 60 words. That's a good book.(less)
This one is a favorite, and I've reread it five or six times.
Tom Birkin is an art restorer who comes home from Passchaendaele in 1920 with a stammer a...moreThis one is a favorite, and I've reread it five or six times.
Tom Birkin is an art restorer who comes home from Passchaendaele in 1920 with a stammer and a facial twitch. He is given his first job in a small country church in Yorkshire, uncovering a large painting. The novel is a perfect hymn to the lost moment, the buried masterpiece, the English countryside, the satisfaction of expertise, and the healing power of work. In 111 pages of perfect prose. Delectissima, amantissima.
"It was Tennyson weather, drowsy, warm, unnaturally still." p. 71
"...the first breath of autumn was in the air, a prodigal feeling, a feeling of wanting, taking, and keeping before it is too late." p. 100
When I was in college, my Victorian Literature professor told us that the first time she read Middlemarch, when she finished it she turned it over and...moreWhen I was in college, my Victorian Literature professor told us that the first time she read Middlemarch, when she finished it she turned it over and just started over again. Ever since I heard that story, I've wondered where the book was that would make me feel that way.
Here it is.
I finished it, and I flipped right back to the start and read the first two sections again. There was a pile of highly time-sensitive library books in the house, and in the end I just reread the first two sections and not the whole novel, but I wish I'd kept going. I've muddied it up with interim books now, before writing about it, and it's so crystalline and perfect and dense that I want to hold it still, exactly right, forever. You can't ever get your first moment back. I wish I'd let it play on, and left the library books for another time.
I'm not sure how else to write about this without using words that feel overused and meaningless. The language made me lightheaded. It's savagely funny and achingly sad and cruel and hopeless and full of hope. Each voice is perfectly singular and believable; each recurring theme is reintroduced in a new voice and a new section with a fresh context that still stands on the shoulders of the voice that came before. The scope of the whole story is massive, and the themes of displacement and colonization and willful selfishness and savagery are enormous, but so tightly bound into the smallness of each single life that it's impossible to look away. It's impossible to read this novel and not think about the (usually) invisible framework of culture, religion and desire that informs everything I do.
Each main character is likable, and the rogues are particularly funny. (Who doesn't love a well-spoken scoundrel?) Each time the world turned and a new voice turned up, I was immediately and skillfully swept back to the tide of the bigger picture. There's no one I didn't love, but I'll still play favorites. Richard Frobisher was my favorite voice. He's tragic and brilliant and hilarious and a complete heel and I want to write letters that sound like his and get letters that sound like his.
The structure is so complex that I doubt if I caught all the themes on this first read. Music and water are built in everywhere, both literally and symbolically, but there are plenty of other things going on too. The fictions we tell each other over and over until they become true. And also strike that: reverse it: the truths we tell over and over until they become symbolic in legend. This is very definitely a book to read again. I'm looking forward to talking about it in book group in a couple of weeks. This will probably end up with more notes after that.
Glass & peace alike betray proof of fragility under repeated blows.
When insolvent, pack minimally, with a valise tough enough to be thrown onto a London pavement from a first-or second-floor window.
An idler and a sluggard are as different as a gourmand and a glutton.
A half-read book is a half-finished love affair.
It borrows resonances from Wagner’s Ring, then disintegrates the theme into a Stravinskyesque nightmare policed by Sibelian wraiths. Horrible, delectable, wish you could hear it.
When one unlocks a woman’s body, her box of confidences also spills.
Faith, the least exclusive club on Earth, has the craftiest doorman. Every time I’ve stepped through its wide-open doorway, I find myself stepping out on the street again.
It’s a seesawing, cyclical, crystalline thing.
Autumn is leaving its mellowness behind for its spiky, rotted stage. But outrage is unwieldy to manufacture and handle. First, you need scrutiny; second, widespread awareness; only when this reaches a critical mass does public outrage explode into being. Any stage may be sabotaged.
Success intoxicates rookies in the blink of an eye.
(“Memory Serves.” Duplicitous couplet.)
...a memory...cracked on the hard rim of my heart and the yolk dribbled out...
...conduct your life in such a way that, when your train breaks down in the eve of your years, you have a warm, dry car driven by a loved one—or a hired one, it matters not—to take you home.
Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms round the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage.
“In the morning.” Fate is fond of booby-trapping those three little words. Humor is the ovum of dissent...
Trees, their incremental gymnastics and noisy silence, yes, and their greenness, still mesmerize me.
Snow is bruised lilac in half-lite: such pure solace.
Our icons, what we carved’n’polished’n’wrote words on durin’ our lifes, was stored there after we died. Thousands of ’em there was shelfed in my time, yay, each un a Valleysman like me borned’n’lived’n’reborned since the Flotilla what bringed our ancestors got to Big I to ’scape the Fall. First time I went inside the Icon’ry was with Pa’n’Adam’n’Jonas when I was a sevener. Ma’d got a leakin’ malady birthin’ Catkin, an’ Pa took us to pray to Sonmi to fix her, ’cos the Icon’ry was a spesh holy place an’ Sonmi was norm’ly list’nin’ there. Watery dark it was inside. Wax’n’teak-oil’n’time was its smell. The icons lived in shelfs from floor to roof, how many there was I cudn’t tell, nay, you don’t go countin’ ’em like goats, but the gone-lifes outnumber the now-lifes like leafs outnumber trees.
Her words was slipp’ry wrestlers...
