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Wednesday Wildness of Heart

What I've Finished Reading

Raffles, The Amateur Cracksman! This book was pure delight, thanks entirely to its immensely lovable first-person narrator, Harry "Bunny" Manders. Bunny is a hapless young man who loses too much at cards one fateful night, decides to appeal to his old school idol/sort-of-friend for help, and finds himself drawn by his own heady blend of hero-worship and desperation into Raffles' life of occasional crime. The result: some successful jewel thefts, some near misses, all funny and some more than a little heartbreaking.

Following the Hugos this year made me realize that I'm way further out of the contemporary sf/f loop than I would like to be, so I've made a resolution to read one short story a day for at least the next month. I guess we'll see how this goes.

Vacui Magia, by L.S. Johnson

I really liked this story about a witch who makes a golem baby so that her own mother can be a grandmother before she dies. Good mix of fairy-tale atmosphere and grounded imagery, a decent use of second person. I don't think it was perfect, but it moved well and hit me where it was supposed to. I'd like to read more fiction by L.S. Johnson.

Cat Pictures Please, by Naomi Kritzer

Very charming story about an AI that is trying its hardest to be benevolent, and sometimes even manages to help a little, despite the frustrating and sometimes unpredictable ways of humans. At least cat pictures can always be counted on. Another author I wouldn't mind seeing more from.

The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History, by Sam J. Miller

Alt-history in which the fire at Stonewall was caused by telekinesis. Too soon? It's not for me to say. I had mixed feelings about it. Sentence-level writing was good, but my feeling on first reading was that the history wasn't quite alt enough for me. It was more "the real truth of telekinesis was covered up" with a side of "not replicable in a lab," while I kept wanting it to be about the consequences of a world where crowd-rage telekinesis exists. It followed a more personal emotional line instead -- which I'm all for, and which was sometimes moving -- but mostly in a way that didn't depend on telekinisis being real. It could have been a regular-universe story in which the telekinesis was a metaphor, and it would have been almost exactly the same. I don't think that's necessarily a point against it -- I'm just not sure.

What I'm Reading Now

More Edmund Wilson essays (or short critical pieces) on All Things Literary in The Shores of Light. There's a fascinating discussion of two books by Gilbert Sedes, The Seven Lively Arts and The Great Audience, both of which I'll probably attempt to read at some point -- about c. 1920s popular art and later developments in entertainment, and Sedes' many thoughts on all of it. There's also an entertaining minor fight with a poet about Wilson's poetry criticism (I took the poet's side) and an overview of misreadings of Poe. All enjoyable and informative, even if Wilson's compulsion to condescend is as much in evidence as ever.

And more of The Horse's Mouth -- it's not actually that long, but the sheer density of constant low-level crises and rotten pettiness makes it slow going. I'm still enjoying it -- it has a good weird rhythm, wordy and frantic but circular -- futile, mostly. Jimson's moments of sympathy are coming faster now, but when he swings back to being repulsive he's as bad as ever. [Spoiler for THM]And the painting that he might have sold is gone, cut up to patch the roof, so I guess it doesn't matter anymore whether it was good or bad. Everyone in the book, come to think of it, has that same pacing, circular quality to their speech and actions -- Coker, Sara Monday, the boy who admires Jimson, the down-on-his-luck art lover who wants to write a retrospective, even the wealthy woman who wants Jimson to like her amateur watercolors. They all keep making terrible choices and throwing up their hands about it, and saying the same things over and over to justify and comfort themselves, like people do sometimes. Reading it feels like being alive in a way that is somehow both exhausting and refreshing.

And the Emily Dickinson biography, but I haven't made much progress there.

What I'm Reading Next

No idea! I'm not even sure what's next up in 99 Novels! (Wait, no, I checked; it's The Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham).


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 2nd, 2015 05:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the links to the stories! 'Cat Pictures Please' was ADORABLE.
Sep. 2nd, 2015 05:28 pm (UTC)
:D It is, isn't it? I'm glad you liked it!
Sep. 2nd, 2015 05:45 pm (UTC)
I'd been going to mention Raffles to you, but I saw before that you were on that already. (After all, you've got to balance out your upper class amateur detectives with an upper class amateur thief, right?)

I haven't actually read the books, but you make me even more curious now. I should see if I can get hold of them in non e-format. (I have to say, I don't think I've ever seen a hardcopy anywhere my whole life... which is weird, given how well-known they seem to be and how I've been reading 19th C and crime for at least twenty years and how it was a popular late 70s TV series, which is bound to mean a reprinting.) However, I have watched some of the TV series. I had a problem with it, which is that after one episode, I get stressed about the heroes breaking the law all the time for no good reason and then swing between whether or not Raffles/Bunny is sweet or borderline abusive. (Mind, Raffles is just about the slashiest 70s TV thing. I think it is down to just Raffles generally and Christopher Strauli's face. I only saw S1 and they did everything short of kiss, up to including saying that they loved each other, so I expect they got round to that in S2 or something.) My other problem with it was that I was after James Maxwell and Amazon deceived me wilfully and gave me Victor Carin instead and I'm sure he's very nice and all, but I wasn't after him. (James Maxwell was Inspector Mackenzie in the pilot and Victor Carin was in the series itself. He is not as good, has stupider fake hair and is generally Not James Maxwell. I may be a tad unfair about it. Amazon lied!)

