Recent Reads: A WRINKLE IN TIME

Jul. 19th, 2017 03:09 pm
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Having cried all over the WRINKLE IN TIME trailer, I thought I’d better re-read the book immediately to get a proper feeling for it again. It’d been at least twenty, possibly thirty, years since I’d read it, and…

…it’s kind of equally weirder and more mundane than I remember it.

I was prepared for, although somewhat exasperated by regardless, the Christian allusions; whenever I last re-read L’Engle, I was adult enough to notice her books are really laced with Christianity, so I knew that was going to be there. The story itself is actually a lot more straight-forward than I remember it being; possibly I’ve conflated the other books with it, or maybe it’s just that the weird bits are SO STRANGE that I thought the story structure had to be a lot more complicated than it really is.

It’s not, from a modern storytelling perspective, especially well told. It takes about four chapters to really get going, and it’s only a 12 chapter book. There’s a lot of telling, but not much in the way of showing in terms of…*why*. Meg is not, to the adult modern reader, particularly sympathetic: she doesn’t fit in at school, she’s angry in general and specifically very defensive about her father’s absence, and is apparently some particular kind of dumb that excludes being spectacularly good at math. That dumbness may be meant to indicate she’s socially inept, but although that certainly appears to be true, it doesn’t seem to be what’s really going on.

But that…dumbness…whatever it is…is crucial through the whole book. Meg doesn’t tesseract as well as the others. Meg is more vulnerable to the Darkness than the others. Meg won’t understand if you explain the thing…but I never understood why. (I’m not sure I understood as a kid, either, but it didn’t matter as much to me then.) And it’s apparently not something that came on simply because Mr Murry disappeared, because even he comments on it, and had done so before his disappearance, so you can’t lay her anger/ineptitude at the feet of her father’s disappearance.

And, just as much as Meg’s lack is not explained, neither are Calvin and Charles Wallace’s aptitude. Calvin communicates well; well, okay, that’s fine, but why does it make it easier for him to tesseract? Charles Wallace is, as far as I can tell, not even actually human, and Calvin, who does not come from the Murry family at all, is apparently More Like Charles than Meg is. But I don’t know what they are, or why they are, or why they’re the special ones and our heroine isn’t (well, that last one is institutionalized sexism, but let’s move past that). I remember *loving* Charles Wallace (and crushing terribly on Calvin), but I find him fairly creepy now, and that’s as the parent of an extremely self-assured little kid who, like Charles Wallace, is quite certain he’s able to Do It His Way without listening to the wisdom, or at least the experience, of his elders.

The one thing that maybe felt the most true to me in the whole book was Meg coming around to being the one who can save Charles Wallace. She wanted someone else–her father, specifically, but ANYBODY ELSE–to have to do the hard work. She was terrified and resentful of having to do it herself (and possibly that’s what the aforementioned “dumbness” is, since everybody keeps saying If you’d only apply yourself, Meg,, but that still doesn’t explain why she doesn’t tesseract as well, etc), and that seems very appropriate to a 13 year old to me. To people a lot older than 13, too, for that matter. But it comes in the 11th hourchapter, and her willingness to go on there is the only time in the book that she moves forward of her own volition. I’m not saying that isn’t fairly realistic, maybe, for a young teen, but in terms of making a dynamic book, it…doesn’t, really.

There are parts of the book that remain wonderful. The Mrs W are still splendid; Camazotz (which I always read, name-wise, as being what happens when Camelot goes terribly wrong) is still EXTREMELY CREEPY, and the thrumming presence of IT remains startlingly effective. Aunt Beast is wonderful. (So basically: the aliens work a lot better for me than the humans do.)

It doesn’t feel like a book that could get published now. It would need more depth; it felt shallow to me. A lot of its weirdness seems to me like it came very specifically out of the 50s and early 60s; I don’t think that book would, or perhaps *could*, be written now. It’s very internal in a lot of ways, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the film adapts the weirdness and the internalness and Meg’s basic lack of agency into an accessible story. My *feeling* is that they’re going to do a magnificent job of it, that it’s going to be one of those cases like Frankenstein or Jeckell & Hyde where the book’s conceptual foundation proves more powerful in film than it does on the page. I hope so!

But you know what I really wanted to do when I finished reading A WRINKLE IN TIME? I wanted to re-read Diane Duane’s SO YOU WANT TO BE A WIZARD, because I felt like the Young Wizards books use A WRINKLE IN TIME as a conceptual springboard and dove off into something that worked a lot better as a *story*.

So I guess I know what’s up next (or soon, anyway) on the Catie’s Re-Reads list. :)

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

Hay-fever

Jul. 17th, 2017 09:15 pm
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[personal profile] flick
My mother had hay-fever when she was younger, and it went away entirely when she was pregnant with my sister.