Meronym placed her hands on her head like it boomed up with woe...
The sun was deaf’nin’ so high up, yay, it roared an’ time streamed from it.
Old Uns’d got the Smart o’ gods but the savagery o’ jackals an’ that’s what tripped the Fall.
Only the inanimate can be so alive.
All the woe of the words “I am” seemed dissolved there, painlessly, peacefully. Hae-Joo announced, “The ocean.”
Rights are susceptible to subversion, as even granite is susceptible to erosion.
...nothing is as eloquent as nothing.
The world will do business with dictators, perverts, and drug barons of all stripes, but being slowed down it cannot abide.
Once any tyranny becomes accepted as ordinary...its victory is assured.
I’ve always been a gifted sulker, which explains a lot.
The actual past is brittle, ever-dimming + ever more problematic to access + reconstruct: in contrast, the virtual past is malleable, ever-brightening + ever more difficult to circumvent/expose as fraudulent.
...science devises ever bloodier means of war until humanity’s powers of destruction overcome our powers of creation and our civilization drives itself to extinction.
...having the roof over one’s head dependent upon the good offices of an employer is a loathsome way to live.
...trying to wind in all unraveled strings of myself.
Because she makes me think about something other than myself. Because even when serious she shines.
One may transcend any convention, if only one can first conceive of doing so.
In an individual, selfishness uglifies the soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction.
If we believe that humanity may transcend tooth & claw, if we believe divers races & creeds can share this world as peaceably as the orphans share their candlenut tree, if we believe leaders must be just, violence muzzled, power accountable & the riches of the Earth & its Oceans shared equitably, such a world will come to pass. I am not deceived. It is the hardest of worlds to make real. (less)
Really well done, but only three stars because I don't love police procedural stories. I do love Greg Rucka, though, so I thought it was worth a read....moreReally well done, but only three stars because I don't love police procedural stories. I do love Greg Rucka, though, so I thought it was worth a read. Anybody want my copy?(less)
Oh, what is this I'm feeling now? Kinship? Jealousy? Pity? Very short, very complex, very lovely and already in need of a reread. Constant scene, tens...moreOh, what is this I'm feeling now? Kinship? Jealousy? Pity? Very short, very complex, very lovely and already in need of a reread. Constant scene, tense and pronoun changes make this an elusive read and I'm not at all sure that I've grasped it in the whole. The narrator (I don't know nearly enough about Duras, but I've heard a number of people refer to this as autobiographical) is nearly diffident throughout, but just shy of going that far. The veneer of emotional distance is beautifully constructed. Evocative and lonely, with the two main branches of the story - family and lover - wrapped around a luscious, singsong, nearly violent central section involving an erotic obsession with a schoolmate (the only thing approaching a female friend for the narrator). The descriptions of clothes and the way they convey individuality, strength and intent are extraordinary.
Keep and reread.
"This self-betrayal of women always struck me as a mistake, an error. You didn’t have to attract desire. Either it was in the woman who aroused it or it didn’t exist. Either it was there at first glance or else it had never been. It was instant knowledge of sexual relationship or it was nothing. That too I knew before I experienced it."
"I’ve never written, though I thought I wrote, never loved, though I thought I loved, never done anything but wait outside the closed door."
"She pays close attention to externals, to the light, to the noise of the city in which the room is immersed. He’s trembling."
"He calls me a whore, a slut, he says I’m his only love, and that’s what he ought to say, and what you do say when you just let things say themselves, when you let the body alone, to seek and find and take what it likes, and then everything is right, and nothing’s wasted, the waste is covered over and all is swept away in the torrent, in the force of desire."
"He lit a cigarette and gave it to me. And very quietly, close to my lips, he talked to me. And I talked to him too, very quietly. Because he doesn’t know for himself, I say it for him, in his stead. Because he doesn’t know he carries within him a supreme elegance, I say it for him."
"That today, recognizing it as the sadness I’ve always had, I could almost call it by my own name, it’s so like me."
"When you’re being looked at you can’t look. To look is to feel curious, to be interested, to lower yourself."
"I am worn out with desire for Hélène Lagonelle. I am worn out with desire. I want to take Hélène Lagonelle with me to where every evening, my eyes shut, I have imparted to me the pleasure that makes you cry out. I’d like to give Hélène Lagonelle to the man who does that to me, so he may do it in turn to her. I want it to happen in my presence, I want her to do it as I wish, I want her to give herself where I give myself. It’s via Hélène Lagonelle’s body, through it, that the ultimate pleasure would pass from him to me. A pleasure unto death."(less)
Basically your perfect Gothic adventure novel for children.
1. Here are some delightful children! 2. Things seem precarious for the children. 3. FOREB...moreBasically your perfect Gothic adventure novel for children.
1. Here are some delightful children! 2. Things seem precarious for the children. 3. FOREBODING. 4. Things are getting bad. 5. Things are worse. 6. THINGS ARE ABSOLUTELY DIRE! 6a. I don't think we're going to make it out of this dungeon. 7. BUT WAIT! A gleam of hope. 8. A journey, with geese. 9. Things are going to be ok after all, and what is this? A bonus extra-nice reversal of bad fortune! 10. Happy and satisfied reader.
100% delightful, and as a side note, I'm fairly certain that these children grew up to be the precocious, wine-soaked lawyers of Sarah Caudwell's wonderful mystery series. That might just be me associating one Edward Gorey cover with another, though.(less)