My friend Liadt lent me the pilot earlier this year, so this story has a happy ending. (JM's undercover!Inspector Mackenzie is highly dodgy for reasons unknown; it is pretty hilarious. I don't know what anyone was thinking. It's Raffles, what the hell, have all the slash, maybe?)

Anyway, my ramblings aside, in my now-traditional way, I shall link you to the pilot on YT, should you wish to see how you feel about its interpretation of the characters & if they meet with your approval: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9d9FeebPmqA (The pilot is lacking the theme tune and since I liked it, you can find it here.

:-) (Sorry about the rambling. I may be still bitter about how Amazon lied and promised me James Maxwell and then sent me some other fake Victorian with sideburns instead of a beard.)

Talking of EDmund Wilson, I was reminded of him the other day, as someone linked to a literary critic in the Guardian, who was proudly boasting that he had never read any Terry Pratchett because he just knew that obviously they were all mediocre potboilers (he totally glanced at a few pages in a bookshop once) and was pleased to say he was only going to read worthwhile literature instead. His spirit of criticising genre is still alive and well? Not yay??
Sep. 2nd, 2015 06:13 pm (UTC)
Oh, that Guardian article! I've heard it talked about, but it sounded so cynical and clickbait-y that I couldn't bring myself to read it, despite my interest in the venerable critical subgenre of Dudes Not Even Bothering to Read Things. Is it worth reading for the entertainment value, or should I go on not bothering?

Your TV Raffles and Bunny are pretty good! The book is also the slashiest thing on God's green earth, and I say this as someone whose slash goggles are seldom even in working order. Unfortunately, reading the books will probably not help reduce your stress about the borderline abusiveness and the constant law-breaking; that's the whole show. Bunny is an adorable baby angst chicken and his narration is an absolute joy imo, but getting a close-up of his consciousness might even make the stress worse. Well, give it a try and see what you think!

I am sorry to hear about your James Maxwell bait-and-switch. :(
Sep. 2nd, 2015 07:32 pm (UTC)
Is it worth reading for the entertainment value, or should I go on not bothering?

It's too short to have any entertainment value, really. The only thing of value is that he liked Mansfield Park (a novel that could affect people's emotions and change and challenge them, because Pterry has never done that, obviously).

Your TV Raffles and Bunny are pretty good! The book is also the slashiest thing on God's green earth, and I say this as someone whose slash goggles are seldom even in working order.

:lol: Not having read the books, I couldn't say, but Anthony Valentine and Christopher Strauli seemed to work pretty well to my ignorant self. And my slash goggles are not the best, either, although fandom has me trained to be at least far less surprised than I used to be and my femslash goggles work tolerably well. But, yeah, the TV show is jaw-droppingly slashy. It's probably the most endearing thing about it. Provided Raffles isn't in the middle of leading Bunny on into crime without telling him what's going on at the same moment. And as long as Inspector Mackenzie isn't trying to lure Bunny into the his dark room/closet.

I think I would be better at the criminal stuff if it was a book and not a visual format? I might be wrong, but I suspect so. I get very worried watching people commit crimes unless they have a very good reason, or it was particularly comedic. (I only managed two episodes of Hustle for the same reason.)

I'll have to actually find a copy first, though, and see if I have any brain for it, which is always a lottery at the moment. (I want my fiction-reading brain back now, it's been way too long and I want it! *cries*)

Amazon uk were shameless about luring in James Maxwell's fans and not delivering. It was like a con specifically directed at, well, me. :lol:
Sep. 4th, 2015 04:50 pm (UTC)
I'm so out of the loop about current sf/f too. My excuse is that I am a library user almost exclusively so it takes like months for them to get it, catalogue it and make it available, and anyway I browse so they're snapped up by people on the waiting list. *ahem*
Sep. 4th, 2015 05:04 pm (UTC)
Libraries can be so slow! I love my public library -- books for free, books for everyone! -- but they are soooooooooo slow sometimes.

I don't think I'll ever be completely in the loop, in any genre. But I can try to edge a little closer to the loop from time to time.
Sep. 8th, 2015 02:23 am (UTC)
I actually find that meme really helps! Since a lot of people there are sf/f readers so they follow along and read/talk about so many new books. I'm definitely looking to pick up Ancillary Justice and The Goblin Emperor sometime :)
Sep. 8th, 2015 02:46 am (UTC)
Me, too! Though the sheer number of things to be excited about can be a little overwhelming. I'm a little more interested in The Goblin Emperor than in Ancillary Justice based on what I've heard -- not that AJ sounds bad, just kind of thorny and like I'll have to be learning a new language as I read, which is interesting but potentially tiring -- but I hope to get to both of them sooner rather than later.
Sep. 9th, 2015 09:21 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah, definitely! I always end up opening tabs like "canon recs - fantasy" or whatever. Or ones like "what are the classics in your country" - I want to read ALL OF THEM. And I'm barely making headway in English ones >.<

Yeah, sometimes I feel with SF/F you kind of have to be in a mood to sometimes concentrate - to learn the whole world, basically. `
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


blase ev

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