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What Fools These Wednesdays Be

What I've Finished Reading

I liked Among Others a lot more than I expected to like it in the beginning, which was the opposite of my experience with The Just City. Mor has to choose between joining her dead sister in the world of the fairies and going back to her living boyfriend and their book club, then finds that she's already made the choice. The odd pacing and messy verisimilitude justifies itself in the end.

There is one strange scene toward the beginning of the book in which Mor's dad (whom she hasn't seen since she was a baby) gets drunk and tries to get in bed with her. Mor records this in her diary, then tries to normalize it with a couple of paragraphs about how there's probably nothing wrong with incest in principle, and she would like to be touched, but it just wasn't for her. Then Daniel goes back to being a normal well-meaning but awkward dad and the incident is never mentioned again. If I had to guess, I'd say that Walton includes these scenes of sexual threat (this one, the rapes in The Just City) because they're part of life and it would be dishonest to leave them out of a story just because the story also has fairies or time-traveling Greek gods. I find this admirable in theory but I also resent it a little.

This is a book that looks like it's going to be escapist comfort reading (young outsider loves books and talks to fairies!) but refuses from the start to conform to expectations. The magic in particular is a confusing, difficult and isolating obligation, like taking care of a sick relative. It can be beautiful - as in the understated final confrontation - but so can anything, once it's written down.

I didn't feel as much love and pain with A Fox Under my Cloak as I have for the others in the Henry Williamson sequence, but I don't know if it's because it's a weaker book or just because wars are less interesting than growing up. The war stuff isn't uninteresting to begin with, but it's starting to feel a little familiar, all the coat lice and bully beef and commanding officers who aren't all they're cracked up to be - which isn't fair of me at all.

What I'm Reading Now

A Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene. Here I am, reading Graham Greene when I don't even have to - I don't know what's happened to me. It's short and it was in the free books bin at the used media superstore (along with a beautiful vintage edition of The Victim by Saul Bellow), and it's great so far; there's a guy on a boat who can't relate to anyone who laughs or enjoys a game of cards, and we don't know exactly why he's feeling so burnt out but this is Graham Greene we're talking about so some educated guessing is possible.

Also: it's time to read some poetry! Body Switch is a new book of poems by Terri Witek and it's pretty good. I know how to talk about poetry even less than I know how to talk about paragraphs, but I love the comment on the Portuguese title of Fernando Pessoa's Book of Disquiet: Livro do Desassossego:

an SOS hisses through the last gorgeous word (can our eyes take it in?) as if a person couldn't decide whether to ask for help or fall asleep.

I know that feeling! Maybe you do, too.

What I Plan to Read Next

Lions and Shadows by Christopher Isherwood, maybe Portnoy's Complaint if I get to it.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
anterastilis
Apr. 12th, 2017 06:03 pm (UTC)
Ah! I listened to Among Others as an audiobook, and I loved it! The reader (the author?) had a thick Welsh accent and even though that drove me nuts at first, I came to love it. I listened while doing a lot of driving and I wished that I had read it instead...she mentioned so many other books that I wanted to read and I couldn't take notes because I was driving! I found a list of all of the books that she mentioned somewhere on the internet...I don't know where though. I probably sent it to myself in an email and then forgot about it.

I have not read The Just City yet. It's on my list.
evelyn_b
Apr. 12th, 2017 06:56 pm (UTC)
Among Others is great - it's one of those books that sort of lodges in the back of your mind and goes on growing there whether you want it to or not. The Just City has some of the same quality, but my feelings about it were a lot more mixed. It includes some wonderful scenes of Socrates talking to robots, which I've become more and more fond of as I get further away from the book itself.

The most exciting thing I learned from Among Others is that someone wrote a novel about Alcibiades! (It's Mary Renault, who is famous but whose books I still haven't read). I only really know Alcibiades from Plutarch's Life, but Plutarch's Life makes him totally unforgettable.

Edited at 2017-04-12 07:02 pm (UTC)
sallymn
Apr. 12th, 2017 09:02 pm (UTC)
I may try that Greene one - he's one of those authors I always enjopy more than I think I'm going to....
evelyn_b
Apr. 13th, 2017 01:03 pm (UTC)
Give it a try! It's very short. If you like Greene in general, I think you'll probably like this one.
sallymn
Apr. 14th, 2017 01:06 am (UTC)
It's on my list :)
ursule
Apr. 13th, 2017 11:30 am (UTC)
I think Walton does a really good job of capturing the way people who mostly learned about sex from reading 1970s science fiction react to sex in the real world. (I'm about fifteen years younger than Mor is supposed to be, but we still read a lot of the same books.)
evelyn_b
Apr. 13th, 2017 01:00 pm (UTC)
That's probably true! Mor's thoughts definitely felt believable to me, though I don't have my own experience to draw on - I hardly read any science fiction at all until I was an adult.
liadtbunny
Apr. 13th, 2017 02:21 pm (UTC)
Short and free helps a book get read:D
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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