My sister has always had really horribly terrible hay-fever, and childhood eczema, and dust allergies.

When my mother was pregnant with me, her hay-fever came back.

I've never had hay-fever, or indeed any allergy in my life.

We've always put the whole thing down to some sort of pregnancy / immune system weirdness. However....

I've been sneezing for the last four or five days, and feel otherwise fine. Bah! I guess it's caught up with me at last.
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[personal profile] mizkit

Carrie Fisher. Robin Wright. Gal Gadot. Daisy Ridley. Melissa McCarthy & Leslie Jones & Kate McKinnon & Kristen Wigg.

Jodie Whittaker.

It shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter, but it goddamn well does.

You know why I chose the women I did, up above? You know why I didn’t include Weaver & Hamilton & Theron on that list?

Because Ripley and Connor and Furiosa were given to us. They were put on the table by filmmakers who said either “it doesn’t matter if this character’s a woman or a man,” or who specifically chose a woman as the vehicle for the main story. Alien & Terminator were always ours. We didn’t have to ask, much less plead and beg, for Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor. We weren’t looking for Furiosa, and Theron came out of nowhere the same way Weaver & Hamilton did.

But Carrie Fisher? Robin Wright? Yeah, Princess Leia & the Princess Bride were integral to their stories, but Buttercup was a pretty passive observer in her own story and Leia wasn’t there FOR GIRLS. She was there as the token female. The fact that she had an important role & agency is almost beside the point. I read something recently–maybe in Empire Magazine–where someone said something like “If you think about it, Star Wars is really Leia’s story,” and all I could think was WOULDN’T IT HAVE BEEN AMAZING IF IT HAD BEEN FILMED THAT WAY?

So General Antiope? General Organa? I feel like we *fought* for them. Diana? Rey? I feel like they’re from us saying “we want this so much, we deserve this, we hold up half the fucking sky, people.” An all-women Ghostbusters team? We kept saying “oh god please we want this this would be so awesome.” And so now, a female Doctor? It feels like another one we fought for.

And it shouldn’t have to. We shouldn’t have to be pleading for 1/13th of the pie (or less). We shouldn’t have to be THIS HAPPY to get it. And yet I am.

And I’m also SO ANGRY that it takes so little, such a crumb, to make me THIS HAPPY, when it shouldn’t even be a conversation.

And none of that even STARTS to touch on how 8 of the 9 (or 11/12, depending on how you wanna count it) women I’ve talked about are white ladies.

I don’t want white women to be the only ones gaining ground here. I don’t want increments. We don’t NEED increments. The actors are there. Storm Reid proves it. Zendaya proves it. Hannah John-Kamen & Frankie Adams prove it. And I want to see women of color in all these big amazing roles and films too. I don’t want this to just be a moment for white girls and indistinguishable blondes.

I want more, god damn it. I want it all, for all of us. #GirlPower

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

still toxic

Jul. 16th, 2017 01:23 pm
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[personal profile] mizkit

I’m somewhat better than I’ve been, but I’ve still got a cough and snotty nose. No, I haven’t gone to a doctor, but only because it turns out there’s a shortage of doctors in this town and nobody is taking new patients. We got signed up with a clinic in theory but we still haven’t gotten notification that we’re actually in their system, so…yeah. Anyway. At this point I think I’m going to have healed up before I’m in the system. Whee.

That said, all I want to do today is lie in a lump on the couch and watch Brooklyn Nine Nine all afternoon, but I’d have a 7 year old beside me saying, “What? What?” and fake-laughing at things, which wouldn’t really be much fun.

The Wrinkle in Time trailer dropped yesterday and made me cry. Twice. It looks amazing. (“Mommy,” Indy said incredulously, “are you *crying*?” Yes. Yes I was.) Anyway, I haven’t read the book in at least twenty, possibly thirty, years, and I immediately bought a new copy to read it. I didn’t think it would hold up, honestly, but I’ve read the first chapter and so far it’s still amazing.

I also re-read THE HERO AND THE CROWN a couple days ago and for the first time the acid trip battle with Agsded actually made sense to me. I’ve only read the book about forty times, so it’s nice that I eventually became able to really follow that scene.

Also I don’t remember crying through Talat’s rehabilitation before. *wipes eyes*

I made crabapple jelly with the last of LAST year’s crabapples, some cherry jam, pitted more cherries that Dad brought out, and bought some peaches that I need to process today and see if I’ve got enough for jam. I have frozen strawberries, too, and some many-berry mix frozen berries. Jam, glorious jam. :)

There are TWO kittens in the garden. We’re calling them Topsy and Turvy and are feeding them and their mama. I’m waiting for the local rescue people to have a capture cage available, so hopefully that’ll come through soon.

I turned a grant application in last week. I’ve got a book proposal just about ready to submit. I have copy edits to do and need to email my editor about line edits. And…I’d have to look at my to-do list to see what’s next. That’s plenty to get me through the week, though. :)

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

How embarassing!

Jul. 15th, 2017 08:51 pm
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[personal profile] flick
I just went to vote for the Hugos, and the only category where I had any strong opinion was Best Series (which I'm still not entirely sure I agree with as a concept anyway) and maybe BDP:SF.

I don't think I've read any of the fiction other than one novel that I bounced off. I've seen one of BDP:LF, and half of BDP-SF but couldn't tell you which episode was which. While I do think that Chuck Tingle deserves some Fan Writer kudos I'm not sure I want to rank him top in the category....

Oops. Am obviously a Bad Fan!
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
[personal profile] tamaranth
2017/58: All Systems Red -- Martha Wells
I could have become a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. [p. 9]


All Systems Red is the first-person narrative of Murderbot, a self-hacked security cyborg -- 'SecBot' -- who, due to having disabled their governor module, is no longer forced to obey the commands of the Company . (Note the pronouns: Murderbot may not have what they primly refers to as 'sex parts' but they are very much a person, possibly more so than some of their human clients.)
not spoilery )

Multi-tasking

Jul. 15th, 2017 11:20 am
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[personal profile] flick
This morning, I pruned the wisteria, which (despite, or possibly as a result of, not getting to flower) has grown very vigorously this year.

This had the added advantage of providing Jo with a bijou snackette (once she figured out how to unwrap it) and, I very much hope, stopping expectant-mama-pigeon from waking me up at 4:30 every morning from now on.

Awkward to the end...

Jul. 14th, 2017 10:41 pm
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[personal profile] flick
It's very common to have a horse who spends his working life wearing shoes and then has them taken off for his retirement, on account of them not being needed when all he's doing is wandering around in a field.

GB's been happily barefoot for a decade, but today the farrier said that now he's not working we need to think about putting shoes on him for the two hundred yard walk up and down the hill each day to the summer pasture. It is true that his feet were a state, but I was thoroughly expecting to be told not to be silly when I mentioned shoes....

What I'll probably do is put booties on him, morning and evening, just for the walk. I ordered a set this afternoon, and they'll probably arrive before we go away for The Bloody Wedding so that I can check that they fit / he doesn't object too much before the sitters have to deal with him.

When we first took his shoes off, I bought him some ferociously expensive booties, which he hated with a passion. Now that he's had no shoes for so long, they don't fit him any more, so they've gone back in the box. Hopefully he won't complain too much about the new ones...
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
[personal profile] tamaranth
2017/57: American Gods -- Neil Gaiman
"Media. I think I have heard of her. Isn't she the one who killed her children?"
"Different woman," said Mr. Nancy. "Same deal." [loc 6102]


Reread sparked by the Amazon TV series -- which is a very different animal,
'based on' rather than a straightforward adaptation of the novel.
non-spoilery )
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
[personal profile] tamaranth
2017/56: Spandex and the City -- Jenny Colgan
He almost certainly had no idea that the fact that he was rich was as strange to me as the fact that he could lift up a truck with one hand. [loc. 1255]

slightly spoilery review )

Rain!

Jul. 11th, 2017 05:49 pm
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It's raining! And the forecast is for it to keep doing so all night! (Maybe now the fertiliser that Mr Farmer put on the field the other week will actually get washed into the ground: radical concept!)

The swallows have fledged their chicks. We suspect that the wrens have as well, but they vanished fairly quickly. The swallows, on the other hand, are still around and learning how to fly: we keep walking into stables to be met by confused birds trying to avoid flying into us.

I'm a wee bit worried about Esk, who seems to be having some difficulties in the egg department: she keeps laying wonky ones, and a couple of days ago she produced two in one afternoon, the second with a rather squidgy shell that Jo was very pleased to receive. Mind you, that was the same day when we found one that Agnes had laid actually in the pond, so, y'know....

This afternoon, I had my first private session with my new Pilates instructor. I'm rather tired now. I think it'll work out, though: I've booked another session!

my head is a toxic waste dump

Jul. 9th, 2017 11:16 am
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Actually, I think–I hope–my head is coming through the other side of being a toxic waste dump, but jeez o flip. I’ve had two back to back colds. I don’t think I was sick when I went to Liverpool, so I guess I’ve been sick since about the Sunday after, which is three weeks today. It feels like longer. Both colds have been entirely in my head with a massive fucking cough that ejects gobs of snot that the constant nose-blowing assaults on my sinuses have not been able to remove preemptively.

I’ve been a lot of fun to be around. I coughed so hard I threw up! I’d never done that before. Cross one off the bucket list, I guess. Anyway, Friday night I conceded to Ted that if this hadn’t taken a significant turn for the better by Monday I should in fact go to a doctor and see if it’s more than just two utterly crappy colds in quick succession, but then Saturday afternoon and night I was able to lie down for sleep without trying to expel my lungs, so I think I may be on the mend.

(She said, ferociously ignoring what feels like a new fresh sore throat as opposed to “oh god my throat hurts from coughing so much”.)

IN OTHER, less gross, news, despite being a one-woman snot-production company, I’ve been working on a proposal for the publisher who’s interested in working with me, binging s1 of Brooklyn Nine Nine (I love the Pontiac Bandit so much), READING (how great is READING, PEOPLE?!!? (although reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s AURORA and James S.A. Corey’s CIBOLA BURNS back to back created some significant cognitive dissonance)), and making fumbling attempts to clean the house.

Oh, and Dad brought over four kilos of cherries, so those got pitted stemmed and frozen, and I need to pursue jam and perhaps cherry pie with them. Mmmm. And let’s see, what else. Ted got an e-reader and we’re culling the print books again, although at this stage we’re pretty close to the bone and are reaching Things That Can’t Be Purchased As E-Books, which means we keep ’em. :)

Yeah, what else, hm. There is a fluffy! bouncy! kitten in our yard (or in its vicinity, anyway), courtesy of some of the feral cats who live in the area. I’d like to try to capture the kitten(s) and see if they’re young enough to be tamed and homed, but it’d obviously be good to capture the adults and get them fixed, too. (*pauses to email the local animal rescue people about this, in fact* There, that’s done.)

And now I’ve taken a remarkably long time to make this blog post and shall rise up and go clean the kitchen, because for some reason it WON’T STAY CLEAN. If only we didn’t need to eat….

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

I had thought it was cooler today...

Jul. 8th, 2017 06:18 pm
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... but we've just been up the hill to get the boys down, with detour to get the ragwort* out of the Up The Hill's once-and-maybe-future veg garden**, and now I've changed my mind....

We had been going to go to the County Show on Friday, but decided that tomorrow looked cooler and so better for Jo (and me!). It now looks as though we'll have to leave her at home anyway.

* It's next to the road, and I noticed some while walking past the other day, so I sent a text asking if I could get it out before it went to seed: the seed would have blown straight onto the summer pasture, and just led to more work next year.

** The old Up The Hills had a veg garden there, it's currently something of a jungle featuring head-high nettles, willow herb and St John's Wort. Apparently, the girls have been exploring it but I'm probably the first adult to go down there in a year. If they have, they must be getting very used to nettle stings.

Monthly culture: June 2017

Jul. 8th, 2017 10:26 am
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
[personal profile] tamaranth
02JUN17: Wonder Woman, Odeon IMAX, Greenwich

This is not really a feminist film, despite the female protagonist -- there is not enough interaction between the female characters -- but it might be a 'feminist superhero' film. Diana's blend of naivete and power, and her journey from the idyllic female community of Themyscira to the trenches of WWI, parallels her growth from idealistic warrior to conflicted hero. That arc is familiar (Thor, Captain America, even Iron Man). Is Diana's journey any different from a male hero's?

I didn't engage with Wonder Woman as fully as I'd hoped. I found it a remarkably humourless film -- perhaps I have been spoilt by Marvel's wisecracks and one-liners -- and, though it has parallels with the first Captain America film, it doesn't have that film's knack for characterisation. For instance, Steve Trevor's backup team get more screen time than Steve Rogers' Howling Commandos, but have less personality.

I would have liked more of Lucy Davis' Etta Candy (and Josette Simon's Mnemosyne!) but Gal Gadot rocks: she has presence, grace and timing.

16JUN17: L'elisir d'amore -- Donizetti, Royal Opera House

I adore this opera: the comic, romantic themes suit Donizetti's glorious and ebullient music rather better than the doom and tragedy of Lucia or Anna Bolena. Laurent Pelly's ROH production -- set in 1950s rural Italy -- is cheerful, witty and beautifuly staged. The performance we saw had some changes of personnel. Roberto Alagna was ill, so Nemorino sung in second half by Atalla Ayan from side of stage while Alagna acted (this worked surprisingly well) and understudy Jennifer Davis stood in as Adina for Aleksandra Kurzak. Absolutely no complaints on either count.

I used to avoid the ROH because I perceived it as much more expensive than the ENO. Times have changed. We had reasonably-priced seats -- £35 -- in the Upper Amphitheatre (note to self: get seats on left-hand side next time, to avoid crowds en route to bar) and didn't find the 'restricted view' problematic.

May 2016

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